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Comparing Politics

 

Futa Jallon Politics

In 1725, after a war led by Fulbe and Mandinka militant Muslims, Futa Jallon became a theocracy with a religious leader, the almamy (al-imam) Karamoko Alfa, at its head. The Islamic kingdom was very much defined by the transatlantic slave trade. It was born partly as a reaction to the insecurity and violence brought by the raids for captives. To counteract their terrible devastation, the Muslims formed a strong alliance to defeat the small Jallonke chiefdoms and build in their place a large, unified kingdom, secure and capable of protecting its inhabitants. Islamic Futa Jallon was organized into a confederation of nine provinces, each ruled by a religious leader. The political capital, built at the foot of a mountain, was Timbo.

Futa Jallon Almamy

A city of about 9,000 in the early 1800s, it counted one mosque and three forts, one of which housed the almamy's palace. The rest of the population lived in round, thatched-roofed houses surrounded by gardens of banana, orange and papaya trees. "Timbo is the residence of the King and the army," wrote Gaspard Mollien a French traveler who visited in 1818. "I was informed, that as many as a thousand horses are to be seen there. The inhabitants are rich. All the women have silver bracelets and large gold ear-rings, and wear clothes of blue Guinea stuff, which is a sign of great luxury among these Africans", Mollien further noted. Futa also had a religious capital led by a council of elders, Fugumba. The towns were well fortified to protect the population from potential attacks.

Alpha Yaye, Chief of Labe

Natchez Politics

In 1798, when the United States gained control of the Mississippi Territory, it was a fledgling country, just two decades from its founding. In 1803 the new Mississippi state legislature made Natchez the first incorporated town in the territory and set up a local government made up of a mixture of leaders appointed by the state legislature and elected by the townspeople.

Members of the town's Common Council played many roles, governing the town, serving as justices of the peace, and providing a court to hear cases, both civil and criminal. Those in political power were primarily from the merchant class: Andrew Marschalk, the printer and editor involved in obtaining Abdul Rahman's eventual freedom, was on the council for several years. None of the leading landowners or slaveholders served in city government.

The town provided a wide variety of public services, including a fire brigade, jail, cemetery, public cistern, and hospital; the funds for most were raised by public lottery, license fees, fines, and property taxes. Only free white men were allowed to vote, excluding the majority of the area's populace. Until 1817, the requirements for voting also included either participating in the militia or having city real estate with property taxes paid, excluding even more of the denizens of the city.

Click below to listen to a passage from Marschalk's Almanac, describing antebellum Natchez:

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