A Voyage to the river Sierra-Leone, on the coast of Africa, containing an account of the trade and productions of the country, and of the civil and religious customs and manners of the people; in a series of letters to a friend in England. By John Matthews, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy; during his residence in that country in the years 1785, 1786, and 1787. With an additional letter on the subject of the African Slave Trade.
B. White & Son. J. Sewell
Voyage à la rivière de Sierra-Leone sur la côte d’Afrique: contenant une relation du commerce, des productions, des coutumes, tant civiles que religieuses, et des moeurs des habitans : écrit durant son séjour dans cette contrée, pendant 1785, 1786 et 1787, avec une lettre sur la traite des nègres / par Jonh [sic] Matthews,... ; trad. De l'anglais par Bellart (Paris: an V [1797]). French. Johann Matthews's Reise nach Sierra Leone auf der westlichen Küste von Afrika: worin die Produkte, der Handel dieses Landes (Leipzig: Weidmann, 1789). German.
Travel Writings
Rhodes House, Oxford. Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature, University of London. British Library. Biblioteca Nacional de España.
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Voyage Sierra Leone Africa Slave Trade Customs Letters British Royal Navy
Matthews, a former Naval officer who had fought during the American War of Independence, sailed from Liverpool to the coast of West Africa in 1785, with the intention of setting up a commercial operation on the shore of the Sierra Leone river. He describes the geography of the area, the history of its transactions with other European nations such as the Portuguese, the remaining slave trade there, and the customs of the people. He notes the visible differences between slaves and free Africans, giving a positive account of the latter. Matthews believed that African slavery could never be entirely eradicated, and was opposed to the British abolition of the slave trade for commercial reasons, but his travel narrative of West Africa was nonetheless useful to the abolitionists, as well as the pro-slave trade activists, for its detailed description of the slave trade. It is described as a "just and candid" work in William Dickson's Letters on Slavery (viii).
The weblink above is to the 1791 edition. Includes maps and illustrations of the West African coast. Subsequent editions and translations were published between 1789 and 1797. The French abolitionist Abbé Henri Grégoire wrote a foreword for the French translation entitled 'Historical notices on the new colony of Sierra Leone' (1797). This translation also incorporates a number of footnotes by the translator Bellart, which are critical of Matthews's stance on the slave trade.