A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Chapter 2
Historical Account of the Mosambique Setttements—Ignorance of ancient Geographers respecting the Coast—Early Account of it by an Arabian author—Subjection and expulsion of the original Settlers, and establishment of the power of the Portuguese—Their attempts to subdue the Interior baffled by the prudence and vigilance of the natives—Attack upon these settlements in 1589 by the Muzimbo, (supposed to be Galla)—Failure of every effort to convert the Natives to the Catholic Faith. Description of the present state of the Settlements on the River Zambezi—Quilimanci—Tete—Senà—Manica, and the Gold Mines—Mode of carrying on Trade with the Natives in the Interior—Jurisdiction of the Portuguese along the Coast—The former-supposed importance of these Settlements—Their gradually decreasing consequence—Their present degraded State. The discouraging prospect from their external connections—An Account of the Marati or Pirates of Madagascar—The uncommon ferocity of this People—Their Excursions against the Comoro and Querimbo Islands—Consequences of the English Abolition of the Slave Trade on the Commerce of Mosambique—Its present Trade, &c.—Departure of the Marian for the Red Sea.
BEFORE I quit this Settlement, I shall give a short abstract of its history, to which a few remarks on its present situation may with propriety be subjoined, and this, I hope, will not be trespassing too far on the attention of the reader. Previously to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, and the arrival of the Portuguese in the Eastern seas, the knowledge possessed in Europe, respecting this coast, was extremely unsatisfactory, being almost entirely drawn from the vague accounts of Ptolemy, and the obscure notice of it in the Periplus of the Erythrean sea, a fact that appears evident from a curious map, now before me, which is entirely built on those authorities, and retains all their errors. The Arabs, it is certain, had for centuries before been intimately conversant with both its ports and their value, having established settlements on several points of the continent, and some of the islands adjacent, that gave them the complete command of its resources, and its commerce; but their accounts of it were at that time unknown in Europe, and even those, with which we have since become acquainted, are most of them, like the general mass of Arabian geography, short, confused, and written with a very inaccurate knowledge of the actual, as well as relative, positions of the countries described.
The following early description, by one of their most celebrated writers, Zaneddin Omar ibn l' Wardi, is the most interesting I am acquainted with, and as it has never before (to my knowledge) been translated, may be acceptable to the reader. I am enabled to give it through the kind assistance of a friend, who made it out from three copies of the "Kheridat al ajaieb wa feridat al goraieb," written by the above author, which I brought over from Arabia.
"The land of the Zinji lies opposite to that of Sind; between the two intervenes the breadth of the Sea of Persia. The inhabitants are the blackest of the negro race. They worship idols, are brave, hardy and fight in battle riding on oxen, as their country supplies neither horses, mules, nor camels. Massoudi says, 'I have seen their oxen kneel like camels, to be laden, and they travel as fast with their burthens.' Their habitations extend from the extremity of the gulph, (supposed Gardafui) to the low land of gold (Sofala 't il Dhab.) This country is extensive, and abounds in gold, grain, and the treasures of nature, and their towns are populous. Each town lying adjacent to the branch of a river. Snow is not known among them, nor rain, which is commonly the case with the greater part of the country of the blacks. They have no ships, but traders come in vessels from Ummaun, to buy their children, whom they sell in different countries. The Zinji are extremely numerous, though deficient in the means of carrying on war. It is said that their king goes forth to battle with three thousand followers, riding on oxen. The Nile is divided above their country, at the mountain of Muksim. Most of the natives sharpen their teeth, and polish them to a point. They traffic in elephants' teeth, panthers' skins and silk. They have islands in the sea, from which they collect cowries to adorn their persons, and they use them in traffic one with another, at an established rate. Adjoining to these lies the land of the Dum-a-dum." (Here we certainly have a description of the Galla.) "It is situated on Nile, bordering on the Zinji. The inhabitants are Infidels, and the Tartars among the blacks, consisting of savage tribes of freebooters, who continually take captive and plunder every thing that falls in their way. In their country the river divides; one branch going towards Egypt, and the other to the country of the Zinji. Sofala 't il Dhab adjoins the eastern borders of the Zinji. It is an extensive district, and mines of iron are found in it, which the people of the country work and sell to the traders from lnd, who give a high price for it, on account of its being harder and of better temper than that which they obtain in their own country, and they purify it and make it into steel, which admits of a durable edge. The natives themselves also make swords of it, and other offensive weapons. The most remarkable produce of this country is its quantity of native gold that is found, in pieces of two or three Meskalla weight; in spite of which, the natives generally adorn their persons with ornaments of brass."
From this extract, it appears that a direct trade from India to the coast was very early established, and that the former country was supplied with iron from Sofala, a circumstance somewhat strange, but by no means incredible, as plenty of iron is still to be met with in the interior; and several of the northern tribes of the Kaffers, are at the present day known to have considerable skill in working this metal.
