From Sierra Leone Studies, no. 9

The French Occupation of the Mellacourie, 1865-671


During the first half of the nineteenth century the "Northern Rivers", in what is now French Guinea, fell within the economic and cultural sphere of influence of Sierra Leone; but not in equal degree. The Pongos was never a major place of trade, except perhaps of the slave trade, though it was a centre of Anglican missionary work, finally re-established after early vicissitudes in 1855. Trade in the Nunez was more important, but this appears to have fallen off somewhat during disturbances after 1850; fifteen Creole traders complained of their losses when the French established a fort there in 1865, but the Sierra Leone government raised no objection of principle.2 By this time, Sierra Leone's major commercial outpost to the north was the system of inter-connected waterways formed by the converging mouths of the rivers Mellacourie, Fouricaria, and Bereira, some sixty miles due north of Freetown.

The commercial advantages of this Mellacourie region were three-fold. The estuaries, which today are silted up and no longer visited by ocean-going ships, still offered safe anchorages to large sailing ships as well as coastal craft. The area was a favourite terminus for trading caravans from the Fouta Jallon and beyond, more accessible to Freetown than the Nunez. And, as the slave trade died out, the produce of the region itself was increasingly exported; first timber, then, from about 1843, groundnuts, developed by Charles Heddle, the Eurafrican who now dominated Freetown's commerce.

From the 1820's the Sierra Leone government had concerned itself with the politics of these rivers, seeking to secure peace, suppress the slave trade, and encourage legitimate commerce. In

1 In this article I have drawn upon work done, as part of a larger project, with the assistance of funds made available to the University of Aberdeen by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland; for this I am most grateful. The French records cited are from the archives of the Ministière de la Marine et des Colonies, now in the custody of the Ministière de la France d'Outre-mer, Paris.
2 C.O. 167/190. Blackall to Buckingham, Separate, 29th June, 1857. Cf. A. Demengeot, "Histoire du Nunez," Bulletin du Comité d'Etudes Historiques et Scientifiques de l'Afrique Occidentale Française, vol. xxx, 1938.

1826 Kenneth Macaulay, as acting Governor, obtained the cession of a mile-strip of sea board, with the island of Matacong; but he was acting without instructions (and possibly from mercenary motives) and was disavowed by the Secretary of State. In 1845 new but less drastic treaties were made, at Heddle's instance, and these provided the basis of British influence for the next twenty years. The chiefs of the region agreed, in return for small stipends, to suppress the slave trade; to protect the persons and property of British subjects, and to refer litigation concerning them to Freetown; and to preserve order, keep the roads open, and generally guarantee free commercial intercourse.1 It was thus hoped to secure essential British interests with a minimum of government responsibility; on the whole British trade and influence were permitted to develop, though there were occasional setbacks, notably after the disastrous naval expedition sent by acting Governor Dougan in 1853.

In the early 1860's there seems to have been a considerable expansion of the Mellacourie trade. This was partly due to the capture of Kambia by the Susus of the Moriah chiefdom; whether intentionally or not, the effect of this was to divert caravans from the Skarcies to the Mellacourie.2 At the same time, exports of groundnuts expanded, in response to growing European demands. By 1865, the exports of the region were estimated to be worth between £150,000 and £200,000 annually (since no duties were levied, these figures are necessarily approximate). According to estimates by a French naval officer, two-thirds of this sum was accounted for by groundnuts, a sixth by other agricultural or forest produce, and a further sixth by the commodities of the caravan trade - hides, plus a little gold and ivory.3

Since the main demand for groundnuts was in France, and French navigation laws still put foreign shipping at at disadvantage, much of this export trade was shipped in French vessels. In December,

1 The treaties are printed in A. Montagu, Ordinances..., and in C.O. 806/346. The basic ones were made between 20th and 28th May, 1845, with Bey Sherbro, Chief of the Samo county, and Morie Bokkary, Chief of Moricania; Mori Lahai, Chief of Malaghea, Alimami Ali, Chief of the Fouricaria country; and Alimami Morie Mousa, Chief of Bereira. See also C.O. 267/187, Ferguson to Stanley, 18th July, 1845.
2 C.O. 267/263, Hill to Lytton, 34, 8th March, 1859, and enclosures.
3 C.O. 267/284. Huggins to Chamberlayne, 31st July, 1865, enclosed in Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 90, 19th August, 1865, Sénégal iv/55/c, Requin to Laprade, 18th December, 1865

