Bolama as a prospective site for american colonization in the 1820's and 1830's by GEORGE E. BROOKS SEPARATA DO N.' 109 DO ANO XXVIII DO BOLETIM CULTURAl, DA GUINE PORTUGUESA BISSAU I 973

Re Establishment of Enslaved People in Bolima Guinea Bissau

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Page 12-17 mention the re-establishment of enslaved Africans to Bolama (one of the islands GB

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  • Bolama as a prospective site for americancolonization in the 1820's and 1830's





    I 973

  • Holama as aprospective site for americancolonization in the 1820's and 1830's

  • Bolama as a prospective site for americancolonization in the 1820's and 1830's (')




    THE United States government's role in the arbitration which

    r.ecognized Portugal"s sovereignity o.ver the isl'and of Bolamaagainst competing British claims is well known. Indeed. theevent is commemorated on Bolama by a prap with a statue

    of President Ulysses S. Grant. which is depicted on a special 2$50 cen-tennial stamp issued for Guine in 1970. (President Grant also appearson the I$75 stamp in the 1946 series commemorating the Fifth Cen-

    (1 ) Research in Portugal on the economic and social history of Guine andthe Cape Verde Islands for the period 178061870 was supported by a sabbaticalleave and research funds from 'Indiana University and a grant from the SocialScience Research Council. I am grateful to Padre Henrique Pinto Rema for encou~raging me to prepare this paper and for assistance in collecting data on Afro--Por~tuguese trading families in nineteenth century Guine.


    tenary of the Discovery of Guine) ('). Generally overlooked byhistorians, however, is that Bolama was one of the prospa.ve sites

    Aconsidered by American colonization societies in the 1820's and 1830'sfor the settlement of black freedmen. Among those advocating Boltmafor this purpose were the United States consular representative forthe Cape Verde Islands in 1821, Samuel Hodges, Jr" and a decadelater George R. McGill, one of the colonists at Monrovia, Liberia.Their reports concerning Bolama's suibability are quoted in the finalsection below.

    African and European competition for Beilama. 1700-1791

    Bolama's commanding position at the mouth of the Rio Grande,its fertile soils, and rich flora and fauna - contrasting with the m"rshymangrove-covered islands of the Bijago Archipelago and much of theneighboring shore of the continent - caused the island to be covetedby both Africans and Europeans. Until sometime in the seventeenthcentury Bolam", together with Ilha das Galinhas, was inhabited byBeafadas, who were then driven to the mainland by the neighboringBijagos. The Beafadas and Bijagos continued constantly at war, andBolam" remained a no-man's-land with no permanent settlements.Hunters from both groups exploited the large herds of game on theisland, including numer,ous elephants whose ivory was bartered toEuropean and Eurafrican traders for guns, powder. tobacco, rum, andE~ropean commodities. The ,western part of Bolama was frequentedby Bijagos fr,om Canhabaque (Ilha Roxa) to plant rice, and, it seemsprobable, to cut down trees to make a/madias. or war canoes, the largestof which were capable of carrying thirty to forty warriors. (See illus-tration) Bijagos acqUired a fearsome reputation among the Beafadas.Papels, and other coastal peoples whom they raided and enslaved. and

    (2) See as Selos postais da GuinePortugues.a, Boletim Cuitur-alda GuinePortuguesa, v, 16 (1949), 670..71. 'A photograph of Grant's statue is printed onpage 49 of Antonio dos Martires Lopes. Questao de Bolama; Pendencia entre POl'''tuga/ e lng/aterra (Lisboa, 1970).

  • Printed on a map of the West Coast of Africa from Cape Roxo to the Islesde Los published by the Hydrographical Office of the Admiralty June 1, 1836.The map was prepared from data collected between 1826 and 1834 by Captain

    W. F. W. Owen, Commander E. Belcher, and Lt. W. Arlett.

    Photograph of Bijago canoe model from Ilha Formosa displayed at the Exposi

  • . (3) Walter Rodney~ A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-,1800(Oxford, 1970). 8-9; 103-(H, Michael Teague, BuIarna iu the 18th Century, Bole.tim Cultural da Gain: Portuguesa, XIII, 50 (1958). 175~93; and Augusto J. SantosLima. Organiz89iio econ6mica e social dos Bijag6s (Lisboa, 1947). with an historicalintroduction by Avelino Teixeira da Mota.