When the Portuguese in the beginning of the sixteenth century, examined the coast, they found the whole of it in the undisturbed possession of the Arabs; but the fame of the gold mines, and the convenience of the ports, as resting places for the Indian trade, shortly induced them to drive out, or reduce to subjection, these original settlers. Their superiority in arms enabled them speedily to accomplish this object. In 1505-6, they gained by treachery, permission to establish the Fort of Sofala. About the same time they conquered Quiloa, and there erected a fort; and in 1508 (Vide Marmol, p. 129, ch. xxxvi.) established the one I have described, on the Island of Mosambique. They also proceeded to encroach gradually on the Mahomedan possessions in the river Zambezi, which led to the gold marts in the interior; and in 1569, or thereabouts, they completely cleared that river of the Arabs, by putting to death, or, in plainer terms, murdering all those that remained, on an unproved charge of having attempted to poison some Portuguese horses; though the real cause appears to have been, that, as they were proceeding on an incursion into the interior, they did not dare to leave them behind.
To follow any European settlers through the scenes of bloodshed and injustice, by which they have established their foreign possessions, is an ungrateful, and disgusting task. It will here be sufficient to observe, that, in the atrocity of the means which the Portuguese used to attain their purposes in the East, they were not behind-hand with the Spaniards in the West. Their success, however, was by no means parallel. The natives of Africa were not tame enough, like the feeble inhabitants of South America, to crouch at the feet of an invader, or to yield their country without a struggle. On the contrary, they from the first undertook, and maintained a kind of warfare, which, if not always successful, at least deserves to be so. They fought, and they retired. They left their towns and their plantations a prey to the devastations of the foe, but, the instant he relaxed from the pursuit, or rested on his arms, they returned with redoubled vigour to the attack, and made him pay dearly for his ravages. This prudent system of defence, saved their country from being overwhelmed; and the Portuguese in repeated expeditions to get at the mines, which formed the main object of their pursuit, were invariably foiled.
The most daring of these attempts was undertaken at the immediate command of Sebastian the First, in 1570, by Francis Baretto, who for this express purpose was made Governor-General of Mosambique. In the first instance he fitted out from Sofala a formidable armament, with the design of penetrating into the country of Chicanga, and getting possession of the mines of Manica, in order to reach which, it was necessary for him to pass through the dominions, and close to the capital, of the Quitéve, or chief ruler of the intervening districts, whose power extended in a line across from Sofala, to the angle made by the turn of the river Zambezi.
This country is commonly called Monomotapa, in the accounts of which, a perplexing obscurity has been introduced, by different authors having confounded the names of the districts with the titles of the sovereigns, indiscriminately styling them 'Quitéve,' 'Monomotapa,' 'Benemotapa,' 'Benemotasha,' 'Chikanga,' 'Manika,' 'Bokaranga,' and 'Mokaranga,' &c. The fact appears to be, that the sovereign's title was Quitéve, and the name of the country Motapa, to which Mono has been prefixed, as in Monoemugi and many other names on the coast—that beyond this lay a district called Chikanga, which contained the mines of Manica, and that the other names were applicable solely to petty districts, at that time under the rule of the Quitéve.
This monarch immediately collected a force to oppose Baretto's progress, and to prevent his reaching Chicanga, lest the king of that district, who was his declared enemy, should join with the Portuguese. Having, however, in two or three skirmishes found the decided inferiority of his troops, he adopted the wiser resolution of retreating before the enemy, annoying him in his march, and destroying the plantations, to prevent their affording sustenance to his pursuers; and at last, when the Portuguese approached his capital, the Quitéve retired into a neighbouring forest, "abandoning instead of defending," as the Portuguese insist he ought to have done, "the dwellings of his people." At the same time his subjects, who knew the country intimately, cut off a great number of the straggling soldiers.
Baretto, greatly annoyed by this conduct, and the total evacuation of Zimbaoa, burnt it, and continued his march to Chicanga, the king of which was at that time a Mahomedan. He received the Portuguese with apparent attention, as they abstained from all acts of hostility, and professed themselves friends; yet, though he promised them access to his dominions, for the purposes of trade, he at the same time gave them little satisfaction respecting the mines, as is evident from the attempt to cover their disappointment by the assertion, "that the risk and labour attending the procuring and cleansing the gold, rendered it unworthy of their notice." Thus baffled in their main pursuit, and having lost a great number of men, it was time to make their way back, which they were fortunate enough to effect by patching up a treaty with the Quitéve, in which they agreed for the future to pay a tribute of two hundred pieces of cloth annually, for a passage through his dominions. Such was the end of what J. Dos Santos calls "the glorious expedition of the great Baretto, whose actions so much excite the envy of nations."
The second expedition was of a similar description, but still more disastrous in its termination.
It was undertaken from the settlement at Senà, on the river Zambezi, against the Mongas, whom I conceive to be tribes of the same people I have described under the name of Monjou. I am led to this conclusion, not only from the similarity of the names, but from the resemblance of the native language given by J. Dos Santos, to that of the Monjou in my vocabulary, a circumstance that also makes me incline to believe it not improbable, that the same language may be spoken throughout all the dominions of the Quitéve. The Mongas, after a severe conflict, were in the first instance defeated, owing to their reliance on the incantations of an old woman, pretending to the character of a sorceress, who led them on to the combat, and who unluckily was killed by a cannon ball in the first onset, a circumstance so agreeable to the views of the Portuguese general, that he rewarded the gunner with a golden chain from his own neck. The result of this hard-gained battle, was a truce, by which the Portuguese were to be allowed free admittance into the country. This enabled them in some degree to examine the interior, and for the first time they passed the forest of Lupata, which they foolishly named "the spine of the world," on account of "the high and terrible rocks by which it is environed, that appear, as well as the trees, to stretch their heads into the clouds." From this probably exaggerated description, sprung that formidable chain of mountains, which has ever since ornamented the maps of Eastern Africa, furnishing a remarkable instance of the ill effects, that may arise from a name originally being misapplied.
