Page 1

Bolama as a prospective site for american colonization in the 1820's and 1830's






Holama as aprospective site for american colonization in the 1820's and 1830's

Bolama as a prospective site for american colonization in the 1820's and 1830's (') by GEORGE E. BROOKS


United States government's role in the arbitration which r.ecognized Portugal"s sovereignity o.ver the isl'and of Bolama against competing British claims is well known. Indeed. the event is commemorated on Bolama by路 a prap with a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant. which is depicted on a special 2$50 centennial stamp issued for Guine in 1970. (President Grant also appears on the I $75 stamp in the 1946 series commemorating the Fifth Cen-



(1 ) Research in Portugal on the economic and social history of Guine and the Cape Verde Islands for the period 178061870 was supported by a sabbatical leave and research funds from 'Indiana University and a grant from the Social Science 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 by historians, however, is that Bolama was one of the sites A considered by American colonization societies in the 1820's and 1830's for the settlement of black freedmen. Among those advocating Boltma for this purpose were the United States consular representative for the Cape Verde Islands in 1821, Samuel Hodges, Jr" and a decade later George R. McGill, one of the colonists at Monrovia, Liberia. Their reports concerning Bolama's suibability are quoted in the final section 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"rshy mangrove-covered islands of the Bijago Archipelago and much of the neighboring shore of the continent - caused the island to be coveted by both Africans and Europeans. Until sometime in the seventeenth century Bolam", together with Ilha das Galinhas, was inhabited by Beafadas, who were then driven to the mainland by the neighboring Bijagos. The Beafadas and Bijagos continued constantly at war, and Bolam" remained a no-man's-land with no permanent settlements. Hunters from both groups exploited the large herds of game on the island, including numer,ous elephants whose ivory was bartered to European and Eurafrican traders for guns, powder. tobacco, rum, and E~ropean commodities. The ,western part of Bolama was frequented by Bijagos fr,om Canhabaque (Ilha Roxa) to plant rice, and, it seems probable, to cut down trees to make a/madias. or war canoes, the largest of which were capable of carrying thirty to forty warriors. (See illustration) Bijagos acqUired a fearsome reputation among the Beafadas. Papels, and other coastal peoples whom they raided and enslaved. and (2) See ÂŤas Selos postais da GuinePortugues.aÂť, Boletim Cuitur-alda Guine Portuguesa, v, 16 (1949), 670..71. 'A photograph of Grant's statue is printed on page 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 Isles de 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<;ao do V Centenario da Descoberta da Guine. Bissau, 1946, published in Augusto J. Santos Lima, Organiza9iio Economica e Social dos Bijagos (Lisboa, 1947), :racing page 129.



among Europeans as well, for they frequently attacked vessels which were becalmed or grounded in the shoal waters of the archipelago (3). Bolama's strategic position at the mouth of the Rio. Grande and its fine harbor on the northeast side made it well known to Portuguese ant other European traders frequenting the Upper Guinea Coast. The between Bolama and the mainland opposite was the safest ch,amlel for vessels bound from Bissau to the Rio Grande, or engaged in. coasting voyages to the Ce""ba~Cacine, Nunez, and other rivers lying to the southwards. Bolama was of particular interest to French traders, who long competed with Portuguese for the commerce of the area. In 1700, Brlie, the energetic director of the Compagnie des Indes, visited Bolama in the course of a reconnaissance of the Upper Guinea Coast afterwards recommended founding a French trading establishment on the isl,and. Shortage of finances kept BrUe's pr.oposal from being implemented, but French trading vessels became increasingly active the coast of Guine in tlle years following, undermining Portuguese commerce and influence in the area and causing the abandonment Bissau in 1708 (4). ·When Bissa~pied by Portugal in 1752, Francisco Roque de Satta Maior, who .supervised the rebuilding of the fort, also planted the Portuguese flag on Bolama, although no occupation was effected. Bissau received few men or supplies in the years follOWing, and the settlement languished until substantial reinforcements were sent in 1765 by the Company of Grao Para and Maranhao ('). With Bissau reoccupied, French traders took a renewed interest in Bolama. Saint-Jean, the commandant of Goree in the 1750's repor-

