Serious thoughts.—Shall I remain to be their king?—Will the Apingi fight?—I must raise a revenue.—Products of the country.
I must begin to think seriously of what can be done for the improvement of my kingdom. Did the people really believe that I was to remain with them forever? Of course they never dreamed that I could die. I had not made up my mind how long I would remain, for I had a strong desire to go back to the sea-shore and return to New York.
Then I thought how strange it would be if I stayed with them till the end of my days! If such was the case, said I to myself, I must establish communication with the sea-shore, first by means of the big river, and then by land. But the Rembo-Apingi (Rembo meaning the river) was a large stream, and numerous tribes were living on its banks. Some of them were very warlike, and there had never been communication from the Apingi to the mouth of the Fernand Vaz. From Remandji's village to my settlement of Washington there was a great extent of country to go through. There would be, no doubt, some tremendous fighting to be done, for I knew enough of the country to know that the right of way was not to be obtained easily, each tribe being jealous of the other. Would the Apingi be willing to fight, and conquer or die? In that case I must go once more to the sea-coast, bring small cannon, quantities of guns, pistols and every thing required to make us formidable, so that we might be feared by all the tribes in case they should try to prevent us from having communication with the sea. Large canoes also must be made, capable of holding at least one hundred warriors, for I must have a powerful navy to navigate the river. The men must be taught how to use guns, how to fire, and, above all, not to shrink from danger.
I began to see that I had a gigantic task before me. Of course I did not intend to be a king of savages. I wanted the people to advance in civilization. Schools must be established. The people must learn how to read and write. They must be taught by all means, so that in the course of time, from their own free will (for I believe in liberty of conscience), they might destroy their idols, cast away their superstitions, and believe in God as the great Ruler of the universe. They must admit the good missionaries, who could instruct them in his worship.
Then, again, every country must have a revenue. How shall I raise taxes? I can not raise money, for it is unknown here, and silver and gold have never been seen by the people. What were the products of the country? What could be got out of it? For no government can be carried on without a revenue of some kind. Palm-oil, India-rubber, ivory, ebony-wood, bar-wood, gum copal—these are the leading products of the country: great quantities of them could be had. A numerous fleet of canoes, constructed especially to carry goods, must be constructed. They must be very large, and strongly built. They could go down the river loaded with a few men in each, but they must be convoyed by powerful war-canoes, that could defy and destroy any hostile canoe that might come out against them.
Peace must reign along the borders of the river, from the Apingi country to its mouth. Laws must be strictly enforced and obeyed, and war between villages and tribes along the river must be forbidden, just as King Quengueza has forbidden war on the Ovenga River, and the refractory people must be punished, and their villages burnt, so that they may learn that no laws can be broken without cost. In fact, peace must reign every where in the country, so that commerce may be thrifty and the people happy.
These thoughts brought me back again to the question of a revenue.
How many tons of ebony, pounds of ivory, tons of palm-oil, and pounds of India-rubber would have to be collected by the people, in order to raise, for the first year, $100,000? Say—
|10,000 lbs. of ivory, at $2 per lb||$20,000|
|200 tons of palm-oil, at $200 per ton||40,000|
|1000 tons of ebony, at $100 per ton||100,000|
|10 tons of wax, at $650 per ton||6,500|
|100,000 lbs. of India-rubber, collected carefully, would be worth 20 cents per lb||20,000|
|10 tons of gum copal, at $650 per ton||6,500|
I could easily collect $182,000. As for the bar-wood, it is too far away, except if collected near the sea-sore, for it is only worth about $25 per ton. No doubt the trade could be increased vastly in a short time with the interior of Africa. I put the amount of each product according to the amount of production, that is to say, in ratio. I have no doubt that in time the palm-oil would become one of the leading products of the country. There are great quantities of pea-nuts in that region, and an immense amount of oil could be manufactured, if mills were established for that purpose. It is very easy of manufacture. The pea-nut yields an enormous quantity of oil—I think more than five eighths of its own weight. South from the Apingi, malachite and copper must be abundant, for they come to Loango from the interior. What a profitable branch of commerce this might be made! In many parts of the mountains very rich iron ore is plentiful; and, should it in time become civilized, there will be no trouble in building railways. The forests furnish an inexhaustible supply of timber. A species of teak is found near the sea-shore. Saw-mills could be erected to make all this available in time. I am fully persuaded that one of these days—it may be a very long time yet—we will have to come to Africa for timber. Then there must be precious stones in those rocky and woody mountains; and it is not improbable that gold may be found in sufficient abundance to pay well for mining. Unfortunately, no dependence could be placed on agricultural products, for no negro loves to cultivate the soil.
The social system, also, must be entirely reformed in this part of the world before agriculture can flourish. Men must be taught to cultivate the soil themselves instead of leaving it to their wives. You have seen, in reading the previous books of this series, that men do not work. Not one of them would like to go and cultivate the soil. They think it is beneath their dignity, and that it is for women only to handle the spade and hoe.
You have seen that all the products I have spoken of, as furnishing means to raise a revenue, are native products. The one exception is the pea-nut, which, however, grows there, when planted, with great luxuriance.
I must also teach the natives to plant rice, so that they may have food that will keep. They never had seen rice before I came to their country, though in some parts of Africa the natives plant and live upon it. I must also make them plant Indian corn, as this is also food that will keep. I must tell you that Indian corn is often found among the tribes near the Coast, but the plant is gradually finding its way into the interior.
I thought I would let some time pass away before I made up my mind what I should do. If I conclude to remain to be their king, I must go home and get a wife. A smile came over me at that very thought, for it was the first time I had thought of the subject in my life. What a tremendous excitement there would be if I ever came to the Apingi country with a wife, especially if she had blue eyes, and long fair or flaxen hair hanging down over her shoulders! I am sure I would set the Apingi people crazy. They would certainly fall down and worship her as a beautiful and unknown spirit that had risen out of some clear and limpid stream which meanders through the forest.