From Lupata the Portuguese advanced eastward, in hopes of reaching the silver mines of Chicova, and, as they confined themselves during this march to the line of the river Zambezi, they met with little opposition, the natives having, as before, retired to the woods. Still all their search after the valuable commodity they looked for proved fruitless, and their leader was at last, as it is said, ingeniously outwitted by one of the natives, who hid some silver in the ground, and persuaded the Portuguese it was a mine. Soon afterwards, being unable to maintain a large force in the country, they retired to Senà, leaving two hundred men in a new fort constructed at Tête, with positive orders not to give up the enterprise until the party had discovered the object of their reaearch. All trouble, however, on this head was unavailing; for the whole detachment, together with its unfortunate leader Antony Cardosa d'Almeyda, was drawn into an ambuscade by the natives, and cut off to a man.
Since this period the Portuguese have been compelled to act chiefly on the defensive, and to content themselves, like their predecessors the Arabs, with carrying on the trade in a more quiet way, keeping up their influence in the country by setting the native powers in opposition to each other, and confining themselves solely to the coast, and the line of the river Zambezi.
To maintain even these they have had several severe struggles, particularly in the years 1589 and 1592 (Purchas, Part II. p. 1554, and Hist. de l'Ethiopie, p. 141,) when they were attacked on the northern bank of the Zambezi by an inroad of a wandering and ferocious tribe of Muzimbas, who appear at this time to have been passing by on their progress from the south-west. The description which is given of this people and of many of their customs, of their activity, roving disposition, mode of warfare, and particularly the direction which they subsequently took, lead to the conclusion that they were tribes of Galla; for the last account we have of the Muzimbas states, that they reached Quiloa in 1593, and thence passed on to Melinda, where they were stopped by a tribe of natives called Mossequeios, and the first we hear of the Galla is at Patta, where they were seen by Jerome Lobo in 1625; and it was about the same time, that they made from that point, their first inroad into Abyssinia.
The endeavours of the Portuguese to introduce the Catholic religion into the country, proved as abortive as their schemes of conquest; for, though, by the daring enthusiasm of a fanatic named Peter Gonsalvo de Sylva, they gained in 1571 (Vide Pory's Africa, p. 414) access to the court of the Quitéve, and made an impression on the mind of that sovereign, yet shortly afterwards the Mahomedan traders gained the ascendency, and De Sylva himself fell a martyr to the cause he had espoused. As to the numbers stated to have been baptized, it will be found, I fear, that the Portuguese priests, too often made nominal instead of real converts; and that their motives proceeded rather from an idle vanity of extending the list of their proselytes, than from any actual desire to benefit the individuals whom they pretended to convert.
The above short account contains a summary of all that I conceive material to be known respecting the establishment and progress of these settlements; the following description of the present state of the Zambezi, and the Portuguese possessions on its banks, may not unaptly conclude this portion of my narrative. Great part of it is taken from a paper, drawn up by a learned Portuguese, who within a few years visited the country, and the remainder is derived from information given me by the merchants at Mosambique, which, from its general agreement with the geographical information contained in a valuable map, composed from the best authorities by Mons. D'Anville, may, I think, in a great degree, be depended upon for its accuracy.
From the Island of Mosambique a vessel in favourable weather may sail along the coast to the port of Quilimanci, at the mouth of the Zambezi, in three or four days. This port is dangerous to apprach without a pilot, as it can be entered only at high tide, during the setting in of the sea-breeze, on account of two sand banks, in front of the anchorage, which form a double bar, and render the navigation extremely hazardous. The anchorage lies in front of the small town of Quilimanci, which is situated on the main land a few miles up the northern bank of the river, where there is a dépot for merchandize, and a small Portuguese garrison stationed. Here the vessels transfer their cargoes to pinnaces, and boats called pangayes, on account of the river being navigable only for vessels of a light draught.
After sailing up the river about five leagues, the water becomes fresh and the current rapid; alligators of a large size are frequently met with, and the sea-horse is found within the limits of the salt water. At the distance of thirty leagues from its mouth, the river widens considerably, and another branch strikes off more to the southward, called Luabo, which is at present little frequented, on account of the difficulties of its navigation. This branch is said to have been formerly more frequented, than the Cuama, (Vide Purchas, Part II, 1544,) but such changes constantly occur in rivers subject to tropical rains.
From the branching off of the Luabo to Senà, it is about thirty leagues, making the distance of that place from Quilimanci about two hundred and forty-seven English miles, which in the most favourable season, may be accomplished in ten or twelve days. The whole course of this part of the river is much intersected with islands, some of which are inhabited, and some occasionally overflowed in the rainy season, by which their positions become changed, as in the Ganges, forming new channels for the direction of the stream. The left bank is in possession of the Portuguese, and the right is inhabited by independent native tribes.