. (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. Santos Lima. Organiz89iio econ6mica e social dos Bijag6s (Lisboa, 1947). with an historical introduction 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).


tedly visited Bolamaon numerous occasions, and advocated founding a French establishment there, Similar proposals were made by Poncet de la Riviere, the commandant of Goree in 1763, and by Jean-Baptiste Demanet, a former chaplain on Goree, in the book he published in 1767 ('). Between 1756 and 1815 France and Britain were at war more than half the time, with British naval forces generally in the ascendancy in West African waters. French commerce suffered its worst setback in 1758 during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), when both Saint-Louis and Goree were captured. Goree was returned at the end of the war, but Saint-Louis was occupied by the British until 1779. British commeicial 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 Pongo rivers where they founded Eurafrican families which became increasingly influential in the rivers' commerce. During the latter years of the century 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路 bhmiz rand Pease traders, John Ormund, established a factory in the Rio Grande by the 1780's, and trade also passed along an overland route connecting Bulola on 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, especially in the years following the dissolution of the Company of Grao Para and Maranhao in 1778, when the Portuguese government drastioally curtailed spending in Africa. The consequence was 路that there were frequently no funds available to pay civil officials, officers and soldiers in the garrisons, or maintain the forts and public buildings. Portuguese establishments in Guine stagnated for decades, and it is a reflection of this period of weakness that foreign traders and colonization societies could contemplate founding settlements on路 Bolama almos\.:,vithout fear of hindrance (').

(6) Western (London, (7)

C. B. Wadstrom. An Essay on Colonization; Parlicularly Applied to the Coast of Africa; with Some Free. Thoughts on Cultivation and Commerce 1795), Part II, 130路32: 143: Jore, Etablissements /ranfais, 47.48. Rodney, Upper Guinea Coast. 248~250; Barreto. Hist6ria da Guine, 155...160.



French initiatives .in West Africa increased markedly following the recapture of Saint-Louis in 1779 and other naval successes in the war$ 778-1783. In the years following several Frenchmen knowledgeable about trade in the Upper Guinea Coast advocated founding French establishments on Bol'ama. Silvain Meinrad Xavier Golberry, who published an account of his travels in West ~Jrica, relates that Marechal de Castries, the Minister of Marine and Colonies, contemplated planting a settlement on Bolama in 1784, but decided against it. Golberry considered the project an excellent one, and recommended establishing a factory on the eastern part of Bolama, with subsidiary posts on Ilha Roxa and Menterre (the mainland to the southeast of Bolama which he believed to be another island). Golberry's views were shared by Pruneau de Pommegorge, a longtime resident of West Africa, whose book published in 1789 described Bolama's numerous commercial advantages and counseled that France should found an establishment on the island «without delay» (8). Carl BernsWadstrom, a Swedish advocate of African colonization, relates in his book that in 1787 he made the acquaintance of an Englishman named Barber liVing in France who had convinced· the French government to found a colony on Bolama. According to Wadstrom, had it not been for the French Revolution, «a colonial expedition to Bulama would certainly have been undertaken». Whether Wadstrom's story can be given credence or not, it is evident from the foregoing that there was considerable French interest in Bolama in the years just prior to the Revolution ('). In Britain, projects for African colonization were further advanced than ·in France. In 1786 advooates of a scheme to settle black freedmen at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River succeeded in obtaining the support of the British government. The initial settlement made in May 1787 was dispersed two .years later by the local Temne, but the colony was 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 les annees 1785, 1786, et 1787 (Paris, 2 vols., 1802), II, 224-26; M.P.D.P. [Pruneau de Pommegorge], Descripti6n de fa Nigritie (Amsterdam, 1789), 133.. .37. (1l)Wadstrom, Essay on Colonization. Part II, 132. It .seems likely that the man referred to is the same Barber whose factory in the Iles de Los was. destroyed American 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 colony on Bolama.

