An account of a voyage to establish a colony at Port Philip in Bass's Strait on the south coast of New South Wales, in His Majesty's Ship Calcutta, in the years 1802-3-4/Chapter 3
|←Chapter 2||An account of a voyage to establish a colony at Port Philip in Bass's Strait on the south coast of New South Wales, in His Majesty's Ship Calcutta, in the years 1802-3-4 by
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THE chief vegetable productions of the district of Rio de Janeiro are sugar, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, and indigo; of these, sugar is alone indigenous, and was found growing wild by the first colonists. The tobacco raised in the Brasils is consumed there in segars and snuff; and the cultivation of indigo has been much neglected, since the East Indian indigo has rivalled it in the European markets. The soil is every where so rich, that it requires all the labour of the farmer to check the too luxuriant vegetation, and keep the ground free from brush-wood and shrubs; a few months' neglect covers the soil with a tangled under-wood, bound together and rendered impenetrable by creeping vines. Twelve different kinds of oranges are cultivated here, and all other tropical fruits grow almost spontaneously; the soil has also been found friendly to the spices of the East, and pepper is already cultivated with some success; in short,
Whatever blooms in torrid tracks appeal,
The horses of Brasil are small, and incapable of much labour; in the interior they run wild in vast droves, and are of so little value, that they are merely caught to perform a journey; and when tired, or the journey is over, are again turned loose. The mules which graze in flocks about the town, are the chief beasts of burthen, and are particularly adapted to the precipices of the country. Oxen are brought from Rio Grande, where they are worth about eight shillings each, and where they are slaughtered merely for their hides and tallow; on their arrival at Rio Janeiro, though wretchedly impoverished by the journey, they are sold for fifty shillings to four pounds a-head. The farms are fenced by lime-bushes and orange-trees, intermixed with various flowering shrubs, equally beautiful and aromatic. At night, the trees appear illuminated by myriads of fire-flies, which play among the branches, for here
————On every hedge
The district of the mines commences about sixty miles from Rio; their produce is conveyed thither on mules, escorted by detachments of cavalry, of which there is a regiment stationed at Minas, the Capital, which is said to be large and populous; this province extends to the borders of the Spanish settlements in Paraguay. The journey to Matto Grosso, the farthest Portuguese station, is by Rio Grande, and is said to take up six months in contending against the stream, but the return is made in about three months; from hence comes the sarsaparilla and balsam copaiba. The most minute precautions are taken to prevent the concealment of diamonds, by persons of every description coming from the mines; they are not only stripped naked, and minutely searched, but even their horses and mules are purged: this strict scrutiny sets ingenuity to work to evade it, and the attempts are often successful. A Friar coming from the mines has been known to conceal three superb diamonds, in the waxen figure of the Virgin, which he carried in his pocket; the superstition of his examiners held the divine Image sacred, and kissing it with greater devotion, than they would probably have felt for the loveliest female of mere flesh and blood, returned it to the holy Father unexamined.
The King's tenth of the gold is taken from the ore at the smelting-house, where it is cast into ingots, which are stamped, and then become a legal tender in payments; if the owner wishes to have it coined, it pays two and a half per cent at the mint. The colonial gold currency is in pieces of four millres, or twenty-five shillings sterling; these are greatly alloyed, to prevent their exportation from the Colony. Most of the gold sent to Portugal is coined into half joes (2l.); and the exportation of uncoined gold is forbidden, upon pain of transportation for life to the coast of Guinea.
The Viceroy's salary is only about 2,600l. a-year, but, by perquisites, his usual income amounts to between 15 and 20,000l.: these arise chiefly from the sale of offices, which are all-invested in the Viceroy, and of which he is said commonly to retain the third part of the annual profits. His office properly lasts only three years but he is generally continued until he has realized a handsome fortune, for it is usually the poor Grandees who, are appointed to this lucrative government. The present Viceroy is of the family of Valencia, and related to the throne of Portugal by the house of Braganza; he is a man of information, liberal and polite in his manners and apparently attached to the English nation. The vice-regal state is by no means equal to that of our Indian Governor-General, though their supposed incomes are nearly the same.
That jealousy of foreigners which prevailed at Rio de Janeiro some years ago, appears no longer to exist. We always found ourselves at perfect liberty to make excursions as far as we chose, either on foot, or on horseback, unattended by any guard. This indulgence however, appears to proceed from the liberal sentiments of the Viceroy, and was only extended to officers in the King's service; and as the regulations respecting foreigners are not abrogated, they may be at any time put into execution with all their force. Upon that eastern side of the harbour, we were allowed to cut brooms, and wander over the country in quest of game, without meeting the most distant interruption. Here, had any of us possessed, botanical knowledge, or taste, we might have been abundantly gratified by the examination of plants, "beyond the power of Botanist to number up their tribes."
