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.