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to a town called Gatto, where vessels trading with Benin have their factories. Craft of the burthen of sixty tons can navigate this creek to within four or five miles of the town, which is distant from the Formosas thirty-five miles; and the first dry land which appears after entering that river is near Gatto, the intermediate country being a morass covered with an impenetrable forest.
It is the practice here for masters of vessels to pay the king a visit soon after their arrival; and such a ceremony is seldom allowed to be dispensed with, as on these occasions the black monarch receives a handsome present, consisting of a piece of silk damask, a few yards of scarlet cloth, and some strings of coral. Soon after my arrival, therefore, and while my health yet permitted it, I got into my hammock, and at the end of the second day, I arrived at the capital of Benin.
The course of the road from Gatto to the
capital is about NE. by N. and the road passes over a country nearly level, intersected with deep woods and swamps; the distance I estimated to be about forty miles.
The face of the country surrounding Benin bears much the same character as that of Ardrah and Grewhe, except that it is more thickly wooded. The town is large and populous, and contains probably 15,000 inhabitants; it is built very irregularly, the houses being placed without any regard to order, and detached; consequently occupying a large space of ground.
The king of Benin is fetiche, and the principal object of adoration in his dominions. He occupies a higher post here than the pope does in catholic Europe; for he is not only God's vicegerent upon earth, but a god himself, whose subjects both obey and adore him as such, although I believe their adoration to arise rather from fear than love; as cases of heresy are tried before a much more summary, though a more mer
ciful, tribunal than the inquisition, that abominable engine of catholic despotism. For delinquency, if proved in the former instance, is punished promptly by the delinquent receiving the coup de tete, which terminates instantly both his life and sufferings; whereas the inquisitions of the catholic states of civilised Europe, by a refinement in cruelty, protract the sufferings of the unfortunate victims who may have fallen under their displeasure, by immuring them for years in loathsome dungeons; then applying to their bodies the rack, to extort from them a recantation of their heresies; and afterwards by cutting their throats, as their progenitors, the Spaniards, did the unfortunate natives of Hispaniola and Cuba immediately after baptism, to prevent them from relapsing into apostasy.
King Bowarré, who is now about fortyfive years of age, although he is supposed by his poor deluded subjects to have the attributes of a god (it being a very heinous
crime for any of them to entertain an opinion that he, like other mortals, requires either food or sleep), knew very well that white men, with all their ingenuity, required both; he therefore ordered his nephew's house to be prepared for my accommodation, and sent me a sheep, some fowls, yams and pumpkins.
The day following my arrival, I had the honour of an interview with him; he received me with much politeness, particularly after the fine flashy piece of red silk damask, which I had brought with me as a present for him, had been unfolded. The conversation was carried on with the aid of the king's trader, who resides at Gatto, and who had accompanied me from thence to act as my linguist. Trade was the principal, indeed the only subject discussed; for king Bowarre, although he is both a god and a king, trades, nevertheless, in slaves and ivory.
The Benin people, like those of Ardrah
and Lagos, are great consumers of Brazil tobacco, not any vessels loaded with which had for some time arrived from the Brazils. This was a subject of much conversation, and of deep regret on the part of the king.
The audience lasted about one hour; he then presented me with two or three country cloths, and a small piece of ivory, when I made my bow and took my leave of him.
There are in Benin a number of itinerant dancing-women, who were sent to amuse me, and whose performance before the house constantly attracted a crowd of persons of both sexes, who conducted themselves with great decorum during the exhibition. The ladies danced in the fandango style, perhaps not quite so modestly as our fashionable belles, although more in character, by holding in their hands excellent substitutes for castanets, with which they kept time admirably. These consisted of small hollow gourds, over which are spread nets having small pease strung on the sides of the