1861, it was claimed that between forty and fifty French ships loaded in the Mellacourie each year; by 1864, that sixty out of seventy large vessels calling there were French.1 But a substantial proportion of the area's produce, probably including most of the less bulky commodities, were shipped in smaller coastal craft (Bullom boats?) to Sierra Leone, where they could be stored in bonded warehouses and loaded for shipping to Europe in the security of Freetown's fine harbour. Much of this trade, too, was destined for France; her Consul estimated that half the 5,220 tons of groundnuts imported from Sierra Leone during the first nine months of 1865 came originally from the Mellacourie, besides 13,629 tons imported directly from there.2

But the actual purchase of produce, and the sale or barter of trade goods, remained largely in British hands. Sierra Leone merchants had opened the rivers' trade; though this might be less secure than their operations in Freetown, the absence of customs duties made profits higher, and they did not mean to abandon it. Besides Heddle, Freetown merchants active in the Mellacourie in the early 1860's included Messrs. Broadhurst and Frame (whose interests later merged into the Manchester firm of Fisher and Randall); Thomas Reader, a lapsed Wesleyan preacher; and Theodore Rosenbusch, who came from Hamburg but had been naturalized in Sierra Leone. The two last had relatives working with them. A Captain Poitiers, forced to resign his commission in the West India Regiment, had recently started trading and experimenting with cotton-growing in the Mellacourie.

The only substantial Creole merchant who can definitely be located in these rivers at this time was William Grant; many of the smaller independent traders worked instead in the distant Nunez or the troubled Skarcies. Nevertheless, many Creoles were employed by the Europeans, and Creole cultural influences seem to have been felt throughout the region. The French Consul wrote of the Soumbouya (slightly farther north):
 "Almost all the inhabitants speak English, and use merchandise

1 Sénégal iv/55/a, Lefèbvre-Dibou to Didelot, 20th December, 1861;
Sénégal iv/55/b, Requin to Laprade (August, 1865); Report by Braouezec (October, 1865).
2 Sénégal iv/55/b, Report by Braouezec (October, 1865). He also claimed that some of the coasting craft which carried them belonged to Frenchmen, but were registered in British names so as to avoid discriminatory charges and regulations. (Afrique iv/19/b, Braouezec to M.M.C., 22nd December, 1863.

three-quarters of which is British; the most petty chief has, when it pleases him and when he cannot write himself, a little negro from Sierra Leone who serves him as secretary, and who writes English correctly enough; however, these districts are not in any way dependent on Sierra Leoneans, who have been able to impose their language over a radius of eighty miles, and to exploit the advantage of primary education, which is widespread in the colony."1

In 1861, the only French merchants in the Mellacourie were Mafilâtre and Co., a Freetown house with Bordeaux connections, and one small trader from St. Louis, who shortly afterwards withdrew to the Skarcies. By 1865 the development of trade had brought others on the scene, notably the Bordeaux firm of Gaspard Devès, already strongly established at Gorée. In Freetown they were represented by Jean-Baptiste Dalmas, a forceful, patriotically-minded man from Guadeloupe; among their agents employed in the Mellacourie, was Adolphus Valantin, a French mulatto, and a nephew of Heddle. Most of his life had apparently been spent in Freetown and in the Mellacourie; he had also traded there for Mafilâtre and on his own account. Sentiments of loyalty, whether to his French fatherland or to his British connections, seem to have sat lightly on Valantin; his role in the following events is tortuous and difficult to trace, but important.


