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Early History

From Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee by Thomas Edward Bowdich, 1819.

The conduct of the later emigration of the Ashantees is ascribed to Sai Tootoo, who, assisted by other leading men of the party, and encouraged by superstitious omens, founded Coomassie, and was presented with the stool, or made King, from his superior qualifications. This account is supported by the mixed nature of the government, founded on equality and obligation, and the existence of a law, exempting the direct descendants of any of Sai Tootoo's peers and assistants, (in whom the Aristocracy originated) from capital punishment.

The Dwabin monarchy is said to have been founded at the same time by Boitinne, who was of the same family as Sai Tootoo, being the sons of sisters. Boitinne and his party, took possession of Dwabin, he largest of the aboriginal towns, (leaving Sai Tootoo to build Coomassie) whence it seems his followers were the more powerful; indeed I have heard it confessed by a few Ashantees, that Dwabin had formerly the preeminence, though they have always been firm allies in war, and equal sharers in spoil and conquest.

This common interest, preserved uninterrupted more than a century, by two rising powers, close to each other, with the view of a more rapid aggrandisement, and their firm discretion in making many serious disagreements subservient to the policy, is one of the few circumstances worth considering in a history composed of wars and successions. I do not think there is such an instance in our heptarchy, nor do I recollect any other in history, but that of Chalcis and Eretria.


Bakkee, who died, as I have related, about a year ago, was the son of Sai Apokoo, the second king, and an infant at the breast at the time of his father's death; he was a very old man when he incurred the present King's displeasure, which supports the report of the Moors, that the kingdom has been founded about 110 years. Bosman and Barbot mention the Ashantees, as just heard of by Europeans, about the year 1700, which confirms this account.

The anxiety of the Ashantee government for daily records, immediately on the establishment of the Moors, who were only visitors until the present reign, acknowledges the perplexities and deficiencies of their early history too candidly, to leave any encouragement to the researches of strangers. Records beyond half a century are not to be found in the archives either of Cape Coast, or Christiansburg Castles, so that the chronology can only be founded on that of the Moors, and circumstances.

The Ashantee government concentrated the mass of its original force, and making the chiefs resident in Coomassie and the few large towns they built in its neighbourhood, with titular dignities, conciliated those whom they subdued by continuing them in their governments, and checked them by exacting their frequent attendance at festivals, politically instituted. Military command seems to have been the sole prerogative of Sai Tootoo; his judicial and legislative power being controlled by the chiefs or aristocracy much more than at present, who, as in the Teutonic governments, directed the common business of the state, only consulting a general assembly on extraordinary occasions.

Sai Tootoo defeated the Akims and Assins, subjected the Tufel country, and subdued many small states in the neighbourhood. He also conquered Dankara, the King of which, Intim Dakarey, was so considerable a trader in slaves, that the Dutch Governor General paid him a monthly note from his own purse, and assisted him with two or three small cannons, and a few Europeans, on the eve of the Ashantee invasion: the former are now placed as trophies in Coomassie, at the top of the street in which the Mission was quartered. Booroom was subjugated soon after.

Sai Tootoo did not live to see all the streets of Coomassie completed, for war being declared against Atoa, a district between Akim and Assin, he invaded that country. The chief of the Atoas, unable to face such a power, dexterously insinuated his small force through the forest, until he reached the rear of the Ashantee army, which the King was following leisurely with a guard of a few hundred men, all of whom were destroyed by the Atoas, who shot the King in his hammock. This happening near a place called Corraantee, (razed to the ground in vengeance,) and on a Saturday, the most solemn oath of the Ashantees, is "by Saturday and Cormantee;" ("Miminda Cormantee;") and no enterprise has since been undertaken on that day of the week.

Sai Apokoo, brother of Sai Tootoo, was next placed on the stool. Had there been no brother, the sister's son would have been the heir; this extraordinary rule of succession, excluding all children but those of a sister, is founded on the argument, that if the wives of the sons are faithless, the blood of the family is entirely lost in the offspring, but should the daughters deceive their husbands, it is still preserved.

Sai Apokoo finished the building of Coomassie, and exchanged compliments with the King of Dahomey, since which there has been no intercourse; the latter, probably, as a despotic monarch, did not wish to give his people any opportunity of contemplating the greater freedom of the Ashantee government.

Sai is the family name of the present race of Kings, some of their relatives bearing it as well. Innana is also the cognomen of the Kings of Dagwumba.

Bowdich, Thomas Edward. Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee. J. Murray, 1819.

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