The British Settlementjon Bolama, May 1792 - November 1793 'the chief organizer of the British attempt to f.ound a colony on BolalIl<l was Henry Hew Dalrymple, who had served in the British garrison 011 Goree in the 1780's. While on Goree he had heard favorable reports concerning Bolama, presumably from British and Eurafrican traders who had traded in the area. In Britain Dalrymple spread glowing reports concerning Bolama's suitability as a site for European settlement - reports that complemented Andre Briie's descriptions from a century earlier. Such was the excitkment concerning colonization in Britain that a joint-stock company formed in November 1791 was quickly oversubscribed by investors and would-be colonists. Two vessels were fitted out which sailed in April 1792 with two hundred and seventy-five colonists - 153 men, 57 women and 65 children. ("). The promoters of the expedition failed to anticipate the response of the Africans who claimed possession of Bo1ema. Nine days after the first vessel anchored off the island, a Canhabaque war party struck without warning, killed or wounded. ten men, and carried off six women and children. The latter were afterwards ransomed, but the unprovoked attack struck terror into the hearts of the remaining colonists, and the majority resolved to return to England. Only eighty-six (48 men, 13 women, and 25 children) decided to stay on the island under the leadership of the redoubtable Philip Beaver, a furloughed Royal Navy lieutenant ("). (10) Wadstrom. Essay on Colonization, Part II, 130...36: Philip Beaver. African Memoranda relative to IBn Attempt to Establish a lkitt'sh Settlement on the Island of Bulama (London, 1805; reprinted 1968). Chapter I. Philip D. Curtin. The Image of Africa (Madison. 1964h Chapter 4. surveys the colonization schemes advanced in this period. See also P.E.H.....Hair'A Boletim Cuitur'a[ da Guine Portu.. guesa, xv, 58 (1%0), 359-383. "!~ '"" (11) Beaver, African Memoranda, Chapters III and IV. passim. One of the


subscribers who chose to remain, and subsequently died on Bolama" 'was. Benjamin Marston. a Loyalist from Marblehead. Massachusetts. ~ho had gone to England during the American Revolution. [bid., 115路...16.


In the weeks following Beaver succeeded in negoltial:lni;ji for the purchase of Bolama from both the Bijagos from the rulers of Ilha Roxa, Bellchore and from Matchore and Niobana, who lived at Ghinala, the n::~'l:~:(fi~[l~!\\; ~\ talÂť on the north bank of the Rio Grande. The were 1lfixious to attract English traders, and additionally agreed to large tract of land on the mainland opposite Bolama ("). The colonists were afflicted by more or less continuous sickness and a steady attrition of deaths, and a number deserted the settlement. The greater part of the labor in clearing land, planting corps, and erecting buildings and fortifications was done by hired African grumetes. For assistance in obtaining grumetes, for needed supplies, and for many acts of friendly assistance, the British colonists were greatly indebted to Joao da Silva Cardoso, one of the leading Portuguese traders at Bissau. Cardoso also mediated on behalf of the colonists with successive commandants of Bissau, who together with the majority of the resident traders, were hostile to the settlement and resentful of its commerce with local Africans. Doubtless they also questioned Cardoso's motives in assisting the colonists, inasmuch as he thereby acquired British goods for his trading operations ("). By the fall of 1793 the number of colonists had dwindled to a handful; meantime the resumption of British-French hostilities in Europe rendered impossible sending the colony substantia( reinforcements of settlers or supplies, At the end of November Beaver and five remaining coldnists abandoned Bolama and sailed for Sierra Leone (14). Beaver's account of the Bolama settlement was not published until more than a decade later, follOWing a period of active service in the Royal 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 died at Bissau in 1805 (1). Caixa 18 (1805.1806h pasta .n. d. 1805. Arquivo Hist6rico Ultramarino. (14) Beaver. African Menzoranda, 275.. .76. The block-house and remaining supplies and trade goods were sold to Captain Francisco Correia. an Afro-:.Portuguese shipmaster 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 commerce with the Rio Grande and neighboring rivers. Beaver enumerated the crops he had successfully grown during his stay on Bolama, and recommended large-scale cultivation of cotton, plus coffee, tobacco, indigo, and sugar cane. - -Beaver laid the blame for the failure of the first settlement on the disreputable character, intemperance, and indiscipline of the colonists and the lack of adequate shelter during the first rainy season. He depreciated the ravages o~ malaria and other diseases which afflicted the colonists and down-Plyed, too, the implacable hostility of the Canhabaques ("). Beaver's criticisms of his fellow colonists, which are repeated throughout the hook, seem excessive, His indictment is at least partially discredited by his own account of the advance weeding-out of prospective colonists, and by his narrative of the privations, chronic illness, numerous deaths, and constant insecurity experienced by the settlers - sufferings which might have demoralized the most intrepid party of explorers or members of the armed services, to say nothing of civilians, many of them women or children, unprepared for such cLangers and strangers to the regime of strict naval discipline Beaver demanded,