The expansion of the Mellacourie trade took place despite the continuance of that Temne-Susu war which had led to the destruction of Kambia. From 1861, the Temnes and Sherbros of Samu chiefdom (to the south of the lower Mellacourie), were fighting to displace the Susus of Moriah (between the Fouricaria and Mellacourie), from territory which they had occupied around the factories on the south bank. One aspect of this war was thus a struggle to deal directly with foreign merchants on the waterfront. Perhaps because of this commercial aspect, hostilities were waged in a rather desultory way - not too murderous, a French naval officer commented; the merchants appealed to Sierra Leone for protection without really expecting it, or wishing it to go too far. In February, 1862, after the Sierra Leone Mercantile Association had requested protection and redress for the traders' losses, the British warship

1 Report by Braouezec (October, 1865); loc. cit.

made unsuccessful attempts at appeasement.1 French naval officers, with experience in the Sherbro much in mind, feared British control, and Admiral Didelot, wished to see French rights more clearly defined than in the successive commercial treaties which she had signed since 1845.2 But pressure for intervention from French merchants began only after the advent of Devès.

On 1st December 1864, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Ministries of Marine and Colonies, and of Agriculture, Commerce, and Public Works, urging that the coastline from the Gambia to the Sherbro, which was "exploited almost exclusively by French commerce", should on commercial and political grounds be protected against the encroachments of British rule and the Sierra Leone tariff.3 They urged that a base, from which shallow-draft steamships could watch French interests in the free rivers should be established in the Mellacourie; this river, they claimed, commanded the navigation of the two Skarcies as well as the Fouricaria and Bereira, and offered good anchorages. But though the general arguments for a French base in the "rivières du sud" had long been accepted by the French Governor Faidherbe
, the site he favoured was in the Nunez; since December, 1863, he had been authorized to establish a French post here, but had lacked the money and the troops. The Mellacourie was in his view too eccentric; though the groundnut belt extended to the Skarcies, French traders were by no means dominant so far south. Moreover, he wished to avoid such a gratuitous affront to Sierra Leone. Faidherbe thus dismissed the Bordeaux proposal as dictated "either by some firm with great interests in the Mellacourie, or by some officer who fulfills the conditions enumerated in the petition" for the commandant of the new post; and the Ministry sent a polite refusal to the Chamber of Commerce.4

1 Sénégal iv/55/a, Lefebvre-Dibou to Didelot, 20th December, 1861; Afrique iv/19/b, Brossard de Corbigny to Didelot, 27th March, 1863; C.O. 267/273, Hill to Newcastle, 31, 11th February, 1862.
2 Sénégal iv/55/a Caillet to Didelot, 17th December, 1861; Dibou to Didelot, 20th December, 1861; Didelot to M.M.C., 2nd February, 1862; Didelot to Laprade, 6th May, 1863. Sénégal iv/55/c, Note on the Mellacourie, n.d. (?1863).
3 Sénégal iv/55/b, Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce to M.M.C. 12th December, 1864.
4 Sénégal i/50. Faidherbe to Chasseloup-Laubat, 65, 15th February, 1865; Sénégal iv/55/b, M.M.C. to Bordeaux C. of C. 12th April, 1865; cf. C. Schefer, (ed.) Instructions Générales données de 1763 à 1870 aux Gouverneurs et Ordonnateurs des établissements français en Afrique Occidentale (Paris, 1927), vol. ii, pp. 305, 371-2, 375-6.

But in May, 1865, a much more destructive war broke out. Tribal custom in the Moriah chiefdom

required that the office of chief should alternate between the senior representatives of two different branches of the royal house. On the death of Alimami Foday Wise, the heir-apparent renounced his title in favour of a younger member of his own family, Maligy Baily (or Touré); his right to do so was challenged by the claimant of the other branch, Bokkari, who enlisted the sympathy of chief Yemba Lamina of Samu, and the armed support of Temne mercenaries from farther south.1 This new war threatened to damage trade by impeding cultivation, interrupting the transport of goods to the waterside, and exposing to the cupidity of the combatants the stocks of produce and trade-goods in factories, vessels, and up-river posts. Throughout this conflict (which was to continue intermittently until Bokkari's death in 1885), the Temne mercenaries were particularly turbulent; having engaged to serve for pay, if pay was not forthcoming they tended to seek their own rewards.