The improvement of the district of Rio de Janeiro, though it certainly does not equal what it might have been, if colonized by a nation of more persevering industry, may be looked on as rapid, under the torpidity of Portuguese indolence. Portugal has, however, possessed great advantages above all other nations of Europe, who have colonized America, in having factories on the opposite coast of Africa, whence her colonists procure an easy, and continual supply of slaves. The mother-country is so jealous of the rivalship of the Colonies, that the introduction of the most trifling manufactures is forbidden; the casting bells for the churches, in particular, is laid under severe penalties, lest the colonists should, one day learn, that bells and cannon might be made from the same materials.
None but professed merchants ever think of turning their money to any account, by interest, &c.: many old misers are known to have very large sums lying dead in their coffers, which, for want of banks, they keep in their own houses, and live upon the wages of their slaves. The trade of Rio de Janiero, although it has to contend with monopolies, prohibitions, and a heavy duty of ten per cent, but above all, with the unconquerable indolence of the Portuguese, is by no means trifling, annually increasing. It is confined entirely to the mother-country, a direct trade with foreigners, or by foreign ships, being strictly prohibited. The fleets employed in the commerce of Brasil, are confined to the ports of Lisbon and Oporto, whence they sail and return annually, in three fleets; the great disadvantage of this method, however, begins to be seen by the merchants, and single ships are at present allowed to sail from Europe, without confinement to any particular season. All foreign vessels attempting to trade on the coast, are liable to confiscation; and a ship of the line, and two brigs of war are stationed at Rio, to support these commercial regulations.
The annual exports from the port of Rio Janeiro, are, from good authority, said to be as follows;
About fifty ships, from three hundred to eight hundred tons each, sail annually from this port to Europe; these vessels are mostly built in the Brasils, the timber of which is said to equal the oak in durability. The imports are woollens, printed cottons, hard ware, cutlery, and wines, and, generally, all the articles necessary to the domestic economy of Europeans. The trade with Africa employs twenty-five ships, from one hundred and fifty to four hundred tons, who, in return for rum, gunpowder, arms, coarse cottons, and trinkets, import slaves, wax, and ivory, the latter of which, is re-exported to Europe. Corn and flour are brought from Rio Grande: one hundred and thirty vessels, from fifty to one hundred tons, are constantly employed in this trade, and in smuggling from the Spanish settlements; for the Spanish government at home, equally jealous with the Portuguese, strictly prohibits all foreign communication with its American colonies; hence arisen (by the mutual connivance of the colonial governments) an extensive contraband trade, which, while it enriches individuals, diminishes the public revenue of both countries.
Every article of merchandise, or consumption, whether the produce of the colony, or imported, pays to the crown a tenth part of its value, previous to its being exposed for sale. These duties are generally farmed; and that on fish alone produces 18,000 crowns annually. The farmers of the revenue are authorized to demand the assistance of the military, if any resistance is made to its collection. The whole amount of revenue raised in the district of Rio Janeiro, is near four millions sterling.
The annual importation of negro slaves, is said to amount to between ten and twelve thousand; their value is thus estimated: a full grown man 40l. a woman 32l., a boy 20l.; their value is much increased, by their having had the small-pox. The food of the slaves, is Cassada bread, and Indian corn roasted, and on the sea-coast some fish. In the country, the owners are at no expence for their diet: they allot them a small piece of land, and a day in the week to cultivate it, and from it they are obliged to derive a subsistence for themselves and families. The plantation negroes are entirely naked; but in the towns, their owners have more regard to decency.
On the importation of a cargo of negroes, they are christened previous to their sale; for this purpose, they are marched to a church-yard, and separated into as many groups, as there are different names to be given: the priest standing in the middle of each group, flourishes a broom dipped in holy-water over their heads, until they are all well sprinkled, and, at the same time, bawls out to them, what their name is to be.