Bo/ama, 1793-1820 Few reports are available concerning Bolama in the years immediately after the British colony was abandoned, C. B. Wadstrom and a few. others in England interested in Bolama promoted another colonization plan in 1794-1795, but nothing came of their project (16). ':rhe two decades of European wars follOWing the French Revolution were marked by commerce-raiding and a general decline of commerce on the Upper Guinea Coast. The French invasion of Portugal in 1807, which caused the royal family to remove to Brazil, further weakened Portugal'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






In 1814, a British trader named Joseph Scott and several associates established a factory on Bolama. The year folloWing, the acting-governor of Sierra Leone proposed sending a detachment of troops to protect them, but permission was denied by the British government. Scott and the other trl'ders were driven off the island by a Bijago raid in 1816, during 'fch several men were killed (17). News of the occurrence seems not to have been wi~ reported; meantime, Wadstrom and Beaver's accounts of Bolama's fertile soils and commercial advantages continued to circulate Widely among individuals interested in African colonization in Europe 'and America. Following the Napoleonic Wars British and French interest in \Vest African colonization was directed elsewhere than Bolama - in Britain to promoting the development of Sierra Leone; and in France to unsuccessful colonization schemes on the Cape Verde peninsula and along the lower Senegal River valley. Instead, it was American c.olonization societies which became interested in Bolama. American Colonization Societies and Bolama

American interest in African colonization increased markedly during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, particularly with regard t'O the pOSSible settlement of black freedmen. White advocates of settling blacks in Africa proposed doing so f'Or a variety of reasons - as a 'solution', or part of one, to the social conse... quences .of the growing number of black freedmen in the United States; as a means of encouraging the manumission of slaves and eventually the removal of the entire black population; as a means for the evangelization of the African continent; as a way to develop American commerce with Afrioa; as in the best interests of the blacks themselves; and combinations of all of these. A number of schemes were actively debated in the New England states in the 1780's and 1790's, but public or private funds were not forthwming. Some of the black freedmen in New England took the initiative and acted on their own behalf. The 'Providence African Society sent (17) Senna Barcellos, Subsidios, lIl, 386; VI, 224: A. P. Newton, ÂŤBritish Enter.., prise in Tropical Africa, 1783~1870Âť. in J. Holland Ros.e~ et al., The Cambddge History of the Bdtish Empire. II (Cambridge, 1940), 655.



