Benin Massacre by Boisragon, Alan Maxwell (1897)
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A Review by Dr. Patricia Fadaka-Igbinovia, New York. (Last Update November 15, 2022)

Remember that the British Home Office did not approve the visit carried out by Phillip and his men including Boisragon, Alan Maxwell so he made a desperate move to tell false stories to the European audience and incite them to justify the genocide that followed. Unfortunately, repeated lies virtually become true. My purpose of reviewing this book, particularly the distorted Benin History in Chapter I (page 1-20) written as a justification of destroying Benin in February 1897 from his fig of his imagination and without reference to previous authors is to draw your attention to this book that started the ugly stories about Benin Kingdom. He was not an eyewitness; he could not describe how his colleagues died because he and Locke were on the run. All the truths about his escape cannot be verified. The last two Chapters, he presented graphically were farce because he was already sent home on leave after his escape with Locke. The world believed him, and the book sold like hot cake, archived, widely circulated and in public domain, and almost like a sacred book. Our scholars all over the world did little or no critique of this book: Benin Massacre by Boisragon (1897).

Let us call British Punitive Expeditions, the “British Punitive Massacres” and the Benin Massacres, the “Benin Self-Defence”.

I. HISTORY OF BENIN…………………………………………………….1
COAST PROTECTORATE………………………………………….21
III. POSITION OF BENIN……………………………………………………44
IV. OUR EXPEDITION………………………………………………………53
V. OUR EXPEDITION (continued) ………………………………………....71
VI. OUR ESCAPE…………………………………………………………….90
VII. OUR ESCAPE (continued)…………………………………………...112
VIII. OUR ESCAPE (continued)……………………………………………132
IX. OUR ESCAPE (continued)……………………………………………….152
X. The Punitive Expedition……………………………………………...167-190
He said:
In the following account of our escape from that awful Benin Massacre, I have Tried to keep away from all questions of politics and policy, and to give my own opinion as little as possible.

In Boisragon opening remarks for Chapter 1, he says:
Benin seems to have been a kingdom from time immemorial, anyway from before its first discovery by the Portuguese, some-where at the end of fourteenth century.
Boisragon (1897) gave a brief account of all the European countries that had had contact with Benin City, citing one reference: Richard Eden who had published in 1557 a small collection of his travels concerning the Portuguese, (late 14th century to early 15th century) followed by the Dutch and the Swedes, and later by in 1552, the English began visits to West Africa. The fact that in 1558, Queen Elizabeth granted some English merchants a charter to an African company and permitted their trading throughout the entire West African coast, angered the Portuguese.

In 1553, the first British expedition was carried out in two ships under two captains: Windham (British) and Pinteado (a skilled Portuguese navigator, earlier appointed by the King of Portugal to take charge of the Brazilian coasts and the Guinea coasts against the French). The journey lasted about six months before they arrived at the seaward end of the Benin River. Pinteado and an Englishman, Nicholas Lambert with some other merchants were led to the King’s Palace, a few miles from the Benin River. The King (of Benin Kingdom), “His Majesty, a black moor or negro” gave the visitors a friendly reception and spoke to them in fluent Portuguese, which he learned as a child (this must be Oba Esigie). The trading commodity at that time was mainly pepper and the king was so friendly that he promised to load their ships with a lot of pepper and promised to allow them to pay later on their next visit if they could not then afford to pay all the commodity supplied. The reception was so cordial that the foreigners spent 30 days and some of their men died at an alarming daily average rate of four or five from drinking too much palm wine and other causes. Captain Windham who was waiting for them in the ship kept sending incessant messages to return to the ship immediately. In the second message, Windham threatened to return to base without the crew on land. Pinteado went back to the ship to persuade to stop his threat and allow them to collect all the available commodities.Pinteado was surprised that Windham, in his anger, had destroyed all valuables (medications, clothes, cordials, and sweetmeats) in Pinteado’s cabin. Windham died and his foe, Pinteado buried him. Pinteado died soon after too. The remaining 40 crew members out of 140 were too few to sail two ships so they had to sink one ship before returning to England. Captain Pinteado experienced misfortunes before departing Portugal: He was imprisoned for a long time on false charges; the Royal Household of Portugal appointed him one of the Knights on a meagre monthly salary of ten shillings and some barley for his horse; he was to remain unmarried for about six years in order to prevent children sharing in the allowance.

Many English expeditions visited the Guinea Coast, but it was not until 1589 (more than 36 years) that one reached Benin. Queen Elizabeth, in 1588, granted a charter to some Devon merchants to carry out trading activities between Rivers Senegal and Gambia (Senega and Gambra). In the latter part of 1588, two English merchants, Bird and Newton carried out another expedition to Benin in a ship of a 100-ton and a pennace commanded by Captain James Welsh- This ship was small then when compared with the one used for late Punitive Expedition of 1897, which had “two-first-class cruisers of 12,000 tons, one second-class, three third-class, and three gunboats” (p. 6). Captain James Welch made two successive voyages to Benin areas, and he wrote on his experiences.

