Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/18
The city of Santa Maria de Belem do Grao Pará, founded by Francisco Caldeira do Castello Branco, in the year 1616, is situated on a low elbow of land at the junction of the river Guamá with the river Pará, and at a distance of about eighty miles from the sea.
A ship generally requires three tides, which run with a velocity of about four miles to the hour, to reach the sea from the city.
Pará is not fortified, either by land or water. There is a very small and inefficient fort situated on an island about five miles below the city; but it is only armed with a few ill-conditioned field-pieces, which do not command the channel. There is also a small battery in the city near the point of junction of the two rivers; but there are no guns mounted, and its garrison could be easily driven out by musketry from the towers of the cathedral.
The harbor is a very fine one; it is made by the long island of Onças in front, and at two miles distance, with some smaller ones further down the river. There is an abundance of water, and ships of any size may lie within one hundred and fifty yards of the shore. There is a good landing-place for boats and lighters at the custom-house wharf; and at half tide at the stone wharf, some five hundred yards above.
The corporation was engaged, during my stay, in building a strong stone sea-wall all along in front of the town. This will make a new wide street on the water-front, and prevent smuggling. Formerly, canoes, at high stages of the river, would land cargoes surreptitiously in the very cellars of the warehouses situated on the river.
The city is divided into the freguezias, or parishes, of Sé and Campina. Nine other freguezias are included in the municipio of the capital; but many of these are leagues distant, and should not geographically be considered as belonging to the city, or their population be numbered in connection with it. The population of the city proper numbered, in 1848, (the last statistical account I have, and which I think would differ very little from a census taken at this time,) nine thousand two hundred and eighty-four free persons, and four thousand seven hundred and twenty-six slaves.
VEGETABLE PRODUCTIONS. 339
The number of inhabited houses was two thousand four hundred and eighteen; of births, seven hundred and eighty-five; of marriages, ninety-eight; of deaths, three hundred and seventy-five; and of resident foreigners, seven hundred and eighty-four.
Pará was a remarkably healthy place, and entirely free from epidemics of any kind, until February, 1850, when the yellow fever was taken there by a vessel from Pernambuco. It was originally brought from the coast of Africa to Bahia, and spread thence along the coast. The greatest malignancy of the disease was during the month of April, when it carried off from twenty to twenty-five a day.
About the same time the next year, (the fever being much diminished,) the small-pox broke out with great violence. About twenty-five per cent. of the population died from the two diseases. I imagine that the city will now never be entirely free from either; and the filthy condition in which the low tide leaves the slips, in which lie the small trading craft, must be a fruitful source of malaria, and an ever-exciting cause of epidemic.
The crews of these vessels, with their families, generally live in them. They are consequently crowded; and, when the tide is out, they lie on their sides, imbedded in a mass of refuse animal and vegetable matter, rotting and festering under a burning sun.
Pará, however, is an agreeable place of residence, and has a delightful climate. The sun is hot till about noon, when the sea breeze comes in, bringing clouds, with rain, thunder, and lightning, which cool and purify the atmosphere, and wash the streets of the city. The afternoon and evening are then delicious. This was invariable during my stay of a month.
The rich vegetable productions of the country enhance much the beauty of the city. In nearly all the gardens grow the beautiful miriti palm, the cabbage palm, the cocoa-nut, the cinnamon, the bread-fruit tree, and rich green vines of black pepper. The rapidity of vegetable growth here is wonderful. Streets opened six months ago, in the suburbs of the city, are now filled up with bushes of the stramoniuln Datura stramonium, or Jamestown weed, of full six feet in height. There are a number of almond trees in various parts of the town, which are very ornamental. These trees throw out horizontal branches, encircling the trunk at intervals of five or six feet, the lowest circle being the largest, so that they resemble in shape a Norfolk pine. Mr. Norris and I thought it remarkable that in a row of these trees planted before a house, or line of houses, those nearest the door were invariably the farthest advanced in growth. This we particularly remarked in the case of a row planted.
before the barracks, in two parts of the city. The tree under which the sentinel stood, in both cases, was the largest of the row.