a spokesman to Sierra Leone in the winter of 1794-1795; he returned with a promise of farm land and town lots to accomodate twelve families, but the opportunity was lost for lack of support from white leaders in Rhode Island. The first settlement of American blacks in Africa came in 1816 when Captain Paul Cuffee, a Massachusetts shipowner of mixed Negro and Indian ancestry, transported thirty-eight freedmen to Sierra Leone, most of them at his own expense. Cuffee's death in 1817 soon after his return to the United States precluded other ventures. Thereafter, in the absence of other blacks with Cuffee's private resources and initiative, American blacks who wanted to emigrate to Africa were dependent upon white-organized colonization groups, notably the American Colonization Society founded in December 1816 ("), The American Colonization Society began to collect information On potential African sites early in 1817. Sherbro Island was strongly recommended by the English colonial enthusiast Thomas Clarkson, and at the close of 1817 Reverend Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgess were dispatched to survey the African coast near Sierra Leone, with particular attention to Sherbro Island. Influenced by the self-serving counsel of a former American black settled in Sierra Leone, Mills and Burgess were ill-advised to recommend Sherbro Island as a suitable site, A settlement was attempted in March 1820, only to be abandoned in a few weeks' time when fever ravaged the colonists. The survivors took refuge at Sierra Leone for a year, until they were resettled successfully at Cape Mesurado, Liberia in the spring of 1822 (19), News of the American Colonbation SOciety's search for a suitable site in .West Africa belatedly reached Samuel Hodges, Jr" who carried on OJ. commission business in the Cape Verde Islands from the close of 1818 until his death in 1827, serving meantime as the United States consular representative for the Islands. Among Hodges' surviving

(18) The growth of American interest in African colonization in the last quarter of the eighteenth century is described in ÂŤThe Providence African Society's Sierra Leone Emigration S~heme, 1794.. 1795: Prologue to the African Colonization Move.. mentÂť~ International Journal of African Historical Studies.. VII (1974) forthcoming. (19) P. J. Staudenraus. The African ColoniZation Movement, 1816..1865 (New Yor!<, 1961), Chapters IV-VI.



papers is a draft copy of a letter to the president of the American Colonization Society dated January 1821. written on behalf of himself and others who are not named. The deep interest which we feel in everythirtgthat relates to the ameliorating of the present conditioIlo拢dur'Africaifbtethren. and in finding a happy home for the free people()fiSol~tlrin the U. States on their native soil. induces us to o'fferyouffe'\V remarks on the practibility of establishing a Colony inAfri5a.\al1~ the utility that will result to the nation. and particularly to thOse who should be willing to migrate thither. Ist It is practicable to establish a colony of free people of Colour in Western Africa.. This can be done by selecting a healthy & fertile spot for their residence. open to the navigation of the Atlantic. and to the internal commerce of the country. 2

The utility that would result by forming " colony of free people of colour in Western Africa cannot scarcely be realized. It would afford freedom to that class of people. who. in the United States. do not mingle in the same circles. and enjoy all that freedom of liberty & respectability as white citizens of the country; "nd not OIlly freedom. " Country and Government of their own. but ,an opportunity to engage in commercial pursuits. by which they would acquire wealth and respectability.

That no error may be committed in selecting路 a suitable plan to form a Colony in Western Africa we would recommend the healthy & fertile Island of Bulama.We are with one exception personally acquainted with the Island. and can assure you that the soil is fertile. and the Island more healthy than any other spot from Senegal to the Equator. and we firmly believe it to be more healthy than the State of Virginia generally. We will not enter into the particular circumstances that caused the failure of the



English [who] settled Island under Lieut. Beaver, for we believe they are already known to you; yet we would observe, that the failure was not owing to the Climate, .but to that class of people who were sent thither for crimes committed against their country's laws, and were a set of lazy idle drunkards, arriving at the commencement of the rainy season, without houses or huts to shelter themselves from the deluging rains, or the scorching rays of the sun. Settlers at that Island should arrive in December, and gradually become accustomed [7] to the African climate, and afford 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 abominable traffic, the slave trade, it is yet carried an to a very alarming extent in the Vicinity of Bulama, and by forming a settlement on that Island, and keeping in that Vicinity an armed Brig or Schr. navigated principally by native Africans, would have a tendency to totally abolish that inhuman traffic in that quarter. To become possessed of the Island in a quiet manner, it would be requisite to treat with the legitimate possessor, the King Keneback, who, tho'Misposition to other foreigners, and we have no doubt would treat on very moderate terms (20). The letter makes no reference to Mills and Burgess' voyage to West Africa, nor to the attempted settlement on Sherbro Island the previous March. It is surprising that Hodges and his associates would be so uninformed - that they would not have received news or rumors of these developments from vessels stopping in the Cape Verde Islands from the United States, Europe, and the European settlements in 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 Hodges letter. Whether a letter was in fact sent. or received, is not known; much of the American 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.

