The Africans were formerly renowned for their industry in cultivating the ground, for their trade, navigation, caravans and useful arts. At present they are remarkable for their idleness, ignorance, superstition, treachery, and, above all, for their lawless methods of robbing and murdering all the other inhabitants of the globe.
Though they still retain some sense of their infamous character, yet they do not choose to reform. Their priests, therefore, endeavor to justify them, by the following story: “Noah,” say they, “was no sooner dead, than his three sons, the first of whom was white, the second tawny, and the third black, having agreed upon dividing among them his goods and possessions, spent the greatest part of the day in sorting them; so that they were obliged to adjourn the division till the next morning. Having supped and smoked a friendly pipe together, they all went to rest, each in his own tent. After a few hours sleep, the white brother got up, seized on the gold, silver, precious stones, and other things of the greatest value, loaded the best horses with them, and rode away to that country where his white posterity have been settled ever since. The tawny, awaking soon after, and with the same criminal intention, was surprised when he came to the store house to find that his brother had been beforehand with him. Upon which he hastily secured the rest of the horses and camels, and loading them with the best carpets, clothes, and other remaining goods, directed his route to another part of the world, leaving behind him, only a few of the coarsest goods, and some provisions of little value.
When the third, or black brother, came next morning in the simplicity of his heart to make the proposed division, and could neither find his brethren, nor any of the valuable commodities, he easily judged they had tricked him, and were by that time fled beyond any possibility of discovery.
In this most afflicted situation, he took his pipe, and begun to consider the most effectual means of retrieving his loss, and being revenged on his perfidious brothers.
After revolving a variety of schemes in his mind, he at last fixed upon watching every opportunity of making reprisals on them, and laying hold of and carrying away their property, as often as it should fall in his way, in revenge for that patrimony of which they had so unjustly deprived him.
Having come to this resolution, he not only continued in the practice of it all his life, but on his death laid the strongest injunctions on his descendants to do so, to the end of the world.”
Some tribes of the Africans, however, when they have engaged themselves in the protection of a stranger, are remarkable for fidelity. Many of them are conspicuous for their temperance, hospitality, and several other virtues.
Their women, upon the whole, are far from being indelicate or unchaste. On the banks of the Niger, they are tolerably industrious, have a considerable share of vivacity, and at the same time a female reserve, which would do no discredit to a politer country. They are modest, affable, and faithful; an air of innocence appears in their looks and in their language, which gives a beauty to their whole deportment.
When, from the Niger, we approach toward the East, the African women degenerate in stature, complexion, sensibility, and chastity. Even their language, like their features, and the soil they inhabit, is harsh and disagreeable. Their pleasures resemble more the transports of fury, than the gentle emotions communicated by agreeable sensations.