Senà is a considerable town on the southern bank of the river, containing altogether about two thousand inhabitants. It is protected by a strong fort, and is governed by a commandant, who at present receives his appointment direct from the Portuguese Government. He commands all the minor establishments on the river, but is himself subordinate to the Governor of Mosambique.
The chief mart for gold in the interior is at Manica, about twenty days journey south-west from Senà, where an annual fair is held, to which the traders resort with their merchandize. The first part of their journey lies through a country under the influence of the Portuguese, and the remaining part of it comprises districts in the hands of native tribes, which the traders are obliged to conciliate by frequent presents. A tribute also still continues to be paid to the Quitéve, for his permission to carry on the trade; for which purpose an annual deputation is sent from Senà to his capital, Zimbaoa, where the tribute is laid in great form, at the feet of the Prince sitting in full state.
Two different methods of procuring the gold are practised by the natives; the first consists in digging for the ore, which is attended with great labour, and at present said to be seldom adopted; and the other in collecting from the beds of torrents, the sand that contains the gold, and separating it by frequent washings: in the latter way a considerable quantity is still annually accumulated, though it seems to be rapidly decreasing, for in 1593, the Governor of Mosambique, George Menzes, collected for himself and the Viceroy of India 100,000 crusades, and I do not believe that one-third of this amount is now, altogether annually produced.
The country around Manica is extremely fertile, and yields abundance of provisions and cattle. It is very mountainous, and supposed to lie at a great elevation above the sea, the weather at times being unusually cold for the latitude in which it is situated. Frequent storms of thunder and lightning occur, which are attributed by the Portuguese, to the immense quantities of metallic substances with which the country abounds. The trade is here carried on by barter, and the goods most valued are Surat cloths, beads, coarse silks, and iron; and the returns, besides gold, consist of ivory, ghee, and a small quantity of copper.
From Senà it is about sixty leagues further up the river to Tête, but the navigation is much more dangerous and tedious, than that from Quilimanci to Senà. About half way up is situated the pass of Lupata, formed by two impending mountains of black rock, which seem to threaten instant destruction to the passenger, the river in this spot being so narrow that a child may throw a stone from one side to the other. In the mid-stream a large rock just rises above the water, called Capucho, on which many boats are lost, owing to the rapidity of the current. The northern bank and country from Senà to Tête, remains to the natives; while the Portuguese assume the jurisdiction of the southern country, though they confess that a little to the eastward of Lupata lies a kingdom called Jambara, abounding in provisions, and yielding a great quantity of ivory, which is governed by a powerful sovereign who despises their authority. Beyond, towards the west, extend the districts of Mussangani and Tipui, which are, in like manner, equally independent. Close to Tipui are situated the village and fort of Tête, where a dépot is kept for merchandize, and this is considered by the traders as the best regulated settlement on the river. Here the Governor of Senà generally resides, and the Portuguese territory exists on both sides of the river.
The principal mart in the interior, frequented from this point, is that of Zumbo, at which place the Portuguese are allowed a small factory by the permission of the natives. The journey to this place from Tête requires nearly a month to accomplish, the first fifteen days being employed in travelling, by land, to a place named Chicova, on account of certain falls in the river called Sacumbe: at Chicova it is necessary to embark again in small shallow boats, and in this way to proceed to the station of Zumbo, whence the traders send out their agents in different directions, who in return for their goods bring back gold, ivory, and other valuable articles. Of the country beyond Zumbo no information could be obtained.
From the foregoing accounts it will appear how extremely confined the knowledge of the Portuguese has always been respecting the interior, which satisfactorily accounts for the extraordinary inaccuracy of all their writers, and their want of agreement, on the subject.
The jurisdiction of the Portuguese, along the coast, has on the contrary, been always extensive; in the heighth of their power it reached from Socotra, on the north, to the Cape of l'Agoa, on the south, comprehending the islands of Zanzebar, Quiloa, and other important settlements, which have been since recovered by the Arabs, and are now subject to the Imaum of Muscat, whose power and consequence has greatly increased of late years, owing to the protection and encouragement of the Bombay government. It still extends from Cape Delgado on the north, to Inhambane on the south, embracing an extent of thirteen degrees of coast. The most southern settlement on this line is at Cape Corrientes, where a small fort is established, which was taken possession of by the French in 1808; but the influence of the Portuguese with the surrounding natives soon compelled them to abandon it. There is another small fort at Inhambane, and both these establishments are annexed to Sofala, and kept up for the purpose of collecting ivory, which the neighbouring forests abundantly supply. Sofala itself is a miserable village; but the country around is extremely fertile, and furnishes considerable quantities of rice, oranges, and many exquisite fruits to the inhabitants of Mosambique. These establishments, and others of a smaller description at the mouth of the Luabo, on the Island of Fuogo, at Angoxo, and on the Querimbo islands, are all that now remain of what was once proudly termed the Sovereignty of Eastern Africa.
It appears evident, from the preceding observations, that the consequence and value of this Colony has always been greatly over-rated. Still, during the prosperity of the Portuguese monarchy, it was of real importance to that nation. It furnished very large supplies of gold and ivory, and though it never returned much, if any immediate profit to the crown, yet it served to enrich a great number of individuals, whose wealth ultimately reverted to the state. It afforded a valuable place for the Indian ships to touch at in the earlier stages of navigation, which was then absolutely requisite, and it supplied all the eastern, and some of the western dominions of the Portuguese with slaves.