The ment in

ÂŤKing r improbal tion per~ certainly papers ( year res with the range of his bus! man in trading the cas I Coloniz, ver, tha such a ÂŤcomme Wi Coloniz director member dealÂť al Northe' the Mi( Cape P zation ~

(21 tram's E apparent

(" of the <11 of Ame (Boston,

years in

(" (Baltimo



The reasons Hodges mentions for the failure of the British settlement in 1792-93 are the same alleged by Philip Beaver (21). That «King Keneback» would welcome settlers of any nationality seems improba.ble, notwithstanding the statement that «we are with one exception personally acquainted with the island». The one exception almost certainly was Hedges: there is no mention in Hodges voluminous --~l'>a:J5ersof his visiting the coast of Afrioa at any time during his nine year residence in the Cape Verde Islands. Who the others associated with the letter were can only be speculated on: Hodges had a wide range of Portuguese and Cape Verdian business associates, most notably his business partner, Manoel Antonio Martins, the most influential man in the Islands; alternatively Hodges may refer to Americans trading in the Cape Verde Islands and on the coast of Africa. Whatever the case, their motive for recommending Bolama to the American Colonization Society oan only be surmised. It would seem likely, however, that they could have anticipated being invited to participate in such a venture, with the likelihood of sharing the benefits of the «commercial pursuits» mentioned in the letter ('"). 'Whether or not Hodges' letter was ever received by the American Colonization Society, others wrote or communicated personally to the directors to the same effect. John H. B. Latrobe, one of the leading members of the Society in Maryland, related having learned «a good deal» about Bolama prior to proposing in 1828 that free blacks from the Northern states in the United States be settled on Bolama, those from the Middle Atlantic states at Monrovia, and those from the South at Oape Palmas ("). In an address presented at the American Colonization 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 Hodges apparently cparaphrased. (22) Hodges' wide~ranging commercial activities are described in Chapter 4 of the author's Yankee Traders, Old Coasters, and African Middlemen; A History of 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), 142·43.



to the northward expansion of a great «Americo.. . African nation» exten.. .

ding from the Senegal River to Cape Palmas. which he envisioned would be Jeveloped by transplanted American blacks inured to the climate 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 expense of 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 Bulama enclose and embrace it. Once firmly fixed on the waters of the Rio Grande, we may deem ourselves in possession of those of the Senegal and the Gambia; having dependent on our trade the nations at the head of the Niger; ... ("). In 1831, when the Maryland State Colonization Society determined to undertake an African -settlement on its own initiative, Bolama was

one 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 seized the opportunity to voice his and others' dissatisfaction with conditions at Monrovia. and express their eagerness, to seek greener .pastures. You ask in your letter w[h]ether there could be obtained fifty persons at leas[t] one-half able Bodied-to joine in the formation of a new settlement on the Co [a] st. I answer with

(24) Labrobe's address to the American Colonization Society's annual meeting is published in the Eleventh Ann.ual Report of the American Society for Colonizing 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). Penelope Campbell. Maryland in Africa; The Maryland Colonization· Society,

.1857 (Urbana. ill., 1971). 51.52.