We saw, in a walk in the suburbs of the town, what we thought to be a palm tree growing out of the crotch of a tree of a different species; but, upon examination, it appeared that the tree, out of which the palm seemed growing, was a creeper, which, embracing the palm near the ground, covered its trunk entirely for fifteen or twenty feet, and then threw off large branches on each side. It may seem strange to call that a creeper, which had branches of at least ten inches in diameter; but so it was. It is called in Cuba the parricide tree, because it invariably kills the tree that supports it. Harpers Magazine, January, 1853. p.166
The most picturesque object, however, in Pará was the ruins of an old opera house near the palace. The luxuriant vegetation of the country has seized upon it, and it presents pillar, arch, and cornice of the most vivid and beautiful green.
The society of Pará is also agreeable. The men, I am sorry to say, seem to be above work. Most of them are Hidalgos, or gentlemen; and nearly all are in the employ of the government, with exceedingly small salaries. In the whole city of Pará, I am told, there are not a dozen Brazilians engaged in trade of any kind. The women are simple, frank, and engaging in their manners, and very fond of evening parties and dancing. I attended a ball, which is given monthly by a society of gentlemen, and was much pleased at the good taste exhibited in its management. Full dress was forbidden. No one was permitted to appear in diamonds; and the consequence was that all the pretty girls of the merely respectable classes, as well as of the rich, were gathered together, and had a merry time of it.
But the principal charm of Pará, as of all other tropical places, is the Dolce far niente (carefree idleness). Men, in these countries, are not ambitious. They are not annoyed, as the more masculine people of colder climates are, to see their neighbors going ahead of them. They are contented to live, and to enjoy, without labor, the fruits which the earth spontaneously offers; and, I imagine, in the majority of cases, if a Brazilian has enough food, of even the commonest quality, to support life, coffee or tea to drink, cigars to smoke, and a hanmmock to lie in, that he will be perfectly contented.
This, of course, is the effect of climate. There was a time when the Portuguese nation, in maritime and, scientific discoveries — in daring explorations — in successful colonization — in arts and arms — was inferior to no other in proportion to its strength; and I have very little doubt but that the bold and ambitious Englishman, the spirited and
cosmopolitan Frenchman, and the hardy, persevering, planning American, who likes little that any one should go ahead of him, would alike, in the course of time, yield to the relaxing influence of a climate that forbids him to labor, and to the charm of a state of things where life may be supported without the necessity of labor.
To make, then, the rich and varied productions of this country available for commercial purposes, and to satisfy the artificial wants of man, it is necessary that labor should be compulsory. To Brazil and her political economists belongs the task of investigation, and of deciding how, and by what method, this shall be brought about.
The common sentiment of the civilized world is against the renewal of the African slave trade; therefore must Brazil turn elsewhere for the compulsory labor necessary to cultivate her lands. Her Indians will not work. Like the llama of Peru, they will die sooner than do more than is necessary for the support of their being. I am under the impression that, were Brazil to throw off a causeless jealousy, and a puerile fear of our people, and invite settlers to the Valley of the Amazon, there might be found, among our Southern planters, men, who, looking with apprehension (if not for themselves, at least for their children) to the state of affairs as regards slavery at home, would, tinder sufficient guarantees, remove their slaves to that country, cultivate its lands, draw out its resources, and prodigiously augment the power and wealth of Brazil.
The negro slave seems very happy in Brazil. This is remarked by all foreigners; and many times in Pará was a group of merry, chattering, happy-looking black women, bringing their baskets of washed clothes from the spring, pointed out to me, that I might notice the evils of slavery. The owners of male slaves in Pará generally require from each four or five testoons a day, (twenty testoons make a dollar,) and leave him free to get it as he can. The slaves organize themselves into bands or companies, elect their captain, who directs and superintends their work, and contract with a certain number of mercantile houses to do their porterage. The gang which does the porterage for Mr. Norris, and for nearly all the English and American houses, numbers forty. Each man is paid about three cents to fill a bag or box, and four cents to carry it to the wharf and put it aboard the lighter. It costs from one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars to discharge and load a moderate-sized ship.