    (4) Rodney, Upper Guinea Coast. 243~4; Leonce Jore, Les Etabli~sements!ran98is sut' fa cote occidentale d'Afrique de 1758 a 1809 (Paris. 1965). 111~12.

    (5) Rodney, UppecGuinea Coasf, 244~8; Christiano Jose de Senna Barcellos..$ubsidios'para a historia de Cabo Verde e GUine(Lisboa~ 7 vols.. 1899~1913). IV.252~53; VI . 217~18. See also Joao Barreto, Historia da Guine J418~1918 (Lisboa. 1938).147-155.


    among Europeans as well, for they frequently attacked vessels whichwere becalmed or grounded in the shoal waters of the archipelago (3).

    Bolama's strategic position at the mouth of the Rio. Grande andits fine harbor on the northeast side made it well known to Portugueseant other European traders frequenting the Upper Guinea Coast. The

    between Bolama and the mainland opposite was the safestch,amlel for vessels bound from Bissau to the Rio Grande, or engagedin. coasting voyages to the Ce""ba~Cacine, Nunez, and other riverslying to the southwards.

    Bolama was of particular interest to French traders, who longcompeted with Portuguese for the commerce of the area. In 1700,

    Brlie, the energetic director of the Compagnie des Indes, visitedBolama in the course of a reconnaissance of the Upper Guinea Coast

    afterwards recommended founding a French trading establishmenton the isl,and. Shortage of finances kept BrUe's pr.oposal from beingimplemented, but French trading vessels became increasingly active

    the coast of Guine in tlle years following, undermining Portu-guese commerce and influence in the area and causing the abandonment

    Bissau in 1708 (4).When Bissa~piedby Portugal in 1752, Francisco Roque de

    Satta Maior, who .supervised the rebuilding of the fort, also plantedthe Portuguese flag on Bolama, although no occupation was effected.Bissau received few men or supplies in the years follOWing, and thesettlement languished until substantial reinforcements were sent in 1765by the Company of Grao Para and Maranhao (').

    With Bissau reoccupied, French traders took a renewed interestin Bolama. Saint-Jean, the commandant of Goree in the 1750's repor-

  • tedly visited Bolamaon numerous occasions, and advocated founding aFrench establishment there, Similar proposals were made by Poncetde la Riviere, the commandant of Goree in 1763, and by Jean-BaptisteDemanet, a former chaplain on Goree, in the book he published in1767 (').

    Between 1756 and 1815 France and Britain were at war more thanhalf the time, with British naval forces generally in the ascendancy inWest African waters. French commerce suffered its worst setback in1758 during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), when both Saint-Louisand Goree were captured. Goree was returned at the end of the war,but Saint-Louis was occupied by the British until 1779. British com-meicial interests expanded on the Upper Guinea Coast in the meantime,notably in the area south of Guine. A number of English traders,including some of American origins, settled in the Nunez and Pongorivers where they founded Eurafrican families which became increasinglyinfluential in the rivers' commerce. During the latter years of thecentury they expanded their operations northwards to the area of ...1'noeabl, in the ,area ,south of Gt1inc. A number of English traders,iuc''l'i1iRS 69mB of American origins sett],iQ ia taB bhmiz rand Peasetraders, John Ormund, established a factory in the Rio Grande by the1780's, and trade also passed along an overland route connecting Bulolaon the upper Rio Grande with Kakundy on the upper Nunez. The

    )'ortuguese and Afro-Portuguese traders established at Bissau found'it progressively more difficult to compete against these intruders, espe-cially in the years following the dissolution of the Company of GraoPara and Maranhao in 1778, when the Portuguese government dras-tioally curtailed spending in Africa. The consequence was that therewere frequently no funds available to pay civil officials, officers andsoldiers in the garrisons, or maintain the forts and public buildings.Portuguese establishments in Guine stagnated for decades, and it isa reflection of this period of weakness that foreign traders and colo-nization societies could contemplate founding settlements on Bolamaalmos\.:,vithout fear of hindrance (').