There exists at present only the mere shadow of its former splendour, which without difficulty may be traced to the weak and disturbed state of the mother-country, the loss and decline of her eastern possessions, and the impolitic manner in which the Settlement itself has for a long time been governed. The two first causes having most materially affected its trade and relative value; and the last having degraded its consequence, broken its connections with the neighbouring tribes, and reduced it to a state scarcely capable of resisting the attacks of the undisciplined barbarians in its neighbourhood. A cursory review of the government, its population, internal and external connections, will clearly elucidate this statement.
The Governor of Mosambique is assisted in his office by a council, consisting of the Bishop, the Minister, (as he is here termed) and the Commandant of the troops. The regular salaries of all these persons, and their subordinate officers are inconceivably small. The Governor receives 12,000 real crusades only, or about 750l. sterling: the Bishop 1500; the surgeon-general 960; a captain 720, and a lieutenant 300, or the pitiful allowance of 18l. 5s. per annum. One simple fact will shew the perfect inadequacy of these salaries to the proper maintenance of such officers: the Governor's cook gets at this time fifty dollars per month for wages, besides his provisions and a bottle of wine per day, which, as may be observed, is more than treble the pay of a captain. Hence has arisen the too frequent practice of tolerating certain abuses, such as selling the inferior commands, of keeping a nominal instead of an effective force, and in fact of winking at every species of injustice.
Even with men of high feeling, it is to be apprehended that a system of this nature might have had no small influence on their integrity; what then could be expected, when we regard the description of persons usually sent out to these settlements? With the exception of the Governor and his staff, the rest have been mostly culprits exiled for transgression. The place being so unhealthy, and bearing so indifferent a character, that very few people of respectability would volunteer their services. To maintain themselves when they arrive, they are obliged to enter into speculations with the native traders and planters, whose chief employment consisting in the nefarious traffic of dealing in slaves, renders them not very scrupulous about the means of obtaining wealth.
The great encouragement given to this trade, which constitutes one of the principal perquisites of the Governor, has also contributed greatly to the degradation of the Settlement, from its having rendered the planters vicious, indolent, and careless of improving their property. Had a more enlightened policy been pursued, and the cultivation of the land more closely attended to, the proprietors might have now seen prosperous villages rising round them, inhabited by free settlers, and have possessed an export of cotton, indigo, sugar, and other valuable commodities, instead of being surrounded by wretched assemblages of slave-huts, woods of cocoa-nut trees, and unprofitable plantations of manioca.
The two distinct classes above-mentioned, consisting of European Portuguese, and of native planters descended from the old settlers, may be estimated at about five hundred with their families. Next to these may be enumerated the descendants of the old Arab settlers and the Banians; the former are mostly engaged in a sea-faring life; and the latter are in general petty traders, or mean artizans. Both together may amount to about eight hundred in number. The remainder of the population, consisting of free blacks, and native soldiers whom I have before described, may, in addition, amount to about one thousand five hundred. The necessity of employing the latter arose from the small degree of reliance to be placed on the services of Europeans, whose free mode of living and debauchery soon rendered them in this climate incapable of active exertion. It is even said, that not more than seven soldiers out of a hundred survive after a service of five years; and that nearly the same proportion holds good with respect to the civilians, who go out to the Colony from Europe.
It may be easily conceived how inadequate such a promiscuous population must be to the improvement, or even defence of the Settlement. As to the neighbouring tribes before described, which acknowledge the Portuguese jurisdiction, it may be doubted whether they add more to its safety or its danger. In fact, as the Portuguese themselves confess, it is only on the ignorance of their enemies that they rely for security, and upon this no great dependance is to be placed, for the Arab traders, whom I met with at Mocha, seemed to me pretty intimately acquainted with the true state of affairs at Mosambique, and one of them, named Hadjee Sâlee, even declared "it was so miserably weak that, with a hundred stout Arabian soldiers, he would dispossess the Portuguese of the Colony." I tried to convince him that the situation of things would be very different under the new governor; but he shook his head and persisted in his opinion, observing that "it was too far gone to be reclaimed."
The external connections of this colony were unfortunately at this time as discouraging as its internal relations. The war with France had been already productive of the most disastrous consequences. In 1808, a French privateer took possession of one of the adjacent islands, at the season when the coasting vessels come up from Quilimanci and Sofala, and captured almost every Portuguese boat employed in the trade, which proved a serious loss in a country where wood is scarce, and where the industry requisite to remedy such a disaster is wanting. This kind of warfare would probably have been continued during subsequent years had it not been for the conquest of the Isles of France and the protection thereby afforded by British cruisers.
Another enemy about the same time also made his appearance on the side of Madagascar, which, though deficient in the means of equally annoying the Settlement, had notwithstanding done it considerable mischief. This foe consisted of a nation of pirates on the north-east point of Madagascar, called by the Portuguese, Sekelaves, but whose real name I have reason to believe is Marati, which for many years back has been known to infest the Comoro Islands. The following account by Captain Thomlinson, extracted from his journal, gives a very interesting and forcible description of the melancholy situation to which their incursions have reduced the wretched Johannese.