On December 14, 1588, Captain Welsh departed from Plymouth and reached Benin River on February 14, 1589. Anthony Ingram led the team of many others traveled in pinnace and ship boats to Benin City, landing in Gwatto (Ughoton), the usual landing place for Benin City. The Benin people and the reigning king (not the one in Pinteado’s visit) were said to have been very hospitable to the visitors. The reigning monarch, not named by Boisragon must have been Oba Ehengbuda (1580-1602). The oba was reported he had not traded with any Christian merchants and there was not adequate quantity of peppers and so on and so he promised to have ready a lot of peppers and other commodities for their visit the following year. During this expedition, fever killed many men including captain Hempsteed and one of the ship owner’s sons. Captain Welsh and his remaining crew returned to Plymouth in September of the same year, 1589.

In September 1590, Captain Welsh embanked on a second journey to Benin in the same ship and in January 15, 1891, Captain Welsh with merchants arrived at the mouth of the Benin River in smaller boats. The loaded ships departed for England on April 28, 1591 and reached England on December 13, 1591 (almost 8 months of sailing).

Their ships were fully loaded with elephant tusks, pepper bags, and palm-oil containers, very much like the commodities of trade in the 1800's. These commodities were in exchange for “broad cloth, kersies, bays (whatever they may be), linen cloth, unwrought iron, copper bracelets (called manillas, and used now by certain tribes in the Protectorate), coral (which is still much worn, and tremendously sought after by the chiefs and rich men of Benin River), hawks’ bells, horses’ tails, hats, and the like” (p. .
Records of earlier voyages never fully described Benin City except a Dutch narrator who visited the city some years later, described the city as a ‘magnificent city’, which he entered on horseback through gate holding a thick high earth walls protecting a wide dry moat, overgrown with tall trees. ‘Later writers also speak of Benin City being surrounded by a high wall, but that seems to have disappeared long ago” (Boisragon 1897, p. . (Boisragon is beginning to discredit the beauty of Benin City. Remember Boisragon has never set foot on Benin City. He and Locke escaped the ’massacre‘ at Ughoto). He continues and says the Dutch explorer whose name he said was probably, Dantsic also describes Benin City as having ‘an enormous broad street running through the city, and other great streets running off it-so long that it was impossible to see the end of them. Dantsic also describes “the King’s Court, which seems to have been very grand, of the number of horses the King possessed” (p. 9). Boisragon commented: “(nowadays no Benin has ever seen a horse, or scarcely heard of one, as there are none anywhere near it)” (p. 9). Dantsic says the king is in his possession: “many soldiers, many gentlemen, many slaves, and many wives—only about six hundred! Twice a year the King of those days went out his Court and visited the town, accompanied by his six hundred wives. The gentlemen of Benin also had many wives-some eighty, some ninety, some more. These gentlemen seem to have been the aristocracy of Benin and used to come to court riding on a horse, with a man on each side, to hold them on, I suppose, and other slaves carrying big shields, to keep the sun off the gentlemen’s heads, whilst yet more slaves make music for them, playing the drums, “hornes and flints- some have a hollow iron whereon they strike.” As all this music came after the gentleman on his horse, it is no wonder that he had to be held on his horse, or, as the narrative puts it, “having on each side a man, on whom they hold fast.”
“Even in those days, though sacrifices are not mentioned, the chief executioner seems to have been a most important personage” (p. 10). (Notice how Boisragon, unrelatedly jumped to a topic: “sacrifice and chief executioner” in this one-sentence paragraph.
Thereafter, many explorers and merchants of various races frequently visited Benin City. The Portuguese were the main nation at first to influence the people of Benin who learned Portuguese language and used Portuguese names for a considerable length of time. The Portuguese seemed to have left the scene as they did in other places in the Gold Coast and other West African Coastlines. The Dutch men took over from the Portuguese the ownership of the afore-mentioned areas. In about the year 1700, a Dutchman named David Van Nyendaeel visited Benin City and William Bossman, a great Dutch business owner and leader in West Africa gave an account of David Van Nyendaeel’s visit to Benin City. Nyendaeel (1700) spoke highly of how he admired Benin City with its “great long and broad streets, and also makes mention of human sacrifices” (p. 11). (He’s building a case for human sacrifices by just touching on it briefly). Nyendaeel’s days, the Benin men were great at making ornamental brass-works, the knowledge of it, they may have acquired from the Portuguese.

Other noteworthy travelers who visited Benin City include: a great Egyptian traveler Belzoni who died in Gwatto while visiting Benin City in 1823; Sir Richard Burton, a very highly traveled British missionary stationed at Fernando Po as Consul, who visited Benin City to stop human sacrifices. Burton was reported to have said that the King of Benin had a horse, which he rode on while being held on it as was done by his ancestors. A Benin chief was reported to have been very disappointed that the Queen of England had not given a carriage with a pair of horses as personal gift as was his daily expectation. In an insert at the end of page 11 said:
“The missionary who was with Burton had taken up a harmonium, and by way of entertaining the King, Sir Burton danced an Arabian dance before him, whilst the reverend gentleman played “We shall meet to part no more,” on the harmonium. This, Burton says, was hardly appropriate, as his version would be, “We shall part to meet no more”.
This mockery remark (true or false) has no bearing on the human sacrifice he is said to have gone to discuss with the King.

