FROM SLAVES TO NEW TRADE
With the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the British navy
took to patrolling the coasts for other nations' slave ships. The motives
of the British were not entirely humanitarian. Having given up the commercial
benefits of the slave trade, the British were determined to make everyone
else do the same. Had they not, their share of African trade
would have been much smaller.
The anti-slave trading crusade, although inspired by moral righteousness, became
a way for Britain to assert itself both commercially and territorially in Africa.
However, stopping the slave trade was not easy. On the East coast the British
met with considerable resistance from Arab merchants
and the Sultan of Zanzibar himself.
Meanwhile, in South Africa the Afrikaners
were beginning to formulate a way of life not only profoundly religious
but also one in which the role assigned to Africans was essentially static
and subservient with no vision of change or movement.
THE STORY OF JAJA, KING OF THE OPOBA
In West Africa the tension grew between African
merchant kings and European government officials who wanted to dismantle all
monopolies and tariffs imposed by local rulers. This move towards free trade
meant African monopolies being replaced by much larger European monopolies in
the long term. Jaja, King of Opobo, in the Niger Delta (part of Nigeria today)
had been a crucial ally of the British in the sacking of the Asanti capital
Kumasi. In 1885 he asked for British Protection through the consul - Hewitt.
Queen does not want to take your country or your markets, but at the same
time she is anxious that no other nations should take them. She undertakes
to extend her gracious power and protection, which will leave your country
still under your government: she has no wish to disturb your rule…"
Letter 8th January 1884, quoted by Michael Crowder in The Story of Nigeria.
British Protection was usually offered on condition
that all local trade monopolies were dropped. In the case of Jaja he successfully
retained his monopoly. He was determined not to lose his position as middleman
and that none of his neighbours should deal with European merchants. But within
two years, in 1886, the Royal Niger Company had succeeded in taking the monopoly
of all trade in the region. Jaja was eventually deported to the West Indies
with a pension of £800 a year.