Eyo Honesty II

King Eyo Honesty II was the ruler of Creek Town from approximately 1835[1] to 1858 when he died.[2] Creek Town was part of the Old Calabar region in the Bight of Biafra.[3] Old Calabar was a series of towns up the Cross River, which is in the Southeast edge of present-day Nigeria.[3] Honesty is an example of African agency in the Atlantic Slave Trade because he was a strong, savvy, and intelligent leader who worked with the Europeans instead of against them, which brought about changes that would forever affect the region.[1]

Early life

Although his exact date of birth is unknown, Eyo was cited to have been born in 1788 by an epitaph located on a tower of the Creek Town Presbyterian Church.[1] As a child, Eyo served as a cabin boy to English traders in the Triangle Trade network.[4] It was during this time that he learned to speak and write the English language.[4] He also learned the ways of the slave trade and how to do business which would benefit him as a ruler later on in life.[4] After his father lost the throne, his family fell upon hard times and Eyo found himself in the employment of his father's rival, the Great Duke Ephraim, after his father died in 1820.[4] Working for the duke in Duke Town, another town in the Calabar region, allowed him to improve his English and trade skills while establishing himself.[5]

Coming to power

Honesty's father, Eyo Nsa (Eyo I), ruled Creek Town before him but there was a break between them caused by legitimacy claims to the throne.[4] This ultimately resulted in Eyo I being removed from power as the Great Duke Ephraim made claims over the entire Calabar region.[4] Eyo, while serving in Duke Town, began to contact distant family in an effort to get them to come back to Creek Town and re-establish a lineage.[6] In 1834, the Eyo II house was formed and the Great Duke Ephraim died allowing Eyo to be crowned in 1835 or 1837, the date is uncertain.[2] His rule of the region would be marked with political agency through cooperation instead of confrontation with the Europeans.

European interaction

Honesty welcomed the Europeans with open arms instead of fighting them with everything he had, like some rulers in the area did and had done.[1] He saw them as educated, learned men who could help him establish a stronger political hold in the region through economic power.[1] Eyo had experience with white traders from the travels of his youth and he continued his connections through the slave trade network that had been in place for decades before him.[4] He had dealt in slaves from both selling and buying as he was trying to employ enough men to run his aspiring palm oil industry.[5] His relationships with these "super-cargoes", huge trading outfits of the Triangular Trade Network, were well fostered and even gained him the name "Honesty" for his fair trade policies and willingness to work with the European traders.[7] However, in 1842 a Commander Raymond issued Eyo Honesty II and King Eyamba V, another ruler in the region, papers that negotiated the end of the slave trade.[8] On 4 December 1842, Honesty returned the signed Anti-Slave Trade Treaty to Raymond but took the opportunity to expand the economic market of Creek Town.[8] To compensate for the loss of slave trade Eyo invited the Europeans into his lands to set up industries that would diversify the economy. Such industries to come would be cotton, coffee, sugar cane, and an immense increase in palm oil which had existed alongside of the slave trade.[9]


With the invite extended to the Europeans, missionaries were some of the first to come. These people coming to do "God's work" would influence the politics of the region more than any of the economic changes in the region. In 1846 the first missionaries arrived in Creek Town,[2] these missionaries were the precursors to the Presbyterian Church, previously mentioned, that sports Eyo's epitaph.[1] Upon their arrival Eyo was cited saying, "Now I am sure God will love and bless me, for I am very glad you come with this book."[10] Although Honesty's kingdom was Efik, a pagan religion, Eyo still appreciated and respected the missionaries and their Christianity. His respect for the missionaries ultimately resulted in law changes over his domain.[11] Such reforms include: the elimination of human sacrifice, the allowance of widows and twins to return to Creek Town, the elimination of "Ekpenyong" the household idol of the region, and the ending of Sunday markets.[11] In addition to altering laws, Eyo also translated the church services put on by the missionaries, mainly Rev. Waddell.[12] Eyo maintained his agency by collaborating with the Europeans who encountered his kingdom and left a reputation that is best stated in Religion in Calabar by Rosalind I.J. Hackett, "The Efik, epitomized by King Eyo Honesty, showed the capacity to adapt internally, to 'modernize' without becoming 'westernized' or 'Christianized'".[13]


  1. Henshaw 2007
  2. Hackett 1989, p.376.
  3. Nair 1977, p. 242.
  4. Nair 1977, p. 246.
  5. Nair 1977, p. 247.
  6. Nair 1977, p. 248.
  7. Nair 1977, p. 256.
  8. Nair 1977, p. 250.
  9. Nair 1977, p. 251.
  10. Hackett 1989, p.60.
  11. Hackett 1989, p.64.
  12. Hackett 1989, p.61.
  13. Hackett 1989, p.71.


  • Falola, Toyin, and Matthew M. Heaton. A History of Nigeria. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Hackett, Rosalind I.J. Religion in Calabar. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 1989.
  • Henshaw, Elijah. "Epitaph of King Eyo Honesty II: Recounted by John Ogbedu." Nigerian tribune, 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20130515162744/http://www.tribune.com.ng/news2013/index.php/en (accessed May 10, 2013).
  • Law, Robin. From Slave Trade to 'Legitimate' Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth-Century West Africa. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Lovejoy, Paul E., and David Richardson. "Trust, Pawnship, and Atlantic History: The Institutional Foundations of the Old Calabar Slave Trade." The American Historical Review. no. 2 (1999): 333-355.
  • Nair, Kannan K. "Kind and Missionary in Efik politics. 1846-1858." Journal of African Studies. no. 3 (1977): 242-280.
  • Person-Lynn, Ph.D., Kwaku. RaceandHistory.com, "Afrikan Involvement In Atlantic Slave Trade." Last modified November 8, 2002. Accessed April 12, 2013. http://raceandhistory.com/selfnews/viewnews.cgi?newsid1036801807,7402,.shtml.
  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800: Second Edition. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
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