78~79; 1831~



ease, there can. Secondly you wish to know w[h]ich in my opinion would be the most suitable of the three [sites] that you named, I would say Bulami for several reasons, First it is most Pleasant in Being in Latitude twelve, secconly it is most helthy from its situation in the sea, thirdly it is a better place for the african trade - the natives are more civeL The place I am told is very productive; much more then the one we occupy, and I am

told there is a fine harbour for any size vessel. It is an outlet to the fuller [Fula] and Mundingo tvade, such as cattle hides, ivory, gold, Beaswax, gums, horses & asses. From the information that I have of the place it is fair prefferable to this, I wish you to keep your eye on that place untiII you learn more purticular of its Charrector, fully. I should like much to go with suitable pursons to look at it and if it is though[t] to be a propper place to take up my residence there. This is a pore discurraging spot as could have Bin selected on the c [0] ast - new comers are always discuraged and wonne out before they can raise any thing to eat - in fact threre is not 5 pursons in the place that can raise enough for them selves to live on; as quick as I mentioned the letter that I received of you it flashed like litening from one end of the settlement to the other, and a grate number came run[n]ing to 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 his concent. I told him that I had nothing to do with that, its responcibility rested with its origian and not with me. I was only asked for inferm?tion on the subject. He licened me to use any method to find out if their could be a suffi[ci]ent number. Called a me[e]ting of the citizens - they appointed a commity to send you a report of 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 can get it ready. You must excuse this writing; it is about twelve o'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 the acomplishments 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. There is a grate want of profundness in him (2').


b it

McGill does not relate how he acquired his information concerning Bolama, but he appears to have been better informed about the island than was Samuel Hodges 'a decade earlier. Most likely his source was 6ne of several American shipmasters 6r ships' officers who had traded at Bissau or acquired knowledge of Bolama from residents of the Nunez or Pongo rivers. A month later, McGill sent Latrobe another letter in which he reiterated his conviction that Bolama was the most promising site for a new settlement. I now take the oppertunity noticing your inquire in the behalf of a number of others who have authorized me so do. I[f] you wish to know whare the most ~utiable place may be found for a new settlement on the co [a] st we would say the Island of Bulami about Lattitude 12 if it can be had on fair terms, is the most likely spot on the whole cost that presents to [us]. It (lam told) is a fine 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 of tame fowl, Hides, Ivory, camwood, rice and corn mace [maize?]. and quantitys of virgin gold is to be had from the interior. By that place the Climate is so mild that the change to new comers wood not [be] neare so grate as at this place. I should be glad to be asociated with su[i]tables pursons to go to see it and contmct for it (27).

o d ~




p 9


F d c,


Sometime afterwards McGill acquired additional information concerning Bolama, and in July 1832 he wrote the Directors of the Maryland 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), Maryland Historical 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,


y' 10 B.



purposes after all: <<I was much taken up with the Island of Bulama, but on further information, I have learnt that it will not suit, nor can it be obtained without much expense禄 (28). Again, McGill's source of information is not revealed. With respect to other sites under consideration, McGill recommended the Sinoe River, Cape Palmas, and ----"River--Cestos, in that order. The Maryland Colonization Society ultimately determined on Cape Palmas, where a successful colony was . founded in February 1834 (29). Unbeknown to George McGill or the directors of the Maryland Colonization Society, renewed British interest in Bolama had caused Portuguese authorities in Guine to negociate ,agreements with the Bijagos and Beafadas in 1828 and 1830, and post a detachment of soldiers on the island. Subsequently, Caetano Jose Nozolini a';'d ~ Nhara Aurelia Correia established successful plantations, thereby substantiating some o~t~ssertions about the island's agricultural potential made by French;A~American advocates of Bolama colonization (30). Three decades of intermittant Anglo-Portuguese conflict over Bolama ensued, culminating in the famous arbitration referred to at the beginning of this paper.

(28) McGill to the Directors of the Maryland Colonization Society, July 12, 1832, ibid. (29) Campbell, Maryland in Africa, Chapter III. George McGill participated in the founding of the Cape Palmas settlement, where he afterwards served two years as the colony schoolmaster until he was expelled from the Methodist Church for marrying an African woman. Ibid., 73: 168. (30) 'Mention of Nozolini and Mae Aurelia's settlement are found in Senna Barcellos. Subsidios, IV, 203, 253.


Re Establishment of Enslaved People in Bolima Guinea Bissau  

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