"June, 1809. The people of Johanna are the most courteous and inoffensive I have ever met with, tendering every assistance to strangers, and with the greatest fidelity and honesty executing any commissions intrusted to their care. They have lately been much reduced by the natives of Madagascar, who annually invade the island for the purpose of procuring slaves, which they sell to the French. The other islands, Comoro, Mohilla and Mayotta, are nearly depopulated from the attacks of these marauders, and at this time Johanna from twelve towns is reduced to two. These pirates come over at the latter part of the south-west monsoon, build huts round the towns, which are walled, and remain blockading them until the latter end of the north-east monsoon, which occupies a period of eight months, as they never attempt the passage but with a fair wind.
"I have seen one of their canoes, which was about forty-five feet long by ten or twelve broad, ingeniously put together upon a construction very similar to that of a whale boat, and joined by wooden pegs driven into both edges of the planks. The plan adopted by this people is to send every fifth year upwards of one hundred canoes, with from fifteen to thirty-five men in each, armed with muskets, while during the other four years, they dispatch not more than thirty, on account of the want of provisions they might experience, and with a view to leave time for the plantations to be restored to their usually flourishing condition. The King told me that during the siege last year nearly two hundred women and children died from hunger, owing to their not daring to go outside the walls for provisions, and that many of the women actually eat their own children.
"The town of Johanna, called Sultan's Town, has, in different parts of its walls and in a fort on the hill close behind it, upwards of fifty guns mounted, though in a wretched state. The King keeps in his possession papers from Admiral Renier and Blanket, requesting captains of ships of war to assist them with powder and arms. Their chief reliance for a supply of these articles is on the Governor and Council of Bombay, who last year sent them in an Arab boat 40 half-barrels of powder, 80 muskets, and one iron six pounder, 1500 flints, and 2000 musket-balls. A French cruiser unfortunately fell in with this boat, and plundered it of every thing, except the muskets and six half-barrels of powder. It is my opinion that the whole of these islands will in a few years become desolate, unless they receive more effectual assistance. It deserves particular notice, that, though this people has been plundered of the greater part of its cattle by these savage enemies, who destroyed those for which they had themselves no occasion, they nevertheless keep the few which remain for the use of the East India Company's ships, never killing any for their own consumption, it being expressly prohibited by the King, who looks up to the Company as his only friends."
The facts above mentioned appear to me to constitute strong grounds for an appeal to the generosity, I had almost said justice, of the English nation, and I cannot help expressing a sanguine hope that the cause of the poor Johannese may not be much longer neglected; for while we are in possession of the Isles of France and the Cape of Good Hope, the expeditions of their cruel enemy might, I conceive, be readily put a stop to.
Encouraged by their success against the Johannese, the Marati last year actually ventured across the channel and took possession of one of the islands of Querimbo, destroyed the houses, burnt the cocoa-nut groves and plantations, and killed every inhabitant that fell into their power. Their force is said to have consisted of about one thousand canoes, (which number, however, is probably exaggerated,) each containing about thirty armed men.
Nothing can be more terrible than the character which is attributed to these marauders. They carry cresses like the Malays, from whom possibly they may be descended, and exhibit in their attacks a degree of ferocity that can scarcely be exceeded. Their enmity is not peculiarly directed against the Portuguese, for their maxim is universal warfare. A French ship in 1807 was cut off by them, on her passage to the Isle of France, and not a single person escaped from their barbarity. A medical man of some distinction, with his son, from Mosambique, fell victims on this occasion.
Notwithstanding the success they met with on their expedition to the Querimbos, yet they did not quit the coast without suffering for their temerity. The inadequate provision made for their voyage, and their want of skill in navigation occasioned the death of numbers, and the small-pox which they caught on the coast became also a just instrument of retribution, leaving scarcely half of them to return to their chief at Madagascar. Yet this event, as might have been expected, did not discourage them, and they continued to threaten a repetition of their visit; being daring enough to declare that the island of Mosambique itself should be the next point of attack. Information of this was obtained from four prisoners taken by a Portuguese brig of war, after an engagement with six of their canoes, in which the Marati fought with such desperation that these four only were captured alive. The fort of Mosambique is too strong I conceive to fear the assaults of such an undisciplined rabble, but on any other part of the coast they might occasion infinite mischief.
The abolition of the slave trade by the English has been another severe blow to the trade of Mosambique. The whole supply of the Cape, of the Isles of France and of Batavia was formerly derived from these settlements, and many of the Indian ports afforded a ready sale for cargoes of this description; besides a very considerable number of these unfortunate creatures was carried over by American, and sometimes, even latterly, by English ships under American colours, into our West India possessions. The whole of these sources are now cut off by the strict adherence of our cruisers in this quarter to the subsequent laws of the abolition.
Nothing therefore remains to Mosambique except the limited trade with India and the Brazils; the former is still lucrative. Ivory, gold, and slaves always find a ready market at Goa, Diu, and Demaun, and four or five vessels annually come from these places with cloths, cotton, teas, and other Eastern produce. The trade to the West is chiefly confined to slaves, which are carried as well to the Spanish as the Portuguese possessions in that quarter, and in return nothing but specie is received.