Most of the imported negroes are sent to the mines to replace those who have fallen victims to their insalubrious atmosphere; many of them die shortly after their arrival, from change of climate and food, and a few from mental despondency, which is here degraded by the name of sulkiness. Arguing from the experience of two centuries, we shall be almost induced to adopt the opinion of Voltaire, that a physical cause can alone produce so extraordinary an effect, as an immense tribe kept in a state of the most abject slavery by a handful of foreigners, not amounting to the tenth part of their own numbers. All the false reasoning upon this subject may be deduced from this fallacious maxim "that to judge correctly of the feelings of others, we should suppose ourselves in their situations;" but by placing ourselves thus, we do not judge of their feelings but of our own, and assume for granted what is contrary to nature, that man is every where the same. We do not consider that what to our constitutional energies and cultivated minds would appear the acmé of misery, may, to others of a different temperament, be a state of comparative enjoyment; for the perceptions of every individual being, create a standard of happiness in his own mind, and nature has given to no two the same capacity of enjoyment. If the negro inherited from nature the intellectual capacity of the European, why have we not seen him improve in the arts of civilization, by the force of natural, ingenuity, or, at least, by the adoption of some of the knowledge of the latter. Here it may be said, that his tyrannical masters deny him the means of acquiring that knowledge; but to answer this objection we need only enquire by what means many other people arose from barbarism, and we shall find ourselves obliged to trace back the road of improvement to original genius. The leaders of the negroes in St. Domingo may be adduced as instances of brilliant talents and unconquerable spirit in the sons of Africa; but rules are sometimes proved by their exceptions. A civil war, or a revolution in a state, opens an unbounded theatre for the exhibition of talents, and gives to native genius the power of distinguishing itself: we accordingly see it rising superior to all obstacles from want of education or political oppression. In the tumults of the West Indies, a few leaders may be found, who appear among their countrymen, a kind of lusus naturæ, that more forcibly point out their general degradation; in fine, we may as well affirm, that education would give to the cart-horse the spirit of a courser, or to the cur the sagacity of the hound, as that it would give to the negro the talents and abilities of the European. But though nature may deny to the sons of Africa the degree of mental light which illuminates the western world, she has not totally forbidden them a participation in its benign influence. Nature surely never intended to create,
———Wretches born to work and weep
or, in short, to become the absolute property of other men; though she has not raised them to the standard of man in temperate climates, neither has she sunk them to the level of brutes; hence although they are fitted to be more easily reduced to a state of subjection, they are not absolutely incapable of understanding the value of liberty, or ignorant of the means both of acquiring and preserving it. The negro is not always devoid of that courage and fortitude, that marks the superiority of his European tyrant; he suffers pain with the most stoical indifference, and often dares his master to punish him by inflicting tortures on himself. Many negroes retreat to the fastnesses in the mountains, where they form a body of implacable marauders, and warm with revenge, commit unceasing depredations upon the neighbouring farmers.
A short time previous to our arrival, an instance of heroism was exemplified in a native negro, for which ancient Rome would have erected him a statue next to that of Virginius; arid although my pen is greatly incapable of doing justice to the story, it would be still, greater injustice to suppress it.
The law obliges a master to give freedom to his slave, if the latter can procure the sum, at which he may he fairly estimated; and this is almost the only boon granted to this degraded race.
Senor D. was a wealthy planter in the district of the mines, and among his numerous slaves was one named Hanno, who had been born on the estate, and whose ingenuity had increased his value much beyond that of his follows. Scarce had Hanno arrived at that age when every zephyr seems the sigh of love, ere his fondest wishes centered on Zelida, a young female of his own age, and a slave to the same master; in her his partial eye perceived all that was beautiful in person, or amiable in mind; the passion was mutual, it had "grown with their growth, and strengthened with their strength;" but Hanno, though a slave, possessed the feelings of a man, and his generous soul revolted at the idea of entailing that slavery upon his children, which was the only birth-right he inherited from his fathers. His mind was energetic, and his resolutions immutable: while be fulfilled his daily tafk, and was distinguished for his diligence and fidelity, he was enabled, by extra labour and the utmost frugality, to lay by something, without defrauding his master of his time; and at the end of seven years, his savings amounted to the estimated value of a female slave. Time had not altered his passion for Zelida, and they were united by the simple and unartificial bonds of mutual love. The absence of Senor D. for two years prevented the accomplishment of Hanno's first wishes, the purchase of Zelida's freedom, and in that time she had presented him with a boy and a girl. Though slaves from their birth, Hanno was not chagrined, for he had now added to his hoard a sufficient sum to purchase their liberty likewise. On the return of Senor D. Hanno anxiously demanded a compliance with the law, but well aware of his master's sordid avarice, cautiously affirmed, that a kind friend was to advance him the money, Senor D, agreed to receive the price, and a day was fixed to execute the deeds before a magistrate. On that day Hanno fled upon the wings of hope to his