In 1892, Captain H. L. Gallawey, D. S.O., in charge of the East Lancashire Regiment, recently appointed Vice Consul of the Benin River District visited Benin City and gave a bizzarre report of Benin City as being in ruins and was no longer great; there were no fine roads; and there was “nothing but collections of houses here and there. (Boisragon (1897) still piling evidence that Benin City was already in ruins before the British Punitive Expedition in 1897).

On page 12, Boisragon justifies Gallwey’s alleged remarks about Benin City being in ruins:
“Of course, in the slave-trading era, Benin City, like all the big towns in the Protectorate, was a great center for obtaining slaves, and I believe that Captain Gallwey’s party saw the remains of an old barracoon close outside the city. With the abolition of the slave trade one great source of wealth disappeared, and by the stupidity of the king in stopping all his people from trading every now and then, most of the others disappeared also, till the once great Benin City became what the Punitive Expedition found it, namely, a very large collection of scattered huts scarcely superior to any ordinary village of those parts. The country in itself, is rich enough in trade produce, such as palm-oil, kernels, etc. and about ten years ago there were several factories on the Benin River doing an excellent trade with Benin City Country, but in the last few years the amount of trade has dwindled down to almost oil and now the different firms have built fresh factories at Sapele, some fifty miles up the Benin River, at the junction of Jameison and Ethiope Rivers, where three quarters of the trade of Benin River now goes to” (p. 12). (All the above are not referenced but a figment of Boisragon’s imagination and very insulting to a king who was protecting his people from unfair forced trade deals). Still continuing with his own assumptions, Boisragon (1897) says:
“Another source of wealth to the King of Benin used to be the Benin Juju. Juju in this case meant a very powerful spirit or god that lived in Benin City, and was represented by the King. So powerful was it that until about three or four years ago some of the beg chiefs close behind Lagos, who, one would have thought, were civilized enough to know better, used to send an annual subsidy or tribute on account of the Juju. The Benin River chiefs did the same, but their tribute was partly to induce the King to keep the trade open” (p. 12). This is still Boisragon’s analysis without referencing any source (credible or not). He continues, expressing his own opinion:
“Then, again, the King was supposed to be very rich in ivory, as he received, or was supposed to receive, one tusk of every elephant shot in his dominions; but this ivory he seems to have stacked in his houses instead of selling. His slaves also, owing to the amount of wretched human sacrifices perpetrated every year, must have been an expensive item in his accounts” (p. 13). (How was this Boisragon’s problem of what the king did with his ivory?). Boisragon (1897) continued in his rambling:
“Both slaves and ivory came from Sobo and Abracca countries to the east the east of the Benin Country proper, but which were part of the Benin Kingdom. It is to be hoped when the country has got settled down after the late expedition that the trade will receive again, for the country, as I have said, is rich in all kinds of produce, palm-oil, kernels, rubber, kola nuts, etc., etc., and I fancy the people will be only too willing to open up trade when they find they can do it for themselves, and without let or hindrance from the King of Benin and his Juju men. Of course, this will take some time, for, being so absolutely steeped in superstition, and having had so little intercourse with the white men, it will be hard to make the people realize that their all-powerful Juju is a thing of the past, and no longer has any power over them. By their old Juju they were forbidden to leave their country or to cross water, consequently on Benin men could ever get into canoes, and in the days of trade had to rely on the Jakris and Ejaws, the two great trading tribes of this district. These two tribes act as middlemen between the English merchants and the tribes dwelling farther inland, and from whose country the palmoil and other stuffs come and are very anxious to prevent the two- the white and the oil producer-from meeting. However, as year by year the country is getting gradually opened up, the part of the middleman will be done away with to a great extent, especially in the case of Benin City Country” (p. 15).
“Of the farther parts of the Benin Kingdom in the Sobo plains and Abracca country not much is known, as, by King of Benin’s orders, no white man has been allowed to go any distance from Ethiope River on the right bank of of which it lies. A great deal has been done in the last few years towards exploring and opening up the country on the left bank the Ethiope, and beyond that again by the Protectorate officials, notably Captain Gallwey, Major Crawford, and Mr. Locke; and now the opening up of the country on the right bank is only a matter of time” (p.15).
“I believe that it was somewhere in the direction of this country that the King of Benin and his counsellors fled after the taking of Benin City by the Punitive Expedition. By this capture was ended the ancient Kingdom of Benin; and it is curious to think that a people who seem to have been more or less civilized in the sixteenth century, with a city that excited the admiration of all Europeans of that date should at the end of the nineteenth century have relapsed into a state of absolute savagedom, inferior to most of the peoples round them, whilst the wonderful city became a collection of half-ruined mud homes, not much better than the huts in an ordinary native village” (p. 16). Boisragon never set eyes on Benin City, and he is writing, without academic reference, so colorfully to tarnish the image of Benin Kingdom. What were your people looking for? Underlining by me!!!
“The same has been the case with other West African kingdoms which have once famous, such as Dahomey and Ashanti, the rulers of which, having been more or less spoiled by the deference and attention shown them by the various white men who have visited their countries, have gradually become “too big for their boots” ; and, imagining they were more powerful than their European nation, have by degrees and their conceited behaviour stopped the white men visiting them, and by so doing become almost as pure savages as they were before their first contact with Europeans. Wherefrom anyone can deduce a moral to suit whatever his private opinion may be” (p. 17). These deductions laced with insults were Boisragon’s own twisted opinion, not history in the earlier part of this write-up, he had said earlier Europeans found them enlightened, spoke Portuguese lived in a well-organized city with high walls and straight street, larger than Lisbon. Boisragon was preparing to sell his book his unenlightened European public to see Benin Empire as occupied by savages and they needed to be annihilated: a justification for the Barbaric destruction of Benin City and environs. In Boisragon’s opening remarks for Chapter 1, he says:
Benin seems to have been a kingdom from time immemorial, anyway from before its first discovery by the Portuguese, some-where at the end of fourteenth century.
Boisragon (1897) continued:
“I was in Coomassie, the capital of Ashanti, for a short time in April 1892, in command of the escort of a small expedition under Captain J. I. Lang, R. E., (incomplete) who was British for settling the western boundary of the Gold Coast with the French. We had expected to find a respectable town but saw nothing but a a collection of small villages, the huts of which were nearly all in a half-ruinous condition. The huts that have been told off to us looked like sieves, and they were all together in a very tumble-down down state. The King’s palace was a good deal better, and he was building himself a palaver-house that supposed to be something grand, but after all it was nothing more than an extra mud hut with walls more carefully smoothed than usual. This king was of course King Prempeh, who was taken a prisoner by our expedition in 1896” (p. 17). The only glory of Coomassie was in the remains of stone wall of the old palace, which was knocked down by our troops under Lord Wolsey in the war of 1775. “Each of these stones had been brought from a distance of one hundred miles on the heads of natives, as there is no stone in the country, which made it extra valuable” (p.18). Boisragon (1897) is happy to report the British expedition mission of utter destruction of beautiful artifacts people acquired over the years, carrying stones on the head over 100 miles to beautify their king’s palace. You reduce the kingdom to rubbles with the power of guns so you can seize their commodities and rule over kingdoms that have existed for hundreds of years: that was barbaric.
