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In the present work I shall describe the history of the Khedive of Egypt's expedition, which I have had the honour to command, as the first practical step that has been taken to suppress the slave trade of Central Africa.

I shall not repeat, beyond what may be absolutely necessary, that which has already been published in my former works on Africa, "The Albert N'yanza" and "The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia," but I shall adhere to the simple path taken by the expedition. This enterprise was the natural result of my original explorations, in which I had been an eye-witness to the horrors of the slave trade, which I determined, if possible, to suppress.

In my former journey I had traversed countries of extreme fertility in Central Africa, with a healthy climate favourable for the settlement of Europeans, at a mean altitude of 4,000 feet above the sea level. This large and almost boundless extent of country was well peopled by a race who only required the protection of a strong but paternal government to become of considerable importance, and to eventually develop the great resources of the soil.

I found lands varying in natural capabilities according to their position and altitudes—where sugar, cotton, coffee, rice, spices, and all tropical produce might be successfully cultivated; but those lands were without any civilized form of government, and "every man did what seemed right in his own eyes."

In this dislocated state of society, the slave trade prospered to the detriment of all improvement. Rich and well-populated countries were rendered desolate; the women and children were carried into captivity; villages were burnt, and crops were destroyed or pillaged; the population was driven out; a terrestrial paradise was converted into an infernal region; the natives who were originally friendly were rendered hostile to all strangers, and the general result of the slave trade could only be expressed in one word—"ruin."

The slave hunters and traders who had caused this desolation were for the most part Arabs, subjects of the Egyptian government.

These people had deserted their agricultural occupations in the Soudan and had formed companies of brigands in the pay of various merchants of Khartoum. The largest trader had about 2,500 Arabs in his pay, employed as pirates or brigands, in Central Africa. These men were organized after a rude military fashion, and armed with muskets; they were divided into companies, and were officered in many cases by soldiers who had deserted from their regiments in Egypt or the Soudan.

It is supposed that about 15,000 of the Khedive's subjects who should have been industriously working and paying their taxes in Egypt were engaged in the so-called ivory trade and slave-hunting of the White Nile.

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Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria

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