1864 – David Livingstone Lecture – African Slave Trade – Zambezi Expedition

David Livingstone Lecture
First Public Reveal of the Zambezi Expedition
African Slave Trade
Starvation and Witchcraft
Unexplored Tribal Regions

Bath, 21 September 1864. “Dr. Livingstone’s Lecture” being an account of his African travels, spoken by him to an audience of some 2,000 people gathered for the event at the Theatre Royal in Bath shortly after his Second Zambezi expedition, and published two days later in the Supplement to the Bath & Cheltenham Gazette. Large single leaf measuring approximately 61 x 27 cm (2 feet long), printed by George Harvey Wood, Proprietor of the Gazette, with text recto and verso, the Livingstone account consuming an entire page save one advertisement. Indication of moisture to verso, text remaining legible, otherwise in very good condition, a scarce primary source document.

Livingstone’s lecture in Bath was the very first time his account was presented publically, first on 19 September 1864, at the Theatre Royal. It was promptly published in the Gazette supplement, seen here. A few days later he presented the same lecture at the Mineral Water Hospital, also in Bath, also to a large audience.

[Only four days prior to Livingstone’s lecture, on 15 September 1864, as Burton and Speke were preparing to debate their claims at a special meeting to be held the following day in the Royal Mineral Water Hospital at Bath, Speke was killed in a shooting accident at his cousin’s nearby estate.]

On 19 September 1864, at the Theatre Royal in Bath, during the meeting of the British Association of Science, Livingstone spoke about his travels in Africa and the “gigantic evil’ of slavery.” The humble missionary did not relish the thought of public speaking, though his contemporaries and all citizens of the British Empire were most eager to hear his account. Contemporary newspapers hurried to publish his lecture, which appeared, in whole or in part, in the lllustrated London News, the Bath Chronicle, and in the first instance, in a supplement of the local Gazette as see here. Having received full support and high praise for his geographical discoveries and for establishing relations with various previously unmet tribes, Livingstone concludes with a sense of comfort and acceptance, expressing his gratitude to the audience.

The 34th annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), (now known as the British Science Association), was held in September 1864, hosted by the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI). Leading scientists and legendary explorers attended, among them Dr. David Livingstone, Captain Richard Francis Burton, Captain John Hanning Speke, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, and Sir Charles Lyell. Whilst in Bath, Livingstone stayed at 13, the Circus. By the close of the meeting, 2789 members and associates had attended.

Excerpts from the Gazette:

“Dr. Livingstone’s Lecture.”

“… some 2000 persons anxious to hear Dr. Livingstone’s account of his African travels.

“Sir Roderick Murchison took the chair… associated with Dr. Livingstone… had been delighted to find that Her Majesty had appointed Dr. Livingstone to be a consulate at Guatamala, at the mouth of that great river, the Zambezi, which he had traced almost to its source.”

“… he (Sir Roderick) did think that, looking to the services which he had rendered for 22 years past in Africa,he was entitled to some public and national recompense… in Her Majesty’s name that a pension should be granted to him…”

“Dr. Livingstone spoke in effect as follows:”

“… The most interesting discoveries of Lake Zanganyika and Victoria Nyawa, of Captain Burton and Captain Speke, whose sad loss we all now so deeply deplore, and again, of Lakes Shirwa and Ayassa; the discoveries of Van der Decken and several others, but last of all, the grand discovery, of the main source of the Nile… accomplished by our countrymen Speke and Grant. In all this exploration, the main view has not been merely to discover objects of nine days’ wonder – to gaze, and to be gazed at by barbarians… but, in proceeding to the west coast to find a path to the sea, whereby lawful commerce might be introduced to aid missionary efforts…”

… in proceeding to the est coast to find to find a path to the sea, whereby lawful commercemight be introduced… I found piracy to be abolished, and that the slave trade had been so far suppressed as to be spoken of as the thing of the past – that lawful commerce had increased from £20,000 in ivory and gold dust to between two and three millions – one million of which was in palm oil, to our own country…”

“I had come to the conclusion that our cruisers had not done nothing but aggrevate the evils of the slave trade… I came the Zambesi to the East Coast… and there I found the country sealed up… foreigners being debarred from entering the country, neither traders nor missionaries had established themsleves.”