Boisragon continued: “We certainly had a grand reception from some 12,00 to 14,00 men, and the king alone was a sight to see, being a mass of gold from a kind fireman’s helmet he had on to the tips of sandals, which alone must have been worth hundreds of pounds. Still, with all this reception, there were no signs of any civilization, and the Coomassies had relapsed into most of the usual custom of savages, which had at one time been stopped-particularly of human sacrifices, which led to the last expedition of 1896. It was for trade reason that the 1896 expedition was fought. See, Boisragon is reporting his brief visit to Coomassie in 1892 and he is referring to the expedition of 1896, which is not part of the scene he is describing here.
“A peculiar thing happened during the latter part of this ceremony (i.e., 1892). The King, who at the time was a boy under twenty, I should think, and fat enough to have posed as a fat woman in a fair, condescended to dance before us, to the extreme and almost delirious joy of his people, who get such a treat but rarely. In this dance he went through various actions with a toy bow and arrow, a gun, the strongest man in the whole world, and so on. Suddenly a Mr. Vroon, now a C. M. G., and one of the District’s Commissioners of the Gold Coast who was with us, and who knew more about manners and customs of the Ashantis than most people, held up two fingers, upon which the King collapsed. Mr. Vroon explained to us afterwards that the King had been doing something which meant that meant that the Ashantis were the most powerful nation in the world; the two held up meant that England was more powerful, as shown in the 1875 war, up to which date the Ashantis really believed that they could “lick creation.” This ’75 war had never been forgotten by either the Ashantis or by the many tribes released from the objectionable rule as the effects of that war; so, naturally, the King collapsed (p. 19).
“However, I am afraid I have wandered some way from the kingdom of Benin. Let its ashes rest in peace, so that there may be no more peaceful expeditions to it like our fatal one” (p. 20).
In the two-sentence paragraph above, Boisragon (1897) has exposed the folly of his writing about Benin Massacre, which is the title of his sought-after book, because he has written 20 pages and nothing yet about Benin Massacre. He referred to the razing down of Coomassie in 1875 as “peaceful expeditions” and he said: “Let its ashes rest in peace, so that there may be no more peaceful expeditions to it like our fatal one” (p. 20). If the Coomassie Peaceful Expedition razed the kingdom to ashes, you can imagine what the Benin Punitive Expedition did to Benin City and environs. These British expeditions were the real massacre, which were deliberate attempts to rob the natives of their trade, commodities, inheritance, artifacts, rulership, landed properties, native powers, religion, pride, culture, and make them sub-human, reliant on British for sustenance with income derived from the oppressed natives. The natives defended their rights to co-exist in a God-given free world, but The British representatives and many other European powers scrambled for Africa relentlessly. Their form of education, religion, and other forms of civilization came at a very high cost in forms of slavery and savagery, which the civilizing powers encouraged for their cheap labor resulting in dehumanization of those captured. The Benin Kingdom debarred Europeans from entering their hinterlands to acquire slaves and went to the great extent of encouraging Binis to get tattooed (IWU) for identification for the untouchable Bini people. History should revert the lies: Let us call British Punitive Expeditions, the “British Punitive Massacres” and the Benin Massacres, the “Benin Self-Defence”.
OUR EXPEDITION (continued) (p. 71)
OUR ESCAPE (p. 90)
OUR ESCAPE (continued) (p. 112)
OUR ESCAPE (continued) (p. 132)
OUR ESCAPE (continued) (p. 152)
OUR ESCAPE (continued)
H. M. S. Phoebe was one of the big ships for the expedition. “The Niger Coast Protectorate Force and most of the carriers arrived about 4th February, the former marching straight on to a place called Ciri, about seven miles off, and situated on the Ilogi creek. The Niger Coast Protectorate was present with many carriers. “The Naval Brigade were taken from St. George, Admiral Rawson’s flagship, Theseus, Forte (these three being too big to come through the creek, remained about twenty miles out at sea from Forcados, with the Malacca, the hospital ship), the Philemel, Barrosa, and the Widgeon, which formed the Gwatto column, and the Phoebe, Magpie, and Alecto, which formed the Jamieson River column. Several special service officers had come out to join the force for the expedition, among them being Bruce Hamilton of East Yorkshire Regiment, in command, and Major Langdon of the Army Service Corps as second in Command; so that, although actually commandant of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force, I should have had to act as a company officer if I had been able to go up with the expedition” (p. 163).
All previous expeditions by British always ended in the visited area being burned to ashes such as happened in Coomassie in 1875, which was so severe that it made the later boy-King collapsed at the mention or reference to the horror of it. Boisragon called the 1897 visit an expedition and previous British expeditions were never peaceful. From Page 21 to 163, Boisragon (1897) talked about the various British trading companies including the Royal Niger Company with the H. R. M.’S Niger Coast Protectorate; the 1897 Benin Expedition; the Benin Massacre; the Escape; and on page 163, he wrote:
“As we had all been reported killed, Mr. Moor had applied to the War Office for two senior officers to command the Force, and the news of my safety only reached home the day before Mr. Moor and all the special service officers left England for the expedition, too late to make any change. Even then they didn’t think I would be fit enough to go up with this expedition, which eventually turned out to be the case, as after arriving at Ciri on the 9th of February and stopping there three days, I was ordered home on sick leave, neither nerves nor physical condition being in a fit enough state to allow me go on with the expedition. It was very hard luck, for I wanted to go up very badly, if it was only to have some revenge for the murder of so many dear friends (p. 163).
“Thus, I can give no eye-witness account of the doings of the Punitive Expeditions; but from the accounts of those who went up, the state of Benin City when they got in there on the 18th of February was something too awful. (Cleverly, Boisragon (1897) could not name one or more persons as references who were still alive then. This account should be ignored in its totality as it is not credible: a figment of his imagination to justify the horror meted on Benin Kingdom by the British Punitive Massacre of 1897). “The remains of hundreds of human sacrifices were everywhere. Some were still on the crucifixion trees, others lay in pits all over the city, but especially were there crowds close to the King’s Compound. And these, together with others in in a large open space, where there were thousands of dead bodies in all stages of decomposition, mixed with skeletons from former “customs” made such a terrible effluvium that nearly all the officers and men suffered badly from nausea when they first arrived in the city” (p. 164).
“The pits were about as bad as anything to look upon, for in them living, dead, and dying were thrown indiscriminately. It is a great pity that the governors of Benin City, or the head of Juju men, escaped, for there is not much doubt that it was only they who were responsible for our massacre, and all the abominations that went on in the city” (p. 164).
“The King himself, according to native accounts, had not nearly so much to say towards it, and was more or less a figure-head. He was supposed to be the impersonation of the Juju or religion of the country and was in consequence never allowed to leave the Compound, and only to be seen by his people once a year. The mere fact of his having had to run away and leave Benin City ought to destroy to a great extent the belief in the power of their Juju” (p. 165). (This was Boisragon’s opinion, which he promised to avoid in his opening remarks in this book).