British and French merchants urgently sought to restore peace, and mostly favoured the cause of Maligy Baily, whom they regarded as "a more reasonable and intelligent being, and of more civilized habits, and who could understand the necessary changes in the prices of goods and produce in the Markets of the world and be guided thereby; whilst Bokkari and the older men and chiefs would in their opinionated ignorance insist upon continuing the old system of a fixed quantity of goods for a limited quantity of produce". These sympathies were not concealed, and Bokkari believed that traders had supplied his enemies with arms. The traders denied this; and certainly they soon realized that peace could not be quickly achieved by assisting the victory of either party from within, but only through the intervention of external power.2

The first representation that British interests were in danger was made by the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce to Colonel Chamberlayne, the acting Governor, on 22nd May; two days later the acting French Consul, Suarez, asked for British troops to be sent in Maligy's interest to Pharmoriah, "where they may render great

1 C.O. 267/283, Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 66, 22nd June, 1865; C.O. 267/293, Kennedy to Buckingham, 47, 15th May, 1868.
2 C.O. 267/283, Report by Huggins and Ireland, 17th June, 1865, enclosed in Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 66, 22nd June, 1865. Bokkari was not so old and conservative as this account suggests; he was aged about 40, and spoke a little English. (
Sénégal iv/55/d, Suarez to M.M.C., 4th January, 1867.)

services to humanity, and more particularly to the European businessmen." On 9th June, exaggerated reports arrived of the plundering by Bokkari's men of Broadhurst and Frame's factory; Chamberlayne now sent two Commissioners to the river, but they were instructed only to remind the combatants of the risks they were incurring, to warn British subjects against remaining in disturbed territory, and to seek the release of Broadhurst, falsely reported to have been enslaved.1

During June and July Bokkari's position improved, though his successes were won at the cost of further losses to Broadhurst and Frame, and to Devès. But neither government nor traders were confident that Bokkari could maintain order so long as his Temnes remained unpaid. On 19th June Chamberlayne asked the warship Zebra to go to watch over European interest in the Mellacourie, though without intervening; on 16th July Huggins, one of the Commissioners, was sent back to the river to try and make "such arrangements as would fully attain the end sought by Bokkari and the traders". But though the interests of the Sierra Leone government or even of the traders might be reconciled with Bokkari's aim (to rule the chiefdom he believed to be his), it was harder to reconcile the traders' concern for security and profit with the government's interest in revenue. Huggins' instructions stipulated that, if British responsibilities were extended, taxes proportionate to those in Sierra Leone should be imposed, thus helping the Colonial Treasury to meet expenses which it had hitherto borne, for stipends and special missions, "in establishing and extending Commerce, Trade, and Civilization." When Bokkari offered to place his territory under British protection, Huggins accordingly proposed instead that he should simply lease to Great Britain a quarter-mile strip of river-bank and coastline, with the right to impose duties, thus extending northwards a device already in force on the Bullom shore. This basis seems to have been acceptable to Bokkari, since it implied recognition of his title, but to the merchants it seemed intolerable. Poitiers, one of the few traders who had always supported Bokkari, and who acted as his interpreter, now raised in his name objections which were probably his own, and finally declared that Bokkari would cede only the littoral below the main European factories. Despite this inconclusive result, Huggins, on his return to Freetown, recommended that customs

1 C.O. 267/283, Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 66, 22nd June, 1865

officers and a resident agent should be stationed in the Mellacourie under the inoperative treaties of 1826-7; this plan Chamberlayne urged the Colonial Office to accept.1

This recommendation, reaching London less than three months after the Parliamentary Committee of 1865 had reported, was rejected virtually without discussion. Indeed, Cardwell seemed inclined to agree with the Admiralty that even the dispatch of the Zebra to the Mellacourie had conceded to traders outside British jurisdiction more protection that was proper, though the Foreign Office, with the Oil Rivers in mind, took a more positive view of government responsibility for the protection of trade. The only action seriously discussed in the Colonial Office was on a secondary suggestion that duties might be levied at Sierra Leone on the transit trade with the Mellacourie.2 In the short run, Mellacourie traders stood to lose more in taxation that they would gain in security from any British intervention which was realistically possible.

The French merchants no longer hoped for effective protection from Freetown; even the Zebra had wasted the effect of its visit by its reluctance to get tough (sévir), wrote one of their spokesmen. And even if the British authorities could be stirred up to act, their intervention was likely to be hurtful to French patriotism and injurious to French trade. At the end of June Dalmas set out for Senegal to see the Governor and his own superiors.

