THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA. Adventures and Observations on the West Coast of Africa, and its Islands. By Rev. CHARLES W. THOMAS, M. A., member of the Georgia Conference, Chaplain of the African Squadron in 1855, 1856 and 1857. Illustrated. New York:
Derby & Jackson. 1860. 12mo. pp. 479.—In the present aspect of American affairs, with the "negro" uppermost in all the great
questions of the day, a book that touches upon the negro's "fatherland," and throws
light upon the character and condition of the black race at home, and upon the efforts making to stay the traffic in human flesh, and to colonize and Christianize the sons of Africa on African soil, will be received and read with interest.
The scope and character of the work before us, are fully indicated by its title. The chapters which compose it were prepared originally for the "Southern Christian Advocate," at the request of the Georgia Methodist Conference, of which the author is a member. Besides a narrative of personal observations, at various points on the African coast and islands, he has condensed from various sources a large amount of historical, statistical, and other information respecting the regions visited, and also given us his views on various questions of interest respecting the colored race. The book is well written, interesting throughout, and, in the main, we doubt not, trustworthy. The reader, however, will often be reminded, in its perusal, that the writer is a Southern man, and that however conscientiously inclined to observe and judge impartially, he has not always been able to free himself from Southern prejudices. The book is, in fact, a "South-side" view of Africa and the Africans, but is all the more interesting on this account, and the more valuable, also, when its facts or testimonies are such as would be suspected, if they came from a "Northern abolitionist."
As a specimen of the Southern light in which he is apt to look at objects, we may cite a passage in which he refers to Mrs. Stowe. He represents an eloquent colored Methodist preacher, whom he heard in Sierra Leone, as contrasting the condition of his audience with that of their race in America, "where," said the preacher, "they live on roots, and do the work of brute beasts."
"After service," says our author, "I introduced myself, as a southern Methodist, to the preacher, and enjoyed half an hour's chat with him at the mission house, where I intimated that his description of the condition of the colored race in the United States was new to me. Imagine my surprise when the gentleman quoted from the 'Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and asked me if I did not admire Mrs. Stowe. I replied that 'as a writer, I admired her; and that the most ardent admirers of her intellect were Southern men.'
"How is that, sir?'
"'Why, out of the South she is complimented in that she possesses an imagination which can form a beautiful and attractive
story out of a few plain characters, acts of cruelty and pictures of suffering. In the South, we know that not only did her imagination supply the dressing and pain, but even the characters and the so called 'facts,' and that,
therefore, as a creative genius,
which is the highest order of genius, we consider her gigantic—but alas! for her veracity.'
"Thus is abolitionism doing its accursed work; spreading, even in Africa, the false venom of falsehood, and engendering strife." pp. 81, 82.
Occasional instances of this sort of prejudice very much detract from the general fairness and excellence of the book. At the same time, we must do the author the justice to say, that, while he has a strong antipathy to "Northern abolitionists," he shows little sympathy with the "fire-eaters" and disunionists of the South, or with their radical views respecting slavery and the slave trade.