    (6) C. B. Wadstrom. An Essay on Colonization; Parlicularly Applied to theWestern Coast of Africa; with Some Free. Thoughts on Cultivation and Commerce(London, 1795), Part II, 13032: 143: Jore, Etablissements /ranfais, 47.48.

    (7) Rodney, Upper Guinea Coast. 248~250; Barreto. Hist6ria da Guine, 155...160.


    French initiatives .in West Africa increased markedly followingthe recapture of Saint-Louis in 1779 and other naval successes in thewar$ 778-1783. In the years following several Frenchmen knowledgeableabout trade in the Upper Guinea Coast advocated founding Frenchestablishments on Bol'ama. Silvain Meinrad Xavier Golberry, whopublished an account of his travels in West ~Jrica, relates that Mare-chal de Castries, the Minister of Marine and Colonies, contemplatedplanting a settlement on Bolama in 1784, but decided against it.Golberry considered the project an excellent one, and recommendedestablishing a factory on the eastern part of Bolama, with subsidiaryposts on Ilha Roxa and Menterre (the mainland to the southeast ofBolama which he believed to be another island). Golberry's viewswere shared by Pruneau de Pommegorge, a longtime resident of WestAfrica, whose book published in 1789 described Bolama's numerouscommercial advantages and counseled that France should found anestablishment on the island without delay (8).

    Carl BernsWadstrom, a Swedish advocate of African coloniza-tion, relates in his book that in 1787 he made the acquaintance of anEnglishman named Barber liVing in France who had convinced theFrench government to found a colony on Bolama. According to Wads-trom, had it not been for the French Revolution, a colonial expeditionto Bulama would certainly have been undertaken. Whether Wads-trom's story can be given credence or not, it is evident from the foregoingthat there was considerable French interest in Bolama in the yearsjust prior to the Revolution (').

    In Britain, projects for African colonization were further advancedthan in France. In 1786 advooates of a scheme to settle black freedmenat the mouth of the Sierra Leone River succeeded in obtaining thesupport of the British government. The initial settlement made in May1787 was dispersed two .years later by the local Temne, but the colonywas re-established in the spring of 1791. Later the same year, another

    (8) S. M. X. Golberry, Fr:agments d'un voyage en Afrique, fait pendant lesannees 1785, 1786, et 1787 (Paris, 2 vols., 1802), II, 224-26; M.P.D.P. [Pruneaude Pommegorge], Descripti6n de fa Nigritie (Amsterdam, 1789), 133....37.

    (1l)Wadstrom, Essay on Colonization. Part II, 132. It .seems likely that theman referred to is the same Barber whose factory in the Iles de Los was. destroyedAmerican privateers in 1778. See J. Machat, Documents sur: les etablissements fran~~ais de rAfrique Occidentale au xviii steele (Paris. 1906)., 120",28.

  • group began to organize an expedition to found a white-settler colonyon Bolama.

    (10) Wadstrom. Essay on Colonization, Part II, 130...36: Philip Beaver.African Memoranda relative to IBn Attempt to Establish a lkitt'sh Settlementon the Island of Bulama (London, 1805; reprinted 1968). Chapter I. Philip D. Curtin.The Image of Africa (Madison. 1964h Chapter 4. surveys the colonization schemesadvanced in this period. See also P.E.H.....Hair'A Boletim Cuitur'a[ da Guine Portu..guesa, xv, 58 (1%0), 359-383. "!~ '"" /3...1...........,"

    (11) Beaver, African Memoranda, Chapters III and IV. passim. One of thesubscribers who chose to remain, and subsequently died on Bolama" 'was. BenjaminMarston. a Loyalist from Marblehead. Massachusetts. ~ho had gone to Englandduring the American Revolution. [bid., 115...16.