The number of slaves annually exported from Mosambique is said to amount to more than 4000. The duty on each of these is sixteen and a half crusades. The Portuguese traders for a long time were charged only eight, but they are now obliged to pay at the same rate as the foreign trader. All other exports are exempt from duty. The duty on imports is charged in the following proportions: 2½ per cent. is imposed on all the specie brought into the country, one per cent. of which goes to the general revenue, and the remainder to the Governor. Other imports pay twenty per cent. ad valorem, to which may be added one and a half per cent. custom-house charges, forty dollars for pilotage, and the maintenance of two custom-house officers on board each ship trading in the port, to whom it is usual to pay besides one and a half crusade per day. These charges, with fees to secretaries, &c. may be computed altogether to amount to twenty-five per cent.
The few following remarks on the trade, which may enable the reader to form a tolerably correct, though not a very favourable estimate of the commerce of Mosambique, will conclude my account of this Settlement.
By the advice of one of the principal merchants, Captain Weatherhead opened a store soon after his arrival, and landed samples of his goods, consisting of iron bars, gunpowder, pistols, blunderbusses, hard-ware, broad cloths, muslins, Cape wine and brandy, and some small bottles of scented waters. The government bought the whole of the two first articles, the former at three dollars and a half per arob of 32lbs. English, and the latter at thirty-five Spanish dollars per barrel. The rest of the articles, except the Cape wine, brandy, and broad cloths, met with a very slack sale, which Captain Weatherhead in a great measure attributed to the departure of the annual fleet for India having taken place, which had drained the traders of the greater part of their ready money. He seemed notwithstanding to entertain the opinion that a small cargo might be disposed of to good advantage, in the months of April, May and June; and in his Journal he remarks: "the articles most suitable would be iron in bars, lead, powder, shot, iron-hoops, cutlery, stationary, prints and framed pictures, a small quantity of household furniture, printed cottons for sophas, silk and cotton stockings for ladies and gentlemen, shoes and boots, waistcoat-pieces of different patterns, light plain muslins, blue cloth, coarse and fine, a few telescopes, some salt butter, hams and cheese, and in short a little of every article necessary for comfort in use among the Portuguese."
The price of goods for exportation appeared to be very exorbitant. The merchants demanded for their ivory from twenty-six to thirty-two dollars the arob, which on a rough calculation made the price of the first quality amount to 24l. and the second to 21l. 15s. per hundred. Columbo root was four dollars per cwt. and gold dust about 3l. 5s. the ounce avoirdupois. A considerable number of an Arabian breed of asses is reared at Mosambique for exportation, which thrives remarkably well; these animals are generally sent as presents to the Brazils, but when sold they fetch a high price.
The exchange at Mosambique is chiefly regulated by the current value of the Spanish dollar, which fluctuates from three to four per cent. according to the state of the markets.
The articles required by our ships were found in abundance, and to be bought at a moderate rate. Bullocks, in good order, were to be had for fifteen or twenty dollars; pigs for eight dollars the arob; goats for five dollars each, and fowls at the low price of one dollar the dozen. A number of Guinea fowls were also brought to the ship for sale, and they proved excellent stock. Three species of this bird are common at Mosambique; the Numida meleagris, mitrata, and cristata; the last is a most beautiful bird, being more variegated in the plumage than the others, and having a black crest of feathers on its head, from which it derives its specific name. Sheep appeared to be scarce, and were charged ten and fifteen dollars each. Water was furnished at one hundred gallons per dollar, and fire-wood of a superior quality, which answered also extremely well for dunnage, was delivered on board the ship at eight dollars the boatload. His Majesty's ships were supplied with water gratis, out of tanks constructed on a magnificent scale, and situated on the south end of the island, belonging to the Government.
Fahrenheit's thermometer, during our stay, varied from 86° to 89°, and the weather was uniformly fine.
September the 14th and 15th were engaged in making preparations for our departure; and on the last day the Governor sent me a bullock, three dozen fowls, and a large quantity of fruit as a parting present. On my taking leave afterwards, which I did with some regret, occasioned by his friendly treatment, he gave me an official letter to the Governor of the Islands of Cape Delgado, to secure us a good reception, should we by chance find occasion to touch at any of the possessions under his command: on the 16th we departed for the Red Sea.
- Tabula quarta de Africâ in Geographiâ di Fancesco Berlinghieri Fiorentino—published, according to J. C. Brunet in his Manuel de Libraire, in about 1480.
- This Author wrote his work on geography, in the 336th year of the Hegira. (Biblioth. d'Herbelot) A. D. 948.
- The greater part of the above is still applicable to the negro tribes residing on the coast.
- By this I conceive is meant the Nil l'Mugdesso (or river of Magadasho,) which takes its rise from the same chain of mountains as the Abaid or Nile of Egypt.
- This is probably the Metigal, by which they still weigh the gold at Mozambique; it contains 108 grains avoirdupois.
- The discovery was in 1497-8; but they did not attempt an establishment till several years afterwards.
- It is by mistake in Purchas (vol. ii, page 1534,) stated to have been erected in 1558; but this cannot be correct, for L. Barthema (vide his journal) saw it building in 1507.
- This account is chiefly taken from Marmol, and J. Dos Santos, but represented in a very different point of view; the last writer is the grossest adulator of the court, and dignifies every exploit of Baretto with most undeserved encomium.