On page 185, Boisragon reports that February 27, 1897, the Naval Brigade that carried the Punitive Expedition embarked on their ship back to England and hurriedly run the following description without credible source and at times contradicting himself as follows:
“I suppose some short description of the horrors of Benin City must be given, though they are almost too dreadful to be described. Benin City was a large rambling town divided by a broad avenue, on the south side of which were the King’s and big Chiefs’ Compounds, and on the north those of the less er Chiefs and people. All these houses were built of red mud and thatched with palm leaves, part of the King’s own house and the Palaver House having iron roofs” (p. 185).
“Close the King’s house were seven large Juju Compounds, each two to three acres in extent, in which most of the sacrifices were performed, and in which people used to sit while the priest while the priest performed the sacrifices. These were large grassy enclosures, surrounded by mud walls. At one end of each, under a roof, were sacrificial altars, on which were placed the gods, carved ivory tusks, standing upright, on hideous bronze heads” (p. 185). In front of each ivory god was a small earthen mound on which the wretched victim’s forehead was placed. On the altars were several rudely carved maces for killing the unfortunate victims. When the expedition took Benin City, they found these altars covered with streams of dried blood, the stench of which was awful, the whole grass portion of the Compounds simply reeking with it” (p. 186). How can dried blood still be called ‘streams’ when there was nothing flowing?
“In the corners of these Compounds huge pits, 40 to 50 feet deep, were found filled with human bodies, dead and dying, and a few wretched captives were rescued alive” (p. 185).
“The Palaver House, which was about 100 feet long and about 50 or 60 feet broad, had an iron roof over the side walls but was open to air in the middle. The doors were covered with embossed brass. On the roof on one side was a huge bronze snake with a large head, and in the centre of the yard a bronze crocodile’s head. The King’s house was much the same “(p. 187). Amongst its decorations were several square patches of grass let into the beams over the King’s bed (p. 188).
“Outside, in the open space, the state of things was almost more frightful than in the Juju Compounds-everywhere sacrificial trees on which were corpses of the latest victims-everywhere, on each path, were newly -sacrificed corpses. On the principal sacrificial tree facing the main gate of the King’s Compound there were two sacrificed bodies, at the foot the tree seventeen newly decapitated bodies, and forty-three more in various stages of decomposition. On another tree a wretched woman was found crucified, while at its foot were four more decapitated bodies. To the westward of the King’s house was a large open space, about 300 yards in length simply covered with the remains of some hundreds of human sacrifices in various stages of decomposition. The same sights were found all over the city. Such was the state of Benin City, well named the City of Blood, on the 18th of January 1897.Such has been the state of city for years, and it was by trying to see if he couldn’t put a stop to such a state of things by peaceful measures, first of all, that poor Phillip and all our dear comrades lost their lives” (p. 188).