master's house, while it may be supposed the most heartfelt joy animated his bosom, on the prospect of giving immediate liberty to those his soul on. He tendered the gold—it was seized as the stolen property of Senor D.; and Hanno being unable to bring forward the supposed lender, was condemned, and the cruelty of his master was exhausted in superintending his punishment. Still bleeding from the scourge, he returned to his hut, which, though the residence of slavery, had till now been cheered by the benign influence of love and hope. He found his wife suckling her infant daughter while his son, yet unable to walk, was amusing her with his playful gambols upon the bare earth. Without answering Zelida's anxious enquiries, he thus addressed her: To procure your liberty, more dear to me than my own, I have, since the moment of our acquaintance, deprived myself of every comfort my state of bondage allows; for that purpose, I have laboured during those permitted hours of relaxation, which my fellows have employed in amusements; I have curtailed my scanty meal of cassada, I have sold my morsel of tobacco, and I have gone naked amidst the burning heats of summer, and the pinching colds of winter. I had accomplished the object of fill my cares, and all my deprivations, and this morning I tendered to your owner the price of your liberty, and that of your children; but when the deed was to be ratified before the magistrate, he seized it as his own, and accusing me of robbery, inflicted the punishment of a crime my soul detests. My efforts to procure your liberty are abortive; the fruits of my industry, like the labours of the silkworm, are gone to feed the luxury of our tyrant; the blossoms of hope are for ever blighted, and the wretched Hanno's cup of misery is full. Yet, a way, a sure, but dreadful way remains, to free you, my wife, from the scourge of tyranny, or the violation of lust, and to rescue you, my children, from the hands of an unfeeling monster, and from a life of unceasing wretchedness." Then seizing a knife, he plunged it into the bosom of his wife, and while reeking with her blood, buried it in the hearts of his children. When seized and interrogated, he answered with a manly tone of firmness, "I killed my wife and children to shorten a miserable existence in bondage, but I spared my own life to shew my brutal tyrant how easy it is to escape from his power, and how little the soul of a negro fears death or torment. I expect to suffer the utmost tortures that your cruelty can devise, but pain I despise thus, (staking his arm on an iron spike, and tearing it through the flesh,) and death I desire, that I may rejoin my wife and children, who have, ere this, a habitation prepared for me in the land of our forefathers, where no cruel white man is permitted to enter." Even the proud apathy of the Portuguese, was roused by this appeal to their feelings; the slave was pardoned and granted his freedom; Senor D. severely fined, and the unworthy magistrate, who seconded his , degraded from his office. I trust this digression will plead its own excuse, and shall conclude it with the hope, that the time is not far distant,
Till the freed Indians, in their native groves,
The new negroes have an idea, that their priests can render them invulnerable to the weapons of their enemies; and hence arise the most bloody contests between the different tribes, which the severest punishments cannot suppress. National hatred is one of the strongest principles in the minds of the ignorant, and a real John Bull as heartily despises a Frenchman when fellow-prisoner as when at liberty.
The native Indians in the district of Rio Janeiro are few; the Portuguese accuse them of aversion to any kind of labour, and only employ them on the water as boatmen. They are declared; by government entirely free, and their conversion to Christianity is strictly ordered to be attempted by persuasion alone. The missionaries are numerous, and have so far succeeded in their spiritual labours, that several towns of baptised Indians are established in the dis- trict of the mines.
The harbour of Rio Janeiro is well defended by forts and batteries on every commanding position, which are garri- soned by about 4,000 regular troops, who make a very respectable appear- ance, and seem to be extremely well disciplined. The whites of every de- scription, amounting to 10,000, are en- rolled in a militia, and exercised once a month. From this motley group, how- ever, little service could be expected in the hour of attack, and we might justly exclaim,
'Twas not the spawn of such as these
Should the Brasils revolt from their allegiance to the parent state, which in the course of national events is by no means improbable, and to which present appearances would authorize the fixing no very distant period; the immense regions of Spanish America will doubtless pursue the same steps. This region of the globe appears, from its geographical position, to be peculiarly adapted to the growth of powerful states; while its natural divisions, and external aspect, are eminently favourable to the preservation of liberty: for though, in its extent, it occupies the whole of the torrid zone; from its great elevation it enjoys a more temperate climate than the southern provinces of Europe, and is consequently more congenial to freedom. Had South America been colonized by a northern people, who would have cherished the freedom they conveyed thither, it would at this day have presented a very different appearance.
- See Cook's Voyage.
- The English East Indiamen and Whalers, who put into Rio Janeiro for refreshments, find a ready market for their private trade in piece-goods, hardware, hosiery hats, porter, butter, and cheese; The Custom-house officers, and officers of the guard-boats, who constantly attend foreign merchant ships, conduct this trade with great ingenuity and address.
- Tobacco is esteemed the greatest luxury next to rum by the negroes.
- The province of Brasil rises from the sea till it reaches the summits of the Cordilleras, and the cold necessarily increases in proportion to the ascent. The district of the mines produces European fruits, and is subject to frost.
- This act has since been carried into effect.