I have frequently seen these gangs of negroes carrying cocoa to the wharf. They were always chattering and singing merrily, and would stop every few minutes to execute a kind of dance with the bags on
342 THE CHURCH
their heads, thus doubling their work. When the load was deposited, the captain, who does no work himself unless his gang is pressed, arrays them in military fashion, and marches them back for another load.
For carrying barrels, or other bulky and heavy articles of merchandise, there are trucks, drawn by oxen.
Churches are large and abundant in Pará. The cathedral is one of the finest churches in Brazil. Its personnel, consisting of dignitaries, (dignidades),canons, chorists, and other employés, numbers seventy-four.
A large convent of the Jesuits, near the cathedral, having a very ornate and pretty chapel attached, is now used as a bishop’s palace, and a theological seminary. The officers of the seminary are a rector, a vice-rector, and six professors; its students number one hundred and fifteen; its rental is about five thousand dollars, of which one thousand is given from the provincial treasury; and it teaches Latin, the languages, philosophy, theology, history, geography, and vocal and instrumental music.
There are but two convents in Pará — one of the order of St. Anthony, and one of Shod Carmelites.
I attended the celebration of the festival of the Holy Cross, in the chapel of the convent of the Carmelites. There was a very large, well-dressed congregation, and the church was redolent of the fragrance of sweet-scented herbs, strewn upon the floor. There weren’t any good pictures in the church, but the candlesticks and other ornaments of the altar were very massive and rich. In the insurrection of the Cabanos the church property was spared; but I am told that, though they have preserved their ornaments, the priests have managed their property injudiciously, and are not now so rich in slaves and real estate as formerly.
I imagine that the priesthood in Brazil, though quite as intelligent and able as their brethren of Peru, have not so great an influence in society here as there. This is seen in an anecdote told me of a rigid Chefe de Policia, who forbid the clergy from burying one of their dignitaries in the body of the church during the prevalence of the yellow fever; but compelled them, much against their will, to deposit the body in the public cemetery, and accompanied the funeral procession on horseback to see that his orders were obeyed. It is also seen in the fact that the provincial assembly holds its sessions in a wing of the Carmelite convent, and that a part of the church of the Merced is turned into a custom-house and a barracks. There are forty-one public primary schools in the province, educating one thousand and eighty-seven pupils. This gives a proportion of one
for every one hundred and six free persons in the province. Each pupil costs the State about seven and a half dollars.
In the four schools of Latin, one person is educated in every five hundred and sixty-four, at a cost of twenty-six dollars.
In the College of Pará, called Lycco da Capital, the proportion educated is one to two hundred and eleven, at a cost of sixty-two dollars.
There are two capital institutions of instruction in Pará — one for the education of poor boys as mechanics, who are compelled to pay for their education in labor for the State; and the other for the instruction in the practical business of life of orphan and destitute girls. I think that this education is compulsory, and that the State seizes upon vagabond boys and destitute girls for these institutions. There is also another school of educacndos for the army.
The province also maintains three young men for the purpose of complete education in some of the colleges of Europe.
There are several hospitals and charitable institutions in the city, among which is a very singular one. This is a place for the reception of foundlings maintained by the city. A cylinder, with a receptacle in it sufficiently large for the reception of a baby, turns upon an axis in a window; any one may come under cover of night, deposit a child in the cylinder, turn the mouth of the receptacle in, and walk away without being seen. Nurses are provided to take charge of the foundling.
Though I pumped all my acquaintances, I could get no statistics concerning this institution, or whether it was thought to be beneficial or not. I judge, however, that for this country it is. Public opinion here does not condemn, or at least treats very leniently, the sins of fornication and adultery. This institution, therefore, while it would tend to lessen the crime of infanticide, would not encourage the above-mentioned sins by concealment; for where there is no shame there is not necessity for concealment. In speaking thus, I do not at all allude to the higher classes of Brazil.
