The Island of Madagascar/Chapter 4
We have thus given but an imperfect outline of the character of the population of the island as exhibited in their pagan condition. Numerous illustrations of their condition and modes of life, of a highly entertaining nature, might de added, but we have presented enough to enable the reader to form some idea of the state of the island at the time when, at the close of the French revolution, the English authorities at the Mauritius began a systematic course of action to introduce the benefits of Christian civilization. To this end, the Governor of Mauritius and its dependencies. Sir Robert Farquhar, directed his first efforts towards the suppression of the foreign slave-trade of Madagascar. The particular juncture of affairs in the island was propitious. The king of the Hovas, Radama, had succeeded to his father, whose intentions had been to bring all the tribes of the island under his own sway, and thus to establish but one government for the whole country. The son, Eadama, proved to be a worthy successor of such a sire. He was warlike, enterprising, intelligent, eager for instruction, and was taking lessons in French, having already learned to write his own language in the Arabic character. But the objects of the English governor are so lucidly explained in his own words, that we can do no better than to give these words themselves. In a letter from the Mauritius dated September 12th, 1816 to Earl Bathurst, Governor Farquhar says:—
“I beg leave to state to your lordship the arrival, in this island, of two young brothers of Radama, King of the Orahs, the most powerful of the princes of Madagascar; an event which may be of considerable importance to the inhabitants of these colonies, and which may be followed by advantageous results for the ultimate civilization of Madagascar.
“The different chiefs and sovereigns of the island had been inspired with much jealousy and distrust of the British government, by the artifices of such of the French traders as had been interested in the slave-trade, and whose traffic was suppressed by the establishment of the British government in these islands.
“I therefore thought it indispensably necessary for preserving the harmony which should subsist between the British merchants and other subjects settled at Madagascar, and the native princes, to send a person properly qualified to the latter, in the hopes of forming a lasting peace, and procuring protection to his Majesty's subjects in that island.
“One of his Majesty's subjects, a Frenchman, of the name of Chardeneaux, was indicated to me as peculiarly adapted for the accomplishment of this service, from his long and intimate acquaintance with the different native chiefs, and particularly from the friendship which had subsisted between him and Radama, King of the Orahs, for many years.“As my desire was, at the same time, to endeavor, by every amicable means, to cut off one great source of supply for the slave-traffic, and as such a mission would at first appear as eminently embracing the interests of the native princes, I was the more disposed to accept the services of M. Chardeneaux on this occasion.
“Subjoined is the copy of a private instruction on this head, which I furnished to M. Chardeneaux, and his answer.
“Of the brothers of Radama, now arrived here, one is the presumptive heir of his authority; they are accompanied by two of the chief ministers of their prince, by a son of one of the nobles of the nation of Betanininies, three ministers of the King of Tamatave, two chieftains of the South, and a numerous suite.
“We have reason to look on the persons now here, on the part of their respective sovereigns of Madagascar, as representing all that is powerful in the center and on the coasts of that vast island.
“Of these sovereigns, the most warlike, most intelligent, and possessing the greatest means, is Eadama. His people are the most industrious, and further advanced in the arts of life than any other nation of Madagascar; and he has incorporated into the mass of his subjects, and reduced to his authority, all the surrounding petty States; his army consists of 40,000 men, armed with fire-arms.
“It therefore appears that the friendship of so powerful a chieftain cannot fail in being eminently useful in assuring the safety, and facilitating the commerce which may be undertaken with a view of replacing that traffic in slaves abolished by the legislature.
“These friendly bonds will, no doubt, be strengthened, and the prospect of growing civilization opened, by the opportunity now given to the young princes to learn the arts and customs of European life, and the principles of our religion.
“The king Eadama is himself eager for instruction; writes his language in Arabic character, and is learning to write French in Roman letters. His brothers, who are arrived here, appear very intelligent for their age, which is about nine or ten years, and capable of acquiring everyprinciple of morals and religion.
“There is a British missionary here, of the name of LeBrun, who has been remarkably successful in the education of the numerous class of free colored people with which this island abounds; and he has conducted himself with so much discretion, as not to have given the smallest offence to any of the inhabitants, although his employment is of that nature to be viewed with jealousy by colonists in general. It is my intention to propose to this man to proceed to the court of Eadama, and reside there; by which means I shall have constant communication with the interior of Madagascar, and be able to make the best use of the friendship of that prince, for the mutual interests of our respective countries.
“I trust your lordship will not disapprove of those peaceful and inexpensive overtures to a more constant and safer intercourse with the island of Madagascar; means of this nature will enable us to push our commerce further than the forts and garrisons which have hitherto afforded protection to the merchants who traded thither. The former governors of these islands have, in every period of their history, in vain endeavored to obtain that friendly footing which is now sought and offered to us by the native princes.
“I shall not intrude longer upon your lordship's time, by any exposition of the political value of Madagascar, as farming an appendage to the British sovereignty in these seas, as my former letters have been sufficiently explicit on that head; but I may be allowed to observe, that it appears to me, that the means are at present in our hands of cutting off, in a great measure, at its source, the slave-trade in these seas, and that I shall not neglect so favorable an opportunity of availing myself of them to the fullest extent.”
Such were the means adopted to induce Radama to send over to Mauritius two of his younger brothers, Ratifikia and Rahovy, for the purpose of receiving an European education. At the close of the same year a mission was sent by Governor Farquhar, with the intention of forming a treaty of friendship and peace with Radama. The party sent for this purpose consisted of Captain Le Sage, as agent, a medical gentleman, about thirty soldiers, a Monsieur Jolicoeur as interpreter, several artificers who had been sent to Mauritius as convicts from India, Verkey, who was at that time in the employment of the traders, but afterwards sent to England, and some others. The soldiers were sent with a view of exhibiting to Radama the military manoeuvres of disciplined European troops. A considerable number of this party unhappily fell victims to the Malagasy fever, in consequence of having traveled through the country during the rainy season, which has been found by experience to prove fatal. Yet notwithstanding a severe attack of this fever, Le Sage reached the capital, gave the presents with which he was charged to the King, Radama, and on the 14th of January, 1817, performed the ceremony of taking the oath of blood with that monarch. On the 4th of February following a treaty was concluded with which Le Sage and his party set out on their return to Tamatavé, whence they set sail for Mauritius.
Mr. Brady and another soldier were left behind at the capital, by Radama's particular request, for the purpose of instructing his people in European tactics. The latter of the two soldiers rendered himself odious by his severity, not an uncommon fault from the Saxon race towards other races which they despise, unless controlled by a higher order of Christian sentiment than usually prevails among soldiers; but Mr. Brady secured the good-will of the natives, and continued long to enjoy the esteem both of the people and of their sovereign.
Although no plan for the abolition of the slave-traffic had yet been matured, yet care had been taken, by the proper arguments, to dispose the King's intelligent mind in its favor. The two youths, younger brothers of Radama, sent for education to Mauritius, were placed under the immediate superintendence of Mr. Hastie, with detailed instructions on the most enlightened principles, carefully drawn up by his Excellency the Governor of Mauritius. In the month of July, 1817, they returned to Tamatave, accompanied by Mr. Hastie, and were received there by Radama himself, who had gone down to the coast at that period with about 30,000 of his people, partly for the purpose of receiving his brothers, and partly to suppress some provincial disturbances, as well as to form some political arrangements on the coast, and to prove that he was not “a beardless boy,” as some of the chiefs of the island had called him.
Mr. Hastie took with him on this occasion some horses as a present to the King. He arrived in the capital on the 6th of August, 1817, and was received at Court as assistant agent with great demonstrations of favor, where the King appeared in a scarlet coat and military hat which had been sent to him from Mauritius, and in blue pantaloons and green boots. The King introduced to him Mr. Brady as his captain, and no longer a private soldier.
At length, on the 23rd of October, 1817, and after many difficulties had been overcome, a treaty was agreed upon between Governor Farquhar and King Radama, from which the following extracts are given in order to show its character:
“Article 2nd.—It is agreed, and the two contracting parties hereby covenant and agree, that, from the date of this treaty, there shall be an entire cessation and extinction, through all the dominions of King Radama, and wherever his influence can extend, of the sale or transfer of slaves, or other persons whatever, to be removed from off the soil of Madagascar, into any country, island, or dominion of any other prince, potentate, or power, whatever; and that Radama, King of Madagascar, will make a proclamation and a law, prohibiting all his subjects, or persons depending upon him, in his dominions, to sell any slave to be transported from Madagascar, or to aid, or abet, or assist in any such sale, under penalty that any person so offending shall be reduced to slavery himself.
“Article 3d.—And in consideration of this concession on the part of Radama, the king of Madagascar, and his nation, and in full satisfaction of the same, and for the loss of revenue thereby incurred by Radama, King of Madagascar, the commissioners, on the part of his Excellency the Governor of Mauritius, do engage to pay Radama, yearly, the following articles:
"One thousand dollars in gold; one thousand dollars in silver; one hundred barrels of powder, of 100 lbs. each; one hundred English muskets, complete, with accoutrements; ten thousand flints; four hundred red jackets; four hundred shirts; four hundred pairs of trowsers; four hundred pairs of shoes; four hundred soldiers' caps; four hundred stocks; twelve sergeants' swords (regulation) with belts; four hundred pieces of white cloth, two hundred pieces of blue cloth,—India; a full-dress coat, hat, and boots, all complete, for King Radama; two horses—upon a certificate being received, that the said laws and regulations, and proclamations, have been enforced the preceding quarter; which certificate shall be signed by King Radama, and countersigned by the agent of his Excellency, Governor Farquhar, resident at the Court of Radama."
Mr. Hastie hastened to Mauritius with this treaty, and arrived there on the 9th of November, just at the moment when his Excellency, the Governor, was embarking for England on a leave of absence. Mr. Hastie was appointed to see that the conditions of the treaty were duly observed by Radama, re-embarked the same day and returned to Tamatavé, where he found the slave-dealers already selling off their possessions, and preparing to leave Madagascar. The King issued a proclamation, preventing his people from being carried off the island into slavery, and prohibiting attacks being made upon the Sultan of Johanna and the Comoro Islands, for the purpose of getting slaves, under the penalties of piracy.
Thus far things had gone on well, under the direction of an enlightened, philanthropic governor; but unhappily, the slave-trade of Madagascar was not to die without a struggle, and as is not unfrequently the case, its adherents found a powerful ally in one whose duty it was to suppress it, and who occupied a position powerful for good or evil. That we may give a clearer idea of how this event happened, we must make a somewhat detailed statement.
As the first payment of the articles agreed upon in the treaty was to become due in May, 1818, Mr. Hastie repaired to Tamatavé, on his way to Mauritius, to get them. But what was his disappointment to learn, by a vessel which arrived with several slave-dealers on board, that the acting Governor of Mauritius, Governor Hall, had relinquished farther intercourse with the chieftains of Madagascar, that he refused to pay the equivalent stipulated by Governor Farquhar, and intended to recall the agent stationed at the capital. A letter from the Governor at Mauritius was at the same time presented, with which formality, to Mr. Hastie, by a deputation of the slave-dealers, recalling him from Madagascar. The deputation, having delivered the letter, put the taunting question—“Who, did Mr. Hastie think, possessed the purer sense of honor—the enlightened English, or the savage Radama?”
Governor Hall seems to have done his work radically. He prohibited Missionaries, who had been sent out by the London Missionary Society at the request of Governor Farquhar, from proceeding to Madagascar, and he sent back to the island six youths who had been under instruction in the Mauritius since 1817. At a later period, when efforts were resumed to mend the serious mischief which Governor Hall had done, Radama asked, “Why would not your government at Mauritius permit these boys to be instructed, whom I had sent for that purpose? Although your government violated the treaty, and discontinued intercourse with me, I would gladly have paid for the education of the boys!”
Under the auspices of Governor Hall, Radama permitted the slave-trade to recommence; and that it was again carried on extensively, is obvious from General Hall's letter to the Right Honorable Lord Bathurst, in 1818, wherein he states that, “three cargoes had been imported during the preceding fortnight, notwithstanding all his efforts to forbid such illegal importation of slaves into the colony.” The conduct of Governor Hall brought lasting disgrace on the British name, and added another to the melancholy catalogue of events illustrative of the calamitous results of even temporary power in the hands of weak or wicked men. It is but due to the British government to state, that the conduct of the acting governor was severely condemned.
Governor Farquhar returned to the Mauritius in July, 1820, and soon took measures to repair the great injury done to the public service by Governor Hall; but it required much labor and pains to again restore Radama to his former confidence. “I am not independent,” said he to Mr. Hastie. “The support of a King, is his subjects; and you have told me that unlimited power over them is not invested even in your civilized King, whose representative has occasioned me to risk my ascendency in Ankova. What am I to say to my subjects? They obtain everything they want by the sale of slaves; and how can I ask them to renew a treaty with a nation that has deceived them? They will naturally say, that I, individually, am to reap the benefit of it; and that stopping the trade will cause them, in a short time, to lose all the advantages they now derive from it.”
However, the treaty was at length publicly renewed, and its execution this time was pursued with vigor and earnestness by both parties. This event took place on the 11th of Oct., 1820, and in describing it Mr. Hastie says—“The moment arrived when the welfare of millions was to be decided: I agreed!—and I trust that Divine Power which guides all hearts, will induce the government to sanction the act. The Kabary (council) was convened, the proclamation published, and received with transports by thousands. The British flag was unfurled; and freedom,—freedom from the bloody stain of slave dealing—hailed as the gift of the British nation. I declare,” adds this generous-hearted man, “the first peal of Radama's cannon, announcing the amity sealed, rejoiced my heart more than the gift of thousands would have done.”
The King forwarded orders for the immediate return of all slaves sent down to the coast and not then sold. He published an edict, that if any of his subjects were indebted to the slave-traders, they must without delay pay them in money, as on no pretext whatever could a deviation from his orders for the entire suppression of the slave-traffic meet a milder punishment than death. He at the same time sent off orders to Mazanga on the western coast, forbiding both the Arabs and natives there from carrying on the trade, although that part of the island had not yet acknowledged his sovereignty.
In the meantime the missionaries and soldiers were actively engaged in performing their part of the "work of civilization. The former had established schools which were largely attended, and on the part of the military an entire regiment had been modled and disciplined on the European system, by means of which the King was fast subduing the entire island to his single control. The Sakalavas, a powerful tribe of blacks, had formerly been the leading tribe of the island, but by means of the European system of tactics now used in the army of Radama, they were forced to succumb to his power.
A number of Malagasy youths were sent to England to be educated, two of whom were put into a government establishment to learn the art of making powder, while the others were confided to the care of the directors of the London Missionary Society, by whom they were placed under kind and attentive instructors. The King established a large school in the court-yard of his palace, consisting of officers of the army and their wives, who were instructed by his own secretary. The orthography of the language of the country was established, and by the authority of the King the English consonants and the French vowels were adopted. Mr. Hastie brought from Mauritius a band of music which had been instructed there. A printing press was finally introduced into the island, and in course of time large editions of spelling and other elementary books were printed, amounting to five thousand copies each, but yet not enough were supplied to meet the growing demand. The printing and book-binding of the mission was performed to a considerable extent by the natives, and no fewer than 15,000 copies, and portions of the Scriptures, and other books, were furnished, and upwards of six thousand of them put in circulation.
Among the useful arts and other elements of civilization introduced by the missionaries, not the least admirable one to the Malagasy was the horse. In consequence of the great care and kindness which the people bestowed upon the two horses that had been presented to the King, the animals began to suffer from being overfed on rice. It required all Mr. Hastie's skill to restore them to health; and when they were again in a condition to be used, the King asked to mount one of them. As soon as he was in the saddle he put a charm in his mouth in order to protect him against the dangers of his novel situation. This fear, however, soon abated, and nothing could exceed the joy and satisfaction that he evinced at having accomplished the feat of riding around the court-yard. He laughed loudly. screamed and danced, declaring that he had never received so much pleasure before. As he grew more accustomed to the exercise, his enjoyment of it every time increased; and like most learners who have attained a slight degree of proficiency, he evinced a consciousness of his own superiority, by wishing to see others placed in the situation which had lately appeared so perilous to him. Several of his officers were accordingly ordered to make the experiment, while he laughed heartily at their awkwardness.
But one day Radama fell from his horse, and, though not seriously injured, great confusion prevailed among the attendants on the King's person and the inmates of the palace. The domestics ran for the missionary, but were all too much alarmed to state what they wanted, or do more than inform him that the King was injured, and perhaps dying. Mr. Jones, the missionary, followed them and entered the palace, where the King was lying on the floor, his face and neck being covered with blood. Fearing the worst consequences from the loss of royal blood, especially if the supply was not kept up, a number of live fowls were brought, and some of the attendants were busily employed in cutting off the heads of the fowls, and and pouring the blood from their decapitated trunks into the King's mouth; others were making loud lamentations, embracing and kissing his feet; and others were fanning him, and wailing over him as already dead. Mr. Jones recommended their not adding any more blood from the fowls, and proposed instead to take some from the King. Violently opposing this, the attendants exclaimed,—“What! take away more blood, when the King has lost so much already! No,—let the Sikidy be consulted!” The King, though feeble, heard what was going on; and such was his confidence in the missionary, that he said, in a low tone, Bleed me; let the Sikidy not be consulted: bleed me immediately.” This the attendants refused to allow, and still continued cutting off the heads of the fowls, and pouring their blood into the King's mouth. Aided by Messrs. Robin and Brady, the King was placed in a chair facing the door, and Mr. Jones prepared to bleed him; but when about to open the vein, a principal officer standing by, seized his arm, and prevented it. Mr. Jones, however, kept his hand so firmly fixed, that the moment his right arm was released, he accomplished his purpose. When the blood appeared, a cry was raised to stop it. This was refused. The King fainted, and the cry was repeated with frantic distraction. Radama, however, soon revived, appeared better, and was put to rest. The Sikidy was then consulted, to ascertain who might enter the house, and approach his Majesty. The deviners declared that the Sikidy directed that none should enter but Mr. Jones, two other foreigners, and about twelve attendants, including the King's mother and three of his wives—the Sikidy evidently being shaped by the success already attained. The King continued to improve; and when the benefits resulting from bleeding Avere thus apparent, the people poured their benedictions on the missionary as heartily as they had before opposed him; and in order that the advantage might accrue to themselves also, they strongly solicited Mr. Jones to bleed them too, in anticipation of a fall, or other accident, which might render it necessary!
But at length, some years after this event, while the missionaries, aided by this strong-minded man, were in the full tide of successful effort, the King took sick and died. This melancholy event occurred on the 1st of August, 1828; and on the 3d of that month the official proclamation was made that the King “had gone to his fathers.”
He was succeeded in the kingdom by Ranavalona, his senior wife, and an enemy to the missionaries and Christianity.
The reign of Radama constitutes an epoch in the history of Madagascar, too important ever to be lost sight of. Important as regards its alliance with Great Britain, the suppression of the slave-trade, the adoption of a general system of education, and the introduction of Christianity into the very heart of the country; while the subjugation of nearly the whole island, the formation of a large native army on the European model, the reduction of the language to considerable form and order, the establishment of a printing press at the capital, and the diffusion of numerous branches of art and science from enlightened countries, are events which give a marked character to that period, and to the history of the country, and of the sovereign under whose auspices they occurred.
In 1823 the King had visited Tamatavé with the expectation of meeting Sir Robert Farquhar there, but the Governor had already left on his way to England before the King's arrival. Proceeding to Foule Point he there had an interview Avith Captain Moorsom, of the British Man-of-War, Ariadne; who, in return, invited him on board his vessel. English officers were left on shore as hostages, for he had some trouble to satisfy his people about his safety, the French having spread the report that the English were in the habit of entraping chiefs on board their ships and carrying them off.
“Radama,” says Captain Moorsom, “is an extraordinary man. His intellect is as much expanded beyond that of his countrymen, as that of the nineteenth century is in advance of the sixteenth. But his penetration and straight-forward good sense would make him remarkable under any circumstances. With all the impatience of a despotic monarch, exacting the most prompt and implicit obedience to his will, jealous of his authority, and instant to punish, he is yet sagacious, and cautious in altering established customs. His power is founded on popular opinion: his game is to play the people against the chiefs, and he understands it well; for these fear, and those love him.”
During these interviews, in reply to a toast to his health, the King said—“When you drink my health, I am gratified and can thank you; but when you drink the happiness of my people, I feel as unable adequately to express my feelings as I am incapable of uttering the sound of all their voices.”
He then remarked, in reference to toasts, “that the sentiments were not expressed in order that wine might be drunk, but that, under pleasurable excitements, the heart dictated utterance to the mouth.”
Captain Moorsom presented him with two Bibles, one English, and the other French, and remarked that the covering of the books Avas not splendid, but the inside was valuable. To which the King replied, if the books contained what was straight and not crooked, he should be glad to have them; and with regard to the outside, he did not regard a man for the beauty of his countenance, but for the qualities of his heart. The captain then wrote the King's name in one of the Bibles; and it is remarkable that the same book, after being faithfully preserved during the King's life-time, was buried with him amongst other treasures in his splendid tomb.
On leaving Foule Point, Radama took advantage of the kind offer of Captain Moorsom to convey him round the Bay of Antongil. He took with him about two hundred soldiers, while the main body of the troops proceeded by land; and while on board, his mind seemed to be much impressed with the rapidity with which he was conveyed, and the consequent power that was imparted. As the vessel sailed out of port, the female singers on land saluted the magnificent object in their usual manner,—Soa, soa, Rabé, mairana. “Beautiful, beautiful! Lightly floating! Large but light! Gone is she, large, and lightly floating!”
During Radama's stay at Foule Point, a French vessel had touched there with communications for him. He, however, refused to see the embassy, or to hold any correspondence with its members, beyond telling them that he was sovereign of the island, and that they were strangers, and had no right to a single foot of the soil. The vessel left the port, threatening vengeance on Radama and his country.
It is stated by Captain Moorsom, that Radama's chief object in visiting Foule Point was to put a final conclusion to an idea long entertained by the French, that they had an equal claim with Radama to the whole of the eastern coast of Madagascar. Monsieur Roux, at that time stationed at St. Mary's, had been active in bringing forward this claim; and in reply to his last communication, the king had sent word to him, that he “would talk about it.” “And he now,” says Captain Moorsom, “took with him his 13,000 disciplined troops, as a medium of conversation not likely to prove very satisfactory to the other party.”
To show the King's idea of discipline, on the return of the troops from an expedition on one occasion, several were charged with having disgraced themselves by cowardice in the field. Under this charge nine were condemned to capital punishment, and suffered the appalling death of being burnt alive.
With the death of the King, the whole aspect of missionary affairs was changed at the capital of Madagascar. Ranavalona, on ascending the throne, gave the missionaries and foreigners residing at the capital, assurances of her intention to govern the kingdom upon the principles adopted by Radama, to carry forward the great plans of education and public improvement which he had commenced, and to continue all the encouragement he had shown them; she had also repeated this on receiving the oath of allegiance of the people; but it soon became evident that these professions were not to be depended on. She was either insincere when she made them, or, what is more probable, the counsellors of another line of policy, those who were in favor of restoring the idolatry of the country had gained the ascendency in the government. These evil counsellors, imagining themselves sufficiently firm in the position they had taken, proceeded, as their first public act, to annul Radama's treaty with the British government. All who were in favor of idolatry and the slave trade, whether natives or foreigners, were of course opposed to this treaty.
Twelve months was the usual period of mourning in Madagascar; but for special reasons the mourning for Radama was caused to cease at the end of ten months. The people then resumed their usual avocations, and preparations were made for the coronation of the Queen. This event was celebrated with the most barbaric pomp and splendor. It was attended by sixty thousand persons, including eight thousand of the military with all their display of uniforms, parade and martial music. The spirit of British discipline, method and order seemed to pervade the whole ceremony. The royal family and all the judges and high officers of the State were present in full estate, and the royal chair or throne shone bright with the royal scarlet and gold. The Queen, having saluted at the tombs of her ancestors the scarlet flags of the idols Manjakatsiroa and Fantaka—the idol of the sovereign and the idol of the oaths, was then conducted, in her palanquin, to the sacred stone. Surrounded by five generals, each holding his helmet in one hand and a drawn sword in the other, the band playing the national air, she ascended the stone. Standing there, with her face to the east, she exclaimed—Masina, masina, v'aho—“Am I consecrated, consecrated, consecrated?” The five generals replied—Masina, masina, masina, hianao!—“You are consecrated, consecrated, consecrated!” Then all the crowd shouted—“Trarantitra hianao, Ranavalomanjaka! “Long may you live, Ranavalomanjaka!” The Queen, then descending from the stone on the east side, took the idols Manjakatsiroa and Fantaka into her hands, and addressed them, saying, “My predecessors have given you to me. I put my trust in you; therefore, support me.” She then delivered them into the hands of their keepers, entered her palanquin, and was borne to the platform, which she ascended on the east side. She then addressed the immense assembly, and stated, among other things, that she would not change what Radama and her ancestors had done, but that she would add to what they had accomplished.
After the address various tribes came up to acknowledge her sovereignty and assure her of their fidelity. Then followed Arab merchants from Muscat, then the Europeans, and last of all the generals, as representatives of the army. Probably never before had so brilliant a pageant been displayed in Madagascar. The dress of the Queen, on the occasion, is not without interest. On the crown of her head she wore an ornament, resembling a piece of coral, called in French, “troches,” but in Malagasy “volahevitra;” it consisted of five branches, to each of which a red stone, and a small piece of gold, resembling a bell, were attached. The end of the coral was fixed in a round mother-of-pearl shell, placed above the forehead. With this was connected a fine gold chain of native manufacture, which, after being wound several times around the coral, encircled the brow of the Queen, and passed from the forehead over the crown to the back of the head. The Queen wore three necklaces, the first of fine red coral; the second of red stone, ornamented wath gold; and the third of red carnelian. Besides these, she wore a scarf, adorned in a curious manner with carnelian stones, called vakantsilehiby. On each arm her Majesty wore three braclets, one of white crystal beads, called vakamiarana; one of oval pearls, ornamented with gold; and the other of fine coral. According to the custom of the country, she also wore anklets of colored glass or precious stones. A white picture, ornamented with gold, was suspended from each of her ear-rings; and on the third and fourth fingers of each hand, she wore rings of gold, ornamented with precious stones, having on the third finger of her right hand a massive gold ring, beautifully polished. Her upper dress was of purple silk, richly ornamented with gold lace, having round the wrists, and on the back, a row of gold buttons. Her lower dress was of white silk; her mantle, or robe, was of superfine scarlet cloth, ornamented similarly to her upper dress; her stockings were white silk, her shoes yellow morrocco, and her forehead was marked with white clay, (tanisave) called, when thus used, “joyful earth.” The other members of the royal family were dressed in the European manner.
Reports of an expedition being sent from France against Madagascar, reached the capital in the month of August, 1829, and in fact, six French ships, under the command of Commodore Gourbeyre, arrived in the roads of Tamatavé in the middle of October. Prince Corroller, the officer in command of the station, was taken completely by surprise; the vessels opened their fire on the battery, and in the space of a little more than a quarter of an hour the magazine was blown up, many of the houses were destroyed, great numbers of the people killed, and Corroller with his troops were obliged to retire to Hivondrona, where he remained with a small force, almost destitute of ammunition.
The French followed up the flight, and attacked the prince at Hivondrona, killed a number of the people, forced them to fly still further into the interior, and then returning pillaged the town; after which, they repaired to their ships, and proceeded northwards towards Foule Point. This was the next port they attacked, but they met with the most determined resistance, and, after losing a considerable number of their men, retired to the Isle of St. Mary's. The French made great efforts, through attempts at negotiation, to establish their claims over the eastern part of the island, but what from the determined resistance of the islanders and the unhealthiness of the climate, they were compelled to leave the coast without effecting any definite results. They sailed from the island in October or November, 1830.
It soon became evident that the regards of the government towards the missionaries were no longer so kindly as they had been under the reign of Radama. A friendly disposition was still manifested towards them, but it seemed to spring rather from a desire to secure the friendship of the English against the French, than from a design to forward the objects of the missionaries. A stimulus to the most vigorous activity in military preparations for the defence of the country, produced by the attack of the French, continued long after they had retired from the coast; and the expectation of its being renewed was accompanied by an equal degree of activity and determination, on the part of the chief officers in the government, to revive superstition and idolatry in the island. The power of the idols was acknowledged as supreme in almost every transaction; public offerings and acts of homage to the idols were multiplied in the capital; and the movements of the government in many of their minute details were regulated by the pretended orders of the Sikidy, or divination, and the use of the tangena was restored with most destructive consequences. In obedience to the orders of the Sikidy, the Queen removed to the village of Ambohimanga, about twenty miles from the capital, where she remained for some months during the early part of 1830. A number of civil and military officers were required to drink poison at the capital; and a general purification of the country, by the same ordeal, was enjoined. Under the latter, many hundreds, if not thousands, of the Malagasy, are supposed to have been sacrificed.
Under such circumstances, the missionaries could not help but consider their stay in the island of very doubtful continuance, and they therefore devoted themselves with renewed efforts towards printing and putting in circulation books of instruction and portions of the Scriptures. A degree of earnestness and attention on the part of the listeners to Sabbath instruction, surpassing any that had before existed, was observed, and a chapel was erected in the northern suburbs of the capital.
The efforts of the artisans were at this time highly prized by the government. Mr. Cameron, who was engaged in the construction of machinery and other public works, had nearly six hundred youths under his charge in constant employment; and while instructing them in the mechanic arts, he encouraged their regular attendance on divine service. On the 29th of May, 1831, twenty of the first converts to Christ in Madagascar, were publicly baptized, in the presence of a highly interested and deeply affected audience. Among these was a former juggler and diviner in the service of the idols, a revealer of destiny, who had made considerable money by the practice of his art. At his baptism he took the name of Paul. These converts gave every evidence of entertaining a thorough appreciation of the Christian religion.
The spirit of that religion, however, is so utterly opposed to idolatry, that there cannot long be a settled state of harmony between them. The Christians began to be hated and despised by the idolaters, as they had been in the earlier days of the church. This opposition on the part of the government soon began to manifest itself in an open, unmistaken manner. Radama, in the earlier part of his reign, had established a law prohibiting the use of wine or spirituous liquors, and though it had never been rigidly executed, especially against the Europeans, it was now taken advantage of by the heathen party to embarass the Christians. It was not allowed to them at the Lord's supper, and the Christians, strangely enough, concluded to celebrate that sacrament by the use of water instead of wine! The persecution was already carried to the extent of prohibiting the scholars at the public schools and the members of the army from receiving the rite of baptism, or joining in the fellowship of the church; and this order was subsequently extended to all other subjects of the Queen. And true to the spirit of slavery, as exhibited not only among barbarians but also in Christian America, the benefits of reading and writing were withheld from every slave in the country.
The government still valued the services of the missionaries, and held a high appreciation of the schools, but it was for their material advantages, and not for the Christianity that they taught. This fact became very evident on the occasion of finishing a canal under the direction of the missionary artisans, between the river Ikiopa and an extensive lake at Amparibé, in the neighborhood of the capital. The lake was made use of as a reservoir of water for mills erected under the superintendence of Mr. Cameron. It was for such uses as these, and for supplying the ranks of the army with intelligent youths, the advantages of which the natives were not slow to perceive, that the schools were encouraged by the government. But the government could no more make use of Christian efforts in this way, than the slave power of the United States could make use of the government for its purposes. The irreconcilable antagonism between sordid self-interest and the purity of Christian principle, the government of Madagascar was wholly unconscious of. Other and more civilized governments are aware of this antagonism, and weakly seek to reconcile it; but the barbarous government of Madagascar did not even suspect its existence.
Again it was reported, in 1831, that the French designed to attack the island, and it was proposed to add 25,000 men, to the forces already enrolled. For this purpose, every one in the schools, both pupils and teachers, upwards of thirteen years of age, was drafted into the army. This proceeding rendered parents averse to sending their children to the public schools, and many of them sent slaves to the schools instead.
Shortly after the report of the arrival of a French expedition at Bourbon, an emissary from the Court of Rome landed at Tamatavé, bearing, as he stated, propositions for introducing the Romish faith among the people. The ecclesiastic represented himself as Count Henry de Solage, vicar apostolic. He had been to India and New South Wales, and stated that he was charged with a special communication from Charles X. of France, and the Pope. He wished to proceed to the capital, but was detained by Prince Carroller on the coast, until the pleasure of the Queen could be known; and letters announcing his arrival were sent up to the capital. In the meantime he persisted in proceeding on his journey, and after advancing a few days, being met by the Queen's officers, his bearers, apprehensive of the consequences of governmental displeasure, left him. He refused to return to the coast, and remained at Ambatoharanana, where, while waiting permission from the Queen to advance, he died suddenly, not without strong suspicions of having poisoned himself.
Anxious to afford any facility for printing the entire Scriptures, and multiplying books, the directors of the London Missionary Society, sent out a new printing press and types; and these the Malagasy government ordered to be taken up to the capital, free of expense to the missionaries. The carrying of packages for the government was often an extremely severe service, and sometimes proved fatal to the bearers. On one occasion several were injured, and two died. When the occurrence was reported to the Queen, she replied, with the heartless indifference of one whose political creed is that the people exist for the sovereign, not the the sovereign for the people—“And what then? Was it not in the service of the government that they died.”
The labors of the artisans who taught the natives to work in wood and iron, continued to be highly prized by the people, and Mr. Cameron, who had just finished the erection of a mill, was applied to by the government to undertake the establishment of an iron foundry and a glass manufactory. He acceded to the proposal; and it was arranged that, before commencing the foundry, he should proceed to England, accompanied by two or three native youths, who were not only desirous of visiting that country, but had been selected by the government as eminently qualified to derive great advantage from a visit to the manufactories of Great Britain.
But the divergent tendencies of Christianity and the spirit of idolatry that animated the government, became more manifest every day. The Queen personally did not appear to cherish any unfriendly feeling towards the missionaries, but on the contrary, often seemed disposed to tolerate their exertions; but she was the zealous votary of the idols, on whose favor she was taught to believe her continuance in power depended. Among her ministers were three brothers; the eldest was commander-in-chief of the forces, the second first officer of the palace, and the third a judge; two of them were the Queen’s paramours, and all were pledged to raise the idols and former superstitions of the country to their original importance. These brothers exercised in the name of the Queen supreme power in Madagascar; they appear, from the time of Radama’s death, to have seized every occasion for impeding the progress of Christianity, and to have aimed at the ultimate expulsion of the missionaries, and the extinction of Christian faith. Complaints were made against the Christians, such as that they deprived the idols of the land; were always praying; would not swear by the opposite sex; their women were chaste; they observed the Sabbath, which in their total unconsciousness of the excellence of these qualities, remind one of the innocent dullness of the refined Pliny the younger in his report of the Christians to the emperor Trojan.
The Queen at length addressed a communication “to all Europeans, English and French,” In which she stated that they might observe the customs of themselves and their ancestors, but that her people must observe the customs of Madagascar. “With regard to religious worship,” she said, “whether on the Sunday or not, and the practice of baptism, and the existence of a society, those things cannot be done by my subjects in my country; but with regard to yourselves as Europeans, do that which accords with the customs of your ancestors, and your own customs. But if there be knowledge of the arts and sciences, that will be beneficial to my subjects in the country, teach that, for it is good; therefore I tell you of this, my friends and relations, that you may hear of it. (Saith) Ranavalomanjaka.”
To this a reply was returned by six missionaries, manifesting regret at the Queen’s determination, and requesting that the teaching of the word of God, together with the arts and sciences, might not be suppressed.
At length the Queen’s determination was announced to an assembly of 150,000 persons, including 15,000 troops under arms. The following extract from a long edict addressed to the people in that occasion will serve to show the tenor of the whole:—“As to baptism, societies, places of worship, distinct from the schools, and the observance of the Sabbath, how many rulers are there in this land? Is it not I alone that rule? These things are not to be done, they are unlawful in my country, saith Ranavalomanjaka; for they are not the customs of our ancestors, and I do not change their customs, excepting as to things alone which improve my country.”
She denounced death against all her native subjects who disobeyed this edict. The name of Jesus was not to be invoked except in connexion with the national idols, the sun, moon, etc. The Queen was undoubtedly encouraged to this course, in part, by the expectation of receiving instruction in the manufacture of muskets, and in other arts, from some natives of France, who engaged to teach all that the English had taught, without associating with it any religious instruction; and partly to a fear of becoming dependent on the British government, of whose enroachments in India, Ceylon, and South Africa she had received very highly colored accounts. The government had indeed always manifested extreme jealousy of foreigners residing in the island, and a fear of all foreign intercourse with the country.
Deprived of much of their means of usefulness among the people, the missionaries directed all their energies to the completion of the holy Scriptures. Assisted by native youths, they also completed a Dictionary of the English and Malagasy languages, to which a second part of Malagasy and English was added. But as the spirit of the government naturally became more and more hostile, the missionaries were compelled gradually to withdraw, until finally the last of their number left the capital, with deep regret, in the month of July, 1836, eighteen years after their first arrival in the country.
Fresh idols were now continually brought to the capital; new altars were erected in several places; tombs, altars, and other objects of superstitious veneration, that had been lying in ruins, were repaired; new ceremonies were appointed, and offerings more frequently presented. In all these attempts to restore the influence of idolatry, the Queen seemed to take the lead, being at times occupied for several days together in the observance of idolatrous ceremonies, and inaccessible to any excepting those who were engaged in the service of the idols.
In the early part of 1837, great scarcity prevailed in many parts of the country, and multitudes, it was feared, died from want. The sufferings of the people induced no relaxation of the oppression and severity of the government. Between the departure of the last of the missionaries in 1836, and the month of March, 1837, nine hundred criminals, charged with various offences, were put to death, having been declared guilty by the tangena; fifty-six were burnt to death, and sixty killed by spearing and other means, making a fearful total of 1,016 executions in the short space of eight months. That the country under these circumstances should prosper, was impossible; and it is not surprising that agriculture was neglected, and that multitudes driven by despair had recourse to violence and plunder; universal anarchy and complete desolation was only prevented by the military forces of the government.
In the year 1836, the Queen determined on sending an embassy to England and France. It is probable that reverses which the army had met with in the southern part of the island, the favor shown by English vessels to those which her army had attacked, and the fear that some chief, thus aided, might wrest the government from her hands, led the Queen to the adoption of this measure.
The embassy, consisting of six officers, left Madagascar in the summer of 1836. The French ship Mathilde, Captain Garnot, was chartered by the Queen to take them from Tamatavé to England and France, and back to Madagascar. The embassy arrived at Port Louis, in Mauritius, early in October. They were courteously received by his Excellency Sir William Nicolay, the Governor; and, after a short delay, proceeded to the Cape of Good Hope, where respectful attentions were also paid them by the Governor, Sir B. D’Urban.
Leaving the Cape, the embassy proceeded to Havre de Grace, and from there were conducted, by Captain Garnot, in a steam packet to London, where they arrived in February, and took up their lodgings at Radley’s hotel.
After an interview with Lord Palmerston, Secretary of State for foreign affairs, they were presented to the King at St. James on the first of March.
During their stay in London they visited several national establishments, and some of the principal manufactories. In company with some of their old acquaintances, the missionaries, they visited the Bank, the Mint, the Tower, the London Docks, Woolwich Arsenal, and Dockyard, the Thames Tunnel, St. Paul’s, the Museum, the Monument, Galley of Practical Science, Apollonicon, Colosseum, Zoological Gardens, London Gas-works, the British and Foreign School, Borough Road, the National and the Infant Schools, Baldwin’s Gardens, etc., etc. They were also much gratified by the inspection of the paper manufactory of Messrs. Pewtress & Co., the Iron Foundry of Messrs. Maudsley & Co., the Pottery of Mr. Green, at Lambeth, and the Glass-works of Mr. Pellatt, at Bankside.
On Monday, the 6th of March, they attended a meeting of the Directors of the London Missionary Society, at the Mission House, to which they had been invited. They were received with kindness and respect; and to the address of the Directors they made a brief but appropriate reply.
On the 7th of March they had an audience of the King at Windsor. On this occasion the Rev. Mr. Freeman presented the King a copy of the holy Scriptures in the Malagasy language, which had been printed at the Mission press in Madagascar. The King received the Bible in a manner that could not fail to impress the embassy with a deep sense of the high regard entertained by the British Sovereign for this volume of divine revelation, and the satisfactory result of missionary effort its existence in the Malagasy language afforded.
During the interview, his Majesty graciously introduced the embassy to the Queen, who addressed them with great courtesy and kindness. Afterwards, while passing through the appartments of the castle, they again met her Majesty, who again entered into conversation with them. Having learned that, although many of the Malagasy had been instructed by the missionaries, yet, in consequence of an edict of the Queen of Madagascar, no native could profess Christianity, her Majesty said to them, “Tell the Queen of Madagascar from me, that she can do nothing so beneficial for her country as to receive the Christian religion.”
On the 19th of March, 1837, having had their final interview with the government, and received a written communication for their sovereign, the embassy sailed for Calais, on their way to Paris. After concluding negotiations with the French government, they embarked for Madagascar, and arrived at Tamatavé in the month of September following. Thence they proceeded to the capital.
About the time that the embassy returned from Europe, the forces of the Malagasy government returned from an unsuccessful expedition against Adriansolo, Chief of the Sakalavas, in which they had been utterly defeated and put to rout. The government, however, was in no way disheartened by it, and proceeded to fit out another expedition. The same jealousy of European influence continued to be exhibited. Captain Garnot, who had conveyed the embassy to Europe, repaired to the capital, on his return, charged with proposals, it is said, from the French government, to enter into commercial and other relations with the government. These, it is reported, were refused by the Queen, who closed her transactions with the French captain, paying him in dollars for the expenses incurred on account of the embassy, and declined any mercantile dealings with himself, or those whom he was deputed to represent.
The last of the missionaries, as we have already stated, left the island in 1886, eighteen years after they had commenced their labors there. But from the island of Mauritius they still watched for an opportunity to return. Mr. Johns visited Tamatavé in July, 1837, and though he found the door shut against farther missionary effort, he was pleased to find that the native Christians still continued in the faith and purity of the Gospel, shining as lights in the midst of a perverse and benighted generation. Though repeatedly annoyed by the government, they were accustomed to read the Scriptures at the hour of midnight in their own houses, or other places of concealment, and to meet in small companies for singing and prayer. They were closely watched by the government, though no infringement of the edict of the Queen was discovered until about the first Sabbath of August, 1887, when a number of them were discovered on a mountain, not far from the capital, engaged in religious exercises. Among these was a woman by the name of Rafararavy, on whose premises some Bibles and other Christian publications were discovered. She was apprehended and imprisoned, her home given up to plunder, and her hands and feet manacled with irons. She was menaced in vain during a period of from eight to ten days, to induce her to impeach her companions. She remained firm and perfectly composed, and was put to death by spearing on the 14th of August, 1837, thus suffering a martyrdom as pure, simple, and unmixed with alloy as any that have characterized the earliest ages of the church.
Thus gloomily falls the curtain over the first act of protestant missionary labors in the Island of Madagascar. Nor was it to rise again until after the lapse of a dreary period of some eighteen years more, during which time the people were subject to a reign of idolatry, wretchedness, and blood.
Executions, poisonings, reduction to slavery, plunderings, and other punishments, bad as they were, did not complete the catalogue of the people's woes. In devising plans of cruelty and malignity, Queen Ranavalona seemed highly gifted. For instance, in the year 1845 it is known that she made a progress to the province of Mancrincrina, ostensibly, to enjoy the sport of buffalo-hunting, and that she was accompanied by more than 50,000 persons. All the officers and nobles, far and near, in and around Tananarivo, were invited to attend, and that the procession might appear as magnificent as possible, every one had to bring with him all his servants and slaves. Ten thousand soldiers accompanied them, and nearly as many more bearers, and 12,000 men were kept a day’s journey in advance, to repair the roads and make them wider. The inhabitants of the villages through which the Queen passed were forced to furnish a number of men to go forward and prepare the night’s lodging for the royal family, which had to be surrounded with intrenchments against possible attacks from enemies. As she made no provision except for her own support, all her followers, under the most disadvantageous circumstances, were obliged to provide for themselves. This was an exceedingly difficult task to perform, for even the majority of the nobles had to suffer the greatest privations; for, wherever a little rice was left, it was sold at such a high price that only the richest were able to purchase it. In consequence, it is supposed that during the four months of the progress 10,000 persons, including women and children, died from starvation.
Previous to this, in 1837, the Queen, having received a report from her ministers that there were many magicians, thieves, violators of graves, and other evil-doers among the people, convened a Kabary on the occasion, and proclaimed that all who delivered themselves up should have their lives spared to them, but all who failed should suffer the punishment of death. Nearly sixteen hundred men gave themselves up accordingly. Of these, ninety-six were denounced; and of these, fourteen were burnt alive, some were thrown from the rock, others were put into holes and had scalding water thrown upon them, others again were speared or poisoned, some were beheaded, and some few had their limbs cut off. But the most barbarous punishment of all was to sew up victims in sacks, with only their heads protruding, and thus leaving them to die and rot. Yet, in total disregard of the word given by the government, those who had been their own accusers, suffered a worse fate, if possible, than all the rest. Fastened together in gangs of four or five, with heavy irons around their necks and wrists, they were permitted to go free, only being watched by guards to see that their irons were not filed off. When one of the group died, his head was cut off in order to free him from the rest of the gang, leaving his irons to weigh upon the others, until finally the whole group perished.
It is needless, however, to dwell upon the practices of barbarism in the absence of Christianity. We give these darker shades of human nature merely to add another to the numerous proofs which we already have, of the great blessings which a Christian people enjoy, and of the source from which those blessings are derived.
In 1853 the condition of Madagascar was such as to induce the London Missionary Society to send out agents to see if the missionary work of former years could be resumed there. The Rev. Mr. Ellis, from whose excellent writings the most of this account has been taken, and Mr. Cameron were the agents chosen, and they arrived at Tamatavé in July of that year. They found that the state of sentiment in the country had assumed a distinct party shape, and that while the government and its supporters were decidedly in favor of maintaining the idols, the Sikidy, tangena, slavery, coerced labor, and all the other customs of their ancestors, there was another party which was equally decided in favor of learning, of having the schools reopened, and of Christian improvement generally. Though many Christians had been put to death, driven into exile or reduced to bonds and degradation, yet there were found to be at least one thousand persons, in the capital and its vicinity, who were known to each other and mutually recognized as disciples of Christ. Many of them were even holding offices of great responsibility, chiefly, if not solely, in consequence of their ability, integrity, and known worth. It was supposed that the Christianity of some of them was known and connived at, on account of the value of their services to the government.
The heir apparent at that time, the son of the Queen, was a man of gentle manners and amiable disposition, and both he and his wife were supposed to be members of the church, and devoted friends of its persecuted and afflicted flock. His manners were described to be more like those of an English gentleman than of a Malagasy. Prince Rakodond-Radama, or Prince Rakoto, as he was more commonly called, was then about twenty-three years of age, and he was marked as being unlike any tribe of the islanders, resembling rather the Moldavian-Greek than the Malay, or the African race. His features wore an expression of child-like goodness, and he was beloved by the people, and especially by his mother. Yet he had bitter enemies among the supporters of idol-worship, the chief of whom was a nephew of the Queen, and his rival to the throne. He was kind-hearted, as averse to the shedding of blood as his mother was prone to it, often interfered to obtain a reversal of the sentences of death, showed a fondness for the society of Europeans, and often wore their dress. Yet, behind all this, one might have perceived an ambition for the government, but without that energy, firmness and ability which would be necessary to render his reign safe to any great interest that mnight be involved in it.
His rival, the leader of the anti-Christian party was represented to be a shrewd, ambitious, daring man, with considerable business talent and large property. No efforts were spared by him and his party, it was said, to prevent the accession of Prince Rakoto to the throne. He was represented to the Queen as totally unacquainted with the business of government, and bewitched by the Christians, and that to place the sovereignty in his hands would be to promote dissatisfaction, and to sacrifice the good of the Kingdom. And this was probably the Queen’s own opinion, for she believed that the Christians had taken advantage of his amiable temper and inexperience to draw him over to their party, and this had excited her extreme indignation.
It was concluded by the missionary agents that the way for recommencing the labors of the Society in Madagascar was not yet fully open, but that the time for that event was approaching they had no doubt. In the following summer (1854) Mr. Ellis visited the island again, and he found the greatest eagerness on the part of the Christians to have copies of the sacred writings. One man assured him that for many years he had spent his time in transcribing portions of God's word for those of his brethren who were destitute of it, the Bible having been destroyed, as far as possible, by the agents of the government. The feeling in favor of Christianity and education was discovered to be more extensive than had been supposed, and persons who were little suspected of a leaning to Christianity, were found to be either in the possession of Christian books, or eager to obtain them. A strong conviction of the value of education was prevalent among the middle and upper classes. The chiefs and officers who were able to read and write, taught their own sons, and deemed such a knowledge essential to their holding any place under government, or making their way in the world. As an evidence of the hold which Christian faith had taken upon the minds of the people, Mr. Ellis referred to the letters, which, of their own free motion, some of the Malagasy Christians forwarded to their “beloved brethren in London.” In their matter and spirit these letters resembled not a little the epistles of the New Testament.
- Ranavalonamanjaka means Queen Ranavalona, manjaka signifying, like the Hebrew Melek, King, or Chief, and with the feminine termination, Queen.