On 28th July the French warship Castor anchored in the Mellacourie, landed troops at Pharmoriah, and forced Bokkari to acknowledge responsibility for the losses of Devès. Meanwhile, that firm's Bordeaux correspondents were pressing the Ministry to send a warship to protect French interests and forestall British intervention in the Melllacourie, while the Nantes Chamber of Commerce itself apparently unrepresented in that river, joined in the pressure.3

1 C.O. 267/284, Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 11,19th July,   1865; 90, 19th August, 1865, enclosing Huggins report,   31st July. C.O. 267/285, enclosures in F.O. to C.O., 9th October, 1865.
2 C.O. 267/285, Admiralty to C.O., 20th September, 1865, F.O. to C.O. 9th October, and minutes; C.O. 267/284, Chamberlayne to Cardwell, 90, 19th August; 107, 18th October, 1865, and minutes
3 Sénégal iv/55/b, Chaumel, Durin and Co., to M.M.C., 20th July, 1865 (enclosing letters from Dalmas, 21st June, Devès (Gorée), 1st July); Bordeaux C. of C. to M.M.C., 19th September, 1865; Nantes C. of C. to Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce and Public Works, 26th September, 1865.

Requin, commander of the Castor, was no stranger to the rivers; he now described French interests and British intrigues in language similar to that used by Devès, and sought authority to establish a French protectorate. Bokkari, he claimed, would be prepared to accept one; nevertheless it would be wiser policy to recognize Maligy Baily, who had remained in touch with Valantin and was raising a new army. Requin asserted that even the British merchants desired a French protectorate, as offering security without the Sierra  Leone tariff; this was supported by the opinion of the French Consul at Freetown, Braouezec, an ex-naval officer with an almost pathological love of intrigue and an intense, but veiled, distrust of Britain. Braouezec, however, had only recently returned from leave, and like Requin he seems to have drawn his information about native and mercantile opinion largely from the agents of Devès.1

On 2nd October the French naval commander at Gabon, Admiral
Laffon de Ladebat, alarmed by a report from Braouezec that the British were about to occupy the Mellacourie sailed for Sierra Leone and the rivers. He was a judicious man, aware that the trend of opinion in Great Britain made early action from Sierra Leone improbable; though persuaded by his compatriots that "agents" like Poitiers really were working for a British protectorate, he saw that the British might legitimately complain if French powers were established so near Sierra Leone, and suggested negotiating in Europe for a mutual renunciation of political design and a "neutralization" of the rivers. But Colonel Pinet-Laprade, the new Governor of Senegal, whose sixteen years in West Africa had led him to believe in extensive British ambitions on the coast north of Sierra Leone, did not accept this prudent advice. He was already preparing to conclude the long-planned treaties in the Nunez and Pongos, and preferred to see French rights affirmed in the Mellacourie also before negotiation was contemplated; he had recently received (doubtless from Devès) reason to believe that the merchants of all nations intended to request a French protectorate. Regarding such a step as of great potential value in negotiations over the Gambia, he had in early October sent the cutter Ecureil to try surreptitiously to predispose the natives to accept French rule,

1 Sénégal iv/55/b, Requin to Laprade, n.d. (August, 1865); Devès to Laprade, 1st September, 1865; Braouezec to M.A.E., 19th September, 1865; Braouezec to Laprade, 20th October, 1865

and on 12th November Requin, in the Castor, also proceeded to the Mellacourie.1

As soon as Requin arrived, the work of Dalmas and Valantin bore fruit. On 20th November the expected letter was sent to Laprade, thanking him for the security afforded by the Ecureil and inviting him "de vouloir bien continuer votre haute solicitude dans le protectorat des rivières de Mellacorée et Fourécariah". Of the nineteen signatories, at least six appear to be Frenchmen or agents of French firms; the others included three Readers, two Rosenbuschs, Heddle's agent Lelievre, Richard Fisher, and William Grant.2 Two days later Maligy Baily secretly signed a Treaty with Requin in Valantin's presence, placing himself under French protectorate and suzerainty in return for recognition of his status as chief.3