    The British Settlementjon Bolama, May 1792 - November 1793

    'the chief organizer of the British attempt to f.ound a colony onBolalIl


    In the weeks following Beaver succeeded in negoltial:lni;jifor the purchase of Bolama from both the Bijagosfrom the rulers of Ilha Roxa, Bellchore and

    from Matchore and Niobana, who lived at Ghinala, the n::~'l:~:(fi~[l~!\\; ~\tal on the north bank of the Rio Grande. The were1lfixious to attract English traders, and additionally agreed tolarge tract of land on the mainland opposite Bolama (").

    The colonists were afflicted by more or less continuous sicknessand a steady attrition of deaths, and a number deserted the settlement.The greater part of the labor in clearing land, planting corps, anderecting buildings and fortifications was done by hired African grumetes.For assistance in obtaining grumetes, for needed supplies, and for manyacts of friendly assistance, the British colonists were greatly indebtedto Joao da Silva Cardoso, one of the leading Portuguese traders atBissau. Cardoso also mediated on behalf of the colonists with succes-sive commandants of Bissau, who together with the majority of theresident traders, were hostile to the settlement and resentful of itscommerce with local Africans. Doubtless they also questioned Cardoso'smotives in assisting the colonists, inasmuch as he thereby acquiredBritish goods for his trading operations (").

    By the fall of 1793 the number of colonists had dwindled to ahandful; meantime the resumption of British-French hostilities inEurope rendered impossible sending the colony substantia( reinforce-ments of settlers or supplies, At the end of November Beaver and fiveremaining coldnists abandoned Bolama and sailed for Sierra Leone (14).

    Beaver's account of the Bolama settlement was not published untilmore than a decade later, follOWing a period of active service in theRoyal Navy, Beaver had lost none of his enthusiasm for colonization,and he strongly advocated refounding the settlement as a plantation

    (12) Beaver, African Memoranda, 71~73; 101 ....109.(13) Beaver. African Memoranda, 43; 55~60; 113..-14; and passim. Cardoso

    was associated with the Lisbon firm of Pedro Nolasco Gaspar e Innaos. He diedat Bissau in 1805 (1). Caixa 18 (1805.1806h pasta .n. d. 1805. Arquivo Hist6ricoUltramarino.

    (14) Beaver. African Menzoranda, 275....76. The block-house and remainingsupplies and trade goods were sold to Captain Francisco Correia. an Afro-:.Portugueseshipmaster and trader acting on hehalf of Cardoso and the commandant of Bissau,Jose Ant6nio Pinto.


    colony employing paid Aifrican laborers and as a base for commercewith the Rio Grande and neighboring rivers. Beaver enumerated thecrops he had successfully grown during his stay on Bolama, andrecommended large-scale cultivation of cotton, plus coffee, tobacco,indigo, and sugar cane.

    - -Beaver laid the blame for the failure of the first settlement on thedisreputable character, intemperance, and indiscipline of the colonistsand the lack of adequate shelter during the first rainy season. He depre-ciated the ravages o~ malaria and other diseases which afflicted thecolonists and down-Plyed, too, the implacable hostility of the Canha-baques ("). Beaver's criticisms of his fellow colonists, which arerepeated throughout the hook, seem excessive, His indictment is at leastpartially discredited by his own account of the advance weeding-out ofprospective colonists, and by his narrative of the privations, chronicillness, numerous deaths, and constant insecurity experienced by thesettlers - sufferings which might have demoralized the most intrepidparty of explorers or members of the armed services, to say nothing ofcivilians, many of them women or children, unprepared for such cLangersand strangers to the regime of strict naval discipline Beaver demanded,

    Bo/ama, 1793-1820

    Few reports are available concerning Bolama in the years imme-diately after the British colony was abandoned, C. B. Wadstrom anda few. others in England interested in Bolama promoted another coloni-zation plan in 1794-1795, but nothing came of their project (16). ':rhetwo decades of European wars follOWing the French Revolution weremarked by commerce-raiding and a general decline of commerce on theUpper Guinea Coast. The French invasion of Portugal in 1807, whichcaused the royal family to remove to Brazil, further weakened Por-tugal's already tenuous administrative and commercial links with Guine,thereby encouraging new intrusions by non-Portuguese in the area.