“I knew the natives to be almost all fond of trading, and, when away from the influence of the slave trade, friendly and mild… “

“… if I could open up this region to lawful commerce… a good service to Africa and to England…To accomplish this was the main object of the Zambesi expedition…”

“The first discovery we made was a navigable entrance to the Zambesi, about a degree west of the Quillimane River, which has always been represented as the mouth of the Zambesi, in order, as some maintained, that the men of war might be induced to watch the false mouth, while slaves were quietly shipped from the real mouth.”

“… the country was in the hands of the natives, many of whom, by their brands, we saw had been slaves.”

“… off to an affluent of the Zambesi… called the Shire, and, as far as we know, was never exploid [explored] by any European before… 800 elephants all in sight at one time… crowds of natives, armed with bows and posioned arrows, lined the banks, and seemed disposed to resent… once just on the point of discharging their arrow.”

“Dr. Kirk and I proceeding on foot to the N. N.E., discovered Lake Shirwa… it abounds in fish, hippopatamus, and leeches… We were now among Manganja, a people who had not been visited by Europeans, and as I am often asked what sort of folk these savages are, I my answer they were as low as any we ever met, except bushmen, yet they cultivate the soil for their sustenance… and tobacco and Indian hemp for smoking… Near many of the village, furnaces were erected for smelting iron from the ore…”

All were very eager traders, and very few were hunters, so they can hardly be called savages… Their life has always appeared to me to be one of fear. They may be attacked by other tribes, and sold into slavery; and the idea this brings is, that they will be taken away, fattened, and eaten by the whites… They believe slave traders to be cannibals… They also live in fear of witchcraft…”

“Wherever the tzetze exists the people possess no cattle, as this insect proves fatal to all domestic animals.”

“Where the slave-trade is unknown, the cattle are the only cause of war. The Makololo will travel a month for the sake of ‘lifting’ a cattle: this is not considered stealing…”

“… Lake Nyassa… no trouble with the people… we have there one of the finest cotton fields in the world. In remonstrating with the chiefs against selling their people into slavery, they justified themselves on the plea that none were sold except criminals. The crimes may not always be very great…”

“When we had succeeded in gaining the goodwill of the people which crowded the whole Shire Valley, the mission, under the late Bishop Mackezie, came into the country.”

Slave hunters… sanctioned by the present government… the Scamps! They joined themselves to another tribe called Ajawa, then in the act of migrating from the south-east, and who had been accustomed to take slaves annually down to Quillimane… Furnishing the Ajawa with arms and ammunition they found it easy to drive those who were armed only with bows and arrows… we met a party of these Portuguese slaves coming with 84 captives bound and led towards Zette… even the slaves of the Governor knew they were doing wrong, and fled, leaving the whole of the captives in our hands.

The slave trade is the gigantic evil that meets us at every step in the country. We cannot move through any part without meeeting captured men and women, bound and sometimes gagged…

“We conducted Bishop Mackenzie and party up the highlands, and after spending three or four days with them, returned, and never had any connection with the conduct of that mission. We carried a boat past Murchison’s cataracts. By these rivers descends at five leaps, of great beauty, 1200 feet in a distance of about 40 miles.”

“… we begun our labours among the Manganja… the African Portuguese, by instigating the Awaja, with arms and ammunition, to be paid in slaves, produced utmost confusion. Village after village was attacked and burned… the women and children became captives. This process of slave-hunting went on for some months, and then a panic seized the Manganja nation. All feld… but they had left all their food behind them, and starvation of thousands ensued. One cannot walk a mile without seeing a human skeleton; open a hut in the now deserted villages, and there lie the unburied skeletons. In some I opened, there were two skeletons, and a little one, rolled up in a mat, between them.”

“… anxious to see the abolition of the slave-trade… but the evil is done by the assertion in Europe of dominion in Africa… Portugal gains nothing but a shocking bad name, as the first that began the slave trade, and the last to end it.”

The police of the sea must be maintained… no traffic engenders lawlessness as does this odious trade.”

“The plan I proposed required a steamer on Lake Nyassa… The Government sent out a steamer… too deep for the Shire. Another steamer was built at my own expense… made to unscrew in 24 pieces… Lady Nyassa or Lady of the Lake… a work was hindered… and I purpose to try again.”

“With respect to the African, neither drink, nor disease, nor slavery, can root him out of the world. I never had any idea of the prodigous destruction of human life that takes place subsequently to the slave-hunting till I saw it; and as this has gone on for centuries, it gives a wonderful idea of the vitality of the nation.”

End excerpts.

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