During 1866 the war went better for Maligy, who employed Mende mercenaries, received some moral support from the Muslim dignitaries of the Futa Jallon, and probably obtained arms and supplies from Devès; and Laprade was soon anxious to come out openly on his side by publishing the treaty. But the French government thought it prudent to wait till Maligy's position seemed more secure; not till September was the treaty proclaimed by the commander of one of the French warships which had remained in the river, and even this proved to have been premature.4. Within a few

1 Sénégal iv/55/b, Laffon de Ladebat to M.M.C., 29th September (extract), 30th October, 1865; Instructions for l'Ecureil, 1st September, 1865; Laprade to Laffon de Ladebat, 26th October, 1865; Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C., 31st October, 1865, Cf. A. Arein, Histoire de la Guinée Française (Paris, 1911), pp. 315-7.
2 These eight names are taken from a copy of the letter in Sénégal iv/55/b. The six I count as definitively French are Dalmas (for Devès); L. Maurel (for Mafilâtre); Eugene and Alphonse Seignac; J. Franz; and F. Bradshaw (an agent of Devès). Of the remaining five names, M. Marullire, H. Dodds, and possibly David Senger may well be French, perhaps Senegalese employees of Devès; Thomas Lewis appears to be an American; and S.M. Broader may be a faulty transcription of the name of the British merchant Broadhurst.
Arein (op. cit. p. 317 n.) includes in a shorter list of signatories the names of Randall, D. George, and Cantor et Cie (?Creton and Cie, of Paris).
For the role of Dalmas, see Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C., 26th October 1867, also Arein, pp314 ff.
3 A copy in C.O. 267/290, Blackall to Buckingham, 67, 27th June, 1867.
4 Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C., 19th May, 1866; Afrique vi/11/g; M.A.E. to M.M.C., 26th February, 1866; Sénégal iv/55/c, M.M.C. to Laprade, 22nd March, 1866, Laprade to M.M.C., 1st May, 17th June, 12th July, 1866 (extracts); M.M.C. to M.A.E., 9th July, 1866; M.A.E. to M.M.C., 20th July, 1866; Suarez to M.M.X., 13th October, 1866.

weeks Maligy was killed; and though his brother carried on the war, he did so much less successfully. Suarez, again acting as French Consul, now suggested that France should seek a Protectorate over Bokkari; and though the Colonial department wondered whether this was quite logical, Laprade himself went to Sierra Leone on 21st December, 1866, with the intention of finally settling the political status of the Mellacourie, Pongos, and Nunez rivers.1 Action, not logic, would determine the immediate outcome; and political conditions at home precluded the British from acting as effectively as the French.

Laprade's intention was to offer Governor Blackall an opportunity to object formally to French

proceedings in the rivers, and then to end the Mellacourie war on terms maintaining French political hegemony. Blackall, who receive him courteously, was too much under the impression of the Parliamentary Committee to raise objections; he had visited the Mellacourie after the announcement of the French treaty with Maligy without protesting or trying to persuade his government to do so,2 and was evidently likely to condone even a more forceful intervention. But Laprade encountered difficulty when he invited the chief Mellacourie merchants of Freetown on board the Castor. They now favoured Bokkari's cause; his rival was dead, he was well-disposed towards Sierra Leone, and there no longer seemed any danger that the British tariff would be imposed. French intervention on behalf of the "Maliguistes" would prolong the disturbances; and they now realized that when ultimately peace was restored French protection might bring inconveniences as well as security - supervision of trading practice, and ultimately customs duties, though low ones. They therefore urged Laprade to recognize Bokkari's victory, even though he was unlikely to accept a French protectorate. If he did not do so, Laprade replied, France would make war on him in the interests of Maligy's party. This threat of renewed fighting was intended to make the merchants support French pressure on Bokkari; it succeeded, for on Christmas Day some of them accompanied Laprade to the Mellacourie. On the 29th Laprade went on to settle problems arising from recent French treaties in the Nunez

Sénégal in/55/d, Suarez to M.M.C., 14th November, 1866; Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C., 23rd January, 1867.
2 C.O. 267/287, Blackall to Cardwell, 72, 11th October, 1866; Sénégal iv/55/c, Suarez to M.M.C., 13th October, 1866.

and Pongos, leaving Suarez and the merchants, with the gunboat Sphinx, to deal with Bokkari.1