These assertions above are false based on the gory picture presented regarding thousands of human sacrifices with all the stenches. Benin people are very hygienic and cannot stand smelling environment. Boisragon was strongly trying to use this story to justify the sacking of Benin City. From the so-called stenches, the British Punitive Massacre leaders were still able to carry away all war booties including “bloody artifacts”. The only bodies found were those killed by the British executionists who wanted to control and monopolize the assets of well-organized kingdom to enrich England and they succeeded because of their superior weaponry. On page 58, Boisragon (1897) said: “The object of the expedition was to try and persuade the King to let white men come up to his city whenever they wanted to. All their horrible customs could not be put down at once, except by a strong-armed expedition; but could be stamped gradually by officials continually going up. Trade would also be opened up” (p. 58).

On page 189, Boisragon (1897) said:
“In conclusion, I should like to quote an extract from a letter of a comrade of the late Mr. Phillips: - “It was the disaster which befell, on 4th January, the ill-fated pacific mission, headed by Mr. Phillips, which led to the dispatch of an armed expedition under Admiral Rawson, the members of which displaying gallantry and endurance beyond all praise, successfully accomplished its object and drove the monster from his throne and country.
“The loss which the British nation has sustained during the last sixty years, through the deaths of so many brave soldiers, bluejackets, and civilians in the glorious work of rescuing the native races in West Africa from the horrors of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and the tortures of fetish worship, must ever be a matter of deep regret and sadness to all; but it cannot fail to make us proud of our country -men who have nobly and courageously done their duty with the greatest enthusiasm, undergoing hardship and privation inseparable from the trying climate of the West African Coast, and exhibiting in their conduct an entire disregard of personal damage” (p. 190).

It can be deduced that all Boisragon (1897) attempted and succeeded in achieving was to paint people of West African Coasts, particularly, the people of Benin Kingdom as being very evil and that the British for the past sixty years before 1897 always went there to rescue the people from barbaric behaviors whereas, they were there to monopolize trading in the available commodities and rule them and make them subjects of the British. The British experience of many deaths was due to other causes: Weather, malaria, orgy, and so on. The hospitality of the people was taken for granted, leading to coercion, false stories, and forcing the natives to give up their sovereignty.