- Vide a description of this sovereign, and the manners of his subjects, in the Histoire de l'Ethiopie, par Jean Dos Santos; à Paris, 1684, p. 38, and Purchas, Vol. II. p. 1537. In many respects they appear to resemble the Abyssinians. The king, as a mark of distinction, wears a singular kind of horn over the forehead. If a prince be in any way mutilated, he is considered as unfit for the crown. The inhabitants celebrate, after the death of their monarchs, a festival called 'pemberar,' very much resembling the 'toscar' of the Abyssinians, both of which end in riot and debauchery. They are very curious in the various modes of dressing their hair, like the Abyssinians. Their mode of hunting is similar. They are governed by head-men, holding a jurisdiction independent of the king: their mode of trial is summary; and when they purchase their wives, they carry them home upon their shoulders without stopping, as is always customary in Abyssinia, presents being made to the bridegroom on the occasion, by his companions.
- In Pory's History of Africa is the following remark: "this armie, which was so terrible to a mightie monarke, was in five daies consumed by the intemperature of the aire, which is there insupportable to the people of Europe." It may admit of a question, if this were not an epidemical disease?
- There is a curious account of this in Purchas, Part II. 1547.
- They are elsewhere called Mauruca, and their king "Gallo," (Vide Purchas, Part II. Book ix. p. 1552) and these may be recognized in the Maracata, a tribe of Galla in the neighbourhood of Mugdasho. The Muzimbas are accused by some of the Portuguese writers as being cannibals. That raw flesh is the common food of these Galla is certain, from various instances that have been witnessed at Bombay among the slaves taken in French vessels; but of their being cannibals there remains no satisfactory proof, no more than of their idolatry and witchcraft, with which they have been equally charged by the same writers.
- They in all probability first introduced the savage custom of mutilating those whom they had killed in battle, which is still retained by the Galla. Of this an extraordinary plate is given in Du Bree's Collection.
- J. Dos Santos asserts, "that in the four years he staid at Sofala, he baptised 1694 persons; and the Dominicans are said to have baptised 16,000 in the Querimbo Islands, besides 20,000 on the Cuama or Zambezi. The Jesuits boast of having baptised three times this number in Japan; but I fancy the converts of both must have greatly resembled the Dutch Christians in Ceylon, who acknowledged to Mr. North, that though they had faith in Christ, they still believed in Boudah!"
- This map is to be found in the French Edition of Jerome Lobo's Travels, and it is far superior to any other I have seen of the same tract of country.
- Zimbaoa is reported to be fifteen days west from Sofala, and about forty days from Senà.
- Purchas, P. II. 1536.
- The following passages from Martool (p. 113) and Lafitau's Conquestes des Port. dans le Nouv. Monde, may serve to convince the reader of this fact; the first begins his account of these countries thus: "Sofala est un grand contrée sous la domination d'un Prince Négre que l'on nomme Bénamotapa ou Bénamotacha.—Ce pais commence la frontière de Congo," &c.—The second says, "l'empire du Monomotapa ou Bénomotapa comprend une grande partie de la basse Ethiopie, depuis l'empire des Abyssins jusques au cap de Bonne-Esperance, nord et sud; et depuis la côte de Zanguebar jusques aux païs des Négres et Royaumes d'Angole et de Congo est et ouest!!" Such has been the information on which our maps of Africa have generally been constructed.
- I have seen a Portuguese silver dollar, on which was inscribed—"Rex Portugalis et Dom. Orientalis Africæ."
- Vide Don de Menzes' "tractate on the Portugal Indies," in Purchas, Part II. p. 1522, a very valuable document relative to the Portuguese eastern possessions.
- Mr. Brougham, in his Colonial Policy, very correctly observes, that "the treasure and blood of the metropolis was wasted in wars with the native powers, and the relations of commerce were on every occasion postponed for those of conquest and dominion. The consequences of these circumstances have been fatal to the Portuguese dominions in the East." (Vol. I. p. 466.)
- Though I received the account of the above salaries from the best authority, I could not help doubting their accuracy, until I met with a confirmation of them in an official document before referred to, in which it appears that the Governor's salary was in 1584 only 261l. 5s. and a soldier's pay in this fortress about 7l. 10s. per annum. At this time the government of Mosambique was already separated from that of India.
- The following passage from Captain Weatherhead's Journal is admirably characteristic of this people—"They are a very unpleasant people to trade with, especially for an European unaccustomed to their manners. They will offer about half the value of an article at first—then examine into every particular of quantity and quality—go away—return and offer a little more—and so continue to proceed till their conduct becomes almost unbearable. When they do make a purchase they generally take the whole quantity to secure a monopoly. Several of them agreed for goods; but as I would not let them be taken away without payment, they never were sent for, being, as it appeared, wanting in funds, which is a general complaint on the island."
- This I learned subsequently from the Arabian traders. The Sekelaves, I was informed by Captain Fisher and others who visited that part of the island, are subjects of the Queen of Pembetoc, residing on the north-western side of Madagascar.
- Vide "A Voyage from England to the Red Sea, by Austin Bissell, R.N., 1798-9; published in 1806 by A. Dalrymple at the expense of the East India Company."
- The India fleet generally arrives at Mosambique early in April, and returns in August.