    (15) Beaver, African Memoranda, Chapters x and XI passim, and Appen~dix No. 16.

    (16) Curtin, Im'age of Africa. 112..14. Wadstrom~ Essay on Colonization.Part I. Chapters VIII and IX.


    In 1814, a British trader named Joseph Scott and several asso-ciates established a factory on Bolama. The year folloWing, the acting--governor of Sierra Leone proposed sending a detachment of troopsto protect them, but permission was denied by the British government.Scott and the other trl'ders were driven off the island by a Bijagoraid in 1816, during 'fch several men were killed (17). News of theoccurrence seems not to have beenwi~ reported; meantime, Wadstromand Beaver's accounts of Bolama's fertile soils and commercial advan-tages continued to circulate Widely among individuals interested inAfrican colonization in Europe 'and America.

    Following the Napoleonic Wars British and French interest in\Vest African colonization was directed elsewhere than Bolama - inBritain to promoting the development of Sierra Leone; and in Franceto unsuccessful colonization schemes on the Cape Verde peninsulaand along the lower Senegal River valley. Instead, it was Americanc.olonization societies which became interested in Bolama.

    American Colonization Societies and Bolama

    American interest in African colonization increased markedly duringthe last two decades of the nineteenth century, particularly with regardt'O the pOSSible settlement of black freedmen. White advocatesof settling blacks in Africa proposed doing so f'Or a varietyof reasons - as a 'solution', or part of one, to the social conse...quences .of the growing number of black freedmen in the UnitedStates; as a means of encouraging the manumission of slaves andeventually the removal of the entire black population; as a means forthe evangelization of the African continent; as a way to develop Ame-rican commerce with Afrioa; as in the best interests of the blacksthemselves; and combinations of all of these. A number of schemeswere actively debated in the New England states in the 1780's and1790's, but public or private funds were not forthwming.

    Some of the black freedmen in New England took the initiativeand acted on their own behalf. The 'Providence African Society sent

    (17) Senna Barcellos, Subsidios, lIl, 386; VI, 224: A. P. Newton, British Enter..,prise in Tropical Africa, 1783~1870. in J. Holland Ros.e~ et al., The CambddgeHistory of the Bdtish Empire. II (Cambridge, 1940), 655.


    a spokesman to Sierra Leone in the winter of 1794-1795; he returnedwith a promise of farm land and town lots to accomodate twelve families,but the opportunity was lost for lack of support from white leaders inRhode Island. The first settlement of American blacks in Africa camein 1816 when Captain Paul Cuffee, a Massachusetts shipowner ofmixed Negro and Indian ancestry, transported thirty-eight freedmento Sierra Leone, most of them at his own expense. Cuffee's death in1817 soon after his return to the United States precluded other ven-tures. Thereafter, in the absence of other blacks with Cuffee's privateresources and initiative, American blacks who wanted to emigrate toAfrica were dependent upon white-organized colonization groups,notably the American Colonization Society founded in December1816 ("),

    The American Colonization Society began to collect informationOn potential African sites early in 1817. Sherbro Island was stronglyrecommended by the English colonial enthusiast Thomas Clarkson, andat the close of 1817 Reverend Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgesswere dispatched to survey the African coast near Sierra Leone, withparticular attention to Sherbro Island. Influenced by the self-servingcounsel of a former American black settled in Sierra Leone, Mills andBurgess were ill-advised to recommend Sherbro Island as a suitablesite, A settlement was attempted in March 1820, only to be abandonedin a few weeks' time when fever ravaged the colonists. The survivorstook refuge at Sierra Leone for a year, until they were resettledsuccessfully at Cape Mesurado, Liberia in the spring of 1822 (19),

    News of the American Colonbation SOciety's search for a suitablesite in .West Africa belatedly reached Samuel Hodges, Jr" who carriedon OJ. commission business in the Cape Verde Islands from the closeof 1818 until his death in 1827, serving meantime as the United Statesconsular representative for the Islands. Among Hodges' surviving

    (18) The growth of American interest in African colonization in the last quarterof the eighteenth century is described in The Providence African Society's SierraLeone Emigration S~heme, 1794... 1795: Prologue to the African Colonization Move..ment~ International Journal of African Historical Studies.. VII (1974) forthcoming.