All the negative history about Benin Kingdom started with Boisragon hurried publication of lies and exaggerations and he was not at the scenes he described. This book was meant to excite the European readers and make them see the “justification” for the ‘British Punitive Massacre’ of the men, women, and children of the kingdom with powerful machine guns that shattered the dead to pieces. The inhuman nature of this inappropriate representation of the British people valued the looted booties and seizure of power more than thousands of human lives they destroyed in one swoop. Boisragon has the heart to name Benin the “City of Blood’ after ‘Benin Self Defence’ at Ugbine. I hereby declare that as from now on, that the unauthorized and fully armed (voyage or visit) by Phillip was stoutly resisted by the Benin Royal Army in Self Defence of themselves, the citizenry, and the Oba of Benin who they were going to capture, hang, or deport; that the wrong impression and Information were fed to the European people through wrong information: That Phillip’s expedition was a friendly, unarmed, peaceful, to plead with the Oba to stop human sacrifice, and that thousands of people had been sacrifices lying in the streets, that Benin was a ramshackle, and that the stench was very unbearable but they spent several days looting the Oba’s Palace and the Chiefs’ palaces.

The Exiled Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi summed it all up when he was interviewed a day in 1914 before he passed on:
News International 101 (Tuesday January 13, 1914) Interview Details Shown below:
An audience with his Majesty Oba Ovonramwem Nogbaisi

Interview notes:
Q: Thank you for having us today. Your Majesty how are you feeling?
A: Very frail from my illness.
Q: Your Majesty, it is exactly 17 years to the day today that the British put together a naval squadron of 1200 Royal marines to capture Your Majesty and burn down your city. We apologise for their cruelty but we would just like to get your views on what happened and on life for you after that punitive expedition.
Q: The British claimed that they were acting in response to your soldiers eliminating a peaceful party they had sent to bring you presents at Christmas, what would you like to say in response to that?

A: What is Christmas? My people had no idea about Christmas, we had our sacred ancestral ceremony during that period (the Igue Festival) and the British Party led by Lawyer Phillips knew that and was told to wait for just two days for me to complete my fasting but he said he was too big and too busy to wait for us to complete our ceremonies. He decided to invade our private ceremonies during my fasting and prayer period and when no one was allowed to talk to or disturb me; putting together a party of over 270 officials and soldiers, he set out to march on our city against all advice that this was an unwise move. My Chief of Army Staff saw this as a deliberate act of unprovoked war declaration and acted accordingly to defend our city. What would you have done if you had been in his position?
News International 101: We are very sorry, Your Majesty. We will move on to another question.

Q: The British reported that you were the last person to evacuate your city when it was being burnt to the ground; it must have been very painful for you to watch centuries of your ancestors’ hard work burnt to cinders. Why did you wait till the bitter end?

A: You just imagine this, I had recently in the new year, blessed all my peoples’ households and prayed for their prosperity this year; then one month on, the city is burning and I flee with the people, how would that have made us look as Divine King of the people? My duty was to watch over their houses and the city until there was nothing left, my ancestors would have expected this of us.

Q: The papers reported widely about the treasure trove in your storerooms, the British reported finding intricate bronze plaques, ivory and terracotta artwork ‘of the highest quality covered in the dust of age’. What was the idea behind this?

A: We were renovating the palace and put these away for safe keeping. I must add that most of the works the British found there had been in the storerooms for centuries; my ancestors wanted to record and preserve their history in expensive and durable forms, it is one’s duty to uphold this desire.

Q: Your Majesty, you now live in Calabar, how have things been with you?

A: Traumatic. Losing one’s place in the world is never easy. Having to cope with being a nobody after being a king in charge of a proud and industrious people and of a country is very humiliating but one has to do all one can to survive, even a once upon a time king like me. One lesson we made sure we taught our people was; ‘when the going gets tough, the tough must get going’; this mindset sets superior stock apart from ordinary stock and I am made of a superior stock, this trying period attests to this fact.

Q: Has it been difficult adjusting to your new position?

A: You have no idea just how difficult it has been. Some people deliberately scorn you with impunity for the sake of just being able to do so.

Q: What one incident stands out for you?

A: One day, one of my children was playing with other children, one of them deliberately head butted her, injuring her badly. She suffered a fractured jaw and eye inflammation and was in pain for months. When her mother complained to the local chiefs here, all they did was to ask that child to apologise whereas in my custom back home, the child’s parents would have been fined heavily for not having their child under control. It was painful for me as a father knowing that I cannot even protect my own family when others want to deliberately hurt or harm them.

Q: What would you like to say to the British?

A: I have this message for the British; congratulations, now that you have opened up your trade routes on our soil, but make no mistake about this; this is not the end of the Kingdom of Benin.

Q: Your Majesty, thinking back about it all, is there anything that you would have done differently?

A: NO. I was trained from an early age to defend my people’s interests and to safeguard our history. I performed that duty to the best of my ability even in the face of bribery with presents from British officials to abandon my people and to pursue my own riches. My ancestors would have turned in their graves if we had behaved any differently. Anyhow, history will be the judge of whether we should have done anything differently.

Q: Your Majesty, have you any final words?

