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The fortress in the isle of Arguin was finished, and it was found necessary to build another at S. Georgio de la Mina, a few degrees north of the line, to secure the trade of gold dust, which was chiefly carried on at that place. For this purpose a fleet was fitted out of ten large and three smaller vessels, freighted with materials for building the fort, and with provisions and ammunition for six hundred men, of whom one hundred were workmen and labourers. Father Lafitau relates, in very particular terms, that these ships carried hewn stones, bricks, and timber, for the fort, so that nothing remained but barely to erect it. He does not seem to consider how small a fort could be made out of the lading of ten ships.
The command of this fleet was given to Don Diego d’Azambue, who set sail December 11, 1481, and reaching La Mina January 19, 1482, gave immediate notice of his arrival to Caramansa, a petty prince of that part of the country, whom he very earnestly invited to an immediate conference.
Having received a message of civility from the negroe chief, he landed, and chose a rising ground, proper
for his intended fortress, on which he planted a banner with the arms of Portugal, and took possession in the name of his master. He then raised an altar at the foot of a great tree, on which mass was celebrated, the whole assembly, says Lafitau, breaking out into tears of devotion at the prospect of inviting these barbarous nations to the profession of the true faith. Being secure of the goodness of the end, they had no scruple about the means, nor ever considered how differently from the primi
tive martyrs and apostles they were attempting to make proselytes. The first propagators of Christianity recommended their doctrines by their sufferings and virtues; they entered no defenceless territories with swords in their hands; they built no forts upon ground to which they had no right, nor polluted the purity of religion with the avarice of trade, or inso.
lence of power.
What may still raise higher the indignation of a Christian mind, this purpose of propagating truth appears never to have been seriously pursued by any European nation; no means, whether lawful or unlawful, have been practised with diligence and perseverance for the conversion of savages. When a fort is built, and a factory established, there remains no other care than to grow rich. It is soon found that ignorance is most easily kept in subjection, and that by enlightening the mind with truth, fraud and usurpation would be made less practicable and less secure.
In a few days an interview was appointed between Caramansa and Azambue. The Portuguese uttered by his interpreter a pompous speech, in which he made the negroe prince large offers of his master's friendship, exhorting him to embrace the religion of his new ally; and told him, that as they came to form a league of friendship with him, it was necessary that they should build a fort, which might serve as a retreat from their common enemies, and in which the Portuguese might be always at hand to lend him assistance.
The negroe, who seemed very well to understand what the admiral intended, after a short pause, returned an answer full of respect to the king
of Portugal, but appeared a little doubtful what to determine with relation to the fort. The commander saw his diffidence, and used all his art of persuasion to overcome it. Caramansa, either induced by hope, or constrained by fear, either desirous to make them friends, or not daring to make them enemies, consented, with a shew of joy, to that which it was not in his power to refuse ; and the new comers began the next day to break the ground for the foundation of a fort.
Within the limit of their intended fortification were some spots appropriated to superstitious practices; which the negroes no sooner perceived in danger of violation by the spade and pick-ax, than they ran to arms, and began to interrupt the work. The Portuguese persisted in their purpose, and there had soon been tumult and bloodshed, had not the admiral, who was at a distance to superintend the unlading the materials for the edifice, been informed of the danger. He was told at the same time, that the support of their superstition was only a pretence, and that all their rage might be appeased by the presents which the prince expected, the delay of which had greatly offended him.
The Portuguese admiral immediately ran to his men, prohibited all violence, and stopped the commotion; he then brought out the presents, and spread them with great pomp before the prince ; if they were of no great value, they were rare, for the negroes had never seen such wonders before; they were therefore received with extasy, and prehaps the Portuguese derided them for their fondness of trifles, without considering how many things
derive their value only from their scarcity ; and that gold and rubies would be trifles, if nature had scattered them with less frugality.
The work was now peaceably continued, and such was the diligence with which the strangers hastened to secure the possession of the country, that in twenty days they had sufficiently fortified themselves against the hostility of the negroes. They then proceeded to complete their design. A church was built in the place where the first altar had been raised, on which a mass was established to be celebrated for ever once a day, for the repose of the soul of Henry, the first mover of these discoveries.
In this fort the admiral remained with sixty soldiers, and sent back the rest in the ships, with gold, slaves, and other commodities. It may be observed that slaves were never forgotten, and that wherever they went, they gratified their pride, if not their avarice, and brought some of the natives, when it happened that they brought nothing else.
The Portuguese endeavoured to extend their dominions still farther. They had gained some knowledge of the Jaloffs, a nation inhabiting the coast of Guinea, between the Gambia and Senegal. The king of the Jaloffs being vicious and luxurious, committed the care of the government to Bemoin, his brother by the mother's side, in preference to two other brothers by his father. Bemoin, who wanted neither bravery nor prudence, knew that his station was invidious and dangerous, and therefore made an alliance with the Portuguese, and retained them in his defence by liberality and kindness. At last the king was killed by the con
trivance of his brothers, and Bemoin was to lose his power, or maintain it by war.
He had recourse in this exigence to his great ally the king of Portugal, who promised to support him, on condition that he should become a christian, and sent an ambassador, accompanied with missionaries. Bemoin promised all that was required, objecting only, that the time of a civil war was not a proper season for a change of religion, which would alienate his adherents; but said, that when he was once peaceably established, he would not only embrace the true religion himself, but would endeavour the conversion of the kingdom.
This excuse was admitted, and Bemoin delayed his conversion for a year, renewing his promise from time to time. But the war was unsuccessful, trade was at a stand, and Bemoin was not able to pay the money which he had borrowed of the Portuguese merchants, who sent intelligence to Lisbon of his delays, and received an order from the king, commanding them, under severe penalties, to return home.
Bemoin here saw his ruin approaching, and, hoping that money would pacify all resentment, borrowed of his friends a sum sufficient to discharge his debts; and finding that even this enticement would not delay the departure of the Portuguese, he embarked his nephew in their ships, with an hundred slaves, whom he presented to the king of Portugal, to solicit his assistance. The effect of this embassy he could not stay to know ; for being soon after deposed, he sought shelter in the fortress of Arguin,