    (19) P. J. Staudenraus. The African ColoniZation Movement, 1816..1865(New Yor!


    papers is a draft copy of a letter to the president of the AmericanColonization Society dated January 1821. written on behalf of himselfand others who are not named.

    The deep interest which we feel in everythirtgthat relatesto the ameliorating of the present conditioIlodur'Africaifbtethren.and in finding a happy home for the free people()fiSol~tlrinthe U. States on their native soil. induces us to o'fferyouffe'\Vremarks on the practibility of establishing a Colony inAfri5a.\al1~the utility that will result to the nation. and particularly to thOsewho should be willing to migrate thither.

    Ist It is practicable to establish a colony of free people ofColour in Western Africa.. This can be done by selectinga healthy & fertile spot for their residence. open to thenavigation of the Atlantic. and to the internal commerceof the country.

    2 The utility that would result by forming " colony of freepeople of colour in Western Africa cannot scarcely berealized. It would afford freedom to that class of people.who. in the United States. do not mingle in the samecircles. and enjoy all that freedom of liberty & respecta-bility as white citizens of the country; "nd not OIllyfreedom. " Country and Government of their own. but,an opportunity to engage in commercial pursuits. bywhich they would acquire wealth and respectability.

    That no error may be committed in selecting a suitable planto form a Colony in Western Africa we would recommend thehealthy & fertile Island of Bulama.We are with one exceptionpersonally acquainted with the Island. and can assure you thatthe soil is fertile. and the Island more healthy than any other spotfrom Senegal to the Equator. and we firmly believe it to be morehealthy than the State of Virginia generally. We will not enterinto the particular circumstances that caused the failure of the


    English [who] settled Island under Lieut. Beaver, for we believethey are already known to you; yet we would observe, that thefailure was not owing to the Climate, .but to that class of peoplewho were sent thither for crimes committed against their country'slaws, and were a set of lazy idle drunkards, arriving at thecommencement of the rainy season, without houses or huts toshelter themselves from the deluging rains, or the scorching rays ofthe sun. Settlers at that Island should arrive in December, andgradually become accustomed [7] to the African climate, andafford them time to construct houses for their health & comfort,ere the commencement of the rainy season.

    Notwithstanding the laws of the U. States, England, France,Spain, Portugal & Holland, against that most cruel and abominabletraffic, the slave trade, it is yet carried an to a very alarmingextent in the Vicinity of Bulama, and by forming a settlementon that Island, and keeping in that Vicinity an armed Brig orSchr. navigated principally by native Africans, would have a ten-dency to totally abolish that inhuman traffic in that quarter.

    To become possessed of the Island in a quiet manner, itwould be requisite to treat with the legitimate possessor, the KingKeneback, who, tho'Misposition to other foreigners, and we haveno doubt would treat on very moderate terms (20).

    The letter makes no reference to Mills and Burgess' voyage toWest Africa, nor to the attempted settlement on Sherbro Island theprevious March. It is surprising that Hodges and his associates wouldbe so uninformed - that they would not have received news orrumors of these developments from vessels stopping in the Cape VerdeIslands from the United States, Europe, and the European settlementsin West Africa.

    (20) Samuel Hodges. Jr. to Bushrod Washington, Praia, Santiago, January 1821.Hodges Papers, Box 4, Folder 22, American Antiquarian Society (Worcester.Massachusetts). I am indebted to the Society for permission to reproduce Hodgesletter. Whether a letter was in fact sent. or received, is not known; much of theAmerican Colonization Sotiety's correspondence for this period has not been located.I am indebted to John McDonough, Manuscript Historian. Manuscript Division.Library of Congress. for making a search of the Society's papers on my behalf.