The executive and legislative government of the province is in a president and four vice presidents, appointed by the Crown, and in a legislative assembly.
The provincial assembly meets once a year, in the month of May. The length of its sessions is determined by itself. It elects its own presiding officer. It is a very inefficient representative system. The people in the districts elect electors, who choose delegates and suplentes, or proxies. Most of these proxies belong to the city; they have little knowledge of the wants, and no sympathy with the feelings, of the people they represent. Each delegate (at least this is the case in the
344 THE JUDICIARY.
province of Amazonas) is allowed one dollar and sixty-six cents per diem; and the salary of the President of that province is one thousand six hundred and sixty-six dollars and sixty-six cents; it is probable that the salary of the President of Pará is greater.
The police of the province is under the direction of a chefe de policica with delegados for each comarca, and sub-deiegados for the termos and muinicipios. These officers issue and visée passports, and the traveller should always call upon them first.
The judiciary consists of Juizes de direito; three for the comarca of the capital, and one for each of the other comarcas of the province, besides Juizes municipaés, and de orfaobs. The Juiz de direito holds a singular office, and exercises extraordinary powers; besides being the judge, he presides over the jury, and has a vote in it. An appeal lies from his court, both by himself and the defendant, to a higher court, called the Court of Relacao, which sits in Maranham and has jurisdiction over the two provinces of Maranham and Pará. There are three or four such courts in the empire, and an appeal lies from them to the Supreme Court at Rio de Janeiro.
Persons complain bitterly of the delay and vexations in the administration of justice. I have heard of cases of criminals confined in jail for years, both in Peru and Brazil, waiting for trial. It is said also, though I know nothing of this, that the judges are very open to bribery. I think, however, that this is likely to be the case, from the entire inadequacy of the salaries generally paid by the government.
I believe that the Brazilian code is mild and humane, and I am sure that it is humanely administered. The Brazilians have what I conceive to be a very proper horror of taking life judicially. They do not shrink in battle; and sudden anger and jealousy will readily induce them to kill; but I imagine the instances of capital punishment are very rare in Brazil.
The police of the city is excellent, but, except to take up a drunken foreign sailor occasionally, it has nothing to do. Crime — such as violence, wrong, stealing, drunkenness, &c. — is very rare in Pará. Probably the people are too lazy to be bad.
The province covers an area of about 360,000 square miles, and has a population of 129,828 free persons, with 33,552 slaves.
Much as it needs population, it has suffered, from time to time, considerable drainage. It is calculated that from ten to twelve thousand persons were killed by the insurrection of the [] Cabanos, in 1835. Since that time ten thousand have been drawn from it as soldiers for the
THE WAR OF THE CABANOS. 345
southern wars; and the yellow-fever and small-pox, in one year, carried off between four and five thousand more. The war of the Cabanos was a servile insurrection, instigated and headed by a few turbulent and ambitious men. The ostensible cause was dissatisfaction with the provincial government. The real cause seems to have been hatred of the Portuguese.
Charles Jenks Smith, then consul at Pará, writes to the Hon. John Forsyth, under date of January 20, 1835:
“After the happy conclusion of the war on the Acará, this city has remained in a state of perfect tranquility, until the morning of the 7th instant, when a popular revolution broke out among the troops, which has resulted in an entire change of the government of this province. The President and the General-das-Armas were both assassinated at the palace, by the soldiers there stationed, between the hours of 4 and 5 a.m. Inglis, Commandant of the Defensora corvette, and Captain of the port, was also killed in passing from his dwelling to his ship. The subaltern commissioned officers on duty were shot down by the soldiery, who, placing themselves under the command of a sergeant named Gomez, took possession of all the military posts in the city.
“About fifty prisoners were then set at liberty, who, in a body, proceeded to a part of the city called Porto de Sol, and commenced an indiscriminate massacre of all the Portuguese they could find in that neighborhood. In this manner about twenty respectable shop-keepers and others lost their lives.