Suarez, accompanied by Dalmas, Valantin, one of the Rosenbuschs, and Lelievre, now summoned Bokkari to meet him at Fouricaria. Bokkari was slow and reluctant to appear; like his allies and advisers he seemed distrustful of France, complaining of the support formerly given to Maligy. Such especial dislike was shown of Valantin that he had to be suspended from interpreting. But on 30th December, under a direct threat of war, Bokkari signed a treaty, accepting the same obligations towards France as Maligy Baily had done. His preliminary questions were, by Suarez' own account, not very clearly answered, and Bokkari himself later denied that he had intended to place himself under French authority or to alter his relationship to the British.2

The French now gradually asserted their authority. In February, 1867, a military post for twenty-five men was established, on a site chosen with Lelievre's help, just outside Heddle's factory at Binty. (This, lying on the south bank of the Mellacourie, was in Samu, with which the French had no treaty; the French, if they considered this point at all, must have concluded that chief Yemba Lamina, present at Fouricaria as Bokkari's ally, was his subordinate.) Soon afterwards, a supplementary treaty with Bokkari regulated the payment of stipends and the conditions of trade; anchorage dues were to be collected by the French, but for the present no customs duties, (This was to avoid antagonising British merchants, and to attract trade away from Freetown.3) What the French had still conspicuously failed to do was to settle the disputed succession; throughout, they showed contemptuous disdain for the issues of tribal custom, though it seems that both parties felt at least as deeply about the principles as about the personalities involved in the dispute.


The basis for French rule in the Mellacourie was thus secured, by treaty and by occupation, through the vigorous and often un

1 Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C. 23rd January, 1867.
2 Sénégal iv/55/d, Report by Suarez, 4th January, 1867. C.O. 267/290. Blackall to Buckingham, 67, 27th June, 1867, enclosing copy of treaty; Yonge to Buckingham, 79, 15th July, 1867, enclosing Bokkari to Blackall, 11th June, 1867 (cf. Arein, op. cit., p. 338).
3 Sénégal iv/55/d, Flize to Laprade, 6th March, 1867; Treaty with Bokkari, n.d; Sénégal i/51, Laprade to M.M.C., 23rd January, 1867.

scrupulous action of resolute men on the spot. But the district was not yet finally lost to Sierra Leone; the French government was still ready to consider withdrawal as a result of negotiation. For although Devès, and their allies in the French navy and colonial service, clearly wished French control to be permanent, their political influence in France was not great enough to guarantee this. The colonial ministry, and Governor Laprade, also regarded the Mellacourie as a desirable possession; but to them the Gambia, long coveted by Faidherbe, was even more desirable. Even in the act of occupying the "rivières du sud", they had contemplated the possibility of using them as material for an exchange; and though, when raising the question of a possible British cession of the Gambia early in 1866, the colonial ministry decided not to offer to abandon their new acquisitions in the Nunez and the Mellacourie, they agreed that both might be included, with professions of reluctance, if this would secure the Gambia.1

The Colonial Office was in principle ready enough to cede the Gambia, but took much time in deciding whether they seriously wanted to keep the Mellacourie out of French hands. Only after the return of Sir Arthur Kennedy to Freetown in 1868 did they decide that they did. Kennedy believed that the Mellacourie had a vital part to play in his plans for developing Sierra Leone as a centre of British trade and influence in West Africa; he continued to exercise political influence in the area, while the Freetown merchants continued, for over ten years, to trade there freely. Only when it seemed that the prospect of a comprehensive West African settlement had receded did the French attempt to draw full value from the titles which they had acquired in 1865-7. In the later 1870's Governor Rowe strove to challenge them by vigorous action on the spot, but he was restrained, wisely enough, by the Imperial government, unwilling to jeopardize good relations with France for the sake of these remote African rivers. Only the prospect of the Gambia would have induced the French to make a generous settlement of other African disputes, and this neither Carnarvon nor Kimberley was now prepared to offer. By 1882 the British had recognized in principle the French claim to the Mellacourie; this implied also French control of the Fouta Jallon and scope for them to develop a major colony in French Guinea. The events I have described thus decisively determined the territorial extent of modern Sierra Leone.

1 Afrique vi/11/a, M.M.C. to M.A.E., 15th February, 1866.