    Thement inKing rimprobaltion per~certainlypapers (year reswith therange ofhis bus!man intradingthe cas IColoniz,ver, thasuch acomme

    WiColonizdirectormemberdeal alNorthe'the Mi(Cape Pzation ~


    tram's Eapparent

    ("of the


    The reasons Hodges mentions for the failure of the British settle-ment in 1792-93 are the same alleged by Philip Beaver (21). ThatKing Keneback would welcome settlers of any nationality seemsimproba.ble, notwithstanding the statement that we are with one excep-tion personally acquainted with the island. The one exception almostcertainly was Hedges: there is no mention in Hodges voluminous

    --~l'>a:J5ersof his visiting the coast of Afrioa at any time during his nineyear residence in the Cape Verde Islands. Who the others associatedwith the letter were can only be speculated on: Hodges had a widerange of Portuguese and Cape Verdian business associates, most notablyhis business partner, Manoel Antonio Martins, the most influentialman in the Islands; alternatively Hodges may refer to Americanstrading in the Cape Verde Islands and on the coast of Africa. Whateverthe case, their motive for recommending Bolama to the AmericanColonization Society oan only be surmised. It would seem likely, howe-ver, that they could have anticipated being invited to participate insuch a venture, with the likelihood of sharing the benefits of thecommercial pursuits mentioned in the letter ('").

    'Whether or not Hodges' letter was ever received by the AmericanColonization Society, others wrote or communicated personally to thedirectors to the same effect. John H. B. Latrobe, one of the leadingmembers of the Society in Maryland, related having learned a gooddeal about Bolama prior to proposing in 1828 that free blacks from theNorthern states in the United States be settled on Bolama, those fromthe Middle Atlantic states at Monrovia, and those from the South atOape Palmas ("). In an address presented at the American Coloni-zation Society's annual meeting, Latrobe described Bolama as the key

    (21) See above, note 15. Beaver's explanations are also recorded inWads~trom's Esscif/..on Colonization; note Part II, page 306. paragraph 905, which Hodgesapparently cparaphrased.

    (22) Hodges' wide~ranging commercial activities are described in Chapter 4of the author's Yankee Traders, Old Coasters, and African Middlemen; A Historyof American Legitimate Trade with West Africa in the Nineteenth Century'(Boston, 1970). Sometime in the future I intend to publish an account of Hodges'years in the Cape Verde Islands.

    (23) John Edward Semmes, John H. B. Latrobe and His Times, 1803-1891(Baltimore,' 1917), 14243.


    to the northward expansion of a great Americo....African nation exten....ding from the Senegal River to Cape Palmas. which he envisionedwould be Jeveloped by transplanted American blacks inured to theclimate and diseases of t~e area.

    Between Bulama and Liberia, is the colony of Sierra Leone,which the utter impossibility of sustaining, unless at a great expenseof life, will ultimately cause the British to abandon - and which,even if it is not abandoned, must become a part of the Americo--African nation, as the increasing settlements of Liberia and Bulamaenclose and embrace it. Once firmly fixed on the waters of theRio Grande, we may deem ourselves in possession of those of theSenegal and the Gambia; having dependent on our trade thenations at the head of the Niger; ... (").

    In 1831, when the Maryland State Colonization Society determinedto undertake an African -settlement on its own initiative, Bolama wasone of the chief sites considered. Latrobe, the corresponding secretary,undertook to collect additional information, and wrote George R. McGill,a Baltimore black who had emigrated to Monrovia in 1827 (").Latrobe's inquiry elicited an effusive response from McGill, who seizedthe opportunity to voice his and others' dissatisfaction with conditionsat Monrovia. and express their eagerness, to seek greener .pastures.

    You ask in your letter w[h]ether there could be obtainedfifty persons at leas[t] one-half able Bodied-to joine in theformation of a new settlement on the Co [a] st. I answer with

    (24) Labrobe's address to the American Colonization Society's annualmeeting is published in the Eleventh Ann.ual Report of the American Society forColonizing the Free People of C%Ut." of the United States (Washington, D. G,1828). 7-13.

