GUINEA

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GUINEA ; a name which modern Europeans have applied to a large extent of the western coast of Africa, of which the limits are not very definite. The European geographers, however, seem now to have agreed in fixing, as the boundaries of GUINEA, the Rio Mesurado and the westem extremity of Benin, comprehending a space of about 13 degrees of longitude. This large territory is usually divided into four portions, called the Grain coast, the Ivory coast, the Gold coast, and the Slave coast. The Grain coast, called also the Malaghetta, or Pepper coast, extends from the Mesurado to the village of Growa, about ten miles beyond cape Palmas, The aromatic plant from which this coast derives its name, appeared, when Europeans first landed on this coast, a delicious luxury. As soon, however, as they became familiar with the more delicate and exquisite aromatics of the East, this coarser one fell into disrepute; and as this coast afforded neither gold nor ivoiy, and was not favorable for procuring slaves, it has been comparatively little frequented. About ten miles to the east of cape Palmas commences what by European navigators is termed the Ivory coast. This name is derived from the great quantity of ivory, or elephants' teeth, which is brought from the interior countries. Gold is also tolerably plentiful. Although the Ivory coast is thus tolerably supplied with materials of trade, it has never been very extensively frequented. The Ivory coast is populous and thickly set with villages, but does not contain any town of much consideration. It reaches to cape Apollonia. The Gold coast extends from cape Apollonia to the Rio Volta, which separates it from the Slave coast. Of all parts of Guinea, and, indeed, of the African coast, it is the one where European settlements and trade have been carried to ttie greatest extent. It has been frequented at different times by the Portuguese, the Danes, Swedes, Dutch and British. Britain has now a more extensive footing upon this coast than any other nation. She maintains a range of forts, the expense of which is defrayed by the African company, out of a grant of £23,000 per annum, made by government for that purpose ; but the trade is thrown open to all the subjects of the British nation. Although the Gold coast is situated almost immediately under the line, the thermometer has scarcely been known to rise above 93 degrees, and the common heat of midsummer is only from 85 to 90. The country, from the sea, appears like an immense forest, parts only of which are cleared for the purpose of cultivation. High lands are seen in various directions, crowned with lofty trees and thick underwood; the soil along the coast varies from a light, sandy and gravelly texture to a fine black mould and loamy clay. As we advance into the interior, it sensibly improves, and, at the distance of six or eight miles from the shore, becomes rich in the extreme, and fit for any species of cultivation. The natives inhabiting the Gold coast present a considerable variety. The most prominent place is held by the Fantees. Of late years, another power, before almost unknown to Europeans, has occupied a conspicuous place. This is Ashantee, the sovereign of which has waged repeated and successful wars against the Fantees. Cape Coast Castle is the capital of the British settlements on the Gold coast; and forts are also maintained at Acra, Dixcove, Succondee, Commendo and Anamaboe. That at Winnebah has been given up. The Slave coast extends from the Rio Volta to the bay and river of Lagos, which separate it from Benin. Of all the parts of native Africa yet explored by Europeans, this is the one where cultivation and the arts have been carried to the greatest perfection. The country here was in a most flourishing and prosperous state, when it received a fatal blow, about the middle of last century, by the invasion of the king of Dahomey, who, having conquered it, reduced the principal towns to ashes, and massacred a great proportion of the population. This coast has since continued to form part of the territory of Dahomey, and is governed by a viceroy, who resides at Griwhee; but, under this ferocious and military tyranny, it has never recovered its ancient wealth and prosperity.