A: Yes, tell all peoples everywhere in the world, that whenever they come across a Benin artwork, they should look deeply at the composition and use the narrative it tells to pass on the history of a great Rain-forest Kingdom that existed on the West African Coast from 40BC till the British sacked it in 1897. The world should tell our story well.
News International 101: Your Majesty, thank you for giving us so much of your time today. We hope you get better soon so you can leave the hospital and return home.
End of interview.

News International 101, received news the following day that his Majesty passed away in hospital; he never recovered from his illness and never returned home. At the time of his death, he was far away from his people and their traditions and so his traditional burial ceremonies could not be observed in full.

His Majesty Ovonramwen Nogbaisi died on Wednesday 14th January 1914. The Prime Minister the Oba referred to was Iyase OKIZI.

Tuesday 14th January 2014, marks his 100 years death anniversary.
His Majesty Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was never informed that his captor and judge Ralph Moor who put him in chains and exiled him from his kingdom, on return to England after his African duties suffered insanity and committed suicide on September 14th 1909; 'The coroner's jury determined that "the poison was deliberately taken whilst temporarily insane after suffering acutely from insomnia", they had heard evidence that Moor had suffered for the last four years on his return from Africa with malarial and backwater fever that induced insomnia.' Source Wikipedia

A spotlight on world history Six months after His Majesty Oba Ovonramwen joined his ancestors.

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The Benin Massacre by Alan Maxwell Boisragon, Cristo Raul (Editor)
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Some Historians who referenced Boisragon (1897)
The Benin Kingdom in British Imperial Historiography

The Benin Kingdom in British Imperial Historiography
Osarhieme Benson Osadolor, Leo Enahoro Otoide
History in Africa, Vol. 35 (2008), pp. 401-418
...of Benin in 1897, two books were immediate ly published on the conquest. Allan Maxwell Boisragon, published The 16H. N. Nevins and H. G. Aveling, 'TntelUgence Report on the Benin Division of the Benin Province." (1936), 13: National Archives Ibadan (NAI) Ben Prof. 4/3/4. 17For the debate see Raphael Samuel...
'Heart of Darkness', Source of Light

'Heart of Darkness', Source of Light
John Batchelor
The Review of English Studies, Vol. 43, No. 170 (May, 1992), pp. 227-242
...can show this by comparing Conrad's attitude to Africans with that of two contemporaries, Alan Boisragon , who published in 1897 his record of 18 Chinua Achebe, 'An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness', in Heart of Darkness, ed. Kimbrough, p. 257....

An Ethnographic and Space Syntax Analysis of Benin Kingdom Nobility Architecture
Joseph Nevadomsky, Natalie Lawson, Ken Hazlett
The African Archaeological Review, Vol. 31, No. 1 (March 2014), pp. 59-85
...much of Benin City's traditional center or peripheries, and modern descriptions of Yoruba chieftaincy compounds (Awolabi Ojo 1967). Except for the conquest commentaries (Bacon 1897; Boisragon 1897; Roth 1903), actual studies of architecture are few and far between in the early twentieth century. The earliest dates from the late 1930s (Galway...

Early Images from Benin at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
Christraud M. Geary
African Arts, Vol. 30, No. 3, Special Issue: The Benin Centenary, Part 1 (Summer, 1997), pp. 44-53+93
...CHRISTRAUD M. GEARY all our stores and baggage and must mind as to what they could be for. n 1897, Captain Alan Boisragon , one of the two British survivors of Captain James Robert Phillips's ill-fated expe- dition to Benin, wrote the above pas- sage about photographers who participated in the...
The Dialectics of Definitions: "Massacre" and "Sack" in the History of the Punitive Expedition

The Dialectics of Definitions: "Massacre" and "Sack" in the History of the Punitive Expedition
Ekpo Eyo
African Arts, Vol. 30, No. 3, Special Issue: The Benin Centenary, Part 1 (Summer, 1997), pp. 34-35
...removing the king from his stool." Without waiting for authorization from the Foreign Office, and against the advice of his officers Ralph Locke and Captain Alan Boisragon (both highly experienced in Benin matters), Phillips left for Benin with a party of nine white men and 240 native carriers. When the reply...
The Gun That Shoots Twice
The Gun That Shoots Twice (pp. 1-17)
Hicks Dan
From: The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, Pluto Press (2020)
...twice’ – referring to the explosion of the shells, which they consider distinctly unfair, taking place as it does so far away from the gun, and mostly unpleasantly close to themselves, when they are, as they fondly imagine, out of range. Captain Alan Boisragon , Commandant of Niger Coast Protectorate Force...

War on Terror (pp. 79-98)
Hicks Dan
From: The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, Pluto Press (2020)
...‘massacre’, the circumstances of their deaths are unclear. Alan Boisragon (Com- mander of the Niger Coast Protectorate Forces) and Ralph Frederick Locke (District Commissioner of Warri District) emerged from the bush a few days later. The eyewitness accounts of Boisragon and Locke do not describe the deaths of the other three...

Dr. Patricia Emwinghama Fadaka-Igbinovia, New York.

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