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698

CHARTERED

COMPANIES

had set up trading stations along the Lower Niger, and the administration of Senegal had stretched out its armstowards the upper waters of the river. There was every likelihood of British trade being throttled. At this juncture Mr George Goldie-Taubman, previously an officer in the Royal Engineers, went to the Niger in 1877 for the purpose of crossing the continent to the waters of the Upper Nile. He then conceived the idea of creating a British province there, and in 1879 formed all the petty British firms trading on the main Niger into the United Africa Company. In 1881 he applied to Government for a charter, having found that the company could not exercise jurisdiction over foreigners without it. The capital of the company (£100,000) being too small for it to be entrusted with sovereign rights, he formed in 1882 the National Africa Company, with a capital of £1,000,000 subscribed. Even then the charter could not be issued until the two existing large French companies had been got rid of. These were bought out, and anticipating the Germans, Mr Goldie-Taubman (better known as Sir George Taubman Goldie) secured himself in the south by concluding treaties with the sultans of Sokoto and Gando. By the time of the Berlin Conference (1884) Great Britain could show that she alone possessed subjects with trading firms on the river. Her claim to a protectorate was admitted, and the company (now known as the Royal Niger) received its charter. It was anticipated itself had been discovered by British travellers. Mungo that the new chartered company would extend the sphere Park traced its course from its source to Bussa, and from of its operations, for provision was made in the first article Bussa to the sea. It was a Scotsman, Laird, who first for its authority over future acquisitions, and its political organized, in 1882, the navigation from the sea to a point powers were defined. Any attempt on the part of the above the confluence of the river with the Benue. Within company to acquire a commercial monopoly in the regions the next twenty-five years expeditions were despatched under its sway was distinctly forbidden, and taxation could into the interior, and a consul was posted at Lokoja; but only be imposed sufficient to cover the actual expenses of the deadly climate discouraged Government efforts, and the government. The territories hereby put under the company’s control the consulate was abandoned in 1866. Thus no effective did not include those on the coast which were directly attempt was made to connect these rich regions of the interior with British possessions on the coast. With under the British Government and known as the Niger regard to the delta of the river there is much the same Coast Protectorate. The interior, however, lay open to story to tell. By the end of the 18th century British it, but here it was exposed to keen competition from enterprise had almost entirely displaced the Portuguese, foreign rivals. Its treaties also covered about half of the who had traded principally in slaves. The coast-line of coast-line between Lagos and Cameroon, as well as all the Niger delta may be said roughly to extend from Lagos the delta behind that half of the coast-line. The greater to the mouth of the river Kwo-ibo, 200 miles eastward. part of the Niger delta was thus secured and saved by the The various streams into which the great river is divided company, as well as the two great entrances to that river, at its mouth became known as the “ Oil Rivers,” from the the Forcados branch and the Nun branch. On the southpalm oil which formed the staple article of commerce after east lay German Cameroon. The frontier had been the suppression of the slave trade. By the fourth decade settled by a convention in 1886, which was confirmed by of the 19th century British interests had grown so im- another made in November 1893. The line was drawn portant that a permanent consulate was established, but from Rio del Rey to the rapids of Cross river, thence up to the year 1880 no event of political importance calls through Yola to the southern bank of Lake Chad. On for comment. From that year onwards constant pressuie the north and west the frontier coterminous with French exerted by the United Africa Company, hereafter men- territory was not yet settled ; and this uncertainty led ultitioned, on the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade mately to dangerous complications, which were finally caused the Government to contemplate taking over all the settled in June 1898. The territories over which the coast from Lagos to the Gaboon. Owing to complications company exercised its sway were more than 500,000 elsewhere, however, this was not done, and Germany square miles in extent, and contained from 20,000,000 to seized a portion of Cameroon. Then the British flag was 40,000,000 of inhabitants. Their lower portion was planted in other parts of that district, but eventually occupied principally by small tribes in the most abject the last patch of British territory in Cameroon was stage of barbarism, but above the lower Niger a very surrendered to Germany in 1887. Afterwards by agree- different country lay open to its enterprise. The Central ment with Germany the eastern boundary of the Oil (British) Sudan is one of the richest and most populous Rivers Protectorate was extended to the upper waters of districts in Africa. Cereals, fruits, cotton, and indiarubber the Benue and the shores of Lake Chad. Thus the entrance are among its products, and it possesses many large and thriving towns, some with as many as 100,000 inhabitants, to the Niger territory passed into British hands. It was in the development of the hinterland and the and all capable of becoming centres for trade and comdelta above mentioned that the Niger Company played so merce. Haussaland is the home of a stalwart race, many important a part. The French Government had been members of which have embraced Mahommedanism, and beforehand with the British in that district. Before 1880 from them comes the finest material for the native soldiery. two French companies, actively encouraged by Gambetta, The company brought the greatest activity to bear upon

dangers and advantages of development by chartered companies. Lack of control over its officers, and irritation excited among other nationalities, have led undoubtedly to serious complications ; on the other hand, its administration is now under strict supervision by Government, and the territories occupied by the company could hardly have been British unless through the agency of a chartered company. Had not the territory of Rhodesia been in British hands in 1889, Germany, the Transvaal, and possibly Portugal would almost certainly have asserted claims. The action of Government is slow, and is hampered by public opinion, which it takes time to inform fully in such matters. Even had the British Government occupied the territory, it is more than doubtful if ten years could have seen the development which has taken place under the administration of the chartered company. No one can doubt that the native population is infinitely better off under the company’s administration than in the days of raid and massacre under Lo-Bengula. The Royal Niger Company. The charter of the Royal Niger Company was granted on 10th July 1886, but its real origin was earlier. Since trade began between Europeans and the native Origin and races inhabiting the coast round the mouths of sphere of ^ NigCr anc[ its hinterland, it had been practised on. The Niger cally monopolized by the British.