SIERRA LEONE

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SIERRA LEONE ; a country of Western Africa, on the Atlantic, distinguished for the colony formed there by the British nation, rather from motives of philanthropy than from those of commercial advantage. It is traversed by a considerable river, called the Mitomba or Sierra Leone. The name is derived from a ridge of mountains, which rises near the southern bank of the river. This country equals, in fertility and populousness, any other in this part of Africa. It consists generally of one vast, almost impenetrable forest, only particular spots of which have been cleared and cultivated. Rice is raised wherever the ground is sufficiently watered for its production, and forms the constant food of the rich ; but the poor content themselves with millet, yams and plantains. There is great abundance of the most delicate fruits. Elephants' teeth and civet are brought to the coast. The woods and mountains are infested with wild animals, particularly lions, from the multitude of which the country appears to have derived its name. There are swarms of insects, flies, mosquitoes, and particularly ants, the white species of which commit extraordinary devastation. The serpent species are also very numerous. The rivers, besides yielding an ample supply of fish for food, contain large alligators, and the manata or seacow. The natives of this country are not of so deep black a complexion as those of cape Verd, nor have they the flat nose of the negro race to such a degree. The character of the different tribes varies greatly. The Portuguese were the first who discovered and formed settlements on the river Sierra Leone. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, the British began to turn their views towards Sierra Leone, with a view to colonization, for the more effectual abolition of the slavetrade, by raising up an African colony, whither the slaves might be sent as freemen. Lord Mansfield having decided, in 1772, that a slave who sets foot in Britain becomes free, a number of blacks in England left their masters, and were wandering about in a desolate condition. Granville Sharp (q. v.) formed the plan of transporting them to Africa; and, the aid of the government having been obtained, they were landed (1787) upon a district purchased from the king of Sierra Leone. These negroes and the white females sent with, them were mostly of indifferent characters, and a severe mortality ensued among them. In 1792, about 1200 negroes, who had been seduced from their masters in the United States during the revolutionary war, were also landed at Sierra Leone ; and several years later the colony was increased by 550 Maroons (q. v.)from Nova Scotia. Little progress, however, had been made in the objects for which the colony was formed, and, in 1807, it was surrendered into the hands of the crown. At that period Great Britain received permission from several powers to treat as pirates such of their subjects as should be found engaged in the slavetrade north of the line ; and the liberated negroes seized by her cruisers were placed at Sierra Leone. For the first six months they receive a daily allowance from the government, after which lands are assigned them, and they are left to support themselves. The number thus liberated has been about 20,000; and although their wild and improvident habits have thrown many difficulties in the way of the benevolent exertions of the British authorities, recent accounts give decided proofs of great improvements in the spirit and condition of the colonists. Freetown, the principal place of the colony, has an excellent harbor on the river Sierra Leone, about six miles from the sea (lat. 8° 32' NO. and upwards of 6000 inhabitants. Regent's town, six miles south of Freetown, founded in 1816, has a population of 1300; and in the vicinity are several villages, with the . more distant stations of Waterloo, Wellington and Hastings. Bathurst, on the Gambia, is a settlement also connected with this colony.