“Guards were stationed along the whole line of the shore, to prevent any person from embarking; and several Portuguese were shot in making the attempt to escape.”
A new President and General-das-Armas were proclaimed; but they quarrelled very soon. The President, named Melchor, was taken prisoner and murdered by his guards; and Vinagre, the General-das-Armas, took upon himself the government. In the conflicts incident to this change about two hundred persons were killed.
The persons and property of all foreigners, except Portuguese, were respected. Many of these were insulted, and some killed.
Vinagre held the city, in spite of several attempts of Brazilian men-of-war to drive him out, until the 21st June, when, upon the arrival of a newly-appointed President, he evacuated it. During these attempts the British corvettes (ships) Racehorse and Despatch, a Portuguese corvette, and two French brigs-of-war, offered their services for protection to the American consul.
On the 4th of August, Vinagre again broke into the city. The
346 THE WAR OF THE CABANOS.
English and Portuguese vessels landed, their marines; but, disgusted with the conduct of the President, withdrew them almost immediately. The gun fire of the Racehorse, however, defeated Vinagre’s attempt to get hold of the artillery belonging to the city.
On the 23d of August, the President abandoned the city to the rebels, whose leader exerted himself to save foreign life and property, permitting the foreigners to land from their vessels, and take from the customhouse and their own stores the principal part of their effects.
The rebels held the city until the 13th of May, 1836, when they were finally driven out by the legal authorities, backed by a large force from Rio de Janeiro. They held, however, most of the towns on the river above Pará till late in the year 1837. They did immense mischief, putting many whites to death with unheard-of barbarity, and destroying their crops and cattle. The province was thus put back many years. I think that the causes which gave rise to that insurrection still exist; and I believe that a designing and able man could readily induce the tapuios to rise upon their patrons. The far-seeing and patriotic President Coelho always saw the danger, and labored earnestly for the passage of efficient laws for the government of the body of tapuios, and for the proper organization of the military force of the province. His efforts in the latter case have been successful, and, very lately, a good militia system has been established.
The city of Pará is supplied with its beef from the great island of Marajo, which is situated immediately in the mouth of the Amazon. This island has a superficial extent of about ten thousand square miles, and is a great grazing country. Cattle were first introduced into it from the Cape de Verde Islands, in 1644. They increased with great rapidity, and government soon drew a considerable revenue from its tax on cattle. Before the year 1824, a good horse might have been bought in Marajo for a dollar; but about that time a great and infectious disease broke out among the horses, and swept away vast numbers; so that Marajo is now dependent upon Ceará and the provinces to the southward for its supply of horses. I heard that the appearance of this disease was caused by the fact that an individual having bought the right from the government to kill ten thousand mares on the island, actually killed a great many more; and the carcasses, being left to rot upon the plains, poisoned the grass and bred the pestilence, which swept off nearly all. Other accounts state that the disease came from about Santarem and Lago Grande, where it first attacked the dogs; then the capiuaras, or river-hogs;
ISLAND OF MARAJO. 347
then the alligators; and, finally, the horses. It attacks the back and loins; so that the animal loses the use of his hind-legs. The government sent a young man to France to study farriery (veterinary medicine), in hopes to arrest the disease; but the measure was productive of no good results. The disease still continues; and, ten years ago, appeared for the first time in the island of Mexiana, not far from Marajó. Within the last year, nearly all the horses on this island have died. I believe it has never attacked the horned cattle.
Beeves are brought from Marajó to Pará in small vessels, fitted for the purpose. They are frequently a week on the passage; and all this time they are on very short allowance of food and water; so that, when they arrive, they may almost be seen through.
The butchering and selling are all done under municipal direction; and the price of beef is regulated by law. This is about five and a half cents the pound. Gentlemen maintain horses and milch cows in Pará, or its neighborhood. These are fed generally on American hay. Some small quantity of grass is to be had from the rocinhacs, or small farms, in the environs of the city; and a tolerably good food for cattle is had from a fine flour, found between the chaff and grain of rice. This is called muinha, (qumi, in Maranham,) and is very extensively used, mixed with the chaff.
The island of Marajó is very much cut up with creeks, which, in the rainy season, overflow the low land, and form marshes, which are the graves of a great number of cattle. The cattle, at this season, are also crowded together on the knolls of land that are above the waters in the inundation, and many of them fall a prey to the ounces, which abound on the island. These creeks are also filled with alligators. Mr. Smith, former consul at Pará, told me that he had seen the carcass of one there which was thirty feet long.
I saw a number of curious and beautiful animals in Pará. Mr. Norris had some electric eels, and a pair of large and beautiful anacondas. I had never heard a serpent hiss before I heard these, and the sound filled me with disgust and dread. The noise was very like the letting off of steam at a distance. The extreme quickness and violence with which they darted from their coil (lacerating their mouths against the wire-work of the cage) was sufficiently trying to a nervous man; and few could help starting back when it occurred. These animals measured about eighteen feet in length, and the skin, which they shed nearly every month, measured eighteen inches in circumference. They seldom ate; a chicken or a rat was given to them when it was convenient. They killed their food by crushing it between their
348 BLACK TIGERS.
head and a fold of their body, and. swallowed it with deliberation. I imagine that they would live entirely without food for six months.
Many gentlemen had tigers about their establishments. They were docile, and playful in their intercourse with acquaintances; but they were generally kept chained for fear of injury to strangers. Their play, too, was not very gentle, for their claws could scarcely touch without leaving a mark. Mr. Pond, an American, had a pair of black tigers, that were the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. The ground color of the body was a very dark maroon; but it was so thickly covered with black spots that, to a casual glance, the animal appeared coal black. The brilliancy of the color — the savage glare of the eye — the formidable appearance of their tusks and claws — and their evidently enormous strength — gave them a very imposing appearance. They were not so large as the Bengal tiger; but much larger than the common ounce. They were bred in Pará from cubs.
Electric eels are found in great numbers in the creeks and ditches about Pará. The largest I have seen was about four inches in diameter, and five feet in length. Their shock, to me, was unpleasant, but not painful. Some persons, however, are much more susceptible than others. Captain Lee, of the Dolphin, could not feel at all the shock of an eel, which affected a lady so strongly as to cause her to reel, and nearly fall. Animals seem more powerfully affected than men. Mr. Norris told me that he had seen a horse drinking out of a tub, in which was one of these eels, jerked him entirely off his feet. It may be that the electric shock was communicated directly to the stomach by means of the water he was swallowing; but Humboldt gives a very interesting account of the manner of taking these eels by means of horses, which shows that they are peculiarly susceptible to the shock. He says:
“Impatient of waiting, and having obtained very uncertain results from an electrical eel that had been brought to us alive, but much enfeebled, we repaired to the caño de Bera to make our experiments, in the open air, on the borders of the water itself. To catch the gymnoti with nets is very difficult, on account of the extreme agility of the fish, which bury themselves in the mud like serpents. We would not employ the barbasco (stuns fish). These means would have enfeebled the gymnoti. The Indians, therefore, told us that they would fish with horses, ‘embarbascar con cavallos.’ We found it difficult to form an idea of this extraordinary manner of fishing; but we soon saw our guides return from the Savannah, which they had been scouring for wild horses and mules. They brought about thirty with them, which they forced to enter the pool.
THE GYMNOTUS. 349
The extraordinary noise caused by the horses’ hoofs makes the eels issue from the mud, and excites them to combat. These yellowish and livid eels, resembling large aquatic serpents, swim on the surface of the water and crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules. A contest between animals of so different an organization furnishes a very striking spectacle. The Indians, provided with harpoons and long, slender reeds, surround the pool closely, and some climb upon the trees, the branches of which extend horizontally over the surface of the water.
“By their wild cries, and the length of their reeds, they prevent the horses from running away and reaching the bank of the pool. The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by the repeated discharge of their electric batteries. During a long time they seem to prove victorious. Several horses sink beneath the violence of the invisible strokes, which they receive from all sides, in organs the most essential to life; and, stunned by the force and frequency of the shocks, disappear under the water. Others, panting, with main erect, and haggard eyes, expressing anguish, raise themselves, and endeavor to flee from the storm by which they are overtaken. They are driven back by the Indians into the middle of the water; but a small number succeed in eluding the active violence of the fishermen. These regain the shore, stumbling at every step, and stretch themselves on the sand, exhausted with fatigue, and their limbs benumbed by the electric shocks of the gymnoti.
“In less than five minutes two horses were drowned. The eel, being five feet long, and pressing itself against the belly of the horse, makes a discharge along the whole extent of its electric organ. It attacks, at once, the breast, the intestines, and the plexus coeliacus of the abdominal nerves. It is natural that the effect felt by the horses should be more powerful than that produced upon man, by the touch of the same fish at only one of his extremities. The horses are probably not killed, but only stunned. They are drowned, from the impossibility of rising, amid the prolonged struggle between the other horses and the eels.
“We had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by killing, successively, all the animals engaged; but, by degrees, the impetuosity of this unequal combat diminished, and the wearied gymnoti dispersed. They require a long rest, and abundant nourishment, to repair what they have lost of galvanic force. The mules and horses appear less frightened. Their manes are no longer bristled, and their eyes express less dread. The gymnoti (Gymnotus singular) approach timidly the edge of the marsh, when they are taken, by means of small harpoons fastened to long cords.
When the cords are very dry, the Indians feel no shock in raising the fish into the air. In a few minutes we had five large eels, the greater part of which were but slightly wounded.”
The shops of Pará are well supplied with English, French, and American goods. The groceries generally come from Portugal. The warehouses are piled with heaps of India-rubber, nuts, hides, and baskets of annatto. This pigment is made from the seed of a burr, which grows on a bush, called urucu in Brazil, and achote in Peru. In the latter country, it grows wild, in great abundance; in the former, it is cultivated.
The seed is planted in January. It is necessary that the ground should be kept clean, the suckers pulled up, and the tree trimmed, to prevent too luxuriant a growth, and to give room, so that the branches shall not interlock. The tree grows to ten or fifteen feet in height, and gives its first crop in a year and a half. It afterwards gives two crops a year. Each tree will give three or four pounds of seed in the year, which are about the size of No. 3 shot, but irregular in shape. They are contained in a prickly burr, about the size and shape of that of the chincapin. The burrs are gathered just before they open, and laid in the sun to dry, when the seed are trodden or beaten out. The coloring matter is a red powder covering the seed, the principal of which is obtained by soaking the seed in water for twenty-four hours, then passing them between revolving cylinders, and grinding them to a pulp. The pulp is placed in a sieve, called gyurupema, made of cotton cloth; water is poured on, and strains through. This operation is repeated twice more, and the pulp is thrown away. The liquor strained off is boiled till it takes the consistence of putty. A little salt is added, and it is packed in baskets of about forty pounds, lined and covered with leaves. It is frequently much adulterated with boiled rice, tapioca, or sand, to increase the weight. The price in Pará is from three to five dollars the arroba, of thirty-two pounds.
An examination of the following tables will give the best idea of the commerce of Pará. The first is an official report furnished to the provincial assembly by the President of the province.
To this sum is to be added the value of 7,338 canadas of balsam copaiba, worth when I was there three dollars, now worth seven and a half dollars; besides that of pots of oil made from the turtle, the alligator, and the andiroba-nut, which M. Chaton has not included in his list. These last, however, are inconsiderable.
Extracts of letters from Henry L. Norris, esq., United States consul at Pará, to the Department of State:
“Merchandise, the produce of this country, is usually bought for cash, or in exchange for the products of foreign countries by way of barter. There are no allowances made by way of discount, nor is brokerage paid for purchasing. Cash usually has the advantage over barter on the price of produce to the amount of from five to ten per cent. The American business is done chiefly for cash, while English, French, and Portuguese, is chiefly for barter; dry goods, &c., are sold on long credit, and produce taken in payment. With the latter the profits of trade are on the outward cargo; while with the former, the profit, if any, is with the homeward.
“There are no bounties or debentures of any kind allowed here.
“The usual commission for the purchase and shipment of goods is two and a half per centum, and is the same on all description of produce.
“The American trade, with few exceptions, is conducted either by partners or agents of houses at home; consequently brokers are never employed to buy produce, and no brokerage is paid. When foreign.
goods are sold at auction, the commission paid is one per cent. on dry goods, and one and a half on groceries.
“Merchandise is brought to market altogether by water, and is usually delivered into the storehouses of the purchaser or on board the shipping.
“Export duties are as follows:—
- “Meio dezimo, (for the church) — 5 per cent.
- “Exportacao, (for the government) — 7 per cent.
- “Vero pezo, (weighing) — 1/2 per cent.
- “Capitazia (paid for labor) quarter of a cent the arroba, on all kinds of merchandise.
“These duties are levied on the custom-house valuation, which is made at the beginning of each week, and not on the cost of the produce; as in that cost is included a duty of five per cent. which is paid on some articles when they are landed at the port of exportation. This last is a provincial tax, which is levied on India-rubber, tapioca, and farinha.
“Produce coming from an interior province — such as dry hides — does not pay the meio dezimno of five per cent., as it is paid at the time of embarking at the place of production; and this duty, together with freight, labor, &c., enters into the cost price of the merchandise at this port, which is the only shipping port for the provinces of Pará and Amazonas.
“There are no dock, trade, nor city dues to be paid at this port.
“Lighters are hired at two dollars per day; they carry from forty to fifty tons.
“Porterage is done by blacks, who place the cargo in the lighters at prices varying, according to the distance carried, from three to four cents per bag for cocoa, India-rubber, &c., and from six to eight cents each for barrels and boxes.
““Nuts and rice in husk are delivered alongside the vessel at the expense of the seller.
“Packages — such as boxes, barrels, and bags — are imported from the United States, and with the exception of barrels, which come filled with flour, pay a duty of thirty per cent.
“The cost of cooperage is eight cents per barrel. All local imports or taxes are paid by the producer, and are included in the selling price of the article. The purchaser receives with the merchandise a receipt that the provincial duty has been paid, which receipt is demanded at the time of exportation to a foreign country or to another province.
“There is so little intercourse with the States bordering on this province, that there are no laws in force regulating the transit of
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merchandise from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, &c., but all merchandise coming down the Amazon is considered as the produce or manufacture of Brazil.
“By a law of Brazil, the estate of any foreigner who may die in this country is subject to the jurisdiction of the Juiz dos Ausentes e difuntos. A will is no protection to the property, but it must be ‘recovered, availed, and deposited in the public depository by a juiz competente.’ The getting hold of the property by the heirs to an estate is a tedious and expensive process; and when the inheritance consists of real estate, about twenty per cent. is consumed by taxes of various kinds, and in some cases, by the collusion of the officers entrusted with settlement, it has disappeared entirely. The French by treaty are exempted from this.
“Not long since, at Maranham, a guard of soldiers was placed around the dwelling of a foreigner about to die, and who was supposed to be possessed of a large amount of personal property. A similar case also occurred here, which has created alarm amongst those of our countrymen who have property invested in this country; for should it be made to appear that, upon the death of one or more of the partners of any of our large mercantile houses, the affairs of the concern must pass into the hands of a ‘juiz competente,’ it would have a serious effect upon the credit and standing of all the citizens or subjects of those nations which have no treaty with Brazil on this subject.”
It remains for me but to express my grateful acknowledgments for personal kindness and information afforded by many gentlemen of Pará, particularly by Mr. Norris, the consul, and by Henry Bond Dewey, esq., now acting consul. These gentlemen were unwearied in their courtesy, and to them I owe the information I am enabled to give concerning the history and present condition of the province and the city.
On May 12th, by kind invitation of Captain Lee, I embarked in the United States surveying brig Dolphin, having previously shipped my collections on board of Norris’s clipper barque Peerless.