    (25) Frances Jennings, The Early Activities of the M'aryland State Colo...nization Society in Liberia (M. A. thesis, Columbia University~ 1951). 78~79;Penelope Campbell. Maryland in Africa; The Maryland Colonization Society, 1831~.1857 (Urbana. ill., 1971). 51.52.


    ease, there can. Secondly you wish to know w[h]ich in myopinion would be the most suitable of the three [sites] that younamed, I would say Bulami for several reasons, First it is mostPleasant in Being in Latitude twelve, secconly it is most helthyfrom its situation in the sea, thirdly it is a better place for theafrican trade - the natives are more civeL The place I am told isvery productive; much more then the one we occupy, and I amtold there is a fine harbour for any size vessel. It is an outlet tothe fuller [Fula] and Mundingo tvade, such as cattle hides, ivory,gold, Beaswax, gums, horses & asses. From the information thatI have of the place it is fair prefferable to this, I wish you tokeep your eye on that place untiII you learn more purticular ofits Charrector, fully. I should like much to go with suitablepursons to look at it and if it is though[t] to be a propper placeto take up my residence there. This is a pore discurraging spotas could have Bin selected on the c [0]ast - new comers arealways discuraged and wonne out before they can raise any thingto eat - in fact threre is not 5 pursons in the place that can raiseenough for them selves to live on; as quick as I mentioned theletter that I received of you it flashed like litening from one endof the settlement to the other, and a grate number came run[n]ingto me have their names set down before I said any thing about it.I call [e] d the agent and aquainted him of its import with its authur,He appeared to be some what jellous that you had writen to me .instead of him. said that there could be no new settlement without hisconcent. I told him that I had nothing to do with that, its responcibi-lity rested with its origian and not with me. I was only asked forinferm?tion on the subject. He licened me to use any method to findout if their could be a suffi[ci]ent number. Called a me[e]tingof the citizens - they appointed a commity to send you a reportof their viues wich you wiII get by the Zembaca if nothing prevents.I shall also send you somthing of interest by the Zembaca if I canget it ready. You must excuse this writing; it is about twelveo'clock at night and I feare that I shall not have time to coppy it.

    I wiII just hint to you as an acquantence that we have not theacomplishments of an Ashman or a Randal in our present Agent


    and I hope that it may not be found out when it is too late. Thereis a grate want of profundness in him (2').

    McGill does not relate how he acquired his information concerningBolama, but he appears to have been better informed about the islandthan was Samuel Hodges 'a decade earlier. Most likely his source was6ne of several American shipmasters 6r ships' officers who had tradedat Bissau or acquired knowledge of Bolama from residents of the Nunezor Pongo rivers.

    A month later, McGill sent Latrobe another letter in which hereiterated his conviction that Bolama was the most promising site for anew settlement.

    I now take the oppertunity noticing your inquire in the behalfof a number of others who have authorized me so do. I[f] youwish to know whare the most ~utiable place may be found for anew settlement on the co [a] st we would say the Island of Bulamiabout Lattitude 12 if it can be had on fair terms, is the most likelyspot on the whole cost that presents to [us]. It (lam told) is afine he[al] thy situation, it is very fur tile and prod[uct]ive,and so is the main Iand in the ajacinth c[0] untry. The articles [of]traf [f] ic consist of Cattle, Sheap, gotes, hogs I) alI kinds oftame fowl, Hides, Ivory, camwood, rice and corn mace [maize?].and quantitys of virgin gold is to be had from the interior. Bythat place the Climate is so mild that the change to new comerswood not [be] neare so grate as at this place. I should be gladto be asociated with su[i]tables pursons to go to see it andcontmct for it (27).

    Sometime afterwards McGill acquired additional information con-cerning Bolama, and in July 1832 he wrote the Directors of the Mary-land Colonization Society that Bolama would not serve the SOciety's

    (26) George R. McGill to John H. B. Latrobe. Monrovia. September 2, 1831,volume I, Letter Books, Maryland State Colonization Papers (MS. 571), MarylandHistorical Society (Baltimore" Maryland). I am indebted to the Society for per,.mission to publish McGill's. letters. Joseph Mechlin is the name of the Agent unfa...vorably compared with Jehudi Ashmun and Dr. Richard Randall.

    (27) McGill to Latrobe, October 17, 1831, ibid,













    purposes after all: