The Project Gutenberg EBook of Embassy to the Eastern Courts of
Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat, by Edmund Roberts

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat
       In the U. S. Sloop-of-war Peacock, David Geisinger,
              Commander, During the Years 1832-3-4

Author: Edmund Roberts

Release Date: October 30, 2013 [EBook #44075]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Henry Flower and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.







Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1837,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.






Having some years since become acquainted with the commerce of Asia and Eastern Africa, the information produced on my mind a conviction that considerable benefit would result from effecting treaties with some of the native powers bordering on the Indian ocean.

With a view to effect an object apparently so important, I addressed a letter to the Hon. Levi Woodbury, then a Senator in Congress from the state of New Hampshire, detailing the neglected state of our commerce with certain eastern princes, and showing that the difference between the duties paid on English and American commerce, in their dominions, constituted of itself a very important item in profit, in favour of the former.

Subsequently to this period, Mr. Woodbury was appointed to the secretaryship of the Navy, and consequently became more deeply interested in the success of our floating commerce.

Scarcely had his appointment been confirmed before the melancholy news arrived, that the ship Friendship, of Salem, Mass., had been plundered, and a great portion of her crew murdered, by the natives of Qualah Battu.

As an important branch of our commerce to the pepper ports on the western coast of Sumatra was endangered, by the successful and hostile act of these barbarians, it was deemed necessary that the piratical outrage should be promptly noticed by a national demand for the surrender and punishment of the aggressors.

About this period, the U. S. ship-of-war Potomac was nearly ready to proceed to her station on the western coast of South America, by way of Cape Horn, but her destination was immediately changed for the western coast of Sumatra, accompanied by instructions to carry into effect the measures of government against the inhabitants of Qualah Battu.

As our government was anxious to guard against any casualty which might befall the Potomac in fulfilling her directions, it resolved to despatch the United States’ sloop-of-war Peacock and schooner Boxer, to carry into effect, if necessary, the orders of the first-named vessel, and also to convey[6] to the courts of Cochin-China, Siam and Muscat, a mission charged to effect, if practicable, treaties with those respective powers which would place American commerce on a surer basis, and on an equality with that of the most favoured nations trading to those kingdoms.

A special or confidential agent being necessary to carry into effect the new measures of government, I had the honour to be selected for that duty, at the particular recommendation of the secretary of the Navy.

The summary chastisement of the inhabitants of Qualah Battu, and the complete success of Com. Downes, in the performance of the duties assigned by government, rendered a visit from the Peacock to that place unnecessary, and thus left the objects of the mission more fully open to a complete and minute investigation. How far they have been faithfully accomplished, I leave to the candid and impartial judgment of those who peruse the details of the Embassy, in the following pages.

At the period of my visit to the courts of Siam and Muscat, American commerce was placed on a most precarious footing, subject to every species of imposition which avarice might think proper to inflict, as the price of an uncertain protection.

Nor was it to pecuniary extortions alone that the uncontrolled hand of power extended. The person of the American citizen, in common with that of other foreigners, was subject to the penalties of a law which gave the creditor an absolute power over the life, equally with the property, of the debtor, at the court of Siam. As an American, I could not fail to be deeply impressed with the barbarity of this legal enactment, and its abrogation, in relation to my own countrymen, detailed in the Embassy, I consider as not the least among the benefits resulting from the mission.

With the courts of Siam and Muscat, it will be seen, I was enabled to effect the most friendly relation, and to place our commerce on a basis in which the excessive export and import duties, previously demanded, were reduced fifteen per cent.

If in the attainment of these benefits some sacrifice of personal feeling was at times made for the advantage of American commerce, the dignity of my country was never lost sight of, nor her honour jeoparded by humiliating and degrading concessions to eastern etiquette.

The insulting formalities required as preliminaries to the treaty, by the ministers from the capital of Cochin-China, left me no alternative, save that of terminating a protracted correspondence, singularly marked from its commencement to its termination by duplicity and prevarication in the official servants of the emperor. The detail of the various conversations, admissions and denials, on the part of these eastern ministers, in the pages of the Embassy, exhibits their diplomatic character in true, but not favourable colours.

The unprotected state of our trade from the Cape of Good Hope to the eastern coast of Japan, including our valuable whale-fishery, was painfully impressed on my attention in the course of the Embassy. Not a single[7] vessel-of-war is to be seen waving the national flag over our extensive commerce from the west of Africa to the east of Japan: our merchantmen, trading to Java, Sumatra and the Philippine islands, are totally unprotected. The extent of this commerce may be estimated from the fact that there arrived in two ports in Java during one year, one hundred and one ships, the united tonnage of which, amounted to thirty-eight thousand, eight hundred and seventy-seven tons. To this may be added the whale-fishery on the Japanese coast, which likewise calls loudly for succour, and protection from the government. The hardy whaler—the fearless adventurer on the deep—yielding an immense revenue to his country, amid sufferings and privations of no common order, certainly claims at the hand of that country, protection from the savage pirate of the Pacific. Among this class of citizens too, we may look for those bold and determined spirits who would form the bulwark of our national navy. The protection of this important and prolific branch of commerce is, in every point of view, a political and moral advantage. I indulge the hope that it will become the object of special legislation, and that the hardy sons of the ocean, while filling the coffers of their country, may enjoy the protection of her flag.

The various tables relative to exports, imports, currencies, weights and measures, in the various places visited by the Embassy, will, I trust, be found greatly beneficial to the commercial enterprise which, yearly, extends from the Cape of Good Hope to the China sea. They have been compiled in some instances from direct observation, and in others, from the best authority which could be obtained. While it has been my special object to render the pages of the Embassy a guide to the best interests of commerce, I have not been unmindful of the claims which the general reader may have on a work embracing a view of that interesting quarter of the world, the eastern and southern portion of the eastern hemisphere; its natural scenery, productions, language, manners, ceremonies, and internal political regulations, will be found in the Embassy. The picture may not be at all times of a pleasing character; it has rather been my object to give the original impression, than to decorate it with any factitious colouring. When visible demonstration could be obtained, I have always resorted to it, in drawing my conclusions; and in those cases in which this best auxiliary was denied me, I have given the testimony of travellers from other countries, who preceded me in visiting the courts touched at by the Embassy, and whose details have received the sanction of the world.

The abject condition of morals among the inhabitants of the Indian ocean, will naturally interest the philanthropist: while rejoicing in the high moral tone of society which distinguishes his own happy land, he will look with an eye of compassion on those regions where the worship of the Supreme Being gives place to the mysterious idolatry of Budha, or the external ceremonies of Confucius.

The searcher after literary information will find in the account of the literary institutions of China much interesting and useful matter for obser[8]vation and reflection. In relation to the strictness of her collegiate examinations, and the high grade of learning necessary to secure their honours, some useful hints may be derived to our own collegiate institutions.

In the appendix will be found a curious literary document in relation to the aborigines of the Malay peninsula, particularly of the negroes called Semang, accompanied by specimens of the Semang language in two dialects, for which due credit has been given in the Embassy.

The philologist will doubtless receive this accession to the common stock of inquiries into the origin of language, with considerable gratification. A philosophical investigation of the relationship existing between the varied families of the earth, and their common origin, may perhaps yet be based on the analogy existing between their language and dialects.

The phraseology of the epistolary document from the Sultan of Muscat to the President of the United States, with that contained in the letter from Tumbah Tuah to Captain Geisinger, at Bencoolen, furnishes specimens of that figurative and high-wrought diction, for which the Oriental nations are distinguished.

As I am about to undertake another voyage to exchange the ratifications of the treaties alluded to in the Embassy, to form others in places not yet visited, and to extend, if possible, our commerce on advantageous terms, still farther east than India or Cochin-China, I beg my readers will consider the present volume as a prelude to much further and varied information to be derived under more favourable auspices—more intimate knowledge of eastern forms—and that caution which should ever be the child of experience.

In concluding my introductory remarks, I would freely acknowledge my obligation to the works of those authors who have preceded me in visiting the nations to which the Embassy was directed. I deemed it important that no useful information, from whatever source derived, should be withheld from my countrymen. Wherever ocular or audible demonstration could be had, I have recorded the facts as they were presented, in the most simple and unadorned manner; I had not in view the flights of rhetorical composition, but the detail of useful intelligence.

My country claimed at my hands, the faithful fulfilment of arduous and responsible duties. If, in the information furnished in the Embassy, her requirements have been accomplished, my ambition is satisfied.

E. R.



Sailing from Boston; Arrival at St. Jago; Description; Exports; Great Drought; Fogo; Fortifications; Sailing for Brazil; Description of the Coast; Harbour of Rio and Distant Views; the City; Public Garden; Boto Fogo; Botanic Garden; Population; Public Buildings; Senate and House of Representatives13
Sailing from Montevideo; Description of the Island of Tristan D’Acunha; St. Pauls; Engano; Arrival at Bencoolen and Description29
Sailing from Bencoolen; Arrival at Crokatoa and Forsaken Islands; Scenery; Beautiful Submarine Garden; British Frigate; Arrival at Angier; Sailing from Angier; Bay and City of Manila; Buildings; Population; Provisions; Labour39
Manila, continued; Calzada; Sea-Cucumber; Cigar-Factory at Binondo; Exports; Duties; Weights and Currency; Exchange; Imports; Luzon; Cavité; Hurricane; Lago de Bria; Pina; Indian and Buffalo; Visits to the Alcade51
Departure from Manila: Cholera; Cape Bolina; Chinese Vessels; Pilot; Macao; Linting, Village; Whampoa; Jos Houses; Sacrifice; Arrival at Canton; River and Boats; Description of Canton; Great Idol Temple; Legend of the Jos House; Religious Ceremonies; Minor Temples63
[10]Budhism; Tombs of Ancestors; Ceremonies; Origin of Tumuli or Tombs; Sacrifices to Confucius; Pan-Hwny-Pan; Infanticide; Charitable Institutions; Government Gratuities75
Description of Canton; Sacking of the City; Place of Honour; Mourning; Compass; Materials for Buildings; Houses; Principal Offices; Duties and Penalties of Governor; Fires; Governor’s Salary; Division of Power89
Literary Institutions of China; Examinations; Schools; Teachers; School-room Ceremonies; Colleges; Domestic Commerce; Population of the Provinces; Imports; Exports109
Early Commerce of China; American Trade; Hong-Merchants; Translators; Linguists; Foreign Factories; Style of Living; Manufactories and Trade; Physicians; Egg-Boats; Manufacturers; Mechanics; Population of Canton123
Weights and Measures; Money Weights; Commercial Weights; Opium; Opium-Smokers; Mantchou Dynasty135
Death; Ceremonies of Imperial Mourning; Population of the Chinese Empire; Knock-head Ceremony; Beggars; Cat and Dog Market; Dr. B. and the China-man; Barbers; Dress of the Chinese; the Dragon God; Slavery147
Climate of Canton and Macao; Meteorological Averages; Departure from Canton for Macao and Linting; Macao; Population; Superstitious Ceremony162
Sailing from Linting to Vung-Lam Harbour, in the Province of Fooyan, or Phuyen; Government of Shundai; Assistant Keeper of Vung-lam; Letters to the King of Cochin-China; Catholic Priest; Deputies from Shundai171
Present of a Feast to the Embassy; Description of Arrangement; Deputies of Hué; Extraordinary Demands—Refusal to Forward Despatches to the Emperor; Letter of the Envoy to the Minister of Commerce; President’s Letter; Unconditional Requirements of the Deputies189
[11]Suspension of Intercourse; Failure of Mission; Departure of Embassy from Vung-Lam Bay; Envoy’s Titles; Mode of Husking Rice; Tombs of the Dead; Fishing Boats; Absence of Priests and Temples; Superstitions; Wild Animals; Mandarins’ House; Mode of taking Leave; Government of Cochin-China; Grades of Rank213
Passage from Cochin-China to the Gulf of Siam; Arrival at the Mouth of the River Menam; Packnam; Procession to the Government-House; Reception; Governor; Siamese Temples; Interview with the Siamese Foreign Minister; Prima Donna; Feats of Strength; Siamese Females; Fire at Bang-kok; White Elephants; Embalming; Shaving-head Ceremony and Feast; Fox-bats227
Presentation at the Palace of Bang-kok; Description; Royal Elephant; White Elephants; King of Siam; Great Temple of Guatama; City of Bang-kok; Temple of Wat-chan-tong, and Figure of Budha; Banyan Tree; Fire-feeders; Missionaries253
Chinese Junks; Mechanic Arts of Siam; Amusements; Dancing Snakes; Annual Oath of Allegiance; Description of the Capital; Embassy from Cochin-China; Education in Siam; Palace271
Procession to the Funeral Pile of Wang-na, or Second King; Origin of Budhism in Siam; Sommona Kodom; Atheistical Principles of Budhism; Budhist Commandments; History of Siam; Government; Titles of the King; Officers of the Government289
Ancient Laws of Siam; Legal Oaths; Punishment for Debt; Divorces; Population of Siam; Stature and Complexion of the Siamese; Division of Time; Boundaries and Possessions of Siam; Marine of Siam; Imports; Inland Trade; Currency; Treaty of Commerce; Table of Exports305
Departure from Bang-kok for Singapore; Singapore; Commerce; Bugis; Maritime Laws; Departure from Singapore; Straits of Gaspar; Island of Java; Population of Java; Clothing; Dying; Stamping; Fruits; Birds319
Batavia; Burying-Grounds; Servants’ Wages; Academy of Arts; Departure from Batavia; Arrival at Angier; Departure from Angier; Red Sea; Arrival at Mocha; Turkie Ben Al Mas; Palace of Mocha; Currency at Mocha; Transparent Stone; Colour of the Red Sea336
[12]Departure from the Red Sea; Cape Rosselgate; Arrival at Muscat; Blind Beggars; Fin-back Whales; Bedouin Arabs; Pearl Islanders; Arab Houses; Currency of Muscat; Naval Force of Muscat351
Departure from Muscat; Arrival at Quintangony and Mozambique; Exports from Mozambique; Imports; Departure from Mozambique; Arrival at Table Bay; Cape of Good Hope365
Algoa Bay; Imports; Population of the Cape of Good Hope; Public Institutions; Newspapers; Departure from the Cape; Arrival at Rio Janeiro; Departure from Rio Janeiro; Arrival at Boston Harbour; Statistical Table386
Various Documents connected with the Work403





The Executive having, in the year 1832, resolved on an attempt to place our commercial relations, with some of the native powers of Asia, on a sure and advantageous basis, orders were issued to prepare the United States’ ship Peacock, and the schooner Boxer, for that special object.

The commanders of these vessels were required to visit certain ports on the southeastern coast of Asia, and to make a general report on the condition of our commerce, in relation to its security from piratical, or other hostile acts in the Indian seas. I was honoured by the President of the United States with the station of special agent or envoy to the courts of Cochin China, Siam, and Muscat, for the purpose of effecting treaties which should place our commerce in those countries on an equality with that enjoyed by the most favoured nations.

The Boxer, having orders to proceed on a voyage to Liberia and from thence to join the Peacock off the coast of Brazil, left Boston harbour about the middle of February, 1832; and on the following March we sailed from the same port, in the latter-named vessel, for Rio Janeiro; having on board F. Baylies, Esq., whom we were carrying to that place on his way to Buenos Ayres, to which Republic he had received the appointment of chargé d’affaires from the government of the United States. No circumstance, worthy of record, occurred until the eighth day of April, when at daybreak[14] we discovered the isle of Sal, one of the Cape de Verds, and ere evening closed, St. Nicholas and Bonavista appeared in sight. We lay to on that night under the lee of Mayo and on the following morning cast anchor in the roadstead of Porto Prayo, in the island of St. Jago.

The customary salute of thirteen guns, given to the town, was immediately returned with a corresponding number. Of the weather, considering the season, we had no reason to complain. The thermometer ranged between 40° and 72°, rarely exceeding the one or falling below the other; the lowest point, when we passed St. George’s Bank, being 37°, and the highest, at the time the northeast tradewind first met us, being 71°, in latitude 19°, and longitude 26°. The barometer ranged from 29°, 97′, to 30°, 45′.

The most perfect order and regularity prevailed on board the ship, in every department of duty; each individual having his duties so defined as to prevent confusion among the crew, should any of the seamen be called suddenly to quarters, or to make, take in, or reef sails. Among the acquisitions most useful and instructive, were an excellent library, presented by the government to the officers, and a second selection of books, purchased by the officers and crew, jointly. It was a gratifying sight to behold men who might, otherwise, have been occupied in relating idle stories, singing immoral songs, quarrelling, or creating a mutinous spirit among their fellows, drawing useful information from the great sources of knowledge, and extracting from the page of history, at the same time, a fund of information and a code of morals.

The Cape de Verd islands belong to the kingdom of Portugal, and are ten in number. They were discovered by Noel, in the year 1440, and contain a population, as follows: Sal, four hundred; Mayo, two thousand five hundred; St. Vincent, three hundred and fifty-six; St. Nicholas, five thousand; St. Jago, thirty thousand; Fogo, ten thousand; St. Antonio, twenty-four thousand; Brava, eight thousand; Bonavista, four thousand; St. Lucia, uninhabited; total, eighty-four thousand.


Among the principal articles of export from the abovementioned islands is orchilla, a species of lichen. It is used for dying any shade of purple or crimson, and is superior to the same kind of moss found in Italy or the Canaries. This vegetable product glitters, as a sparkling gem, in the royal diadem of Portugal, having been[15] monopolized by the crown, to which it yields an annual revenue of $200,000. The right of purchase claimed by the crown, allows only five cents per pound. Were it not for this unjust monopoly, orchilla would readily sell at twenty-five cents the pound. It is exported to Lisbon, and there sold, by the agents of the royal trader, to foreign merchants, who re-export it to their respective countries. Salt is produced at these islands, in large quantities, and furnishes a considerable article of export for the United States’ markets; being used for the salting of beef, butter, &c. Heavy cargoes of it are exported, principally by Americans, to Rio Grande and La Plata, for the curing of jerked or dried beef, which finds a ready sale in the market of Havana. It is also purchased by American sealers to salt the skins. In the list of fruits on this cluster of islands, the red and black grape are conspicuous. They furnish, converted into wine, a considerable article of internal commerce. St. Antonio alone, says Mr. Masters, of Sal, produces, annually, from fifteen hundred to two thousand pipes of wine. Owing to the ignorance of the inhabitants in the process of fermentation, it is of ordinary quality, generally unfit for transportation, and may be purchased at the rate of ten or twelve dollars per pipe.

If there be truth in the often-repeated assertion, that volcanic countries produce the best wines, Fogo will export, at a future day, a very superior article. Since the year 1827, coffee, nearly equal in flavour to that of Mocha, has been cultivated with success. Previously to that period, the crown had laid an almost prohibitory duty on the importation of this article from its empoverished islanders, in order to encourage the agricultural produce of its more extensive southern possessions, in the vast territory of Brazil. Every planter, now, looks on his plantation as a source of increasing profit, and within five or six years, coffee will become the leading article of commerce from the Cape de Verd islands. It now realizes ten cents per pound. The remaining articles for export, are hides, skins, goats, and asses.

We found the inhabitants, on several of these islands, suffering extreme distress from a want of provisions, occasioned by a failure in the periodical rains, for two successive years. At Fogo, many died from starvation. The inhabitants of this island have, long since, annually exported ten or twelve small cargoes of corn to Madeira, and in this, their day of suffering, the inhabitants of that[16] sister-island received them by hundreds with every mark of kindness and attention. Some small relief was likewise administered from the Peacock.

The whole appearance of the Cape de Verds, in consequence of this long-continued drought, was exceedingly arid; the grass assumed a dark brown colour, similar to that which may be seen on our western prairies, when a fire has passed over them. Nothing green was visible in the vicinity of Porto Praya, save in the deep valleys, lying on the outskirts of the town, where some moisture yet remained, and where water was obtained for the suffering population.


The town of Porto Praya, is situated on an eminence of considerable height, and may be approached, in front of the harbour, by two roads; the one being on the eastern and the other on the western side. These roads exhibit marks of great labour, bestowed in their construction; they have been, for the most part, blasted out of the solid rock, and extend up the side of a precipitous hill. Forty-five pieces of cannon, of various caliber, pointed towards the roadstead, serve, at once, as a fortification to the town and a protection to the harbour.

Vessels bound to Western Africa, South America, or the East Indies, generally take in refreshments at this port, which affords a safe anchorage for vessels at all seasons of the year, excepting the month of September. During this month it is visited by a violent gale from the south, that would place in the most imminent danger any vessel which might seek for security beneath the bold and rocky precipice that rises in many places, nearly perpendicularly, one hundred and twenty feet above the shore.

At the summit of this rocky acclivity is the plain on which Porto Praya is built, and where a large open square, from which three or four streets diverge, serves as a market-place. Within this square is a building used for a jail. On its eastern side are situated the governor’s house and a church; the latter being the only place for religious worship in the town.

At the request of the governor, Capt. G. and myself paid him a visit. We were received with courtesy and affability. He is of noble family, not quite thirty years of age; and on this occasion was bedecked with six orders of merit, which he frequently gazed on with apparent satisfaction and delight. The houses here are[17] generally built of stone: those facing the public square are two stories in height, and well stuccoed; on the western side, many of them commodious, well finished and furnished, and fastidiously neat in their appearance. A gallery, resting on a precipice seventy or eighty feet high, extends along their rear, and commands a prospect of neat gardens, securely walled in, and laden with tropical fruits, vegetables, and flowers. We observed several negro girls, in the valley beneath, drawing water for the inhabitants of the town, and, with well filled jars, winding their way up the side of a zig-zag and dangerous path on the hillside. As the eye followed their ascent up the fearful height, from which a false step would have dashed them in pieces, we could not but admire the seeming ease with which they balanced their vessels, and the apparent disregard of danger displayed by them as they frequently bent, in wanton sportiveness, over the projecting crags of the precipice.

The population of Porto Praya is said to amount to fifteen hundred or two thousand, nineteen twentieths of which are black or of doubtful origin. As a suitable return for the hospitality we had received from the inhabitants, a supper and dance were given to them on the quarter-deck of the Peacock, which was fancifully decorated with evergreens and flags; that of Portugal holding a conspicuous station.

We found fish in abundance in the waters around Porto Praya, and by the help of a seine obtained a good supply, among which we found the mullet and red grouper. Two lancet-fish were also taken: these singular fishes are furnished on each side of the tail with a weapon resembling the spring lancet, which they use both in defence and attack. The date-palm flourishes in the valleys, and all the intertropical fruits may be obtained in abundance in their proper season, and vegetables at all seasons.

Having replenished our diminished sea-stock, we sailed from Porto Praya on the thirteenth of April. After clearing the roadstead, we had a clear view, to the west, of Fogo; its towering altitude rising thousands of feet above the bosom of the ocean in which its base was laid. This ocean-mountain bears evident marks of its volcanic origin. Volumes of smoke were seen issuing from its numerous craters, so long as its bold outline was distinctly defined. Ere sunset, the Cape de Verds were completely hid from the view, and we stood south, inclining to the eastward, until the eigh[18]teenth, when we reached the latitude of 3° 31′ north, and 21° 41′ west longitude. We now shaped our course more to the westward, and on the nineteenth, being in latitude 2° 22′ north and 22° 8′ west longitude, we took in a light breeze from the south and east, and crossed the equator on the twenty-second, in longitude 23° 30′. The usual ceremonies of a visit from Neptune, which not unfrequently terminate in quarrels and fights, were judiciously dispensed with. An attempt was, however, made to play a trick on the uninitiated, which for a short time afforded much mirth and amusement. A hair was placed across the centre of a telescope-glass, and handed round, for the purpose of seeing the equatorial line; but a young midshipman having obtained another glass, in which he could not see the line, the trick became at once discovered. To make some amends to the crew for the loss of their usual frolic on crossing the line, a modicum of good punch was served out in the evening, when it was found that out of the whole number there was one-eighth (or twenty-one men) belonging to the “total abstinence” society; a proportion which I suppose to be as large as could be found among the same number of landsmen.

With pleasant breezes and moderate weather, we proceeded on our course, keeping the ship one point from the wind, so that a foretop studding would draw. At day-dawn on the third of May, we discovered Cape Frio, and at ten o’clock, A. M., the Sugar-loaf at the entrance to the harbour of Rio Janeiro. From the time we discovered the cape until the following evening, a most perfect and, to us, annoying calm prevailed. A brisk gale at length sprung up from the southwest, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and rain: so stormy, dark, and tempestuous was the evening, that we only occasionally obtained a glimpse of the fine revolving light on Raza island: at intervals, a vivid flash of lightning would disclose to us the Sugar-loaf mountain and a small twinkling light at Santa Cruz. The bearings of the principal points of land having been obtained, before the evening closed, notwithstanding the war of elements, we dashed onward in fine style under three topsails. As we came abreast Santa Cruz, we were hailed, and answered; but not heaving to, three guns were fired, followed by the burning of as many “blue-lights.” We now proceeded up the harbour, and cast anchor at ten o’clock. The city was saluted the following day, and the salute answered by an equal number of guns.



The seacoast from Cape Frio to Rio is remarkable for the boldness of its features, possessing various obtuse peaks and mountains; but southward of the harbour is a remarkable range of hills, presenting a rough profile of a human countenance lying with its face upward. It is formed by a table-mountain and two jagged hills: the resemblance is so striking at the first view that no force of imagination is necessary to complete the picture.

No one can enter this harbour without admiring the beautiful panorama which is spread before him. At the entrance, called the Pao de Assucar, the celebrated granite peak is seen, piercing the clouds, at an altitude of thirteen hundred feet, and the prospect is every where varied and magnificent. Nature seems, here, to have spread a banquet for her adoring admirers. Every spot is covered with beautiful flowers; even the rocks are festooned with various parasitical plants, which exhibit a perennial bloom. The harbour is surrounded with wooded hills, studded here and there with a chapel, a venerable church, or a beautiful villa. The imagination has free scope to picture forth scenes of bliss in the numerous valleys, where peaceful cottages lie partially concealed amid groves of orange and lemon, lime and citron. On the bosom of this spacious harbour may be seen, tranquilly reposing, the vessels of all nations; and the water is dotted in every direction with boats issuing from the numerous inlets and islands, from the first blush of morn to dusky night, laden with passengers for the city-market and the shipping. These boats are managed by slaves. This harbour, called by the natives Nitherohy, was discovered on the first day of January, 1531, by De Souza, and named Janeiro, or January river, as he supposed it to be an outlet to a great river, from the extent of its bay. It will probably ever retain, as at present, its name, notwithstanding the extreme absurdity of calling a bay a river: for it was soon ascertained by discovery, that no large body of water emptied into it.

The city of St. Sebastian, better known to the commercial world by the name of Rio de Janeiro, lies on the southern shore, skirting the base of several prominent hills and occupying the valleys between them; from Boto Fogo to its western extremity it measures nearly eight miles. The most conspicuous buildings are the numerous churches and chapels—the bishop’s palace—the theatre—and the royal palace, fronting the harbour, at the great landing for[20] boats and vessels from Rio Grande, the town on the opposite shore. The streets, regularly laid out, intersecting each other at right angles, are not more than twenty feet wide, and wretchedly paved. The sidewalks are narrow and inconvenient for a town thronged with people. The houses are generally built of unhewn granite, and are from one to three stories high; they are furnished with balconies, which are much resorted to by the ladies, who seldom visit the streets during the daytime, excepting in sedan chairs, when they attend to their devotional exercises.

Owing to the extreme heat of the climate, the encumbered state of the streets, and a due regard to the Portuguese custom which forbids their walking abroad during the day, the ladies of the city take the evening for visiting. In beauty, elegance and accomplishments, they sink in the comparison with their neighbours of Buenos Ayres and Montevideo.

The houses, excepting those occupied by the richer classes, are dark, narrow, and filthy; and if this Augean stable be not cleansed from the accumulated filth of ages, ere the cholera shall visit it, thousands will be swept away.

A stranger is surprised, in passing through the streets, at the immense number of shops which occupy the ground floor of nearly every house in the city; yet there are said to be but few failures among their occupants. The extravagant price charged for every article, retail, may perhaps account for this fact.

One of the most celebrated objects of curiosity in Rio is the celebrated aqueduct, which is seen winding its way from the Corcovado along the base of many hills, intersecting the streets with its double arches, and passing over the roofs of houses to the various fountains, which are constantly thronged with negroes, carrying jars of water to the dwellings of their masters for culinary purposes—the kitchen being, in many cases, in the upper story, while the ground-floor is occupied for magazines or stables. At some of the fountains are stone troughs, for the use of the negro washer-women, which are constantly thronged with them, making most vociferous cries: a greater confusion of tongues could not have been heard at the dispersion of the builders at Babel; for there is a mixture of all the languages of Africa, from Senegal to Angola, and from Da Lagoa Bay to Zanzibar—with Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, and various Indian languages:[21] making, in the sum total, an olla not to be surpassed by the Lingua Franca of the Mediterranean, or the bazars of British India.


Every kind of labour is here done by slaves; the heaviest burdens are dragged by them on ill-constructed drays over a rough pavement: some of them (principally criminals or runagates) are seen chained in various ways, and bending under the weight of packages too heavy for their strength.

Slavery appears here in all its worst features and most disgusting deformities. Notwithstanding blacks may be seen at the altars, administering the rites of religion,—as commanders of companies or regiments, or as custom-house officers—yet poor friendless creatures (white and black) are seen at every step, nearly naked, covered with loathsome diseases, badly fed, having only the steps of some church-door or the pavement for their bed, or lying exposed to the intense heat of a tropical sun.

I visited many of the churches, but found them sadly shorn of their former splendour, having in them only a few aged priests, and, excepting on particular days, a very limited number of devotees: the passers-by rarely lift their hats and make the sign of the cross, as they were wont to do, when passing the sacred doors; the same neglect is apparent when the vesper-bell strikes a few slow and solemn sounds at the decline of day. Formerly, when its tones were heard, every kind of labour and amusement were instantly suspended, every head was uncovered, a silent thanksgiving offered to the Giver of all good for mercies received during the day, and His divine aid and protection were implored for the ensuing night. Now, almost every species of religious observance has departed, in the overthrow of a notoriously debauched and overgrown priesthood.

The population of Rio is estimated from one hundred and twenty to two hundred thousand, of which a very large proportion are blacks. No correct census has yet been taken, owing to the jealousy of the people, who suppose that the object of government is to impose, in such an estimate, a capitation tax. There is a great admixture of blood among them, from the jet black African with his curly wool, to the pure white with flaxen locks.

The French residents are numerous, if a traveller may judge from the names on the signs, and the endless Parisian nothings exposed for sale in the Rua d’Ovidor and the Rua d’Quitanda.[22] Here and there are interspersed English, German, or Italian names. Since the abdication of the late emperor in favour of his little son Don Pedro the second, and the breaking up of his splendid court, numerous carriages have disappeared, and only a few humble volantes or cabriolets are seen drawn by two mules, or perhaps by a horse and a mule.

The National Museum is situated on each side of the Campo d’Acclamacao, and is open to the public on Thursdays. It occupies at present but three rooms, having been sadly plundered of its contents by Don Pedro. The specimens of minerals are numerous and scientifically arranged; but the entomological department is meager, considering the immense numbers and beautiful varieties of insects for which this country is so justly celebrated: there are many private collections in the city which far surpass this, in numbers and brilliancy. In addition to the abovenamed department are several cases, divided into compartments, showing, in miniature, implements of trade and manufactures.

The Senate House, on the opposite side of the square, is a very plain edifice, badly built, and propped up in every direction with long pieces of timber.

On the day when the minister of the interior delivered in his budget, I visited the House of Representatives. The gallery and four private boxes were crowded. We occupied one of the latter. There were about seventy members present, highly respectable in their appearance, although some were of a doubtful white, and others quite black. They were dignified in deportment, graceful in action, and spoke with great fluency.

Education has made great progress throughout Brazil within the last fifteen or twenty years. Beside several Lancasterian schools, supported by government, to which are admitted, gratuitously, children of all colours, (slaves excepted,) primary schools are to be found throughout the city; and private schools also, in which are taught the higher branches of education. There are also a surgical and a medical academy, an academy of fine arts, and ecclesiastical seminaries.


The city has two public libraries; one of them contains between sixty and seventy thousand volumes, in all languages. The other is at the Convent of St. Benedict. I visited that institution when the librarian was absent, but was amply compensated for the tire[23]some walk up the steep hill, on a hot day, over a very rough pavement, by the beautiful views exhibited in every direction. There, were seen mountain, hill, and dale, cultivated and in a state of nature—an ocean, a bay, a river, and on their surfaces were floating noble line-of-battle ships, merchant vessels, and an abundance of little skiffs. At my feet lay the city, with its busy throng, and at every important point were fortresses and castles, showing forth rows of formidable cannon. The day shone forth with great brilliancy; not a cloud was seen hanging over the Payo d’Assucar, the Corcovado or the Tejuco; numberless vessels were seen far at sea, pressing for the port, under a cloud of white canvass, during the continuance of the breeze. On the left lay the palace of St. Christovao; and, in the far west, a noble range of hills, terminated by the spiked tops of the organ mountains, rendered the picture enchanting and unrivalled. At the foot of the hill is the arsenal; being deficient in room, the wall of the convent, on that side, was taken down, and the rocks being blown away, a secret entrance was discovered under the church, so ingeniously contrived as to be hid from observation—it appeared like the rocks in which it was formed.

Public Gardens.—On the bay shore, commencing near the Praya or Beach do Flamingo, is a pleasant garden, surrounded by a high wall, and guarded at its various entrances by soldiers. It is much resorted to by the inhabitants after sunset. The avenues are of good width, well gravelled, kept clean, and are finely shaded by native and foreign trees, and with hedges of flowers indigenous to the climate; but the pure and wholesome breezes, and a view of the bay, are obstructed by a mound, thrown up unnecessarily high, to protect this retreat against an ever-rolling surf.

Looking to the right at the further extremity of the beach, along which is a range of good houses guarded by a high granite wall, lies the beautiful Gloria hill, having a small white turreted chapel, Nossa Señora de Gloria, or our Lady of Glory. It is of an octagonal shape, lies partially concealed amid noble forest and fruit trees, and is adorned with hedges of myrtle, interspersed with jasmine: and there,

“Weak with nice sense, the chaste Mimosa stands,
From each rude touch withdraws her timid hands;
[24] Oft as light clouds o’erpass the summer glade,
Alarmed, she trembles at the moving shade,
And feels alive, through all her tender form,
The whispered murmurs of the gathering storm;
Shuts her sweet eyelids to approaching night,
And hails with freshened charms the rising light.”

I was much gratified with two visits made to the Botanic garden, situated about eight miles from the palace. The first visit was by water, as far as Boto Fogo. From thence it is probably three miles by land over a tolerably good road, lying principally amid mountain scenery, the Corcovado being on the right.

This mountain, on its eastern side, is one immense mass of granite, rising perpendicularly to the height of two thousand feet. On either hand are plantations and gentlemen’s villas. The road was overhung with various fruits—the coffee-tree showing its red berries and the cotton-tree its yellow bulb; or, having burst its outward covering, displaying the contents of its little pod, as white and pure as the new-fallen snow; the hedges were beautifully decorated by the hand of nature with roses, myrtles and jasmines, intertwined with a great variety of creeping plants. On the left, we passed a small brackish piece of water, called Lake Frietas, formed by an encroachment of the sea; which, in heavy gales and during high tides, forces itself over the sandy barrier between the low lands and its waters.

We arrived at noon—an unpropitious hour, for the garden was shut until three, in the afternoon. Being desirous to employ our spare time to the best advantage, we strolled on several miles farther to the seabeach, through sandy plantations, covered entirely with pine-apple, then in a green state and very small. Our toil was unrewarded, as we did not obtain a single shell, (the shore being too sandy,) nor did we see any object worthy of note.

On our return, we visited the garden, and found it a delicious retreat and in fine condition. The broad wide avenues are kept in neat order and lined with trees of various kinds. A fine stream of water conducted from the adjacent mountains, along neat canals, over pebbly beds, passes through the garden and divides the compartments of exotics from the avenues. The servants in attendance explained the endless variety of trees, shrubs and plants, and permitted us to take specimens of every thing we fancied.


This delightful spot is situated at the base of the Corcovado, on a rich plain, fronting the little lake and comprises about seventy acres. Here are many square plots of ground, containing altogether about six acres of tea, both black and green, of which there are said to be ten or twelve varieties. The plant is in height about ten feet, and bears a small, delicate, white flower; it was in a healthy and flourishing condition. The dried tea may be obtained in the city. The amboyna and cayenne cloves grow here; the former being much more fragrant than the latter. We also found the nutmeg—cinnamon of several kinds, pepper, pimento, cardamoms, the camphor and sago palm, the bread-fruit in full bearing, many varieties of the anana or pine-apple, the orange, limes, sweet and sour lemons, citron, the mamoon, marrow or mamee apple, the mango and delicious mangusteen of Java, the jack and the shaddock, the banana, the plantain, the calambolla, &c., &c. The last is a sub-acid fruit, of an oblong form and light straw colour, when ripe; it is deeply grooved or ridged with sharp edges and is very refreshing and agreeable to the taste. A beautiful arbour of a square form, having vacant openings in imitation of doors and windows, stands in the centre of the garden, furnished with a table; it is a place of great resort for pic-nic parties and is ascended by artificial steps, made of the green-sward.

The situation of Boto Fogo impresses every one who visits it, most agreeably—it is a delightful retreat from the hot and unwholesome air of the city and is, like the Praya Flamingo and the Gloria hill, the residence of many respectable foreigners. The little bay, fronting the pretty sandy beach, seems like a tranquil lake embossed in magnificent mountain-scenery. Having replenished our partially-exhausted stock of sea-stores, and the commodore being with the squadron at La Plata, we were compelled, reluctantly, to proceed to that place and set sail accordingly, on the twentieth of May. The situation of our squadron at La Plata, arose out of difficulties which existed between the Argentine Republic and that of the United States, consequent upon the unlawful and unfriendly capture of American vessels, sealing among the Falkland islands, by order of Vernet, the governor; and from the proper and spirited conduct of Captain Duncan, commander of the Lexington, in removing the colony to Montevideo, and thereby, most effectually cutting off all further depredations upon our commerce.



We received the customary assistance of boats, from the various men of war, in towing the ship out of the harbour. As we passed the British line-of-battle ship Plantagenet, the band of musicians struck up our national air of “Hail Columbia.” On the thirtieth, we made St. Marys, being the northern cape at the entrance of the river. A brisk breeze the day following, accompanied with misty weather, wafted us, at midnight, within four miles of the isle of Flores, on which we found an excellent revolving light—and the weather clearing up, we saw the dull light which crowned the hill called Montevideo. Sail was then shortened to maintain our position until daylight; but in the course of three hours, a strong current running out of the river, had forced us into four and a half fathoms of water, on the edge of the English bank. We anchored, on the second of June, in the roadstead of Montevideo, near the United States’ ship Lexington. On the next morning, we again sailed, with a strong easterly gale, for Buenos Ayres, and at noon anchored in three and a half fathoms of water, off Pinta de India, in thick weather and a bad sea. In the afternoon, it became sufficiently clear for us to obtain a glimpse of the tops of some trees; sail was again made and on the fifth, we came too, in the outer Balissas, near to the United States’ ship Warren, under the command of Acting-Commodore Cooper, and the schooner Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant-Commodore Downing. Having landed Mr. Baylies and family, and taken in provisions for our voyage across the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, we sailed on the nineteenth, and in four days arrived at Montevideo. As we passed to our anchorage ground, H. B. M. frigate Druid, A. R. Hamilton, commander, complimented our flag by her musicians playing “Hail Columbia,” which cheered our hearts and created a kindly feeling in us towards our English brethren. Many years previous to this visit to La Plata, I had resided many months at Buenos Ayres, and had become acquainted with a number of worthy men and lovely females, who then shone with great brilliancy at the Tertulias, in the Bolero and Pas-a-pie, but time had changed the faces and condition of the living—death had been busy among all classes and many a friend and acquaintance had gone to the eternal world, amidst the various revolutions. The splendid churches were shorn of their ornaments and a few solitary priests, superannuated and on the brink of the grave, were seen tottering through the deserted[27] aisles and cloisters, where hundreds had once been, and where the resounding of my own footsteps now made me start, and look back to see if any of the departed had returned to wander within their former haunts, and deplore, though they were wont to be called holy, their numerous imperfections. A regal government has now given place to one of another stamp; but the great number of armed men in the streets and about the public buildings, have divested it of much of its republican character. A Protestant church is now erected, and English names are frequently seen over the doors of buildings where once a foreign merchant was not permitted to dwell. To me, it seemed like traversing a vast sepulchre—so many had closed their eyes in death, while others appeared like spectres of former days. It was like a city once in ruins, but which had been freed of its incumbrances, and was again ushered into light and life, peopled by a new generation.

Montevideo also had met with unparalleled sufferings from the time that it was besieged by the British to the present hour. The beautiful cathedral was disfigured by marks of cannon-balls—the walls were partly demolished—the gates broken down—the cannon removed, and not a solitary sentinel was on the lookout from the battlements; the streets were broken up, and full of unsightly and dangerous holes. Death, the all-consuming hand of time, and squalid poverty, had laid a whole city in ruins; it was like a vast cemetery; for all I once knew had been swept away; even their names had been obliterated for ever. I therefore left it, better satisfied to wander ten thousand miles over a trackless and stormy ocean, than to remain in a city whose former inhabitants were spread in dust amid its ruins.





Agreeably to orders from the navy department, the commander of the Peacock was required to proceed to the west coast of Sumatra, to ascertain whether Commodore Downes had obtained redress for the murders and robbery committed on board the ship Friendship, of Salem, by the natives of Qualah Battu; and if it should appear that from any cause such redress had not been effected, then the Peacock, in conjunction with the United States’ schooner Boxer, was to proceed to Qualah Battu, and, if possible, to obtain possession of the murderers, and transport them to the United States for trial; and also to demand indemnification for the heavy losses sustained by the owner. If these demands were not complied with, the town was to be destroyed.

The Boxer not having yet joined us, orders were left for her commander to proceed to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra. On the evening of the twenty-fifth of June, the ship got under way, from the bay of Montevideo. As we slowly receded from the port, the feeble light on the mount shone like a distant star through the hazy atmosphere; and the thousand lights in the unfortunate town of San Felipé appeared like the glimmerings of the firefly in a midsummer’s night, revelling amid the light vapours arising from marshy ground; the brilliant light on the Flores also was in full view, throwing its extended beams far and wide over the tremulous sea. Our progress during the night was very slow—Flores and Lobos, and the serrated mountains of Maldonado, found us at the dawn of day, fanning along slowly, with an air which scarcely ruffled the ocean’s surface. Nothing occurred to us beyond what generally befalls the sons of the ocean, in running down ten thousand miles of coasting. Scarcely were we clear from the muddy waters of La Plata, and had launched amid the[30] waves of the great Southern ocean, when squally weather assailed us, and close-reefed topsails were resorted to rather more frequently than is pleasant even to those who live upon the mountain-wave. The ship was at one time rolling her channels in before a strong westerly wind; at another, lying with her broadside deeply submerged by severe squalls from the northwestern quarter, the gun-deck being ankle-deep in water, and washing from side to side. Life-lines were secured from gun to gun to support the constant passing of men fore and aft the deck. On the fifteenth of July, the snow-clad mountains of Tristan d’Acunha appeared, lighted by a brilliant morning-sun, and towering to a height estimated at between nine and ten thousand feet.

This island is occasionally resorted to for water, live stock, fruit, vegetables, butter, &c.; the former may be had in abundance on the northeast side, where, in a clear day, it may be seen rushing from above, white as the snow on the mountain-top, and dashing on the beach, from a cataract of fifty feet in height. Owing to the steepness of the anchorage-ground and the frequency of sudden squalls, it is most safe “to lay off and on,” and send a boat on shore. Vessels which prefer anchoring, run in until the watering-place bears southwest by south, about one mile distant, where they find seventeen fathoms, in a gravelly bottom, mixed with broken shells.

This place was originally settled in 1811, by the unfortunate Jonathan Lambert, of Salem, who was drowned in going to Inaccessible island. It has ever since been occupied by an English sergeant and family, from the Cape of Good Hope, by order of the British government, who took possession of it, as was said, with the ostensible motive of keeping it as an outpost to St. Helena, at the time of Bonaparte’s imprisonment there.

It may be doubted whether a desire to prevent the Americans from resorting to the island, as a place of rendezvous in the event of another war, was not the real motive which actuated the British to take it within their protection.

On the nineteenth, having then been out twenty-three days, we obtained soundings in sixty fathoms water, on bank Lagullus, off the Cape of Good Hope. Dashing onward through storm and tempest, endeavouring to keep about latitude 38° or 39°, on the[31] sixth of August, forty-one days from our departure from the bay of Montevideo, we descried on the northeast the uninhabited island of St. Pauls. As we approached from the southward and westward, it bore the exact resemblance of a long-nosed porpoise; but when passing its eastern extremity, and bearing off about four miles north, it appeared like a spermaceti whale, the head being to the eastward: fronting it was a moderately-high conical peak: its highest point would scarcely exceed five hundred feet. Three or four days subsequently, we encountered a very heavy gale from northnortheast, accompanied by a tremendous swell of the ocean; during its violence, a sea of uncommon height and volume struck the ship, and threw her nearly on her beam ends, completely overwhelmed the gig in the starboard-quarter, crushed it into atoms in a moment, and buried the first three ratlines of the mizen-shrouds under water.

It was fortunate that we escaped without further danger, as it came thundering onward “mountains high.” A universal silence prevailed during its threatening approach: after it had passed, great apprehensions were expressed that it would “break on board,” and completely sweep the deck.

As we proceeded along and gradually made northings from longitude about 90° east, the winds began to be variable and the weather warm; greatcoats and peajackets disappeared from among the crew, and finally white duck trousers and shirts were alone seen. The southeast tradewind did not unequivocally set in until we had arrived in the latitude of 16°, and longitude 102°.


On the twenty-third of August we made the island of Engano, the southernmost of the chain of islands which runs parallel with the west coast of Sumatra, and which is inhabited by a vile race. From Engano, the winds were very light and variable from the southeast, accompanied with lightning, thunder, and rain, till the twenty-eighth, when we anchored in the bay of Bencoolen; about midway between the Ratones or Rat island and the point on which the Doosoon, or village of Bencoolen or Marlborough is situated, and about three and a half miles from either place.

This settlement was ceded by the English to the Dutch government, with all the British possessions in Sumatra, by the treaty of the Netherlands in 1824, in exchange for Malacca and the claims of the Dutch to the island of Singapore. Rat island basin is[32] resorted to by vessels intending to remain some time, more particularly during the prevalence of the northwest gales from October to March; but coasting craft always resort there during the southeast winds, which last through the other half of the year.

A boat, with acting Lieutenant Sinclair, was despatched to the town, and in a short time a very polite invitation was received from J. H. Knoerle, Esq., the Dutch resident, to breakfast with him the next morning, and to Captain G. and myself to reside with him during the ship’s stay. By this boat we heard of the entire destruction of Qualah Battu, by the Potomac, which happily precluded the necessity of an unpleasant visit, and saved the officers and crew the painful duty which would otherwise have devolved on the Peacock. The demolition of this place struck terror into the inhabitants of all the native ports on the coast, and will doubtless produce a salutary effect.


In the afternoon, we took a boat, and landed at Rat island. Two acres of dry land would cover it; the coral reefs, which extend northward and southward, are very extensive and dangerous. The island contains four or five wretched huts, including a stone building now in a state of much dilapidation, and a godown or magazine at the building, which is open at the sides. In heavy westerly gales, the spray of the sea breaks over this speck in the ocean. Fish is the chief food of the inhabitants. The teeth of these islanders (possessed by few of them) are of a deep black colour, and show that they are frequently employed in chewing areca, &c. The chief man, called Rajah Mundo, is a Malay, about seventy years of age, but still active and healthy, with features so brown and deeply furrowed as to resemble a piece of soleleather. When we entered his abode, a stone building, it reminded me of Hogarth’s picture of the last day, when every thing has fallen into decay. The steps were nearly all broken down; one of the two wooden pillars which supported the portico was decayed, and had fallen; the roof was gone, and the walls were falling; two half-starved monkeys stood as sentries, at the door, having something which was intended as an apology for a tail. The other articles of furniture in this abode consisted of two Chama gigas, or the great giant clams, the root of a tree for seats, two broken earthen pots for cooking, and a joint of bamboo instead of a water-bucket, which latter served likewise the purpose of a drinking-vessel,[33] as we found in asking for some water. The floor, apparently, had never been washed; the ceiling was of coal-black; and centipedes, lizards, and snails, were crawling in every direction over the walls. In the only dry corner, lay a sick daughter, between two mats; but the mother of the rajah formed the consummation of this dreadful picture: at the back door stood what I suppose must be called a human being. We started back in amazement on seeing this frightful object, thinking her to be deranged; the horror of Macbeth, on seeing his chair occupied in the banquet-scene, by the ghost of the murdered Banquo, could not have been surpassed by our own on this occasion. The words of the royal thane rushed upon my memory, and I instinctively uttered—

“Avaunt and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee:
Thy bones are marrowless!
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes.
Which thou dost glare with.”
“Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves shall never tremble.”

The only article of dress on this singular being was a filthy, ragged waist-cloth, apparently covered with vermin, from the belt of which was suspended a long knife; her gray elf-locks scattered by the wind—her eyes running with rheum—her face and hands covered with dirt—her body loathsome with leprous spots; contrasted with her dark Malay skin, gave her a truly hideous appearance; added to this, a solitary long black tooth projected over her under lip, and her trembling and attenuated frame displayed the influence of that baneful narcotic, opium, to which she was addicted. Wretchedness could not portray a more faithful picture: imagination had nothing to conceive. We gladly left this loathsome habitation, upon a ramble about the coral reefs for shells, and shortly embarked for the ship, rejoiced at being removed from a horrid object, which long after haunted my imagination by night and day. I have since learned that she is a fiend in human shape, living by means the most diabolical.


The next morning we landed at Bencoolen, and found in waiting a neat carriage, in which we were conveyed into a handsome park, and subsequently to the government-house. Here we were received, at the lower end of a long staircase, by the resident, and[34] ushered up stairs into the great hall, through two lines of soldiers, as fierce in appearance as were ever exhibited on a stage: they consisted of Malays, Sumatrans, and Javanese, from Neas and Borneo, and from the bay of Bengal, turbaned, whiskered and mustachoed, and in some cases furnished with long beards, armed with swords, the cris or crooked dagger, pistols and muskets.

A most substantial breakfast was quickly served in great variety, and placed in the verandah, for the benefit of the air. With a cloudless sky above, the most beautiful scenery surrounding us, and a hospitable reception, we had nothing more to desire. The government house is situated in a park, embosomed in flowers, fruit, and forest-trees, guarded by line hedges and a neat bamboo fence. The road around the grounds was lined with the male and female nutmeg-trees, the clove-tree, and the graceful areca-palm, laden with its yellow fruit, hanging in large clusters under the branches. Here and there were interspersed beautiful flowering trees in great variety, and creeping plants intertwined among the branches. The female nutmeg was loaded with fruit resembling, in colour, a straw-coloured peach, but pointed slightly towards the stalk, like a pear. The fruit which had become ripe, had burst about half an inch of its outer-covering, and displayed a beautiful network of scarlet mace, covering a black shining hard thick shell, in which lay concealed the nutmeg itself. The bark of the nutmeg-tree is smooth, and of a brownish-gray colour; the branches are handsome and spreading; the leaves, elliptical and pointed, afford a very grateful aromatic odour: on the same tree may be seen the fruit in its progressive stages to maturity, and the white blossoms hanging in clusters, encircled by the yellow leaves from which they have burst. From the centre of the flower proceeds an oblong reddish knob, which is the fruit. I was told that a tree which produces, daily, throughout the year, one nutmeg, is considered very productive and profitable, even at the present low prices. At the Dutch company’s late sales, they brought from fifty-two to fifty-six dollars the pecul, equal to one hundred and thirty-three and one third pounds avoirdupois; and the mace, from ninety-two to ninety-five dollars. The male nutmeg-tree, being necessary to the propagation of the fruit, cannot be dispensed with; it is generally filled with white blossoms, and interspersed among its female companions. The operation of loosening the inner[35] shell of the nutmeg is a tedious process, and is performed over a slow fire; when the shells are sufficiently loose to rattle they are broken, assorted, soaked several times in water and lime—then placed in dry boxes or small rooms to sweat; and finally, are packed in dry chunana or lime made from seashells. The small and oblong fruit is not merchantable; the best kind is large, round, heavy and firm, of a lightish-gray colour on the outside; a strong fragrant smell; and when pricked, the oil should readily ooze out.

Very extensive plantations of this great article in commerce, are in the vicinity of Bencoolen. Those which belong to the Dutch government are twelve miles distant, on a fine road extending towards the mountains, about one hundred miles long. I visited some Parsees, who were busily employed in curing nutmegs and mace. Large quantities of the latter were spread on mats, exposed to the sun, where they remain to dry, from six to ten, and from four to six o’clock. The extreme heat of the day dries them too much and renders them brittle and deficient in fragrance; if placed in too moist an air they are subject to decay and will breed worms; they should be chosen fresh, tough, oleaginous, of an extremely fragrant smell and of a bright reddish-yellow. The rind of the nutmeg when not too dry, is preserved in sirup and the entire fruit, when nearly ripe, made into a delicious and ornamental sweetmeat; it is cut part of the way down, at regular intervals and fancifully ornamented by neat scollops, peaks, and leaves, showing at one view the straw-coloured outer-covering, the scarlet mace, and the inner black shell, covering the nucleus of the whole, the nutmeg.

Pepper, another article of export to a great extent, is cultivated throughout the island. It is propagated by cuttings or layers, as we raise grape-vines: if suffered to trail on the ground, it produces no fruit, and support is consequently necessary: it climbs from twelve to twenty feet high: the blossom is white; the berries, when at maturity, are red and much resemble branches of red currants. In a favourable season it produces two crops.

The only fortification which Bencoolen possesses, is at Fort Marlborough—it is in excellent order, and situated but a short distance from the landing-place. There are not more than fifty or sixty Dutch soldiers in the place. The town is built on a point of land named Onjong Carang: it is of moderate elevation—falls back[36] into low swampy ground, and is at times severely visited by that fatal disease, the jungle fever: the liver complaint is also very general. Bencoolen and the ten doosoons or villages, contain about eighteen thousand inhabitants, consisting of a few Dutch, some of the descendants of Englishmen, who speak the English language—Chinese, Javanese, Bengalees, Parsees, Sumatrans, Malays, &c. The Chinese occupy an enclosure in the centre of the town, and have a Budhist or temple: they bear the same characteristic marks here as elsewhere, being industrious, frugal, and thrifty. Each doosoon is governed by a rajah, who is chosen from among themselves, and if approved by the residents, he cannot lose his office during life, unless for the commission of some flagrant crime. The residents and a certain number of Rajahs form a court for the trial of all cases requiring legal investigation. If a criminal is condemned to suffer death, a copy of the trial is sent to the governor-general of Java, and if approved by him, the sentence is carried into execution. It is degrading to humanity to see the abject air with which the resident is addressed by the lower order of Sumatrans. They stand, when they enter his presence, with an aspect of humble submission: their bodies are bent—the palms of their hands are seen resting on their knees, and fear is strangely marked on their countenances.

The Dutch Government has two schools here—they are conducted upon the Lancasterian plan; the first, which is kept in an outer room of the government-house, contains about twenty-five scholars. The pupils were learning arithmetic, to write on sand, and to read from certain portions of the New Testament printed in the Malayan language. The translation was made and published, many years since, at the expense of the pious and well-known philanthropist, Robert Boyle, when the place was under the jurisdiction of the British Government, and was sent forth into various parts of the island. The second school is in the orphan-house, about a mile from the resident, on a piece of high ground sloping towards the bay, of which it has a fine view: in front of this building are several acres of land, substantially walled in with brick, and covered with fruit-trees and vegetables. The boys are educated in this school for agents, writers, &c. The principal articles of export from Bencoolen, to which may be added Trippany or Bichos do Mar, and some edible bird’s-nests, have already been[37] named. Coffee and rice are raised here only in small quantities; they are imported from Padang for home-consumption, and consequently are not articles for export.

All the fruits common to tropical climates, and many which I am assured are not known in any other part of India, flourish here in great abundance. The animal used for domestic labour is the carbou, called here carboo: he resembles the buffalo without any hump between the fore-shoulders: although naturally of a dull, obstinate and capricious nature, he acquires a habit of surprising docility; at the command of his master, he lifts the shafts of the cart with his horns, places the half yoke (which is secured at the end) across his neck, and then stands quietly until he is secured.

I have several times been amused to see three or four children climbing on his neck, and seating themselves on his back, to take a ride. He was easily governed, after they were seated, by a rope which passed through the cartilage of the nose. He is a stout-built and strong animal, but cannot endure much fatigue, and has shorter legs and larger hoofs than the ox, with a thick sinewy neck. The horns of this animal are very large and generally turn backward, being nearly square at the base. Like the hog, he is fond of wallowing in the mire, and embraces every opportunity to cover himself with it—being thus cooled and protected from the heat of the sun, and from troublesome insects.

The bay of Bencoolen is extensive, and so much exposed that, when the sea-breeze commences, it throws in a heavy sea, and renders it impossible to carry off sufficient water for a large number of hands without causing a long delay. Owing to this cause, we were unable readily to obtain the required supply of water; and yams and bread-fruit being scarce, both of which we much needed, we took our departure, leaving instructions for the “Boxer” to follow us to Manila.


Having taken leave of the very kind and hospitable Mr. Knoerle, the resident, and of his companion, the Rev. W. C. Slingerland Conradi, pastor of the Dutch Church, I shortly found myself once more on board. I have lately received the afflicting intelligence that Mr. Knoerle, while on a journey to Palembang, was murdered at the instigation of some of the principal rajahs of Bencoolen. His body was literally cut in pieces, and then burnt with great exultation, by the perpetrators and their friends. The question[38] naturally occurs, what could have incited the rajahs to commit so atrocious and fiend-like an act? The answer is—revenge, which is always deeply seated in the heart of a Malay.

Mr. Knoerle, imprudently, injured the happiness of many families by his unrestrained passions, and thereby sealed his horrid fate. He should ever have borne in mind that he lived among

“Souls made of fire, and children of the sun,
With whom revenge is virtue.”




On the last day of August, we weighed anchor at nine o’clock in the evening, from Bencoolen bay, and aided by the current and a land breeze, about midnight we once more found ourselves at sea. Owing to light head-winds from the southeast, calms, contrary winds, and violent squalls from the high mountains of Sumatra, accompanied with thunder and lightning, we did not arrive at our anchorage ground, off the north end of the island of Crokatoa, in the straits of Sunda, until the eighth day after our departure from the bay.

At daybreak the following morning, a boat was despatched in search of inhabitants, fresh water, and yams; but, after three or four hours’ search, returned unsuccessful. Two other boats were then sent under the command of the first lieutenant Mr. Cunningham: after a fruitless search, that officer returned at sunset, after visiting Long Island and Crokatoa. It was found difficult to effect a landing any where, owing to a heavy surf and to the coral having extended itself to a considerable distance from the shore. Hot springs only were found on the eastern side of the latter island, one hundred and fifty feet from the shore, boiling furiously up, through many fathoms of water. Early on the succeeding morning, Capt. Geissinger, Lieutenant Fowler of the marines, and myself, left the ship, on a visit to Forsaken island: we flattered ourselves, as we approached the island, that the grateful sound of many a murmuring rill, trickling down its steep and woody sides, was heard by us—but we also were doomed to disappointment; for, on landing, the sound was found to proceed from the singing of locusts,[40] which had obtained undisturbed possession of the island, and were making sad ravages among the tender herbage. “No human footsteps marked the trackless sand.”

In reconnoitring between Forsaken and Crokatoa islands, we were struck with admiration at the great variety, both in form and colour, of an extensive and highly beautiful submarine garden, over which the boat was smoothly and slowly gliding. Corals of every shape and hue were there—some resembling sunflowers and mushrooms; others, cabbages from an inch to three feet in diameter: while a third bore a striking likeness to the rose.

“Some present
Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees,
And shrubs of fairy land: while others shine
Conspicuous, and, in light apparel clad,
And fledged with snowy feathers, nod superb.”

The water was clear as crystal; not the slightest breeze ruffled its glassy surface: the morning sun, having just freed the noble peak of Crokatoa from its misty covering, shone forth with unusual splendour; the sides of the hills, to their lofty summits, were clothed with all the variety of fruit, forest, and flowering trees common to intertropical climates: large flocks of parrots, shaking the dew of night from their downy pinions, were seen wending their way towards the palm-trees, in search of daily food; and monkeys in great variety were commencing their lively gambols amid the wild-mango and orange groves:—again, gazing in delighted wonder beneath us, we viewed the superb scene of plants and flowers of every description, glowing in vivid teints of purple, red, blue, brown, and green—equalling, in richness and variety, the gayest parterre. A variety of small fish, spotted, striped, and ringed, possessing every colour and shade, were sporting in these regions of unsurpassed brilliancy and beauty. It was, apparently, a great gala day; for they were revelling in great ease and luxury, playing all sorts of gambols in their bright sea-homes, unconscious of danger, and taking a full measure of enjoyment, in their unrivalled retreats. That nothing might be wanting to complete this gay scene of Nature’s own choosing, shells of great variety and shelves of coral, possessing every variety in colour, studded the bottom; the superb Harpa, with its ribbed sides and straw-coloured dress, slightly tinged with red and black; the Cyprea or Cowry of[41] almost every variety, covered with an epidermis or thin membrane to protect its highly-polished surface; and many others, which might rival the most delicate porcelain in whiteness and smoothness: there lay the warlike Chiton, encased in his black coat-of-mail, ready for battle, or adhering to the shell of a large Triton—the latter having closed the entrance to his castle by a thick marble valve, which Nature had provided as a protection against an enemy, or a barrier against the rough beatings of a boisterous sea. Above, beneath, around us—all was in harmony.

A solemn stillness—broken only occasionally by the diving of a huge turtle, the harsh note of the wild seabird, the singing of locusts, or the shrill cry of the tiger-cat—reigned every where in the narrow strait which separates the two islands. Disappointed in receiving the so-much-needed supply of water and provisions, we weighed anchor the same evening for Angier, in Java, and before daybreak, came to in its roadstead. On our passage across, about midnight, we observed a large ship bearing down for us. Immediately all hands were piped to quarters—the battle-lanterns lit, fore and aft—the gun-deck cleared of hammocks—the two-and-thirties loaded with round and grape shot, and run out—the slow matches lighted and placed in their tubs—the marines ranged along the quarter-deck, and the powder boys stationed from the magazine to the gun-deck—the surgeons in the cockpit were displaying a fearful array of bandages; and in five minutes the ship was ready for action. As the vessel neared us, we found her to be no enemy, but his Britannic majesty’s ship Magicienne, from Batavia, bound to Bengal. So we parted as we met—friends. May we never meet as enemies!


Day had scarcely made its appearance, ere the ship was surrounded with Javanese canoes of all sizes, having outriggers to prevent their oversetting, bringing fruits and vegetables, fowls, eggs, goats, musk-deer, civet-cats, coloured and green doves; monkeys in great variety; parrots, Java sparrows, having slate-coloured plumage and pink bills, hats, shells, &c., for sale. Their strange mode of speaking the English language, afforded much amusement to the whole crew: “Capetan, you buy me fowl? Ib gotty fivety ten fowl, Capetan, he be great biggy one; you buy Japa sparrow? Ib got uby, uby, yam, yam, plenty, plenty, bery good; egg fowl, Capetan; fowl egg, Capetan, he be largy one,[42] biggy, biggy, all same as dat larangy, (pointing to a basket of oranges,) I gib you Capetan, one hundred, five, ten, egg, (meaning one hundred and fifteen,) sposey Capetan you gib me one dollar and one quart;” (one dollar and a quarter.)

All this was spoken with great rapidity and amid forcible gesticulations. They were not at all abashed in asking a double price for their articles, and stale eggs; the latter, they always endeavoured to impose on us as new and fresh. The greatest curiosity I have yet met with, is the musk-deer; it is in height nine and a half inches, and twenty inches in length, from the top of the nose to the tail; has large protruding round eyes, moderate-sized ears and a sleek, grayish, dun-coloured coat, with beautiful slender legs and small hoofs. In its shape it is a perfect deer, but has no horns. I have, at times, seen this animal possessed of two scythe-shaped teeth, projecting from the upper jaw and placed near the extremity of the mouth, pointing recurvated backward. When irritated it would cut deeply with them and strike with great rapidity.

No covering beyond that of a waistcloth, was worn by the Javanese boatmen, and but an additional breastcloth, by the females. An odd-looking hat, which is in general use throughout the eastern seas, is worn by both sexes; it is made of bamboo or palm-leaf, is impervious to water, and may be likened to an old-fashioned painted dishcover, divested of its brim. Both sexes chewed the areca-root to excess, and were much disappointed that we could not supply them with opium, though the penalty inflicted on them for its purchase, is slavery for life. We paid a visit to Mr. Vogel, the commander of the Dutch fort, and met with a very hospitable reception.


The Camprongoe village of Angier contains about fourteen hundred inhabitants, composed almost entirely of Javanese and Malays; it is built on low ground, verging on a swamp, in the midst of palm-trees. The houses, excepting perhaps a dozen, are of bamboo, roofed with palm-leaf, and enclosed by a slight paling of wood. A bamboo bridge, thrown across a ditch, conducted us to a very neat fortification; the parade-ground on each side being shaded by rows of trees and having a very pretty garden tastefully laid out and full of flowers, in front of the commandant’s house. During the two days which we remained, a marriage-festival[43] was in progress; when the seven days of public rejoicing were finished the parties were to be united. These festivals only take place among the children of the rajahs, or very rich men. Every person who chooses to join the procession, is feasted at a house provided for that purpose, during the festival. Were it not for the presents of rice, bullocks, &c., sent by the friends of the betrothed, the expense would be too burdensome; as many hundreds attend, even from the neighbouring villages.

The procession consisted of ladies and gentlemen, seated in separate carts, persons on horseback and on foot, dressed in the gayest habiliments which they could procure, carrying a great number of flags of various colours and devices; and children dressed in yellow satin trousers, their faces painted yellow, with large curved eyebrows and fantastical caps. Great numbers of noisy instruments accompanied the motley group, and the whole village was in an uproar, which ended only with the setting sun. As we were passing the house of feasting, a servant was sent out to solicit the honour of our company; we entered the premises through two bands of musicians, who played on about thirty instruments, which being struck by small hammers, made a tinkling sound.

The master of the ceremonies received us with great politeness and with much ceremony; he was habited in a robe of crimson, figured with velvet, having a silk scarf thrown over his shoulders, and wearing a turban; his teeth were of a deep black, owing to his excessive use of areca and phunam, and his lips and gums were of a livid hue. Scarcely were we seated, at a table set apart for our own use, in the midst of many hundred hungry native revellers, ere twenty-seven dishes, composed chiefly of sweetmeats, (there not being a particle of meat or fish,) were upon the table. After tasting a little of each, to show that we were gratified with the whole entertainment, and partaking of a cup of tea, we took our leave; areca was offered, as is customary, on our entry and departure. During the repast, four Javanese stepped out between the orchestra and danced for our amusement; their movements were slow, but very graceful, the head looking downward, and the arms as much in motion as the feet; the former being extended occasionally rather above the head, and the palms being generally opened outward and placed in every position, excepting that of closing or clenching.


Two well-constructed piers at this place, running out from a shallow creek, make a convenient harbour for small-craft, and near its upper part, is an excellent place for procuring water, which is obtained by a simple and expeditious process: a hose is connected with casks in a boat beneath, the latter are filled in a few minutes, so that in twenty-four hours the ship obtained twelve thousand gallons of water.

Yams, sweet-potatoes, goats, fowls, and fruit were purchased in abundance, but neither flour or bread could be obtained. Several monkeys were purchased by the crew at Angiers. After the ship had weighed anchor a female animal of this tribe, having a young one clinging closely to the under part of her body, broke loose, ran with great swiftness to the end of the spankerboom, and plunged into the sea; a Javanese boat, towing astern, took them in; but not in time to save the life of the younger; the female was then secured but refused to eat, and remained till next morning in a state of melancholy. Believing the animal would die, she was unloosed and running with great precipitancy to the end of the boom, looked into the sea; but not finding the object of her solicitude there, she looked overboard, from every part of the ship, moaning most piteously. About this time, she observed a small gray monkey, differing in species from herself, having a very long tail; she at once seized the latter and hugged it with great, seeming delight. The attempt to remove it from her would have been in vain, had any one been disposed to make the trial; when any of the sailors or the monkeys approached her, she would hug her new object of affection with greater tenacity, run out her head, pout disdainfully, and show a formidable row of white ivory; chattering and scolding, at the same time most vehemently; occasionally she would allow it to wander a few steps, holding on by the tip of the tail, during the time; when too far, she would pull it backward, but if it attempted to go beyond the length of its leading-string, (the tail,) she would quickly drag it to her, box its ears, closely embrace it, and after being reconciled, would feed it with some dainty morsel, stowed away in her pouch.

On a cold, stormy day, during our passage from La Plata to Sumatra, the gun-deck being deluged with water, a Porto Praya monkey, a favourite of mine, came to the cabin-door, and in its most expressive manner solicited permission to enter; it stood shivering[45] in the doorway, dripping with saltwater, and looking the picture of distress, at the same time snuffing up the warm air, proceeding from a stove; I called it in, at length; the first object of its attention was the stove, (never having seen one before,) but approaching too near, it slightly burnt its nose, and quickly retreated, looking with much astonishment at the cause; finally it sprung to the top of the table and skipping about from one place to another, unfortunately alighted on the stove, where it danced for a second or two, jumped precipitately down, and came to me, showing its paws, (which were scorched white,) and apparently asking for relief. I rubbed them with oil, at which the animal appeared to be relieved; it then quietly took its station as close to me as possible, testifying unquestionably, as much silent gratitude as any human being could have done in a similar situation.


We sailed from Angier roadstead, for Manila, on the afternoon of the following day, but owing to light airs we made slow progress to the island of Lucepara; here we were obliged to anchor to find sufficient depth of water to carry the ship into the straits of Banca. After sounding with several boats, there was, at length, found a channel, having about three feet more water than the ship drew. When passing through the straits we were compelled frequently to anchor, in consequence of the soundings disagreeing much with our miserable charts. A fine breeze wafted us through these waters with great rapidity, as far as Pulo Aor; from thence, until we were fairly to the northward of the great group of shoals, lying towards the coast of Palawan, we were more indebted to the current. On our passage from Sumatra to the Philippines we passed through a considerable portion of the archipelago of the east, where lie Borneo, Java, and Sumatra, the Molucca and Philippine islands; where the sea is like a smooth bed on which the islands seem to sleep in bliss—islands, in which the spice and perfume gardens of the world, are embosomed; where the bird of paradise, the golden pheasant, and a hundred other birds of brilliant plumage, have their homes amid thickets so luxuriant, and scenery so picturesque, that European strangers there find the fairy lands of their youthful dreams. But our pleasing anticipations were at times blighted with the apprehension of striking on some unknown shoal, or encountering one of those tremendous[46] typhoons for which the northern coast of China, in the latter part of September, about the changing of the monsoons, is so notorious.

Thick squally weather attended by variable winds blowing sometimes from the northern, and again from the southern quarter, wafted us rapidly to the eastward, after doubling the shoals. We proceeded onward, assisted by a strong current, until two o’clock in the morning of the thirtieth of September, when a slight gleam of light appearing through the mist, discovered to us mount and point Calavité, on the northwestern extremity of Mendora islands. Shortly afterward, we descried Luban and Cabia or (Goat) islands. At ten in the morning, we dropped anchor between the island of Corregidor, and the mountain of Marivales on the island of Luconia or Luzon.

Our chronometers being useless, we were obliged for some time previously to entering the China sea, to depend on our “dead reckoning;” notwithstanding twenty-five or thirty miles a day was allowed for a current setting to the eastward, after passing Pulo Sapata, the allowance proved insufficient, as we had gained forty-five miles over our reckoning. During the past month, the diarrhœa prevailed among the crew, probably occasioned by a change of climate from cold to extreme heat, from rainy weather, excess in fruit, and frequent change in diet, but more particularly from the compulsory substitution of yams for bread.

Before we anchored, the ship was boarded by a Spanish officer, despatched by the Corregidor to make the usual inquiries. Our arrival was communicated by telegraph to Manila. The officer’s boat was rowed by sixteen Indians, and armed with four neat, small brass swivels, small-arms, pikes, &c., to enable them to combat with the pirates who occasionally frequent the bay, and to capture smugglers.

Having previously paid the commandant and family a visit, by whom we were received in a most hospitable manner, we landed in the morning at the base of Marivales, in search of adventure. The ship anchored the following afternoon, in the roadstead of Manila, about four miles from the low-stone lighthouse, situated at the embouchure of the river Pasig, and being only twenty miles from our first anchorage-ground. On the succeeding morning, the captain of the port paid the usual visita, (visit,) accompanied by Mr. Henry Sturgis, of the very respectable American house of[47] Russell and Sturgis, and Mr. Edwards, the American consul. Having received a kind invitation from these gentlemen, to take up our abode with them, I moved on shore, bag and baggage, to the house of the latter gentleman, finely situated at St. Cruz, opposite the city of Manila, and directly upon the banks of that beautiful river.


The noble bay of Manila is about forty-five leagues in circumference and nearly free from dangers; the scenery is of a varied character: mountains and hills are discernible in the distance, from Marivales, sweeping in a circle around the bay, till the most lofty form the eastern boundary of the island, the shores of which are washed, on one side, by the ocean, and on the other, by the waters of Lago de Bria; from the lake flows that rapid steam, the Pasig, (pronounced Parseek,) into the bay, at the distance of twelve miles, watering a rich extent of low land.

The city of Manila lies on the south side of the river, and is enclosed by dark stone-walls, having a broad and deep ditch; so high are the city-walls, that only the red tiled-houses, and the towers and domes of churches, can be seen in the distance above them. On entering the city, you are struck with the stillness and gloomy appearance of the streets, interrupted only occasionally by the march of soldiers going to relieve guard in this garrisoned town, the rumbling of a solitary carriage, the tinkling of a bell, announcing the approach of the host on its way to administer the last religious rites to a dying sinner, or a distant convent-bell summoning the religious to prayers. The streets, although narrow, are kept clean, and have good “trottoirs;” the great square in the centre of the city contains a fine bronze statue of Charles the Fourth of Spain, erected by his dutiful and affectionate son, Ferdinand the beloved, so says the inscription on the pedestal; three sides of the square are occupied by the cathedral or church of the “Immaculate Conception,” the consistorial palace, and the palace of the governor-general. Manila contains about ten thousand souls, and is garrisoned by two regiments of soldiers; at Binonda, St. Cruz, and the villages in the vicinity, three more are stationed, besides three thousand placed in different parts of the island. Of these, twelve hundred only are Europeans, the remainder being Indians; they are well clothed, fed, lodged, drilled, and paid. The houses are built in a quadrangular form and are[48] very massive, having covered balconies, from the second story, projecting over the street; they are generally spacious, well-furnished, and neat; the ground-floor, called the “bodega,” or “godown,” is occupied as a magazine for goods, as a stable, and for other purposes. Instead of lattice-work or glass, the mya shell is used, set in frames about four inches square; it affords a very agreeable light, equal to that passing through ground-glass; the windows thus formed extend round the house, can be slid at pleasure, and render the dwellings light and airy; the second story is of thin brick, or light framework, and plastered; the roof is covered with tile, the framework being so constructed that it will readily yield to the shock of an earthquake, (which is of very frequent occurrence,) without being easily thrown down. A very large proportion of the buildings, in the towns and villages, are in the native style, being for the most part, owing to the low swampy ground, erected on piles from three to six feet high, and are constructed with the bamboo or palm-leaf; the interior is much exposed to view, as the windows made with palm-leaf or bamboo lattice, occupy three fourths of their fronts and are let down at daylight.

Within them may be seen, in the evening, the Holy Virgin, surrounded by lights and placed in a glass-case, dressed in a gay attire, holding in her arms the infant Saviour; around her are seen the whole family, at prayers, before retiring to rest, thanking her for the blessing bestowed during the day and imploring her guardianship from all enemies during the night; at other times, the inmates are chewing buyo or areca nut, &c., smoking cigars, (of which they are immoderately fond,) combing and oiling their long thick hair, or thrumming on the guitar and singing. Sewing is but little attended to, as their dresses are simple and their children are permitted to run about naked. They cook twice daily on the outside of their houses; their fare consisting principally of rice and some fruit, with an addition perhaps of a fowl, some fish or locusts. All their washing is done at the river, where they bathe daily. Every man among the Indians owns a game-cock, and he frequently loses all he has, even to his waistcloth, in that barbarous species of gambling, cock-fighting; the birds are armed with scythe-shaped spurs, and one or both expire, generally, during the first few rounds. The immense number of licensed cock-pits[49] which are found in every town and village, serves to show the prevalence of the passion for this amusement.

Manila is connected with the towns on the right bank of the river, by means of a single bridge, built very neatly of stone, the arch of which was thrown down a few years since by an earthquake, and is rebuilt of wood. The commerce of the city is carried on at the right side of the river, at Binondo, St. Cruz, &c.; that side having the advantage of numerous natural canals or branches, from the main river, on which are situated extensive warehouses, so that the cascoes, which are large boats, having moveable or sliding roofs, in sections of about six feet in length, can land their goods immediately at the wharf without exposure to the weather.

The city of Manila, within the walls, was computed by a census taken in 1818, to contain a population of six thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, exclusive of the military. Buildings which rent from five to fourteen hundred dollars per annum, in Binondo, contiguous to the river and its branches, will not in Manila, rent for more than one fourth of that sum, owing to its want of water communication, yet the government have very inconveniently placed the new and extensive custom-house close to the city-walls. There are about seven thousand Chinese settled here; all the Europeans, including the military, do not exceed twenty-five hundred; the rest are Indians, who, were they aware of their strength, might easily wipe from the face of existence, the handful of Europeans and other foreigners, who hold them and their lands in subjection.

Provisions are so low in value, that it is said four dollars will furnish a labourer, in rice, &c., sufficient for his yearly consumption. Labour is exceedingly low; the wages for a servant-man, being from one to one and a half dollars per month. Rice has been sold here for three quarters of a dollar the caban of one hundred and thirty pounds: at this time it is double that price, in consequence of vast quantities having been shipped to Canton. A person possessing the immense sum of twenty-five dollars is considered, among the Indians, as “passing rich,” and immediately quits labour to keep shop in the street, with a moveable stall, or in front of his bamboo-hut; the goods usually consist of burgo, alias areca nut, and betel-leaf, well prepared with liquid chunam[50] for immediate mastication, cocoa-nut oil, a little coarse pottery, wooden shoes, palm-leaf hats, and perhaps a few mats. A great number of the shops contain only the first-named article, and the stock in trade may possibly amount to the sum of two rials, (twenty-five cents;) here they sit cross-legged, during the whole day, or, desiring a change, sideways, on a gridiron bamboo-seat. I have frequently feared the whole stock in trade, would be ejected into the street by their insatiable masticatory powers, but occasionally seeing the havoc they are making, and fearful of becoming bankrupts, they thrust a corner of one of the handspike cigars (which are in common use) into their mouths and finish off the evening with it.




There is a fashionable drive in Manila, called the Calzada, encompassing, probably, two thirds of the circumference of Manila: it passes over a low, level piece of ground, bordering on the fosse or ditch of the city on one side, and on the open country and parade-ground fronting the bay, on the other. Along this drive, carriages may be seen rolling, filled with well-dressed ladies, but mostly of a dark complexion, (Mestizoes,) smoking cigars with most perfect nonchalance: some are puffing paper cigars—others, those which resemble, in size, Havanas; and again others, a ponderous article which would occupy an indefatigable smoker a week or ten days.

There are no public houses in the neighbourhood, and the only amusement is a dull drive at sunset, day after day, over the same grounds, in preference to others infinitely more pleasant, stopping occasionally to light a cigar from a slow match: this latter article is carried by boys, who infest the road, making loud and frequent vociferations, going upon the full run. The market is abundantly supplied with beef, fish, fowls, ducks, turkeys, geese, fruit, and vegetables. A large proportion of the labouring class take their meals in the street, from the innumerable venders which occupy the sidewalks, to the great annoyance of pedestrians. Among the strange articles exposed for sale in every street are fried locusts, made into a curry. That disgusting looking fish, called by some ichthyologists, Holothurial—sea-cucumber and sea-slug by the English—Bichos do Mar by the Portuguese—Tripango or Trippany by the Javanese—Swala by the Sumatrans—and Balaté by the Philippine islanders, is in common use among the Chinese and Europeans. I have eaten it made into a soup or stew: it has a[52] taste between the green fat of a turtle and the soft gristle of boiled beef, and is said to be very nutritious, but not equal to the edible bird’s-nests, or nests of the sea-swallow of these seas. No less than five thousand, four hundred and eighty-six piculs of one hundred and thirty-seven pounds each, equal to seven hundred and sixty-eight thousand and forty pounds, were shipped from this port to Canton last year, as appears by the custom-house returns, besides a large quantity smuggled. By far the larger portion is brought here by American vessels from the Fejee islands. These fish resemble, when contracted, a cucumber, and it is difficult to discover the eyes and mouth: some are black, others white, gray, &c.: they are, at present, sold at fourteen dollars per picul, the cargo.

The land in the vicinity, for many miles, is low and marshy, but neatly cultivated with rice. It is surprising that health should be enjoyed at all in the midst of rice-swamps, in this sultry climate: thousands of huts are built in the midst of them, when it would prove fatal to the whole population in almost any other country. The healthiness of the climate, I think, must be attributed to the narrowness of that part of the island, and to the constant and refreshing breezes which dissipate its miasma. The bamboo is one of the most useful among the vegetable creation—houses, chairs, fences, settees, buckets, boxes, baskets, hats, drinking-cups, fans, mats for boats, spear-handles, sails, &c., are made of its wood; while the tender root is served up at the table, boiled and roasted, used as a pickle and as a sweetmeat. I visited the celebrated great cigar-factory at Binondo; about five thousand females are employed in it, and about six hundred men: it is a royal monopoly. Every person is searched twice a day to see if he pilfers any of his majesty’s tobacco—he being the sole owner and master of the factory.


The principal articles exported, (except gold and silver,) were indigo, sugar, rice, hemp or abacia, cotton, cocoa-nut oil, sulphur, balaté, or bichos do mar, coffee, wax and hides, in the following proportions:—

Indigo, thirty-one thousand, one hundred and nineteen arrobas, of which twenty-five thousand were agua rose or liquid, in jars; sugar, six hundred and seventeen thousand, seven hundred and thirty-eight arrobas, excepting eighteen thousand arrobas of the[53] first quality; rice, one million, seventy-four thousand, one hundred and seventy arrobas, including two hundred thousand, uncleaned; hemp, or abacia, one hundred and fifty-three thousand, four hundred and forty-seven arrobas—it is of two qualities, and is called, in the United States, Manila-grass or hemp; cotton, four thousand one hundred and ninety-five arrobas; cocoa-nut oil, six thousand, nine hundred and sixty-four arrobas; sulphur, two thousand, four hundred and eighty arrobas; balaté or bichos do mar, five thousand, four hundred and eighty-six arrobas; coffee, fourteen thousand, six hundred and twenty-five arrobas; hides, twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred and fifty-eight arrobas.

The minor articles of export are dried shark’s fins, oysters, muscles, shrimps and other dried fish, oil of sesamum, edible bird’s-nests, ploughs, hatchets, knives, cowries, rattans, canes, sail-cloth of yéacos, dammer or pitch, tortoise-shell, horns, mother-of-pearl, shells, tallow, shoes and boots, chocolate, soap, cigars, tobacco, saltpetre, lard, dried deer and ox sinews, birds of paradise, wheat, flour and bread, mats and palm hats, cigar-cases, rum, molasses, sugar-candy, sweetmeats, groundnuts, gomuti or sagwire, cabinet furniture, ebony and Japan woods, and Agal, a species of sea-weed, or rather dulse, dissoluble into a glutinous substance, and used in China as a valuable paste: also sinamaya, a fine cloth, made from the avacá; and piña, which is a narrow cloth, made from the fibres of the pineapple; it is, deservedly, considered as one of the most beautiful fabrics in the world—is transparent, of a great variety of beautiful patterns, and equal in the fineness of its texture to cobweb-muslin. A large portion of the rice is exported to Canton by Americans, to save the measurement duty, or to Lintin when they proceed elsewhere to purchase other than China goods. Occasionally the export is prohibited, either from scarcity or the caprice of the government.

The export of hemp, abacá or avacá, in the year 1829, was eight thousand, four hundred and one piculs: in 1832, it had increased to thirty-seven thousand, five hundred:—this article is the fibrous bark of a wild banana, (musa textilis,) which grows abundantly in all the Philippine islands. Gomuti or sagwire is exported in its natural state, or made into cables, &c.: it resembles very coarse black horse-hair—is the produce of the borassus gomuti or aren palm, which yields the sagwire for cordage, and is found lying[54] between the trunk and the branches, on a soft gossamer-like texture, which is used in calking the seams of ships: it also makes a useful tinder for kindling fire—grows luxuriantly, away from the seacoast, but never produces more than two crops of the sagwire.

The cocoa-nut oil is mostly shipped to Singapore, and from thence to England, where it is manufactured into candles: it is of two qualities; the best is boiled from the green nut—the ordinary kind is ground from nuts, broken and exposed some days to the sun: the first quality, only, is bought for shipping; as casks cannot be obtained, it is sold in jars, and readily congeals when the thermometer is at 70°. Wheat is raised in abundance, and ship-bread, of a very superior quality, is generally sold at from four to five dollars the hundred pounds. As salted beef, pork, butter, and hams, are purchased only by foreign captains, they are of very slow and uncertain sale.

The Import Duty in foreign vessels is fourteen per centum, Spanish; the Export Duty, three per centum, excepting on hemp, which is free. The importations for the year 1831 amounted to one million, seven hundred and ninety-four thousand, three hundred and seventy-nine dollars; the exports for the same period, to one million, four hundred and fourteen thousand, seven hundred and ten dollars.

The gold and silver imported, amounted to three hundred and thirty-seven thousand, two hundred and eighty-seven dollars, and the amount exported, on which duties were paid, was forty-nine thousand, two hundred and nineteen dollars. A large sum in gold, silver, and in the dust produced in the island, is smuggled out of the country, principally by the Chinese.

Weights.—The quintal is four Spanish arrobas of twenty-five pounds. The picul is here one hundred and thirty-seven pounds, Spanish, or one hundred and forty pounds, English.

The currency of the island is dollars and their parts, and doubloons; the latter being worth sixteen dollars. Exchange on London was four and a half prem.; on Canton, two per cent. discount: but it necessarily fluctuates very materially.

The imports are British, India, and China goods, wines, sheathing copper and nails, iron and steel, cocoa from Peru, &c. During the southwest or foul monsoon, the shipping lies at Cavité, and in the northeast or fair monsoon, (from October to April,) from three[55] to five miles from the entrance to Pasig, below the bridge which unites Manila with Binondo.


The population of the archipelago of the Philippine islands, according to the returns made, in the year 1792, was one million, four hundred thousand, four hundred and sixty-five; in 1805, one million, seven hundred and thirty-nine thousand, two hundred and five; in 1812, one million, nine hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and thirty-five; in 1815, one million, nine hundred and twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred and forty; in 1817, two millions, sixty-three thousand, three hundred and ninety-five; in 1818, two millions, two hundred and forty-nine thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two.

The increase in twenty-six years, from 1792 to 1818, was about sixty per cent.; if to this be added thirty-seven per cent. for the increase in sixteen years, from 1818 to 1834, the population at present amounts to three millions, one hundred and twelve thousand, two hundred and ninety-seven. The island of Luzon had a population of one hundred and forty-nine thousand, six hundred and ninety-five: if to this we add thirty-seven per cent. up to 1834, it will give two hundred and five thousand and eighty two. Of this number, nearly one half is within a circuit of twelve miles of the capital. The number of the negro race, called Aetes, Ygorzotes, or Papuas, was estimated at seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-five: this number does not include many thousands, probably, who live among the fastnesses of the mountains.

The principal object of the Spanish government in ascertaining the number of inhabitants, was to levy a capitation tax; in some cases as low as one rial per head—in others, twelve rials. The Chinese pay a much higher tax than any other foreigners; the traders, in 1832, paid six dollars per annum—the common labourers, half that amount. The latter tax forced many of the poorer class to emigrate: the Spanish government is afraid of them, and wishes also to employ the natives of the country; it therefore laid this heavy impost for the purpose of driving them away.

No foreigners have permission to remain there, even to this day, as permanent settlers: they are liable to be ordered out of the country by the governor at any moment, and this right is not unfrequently exercised.

The island of Luzon, which derives its name from Luzong, a[56] large wooden mortar used by the natives for cleaning rice, was discovered in 1521, and in 1571, Manila was founded. The discoverers found the country about Manila thickly settled with an active people called Tagalor; at the north of this nation they met with and conquered the Pampangoes, Zambales, Pangasinanes, Yloeds, and Cagayanes: at the eastward of the Tagaloes were the Camarines. Each of these was a distinct people, having a particular language. None of them had a sovereign or chief magistrate; they were divided into a great number of small villages, containing from fifty to one hundred families, each governed by a chief, who was chosen for his wisdom and his deeds in arms. These petty states were continually at war with each other, making slaves of their unfortunate prisoners—the mountains were then, as now, inhabited by the negro race, common to many of the islands in the eastern archipelago. These different races of people, with the exception of about ten thousand, still form the population of the island.


Three leagues from Manila is Cavité, called by the natives Caveit, because it is a crooked point of land extending into the sea. (Here is a small arsenal, and some small vessels are built, and occasionally a ship of war. It was formerly the resort of the Acapulco ships, before South America freed herself and commerce from the shackles which deprived her of all participation in a free trade.) The natives were found to have all the necessaries of life—rice, beans, millet, camote, a species of potato, pine-apples, oranges, mangoes, hogs, ducks, fowls, goats, and buffaloes, were in abundance. The island abounded in deer, wild pigeons, and other game; the gomuti-palm yielded them, when fresh, a pleasant beverage—when fermented, an intoxicating liquor: the pith furnished with sugar—when the liquor was properly boiled down, a farina, inferior to sago, and of the inside of its triangular-shaped fruit a sweetmeat was made. The cocoa-palm afforded a delicious beverage, and oil for cooking or burning: the areca-palm with its nut, and the betel-leaf, produced their favourite buyo. The lakes, rivers, bays, and ocean, swarmed with myriads of fish, which they ensnared in the most ingenious manner, with nets, lines, &c.

The island is traversed by a chain of mountains, extending from north to south, from which others branch out; some are found isolated, in the midst of plains, while others are surrounded by[57] water. Volcanoes are found in various parts; between the provinces of Albay and Camorines is the Mayon, shaped like an obtuse peak; it forms a good landmark for navigators; there is also at Taal a similarly-shaped mountain in the midst of a lagoon; it is called Bombou. Hot springs are found in many places. The island suffers at times from the effects of tremendous earthquakes, which destroy massive buildings, rend asunder the solid walls of Manila, and shake the mountain in the ocean, to its centre. The volcanoes, also, overwhelm whole villages with ashes, stones, sand, and water; making steril, verdant fields; carrying ruin within its influence, and destroying the hopes of the poor husbandman. It is subject also to desolating typhoons or hurricanes, sweeping in their erratic course, hundreds of slight-built huts, prostrating the largest trees, dismasting or foundering at their anchor, numerous vessels, and driving on shore or wrecking others, for nothing moveable at times can withstand these mighty winds. The hopes of the planter are also, in a few hours, destroyed by devastating clouds of locusts, which infest the land, devouring in their course every green thing.

Possessing a humid and warm atmosphere, the soil naturally yields an abundance of the necessaries of life, but the seasons generate many fatal diseases.


On Manila Sunday, (our Monday,) a party of eight, one beautiful morning, before sunrise, proceeded in three veloches (carriages of a certain description) to the village of Santa Anna, distant about three miles over a fine road and highly-cultivated country, where we embarked on board two large bankas of about eight-and-thirty feet in length, dug out of a tree, having a light bamboo-roof which could be elevated or depressed at pleasure, and paddled by four Indians. Between eight and nine o’clock, we arrived at the town of Pasig, situated about three miles from the entrance of the lake; the passage up was delightful—the land bordering on the river was low but well cultivated with rice, sugar-cane, &c., and fruit; it was one continuous village on either bank. Being a holyday, the natives were well and gayly dressed; hundreds of canoes passed us, laden with fish from the lake; others with fruit, vegetables, eggs, areca-nut and betel-leaf, beef, pork, fowls, ducks, geese, turkeys, cocoa-nut oil, molasses and sugar, cloth, of various kinds, baskets, mats, hats, &c., made of bamboo, all under cover of the moveable roof; they were paddled by an[58] equal number of men and women, all apparently, in good spirits, and having always at hand a joke, to bandy with our canoe-men, in the Taga language; they were hurrying on to the great markets at Manila and Binonda, to dispose of their various articles. On the shores, men, women, and children were fishing with every sort of contrivance that can be named, in the shape of nets, hooks, and lines; some men with nets scraping up the mud from the bottom to obtain shrimps, which they found in great abundance; others taking very large craw-fish. Hundreds were bathing in the river, near the banks; whole families were seen together, from the grand-mother to the grand-daughter, washing their long black hair with vegetable soap, called by the natives gogo, being the inner-rind of a tree growing here in great plenty. Many of the palm and bamboo cottages were erected on piles close to the bank of the river, and some canoes were made fast to the ladder ready for any of the family to take an excursion, when they wished to go to the village-church, or to gossip with a neighbour and partake of his hospitalities, which consist of Burgo and a cigar, a fishing-party, a main of fighting-cocks or a boat-race. The fronts of the houses being open, all the operations of the various families could be distinctly seen. We met with many hotels, alias eating-shops, placed on piles some distance from the shore, where our boatmen stopped to obtain their breakfast, which consisted of rice, shrimp and other fish, in abundance, for which they paid about two cents per head. Many loungers were reposing on the bamboo-flooring, smoking or chewing burgo, flirting with the young damsels, who were indulging themselves in the same luxury as their beaux; at the same time, perhaps, combing out and oiling their hair, which generally reaches to the waist, and occasionally adjusting their tapa or outer-cloth, which is either of striped silk or cotton, extending halfway below the knee; some wore a nicely-laced embroidered muslin handkerchief on their heads and shoulders; their feet, or rather toes, are covered with scant and showy slippers, having no heels nor any quarters, cut down within an inch and a half of the end; these were well bespangled, and some of them bound with a stripe of gold or silver lace; they are only worn on special occasions, by particular individuals; a large proportion of the people go barefooted, or wear a high wooden shoe, plain or ornamented with brocaded or spangled-velvet, or gilt-leather. Every man who is[59] able, wears shirts of the truly beautiful piña, or cloth made of the fibres of the pine-apple, which is manufactured on the island. The shirts, made from this cloth, as fine as cobweb-muslin, beautifully embroidered about the bosom, collar, and wristbands, are worn by all the Indians and Mestizoes, on the outside of the trousers; the latter are made of piña, or fine grass-cloth, (called siramaya,) according to the ability of the owner. As for stockings, they are about as useful to a young Tagalo girl, as knee-breeches to a Scotch-highlander.

Reclining on our gay pillow, stretched at ease, full length, on a clean mat, laid on a raised bamboo-floor, discussing the merits of cold roast fowl, ham, and tongue; a bottle of claret, and a bottle of porter for our breakfast, I thought there were not many persons in the world more comfortably situated for the time being. We stayed for a short time at the house of the alcade of Pasig, a native gentleman of Tagola parentage, and were hospitably invited to dinner. Having walked through the town, visited the church and bazar, (which we found well stocked with rice and fish,) we returned to the lake. The late heavy rains had so swollen its waters that our canoes were paddled across extensive paddy fields, where we met with others, fishing; we passed close to several large craft, having two masts but no bowsprits, with large mat sails, cables, and wooden anchors of various shapes. They were clumsily constructed and badly rigged, but gayly painted on their high bow-boards and on each quarter; the high stern was also painted with flowers and a figure of the patron-saint after which the vessel was named, in the gayest colours. There was nothing to be seen, on this part of the excursion, excepting a wide expanse of water; mountains and hills, in the distance, and fishing-snares placed in every direction. Game of various kinds abounds among the hills, affording fine hunting. Boa-constrictors and other reptiles may be found in abundance, and in the creeks, alligators of an immense size. In the lake there are said to be one hundred different varieties of fish; but it requires a week’s leisure, a suitable banka, with many et ceteras, to enjoy the manifold beauties with which this sheet of water is reputed to be surrounded. We were much amused when on our passage to the lake, in discovering, at a distance, a man floating with the stream and seated upright in the water; we were unable immediately to discover what supported[60] him in that position, but shortly after we descried the projecting nose of an enormous carabou or Indian buffalo. The Indian appeared to be quite at his ease, sitting astride the ponderous animal, smoking one of the immense-sized cigars I have before mentioned, and which would last out a reasonable cruise. With the left hand he grasped the animal’s tail, to support him in the current, and a rope passed through the nose (the usual custom here) served to direct the figure-head to any part to which he fancied to go. He was hailed by our Indians and asked where he was bound; he replied he was on his way to pay visits to some Señoritas down the river, and, subsequently, was going to Manila, to sell his carabou, (a distance of about ten miles.)


The scene was occasionally enlivened by the sound of a guitar, proceeding from a canoe or a cottage on the shore. Rafts of cocoa-nuts, containing many thousands, guided by a single man standing in the centre of them, holding a long pole, with other rafts, of bamboo and timber, were constantly passing us. On our return from the lakes we visited several small streams on the left hand of the river, on which is situated an extensive village called Patero, alias Duck-town—a very appropriate name for the place, for I never before saw so many ducks together; the cottages were standing very near to each other, and thousands of these birds were feeding on the river, being secured by a slight fence made of bamboo. Raising ducks and fishing seemed to be the only employment. Every thing about the inhabitants wore a rustic appearance, which was heightened, in a certain degree, by the plantain and mango trees, overshadowing their picturesque habitations: some were washing clothes in the stream, others, cooking in the open air—many were stretched out at full length, asleep; children were hanging in cots under the shadowy branches of the trees, soothed by gentle breezes which rocked them to sleep—others, of a larger growth, in a state of nudity, were playing with the ducks, sailing mimic boats, or making dirt-puddings—not a few in number were diverting themselves with cock-fighting—others were endeavouring to make a little musick, and some were playing the game of draughts, with small stones. A portion of the young Indian girls (Tagalos) were decorating or anointing their pretty persons—others were paddling about in small canoes, which they would occasionally upset to create a hearty laugh and[61] then, like dripping Naiads, again scrambling into them, would repeat the same frolic. This village, or a succession of villages, extends several miles along various outlets from the main river, from which no portion of it can be seen, being completely hidden by the trees on the banks; it contained, in 1818, three thousand, eight hundred and forty inhabitants, all Indians; at this period, 1834, it has, probably, four thousand, five hundred souls.

We returned to the hospitable alcade’s house about two, being only a couple of miles from Patero, where we found a sumptuous dinner, consisting of not less than twelve dishes of fish and meat, with a variety of sweetmeats, fruit and coffee, (but no wine or spirits,) and then cigars and buyo, for those who chose them. We did ample justice to this repast, although nearly burnt up with a hot sun. This town, or rather cluster of villages, is inhabited wholly by Indians, principally Tagalos, and contained in 1818, twelve thousand, one hundred and forty souls; at the present period, it has probably a population of fifteen thousand; the houses are mostly built of bamboo and palm, and stand on piles. In violent typhoons it is found necessary to secure them with ropes, passed over the roofs, and fastened to strong posts. Their elevation on piles is found a necessary security against the lake, which occasionally, after violent rains, spreads its wide stream over all the lowlands bordering upon it. The inhabitants raise cane and rice in large quantities, with some wheat, Indian corn, fruits, &c. Fishing, more or less, is the occupation of every one; they, apparently, live in great simplicity and comfort, wanting nothing. A considerable quantity of sugar is made here, there being several extensive buildings for that purpose. Having taken leave of our kind host, we proceeded down the river to Manila, and again were much delighted with the richness, beauty and variety of the scenery. The mango with its umbrageous arms, affording a delightful shade to the weary traveller—the plantain and the banana, disputing every foot of ground, on the banks of the river, the tall and graceful bamboo overtopping every thing around it—extensive fields of cane, waving gently their green leaves to the passing breeze, with fields of paddy, exhibiting the green spiral leaf of the plant above the flooded meadows; numberless cottages were seen, deeply seated in the midst of luxuriant fruit-trees, and a massive church or convent was always in view, in some delightful spot. Again[62] we met Indians, of both sexes, fishing or bathing, going upon a water-excursion, or to a ball, to chew buyo, to have a little chit-chat or scandal with a neighbour, or visit a holy friar of a neighbouring convent. These rapid and varied scenes, with our agreeable company, afforded us much pleasure as we lay in our bankas, enjoying the rapid passing views, which lapse of years cannot efface, exhibiting a rural picture of great simplicity and beauty; the principal actors being a race of Indians noted for the mildness of their tempers and for their great hospitality.




We had spent a fortnight most pleasantly at Manila, when the painful intelligence was received, that the Asiatic or spasmodic cholera had suddenly made its appearance on board the Peacock. It has been already stated that the diarrhœa and dysentery were prevalent among the crew, on the passage from Angier to Manila. These diseases were ascribed, among other causes, to the want of bread and the substitution of yams, &c. The cholera could not have arisen from any want of cleanliness, for our ship, from her keelson to her royal truck, was kept thoroughly clean and in the finest order, both at sea and in port. The united causes which produced this malady were, probably, change of food, the great quantities of fruit used by the crew, and the arrival of the season of the year, (about the change of the monsoons in the bay,) which is generally unhealthy. The first case was in a sailor, named Peterson, sixty-three years old. He had made a hearty meal on bean soup, with pork, and about an hour afterward the first symptoms made their appearance; the evacuations became copious, coldness and insensibility supervened; the pulse became scarcely perceptible; the countenance livid, ghastly, and sunken; spasms attacked the lower extremities; and the surface was covered with a cold, clammy sweat. The surgeon administered six grains of opium, in three doses; bad symptoms increasing, fifteen drops of cajeput oil were given in brandy and water, and repeated in half an hour. After the last dose of opium there were no evacuations, but the spasms had increased, extended to the abdominal muscles, and caused such extreme distress, that it required three or four men to hold the sufferer in his hammock; his groanings and screamings were violent and frightful. In three or four hours the[64] spasms ceased. Notwithstanding the internal and external use of the most powerful stimulants, the prostration increased, and, at four o’clock in the morning, he was happily relieved from all the pains and troubles of this life. Another case, was that of a seaman, named North; he was found at eight o’clock in the evening, lying on deck, totally unable to rise, from extreme prostration. Death had, apparently, struck an instantaneous and a heavy blow; the victim was already clutched in its most loathsome and terrific embraces; the evacuations were of the usual character; in a few minutes, the pulse was scarce perceptible; the surface, cold and covered with a viscid perspiration; the countenance, dreadfully sunken, livid, and cadaverous; respiration became laborious, and the sufferer was tortured with severe spasms, in all his limbs and the abdominal muscles, which caused indescribable distress. Notwithstanding every known remedy was applied, the spasms became more general and severe; the respiration more difficult; the distress more insupportable; the prostration increased until insensibility supervened, and death finally closed the terrific scene, eleven hours after the attack. I have selected but two, out of many cases, which will serve to show the terrific and appalling effects produced by one of the greatest scourges that ever visited the world.

Finding the disease fast spreading, and fearful that it might sweep off a large portion of the crew, orders were given to get the ship ready for sea, when sufficient provisions could be obtained, and to seek a more salubrious air and the chances of health, in the China sea. To be compelled to leave a comparatively healthy and pleasant abode on shore, for a floating hospital, tainted with a highly infectious atmosphere, was painful and dangerous, but such was our lot; for thirty sick-hammocks were slung on the starboard side of the gun-deck, when we weighed anchor, and a panic was visible in the countenances of nearly the whole crew. We finally, lost seven men, but many of those who were attacked and recovered, suffered from impaired constitutions, became the victims to other diseases, and eventually died.

We got under way towards sunset, on the second of November, and having passed close under the stern of his Britannic majesty’s ship Alligator, to take leave of Captain Lambert, her amiable and worthy commander, together with our friends, Messrs. Strachan, Sturges, and Edwards, of Manila, who were assembled on her[65] quarter-deck for that purpose, the British flag being run up at our main; during this exchange of friendly salutations, we filled away with a fine breeze, and in about three hours, passed the island of Correjidor, and stood out to sea. For the two following days the wind was very light; on the third, we made cape Bolina.


Returning health was very visible among the crew in this short space of time: no new case of cholera occurred after we inhaled the invigorating and healthy ocean air. On the fifth day our barbarian eyes were blessed with a sight of the celestial empire, consisting of several islands. Seventy or eighty miles from land, we fell in with a great number of fishing junks, of clumsy construction, having the appearance of the antediluvian vessels exhibited in the old bibles, with mat or bamboo sails; they were always observed in pairs, having whole families of the “celestials” in them, dressed in the ordinary garb of common, dirty fishermen; generally without any covering to the head—but little to the back, and that in a most filthy condition. When within two leagues of the Lemma or Ladrone islands, a junk lowered her sails close to us, and in about five minutes, two of the “heavenly creatures” came on board, in a small skiff, offering themselves as pilots, being as guiltless of any knowledge of our language as we were of theirs; they were dressed in tan-coloured jackets and immense wide breeches, or rather petticoat trousers, reaching just below the knee, and wearing a greasy woollen cap—shirts have never been in fashion with them. They were very uncleanly in their persons, stout built, and healthy. Having stepped on board, the first words they uttered, were, “Capetany me peloto—you wanty peloto?” “Yes,” said the captain. “How muchy, how muchy, capetany, you gib?” taking at the same time, from the waistband of his trousers, twenty Chinese cash, and counting them in his hand, he said, “Dollar, dollar, so muchy, so muchy.” The captain counted out one half the number, which was the usual pilotage to Macao roads. The “celestial” then added three to the number, making thirteen, and the bargain was made, he not forgetting to ask, as is usual, for a bottle of samshew, (rum,) which he snugly stowed away in his bosom. Scarcely had he taken half a dozen strides up and down the deck, and pointed to steer more to port, before he asked for chow, chow, meaning something to eat, which, to his astonished eyes, was furnished forthwith, in a lordly dish, on a chest on the quarter-deck. He pointed occasionally to[66] starboard or larboard, through the labyrinths of islands. In the course of four or five hours we anchored under the mountainous island of Lautavee, during the night. The pilot, having received his money next morning, with a countenance indicative of extreme happiness, and ascertained carefully, that every dollar was good, took his leave, having been almost useless. I went over to Macao the next morning, passing through a fleet of sampans, (small boats,) navigated by damsels, that one might almost deem amphibious, in which dwell whole families, in a most miserable condition. I landed close to the quay, leading to the Beach Hotel, kept by Markwick, an Englishman, fronting on Pria Grande, a public walk, without trees, facing the outer harbour and islands. The ship finally anchored at Linting, (Ling-ting,) which is eighteen miles from Macao, and twenty-five from the Bogue, or mouth of the river. This island was scarcely inhabited till 1814, when, in consequence of a dispute between the British and Chinese, the company’s ships remained here for some time. Population increasing, supplies of vegetables and beef became plentiful, and induced American and other ships to make it a place of rendezvous; but the importation of opium being prohibited, both at Canton and Macao, at this time, the vessels engaged in importing that article, repaired to this anchorage, when they found every facility through Chinese boats, to smuggle or to purchase it. This was the origin of the opium go-downs, as they are technically called, or receiving ships, for this and other articles for the Canton market. There are now, in 1832, from seven to eight ships engaged in this illegal traffic. Among this number there is one American vessel, the Linting, and occasionally there are two. In the commencement of the northeast monsoon, in October, ships repair to this place, where they usually lie to the end of April; when the southwest monsoon commencing, they remove to the north end of the island, where they stay six weeks, and then remove to Cap-sin-moon, (Cap-shuy-moon,) a more secure, but less convenient anchorage.[†] There are now six villages in Linting; in 1814, there were not more than sixty persons on the island; in 1821, not quite two thousand, and now, the estimate is upward of five thousand.

We found here, at anchor, about thirty sail of fine English and[67] American ships. The next afternoon we landed on Linting, with a small party, at a miserable filthy village. From the hills, on the back part of the village, we obtained an extensive view of the bay, the extended surface of which was dotted with thousands of boats. The islands around are miserably barren, worn into deep furrows, along their broken, hilly sides; and, excepting a few terraces, formed along their base, on which upland rice and a few vegetables are grown, have altogether a desolate appearance. When we entered the village, (containing about twenty or thirty huts,) every man, woman, and child, turned out to see the barbarian ladies and gentlemen. A more ragged, filthy assemblage was, perhaps, never before seen. We hurried through, obliging them not to press too closely upon us, fearful some of their old acquaintance, apparently the rightful inheritors of their persons, might, contrary to our wishes, transfer themselves to us. The next evening, Captain Geisinger and myself went to Whampoa. Nothing worthy of notice took place on our passage, excepting that sacrifice was made at every Jos House we passed, by burning sacred paper at the bows of the boat, so that we might be favoured with a fair wind. The same ceremony was performed with the boats passing down, so that the god, or jos, was completely puzzled; and therefore it was occasionally calm. The wind, to show the impartiality of its director, would, at times, blow down the Taho, or Tigris, against us, then die away, and give us a partially fair wind.

As soon as the captain of the boat found it was coming aft, he placed some oranges before a hideous painted god, in the little altar, which all boats, ships, and shops, possess, lighted it up well, put some odoriferous matches in a vessel of sand, and set them on fire. “Now,” said he, “we sail hab fair win. Spose me tak care for Jos, Jos tak care for me.” I really thought the bargain a fair one; and both parties held honestly to their agreement, for we had a fair wind the remainder of the passage; but Jos, having a bad appetite, we “turned to” and eat up his supper, very much to the discomfiture of the captain.


It being Sunday, we attended a Bethel-meeting on board the ship Superior; the service being performed by the Rev. Mr. Stevens, who had just arrived from New Haven. We found, lying in Whampoa-reach, a great number of English and American vessels, extending from two to three miles. Whampoa, where the ships[68] anchor, is between Dane and French islands, and part of the island of Whampoa. Foreigners are allowed to visit Danes’ island, but they are not allowed to visit the city of Whampoa, the suburbs being filled with vile wretches, who endeavour, upon every occasion, to create a quarrel, by using insulting language and throwing stones; and when they outnumber the foreigners, a hundred to one, they beat them with long bamboos, to the great risk of their lives. The land on Whampoa island, is generally very low, and banked, to keep out the tide. It is well cultivated with rice, cane, savo-root, and other vegetables. Several pagodas are in sight from the anchorage, and one that has been built “time out of mind,” is near the town of Whampoa, nine stories high.


At noon, we left the shipping for Canton, and in three hours arrived at the factories, situated near the river, in the suburbs of the city of Canton. The river was thickly covered with boats going in all directions, from the humble sampan to the gay and splendid mandarin boats, having streamers flying, gongs beating, and manned with a great number of oars. Numberless boats were fishing, with every sort of apparatus; others conveying the harvest of rice home, sculled by two long oars, each manned by six stout fellows, the perspiration running down their almost naked bodies in streams.

Every foot of land is cultivated or covered with buildings; boats, without number, are moored along its banks the whole distance; but within three or four miles of the factories, the crowd of vessels was prodigious. Large men-of-war junks, of a most unwieldly and primitive construction; flower-boats, kept for infamous purposes; pleasure-boats; marriage-boats; and boats which carry bands of comedians, were lying in all directions. Many of them have beautiful lattice-work sides, painted green, and gilt with good taste. All the vessels on the river have one distinguishing mark, an immense large eye on each side of the bow. “How can you see,” say the Chinese, “spose hab no eye?” Small ferry-boats, the residence of whole families, are constantly plying between the city, or rather the suburbs, and Houani; also, boats laden with tea and silk goods, from the interior or going to Whampoa; market, victualling, and pedlars’ boats; boats of a peculiar construction, laden with oil in bulk; others filled with coarse China ware, bamboo hats, and baskets; umbrellas, and beautiful lan[69]terns, covered with various devices; and every thing that can be named, from silks and teas to fat pups, fish-maws, and trussed rats.

The factories, or hongs, for foreign merchants, are pleasantly situated, fronting the only open space of ground within the suburbs. They are generally built in a neat style, but with slight pretensions to architecture.

The city of Canton is built on a plain, encircled by a high wall, at the foot of barren hills. I looked into the city through three of the gates; the streets present a corresponding appearance to those in the suburbs, being extremely narrow, and paved with hewn granite; the tops of the houses nearly united, so that bamboo poles are laid across from roof to roof, on which awnings are spread to protect the inhabitants from the intense heat of the sun. The common houses are extremely filthy; there is no circulation of air through them. Notwithstanding the extreme narrowness of the streets, (only two persons can conveniently pass,) fish-mongers and butchers, victuallers, and venders of Jos paper and Jos sticks, &c., are permitted to encumber them; so that when a lady, or lordly mandarin passes, in a sedan-chair, or a cooly, with his burden, the cry of ly, ly, (make room, make room,) is constantly ringing in your ears, to the great annoyance of the passengers in the extremely thronged alleys. Oblong signs, of a vermilion colour, with large golden letters, line both sides of the streets, so as to hide the lower parts of the buildings: they make, notwithstanding, a very gay appearance. The basement story of every house, seems to have in it a shop filled with merchandise; and every third house, I believe, has some eatables for sale: bird’s-nests, fish-maws, shark-fins, dried oysters, muscles, deer-sinews, fish of all kinds, pork, beef, &c.

All kinds of strange compounds are cooked in the streets and are frequently made of vile materials, such as are never sold in any other country. Vast numbers of shops are filled with gilt paper—paper men, women, and beasts, of all sorts, with or without horns, and of frightful shapes; some with moveable goggle eyes, and moveable heads, painted of all colours, with mouths extending from ear to ear, intended for offerings to a temple or Jos-house. A small oven is built at every shop-door, in which to burn incense to their penates or household gods, and in every shop, house, boat, and junk, altars are erected, surrounded by a frightful paper Jos, ornament[70]ed with painted and gilt paper, and having odoriferous matches burning before it.

In company with an American missionary, the highly respectable and Reverend Mr. Bridgham, who has made great proficiency in the Chinese language, and is extending his researches in various ways, more especially in teaching a number of Chinese youths, &c., I paid a visit to the great idol temple of Honam, opposite the city, on the south side of the river, which is here about fifty rods wide.[†] This great temple and monastery contain one hundred and seventy-four priests. The general character given of these, by the Chinese, is, that they are great debauchees, gamblers, and common mendicants; like the criminals, their heads are close shaven, they not being suffered to wear the long braided queue; and they are held in no man[71]ner of respect by the people. The temple is said to be immensely wealthy. These priests are of the sect of Firk, or Budha, and the temple, or rather succession of temples, would, including the gardens, in which they raise large quantities of vegetable and other fruits, cover an area of twelve acres. Their diet is composed of fruits and vegetables. Meat and fowls being expressly forbidden them.


Entering under a gateway, guarded by strong wooden bars, we passed over a paved flagging, to what is called, “Hill Gate.” It retains this name, because the Budha priests affect to separate themselves from the rest of mankind, and to live among hills and mountains—hence, although a monastery be on a level plain, as it is here, the first gate leading thereto, is always called “Hill Gate.” From “Hill Gate,” we proceeded to the “Sea screen,” and from thence to the “Angler’s eminence;” the origin of the latter name, I could not ascertain. We proceeded onward to a building, having a roof similar to that seen on China ware, and which was placed transversely across the passage. The first objects which saluted our eyes, were two immense statues, in a standing position, occupying each side of the passage; they are called, “Huay Ha,” warriors; are not less than fifteen feet high, and present a most threatening aspect, having eyes nearly the size of a hat-crown, with a mouth of immense width, showing a long protruding fiery tongue; these frightful objects were painted in gaudy colours and gilt; before them were placed in white copper vessels—odoriferous matches in sand. They are thus placed, as guards to the temple of Budha. After passing a court-yard, similar to the first, I entered the pavilion or palace of the great celestial kings, containing four colossal statues, in a sitting posture, upward of twenty feet high, and gilt most fantastically, but having placid countenances. The roof is supported by thirty-two highly lacquered pillars. On the right and left, in two small pavilions, are two military demi-gods, guarding, as I suppose, the wings of the “great temple.” The principal hall or pavilion, which I now entered, is called “The great, powerful, precious palace,” and the “Golden coloured region;” fronting the entrance is the “Precious Budhas,” “The past,” “present,” and “to come,” being three large gilt images of Budha, called, in Chinese, Sam, Pow, and Fat. They are moderate in size, compared with the monsters in the rear of them. The artist aimed at giving them a benign aspect, and if[72] immensely swollen cheeks, sleepy eyes, and a drunkard’s countenance, form the true expression of the milder virtues, it may here be seen to perfection. On each side of the hall, eighteen disciples of Budha, are arranged; they are kept well dressed, by the gilder and painter, and appear to be very attentive to certain tablets placed before them, covered with inscriptions.

Religious ceremonies are performed daily by the priests, before these divinities, dressed, generally, in long scarlet cloaks, with hoods, (similar in shape to those worn by the Roman Catholic priests when saying mass,) praying and kneeling occasionally, doing reverence with both hands, closed together flat, raised to the head, or lowered to the breast and waist; and sometimes prostrating themselves to perform the ko-tow or knock-head ceremony, by striking their foreheads on the ground. During the time, incense is burning before the altar, in the shape of economical matches, highly odoriferous, being as slender as a knitting-needle, and are placed in white copper vessels. The roof of this great temple is supported by forty-two red lacquered pillars, having on them gilt inscriptions. The ceiling and rafters are so painted as to give an agreeable effect. The hall is about a hundred feet square. Another temple, to which we proceeded, stands in the rear of the great hall; here is a single image of Amida Budha, in the Chinese language, called, “Omb-to-Fat.” In the rear of the hall is a white marble obelisk, having various idols carved upon it; in the room, immediately behind this, is the palace of the goddess “Koon-Yan,” who is much adored; she is considered Budha; for, as in Bengal, Budha is of either sex, according to the statues or images. This hall or palace has in it the same number of pillars as that possessed by the great temple—forty-two. There are four buildings erected on the right wing of these temples, and five on the left, but all detached. First, and on the right, is the place of a military demi-god; the second building, is a place for keeping alive domestic animals, pigs, fowls, ducks, and geese, agreeably to the leading doctrine of the sect, that no animal should be deprived of life; the devout send these animals to the temple, when they make or pay vows, or return thanks, for favours received. It is evident that the pious depositor of the hogs could not have been a descendant of the ancient tribes of Israel, or he would not have shown so much affection, as to put them out to board within the precincts of the holy temple,[73] and keep a number of “celestials” in constant pay to attend to them. The third building contains the bookroom and printing-office. In the fourth, in an upper room, are more idols. The first, on the left, is a pavilion, containing a military demi-god; the second is a reception-room for visiters; the third contains the idol of “Te-song-Wang,” the king of Hades; the fourth holds the great bell; and the fifth is the chief priests’ apartments. In these, Lord Amherst and his suite were lodged, 1816 and 1817, on his return from an unsuccessful embassy to the court of Peking. Three other buildings close up the rear of the buildings, on the left wing, the book-house, treasury, and refectory; the latter was dark and dirty, and sent forth a compound of unpleasant smells. The kitchen, the utensils of which, experience has taught them the inutility of cleaning, from their after liability to dirt, resembled, in condition, the refectory, which latter contained only long wooden tables and benches. In the rear of the last temple, is the kitchen-garden, and a small pavilion, erected to the memory of a deer, attached to its master. On the left is a mausoleum, in which the ashes of burnt priests are deposited once a year; near to which is a little shabby house, where the ashes are kept in jars, till the time of the opening of the mausoleum. Farther on, in the garden, is the place in which the bodies of the priests are burned, in a small temple. Some priests, who possess a little property, direct their remains shall be buried and not burnt. The cloisters in the building, on the right and left of the temple, are small and gloomy; the walls are any thing but white, having a table, with a small altar, and a gayly-painted, ugly divinity on it; a wooden stool completed the furniture.

In one room a great number of tailors were at work, not for the poor and naked, but for these idle vagabonds. Passing through a small room, we were invited by a member of the holy priesthood, to take tea, which was served up to us in the Chinese style, being made in the same cup from which we drank it, and taken without sugar or milk. Eight or ten sweetmeats formed the repast, the holy brotherhood standing around us during the time, “thick as autumnal leaves in Vallambrosa,” curious, doubtless, to know if mortals and barbarians ate in the same way as the “celestials.”


There are not less than one hundred and twenty-four large and small temples in Canton; and in the province, thirteen hundred[74] and twenty-seven. Public altars are here, in great number, dedicated to the gods of the land and of grain, of the wind and clouds, of thunder and rain, of hills, rivers, &c. At these, as in all the temples, sacrifices and offerings, consisting of various animals, fish, fowls, fruits, sweetmeats, cakes, and wines, are frequently presented, both by government officers and by private citizens. Numerous attendants are placed at the altars, within these temples of sacrifice, whose lives are devoted to the service of the idols. On the birthday of the gods, and at other times, processions are fitted out at the various temples; the images are borne in state through the principal streets in the city, attended by bands of musicians, priests, lads on horseback, girls riding in open sedans, old men and boys, bearing lanterns, incense, pots, flags, and other insignia; by lictors, with rattans, and soldiers, with wooden swords. In addition to these processions, the different streets and trades have their religious festivals, which they celebrate with illuminations, bonfires, songs, and theatrical exhibitions. Much extravagance is displayed on these occasions, each company and street striving to excel all its neighbours. The private and domestic altars, shrines crowded with household gods and daily offerings, of gilt paper, candles, incense, &c.; together with numberless ceremonies, occasioned by nuptials, or the burial of the dead, complete the long catalogue of the religious rites and institutions, which are supported by the people of Canton. The whole number of priests and nuns, (there are said to be a thousand of the latter,) is, probably, not less than three thousand, and the annual expense of the one hundred and twenty-four temples, may be put down, on a moderate estimate, at two hundred thousand dollars. An equal sum is required to support the annual monthly and semi-monthly festivals and daily rites, which are observed by the people, in honour of their gods.





Having given a description of the principal temples, &c., I shall now state some particulars relative to the introduction of the Budhism religion into China, and show what are the principles professed by its disciples, at the present day.

In the sixty-fifth year of the Christian era, the emperor Ming-te invited the first priests; they were probably natives of Ceylon.—The invitation was given in consequence of dreams, which informed him that the “Holy One” was in the West.

The ancient Chinese worshippers retained some knowledge of a Supreme Being, yet the worship they paid to the visible heavens, the earth, rivers, bulls, and above all, to dragons and the gods of lands, was open idolatry. Subsequently, Confucius arose; he inculcated the necessity of reverencing those whom the ancients had worshipped. His wish was to promote the social happiness of his countrymen, independently of the influence which religion exerts over a nation; his great aim was the introduction of decorum and order into all the duties of life; and to the strict observance of external ceremonies, he reduced the whole of religion. His system being found very deficient, Taou-tze, the mystic philosopher, stepped forward to supply the wants of the multitude by his abstruse speculations. According to his system, all nature is filled with demons and genii, who constantly influence the fate of man. He increased the number of idol gods to an enormous amount, and attempted to define with scholastic precision, their nature and offices. His demonology wanted perspicuity and contained too many palpable absurdities to be generally received. Some of the[76] emperors, though declaring themselves believers in Taouism, could never introduce a general acquiescence in doctrines which no one understood. China wanted a creed which every man might understand; and the Budhists supplied the desideratum;—accommodating their doctrines to all existing superstitions, they opened the door to every description of convert, who might retain as many of his old prejudices as he chose: they were not rigorous in enforcing the obligations of morality; to expiate sins, offerings to the idols and priests were sufficient. A temple built in honour of any idol and richly endowed, would suffice to blot out every stain of guilt and serve as a portal to the blessed mansions of Budha. When death approached, they promised to each of their votaries, speedy promotion in the scale of metempsychosis until he should be absorbed in Nirupan or Nirvana—nonentity. With these prospects, the poor deluded victim left the world. To facilitate his release from purgatory, the ghostly hypocrites said mass, and supplied the wants of the hungry departed spirit with rich offerings of food, of which the latter enjoyed only the odour, while the priests devoured the substance. As Confucius had raised the veneration for ancestors into idolatrous worship, these priests were ready to perform their pious offices before the tablets of the dead. Thus they became ingratiated with the credulous multitude, who were too happy to avail themselves of their cheap services. But notwithstanding the accommodating spirit of their creed, the Chinese government has at times disapproved of it. As the sanctity of marriage has been acknowledged in China from time immemorial and almost every person at years of maturity has been obliged to enter into that state, the celibacy of the priesthood of Budha was considered as a very dangerous custom.

Budha regarded contemplation and exemption from worldly cares, as the nearest approach to bliss; his followers, therefore, in imitation of their master, passed and inculcated lives of indolence, and practised begging, as the proper means of maintaining themselves. This mode of livelihood was diametrically opposed to the political institutions of China, where even the emperor does not disdain to plough. It was also in opposition to the actual condition and wants of the people; a system of idleness, in the immense population of the empire, would have been followed by actual starvation, and a consequent serious diminution in the number of[77] inhabitants; for it is by the utmost exertion that they are able to subsist. These serious objections to the foreign creed, furnished its enemies with weapons by which to destroy it. It was proscribed as a dangerous heresy, and a cruel persecution followed; but it had taken too deep root to be easily eradicated. Among some of the emperors too, it found abettors and disciples. Yet it never became a religion of the state, nor were its priests ever able to exercise any permanent influence over the populace. The Chinese are too rational a people to believe, implicitly, all the Budhistic fables, nor can they persuade themselves that the numerous images are gods. When we add to this, their national apathy towards every thing connected with religion, they being entirely engrossed with the things of this life, we can easily account for their disesteem of Budhism. Nor can we wonder that they worship at one time, the divinities they despise at another, for ancient custom bids them follow in the track of their ancestors, without inquiry or doubt, even when they cannot but ridicule its absurdities.

The priests of Budha are a very despised class, and spring chiefly from the lowest and most ignorant of the people. Their morals are notoriously bad, and pinching poverty has made them cringing and servile. They wander abroad in search of some trifling gift, and often encounter a very harsh refusal.

Those temples which are well endowed by their founders, are crowded with priests, so that only a few among the higher orders of them can be rich. Stupidity, with a few exceptions, is their reigning characteristic; neither skill nor learning is to be found among them. Budha seems to have intimated that stupidity brings the votary nearer to the blissful state of apathy, and therefore a knowledge of his institutions is considered as the only requisite to form an accomplished priest. The Budhists have no schools or seminaries, for the instruction of their believers, seldom strive for literary honours, and are even excluded from the list of candidates, so long as they remain priests. Few among them are serious in the practice of their own religion; they are in the most complete sense of the words, sullen and misanthropic, and live a very secluded life. But religious abstraction and deep contemplation, with utter oblivion of existence, appear to be out of vogue. The halls of contemplation are the haunts of every vice. Such effects must follow where the mind is unoccupied, and the hands[78] unemployed in any good work. The nuns are less numerous and more industrious than the priests. It is a general observation that nearly all the temples of Budha are in a dilapidated state; the contributions of devotees not meeting the expenses of repairs. These erections are very numerous; there is scarcely a small village that has not one, and few romantic and beautiful spots can be found free from these seats of idolatry.

The similarity of the rites of this superstition with those of papacy, are striking: every one who visits the monasteries can at once discover the resemblance. That they should count their prayers by means of a rosary, and chant masses both for the living and the dead, live in a state of celibacy and shave their hair, &c., might perhaps be accounted for by a mere coincidence of errors into which men are prone to fall; but their divine adoration of Teenhow, “the queen of heaven,” must be a tenet engrafted upon Budhism from foreign traditions. We are unable to fix the exact period at which this deity was adopted. There is a legend of modern date among the people of Farh-keen, which tells us that she was a virgin of that province, who, in a dream, saw her kindred in danger of being wrecked, and boldly rescued them; but this affords no satisfactory solution; neither is “the queen of heaven,” among the deities which the Siamese Budhists worship, though they possess the whole orthodox code of demons. It is probable that some degenerate Nestorian Christians amalgamated with their faith and ceremonies, the prevailing errors of China, and persuaded the priests of Budha to adopt many of their rites.

Though the Siamese priesthood resembles the papal clergy, it does not exhibit so striking a similarity as the Chinese. Moreover, the Budhists of China have received all the sages which have been canonized by the emperors or by public credulity. Mr. Gutzlaff says he saw, in one instance, a marble bust of Napoleon, which they had placed in a temple, and before which they burned incense; hence it would not be surprising if they had also adopted among their gods so conspicuous an object of worship as the “virgin,” who was adored by so many millions of Christians. The present dynasty seems to have declared itself in favour of the great Da-lai-lama of Thibet. As the Mongols on the northern frontier are much devoted to the rites of Shamanism, and worship its presiding deity, it was perhaps with a view to conciliate the good will and keep[79] in subjection these wild hordes, that the preference was manifested. The religion of these barbarians being a modification of Budhism, we might expect that the Chinese government would equally extend its benevolence to the Budhist of China. Such does not appear to be the fact; they are tolerated but receive no stated support from the government; to some temples the emperors may extend his individual charity, but this is not governmental patronage. If the high offices of the state occasionally favour this sect, they never openly avow it; such a disclosure would derogate from their fame and expose them to the ridicule of their colleagues. In the midst of all these difficulties a numerous priesthood do find subsistence. On certain festivals the temples are crowded to excess, and the exclamation, “O-me-to-fuh” is familiar to the ear of every one who visits them. I have thus given a sketch of Budhism, a religion which strikes at the root of human society, in enjoining celibacy as the nearest approach to perfection, and in commanding its disciples to abandon relatives and friends, without fulfilling their duties as citizens, parents and children. We are bound to concede that this unnatural restraint is the source of vice and crime; at the same time we must in justice admit that Budhism does not sanction shocking rites, or Bacchanalian orgies, like other idolatrous systems in Asia; nor have we to complain of that indecency in its idol exhibitions, which is common to the religion of the Hindoos; the wooden deities are hideous, but never repulsive to the feelings of modesty. The temples are open to all, and serve occasionally for theatres, gambling-houses and taverns. The Chinese Budhists are a temporizing sect; their abstinence from animal food is not very strict. They seldom defend their idols, or appear much annoyed when they are treated with contempt;—their toleration arises from indifference; all religions, with them, are equally safe, but theirs is the best. They have no desire to proselyte, their numbers being already too great, and are far from spiritualizing their idolatrous systems. They talk of hungry demons and of the spiritual presence of the idols in their statues, but this is all. To assert they adore one Supreme Being in their idolatrous representations of his attributes, is to state an opinion that never found a place in their thoughts, or in their canonical works. They are without God in the world, and estranged from the divine life, worshipping the works of their own hands, to the disgrace of human reason.



Having previously alluded to the superstitious rites performed by the Chinese, at the tombs of their ancestors, parents and friends, I here give a more detailed description of this idolatrous custom, together with an account of the gluttonous and drunken feast, which is the finale of what is misnamed a religious observance. The description is translated from an original Chinese composition:—

That this custom did not exist anterior to the age of Confucius is inferred from the words of Mericius, who affirms that in the preceding ages men did not even inter their deceased kindred but threw their dead bodies into ditches, by the roadside. As they had no tombs there could be no sacrifices performed at them. Confucius directed tumuli to be raised, in order to mark the place of interment; this is the first intimation of tombs, given among the Chinese. In raising these tumuli there was probably no other intention than that of erecting a mark to the abodes of the dead. It is also known that children, in that early age, would remain in temporary sheds, for years near the grave of a parent, to “sorrow as those without hope.” But we proceed to exhibit the present state of these ceremonies as being all that is of practical utility, in deciding the question at issue. The Chinese visit the tombs, twice a year, in spring, and in autumn. The first visit is called tsing-ming, “clear bright,” in reference to the fine weather, which is then expected: the second is called tsew-tse, “the autumnal sacrifice.” The rites performed during tsing-ming, are those most generally attended by the Chinese. Their governors teach that the prosperity of individuals and of families depends greatly on the position, dryness, and good repair of their parents’ graves. Therefore, “to sweep” and repair them, to mark their limits, and to see that they are not encroached upon by others, are the objects of visits to the tombs. When there are large clans, which have descended from the same ancestors, living in the same neighbourhood, they repair in great numbers, to the performance of the sacrificial rites. Rich and poor, all assemble. Even beggars repair to the tombs, to kneel down and worship. This usage is known by the phrases saou-fun-moo, “sweeping the tombs,” and paeshan, “worshipping the tumuli.” To omit these observances, is considered a great offence against moral propriety, and a breach of filial duty. The common belief is that good fortune, domestic[81] prosperity, honours and riches, all depend on an impulse given at the tombs of ancestors. Hence, the practice is universal; and when the men are absent from their families, the women go to perform the rites.

On some of these occasions, even where there are two or three thousand members of a clan, some possessing great wealth, and others holding high rank in the state, all, old and young, rich and poor, are summoned to meet at the tsoo-tsung tsze-tang, “the ancestral hall.” Pigs are slaughtered; sheep are slain; and all sorts of offerings and sacrifices are provided in abundance. The processions from the hall to the tombs, on these occasions, are formed in the most grand style, which the official rank of the principal persons will admit—with banners, tablets, gongs, &c., &c., &c. All present, old men and boys, are dressed in the best robes which they can procure; and thus escorting the victims for sacrifice, and carrying wine for oblations, they proceed to the tombs of their ancestors, and arrange the whole in order, preparatory to the grand ceremony. There is a choo tse, “lord of the sacrifice,” appointed to officiate as priest, a master of ceremonies, to give the word of command, and two stewards to aid in the performance of the rites. There is also a reader to recite the prayer; and a band of musicians, drummers, gong-beaters, &c.

After all things are in readiness, the whole party stands still till the “master” gives the word. He first cries with a loud voice: “Let the official persons take their places:” this is immediately done, and the ceremonies proceed.

Master. “Strike up the softer music.” Here the smaller instruments begin to play.

Master. “Kneel.” The priest then kneels in a central place, fronting the grave, and behind him, arranged in order, the aged and the honourable, the children and grandchildren, all kneel down.

Master. “Present the incense.” Here the stewards take three sticks of incense, and present them to the priest. He rises, makes a bow towards the grave, and then plants one of the sticks in an immense vase, in front of the tombstone. The same form is repeated a second and a third time.

Master. “Rise up.” The priest and the party stand up.

Master. “Kneel.” Again the priest and all the people kneel down.


Master. “Knock head.” Here all bending forward, and leaning on their hands, knock their foreheads against the ground.

Master. “Again knock head.” This is forthwith done.

Master. “Knock head a third time.” This is also done. Then he also calls out: Rise up; kneel; knock head;—till the three kneelings, and the nine knockings are completed. All this is done in the same manner as the highest act of homage is paid to the emperor, or of worship, to the supreme powers, heaven and earth. This being ended, the ceremonies proceed.

Master. “Fall prostrate.” This is done by touching the ground with his knees, hands and forehead.

Master. “Read the prayer.” Here the reader approaches the front of the tomb, holding in his hands a piece of white paper, on which is written one of the sacrificial forms of prayer. These forms are generally much the same; differing slightly according to the wish of the composer. The form states the time; the name of the clan which come to worship and offer sacrifice; beseeches the shades to descend and enjoy the sacrifice, to grant protection and prosperity to their descendants, that in all succeeding generations they may wear official caps, may enjoy riches, and honours, and never become extinct, that by the help of the souls in hades, the departed spirits, and the living on earth may be happy, and illustrious throughout myriads of ages. The prayer being finished, the master cries: “Offer up the gold and the precious things.” Here one of the stewards presents gilt papers to the priest, and he bowing towards the grave, lays them down before it.

Master. “Strike up the grand music.” Here gongs, drums, trumpets, &c., are beaten and blown to make a noise as loud as possible.

Master. “Burn the gold and silver, and precious things.” Here all the young men and children burn the gilt papers, fire off crackers, rockets, &c.

Such is the sum of a grand sacrifice at the tombs of ancestors. But to many, the best part of the ceremony is to come, which is the feast of the sacrifice. The roast pigs, rice, fowls, fish, fruits, and liquors, are carried back to the ancestral hall; where according to age and dignity, the whole party sit down to eat, drink and play. The grandees discuss the condition of the hall, and other topics connected with the honour of the clan; the[83] young men carouse, and provoke each other to “drink deep.” Some set out for home with a catty or two of the divine flesh, which had been used in sacrifice; others stay till they wrangle and fight, and night puts an end to the entertainment.

Those who live remote from the tombs, or who have no ancestral hall, eat their sacrifice on the ground at the sepulchres. The poor imitate their superiors, at an humble distance. Although they have no hall, no procession or music, they provide three sorts of victims, a pig, a goose, and a fish; some fruits, and a little distilled liquors—for spirituous liquors are used on all these occasions. After presenting these at the tomb, they kneel, knock head, and orally or mentally pray for the aid of their ancestors’ souls to make the existing and all future generations of descendants, rich and prosperous.

In these rites there is some difference in the wording of the prayer, according as it is presented to remote ancestors or to lately deceased parents or friends; but the general import is the same.


Further to illustrate the modes “in which the Chinese worship Confucius and the deceased,” we subjoin the following extracts, from the Indo-Chinese Gleaner:—

From the Shing-meaou-che, volume first, page second, it appears that there are, in China, more than one thousand, five hundred and sixty temples dedicated to Confucius. At the spring and autumnal sacrifices offered to him, it is calculated in the above-named work, that there are immolated (on the two occasions) annually, six bullocks, twenty-seven thousand pigs, five thousand eight hundred sheep, two thousand eight hundred deer, and twenty-seven thousand rabbits.

Thus, there are annually sacrificed to Confucius, in China, sixty-two thousand, six hundred and six victims; it is added, there are offered at the same time, twenty-seven thousand, six hundred pieces of silk. What becomes of these does not appear.


It has justly been remarked that a nation’s civilization may be estimated by the rank which females hold in society. If the civilization of China be judged of by this test, she is far from occupying that first place which she so strongly claims. Females have always been regarded with contempt by the Chinese. Their ancient sages seem to have considered them scarcely worthy of their attention. The sum of the duties they require of them is, to submit to the will of their masters. The lady, say they, who is to[84] be betrothed to a husband, ought to follow blindly the wishes of her parents, yielding implicit obedience to their will. From the moment when she is joined in wedlock, she ceases to exist; her whole being is absorbed in that of her lord; she ought to know nothing but his will, and to deny herself in order to please him. Pan-hwny-pan, who is much admired as an historian, composed a book of instructions for her own sex, in which she treats of their proper station in society, the deportment they should exhibit, and the duties they ought to perform. She teaches them that they “hold the lowest rank among mankind, and that employments the least honourable, ought to be, and in fact are, their lot.” She inculcates entire submission to their husbands, and tells them in very plain terms that they ought to become abject slaves, in order to become good wives. We cannot expect that these doctrines, inculcated as they are, by a lady, who ought to advocate the cause of her sex, and by one held in so high repute as is Pan-hwny-pan, will be overlooked by the “lords of creation;” especially as they accord so perfectly with their domineering disposition, in China.

Confucius, the prince of letters, divorced his wife without assigning any cause for so doing; and his followers have invariably adopted similar arbitrary measures in their treatment of females. The price which is paid to the parents of the bride, constitutes her at once a saleable commodity, and causes her to be regarded as differing little from a mere slave. In the choice of a partner for life, she is entirely passive, is carried to the house of the bridegroom, and there disposed of, for life, by her parents.

The birth of a female is a matter of grief in China. The father and mother, who had already hoped in the unborn babe to embrace a son, feel disappointed at the sight of a daughter. Many vows and offerings are made before their idols in order to propitiate their favour, and secure the birth of a son. The mercy of the compassionate Kuan-yin, especially, is implored to obtain this precious gift; but after they have spent large sums of money in this pious work, the inexorable goddess fills the house with mourning at the birth of a daughter. “Anciently,” says Pan-hwny-pan, “the female infant was thrown upon some old rags, by the side of its mother’s bed, and for three days was scarcely spoken or thought of. At the end of that time it was carried to a temple by a father, accompanied by attendants with bricks and tiles in their hands.[85] The bricks and tiles,” says Pan-hwny-pan, in her comment on these facts, “signify the contempt and suffering which are to be her companions and her portion—bricks are of no use except to form enclosures and to be trodden under foot; tiles are useless except when they are exposed to the injuries of the air.” The Sheking, one of the venerated books, says,

“——When a daughter is born,
She sleeps on the ground,
She is clothed with a wrapper:
She plays with a tile:
She is incapable either of evil or good.”

This last assertion is thus explained; “if she does ill she is not a woman—and if she does well she is not a woman; a slavish submission is her duty and her highest praise.” At the present day, as well as anciently, the female infant is not unfrequently an object of disgust to its parents, and of contempt to all the inmates of the family. As she grows up, her feet are so confined and cramped that they can never exceed the size of infancy. This process entirely incapacitates her from walking with ease or safety. Small feet, that badge of bondage which deprives the Chinese females of the power of locomotion, confines them to the inner apartments, except when poverty forces them to earn their livelihood abroad by labour, which is rendered exceedingly difficult and painful if accompanied by walking. Females of the higher class seldom leave the house, except in sedan-chairs. Their lives are but an honourable captivity. They have few or no real enjoyments—are exceedingly ignorant—very few of them being able to read. They live and die little more than ciphers in human society. Pale and emaciated, they spend the greatest part of their lives in embellishing their persons; while females of the poorer classes, whose feet are necessarily permitted to grow to the size which the God of nature designed, perform all the drudgery of husbandry and other kinds of work. These last are in general very industrious, and prove to be helpmates to their husbands. Being remarkable for their good, sound understanding, they manage their families with a care and prudence, and so far as industry and economy are concerned, they are exemplary mothers. Nothwithstanding the degradation in which they are held, they are generally far superior in intellect to the common cast of Asiatic women—are very[86] ingenious in their needlework, &c. To be a good mother, in the estimation of this class of the Chinese, a woman must be a weaver. It is to be regretted, that they have very little regard for the cleanliness either of their persons or houses; their children crawl in the dirt, and the few articles of furniture in their dwellings are covered with filth.

Infanticide of females is not unknown among the Chinese. They are far from regarding this crime with the horror it deserves. “It is only a female,” is the answer generally given when they are reproved for it.

The account of the Charitable Institutions of Canton is brief. They are few in number, of small extent, and of recent origin:—

First: Yuh-ying-tang, or the “foundling hospital.” This institution was founded in 1698, and it was rebuilt and considerably enlarged in 1732. It stands without the walls of the city, on the east—has accommodations for two or three hundred children, and is maintained at an annual expense of two thousand, five hundred and twenty-two taels.

Second: Yang-tse-yuen.—This is a retreat for poor, aged and infirm, or blind people, who have no friends to support them. It stands near the foundling hospital, and like it, enjoys imperial patronage, receiving annually, five thousand, one hundred taels. Both this sum, and that for yuh-ying-tang, are received in part, or wholly, from duties, paid by those foreign ships which bring rice to Canton. Every such ship must pay the sum of six hundred and twenty taels, which, by imperial order, is appropriated to these two hospitals. The number of “rice-ships,” last year, was twenty-eight, yielding the sum of seventeen thousand, three hundred and sixty taels. The English, American, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese, are the only foreign vessels that bring rice to Canton.

Third: Ma-fung-yuen, or the “hospital for lepers.” This is also on the east side of the city; the number of patients in it, is three hundred and forty-one, who are supported at an expense of three hundred taels per annum! The condition of the three hospitals, if such they may be called, is wretched in the extreme. The foundlings are often those children which have been exposed; and who, when grown up, are often sold, and not unfrequently, for the worst of purposes. Such is a specimen of the benevolent institutions of the celestial empire!



The government, in times of calamity and scarcity, grant small gratuities to the distressed, but the amount is so trifling, the difficulty of obtaining it so great, that it is not worth the time lost in seeking for it. During the month of August, 1833, owing to heavy gales, accompanied with much rain, the rivers overflowed their banks, and these united calamities destroyed a vast number of the humble dwellings of the poor. The government, knowing the great distress of many thousands, sent surveyors to take a list of the sufferers. About five months afterward, the two magistrates who divide the city of Canton between them, gave public notice, that the sums subscribed by the public for their relief, would be paid out in the following proportions, viz.: “To the poor, who were unable to rebuild their houses—two mace, five candareens,” (about forty cents,) and if they were altogether destitute, two months’ food in addition, viz., for every “big mouth,” two mace and seven candareens: to every “little mouth,” (child’s,) one half of that sum. The aged and feeble who are unable to reach the distributing officer without several days’ hard struggle, are frequently obliged to give up the scanty pittance, and depend upon the cold charities of the world, or otherwise find their grave on the roadside in a loathsome ditch.






The name of Canton on Chinese maps, is written Kwang-tung-sang-ching, that is, the capital of the province of Kwang-tung, but when speaking of the city, the natives call it san-ching, the “provincial city,” or the “capital of the province.” It is built on the north bank of Choo-keang or Pearl river, stands inland and is in a direct line, about sixty miles from “the great sea.” The scenery around the city, in the adjacent country, is rich and diversified, but deficient in boldness or grandeur.

On the north and northeast of the city, the country is hilly and mountainous. In every other direction a wide prospect opens to the view of the beholder. The rivers and canals, which are very numerous, abound with fish, and are covered with a great variety of boats, which are continually passing to and from the neighbouring towns and villages. Southward from the city, as far as the eye can see, the waters cover a considerable portion, perhaps a third of the whole surface. Rice-fields, and gardens, occupy the lowlands, which are diversified with a few hills, rising here and there, to relieve the otherwise unbroken aspect. The extent of the city, including all within and without the walls, is not very great; though very populous, it derives its chief importance from its extensive domestic and foreign trade. Canton is one of the oldest cities in this part of the empire; since the foundations were first laid, it has undergone numerous changes.

It is not easy, perhaps impossible, to determine its original site and name, or to ascertain the time in which it was first built. Although either of the questions is unimportant to the reader, a brief account of what the Chinese themselves narrate, respecting[90] one of their largest and most populous cities, may interest him. Their classics speak of Canton being in existence four thousand years since; that it was then called Nan-keaon, and Ming-too, “the splendid capital.” It first began to pay tribute to the emperors of China in the year B. C. 1123. The historians of the empire are only able to trace the origin of Canton to the last emperors of the Chow dynasty, two thousand years since; it was then surrounded by a stockade, composed of bamboo and mud. We find it was but little visited by foreign vessels till the year one thousand before Christ, when they held intercourse with eight “barbarous” nations, from Teeu-chuh (India.)

In the time of the western or Han dynasty, two hundred years previously to the Christian era, persons came from Canton, Loo-whang-che and other nations in the south. The nearest nation was about ten days’ journey and the most remote, five months’; their territories were large and populous and they possessed rare commodities. In the year one hundred and seventy-six of Christ, vessels from India and Egypt, or Arabia, “came with tribute;” from this time trade was carried on with foreigners, at Canton. In the year seven hundred, an imperial commissioner was first appointed to receive “fixed duties;” ninety-five years subsequently, all foreign vessels (owing to gross extortion) resorted to Cochin-China. After the fall of the Tang dynasty, A. D. 906, five dynasties arose, reigned and fell, within a period of fifty-three years. A tribute in gold, silver, ivory and other valuable commodities, was sent to the successor of Tang, to the amount of five millions of taels. In consequence of this acknowledgment, the emperor created Lewyen, “King of Canton” or “King of the Southern sea.” At this period, the court of Canton was cruel in the extreme—criminals were flayed, boiled and roasted, thrown on spikes, and forced to fight with tigers and elephants. The city was freed from the monster, (Lewyen,) by the founder of the Shang dynasty, in the year of the Christian era, nine hundred and sixty-four; it subsequently became more prosperous and beautiful; witches and wizards were prohibited; sorcery was interdicted; the temples which had been built for the practice of superstitious rites, were thrown down; the people were forbidden to offer the sacrifice of human life, to demons; they were enjoined to relieve the sufferers from noxious diseases which are prevalent; dispensaries of medi[91]cine were established; useless and extravagant articles of apparel were discountenanced, and pearls and ornaments for head-dresses were disallowed. In the year one thousand and sixty seven, a wall, about two English miles in circumference, enclosed the city to protect it against the Cochin-Chinese. In the year twelve hundred, “foreigners resident” received metals, silks, &c., and in return, they gave rhinoceros’s horns, elephant’s teeth, coral, pearls, gems, crystals, foreign cloth, pepper, red-wood, and drugs. In the year fourteen hundred, one hundred and twenty houses were built for the accommodation of foreigners.—In sixteen hundred and forty seven, the present Tartar family came into power; Canton was summoned to submit to its new master; on refusing, its walls were beaten down with great cannon, and on the twenty-fourth of November, sixteen hundred and fifty, it was taken:—for six days the inhabitants “were given to the sword,” the city was plundered—and upward of seven hundred thousand persons were slain, during the siege, and six days’ slaughter: “every house was left desolate!” only one house remains standing which was built before the sacking of the old city. That part of the city which is walled in is nearly square, and divided by a partition-wall, running from east to west; the northern, much the largest part, is called the “old city;” the southern portion, more recently built, the “new city.”

The circuit of the wall does not exceed six miles: its southern part, running east and west, is parallel with the river, from which it is removed about fifteen or twenty rods: on this side are the “Foreign Factories;” on the north, the city rests on the brow of the hill, and is at its highest point about two hundred and fifty feet above the surface of the river. The foundation and lower part of the wall, the arches and the gates, are formed of coarse sandstone; its remaining portion is built with soft brick. The walls are from twenty-five to forty feet high, and from twenty to twenty-five feet thick; the north side being the most substantial; on the east side the elements have made great havoc: a line of battlements with embrasures surmounts the walls, in the rear of which is a broad pathway. Two short walls, designed to block up the narrow space between the main wall and the ditches of the city, extend from its southeast and southwest corners; through each of these there is a gate.

The city has sixteen gates, of which twelve are outer, and four[92] open through the wall which separates the old from the new city; they are all guarded by soldiers, closed at an early hour in the evening, and opened at dawn of day. The streets and buildings in the suburbs are similar to those in the city, the houses of which occupy the whole space between the wall and the river on its southern side; on its eastern quarter they are much less extensive; and in its northern division there are only a few solitary huts. The houses on the south are generally built against the wall which they overlook.

The suburbs are scarcely less extensive and populous than the city, in which there are upward of six hundred streets, flagged with large stones, chiefly of granite; they vary in width from two to sixteen feet, the medium and most usual breadth being from six to eight.

These narrow streets are usually thronged by a numerous motley group; through many of them, the pedestrian in the rear is liable to tread on the heels of the leader; the stout, half-naked, vociferating porters, carrying every description of merchandise, and the nimble sedan-bearers, make up, in noise and bustle, for the deficiency of carts and carriages: these, together with the numerous travellers, various kinds of retailers, pedlars, and beggars, present before the spectator a scene of great animation and endless variety. Many of the visiters and much of the merchandise are conveyed into the city by means of canals or ditches, of which there are several; one of the largest extends along the whole length of the wall on the east, and another on the west side of the city, so that boats can pass through and out by either canal. The eastern, western, and southern suburbs of the city are also furnished with large canals, into which a number of smaller tributaries flow: the Chinese term these ditches “the veins of the city.” Reservoirs are found here, but none of them are extensive: much of the water is supplied from the river and canals; wells are not unfrequent, and rainwater is used for making tea, &c.; fine wholesome water is also furnished from numerous springs, which rise in the north of the city, both within and without the walls. Several bridges (some of which are of stone) are thrown over the canals.

The Chinese of the present day have seldom ventured or desired to step beyond the limits which circumscribed the efforts of their remote ancestors; they have been equally slow and unwilling[93] to adopt or imitate the usages and improvements of distant foreigners, and glory in this, their prominent characteristic: hence without much claim to originality, they are exceedingly unlike the nations of the West.


In giving a description of this people, or any thing which appertains to them, we must not therefore form our estimate by the criterion of European taste or usage. With the Chinese the left, as the place of honour, takes precedence of the right; white is the badge of mourning. From the peculiar construction of their compass, called Chenan, chay, “a chariot pointing towards the south,” they do not number the cardinal points in our order, but almost always mention the south before the north; the west before the east; instead of saying north, they say, west-north; west-south, &c. Without attempting to account for this contrariety, it is obvious that the fact itself should be kept in mind, while surveying the various works, occupations, institutions and habits of the Chinese.

It is generally supposed that the remote ancestors of this people, in the migration eastward, dwelt in tents; their circumstances would require such habitations; when they became stationary, their wants would prompt them to seek a more substantial covering; but their houses, pagodas, and temples, of the present day, bear evident proofs that this early covering from the heat and storm, was the only model which presented itself for imitation, in the erection of more secure and permanent habitations. The roof, concave on its upper side; and the veranda, with its slender columns, show most distinctly the original features of the tent; the whole fabric of the ordinary buildings is light and slender, retaining the outlines of its primeval simplicity. They therefore, will seek in vain, who expect to find here stately edifices, built after the Grecian or the Gothic model.

Barrow, after having visited the imperial palaces, and travelled from north to south, through the whole breadth of the empire, affirms, that all the buildings of the Chinese are without elegance or convenience of design, without any settled proportion; mean in their appearance, and clumsy in their workmanship. Macartney was much better pleased with their architecture; though it is totally unlike any other, and irreconcilable to our rules, yet, in perfect consistence with its own, it frequently produces a most pleasing effect.


The buildings of Canton present as great a variety in structure and style as can be found in the whole empire.

A large part of the city and suburbs, is built on low ground or flats. Special care is therefore required to secure a solid basis, for houses and temples.

Near the river, and in all the most loose and muddy situations, houses are raised on wooden piles, which make the foundation as secure as brick or stone, perhaps, even more so. In some cases the piles rise above the surface of the ground, the buildings constructed of wood, resting directly upon them: in other instances, the piles reach only within a few feet of the surface, and the remaining part of the foundation is made of mud, brick, or stone; when this is finished, the walls are usually carried up and completed with the same material. Many of the houses are nearly baseless, or have only a slender foundation composed of mud, of which also the walls are composed; hence, in severe rain, storms, and overflowings of the river, of which some have recently taken place, many of the walls are thrown down.

Bricks are in most general use for the walls of houses; three fifths of those in the whole city are composed of them; the remaining part being mostly constructed of mud; most of the Tartars in the old city are said to inhabit dwellings of the latter kind.

Stone and wood are rarely employed in erecting the walls of houses: the first is frequently employed in making gate-ways and door-posts, and the second for columns, beams, and rafters. Many of the floors in houses and temples are formed of indurated mud; marble flags and tiles are likewise used for roofs; they are laid in rows on the rafters, alternately concave and convex, forming ridges and furrows, luted by a cement of clay.

Windows are small and rarely supplied with glass; paper, mica, shell, or some other translucent substance, supplies its place; very little iron is employed in building.

The materials above named, for buildings, are procured here at moderate prices and in great abundance. Wood, usually a species of the fir, is floated down the rivers, and brought to the city in large rafts. Bricks are made in the neighbourhood of Canton, brought hither in boats, and sold at various prices, from three to eight shillings a thousand. These bricks are of a leaden blue or[95] of a pale brown colour; a few being red; the variation of teint is produced by the different modes of drying and burning them; the red bricks are those most thoroughly burned; the leaden blue have received only a partial action of the fire, the pale brown, the sun’s action alone.

Excellent stone for building is found in the hilly country on the north of the province, and also in several of the islands, south of the city. Granite and sandstone are those principally found and in great variety.

Such is the general style and usual material of the buildings in Canton. In passing through the city, the spectator is struck with the great contrast between them, though this diversity does by no means fully exhibit the relative condition and circumstances of the people: a few only are rich, and the external appearance of their houses does not exceed, in elegance, the dwellings of the middle class; many are very poor—and the aspect of their abodes affords abundant evidence of their abject state.


The poorest people are to be found in the extreme parts of the suburbs, along the banks of the canals, and in the northern part of the old city; their houses are mere mud-hovels; low, narrow, dark, unclean, and without any division of apartments. A whole family, consisting of six, eight, ten, and sometimes twice the number, is crowded into one of these dreary abodes; yet we meet with individuals, enjoying health and long life under these circumstances. To pass through the streets or lanes of such a neighbourhood, is sufficient to reconcile a person to any ordinary condition of life.

Neither intelligence or industry could ever be confined in such miserable cells. In habitations, a little more spacious and cleanly than these, perhaps one third part of the people in Canton have their abodes: these stand close on the street, and have usually but a single entrance, which is closed by a bamboo screen, suspended from the top of the door; within these houses, there are no superfluous apartments: a single room is allotted to each branch of the family, while a third, which completes the number within the whole enclosure, is used by all the household as a common eating-room.


Chinese houses usually open towards the south; but in these, as also in the poorer kind, this favourite position is disregarded.[96] Dwellings of this description, are rented at four or five dollars a month. Another class of houses, inhabited by a more wealthy but less numerous part of the community, are the residences of those in easy circumstances, who enjoy plenty without any of the accompaniments of luxury; these houses together with the plot of ground on which they stand are surrounded by a wall, twelve or fourteen feet high, that rises and fronts the street, so as completely to conceal all the buildings from the traveller, as he passes by.

The prospect, in passing along the narrow streets which are lined with these houses, is very cheerless. If allowed to enter some of these dwellings more pleasing scenes will be presented. A stranger enters the outer enclosure through a large folding door into an open court, thence he is conducted by a servant to the visiters’ hall; which is usually a small apartment, furnished with chairs, sofas, tea-stands, &c.; here the host presents himself to introduce his guest to the younger members of the family.

These halls are open on one side, the others being ornamented with carved work, or hung with various scrolls presenting in large and elegant characters, the moral maxims of their sages: or perhaps, exhibiting rude landscapes, or paintings of birds and flowers. The remaining portion of the enclosure is occupied with the domestic apartments; a garden and, perhaps, a small school-room.

The houses occupied by a few of the most opulent in Canton are by no means inferior to the imperial palaces, excepting it be in the space which they fill. The family residences of some among those merchants, who are licensed by government to trade with foreigners, furnish good specimens of this description of buildings. The seat of the late Consequa, now half in ruins, was once superb; that of the present senior hong-merchant, is on a scale of great magnificence; it is a villa or rather palace, divided into suites of apartments, which are highly and tastefully decorated. The dwellings occupied by the government offices, and the numerous temples of the city, need not be particularized in this place; suffice it to remark, that they are usually more spacious than private houses, and that, at present, most of them are in a very ordinary condition; very few of the houses or temples in Canton, have more than one story, the halls of which are of the whole height of the fabric, without any concealment of the beams or rafters of the[97] house. Terraces are often built above the roofs, and when surrounded by a breastwork, afford in the cool of the day, a very pleasant and secure retreat, to which the inmates can ascend, in order to breathe a pure air, enjoy a wider prospect, or to witness any event that transpires in the neighbourhood. These terraces are not perhaps unlike the flat-roofs of other orientals. In some other points there is also a coincidence between the houses of the Chinese, and those which are noticed in the sacred writings.

Professor Jahn in his Biblical Archaeology, when referring to the buildings described in the Scriptures, says: “The gates not only of houses, but of cities, were customarily adorned with an inscription which was to be extracted from the law of Moses; a practice in which may be found the origin of the modern Mezuzaw or piece of parchment inscribed with sacred texts, and fastened to the door-posts. The gates were always shut, and one of the servants acted the part of a porter: the space immediately inside of the gate, called the porch, is square, and on one side of it is erected a seat for the accommodation of those strangers who are not to be admitted into the interior of the house. From the porch we are introduced through a second door into the court, which is commonly paved with marble, and surrounded on all sides. Sometimes however only one side is enclosed, with a peristyle or covered walk, over which, if the house has more than one story, there is a gallery of the same dimensions, supported by columns and protected by a balustrade.

In the church, large companies are received at nuptials and feasts: on such occasions, a large veil of thick cloth is extended by ropes over the whole court, to exclude the sun’s heat. The back part of the house, called in Arabic, the harem, and in Hebrew, by way of eminence, the palace, is allotted to the females. Behind the “harem,” is a garden into which the women can enjoy the pleasure of looking from their apartments. In the smaller houses the females occupy the upper story; the place assigned them also, by Homer in the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.”

In the buildings of the Chinese, the various inscriptions are seen on the door-posts: the porter at the outer gate; the porch and court within; the peristyle with its columns and perhaps a gallery above; the palace, Kin-tee or “forbidden ground,” with its garden, bears a striking resemblance to those of the above description.[98] The inner apartments of the emperor are in like manner, by way of eminence, called Kung-teen, or the “palace.”


The government of Canton now claims our notice. Here, as in every other place throughout the dominions of the Mantchow Chinese, all power emanates from one man, honoured as the vicegerent of “High heaven;” hence the present line of monarchs have not been satisfied with the dignity of sovereigns but have laid claim to the character of sages.

The sovereign of men, say they, “is heaven’s son; nobles and statesmen are the sovereign’s children; the people are the children of nobles and statesmen. The sovereign should serve heaven as a father, never forgetting to cherish reverential thoughts, but exciting himself to illustrate his virtues, and looking up to receive from heaven, the vast patrimony which it confers; thus the emperors will daily increase in felicity and glory. Nobles and ministers of state should serve their sovereign as a father, never forgetting to cherish reverential thoughts, not harbouring covetous and sordid desires, nor engaging in wicked and clandestine thoughts, but faithfully and justly exerting themselves; thus their noble rank will be preserved. The people should never forget to cherish reverential thoughts towards the nobles and ministers of state, to obey and keep the laws; to excite no secret or open rebellion; then no great calamity will befall their persons.”

In accordance with these views, a spacious hall called Wan-show-kung is dedicated to the emperor, in every province of the empire, the walls and appertenances of which are yellow, which is the imperial colour. In Canton the Wan-show-kung stands near the southeast corner of the new city, within the walls. It is used solely for the honour of the emperor and his family, and, annually, three days prior and subsequent to the imperial birth days, all the civil and military officers of the government, together with the principal inhabitants of the city, assemble in it, and there pay him adoration.

The same solemnities are required on these occasions as if the monarch were present; no seats are allowed in the sacred place; every one who repairs there, takes with him a cushion upon which he sits, cross-legged, on the ground. So much is done for absent majesty.

Among the principal officers, who exercise authority in the city[99] of Canton is first, Tsung-tuh: this officer is styled Leang-kwang-tsung-tuh, or the governor of the province of Kwang-tung and Kwang-se. He is clothed with high authority, and in many cases independent of all the other officers within the limits of his jurisdiction; usually, however, he acts in concert and confers with them who like himself, have been sent hither from the capital. He has no power to originate or carry into execution any law or regulation, without the sanction of the emperor, and is required to act according to precedents and existing statutes. In certain cases pointed out by law, he can, with the concurrence of foo-yuen, inflict immediate death.

New regulations are frequently proposed to the emperor by the governor and his council; when these have received the imperial sanction, (which they generally do,) they have the force of law. The governor is ex-officio, an honorary president of the supreme tribunal at Peking, and occasionally, a member of the imperial cabinet. His commands are most peremptory, and his authority can never be slighted or resisted with impunity. The responsibilities of his office are great: he is accountable to the emperor for the good management of all affairs in the two provinces; the prosperity of the people and the fruitfulness of the seasons are also items in the vast account which he must render to his sovereign: he is required to make a faithful report of every calamity which may come within the pale of his jurisdiction, whether occasioned by fire, pestilence, earthquake, or famine, to the emperor and the supreme tribunal, under penalty of being dismissed from office. Any real or supposed deficiency in his capacity, subjects him to the most severe punishment. The late governor of the province, Le, may be adduced to prove this fact, who, during the last year for the “untoward affair” of Leen-chow, was deprived of all rank and honours, chained, imprisoned, condemned, and sent into banishment.

In case of fire breaking out in the provincial city, and consuming more than ten houses, the governor is fined nine months’ pay; if more than thirty houses are consumed, he forfeits one year’s salary, if three hundred are destroyed, he is degraded one degree.

Fires occurring in the suburbs, do not subject him to the same punishments. All the principal officers and a few of the most respectable private citizens, frequently wait on his excellency. These[100] “calls” are visits of business or ceremony, according to circumstances, and more or less frequent, as the disposition of the parties may direct. On certain occasions, such as the arrival of a new governor, all the civil and military officers of both provinces, are required to send to him “an accurate and conspicuous account of themselves, their term of service, and the condition of their respective districts.” “But whoever,” said one of the late governors, “of the superior or inferior officers, or the salt or hong merchants, or any other persons, shall represent himself to be intimate with me and in my confidence, or if persons shall write to each other to that effect, or shall suffer themselves to be thus deceived; he or they shall be arrested and brought to trial; and those who conceal such reports shall be considered as equally guilty with those who give rise to them.”

All ultimate appeals in the two provinces, are made to the governor. At the gate of his palace are placed six tablets, in which are written appropriate inscriptions for those who wish to appeal to his authority; the first is for those who have been wronged by covetous, corrupt, or sordid officers: the second, for those who have suffered by thieves or robbers; the third for such as have been falsely accused; the fourth, for those who have been injured by swindlers and gamesters; the fifth, for such as have suffered by wicked persons of any description, and the sixth is for those who wish to give information concerning any secret schemes or machinations.

On the third and eighth, the thirteenth and eighteenth, the twenty-third and twenty-eighth days of each month, the people are allowed to take these tablets in their hands, and to enter one of the outer apartments of the palace, where they may, in person, present their complaints to his excellency. This mode of proceeding is however seldom adopted: to send or carry up a petition to his gate, is the most common method of seeking redress from the hands of the governors. When all these means fail, an appeal may be made to Peking.

The mode of appeal by entering the gate of the magistrate, is allowed also at the offices of foo-yuen, and an-cha-sze.

The governor’s house stands in the new city, near the yew-lan gate; it is spacious and belongs to the government. The salary of this officer is fifteen thousand taels, annually. It is generally[101] believed that his extra emoluments during the same period, amount to more than twelve times that sum; although presents of every kind, to officers of government, are disallowed.

Loo-kwan, the present governor, is an aged man, and a native of one of the northern provinces. He seems to belong to that class of persons who are fond of ease and pleasure, very ambitious—but desirous that all under their authority should know their places and perform their respective duties. He has a large number of persons employed about him, as advisers, secretaries, servants, &c. A small number of troops, who serve as a body-guard, are also attached to him, and at the same time, constitute a part of the city-police.

Foo-yuen, the second officer, who is also called seun-foo, is usually styled, by foreigners, “lieutenant-governor.” His jurisdiction is confined to this province, in which he is second in authority. The title of Choo, the present foo-yuen, as it appears in the government papers, runs thus: “An attendant officer of the military board; a member of the court of universal examiners; an imperial censor; patrolling soother of Canton; a guide of military affairs and a controller of taxes.”


Division of power, when it is to be intrusted to those who have been selected from the people, is the policy of the Mantchow family. The foo-yuen, though second to the governor, is not under his control; and in certain cases, acts independently of him.

They often confer together, and in matters in which they cannot agree, refer for a decision to Peking. The foo-yuen holds the wang-ming, “king’s order,” or death warrant, by virtue of which criminals, in cases of great emergency, can be put to the sword without a reference to the emperor. His residence is in the old city, in a palace built in the reign of Shwn-che, by one of the Tartar generals, who was sent hither to “pacify” the rebellious subjects of the South. Choo is a native of Keeang-soo and a thorough-bred son of Han—stern, resolute, and even obstinate—rather careless about emolument, a comtemner of bribes—a terror to bandits, a hater of “divine vagabonds”—respected by few, and feared by all. In his person, he is tall and well formed; his looks show that he has “gone hither and thither,” discharging the functions of public life, without toil and anxiety. His origin is very humble and he has grown old in the service of his country. He[102] has one son who is a source of grief to his parent; like the governor, he has a small body of soldiers under his command, but the number of persons kept in his immediate employ, is small. In his habits of living—we have his own word for it—the patrolling soother of Canton is both simple and an example to the people.

Tseang-keun, the third officer, usually denominated the Tartar general, is commander of the Tartar troops in Canton, and is answerable for the defence of the city. In most cases he acts independently of the tsung-tuh and foo-yuen. The soldiers under his immediate command, except a small detachment stationed on the river, are quartered in the old city, where the general keeps his court and camp. He is always, we believe, a mantchow and not unfrequently a member of the imperial family.

Subordinate to the tseang-keun, there are two foo-too-tungs or lieutenant-generals, and a great number of inferior officers, who rank as majors, captains, lieutenants, &c. His house, which was built by Tsing-nan-wang, is said to exhibit some of the finest specimens of architecture that can be found in the provincial city.

Hae-kwan-keen-tuh, the fourth officer, is known to foreigners and often addressed by them as, “the grand hoppo of the port of Canton.” He is generally a member of the imperial household, and receives his appointment direct from the emperor. His jurisdiction (he being commissioner of customs) is limited to the maritime commerce of Canton. We shall have occasion, subsequently, to speak of this department, when the commerce of the city is referred to.

Heo-yuen, the fifth officer, holds the highest literary appointment in the province; he is usually spoken of, as “the literary chancellor of Canton.” His office is one of great influence and respectability, inasmuch as literary rank, of which he is judge and dispenser, is necessary for preferment to all civil offices in the state. He has a general supervision of all public schools, colleges, and literary examinations, within the province. On some occasions his authority extends to the military department.

The sixth officer, Poo-ching-sze, is the controller of the revenue of the province; under the foo-yuen, he directs the appointment and removal of all the subordinate officers of the local government. The principal officers under him, are the king-leih or secretary, and a koo-ta-sze or keeper of the treasury.


Gan-cha-sze or an-cha-sze, the seventh officer, is criminal judge of the province; all the criminal cases which occur within its limits, are brought before him for trial. Sometimes he sits in judgment alone; but in cases involving the life of the accused, he is usually assisted by other chief officers of the province. A degree of civil power, at times, appertains to him in conjunction with the poo-ching-sze. The government posts are under his control;—among other officers attached to this department, there is a sze-yo who has the general management of the provincial prisoners; his rank and his duties are similar to those of the keeper of a state-prison.

Yen-yun-sze, the eighth officer, has the superintendence of the state department: there are, under him, a yun-tung who attends to the transportation of salt from one place to another, and several other minor officers.

The salt-trade is a government monopoly, the duties upon which form an important branch of the imperial revenue. This trade is limited to a small number of licensed merchants, who are generally very rich, and are often called upon to make liberal grants towards the support of the provincial government.

The ninth officer, Tuh-leang-taou, has the control of all the public granaries in the province; their superintendents are subject to his direction and inspection. Canton and the suburbs contain fourteen public granaries; these are required to be kept filled in order to furnish supplies for the people, in times of scarcity.

Kwang-chow-foo-chee-foo, or a magistrate of the department of Kwang-chow-foo, is the tenth officer in Canton; his title is often abridged, sometimes to Kwang-chow, at others, to Che-foo: Kwang-chow is simply the name of the foo. Chee-foo means, literally, “known of the department (or foo),” and denotes that it is the office or duty of this magistrate to be fully acquainted with the portion of territory over which he is placed. Either term is sufficient to denote, pretty nearly, what is the authority of an officer placed at the head of all the affairs of such a division of the province. There are numerous civil officers placed in various parts of the department, all of whom are under his immediate inspection. He has also under his authority a sze-yo, whose duties, as superintendent of the prisoners of the department, are similar to those of chief jailer in a county-prison.


The eleventh principal officer in the province is Nan-hae-heen-che-heen; this officer is subordinate to the che-foo, and is to the district of Nan-hae what the che-foo is to the department of Kwang-chow. As che-heen, he is required to know all the affairs of the district. The department of Kwang-chow is divided into fourteen heens or districts, of which Nan-hae and Pwan-yu are two of the principal, and include the city of Canton.

The last officer whom we shall particularize, is Pwan-yu-heen-che-heen; the rank and duties of this magistrate are the same in the district of Pwan-yu as are the last-named officers in the district of Nan-hae: their titles, like that of the che-foo, are commonly abridged; thus, when speaking of the Nan-hae magistrate, the people say, Nan-hae-heen; and when it is not necessary to mention the district, they simply say che-heen, designating by each of their phrases, the magistrate of the district of Nan-hae.

We have named and characterized as far as our limits will admit, and the nature of the subject requires, the principal officers who exercise authority in Canton; the reader will doubtless find it difficult, as we have done, to determine the exact limitation of their respective spheres, which, like the courses of the planets, often seem to intersect each other. At first sight of so many bodies, all in motion within limits so narrow, we feel surprised that they do not come into collision, destroy each other and carry destruction through the empire. On a close inspection, however, we are able to discover some of the secret laws which govern this complicated system, preserve it in being, and keep it in motion. Two influences, the one military, and the other literary, are perhaps the principal forces which regulate and control the measures of the Chinese government. Religion, which often has a gigantic power over governments, is here blended with civil and state ceremonies, and exerts but a feeble, and usually a most baneful influence on the political destinies of the nation.

All the officers enumerated in the foregoing list, excepting the two che-heens, the che-foo, and the tseang-keun, are general officers—their jurisdiction extending to all other parts of the province, as well as over the metropolis. There are likewise two other officers, commanders-in-chief of the land and naval forces, who, like the other members of the provincial government, act alone in certain cases, and sometimes in concert with the other general of[105]ficers. The government is despotic as well as military; and so constructed, that those who form the provincial government, shall, while they enjoy a degree of independence, serve as mutual checks; while at the same time, each superior officer is held responsible for those who are subordinate, and accountable for himself. Even in the location of these officers, there has been a cautious reference to “division and balance of power.” For example: the tsung-tuh is stationed in the new city, almost within a stone’s-throw of his majesty’s most faithful “slave,” the hoppo; the foo-yuen and the tsang-kuen are placed in similar positions in reference to each other: these two last are so located in the old city, that, should circumstances require, they could act against the two first, in the new city. The same principle is observable likewise, if we mistake not, in the disposition which is made of the troops. The whole land and naval force throughout the province, has been estimated (nominally) at about one hundred thousand men; all of whom are with fixed limitations, under the control of the governor; he has, however, the immediate and sole command of only five thousand, and these are stationed at a distance from the city. On all ordinary occasions, except when he goes to a distance from Canton, he is escorted by a detachment from the kwang-chow-hee, (the chief military officer of Kwang-chow,) which, in the absence of his own troops, serves him for a body-guard, and constitutes, at the same time, a part of the police of the city. The foo-yuen has only two thousand at his command; while the tseang-keun has five thousand, which, in an extreme case, would enable him to become master of the city. The proper seat of the governor is at Shaou-king-foo, several miles west of this city; but on account of the superior advantages of Canton, he is allowed to reside here; he cannot, however, bring his troops hither, lest, in conjunction with the foo-yuen, they should prove more than a match for the Tartar general-commandant and his five thousand fighting men. It should be remarked here, that no individual can hold an office in any province, department, or district of the empire, that includes the place of his nativity, or that extends within several hundred le of it.

The whole number of soldiers, ordinarily quartered in the city, does not probably exceed seven thousand. There are in the immediate vicinity of Canton, a few small forts, and the city itself is[106] intended to be a stronghold; but neither is in such a state that they would serve any very valuable purposes of defence. Even the late rain-storm carried away one of the gates of the city, and opened a wide breach in the walls. Most of the forts are dismantled and defenceless, and present nothing more formidable than the frightful paintings of tiger’s heads, on the wooden lids which block up their port-holes. The two follies, Dutch and French follies as they are called, are situated in the river opposite to the city, and are fair specimens of the forts about Canton; there are likewise for the defence of the city, what have been called cavalry, and artillery; but of these, we have heard little, and seen nothing. Of the Tartar troops, there are two hundred chosen men, who on state occasions, appear well clad and warlike; but, generally, the soldiers are badly equipped, and poorly disciplined. All their armour and accoutrements, consisting of shields and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and javelins, short-swords and matlocks, seem ill fitted either for defence or attack; the heavy losses sustained by the troops of Canton, during the late highland war at Seen-chow, fully confirm these remarks; as do also recent imperial edicts, in which the soldiery are accused of idleness and lazy habits, and of “indulging in all the softness of civilians;” the police of the city is on the whole, vigilant and efficient. Besides those who act in the capacity of constables, thief-takers, &c., constituting the regular police, there are many neighbourhoods, as well as private individuals, which make arrangements for a constant nocturnal watch during the night; almost all the streets of the city are shut up by strong gates at each end; near one of which there is usually a guard-house. The night-watches are distinguished by bells, or some similar instruments kept by the watchmen, in the winter months, when there is great danger from fire, as well as thieves. Watch-towers are built on bamboo poles, high above the roofs of the houses; thus constituting a double watch. When thieves are discovered, or when a fire breaks out in any part of the city, the alarm by means of the watchmen, spreads quickly from one extremity of the city to the other. When riotous assemblies collect in the streets, they are, in most cases, speedily dissolved by a vigorous application of the bamboo or whip; many, doubtless, “shove by justice,” and to the day of their death go unpunished; yet the number who are arrested and brought to trial, annually, is[107] very great; justice is often administered in the most summary manner; not unfrequently, in minor cases, the man receives the punishment, and again goes free, the same hour in which he commits the crime.


The forms of trial are simple: there is no jury, no pleading; the criminal kneels before the magistrate, who hears the witnesses and passes sentence; he is then remanded to prison, or sent to the place of execution. Seldom is he acquitted; when witnesses are wanting, he is sometimes tortured until he gives evidence against himself.

There are four jails in Canton; which together contain several hundred prisoners; the jail is called te-yo, hell, or literally “earth’s prison.” All capital offenders suffer just without the southern gates, near the river; hundreds die there annually. When brought to the fatal spot, they kneel with their faces towards the emperor’s court, and bending forward in the attitude of submission and thanksgiving, suddenly expire beneath the bloody sword of the executioner.





The Literary Institutions of China, are the pillars that give stability to the government. Her military forces are utterly inadequate to hold together the numerous and extensive provinces and territories, that constitute the wide dominions of the reigning dynasty. With great difficulty the Tartar troops overrun the country; conquering province after province, and gradually extending their authority over the territories on the west of China Proper. But for a long period both the discipline and the energies of the Chinese soldiery have been on the wane: and at this moment the imperial hosts present nothing formidable but their numerical amount; the recent insurrections at Leen-chow and Formosa, have afforded the most complete evidence of this imbecility. Not only in this part of the empire, but along the whole coast up to the great wall on the north, and even beyond that in Mantchou Tartary, both the land and naval forces have become so exceedingly enervated and dissolute, that they exercise no salutary influence or control, except over a few, who are equally debased with themselves. As police-men, in the capacity of lictors, thief-takers, and executioners, they are not less detested than feared by the common people; they are in fact, for all purposes of defence, little better than dead men; were they stricken from the catalogue of the living, we can scarcely doubt that the stability of the empire would remain unimpaired.

There are many who look with astonishment at the magnitude of this empire, and believe it strong and immoveable as the everlasting hills. But an examination of its history and present organization, would show them that it has been frequently rent and broken by rebel chieftains, ambitious statesmen, and haughty[110] kings; and that its present greatness is chiefly attributable to its peculiar literary institutions. These, though they are the glory and strength of the nation, are, except for mere purposes of government, amazingly deficient; and it is their relative rather than intrinsic value, that renders them worthy of special notice. Wealth and patronage have great influence here; they often control the acts of government, stay the course of justice, cover the guilty, and confer honours and emoluments on the undeserving. But as a general rule, learning, while it is an indispensable prerequisite for all those who aspire to places of trust and authority in the state, is sure to command respect, influence, and distinction.

Thus, without the dreadful alternative of overthrowing the powers that be, a way is opened to ambitious youth, by which he may reach the highest station in the empire; the throne only excepted. Usually the most distinguished statesmen are those who have risen to eminence by intellectual efforts: they are at once the philosophers, the teachers, and rulers of the land. These distinctions they cannot however maintain, without yielding implicit obedience to the will of the monarch, which is most absolute and uncontrolled. Let them honour and obey the power that is over them, and they stand; dependant indeed on the one hand, but on the other, in proud and envied distinction.


High rank in the state is the brightest glory to which this people aspire; with them, learning derives its chief value from the simple fact, that it brings them within the reach of that dazzling prize. Strict examinations, regulated by a fixed code of laws, have been instituted and designed solely to elicit from the body of the community the “true talent” of the people, with the ulterior intention of applying it to purposes of government. At these examinations, which are open to all except menial servants, lictors, players, and priests, it is determined who shall rise to distinction and shed glory on their ancestors and posterity—who shall live on in obscurity and die and be forgotten. The competitors of the Olympic games never entered the arena before the assembled thousands of their countrymen, with deeper emotion than that which agitates the bosoms of those who contest the palm of these literary combats. The days on which they are held, and their results published in Canton, are the proudest which its inhabitants ever witnessed. A brief notice of them may be interesting to the[111] reader, and at the same time enable him to understand more fully the nature and object of the schools and colleges of the provincial city.

The highest literary examinations in the empire are triennial, and take place at Peking. Besides these, there are also occasional examinations granted by special favour of the emperor. Up to these contests, the most distinguished scholars go, from all the provinces. This privilege is not gained without long, patient, and successful endeavour; the examinations at which it is determined who shall enjoy it, occur also triennially and are held in the metropolis of each province. These examinations are of incomparable interest to great multitudes of the people, in every department and district of the empire. High honours, rich emoluments, and in a word, every thing that the young aspirant and his numerous kindred most esteem, are at stake; a long season of preparation has been endured, heavy expenses incurred; and now the decisive hour approaches.

Two examiners are chosen from distinguished officers at Peking, under the immediate superintendance of the emperor; within five days after they are chosen, they must leave the capital. They are allowed the use of the post-horses belonging to government. Upon those who come to Canton six hundred taels are conferred, to defray their expenses while on the road; two hundred of which are paid when they commence their journey from Peking, and the remainder by the governor of the province, when they are about to return after the examination is completed.

The above examiners are assisted by ten others, who are selected from the local officers over whom the foo-yuen presides. Besides these there are many inferior officers, who are employed as inspectors, guards, &c. All these, together with the candidates, their attendants, &c., amounting to ten thousand and upward, assemble at the Kung-yuen, a large and spacious building designed solely for these occasions. It contains numerous apartments, so that each candidate may be seated separately from his competitors. All the seats are numbered. The apartments are low and narrow, have only a single entrance, and no furniture except a chair and a narrow writing-desk.

The number of candidates who assemble in Canton is between seven and eight thousand. They are often attended by their friends,[112] and continue here for several weeks, and sometimes for months; during which time the hum and bustle of the city are greatly increased, and every kind of mercantile business receives a new impulse. These candidates are always persons of some distinction, which they must have gained, either at previous examinations or by the payment of large sums of money. They are all called sew-tsae, a title not unlike that of master of arts; they are divided into several classes; those who have purchased their degree are often despised by the others, and are generally regarded with less respect than those who have gained it by their own merits. They meet on equal terms, and their “true nobility” is to be determined by personal efforts, which are to be made during a fixed period and under fixed circumstances. The candidates assemble on the eighth moon; but none are allowed to enter the examination except those who have been previously enrolled by the literary chancellor of the province. The age, features, place of residence, and lineage, of each candidate must be given in the chancellor’s list, and a copy of it lodged in the office of the “foo-yuen.” They must all attend at the examinations in their native province; and those who give in a false account of their family and lineage, or place of nativity, are expelled and degraded; for no candidate can be admitted at any place without proving that his family has been resident there for three generations.

The examination continues for several days, and each student must undergo a series of trials. The first is on the ninth of the moon, the second on the twenty-second, and the third on the fifteenth. The candidates are required to enter their apartments, on the day preceding the examination, and are not allowed to leave them until the day after it has closed. Thus they must pass two nights in close and solitary confinement. On the first day of their examination, three themes, which are selected from the “Four books,” are proposed to them, and they are required to give the meaning and scope of each, to which a fourth is added, on which they must compose a short poem in rhyme. On the second day, a theme is given them from each of the “Five classics;” and on the third day, five questions, which shall refer to the history or political economy of the country. The themes must be sententious, and have a meaning which is refined and profound. They must not be such as have often been discussed. Those which are given out for[113] poetry, must be grave and important. In the themes for essays on political economy, the chief topics must be concerning things of real importance, the principles of which are clear and evidently of a correct nature. “There is no occasion to search and inquire into devious and unimportant subjects.” All questions concerning the character and learning of statesmen of the present dynasty, as well as all topics which relate to its policy, must be carefully avoided. The paper on which the themes and essays are written is prepared with great care; and must be inspected at the office of the poo-ching-sze. It is firm and thick, and the only kind that may be used. The price of it is fixed by authority. The number of characters, both in the themes and essays, is limited. The lines must be straight, and all the characters full and fair. At the close of every paper, containing elegant composition, verses, or answers to questions, it must be stated by the students how many characters have been blotted out or altered; if the number exceed one hundred, the writer is tsee-chuh, “pasted out;” which means, that his name is pasted up at the gate of the hall, as having violated the rules of the examination, and he is forthwith excluded from that year’s examination.

There are usually a hundred or more persons at every examination in Canton subject to this punishment, for breaking this, or some other of the regulations. The candidates are not allowed “to get drunk” and “behave disorderly” during the examination. All intercourse of civility between the examiners and the relations of the students must be discontinued; and there must be no interchange of letters, food, &c. On entering the outer gate of the kung-yuen, each candidate must write his name in a register, kept for that purpose; if it is afterward discovered that the name was erroneously written, then the officer superintending the register, if it be found that he is an accomplice in registering a spurious essay, shall, with the candidate for literary honours who has violated the law, be tried and punished. Moreover, the student, on entering the hall of examination, must be searched; and if it be discovered that he has with him any precomposed essay, or miniature copy of the classics, he shall be punished by wearing a wooden collar, degraded from the rank of sew-tsae, and for ever incapacitated to stand as a candidate for literary honours; and the father and tutor of the delinquent shall both be prosecuted and punished. All the[114] furniture and utensils, such as the writing-desks, inkstands, &c., in the apartments where the students write their essays, must be searched; and also, each and all of the managers, copyists, attendant officers, servants, porters, &c. If, in any manner, a learned person, who is to decide on the papers, be admitted to the apartments of the students, dressed as a servant, he shall be punished; and the chief examiner delivered over to a court of inquiry. A watch, composed of military officers and soldiers, is maintained day and night, both in the inner and outer courts of the hall; and if any of these men are guilty of conveying papers to the candidates, concealed with their food, or in any other way, they shall be punished.

There are many other regulations and precautions which have been adopted to prevent fraud, but a sufficient number have been stated to show somewhat of the interest which gathers around these examinations, and the schemes which are formed to gain distinction, without the toil and fatigue of hard study. Of the thousands of candidates assembled at these examinations in Canton, only seventy-one can obtain the degree of Kew-jing; the names of the successful essayists are published by a proclamation, which is issued on or before the tenth of the ninth moon, and within twenty-five days subsequent to the closing of the examination. This time is allowed to the examiners to read the essays, and prepare their report. The proclamation, which contains the name of the successful candidates, after it has received its appropriate signatures, is pasted up at the office of the foo-yuen.

At a given hour three guns are fired; and the foo-yuen at the same time comes forth from his palace, accompanying the official paper; it is forthwith pasted up, and again a salute of three guns is fired; his excellency then advances, and bows three times towards the names of the “promoted men,” (hin-jir), and finally retires under another salute of three guns. Ten thousand minds are now relieved from their long suspense. Swift messengers are despatched by those who have won the prize, to announce to their friends the happy result of the long trial which they have undergone; while the many return with disappointment to their homes, the successful few are loaded with encomiums and congratulations, and their names with their essays sent up to the emperor. To crown the whole, a banquet is prepared for these newly-pro[115]moted men, of which the examiners and all the civil officers of rank in the province partake. Gold and silver cups for the occasion must be provided by the provincial treasurer. The chief examiner, from Peking, presides; the foo-yuen, at whose palace the banquet is given, and who is present as visiter, is seated on the right, and the assistant-examiner on his left. The governor of the province is also present, a train of inferior officers wait as servants, and two lads, dressed like naiads, holding in their hands branches of olive, grace the scene with a song from their ancient classics.

There are three other examinations in Canton, which occur twice in three years, and are attended by great numbers of aspirants. At the first, which is attended by the students of Nan-hae and Pwanyu, the che-heens preside; at the second, which is attended by candidates from all the districts of Kwang-chow-foo, the che-foo presides; but the third is conducted by the literary chancellor of the province, whose prerogative it is to confer the degree of sew-tsae upon a limited number of the most distinguished competitors.


These are preparatory to the triennial examination, and inferior to it in interest; they need not, therefore, be further particularized. It may be remarked, however, that they are open to persons of all ages; and a case very recently occurred where a hoary head of eighty, accompanied by a son and grandson, attended the examination; all of them were candidates for the same literary honours. To qualify the young for these examinations, and thereby prepare them for rank and office in the state, is a leading object of the higher schools and colleges among the Chinese. But a great majority of the schools in Canton are designed only to prepare youth for the common duties of private life. These latter, as well as many of the higher schools, are private establishments. And though there are teachers appointed by government, in all the districts of the empire, yet there are no public or charity-schools for the benefit of the great mass of the community. Whatever may be his object and final distinction, almost every scholar in Canton commences his course at some one of the private schools. These, among the numerous inhabitants of this city, assume a great variety of form and character, according to the peculiar fancy of individuals. The opulent, who are desirous of pushing forward their sons rapidly, provide for them able teachers, who[116] shall devote the whole time to the instruction of two, three, or four pupils. A school of this description we have repeatedly visited; it is in a hall belonging to merchants from Ning-po, and is kept by an old man, who has three lads under his care; one five, another seven, and a third nine years old: he instructs them in the learned dialects, and the youngest has already made greater proficiency than is usually accomplished by boys at the age of ten. Sometimes the inhabitants of a single street, or a few families who are related to each other, unite, have a teacher, and fit up a school-room, each defraying a stipulated part of the expenses. At other times, the teacher publishes the rules and terms on which he will conduct his school, and seeks for scholars wherever he can find them. Children are not generally sent to school until they are seven or eight years old; they enter, usually, for a whole year, and must pay for that term whether they attend regularly or not. The wages of the teachers vary greatly: in some instances (and they are not unfrequent in the country) the lads pay only two or three dollars, but generally fifteen or twenty per annum. When the teacher devotes his whole time to two or three pupils, he often receives a hundred dollars from each.

The ordinary school-room, with all its defects, presents an interesting scene. At the head of it there is a tablet, on which the name of the sage—“the teacher and pattern for myriads of ages”—is written in large capital letters; a small altar is placed before it, upon which incense and candles are kept constantly burning. Every morning, when the scholar enters the room, he bows first before the tablet, and then to his teacher; the former is not merely a tribute of respect, but an act of worship, which he is taught, nay, compelled, to pay to Confucius. The boys usually continue in school from six o’clock in the morning until six in the evening, except two or three hours, which they are allowed for their meals. When in school, they all study aloud, each raising his voice at the same time, and striving to outdo his fellows, the noise of which is very great. Upon those who are idle or disobedient, the teacher plies the rattan, with woful severity. Every lesson must be committed perfectly to memory, and the lad who fails in this, is obliged to bow down, and learn it upon his knees; those who are the most incorrigible are made to kneel on gravel, small stones, or something of the kind, in order to enhance their punish[117]ment. The San-tse-king, the famous “three-character classics,” is the first book which is put into the hands of the learner. Though written expressly for infant minds, it is scarcely better fitted for them than the propositions of Euclid would be, were they thrown into rhyme. But, “it is not to be understood” at first; and the tyro, when he can rehearse it from beginning to end, takes up the Four books, and masters them in the same manner. Thus far the young learners go, without understanding aught, or but little, of what they recite; and here those who are not destined to a literary course, after having learned to write a few characters, must close their education. The others now commence the commentary on the Four books, and commit it to memory in the same way; and then pass on to the other classics. The study of arithmetic, geography, history, &c., forms no part of a “common-school” education.

The high schools and colleges are numerous, but none of them are richly endowed, or well fitted for the purposes of education. The high schools, which are fourteen in number, are somewhat similar to the private grammar-schools in England and America; with this difference, that the former are nearly destitute of pupils. There are thirty colleges; most of which were founded many centuries since. Several of them are now deserted, and falling to ruins. Three of the largest have about two hundred students each, and, like all the others, only one or two professors. We have sought long and diligently, but thus far in vain, for some definite information concerning the existing discipline and regulations of these colleges; should we affirm that they are without rules and order, we should say what we do not doubt, but cannot prove. All those systems of instruction which have sprung up in modern times, and are now accomplishing so much for the nations of the West, are here entirely unknown. There are a few books in the Chinese language which contain excellent maxims on the subject of education, give numerous rules to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, and detail systems of gymnastic exercises for the preservation of health.

Of the whole population of Canton, not more than one half are able to read. Perhaps not one boy out of ten is left entirely destitute of instruction, yet, of the other sex, not one in ten ever learns to read or write. There is scarcely a school for girls in the whole city. Public sentiment—immemorial usage—and many[118] passages in the classics, are against female education; the consequence is, that females are left uninstructed, and sink far below that point in the scale of being, for which they are fitted, and which they ought ever to hold. The degradation into which the fairest half of the human species is here thrown, affords cause for loud complaint against the wisdom and philosophy of the sages and legislators of the celestial empire. We do not knowingly detract from the merits of the Chinese; in comparison with other Asiatics, they are a learned and polished race. Those who have been educated are generally remarkably fond of books: and though there are no public libraries in Canton, yet the establishments for manufacturing and vending books are numerous. To supply those who are unable to purchase for themselves the works they need, a great number of circulating libraries are kept constantly in motion.

While the purest moral maxims are found mixed up at times, in the Chinese language, as in ours, with gross licentiousness, the charge does not lie against works comprising the library of the youthful students, which, in this particular, is wholly unexceptionable.

The situation of Canton and the policy of the Chinese government, together with various other causes, have made it the scene of a very extensive domestic and foreign commerce. With the exception of the Russian caravans which traverse the northern frontiers of China, and the Portuguese and Spanish ships which visit Macao, the whole trade between the Chinese empire and the nations of the West centres at this place. Here the productions of every part of China are found, and a very brisk and lucrative commerce is carried on by merchants and factors from all the provinces. Merchandise is brought here from Tonquin, (Tung-king) Cochin-China, Camboja, Siam, Malaca, or the Malay peninsula, the eastern Archipelago, the ports of India, the nations of Europe, the different states of North and South America, and the islands of the Pacific. We shall briefly notice the several branches of this extensive commerce, enumerate some of the principal commodities which are brought to this city, as well as those which are carried from it, and add such remarks concerning the situation and circumstances of the trade, and those who conduct it, as seem necessary to exhibit its full magnitude and importance.


Concerning the domestic commerce, we can do little more than[119] mention the articles which are here bought and sold for the several provinces; each of which we shall notice separately, that we may, by taking a view of their position and number of inhabitants at the same time, see to what advantage the present trade is conducted, and the probability of its future increase or diminution. The maritime provinces claim priority of notice, after which, those on the northern, western, and southern frontiers will pass under review, and finally, those in the centre of China proper. The colonial trade is, in the present view, omitted.

From Fuh-keen, come the black teas, camphor, sugar, indigo, tobacco, paper, lacquered ware, excellent grass-cloth, and a few mineral productions. Woollen and cotton cloths of various kinds, wines, watches, &c., are sent to that province; which, with its population of fourteen millions, might, in different circumstances, receive a far greater amount of foreign manufactures and productions in exchange for its own. The trade of the province is carried on under great disadvantages. It has been shown by an accurate and detailed comparison between the expense of conveying black teas from the country where they are produced, to Canton, and of their conveyance from thence to the port of Fuh-chow in Fuh-keen, that the privilege of admission to the latter port would be attended with a saving to the East India Company of £150,000 annually, in the purchase of black teas alone.

Che-keang sends to Canton the best of silks and paper; also, fans, pencils, wines, dates, “golden-flowered” hams, and “lung-tsingcha”—an excellent and very costly tea. This province has a population of twenty-six millions, and makes large demands for foreign imports; these, however, by way of Canton, go to that province at no small expense to the consumer.

Keang-nan, which is now divided into the two provinces of Keang-soo and Gan-hwuy, with a population of seventy-two millions, has the resources as well as the wants of a kingdom. Notwithstanding its distance from Canton, large quantities of produce are annually sent hither, and exchanged for the productions and manufactures of the western world. Green teas and silks are the principal articles of traffic, which are brought to Canton; and they usually yield the merchant a great profit.

From Shan-tung, fruits, vegetables, drugs, wines, and skins, are brought down the coast to Canton; and coarse fabrics for clothing[120] are sent back in return. The carrying of foreign exports from Canton to Shan-tung, whether over land or up the coast in native vessels, makes them so expensive as to preclude their use among the great majority of the inhabitants, who are poor and numerous. The population of Shan-tung is twenty-eight millions. From Chih-le, ginseng, raisins, dates, skins, deer’s flesh, wines, drugs, and tobacco, are sent hither; and sundry other foreign imports go back in return. The population, amounting to twenty-seven millions, is in a great degree, dependant on the productions of other provinces and countries for the necessaries of life.

Shan-se sends skins, wines, ardent spirits, and musk. Among its fourteen millions of inhabitants, there are many capitalists who come to Canton to increase their property by loaning money. Various kinds of cloths, European skins, watches, and native books, are sent up to the province of Shan-se.

Shen-se also supports a large money trade in Canton, sends hither brass, iron, precious stones, and drugs; and takes back woollen and cotton cloths, books and wines. The population is about ten millions.

Kean-suh sends to Canton gold, quicksilver, musk, tobacco, &c., and receives in return, for its fifteen millions of inhabitants, a small amount of European goods.

Sze-chuen sends gold, brass, iron, tin, musk and a great variety of other drugs; and receives in exchange, European cloths, lacquered ware, looking-glasses, &c. Sze-chuen is the largest of the eighteen provinces, and has a population of twenty-one millions.

Yun-nan yields, for the shops of Canton, brass, tin, precious stones, musk, betel-nut, birds, and peacock’s feathers; and receives silks, woollen and cotton cloths, various kinds of provisions, tobacco and books in return. The population is five millions.

Kuang-we has a population of seven millions, and furnishes the provincial city with large quantities of rice, cassia, iron, lead, fans, and wood of various kinds; and takes in return many native productions, and most of the articles that come to Canton from beyond sea.

From Kwei-chow, one of the central provinces, are brought gold, quicksilver, iron, lead, tobacco, incense, and drugs; a few articles, chiefly foreign goods, find their way back to that province. Its population is five millions.


From the two provinces, Hoo-nan and Hoo-pih, come large quantities of rhubarb; also musk, tobacco, honey, hemp, and a great variety of singing-birds; the number of inhabitants is five millions. They make very considerable demands on the merchants of Canton, both for native productions and foreign imports.

Keang se sends to this market, coarse cloths, hemp, china-ware, and drugs; and receives in return woollens and native books. The population is twenty-three millions. Ho-nan has an equal number of inhabitants, and sends hither rhubarb, musk, almonds, honey, indigo, &c.; woollens, and a few other foreign goods are received in return.


This account of the domestic commerce of Canton, is taken from native manuscript. We have sought long, but in vain, for some official document which would show at once, the different kinds, and the amount of merchandise, which are annually brought from, and carried to, the several provinces of the empire. The account which has been given must be regarded only as an approximation to the truth. Some articles, doubtless, have been omitted, which ought to have been noticed, and vice versa; one commodity in particular, opium, known to be carried into all the provinces, and used to the amount of more than fifteen millions annually, is not even mentioned. Still, the statement which we have brought into view, shows that there is, in every part of the empire, a greater or less demand for foreign productions; a demand which, so long as the commerce is confined to this port, will be supplied very disadvantageously, both for the foreigner and the native; but while it does remain thus restricted, there is reason to suppose that it will, under all its disadvantages, gradually increase; and even if the northern ports of the empire should be immediately thrown open, it will not soon cease to be important.

Though the merchants and factors from the other provinces enjoy a considerable share of the commerce of Canton, yet they do not confine themselves to the domestic trade; they participate largely in that to Tung-king, Cochin-China, Siam, and the islands of the eastern Archipelago. The whole number of Chinese vessels, annually visiting foreign ports south of Canton, is not probably less than one hundred; of these, one third belong to Canton; six or eight go to Tung-king; eighteen or twenty to Cochin-China, Camboja, and Siam; four or five visit the ports of Singapore, Java,[122] Sumatra, and Penang; and as many more find their way to the Celebes, Borneo, and the Philippine islands. These vessels make only one voyage in the year, and always move with the monsoon. Many of the vessels, from Fuh-keen and the northern ports of China, which go south, touch at Canton, both when outward and homeward bound. But the whole amount of trade to foreign ports, carried on by the Chinese merchants of Canton, is not very great; this is not the case with that which is in the hands of foreigners, which we shall notice in the following chapter.




Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, England, and the United States, share in the commerce of Canton.

The Portuguese ships led the way to China in the year 1576, but, difficulties occurring, they were restricted to Macao, to which place they have ever since been limited, excepting at short intervals, when they have been allowed to visit other ports.

The Chinese annals say, that in 1550, the Portuguese borrowed Haon-king-gaon, (Macao,) which is situated in the midst of dashing waves, where immense fish rise up, and again plunge into the deep! the clouds hover over it, and the prospect is really beautiful—that they (the Portuguese) passed over the ocean, myriads of miles, in a wonderful manner; and small and great ranged themselves under the renovating influence imparted by the glorious sun of the celestial empire.

Spanish vessels enjoy greater privileges than those of any other nation: they trade at Macao, a privilege denied to all other foreigners, excepting the Portuguese; at Canton, and at Amoy.

The Falanke (French) reached Canton, in 1520; they entered the Tiger’s mouth (the Bogue) abruptly, but were driven away, because the loud report of their guns frightened the inhabitants. Their trade has never been very extensive, though it has continued to the present time. During the few past years, they have employed annually, two, three, or four ships in this trade. In the seasons 1832-33, there were three French ships in port.

The Ho-lan-kwo-jin (Dutch) arrived at China, in the year 1601: they inhabited, in ancient times, a wild territory, and arrived at[124] Macao in two or three large ships. Their clothes and hair were red, they had tall bodies, and blue, deeply sunken eyes, their feet were one cubit and two tenths long, and they frightened the people with their strange appearance; notwithstanding tribute was brought by them, they had, in commencing trade, to struggle with many difficulties; and their commerce, during two centuries, has fluctuated exceedingly. Its present prospects are improving. A few years since, they had only three or four ships, annually employed in this trade. During the year 1832, seventeen, from Holland and Java, arrived in China. The value of imports, was four hundred and fifty-seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-eight dollars. The exports amounted to six hundred and fifty-six thousand, six hundred and forty-five dollars, exclusive of the private trade of the commanders.

Sweden has never, we believe, in one season, sent more than two or three ships to China. The trade opened in 1732: during the first fifteen subsequent years, twenty-two ships were despatched to China, of which four were lost.

Peter Osbeck, who was here in 1750-51, as chaplain of the Prince Charles, a Swedish East Indiaman, relates, that there were at that season, eighteen European ships in port: one Danish, two Swedish, two French, four Dutch, and nine English. For the last fifteen years, no Swedish ships have visited China.

The Danes preceded the Swedes in their visits to China, but we could not ascertain the date of the year in which their trade began. During twelve years, commencing in 1732, they sent thirty-two ships to China, twenty-seven of which only returned. Their flag was called Hwang-ke, “the imperial flag,” which name it has retained to this day. Their trade has never been extensive, though it has continued to the present time.

The Russian trading vessels are excluded from the Chinese ports; their trade being confined to the northern provinces, by land.

The English did not reach the coast of China, till about 1635. The whole number of arrivals, during the year 1832, was eighty-seven; ten of this number performed two or three voyages from China. Of the whole number, nine were from London, and sixty-two from ports in India. The vessels brought to China, broadcloths, long-ells, camlets, British calicoes, worsted and cot[125]ton yarn, cotton piece goods, Bombay, Madras and Bengal cotton, opium, sandal-wood, black-wood, rattans, betel-nut, putchuck, pepper, cloves, saltpetre, cochineal, olibanum skins, ivory, amber, pearls, cornelians, watches and clocks, lead, iron, tin, quicksilver, shark’s fins, fishmaws, stock-fish, &c. In return, they were laden with teas, silk, sugar, silk piece goods, cassia, camphor, vermilion, rhubarb, alum, musk and various other articles. The value of these exports and imports is as follows:—

In 1828-29, imports, twenty-one millions, three hundred and thirteen thousand, five hundred and twenty-six dollars; exports, nineteen millions, three and sixty thousand, six hundred and twenty-five dollars: in 1829-30, imports, twenty-two millions, nine hundred and thirty-one thousand, three hundred and seventy-two dollars; exports, twenty-one millions, two hundred and fifty-seven thousand, two hundred and fifty-seven dollars: in 1830-31, imports, twenty-one millions, nine hundred sixty-one thousand, seven hundred and fifty-four dollars; exports, twenty millions, four hundred and forty-six thousand, six hundred and ninety-nine dollars: in 1831-32, imports, twenty millions, five hundred and thirty-six thousand, two hundred and twenty-seven dollars; exports, seventeen millions, seven hundred and sixty-seven thousand, four hundred and eighty-six dollars: in 1832-33, imports, twenty-two millions, three hundred and four thousand, seven hundred and fifty-three dollars; exports, eighteen millions, three hundred and thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and sixty dollars.


The American trade to China, is of very recent origin; it commenced after the revolutionary war. The first recorded facts which we are able to obtain, carry back the trade only to the season of 1784-5, in which two American ships were sent, laden, to Canton. In their return-cargo, they carried eight hundred and eighty thousand, one hundred pounds of tea: in the following season, but one vessel was sent, which exported six hundred and ninety-five thousand pounds: in 1786-7, there were five American ships, engaged in the trade: they exported one million, one hundred and eighty-one thousand, eight hundred and sixty pounds of this plant. One of these ships, was the “Hope:” other ships, which were in port during this, and the following season, were the “Washington,” “Asia,” and “Canton;” the last two, from Philadelphia.

The number of American vessels, which arrived in China, during[126] the seasons of 1832-33, ending in June, 1833, was fifty-nine. Some of these ships did not, however, take in cargoes at this port.

These vessels brought quicksilver, lead, iron, South American copper, spelter, tin plates, Turkey opium, ginseng, rice, broadcloths, camlets, chintzes, long ells, long cloths, cambrics, domestics, velvets, bombazettes, handkerchiefs, linen, cotton drillings, yarn and prints, land and sea otter-skins, fox-skins, seal-skins, pearl-shells, sandal-wood, cochineal, musical-boxes, clocks, watches, and sundry other articles.

In return, they were laden with teas, silks, cassia, camphor, rhubarb, vermilion, china-ware, &c. These articles were carried to the United States, Europe, South America, Sandwich islands, and Manila. The following statement will afford some idea of the progress in that trade, and show its present amount:—

In 1805-6, imports, five millions, three hundred and twenty-six thousand, three hundred and fifty-eight dollars; exports, five millions, one hundred and twenty-seven thousand dollars: in 1815-16, imports, two millions, five hundred and twenty-seven thousand, five hundred dollars; exports, four millions, two hundred and twenty thousand dollars: in 1825-26, imports, three millions, eight hundred and forty-three thousand, seven hundred and seventeen dollars; exports, four millions, three hundred and sixty-three thousand, seven hundred and eighty-eight dollars: in 1830-31, imports, four millions, two-hundred and twenty-three thousand, four hundred and seventy-six dollars; exports, four millions, three hundred and forty-four thousand, five hundred and forty-eight dollars: in 1831-32, imports, five millions, five hundred and thirty-one thousand, eight hundred and six dollars; exports, five millions, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, seven hundred and thirty-one dollars: in 1832-33, imports, eight millions, three hundred and sixty-two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-one dollars; exports, eight millions, three hundred and seventy two thousand, one hundred and seventy-five dollars.


It appears, from the foregoing statements, that the China trade, employing, annually, one hundred and forty first-rate vessels, and a large amount of capital, constitutes a very important branch of modern commerce: this trade has always been carried on, and still exists, under circumstances peculiar to itself: it is secured by no commercial treaties, regulated by no stipulated rules: mandates,[127] and edicts not a few, there are on “record,” but these all emanate from one party; still, the trade lives, and, by that imperial favour which extends to “the four seas,” flourishes and enjoys no small degree of protection.

All vessels arriving on the coast of China, are, unless destined for the harbour of Macao, or the port of Canton, considered by the Chinese authorities, as intruders, and as such, must instantly depart. Year after year, however, vessels have found a safe and convenient anchorage at Lintin and its vicinity, where a large amount of business, including nearly the whole of the opium-trade, is transacted.

Those vessels that are to enter the Bogue, must procure a permit, and a pilot, at the Chinese custom-house, near Macao: the pilots, having received license to act, must proceed on board immediately, and conduct the vessel to the anchorage, at Whampoa.

As soon as the ship is officially reported at Canton, arrangements are made for discharging and receiving cargo, the whole business of which is sometimes accomplished in three weeks, but usually, it extends to two or three months. Before this business can proceed, the consignee, or the owner of the ship, must obtain for her a security merchant, a linguist, and a comprador; and a declaration must be given, except by those of the East India Company, that she has no opium on board. The security merchant, or individual who gives security to government for the payment of her duties, and for the conduct of the crew, must be a member of the co-hong; this company is composed at present, of twelve individuals, usually called hong-merchants: some of these men rank among the most wealthy and respectable inhabitants of Canton: they pay largely for the privilege of entering the co-hong: when they have once joined that body, they are seldom allowed to retire from the station, and, at all times, are liable to heavy exactions, from the provincial government. Formerly, the whole, or nearly the whole foreign trade, was in their hands: within a few years, it has extended to others who are not included in the co-hong; and who are commonly called outside merchants.

The linguists, so called, hold the rank of interpreters: they procure permits for delivering and taking in cargo; transact all business at the custom-house, keep account of the duties, &c.

The comprador provides stores, and all the necessary provisions for the ship, while she remains in port.


The port-charges consist of measurement-duty, cumshaw, pilotage, linguist and comprador’s fees. The measurement-duty varies: on a vessel of three hundred tons, it is about six hundred and fifty dollars, and on a vessel of about thirteen hundred tons, it is about three thousand dollars: the tonnage, however, affords no fixed criterion for the amount of measurement-duty. But, for all ships, the cumshaw, pilotage, linguist and comprador’s fees, are the same, amounting to two thousand, five hundred and seventy-three dollars.

Those vessels that enter the port, laden only with rice, are not required to pay the measurement-duty and cumshaw, but they are liable to other irregular fees, amounting to nearly one thousand dollars.

The management and general supervision of the port-charges, are intrusted to an imperial commissioner, who is sent hither from the court of Peking. In Chinese, he is called hae-kwan-keen-tuh, but, by foreigners, he is usually styled the hoppo: his regular salary is about three thousand taels per annum, but his annual income is supposed to be no less than one hundred thousand dollars.

The arrangements between the native and foreign merchants of Canton for the transaction of business are, on the whole, convenient and pretty well calculated to promote despatch, and to secure confidence in the respective parties.

The Chinese merchants have a well-earned reputation as shrewd dealers: they have little confidence in each other; every contract of importance must be “fixed,” and made sure by the payment of a stipulated sum: but they place the most unlimited confidence in the integrity of their foreign customers.

Among the outside merchants the trade is very limited, and their number being unlimited, there is often much competition between them. The whole of the East India company’s business, a large portion of the English private trade, and that of other foreigners, are confined to the hong-merchants and those who transact business in connexion with them.

The establishments of the principal hong-merchants are extensive; they have numerous and convenient ware-houses in which they store goods, and from whence export-cargoes are conveyed, in lighters, to the shipping at Whampoa.


The names of the hong-merchants are Howqua, Mowqua, Puankhequa, Goqua, Fatqua, Kingqua, Sunshing, Mingqua, Saoqua, and Punhoqua. The Rev. Robert Morrison, D. D., is Chinese translator to the British East India company, and Mr. G. R. Morrison, his son, to those termed the outside British merchants. The four linguists are named, Atom, Achow, Atung, and Akang.


The foreign factories, the situation of which has already been noticed, are neat and commodious buildings: the plot of ground on which they stand is circumscribed by narrow limits, extending about sixty rods from east to west, and forty rods from north to south: it is owned, in common with most of the factories, by the hong-merchants.

The factories are called shih-san-hang, “the thirteen factories;” with the exception of two or three narrow streets, they form a solid block; each factory extends in length, through the whole breadth of the block, and has its own proper name which, if not always appropriate, is intended to be indicative of good fortune: the first, commencing on the east, is e-ho-hang, the factory of “justice and peace;” it communicates with the city ditch: the second is the Dutch; it is called paon-ho-hong, “the factory that ensures tranquillity:” Hog-lane separates this from the fourth, which is called fung-tae-hang, “the great and affluent or chow-chow factory;” it derives the latter name from its mixture of inhabitants, viz.:—Parsees, Moormen, &c.: the fifth, being the old English factory, is named bung-shan-hong: the sixth, the Swedish factory, is called suy-hang: the seventh, commonly called the imperial factory, ma-ying-hang: the eighth, paon-shun-hang, or “the precious and prosperous factory:” the ninth, the American factory, is termed kwang-yuen-hang, “the factory of wide fountains.” A broad street, called China-street, separates kwang-yuen-hang from the tenth factory, which is occupied by one of the hong merchants: the eleventh is the French factory: the twelfth, the Spanish factory: the thirteenth, and last, is the Danish factory. The twelfth and thirteenth are separated by a street occupied by Chinese merchants, generally called New China-street.

Each factory is divided into three, four, or more houses, of which each factor occupies one or more, according to circumstances. Brick or granite is the material used in the erection of these buildings, which are two stories high, and present a moderately sub[130]stantial front. They form, with the foreign flags which wave above them, a pleasing contrast to the national banner and architecture of the celestial empire.

Besides the British East India company’s establishment, there are nine British merchants and agents, seven American, one French, and one Dutch. Between Canton, Macao, and on board the stationary ships at Linting, there are distributed one hundred and forty residents, exclusive of twenty-five belonging to the East India company’s establishment, viz.: Sixty-three British, thirty-one Asiatic British subjects, twenty Americans, eleven Portuguese, three Dutch, four Danish, three Swedish, three Spanish, one French, and one Genoese.

Messrs. Markwick and Lane keep a European bazar, and the British hotel is kept by C. Markwick in the imperial hong; the European ware-house and hotel is kept by Robert Edwards, in the American hong.

Two newspapers are printed in the English language, the “Canton Register,” and the “Chinese Courier;” the first, half-monthly, and the second, weekly, accompanied by price-currents. There is also, printed in English, a very useful and praiseworthy work, called the “Chinese Repository,” to which I am indebted for a considerable portion of the information relative to Canton, its commerce, &c.

The difficulty, which formerly existed in visiting and communicating with Macao, Linting, and Cap-shuy-moon, is now happily removed by the establishment of two excellent cutters, under British colours, which have very convenient accommodations. Chinese boats also may be had in abundance, either for the outer ship channel to or from Linting, Cap-shuy-moon, or Macao, or the inner passage to and from Macao, and which foreign boats are not allowed to use.

The style of living in China (we refer to foreign society) is similar to that of India, except that here man is deprived of that “help” appointed to him by a divine decree, which no human authority can justly abrogate, and enjoyed by him in every land save this.

A gentleman, fitting up an establishment in Canton, must first obtain a comprador; this is an individual permitted, by special license, to act as head-servant; to him belong the general superintendance of domestic household affairs, the procuring of other[131] servants, purchasing provisions, &c., according to the wishes of his employer. Visiters to Canton usually speak in high terms of the domestic arrangements of the residents.

This place presents few objects of much interest to the mere man of pleasure. Considering the latitude, the climate is agreeable and healthy; provisions of good quality and great variety are abundant; but the want of a purer air, and wider range, than are enjoyed in the midst of the densely populated metropolis, to which the residents are here confined, often makes them impatient to leave the provincial city.


The manufactories and trades of Canton are numerous: there is no machinery, properly so called, consequently there are no extensive manufacturing establishments similar to those which, in modern times, and under the power of machinery, have grown up in Europe. The Chinese know nothing of the economy of time. Much of the manufacturing business required to supply the commercial houses of Canton, is performed at Fuh-shan, a large town situated a few miles westward of the city; still, the number of hands employed, and the amount of labour performed here, are by no means inconsiderable.

There are annually about seventeen thousand persons, men, women, and children, engaged in weaving silk; their looms are simple, and their work is generally executed with neatness. The number of persons engaged in manufacturing cloth of all kinds, is about fifty thousand; when the demand is pressing for work, the number of labourers is considerably increased; the workmen occupy about two thousand, five hundred shops, averaging, usually, twenty in each.

We have heard it said, that some of the Chinese females, who devote their time to embroidering the choicest of the fabrics, secure a profit of twenty and sometimes even twenty-five dollars per month. Shoemakers are numerous and support an extensive trade, the number of workmen being about four thousand, two hundred. The number of those who work in brass, wood, iron, stone, and various other materials, is likewise large. Those who engage in each of these occupations form, to a certain degree, a separate community, having their distinct laws and rules for the regulation of business.

The book-trade of Canton is important, but we have not been[132] able to obtain particulars in relation to its extent. The barbers form a separate department, and no one is allowed to perform the duties of tonsor until he has obtained a license.

According to their records, the number of this fraternity in Canton, at the present time, is seven thousand, three hundred!

There is another body of men, which we know not how to designate or describe; the medical community; which must not be passed over without notice. That these men command high respect and esteem whenever they show themselves skilled in their profession, there can be no doubt; it is generally admitted, also, that individuals do now and then, by long experience and observation, become able practitioners; but, as a community, they are anything rather than masters of the “healing art.” About two thousand of these “physicians” dwell in Canton.

No inconsiderable part of the multitude which composes the population of Canton lives in boats. There are officers appointed by government to regulate and control this portion of the city’s inhabitants. Every boat, of all the various sizes and descriptions that are seen here, is registered; and it appears that the whole number on the river, adjacent to the city, is eighty-four thousand. A great majority of these are tankea (egg-house) boats, called by some, sampans; these are generally not more than twelve or fifteen feet long, about six broad, and so low that a person can scarcely stand up in them: their covering, made of bamboo, is very light, and can be easily adjusted to the state of the weather. Whole families live in these boats, and in coops lashed on the outside of them they often rear large broods of ducks and chickens, designed to supply the city-markets. Passage-boats which daily move to and from the city-hamlets, ferry-boats which are constantly crossing and recrossing the river, huge canal-boats, laden with produce from the country, cruisers, pleasure-boats, &c. complete the list of these floating habitations, and present to the stranger a very interesting scene.


There has been considerable diversity of opinion in relation to the population of Canton. The division of the city which brings a part of it into Nan-hae, and a part into Pwang-yu, precludes the possibility of ascertaining the exact amount of population. The facts which we have brought into view in the preceding pages, perhaps will afford the best data for making an accurate[133] estimate of the number of inhabitants in the city. There are, we have already seen, fifty thousand persons engaged in the manufacture of cloth, seven thousand, three hundred barbers, and four thousand, two hundred shoemakers; but these three occupations employing sixty-one thousand, five hundred individuals, do not, probably, include more than one fourth of the craftsmen in the city; allowing this to be the fact, the whole number of mechanics will amount to two hundred and forty-six thousand; these, we suppose, are a fourth part of the whole population, exclusive of those who live on the rivers. In each of the eighty-four thousand boats, there are not less, on an average, than three individuals; making a total of two hundred and forty-two thousand; if to them we add two hundred and forty-six thousand, (which is the number of mechanics,) the amount will be one million, two hundred and thirty-six thousand, as the probable number of inhabitants in Canton.

This number may possibly be incorrect; no one, however, who has had an opportunity of passing through the streets of the city, and viewing the multitudes that throng them, will think the estimate below one million.

It only remains to remark, briefly, in conclusion, the influence which Canton is exerting on the character and destinies of this empire. Intelligent natives admit that more luxury, dissipation, and crime, exist here, than in any other portion of the empire; they maintain, at the same time, that more enterprise, enlarged views, and general information, prevail among the higher class of the inhabitants of Canton, than are found in most of the other large cities; the bad qualities are the result of a thrifty commerce acting on a large population, in the absence of high moral principles; the good, which exist in a very limited degree, result from an intercourse with “distant barbarians.”

The contempt and hatred which the Chinese have often exhibited towards foreigners, and the indifference and disdain with which the nation has looked down upon every thing not its own, ought to be thoroughly reprobated; on the other hand, the feelings which foreigners have cherished, and the disposition and conduct which they have too frequently manifested towards this people, are such as never should have existed. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, we think the intercourse between the Chinese and the people of the western world, beneficial to the former; and hitherto[134] this intercourse has been purely commercial; science, literature, and all friendly and social offices, have been disregarded. We trust fervently, that such a period has departed, that men are beginning to feel they have moral obligations to discharge, and that they are bound by the most sacred ties to interest themselves in the intellectual, moral, and religious improvement of their various brethren in the distant nations of the earth.




Among the exports and imports to and from China, are certain articles, which are not generally known to merchants not engaged in commerce to the eastward of the cape of Good Hope, among which are:—

Agar-agar: this article is a species of seaweed, imported from New Holland, New Guinea, &c. It makes a valuable paste, and is extensively used in the manufacture of silks and paper. It is also used as a sweetmeat. There are several species of fucus imported, which are eaten both in a crude state, and cooked, by the lower classes.

Amomum: these seeds have a strong pungent taste, and a penetrating aromatic smell; they are used to season sweet dishes.

Anise-seed stars are so called from the manner in which they grow; they are used also, to season sweet dishes, have an aromatic taste, and from them is extracted a volatile oil.

Capoor cretchery is the root of a plant: it has a pungent and bitterish taste, and a slightly aromatic smell. It is exported to Bombay, and is used for medical purposes, and to preserve clothes.

Coral is valuable according to the colour, density, and size of the fragments: when made into buttons, it is used among the Chinese as an insignia of office.

Cutch or Terra Japonica is a gummy resin, and is imported from Bombay and Bengal.

Gambier is similar to cutch, although the produce of two different plants: it is chewed with areca-nut, and is used also in China, for tanning; but it renders the leather porous and rotten.


Galengal is used principally in cookery; it has a hot, acrid, peppery taste, and an aromatic smell.

The Chinese weigh all articles which are bought and sold, that are weighable; as money, wood, vegetables, liquids, &c. This renders their dealings more simple than those of other nations, who buy and sell commodities, with more reference to the articles themselves. Their divisions of weights and measures are into money and commercial weights, and long, and land measures, &c.

The circulating medium between foreigners and Chinese, is broken Spanish dollars, the value of which is usually computed by their weight. Dollars bearing the stamp of Ferdinand, have usually borne a premium of one, to one and a half per cent., while those of Carolus have risen as high as seven or eight per cent., but are subject to a considerable variation, according to the season, and different times of the season. Those coins bearing the stamp of the letter G, are not received by the Chinese, except at a discount. Mexican and United States’ dollars, do not pass among the Chinese, but are taken at par, by foreigners: every individual coin has the mark of the person, through whose hands it passes, stamped upon it.

As the number of these marks soon becomes very numerous, the coin is quickly broken in pieces; and, this process of stamping being continually repeated, the fragments gradually become very small, and are paid away entirely by weight. The highest weight used in reckoning money, is tael, (leang,) which is divided into mace, (tseen,) candareens, (fun,) and cash, (le.) The relative value of these terms, both among the Chinese, and in foreign money, can be seen by the following table. It should be observed here, that these terms, taels, mace, candareens, cash, peculs, and catties, covids, punts, &c., are not Chinese words, and are never used by the Chinese among themselves; and, the reason of their employment by foreigners, instead of the legitimate terms, is difficult to conjecture.

Tael.Mace.Candareens.Cash.Ounce troy.Grains troy.Sterling.Dollars.
11010010001,208579.846s. 8d.1,389 a 1,398
 11010057.9848d.138 a 0,139

The value here given for the tael, in sterling money and dollars, is not the exact value: and it is difficult to ascertain, owing to the ignorance of the Chinese, of such money among other nations.[137] The value given to the tael in the sterling money, is that which is found on the books of the East India company: that given to the dollar, is the extremes of its value.


The only coin of the Chinese, is called cash, (or le,) which is made of six parts of copper, and four of lead. The coins are thin and circular, and nearly an inch in diameter, having a square hole in the centre, for the convenience of tying them together, with a raised edge, both around the outside, and the hole. Those now in use, have the name of the emperor stamped upon them, in whose reign they were cast. Notwithstanding their little value, they are much adulterated with spelter; yet, on account of their convenience in paying small sums, and for common use, they generally bear a premium, and but eight hundred and fifty can commonly be obtained for a tael. The use of silver coin, however, appears to be increasing among the Chinese, as by recent accounts, we learn that silver dollars have been made in Fuh-keen and other places, contrary to the laws of the empire.

Bullion is rated by its fineness, which is expressed by dividing the weight into a hundred parts, called touches. If gold is said to be ninety-four or ninety-eight touches, it is known to have one or two parts of alloy; the remainder is pure silver metal; is estimated in the same manner; and without alloy or nearly so, is called sycee, which bears a premium according to its purity; the most pure sycees are equal in fineness to the plata-pina of Peru, which is now principally imported by vessels of the United States, engaged in commerce to the Spanish ports on the Pacific. It is cast into ingots, (by the Chinese, called shoes, from their shape,) stamped with the mark of the office that issued them, and the date of their emission. It is used to pay government taxes and duties, and the salaries of officers. The ingots weigh from one half, to one hundred taels, and bear a value accordingly. Sycee silver is the only approach among the Chinese to a silver currency; gold ingots are made, weighing ten taels each, and are worth between twenty two and twenty-three dollars; but neither gold ingots, nor doubloons, nor any other gold coin, are used as money among the Chinese. Great caution should be used in purchasing ingots or bars of silver, as they are subject to many adulterations, and are not unfrequently cast hollow, and filled with lead, to complete the weight. In fact, every species of fraud is practised by the dealers in bullion.


The only weights in use among the Chinese, besides those of money, are the pecul, (tan,) catty, (kin,) and tael, (leang.) The proportion these bear to each other, and to English weights, is exhibited in the following table:—

Pecul.Catties.Taels.Lbs. avoir.Cat.Lbs. troy.

Usage has established a difference between the tael of commercial weights, which, at the rate of one hundred and thirty-three and a third pounds to the pecul, weighs five hundred and eighty-three and a half troy grains, and the tael of money weight, of which the old standard is 579.84 grains troy. By the above table, it appears, that one ton is equal to sixteen peculs, and eighty catties; one hundred weight to eighty-four catties; one pound, avoirdupois to three fourths of a catty, or twelve taels. The Portuguese at Macao, have a pecul for weighing cotton, and valuable articles; a second for coarse goods; and again, a different one for rice. But the Chinese, among themselves, know no difference, either in the weight of a pecul for different articles, or in the tael, whether used for money or goods.

The principal measures in use among the Chinese, are three; namely, long measure, land measure, and dry measure.

The principal measure of length, is the covid, (chih,) which is divided into ten punts, (tsun.) The covid varies considerably, according as it is used for measuring cloths, distances, or vessels. That determined upon by the mathematical tribunal, is 13.125 English inches; that used by tradesmen, at Canton, is about 14.625 inches; the one by which distances are usually rated, is nearly 12.1 inches, and that employed by engineers, for public works, 12.7 inches. The le or mile, is also an uncertain measure, varying more than the covid or foot. Its common measure is three hundred, sixteen, and a quarter fathoms, or one thousand, eight hundred, ninety-seven and a half English feet; it is the usual term, in which length is estimated. The Chinese reckon one hundred, ninety-two and a half le, for a degree of latitude and longitude; but the Jesuits divided the degree into two hundred and fifty le, each le being one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six English feet, or the tenth part of a French league, which is the established measure at present. A le, according to this measurement, is a little more than one third of an English mile.


Land measure has also varied considerably, but is at present established by authority. By this rule, one thousand, two hundred covids make an acre or more, which contains about six thousand, six hundred square feet.

Rice, or paddy, is the only article measured in vessels the dimensions of which have been fixed by law or usage; but as even rice and paddy are usually weighed when sold in large quantities, the vessels for measuring these commodities are but little used.

To perform these calculations, the Chinese have an arithmetical board, or abacus, called swan-pan, or “counting-board,” on which, by constant practice, they will perform calculations in numbers with surprising facility. It consists of an oblong frame of wood, having a bar running lengthwise about two thirds of its width from one side. Through this bar, at right angles, are inserted a number of parallel wires, having moveable balls on them, five on one side, and two on the other. The principle on which computations are made, is this; that any ball in the larger compartment, being placed against the bar and called unity, decreases or increases by tenths, hundredths, &c.; and the corresponding balls in the smaller divisions, by fifths, fiftieths, &c.: if one in the smaller compartment is placed against the middle bar, the opposite unit or integer, which may be any one of the digits, is multiplied by five.


Having heretofore cursorily alluded to the vast sum annually expended in the importation of opium, I now proceed to give a more particular statement concerning the trade, the number of smokers, &c., &c. The opium-trade, which scarcely attracted the notice of merchants previously to the year 1816, has now swollen into great importance, by the rapid and extensive sale of one of the most destructive narcotics which the world ever knew, and which is used in China as a pernicious indulgence, by smoking. The government has passed the most rigorous laws to prevent its importation and use, but as the officers of the revenue boats, from Linting and Cap-shuy-moon to Canton, are bribed, and receive a stipulated fee on every chest of opium, and every other article illegally imported, smuggling is no longer fraught with any material risk, and has at length assumed the appearance of a regular branch of commerce. Once in two or three years, the Chinese admiral is ordered to proceed to the smuggling depots at the island of Linting,[140] (alias Ling-ting) the “Solitary Vail,” or the “Destitute Orphan,” or to Cap-sin-moon, alias, Cap-shuy-moon, or the “Swift water passage,” and exterminate the “foreign barbarians.” He goes down in formidable array, with an immense number of flags flying; and the sound proceeding from an endless number of great gongs and other noisy instruments, is heard, with a favourable wind, long before his fleet “heaves in sight;” the smugglers are previously informed of his coming, (for public notice is given many weeks, perhaps months, before he arrives;) the imperial fleet is then hove to, at a safe distance, far beyond the reach of cannon-shot, from three to five miles; the gongs are then beaten with the utmost fury, the trumpets blown, and the thousands of warriors shout and bellow with loud vociferations, to frighten away the monsters, and a cannon-shot or two is fired, perhaps; the “barbarians” then get under way very leisurely with a topsail or two bent, and proceed towards the Ladrone, or Rogues islands, called by the Chinese “Low man-shan,” or the “old ten thousand hills;” this satisfies the commander, who returns back, and sounds far and wide, his valorous deeds in alms, (arms,) (for he is one of the beggars who asks a douceur.) Forthwith a courier is despatched to the imperial court, announcing, that the Fankwai, or “Foreign white devils” are blown into “ten thousand atoms,” and that their carcasses have been given to the fish, and to birds of prey. As soon as the Chinese fleet “about ship” to return, which is done immediately if possible, down drop the anchors of the “Fankwai,” the sails are unbent, the smuggling boats are laden again as usual; and thus ends this ridiculous farce.

To show the destructive tendency of this trade in every point of view, to the Chinese empire, a statement is herewith presented, setting forth the alarming increase of the imports from 1817, to 1833:

In the season ending in 1817, three thousand, two hundred and ten chests of Patna, Benares, and Malva opium, containing one hundred and five catties, or one hundred and forty pounds each chest, were imported, which sold for the sum of three millions, six hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars: in the season ending in 1833, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-two chests from India were imported, which sold for thirteen millions, seven hundred and fifty-seven thousand, two hundred and ninety dollars; the whole value of the known import[141]ations during the time named, being seventeen years only, was the enormous sum of one hundred and fifty millions, one hundred and thirty four thousand, six hundred and sixty-eight dollars: the number of smokers, allowing three candareens of 17.40 grains troy, per day to each, had increased from about one hundred thousand, to about one million, four hundred and seventy-five thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six. If to the quantity already stated, there is added the importation of Turkey opium, of which we have no regular account, as well as the quantity smuggled by Chinese junks from Singapore, &c., all of which may be fairly estimated at one third more; the number of chests imported in the year 1833, would be about twenty-one thousand, which probably sold for the sum of twenty millions of dollars: the number of smokers may be estimated at nearly two millions. The crude opium undergoes a very expensive process by boiling, or seething and straining, not less than twice, before it is fit for use; it is then made into small pills, or put into the pipe, in a semi-fluid state, and taken off, at two or three whiffs, the smoke being vented very slowly through the nostrils, the recipient lying at the same time in a recumbent posture. Although the Chinese are well aware of its baneful effects, and that it is yearly draining the country of the value of many millions of dollars, yet they say, “it is a Josh Pigeon,” (meaning that God hath so decreed it,) and they cannot prevent it. A chest of opium, which cost eight hundred dollars, is said to quadruple in price, when prepared for use.

Opium is vended as openly as teas, by the foreign merchants; the quantity disposed of, and on hand, and the average price, are printed and published monthly, and are in the possession of every dealer; and the chits, or orders given on the commanders of the ships, are generally sold like scrip, to a great number of persons on speculation, before the delivery is finally completed.


The tremendous and horrible effects upon the personal appearance of its votaries, may be seen daily, about the suburbs of Canton, and of all the pitiable objects the eye ever saw, a confirmed opium-smoker is apparently the most degraded and worthless. When he has once passed the Rubicon, reformation seems to be impossible, the sting of death which is sin, has seized upon him, his feet are already within the precincts of the grave, and he has sunk like Lucifer, “never to rise again.” When the effect has subsided, an[142] emaciated, nerveless wretch is seen, with a cadaverous skin, eyeballs wildly protruding from their sockets, the step faltering, the voice weak and feeble, and the countenance idiotic; but when an opium-smoker lies under the baneful influence of the narcotic, the images which flit before his diseased imagination, are exquisite, brilliant, heavenly: it is the Nepenthé, prepared by the hands of the fair Helen, which so exhilarated the spirits of all who had the happiness to partake of it, that all care was banished for the time being, from their benighted recollections.


The Mantchou historians have endeavoured to conceal their very modern rise as a kingdom, by veiling their origin in fables, and deducing their descent from a divinity; through these fables, however, it is not difficult to ascertain with a considerable degree of accuracy, their real descent. Their nation is evidently formed by the union of several Toungouse tribes, occupying the country, to the north of Corea, and on the banks of the river Amour. These tribes had by their former unions rendered themselves formidable to their neighbours; and in the time of the Sung dynasty, from A.D. 960 to 1278, had, under the Chinese name of the Kin, or golden dynasty, answering to the Mantchou name Aisin, subdued several northern districts of China. Their farther progress was interrupted by the Mongols, under Agodai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, who, in the thirteenth century, destroyed both the Sung dynasty, and its enemies, and founded the Yuen dynasty. The kingdom of Kin, or Aisin, being thus destroyed, its tribes returned to their original country, where they continued more or less independent of each other, and of their Mongol conquerors. Among the chiefs of their tribes, was one Aisin Keolo, or Gioro, whom the Mantchous make the son of a divine virgin, who became pregnant of him by eating a fruit, brought to her in the bill of a magpie. This Aisin Gioro, at first, ruled over three tribes; but subsequently, others submitted to him, and he became king of a nation, to which he gave the name of Mantchou, or Manchow, which signifies “the full or well-peopled country.” At this point, the thread of Mantchou history is broken, and even names disappear for three or four generations; nor is the history resumed, till the close of the sixteenth century, when the chief, who then governed the Mantchous, incensed at the murder of his father, and grandfather, by a tribe which had revolted from them, and become confederate with the[143] Chinese dynasty of Ming, began to wage war against the latter. After thirty-three years, he had gained such power, and ruled over so many tribes, as well Mantchou as Mongol, that in the year 1616, he took the title of emperor, and adopted “Teenming, Heaven’s decree,” as his Kwo-haou or title. Previous to this event, in the year 1599, he appointed persons to form an alphabet for the use of his people, for, up to that period, the Mantchous possessed no written language. The alphabet which they adopted, was derived from, and improved upon the Ouigour and Mongol alphabets, the Mongol being a modification of the Ouigour, a derivative of the Syriac. During the rest of his reign, which continued eleven years longer, Teenming was at constant war with the Chinese, and dying, left the throne to his eighth son, who first adopted the title of Teentsung, which he retained for nine years, and then that of Tsungtih, which continued till his death in 1643; though not of so warlike a disposition as his father, he continued the war during the whole of his reign; owing to the dissensions which prevailed among the Chinese princes of the Ming dynasty, and the numerous revolts, which took place throughout the empire, he was enabled with little trouble, to take possession of Peking, the capital, and to found a new dynasty in China.

This monarch died while yet on the field of victory, leaving the throne to his ninth son, a child of six years old, to whom was given, the title of Kwohaou of Shunche. The young monarch was, immediately after his father’s death, carried into the city of Peking, and proclaimed emperor, amid the acclamations of the people. His reign, and the commencement of the Mantchou or Ya-tsing dynasty, dated from the year 1644.

When about fourteen years of age, one of the regents dying, and some dispute arising, as to who should take his place, Shunche laid aside his minority, and assumed all the functions of imperial power. He made few alterations in the old system of government, being fully occupied in strengthening the dominion, which had been obtained for him; for many Chinese princes still possessed parts of the empire, and assumed the imperial title.

The last of these named Yungleih, was not slain, till the closing year of Shunche’s reign, nor did his death put an end to all fears, for Chingchingkung, known to Europeans, under the name of Koxinga, still hovered about the coast, with a large fleet.


At Shunche’s death, in the year 1661, his third son succeeded to the throne, at the age of eight years, a regency of four chief ministers being appointed to govern during his minority. The new monarch’s Kwo-haou was Kanghe.

Soon after Kanghe’s accession, the regency compelled all the inhabitants of the maritime districts throughout China to retire thirty Chinese miles from the east; by which means the power of Koxinga was much weakened; but at the same time a great number of families were reduced to want. In the 12th year of his reign, 1673, there was a general revolt of the Chinese princes, who were yet living, but from their dissensions and petty jealousies among themselves, they were unable to effect any thing. It was not, however, till 1681, that they were finally subdued. In the following year, 1682, the western part of Formosa was wrested from the grandson of Koxinga, and has since that time remained in the hands of the Chinese.

The conquest of China being firmly established, Kanghe was now able to turn his attention to his own country, which he visited, attended by his whole court and an army of sixty thousand men. He also sent ambassadors to the frontiers, to settle with the Russians the limits of the two empires—nor did he confine himself to the possessions already obtained, but under pretence of assisting the Mongols, many of whom had become tributary to the Mantchou monarchs, previously to the conquest of China, he extended his possessions northeastward, into the country of the Soungarians, whom, as well as some of the tribes of Turkestan and of Thibet, he entirely subdued.

After a long and glorious reign of sixty-one years, Kanghe died in 1722, in the sixty-ninth year of his age, leaving the succession to his fourth son; but his fourteenth son taking advantage of his elder brother’s absence from the capital, seized on the billet of succession, and having changed the number four to fourteen, assumed the throne and the Kwo-haou of Yung-ching.

Yung-ching’s reign is chiefly remarkable for his persecution of the Roman Catholic missionaries, most of whom were sent out of the country. He showed neither the literary nor the military talents displayed by his father, Kanghe, and by his son and successor Keentung; but he was attentive to the business of the government, and to the people. In the fourth year of his reign, the[145] treaty of peace, now existing between the Russian and Chinese empires, was ratified. By this instrument, the Russians, among other privileges, are permitted to have an academy and church, with an archimandrite, three inferior priests, and six scholars, at Pekin. The time fixed for their stay there is ten years. Yung-ching reigned thirteen years, and died in the year 1735, leaving the succession to his fourth son who took the Kwohaou or title of Keentung.

Keentung’s reign produced many literary works, or rather compilations; it is remarkable for some brilliant conquests in Eastern Tartary or Turkestan and Thibet. The Soungarians having revolted, he entirely annihilated them as a nation, and peopled their country with the inhabitants of more peaceful districts and with Chinese.

On the south of Soungaria he extended his boundary beyond Cashgar, and rendered several of the neighbouring tribes tributary. In the fifty-eighth year of his reign, 1793-94, the first British embassy to China under Lord Macartney, reached Peking. The war in Thibet being brought to a happy conclusion about the same period, is supposed to have had a bad effect on the interests of that embassy. Two years afterward, Keentung, after a reign of sixty years, placed one of his sons on the throne, with the Kwohaŏu of Keaking, and shortly after died. Keaking ascended the throne in the thirty-sixth year of his age. During his reign numerous insurrections occurred among the Chinese, and much discontent existed throughout the empire. In the year 1805-06, the tenth of Keaking’s reign, the Russian embassy under Count Golovkin, failed in obtaining an interview with the emperor, in consequence of refusing to submit to the Kotow, or ceremony of thrice kneeling and nine times bowing the head to the ground. In the year 1816, the twenty-first year of his reign, the British embassy, under Lord Amherst, was sent back from Peking, in a similar manner. During the latter years of his life, Keaking was extremely indolent and inattentive to government, being wholly devoted to the gratification of his vicious desires. He died in August, 1820, in the sixty-first year of his age, and the twenty-fifth of his reign.

Taoukwang is the Kwohaŏu of the reigning emperor, who succeeded to his father Keaking in the thirty-ninth year of his age. The chief occurrences which have taken place during his reign, are the revolts in Turkestan or little Bukharia. In figure, Taou[146]kwang is said to be tall, thin, and of a dark complexion. He is of a generous disposition, diligent, attentive to government and economical in his expenditures. He has also avoided through life, the vices to which his younger brothers are addicted.




The Chinese having a great horror of the word “death,” they substitute in its place various periphrases, such as “absent,” “rambling among the genii,” “he being sick, occasioned a vacancy,” i. e., dead. The empress having died during the month of June, 1833, an imperial mandate was published, stating that “her departure took place at four o’clock on the sixteenth of the month.” His majesty says he was married to Tung-kea twenty-six years previously; that she was the principal person in the middle harem, that she was ever full of tenderness, filial piety, and was most obedient—but being attacked by an inveterate dysentery, she had taken the “long departure,” and that it caused him much pain at the loss of his “domestic helper”—his “interior assistant.” His majesty set forth her great virtues, ever since she had been consort to heaven, (i. e. the emperor,) during the thirteen years that she had held the relative situation of earth to imperial heaven. An edict was published at her death, ordering, that no officer should have his head shaved during one hundred days, nor have any marriage in his family during twenty-seven days, nor play on any musical instrument during one year; and that the soldiers and people should not shave their heads for one month, nor engage in marriages during seven days, nor play on any musical instrument during one hundred days.

Other marks of mourning, are the use of blue ink in the public offices in the place of red, and the removal of the red fringe which usually ornaments the Chinese caps.


The following is the translation of the “Order of rites observed in receiving the imperial mandate, raising lamentation, and laying[148] aside the mourning clothes, on occasion of the grand ceremony following the demise of an empress.” It was circulated in Canton as a supplement to the daily court circular. When the imperial mandate, written on yellow paper, comes down the river, an officer is immediately deputed to receive and guard it at the imperial landing place. The master of ceremonies leads the officer, and directs him to receive the mandate with uplifted hands; land and deposite it safely in the dragon dome, (a kind of carriage borne by sixteen or thirty-two men,) and spread it out in proper form. The civil and military officers in plain dresses, then kneel down in order, in the “Sunny-side pavillion,” and so remain until the mandate has passed. When they have risen, the officer leads the procession to the grand gate of the examination court; the civil and military officers then first enter the “most public hall,” and there kneel down, the civilians on the east side, and the military on the west, until the dragon-dome has passed; after which they rise and wait till the dome has entered the hall of the constellation Kwei. In this hall an embroidered yellow curtain and incense-table, must previously be prepared, and an officer be sent to receive, with reverence, the imperial mandate and safely lay it on the table. When this has been done all the officers enter; upon which the master of ceremonies cries out: “Range yourselves in order, perform the ceremony of thrice kneeling, and nine times knocking the head.” He then requests to have the mandate read aloud; and the public official reader raises up the mandate to read it.

Master of Ceremonies. “Officers—all kneel—hear the proclamation read—(and when the reading is concluded he continues)—rise—raise lamentation.” The officers do so accordingly. After the lamentation, the reader places the mandate on the yellow table, and the master of ceremonies calls out: “Deliver the imperial mandate.” An officer is then sent to the yellow table, who raises up the mandate, and delivers it to the governor, kneeling. The governor having received it, rises, and delivers it to the Poo-ching-sze, also kneeling; the latter officer in turn rises, and delivers it to his chief clerk, likewise kneeling. The clerk rises and takes it to the hall of Tsze-wei, (in the Poo-ching-sze’s office,) to be printed on yellow paper.

Master of Ceremonies. “Officers—all put on mourning dresses.” The officers then retire; when they have changed their[149] dresses, the master of ceremonies leads them back, and gives the order: “Arrange yourselves, thrice kneel and nine times knock head—rise—raise lamentation—(after lamentation)—eat.” The officers then go out to the hall of abstinence, where they eat a little, the civil and military each taking their respective sides. The master of ceremonies then cries: “Retire.” They retire to the “public place,” and in the evening reassemble, and perform the same ceremonies. At night, they sleep in the public place, separate from their families. The same ceremonies are performed in the morning and evening of the two following days, after which the officers return to their ordinary duties.

When the mandate has been copied, an officer is sent with it to the hall of the constellation Kwei, to place it on the yellow table, and another is sent to burn incense and keep respectful charge of it for twenty-seven days; after which it is delivered to the Poo-ching-sze, and sent back to the board of rites. On the twenty-seventh day, the officers assemble as before, and, after the same ceremonies of lamentation have been gone through, the master of ceremonies gives the order: “Take off mourning—put on plain clothes—remove the table of incense.” All then return home and the mourning ceremonies are at an end.

The population contained in the eighteen provinces of the Chinese empire, according to the census taken in the eighteenth year of the emperor Keenlung, (corresponding to the year 1812,) amounted to three hundred and sixty-one millions, six hundred and ninety-eight thousand, eight hundred and seventy-nine souls. This statement is taken from a work called the “Ta-tsing-hwny-teen,” a collection of statutes of the “Ta-tsing dynasty,” published by government, in sixteen duodecimo volumes, for the use of its own officers; it furnishes the data on which the government acts in levying taxes, &c. All the people are included excepting, we believe, those who are employed in the civil and military service of the emperor. The mode of taking the census is very minute and particular; every province is divided into foos and chows; these are subdivided into heens; from the heen the sub-division is carried down to the kea, which consists of only ten families. Ten keas make a paou, or neighbourhood of one hundred families, which has a headman or constable, whose duty it is to watch over the whole; and among other things, to keep a list of[150] all the families and individuals within his jurisdiction; it is also the duty of this constable to report the names of those within his limits to the chief officer of the heen; who reports to the chief officer foo; he again to the treasurer of the province; who in his turn, annually, on the tenth moon, reports to the board of revenue at Peking. Such is the division and the order required by the laws of the land. This system certainly enables the government to know, and to state accurately, the number of individuals, not only in every province, but in any given district of each or any one of the provinces.

The Chinese empire having remained undisturbed by wars, or by internal commotions of much importance, for more than one hundred and twenty years, an accumulation has taken place on a comparatively small spot, of a moiety of all the human beings which are now in existence. On a first view of this immense, this incomprehensible number of living beings, we can scarcely believe the evidence of our senses or conceive how it is possible that sustenance can be procured for such an assemblage; but when we have ascertained that the country is nearly destitute of flocks and herds, that the ground is almost exclusively appropriated to the feeding and clothing of its inhabitants, that there are a less number of souls, by seventy to the square mile, than is found in the dutchy of Lucca, and but five more in the same space than in the Netherlands, which contains two hundred and seventy-five, our wonder in a great degree ceases, and we are compelled to believe that the Chinese government has published as accurate a statement of its population as any European government, or that of the United States: nor can we conceive what object the government can have in deceiving its own subjects, for the work is evidently not published for the use of curious inquirers abroad. It is also well known, that the inhabitants live in the most frugal manner, that a bowl of rice with a few vegetables, or perhaps a little fish or fowl, which is very abundant, is the entire provision of multitudes.

Large portions of the country yield two crops annually, and those generally very abundant; the inhabitants also obtain provisions from the Persian gulf to the bay of Bengal, from Burmah, Siam and Cochin-China, and from every important island throughout the great Indian Archipelago. Every animal and vegetable substance is also an edible with one class or other of the people.[151] Large quantities of vegetable produce, which in any other country would be devoured by the flocks and herds, are here consumed by human beings. If we regard the produce of the soil, and the manner in which the people live, we have strong presumptive evidence of a very numerous population.


The Chinese of the present day are grossly superstitious; they offer sacrifices to the manes of deceased relatives and friends, and emblems of money and clothes are consumed on the supposition that a substantial benefit will be transferred to the individual in the world of spirits.

In their habits they are most depraved and vicious; gambling is universal and is carried to a most ruinous and criminal extent; they use the most pernicious drugs as well as the most intoxicating liquors to produce intoxication; they are also gross gluttons; every thing that runs, walks, creeps, flies, or swims, in fact, every thing that will supply the place of food, whether of the sea, or the land, and articles most disgusting to other people, are by them greedily devoured. The government has a code of laws, written in blood; the most horrid tortures are used to force confessions, and the judges are noted for being grossly corrupt; the variety and ingenuity displayed in prolonging the tortures of miserable criminals who are finally intended to be deprived of life, can only be conceived by a people refined in cruelty, blood-thirsty, and inhuman.

Ancient Chinese books in speaking of their character, say: “Their natural disposition is light and ostentatious, fond of talk, artfully specious, with little truth or sincerity—the people of Canton are silly, light, weak in body and in mind, and without any ability to fight. The Chinese believe in sorcery and demons, and lay stress on a multiplicity of sacrifices—they have tattooed bodies, and short hair.” Of these ancient features of their character, they still retain a fondness of talk, are specious, crafty and insincere; their timidity and weakness, also still remain; they believe in sorcery and demons, and lay stress on a multiplicity of sacrifices. Sir Thomas Herbert in his quaint language, says: “The Chinese are no quarrellers, albeit voluptuous, costly in their sports, great gamesters, and in trading, too subtle for young merchants; oft-times so wedded to deceiving, that after they have lost their whole estate, wife and children are staked; yet in a little time, Jewlike,[152] by gleaning here and there, they are able to redeem their loss; and if not at the promised day, wife and children are then sold in the market.” The Chinese settlers throughout the Indian Archipelago, are described as being at once enterprising, keen, laborious, luxurious, sensual, debauched, and pusillanimous; they are generally engaged in trade, in which they are equally speculative, expert, and judicious. Their superior intelligence and activity have placed in their hands the management of the public revenue, in almost every country of the Archipelago, whether ruled by native or European: the traffic of the Archipelago, with the surrounding foreign states, is almost wholly conducted by them.

There is scarcely a government gazette published at Peking; almost daily, placards are posted at the principal places about Canton and its suburbs, giving accounts of murders, and insurrections, robberies, shocking and unnatural crimes of kidnapping, infanticides, suicides, and of all the beastly and unnatural crimes of which the world ever heard or read. The various modes of punishment resorted to by the government, and the unequal distribution of justice, are revolting to humanity, and most disgusting and loathsome in the recital. I will relate one case to show, that, in modern times, the Chinese are not less refined in their cruelties, than when Ta-he, the queen of Chow, among many other horrible inventions, caused brazen rollers to be heated, and then smeared with an unctuous matter, so that she might have the supreme pleasure of seeing miserable culprits, fruitlessly endeavouring to pass this burning bridge, and continually slipping into a tremendous fire, there to meet with a death horrible in the extreme. The case to which I have alluded, took place in the year 1813, when the emperor of China convicted a eunuch of being concerned in a treasonable conspiracy. The victim had been a favourite servant of the emperor’s father, Keen-lung, who had conferred upon him many favours. The poor wretch was bound round with cords and canvass, to which was added a quantity of tallow and other combustible matter, so as to convert him into a gigantic candle, and he was slowly consumed at his father’s grave: the wretched being died in tortures the most excruciating that imagination can conceive!


As our departure from hence will be for the kingdoms of Cochin-China, and Siam, to effect suitable commercial treaties with those[153] countries, and as similar court ceremonies are there used as at the court of Pekin, I herewith present a memoir, written by a most worthy and highly respectable clergyman, the Reverend Doctor Morrison of Canton, upon the subject of court ceremonies, observed from the lower to the higher dignitaries throughout the Chinese empire, from the simple joining of the hands and raising them before the breast, to the climax of all that is debasing, the ceremony called the San-kwei-kew-kow, or “kneeling three different times, and at each time knocking the head thrice against the ground.”—“What are called ceremonies, sometimes affect materially the idea of equality. They are not always mere forms, but revelations of a language, as intelligible as words. Some ceremonies are perfectly indifferent, as whether the form of salutation be taking off the hat and bowing the head, or keeping it on and bowing it low, with the hands folded below the breast; these, the one English, and the other Chinese, are equally good. There is, however, a difference of submission and devotedness, expressed by different postures of the body; and some nations feel an almost instinctive reluctance to the stronger expression of submission. Standing and bending the head, for instance, are less than kneeling on one knee, that is less so than kneeling on both knees; and the latter posture less humiliating than kneeling on two knees, and putting the hands and forehead to the ground; doing this once, is, in the apprehension of the Chinese, less than doing it three, six, or nine times.

“Waiving the question, whether it be proper for one human being to use such strong expressions of submission to another or not; when any, even the strongest of these forms are reciprocal, they do not destroy the idea of equality, or of mutual independence; if they are not reciprocally performed, the last of the forms expresses in the strongest manner, the submission and homage of one person or state to another; and, in this light, the Tartar family, now on the throne of China, consider the ceremony called San-kwei-kew-kow thrice kneeling, and nine times beating the head against the ground. Those nations of Europe who consider themselves tributary and yielding homage to China, should perform the Tartar ceremony; those who do not so consider themselves, should not perform it. The English ambassador, Macartney, appears to have understood correctly the meaning of the ceremony, and proposed[154] the only alternative which could enable him to perform it; viz., a Chinese of equal rank performing it to the king of England’s picture.

“Perhaps a promise from the Chinese court, that should an ambassador ever go from thence to England, he would perform it in the king’s presence, might have enabled him to do it. These remarks will probably convince the reader that the English government acts as every civilized government ought to act, when she endeavours to cultivate a good understanding, and liberal intercourse with China, while, using those endeavours, she never contemplates yielding homage, and wisely refuses to perform by her ambassador, that ceremony which is the expression of homage.

“The lowest form by which respect is shown in China at this day, is kung-show, that is, joining the hands and raising them before the breast. The next is tsa-yih, that is, bowing low with the hands joined. The third is ta-tseen, bending the knee as if about to kneel. The fourth is kwei, to kneel. The fifth is ko-tow, kneeling and striking the head against the ground. The sixth, san-kow, striking the head three times against the earth before rising from the knees. The seventh, luh-kow, that is, kneeling and striking the forehead three times; rising on the feet, kneeling down again, and striking the head, again, three times on the earth. The climax is closed by the sun-kwei-kew-kow, kneeling three different times, and at each time knocking the head thrice against the ground. Some of the gods of China are entitled only to the san-kow; others to the luh-kow; the teen (heaven) and the emperor, are worshipped with the san-kwei-kew-kow.”


Beggars are licensed by the government, confined within particular districts, and are under the control of certain officers. If any are found wandering beyond their designated limits, they are liable to be punished by the officer who has charge over them; in addition to this, they seldom escape being severely beaten by the mendicants whose district they invade. They are all registered, and receive a small monthly allowance of rice, which, together with the alms they obtain, barely suffices to keep them from starving. Great numbers die in the streets, in the winter, from cold and want of food, and are buried at the public expense. A beggar is seldom forcibly driven away from a door; for, should that occur, a complaint would be instantly made to the proper offi[155]cer, and the offender would be punished, or be squeezed, as the Chinese term it, or mulct in a heavy fine. On the 28th November, 1832, public notice was given, for the beggars of a certain district, to assemble in front of the foreign factories, “upon important measures, touching the interests of the fraternity.” It was stated, that certain impostors, from other districts, had been guilty of the great crime of begging within their limits; and it was therefore necessary that the name of each person should be ascertained, that he might be brought before the proper officer for punishment, and be driven into his own proper district. Great numbers assembled, toward sunset, after the regular begging hours were over. I had the curiosity to visit this horrible group of unfortunates for a few moments, and the recollection of the scene can never be effaced from my memory. The blind, halt, and lame, were there, of all ages and of both sexes; a more motley group, or a more disgusting spectacle, was never before seen. They were squalid and ragged, filthy, and covered with vermin. Many a blind Bartelmy, and many a Lazarus, were lying there, literally covered with sores. I returned home, sincerely thanking God that I was not thus wretched, and that I stood in no need of a temporal physician to cure me of any loathsome disease.

Blindness is a very common misfortune in China; it is said to be caused generally by depriving the head of almost its entire natural covering, by being closely shaven, and using no effectual guard to protect it from the extremes of the weather: none wear turbans, and but few hats or umbrellas; slight paper fans being in general use. We were informed, that many a child was made blind by the use of caustic, applied by its parents, or by those who purchased it, for the purpose of exciting compassion, in order to increase their gains in the practice of soliciting alms. There are few sights so ridiculously amusing, in the suburbs of Canton, as these untiring vagabonds: they are an excessive annoyance to shop-keepers: a stranger cannot walk without seeing a number of them assembled in the shop of some obstinate fellow, who apparently seems determined to tire them out.

I have frequently seen from three to six assembled, some sitting in the doorway, some lying down, and others standing at the counter, each of them beating most violently on two stout pieces of bamboo, and making a most insufferable noise.


Occasionally, a whole family of “singing beggars” are met with, making the most horrible discord, and singing at the very top of their voices; the rough music from marrow-bones, cleavers, and frying-pans, is vastly preferable to it. Again, others are seen, who are either more rich, or possess greater privileges of annoyance, being allowed to carry all sorts of musical instruments, viz.: a drum, secured to the waist; a small gong, suspended from the neck; and a trumpet, in the mouth. Now and then, a sturdy, self-willed shopman, would pay no attention to the vile pest: forthwith a loud thump was given on the drum, then a thundering noise from the gong, followed by a horrible blast from the trumpet. It would provoke the risibles of a saint, to see the gravity of countenance exhibited by both parties. The shopman, attending to his goods, apparently unconscious of the presence of the other, while the beggar is pursuing his vocation as though his very existence depended upon his making such a noise, as would awake the seven sleepers of Christendom. As no customer is willing to enter a shop where he cannot be heard, the master is at length, most unwillingly, compelled to give him one cash, (about the eight-hundredth part of a dollar;) if this should not be perfect in every respect, it is returned, and a good one absolutely demanded, or a repetition of all that is horrible in discord, and all that is unbearable in vile sounds is repeated. So it proceeds from early dawn to setting-sun: as fast as one beggar-customer is gone, another and another make their appearance; but the donor can expel them if they call oftener than once a day.


Near the entrance of Old China-street, between Minqua’s hong, and the American hong of Messrs. Oliphant & Co., called, “Kwan yueng hang,” or, “The factory of wide fountains,” (where I had the pleasure of spending a couple of months,) there is the mart for the sale of cats and dogs. The venders regularly meet, daily, from one to three, (high-change hours being about two.) Here may be seen, arranged along the pavement in regular order, baskets and cages of these animals, the latter being used for poor puss only, who seemed always to be out of place.

Being within a half dozen steps of the venders, I overlooked them from the balcony, and saw their daily operations; and, as trifling as it may seem to others, I acknowledge that I was much amused with the examinations that the poor animals underwent.[157] Poor puss, as a sailor would say, was “thoroughly overhauled, from clue to ear-ring,” to see if she was sound in health; if she had a handsome, smooth, glossy coat, suitable for ornamenting some garment; if she was free from “cow-licks,” or the hair growing the wrong way; if her limbs were sound, and suitable for making penny whistles, and other small articles; and if she was plump, well-fatted, fit for culinary purposes, and not blown out by injecting air into the body: a common Chinese trick, and which is not tolerated by fair, grave merchants. Young she-cats were preferred for breeders, and commanded double the price of tom-cats. The puppies (for there were but few full grown dogs offered for sale) were likewise thoroughly examined, to ascertain if their outward garment was in good condition—if they were fat, sleek, free from a musky or strong smell, and fit to make a rich press-soup, of which the Chinese are extravagantly fond; if their limbs were sound and not distorted, and if they were the true Chinese breed of prick-eared curs, having black palates and black tongues, with a well-curved feathery tail. The sluts brought generally, I found, more than double the price of the males. The pedigree (being an important matter always in monarchical governments) was also particularly inquired into.

It may perhaps, by some, be thought that I have been unnecessarily particular in making the above statements, in reference to an insignificant portion of the brute creation; but, as I was anxious to give every particular in reference to the internal, as well as external commerce of China, the reader will perhaps excuse the detail given above.

I cannot take my leave of the canine species, without relating a provoking loss which befel Dr. M. B—ghs, of Philadelphia, during my stay in China. The gentleman had purchased, at a high price, a fine pup, on Change, for the purpose of carrying it to the United States. The dog being rather troublesome in running about the house, he told a Chinese servant, who spoke English, to tie him up. The doctor went out, as usual, in search of curiosities, such as rare birds, &c., which he skinned and prepared. On his return, he inquired of the servant if he had tied up the dog and secured him. “Yez,” said he, “hab done, hab done.” Well, said the doctor, where is he “Up loom, up loom,” meaning up in the doctor’s room; for a China-man cannot pronounce the letter[158] r. He immediately ushered the way up stairs, threw open the chamber-door suddenly, and exhibited the dog tied up, but strangled, having hung him! “Can do? can do?” said he, with an air perfectly unconscious of having done wrong. “Can do?” said the doctor, echoing back his words in a tone which indicated any thing rather than satisfaction, “I wish you were there tied up in his stead.”

In front of the foreign factories, there are assembled regularly, every morning, at an early hour, the “Barbers,” with their basins and snug seats, for the use of their customers. They wield a very short, clumsy razor, having a round wooden handle, without a particle of superfluous wood about it: the blade is two and a half inches long, one and a half inches broad at the end, and tapering to less than half an inch toward the handle; it is three eighths of an inch in thickness, for about an inch and a half of its length; the handle is of wood, round, and three eighths of an inch in diameter, and the length of the instrument is six inches.

Strict economy is observed in shaving; water only being used to soften the hair. The head is shaved, leaving only a long lock, which is plaited or braided, and if the tail fails to reach the heels, it is eked out with black riband. Generally speaking, all the hair is shaved from the face, nose, and the eye-lids; for a China-man will always have the full worth of his money, although he pays but three or four cash (equal to about a half cent) to the operator; the eyebrows are then adjusted, and the hair eradicated from the ears and nostrils with tweezers; the nail and corn cutter is then resorted to, who repairs and polishes the nails of the hands and feet: the China-man is in prime order—a small scull-cap, or palm-leaf pointed hat, is then put on, or he protects his head with an ordinary looking paper fan, having on it some moral sentences. At ten and at four he goes to his dark hole, where he exercises his “chop-sticks” with great dexterity, regaling himself with rice and vegetables, deluged with the fat of pork, if he can obtain it. A draught of water, and a dram of shewhing, (arrack,) a pipe of tobacco, and a piece of areca-nut, place him at once among the celestials; but if to these, a pipe or two of refined opium be added, not that exquisite of all pleasures, in the opinion of the country bumpkin, of swinging on a gate all day, and eating bountifully of mush and molasses, can bear any comparison with this care-killing and unparalleled pleasure.


Of all uncouth figures, that strut their little hour upon the stage of life, a China-man is surely the most grotesque animal. A loose shirt for his outer and principal garment—his bagging breeks, added to his white slouching stockings, made of cotton cloth, filled with wrinkles—his black cloth slippers, with a white sole half an inch thick—his shaved head, with his long plaited cue, streaming out when he runs, like a ship’s pennant in a brisk breeze—his elongated and stupid eyes; a fan in one hand, and a long wooden pipe in the other—his enormous spectacles, without bows, astride on the tip of his nose, and his mouth upon the full gape, standing for hours in front of the factory of “wide fountains,” looking at the fan-kweis, (the foreign white devils,) present him as the most unprepossessing figure ever beheld—the most awkward looking biped in the universe.


Chang-ling, the great hero of Cashgar, has memorialized his majesty, and informed him, that, during the late attack of the rebels on that city, they endeavored to inundate it by cutting a channel and entering the course of the adjoining river; but the Lung-shin, (Dragon-god,) who presides over rivers and seas, prevented the design from being effected. For this “divine manifestation” in favour of the imperial cause, the emperor has ordered a new title to be given to the god, a new temple to be built, and a new tablet to adorn it. Slavery, in China, presents its worst features; the children of the slaves are born slaves; and the children of free masters enjoy their rights over them throughout all generations. There have been cases in which the masters have become poor, and allowed their slaves to go and provide for themselves; they have become rich, but being again found by their masters, the latter have seized all the property. There are slaves of another class, who are not bought outright, but with the condition that they may be redeemed. Good masters admit the claim, when made agreeably to contract; but bad ones use every expedient to prevent the claim of redemption.






The coast of China being similarly situated to that of the United States, having a vast continent stretching from the south and northwest to the northeast, possesses a climate nearly of the same character and temperature. From the gulf of Tung-hing to the vicinity of Canton, it may well be compared to the coast stretching from the Mississippi to North Carolina, and the coast extending from Canton to that of Tartary, to the states from North Carolina to Maine.

The climate of Peking is salubrious, and like that of the middle and northern states of the union. The water is frozen from December until March. Violent storms occur in the spring; the heat in summer is great, and the autumnal months of September, October and November are the most pleasant part of the year. But my principal object is to delineate the climate of Canton and Macao, which lie between the latitudes of twenty-two and twenty-three north; the statement is copied from the Canton Register. I have added thereto several tables of meteorological averages. Canton is regarded by the Chinese, as one of the most unhealthy portions of their country, yet it is a more healthy climate than that of most other places, situated in the same degree of latitude.

The weather during the month of January, is dry, cold, and bracing, differing but little, if at all, from the two preceding months, November and December. The wind blows generally from the north, occasionally inclining to northeast or northwest. Any change to the south, causes considerable variation in the temperature of the atmosphere.


During the month of February the thermometer continues low; but the dry, bracing cold of the three preceding months is changed for a damp and chilly atmosphere: the number of fine days is much diminished, and cloudy or foggy weather of more frequent recurrence in February and March than in any other months. At Macao, the fog is often so dense as to render objects invisible at a few yards’ distance.

The weather in the month of March, as stated above, is damp and foggy; but the temperature of the atmosphere becomes considerably warmer. To preserve articles from damp, it is requisite to continue the use of fires and closed rooms, which the heat of the atmosphere renders very unpleasant. From this month the thermometer rises until July and August, when the heat is at its maximum.

The thick fogs which begin to disappear towards the close of March, are, in April, seldom if ever seen. The atmosphere, however, continues damp, and rainy days are not unfrequent; the thermometer at the same time, gradually rises, and the nearer approach of the sun, renders its heat more perceptible. In this, and the following summer months, southeasterly winds generally prevail.

In the month of May, summer is fully set in, and the heat, particularly in Canton, is often oppressive; the more so from the closeness of the atmosphere, the winds being usually light and variable. This is the most rainy month in the year, averaging fifteen days and a half of heavy rain; cloudy days, without rain, are, however, of unfrequent occurrence; and one half of the month averages fine sunny weather.

June is also a very wet month, yet, taking the aggregate, the number of rainy days is less than in the other summer months. The thermometer in this month rises several degrees higher than in May, and falls but little at night. It is this latter circumstance chiefly, which occasions the exhaustion often felt in this country from the heat of summer.

The month of July is the hottest in the year, the thermometer reaching eighty-eight in the shade, at noon, both at Canton and Macao. This month is also subject to frequent heavy showers of rain, and, like the month of August, to storms of thunder and lightning. The winds blow almost unintermittingly from southeast or south.


In the month of August the heat is generally as oppressive as in July, and often more so, although the thermometer usually stands lower. Towards the close of the month, the summer begins to break up, the wind occasionally veering from southeast, to north and northwest. Typhoons seldom occur earlier than this month or later than the end of September.

In September the monsoon is generally broken up, and northerly winds begin to blow, but with little alleviation of heat. This is the period most exposed to the description of hurricanes called typhoons, the range of which extends southward, over about one half of the Chinese sea, but not far northward; they are most severe in the gulf of Tonquin.

Northerly winds prevail throughout the month of October, occasionally veering to northeast or northwest; but the temperature of the atmosphere is neither so cold nor dry as in the following months, nor does the northerly wind blow so constantly, a few days of southerly wind frequently intervening. The winter usually sets in with three or four days of light drizzling rain.

November, and the following months, are the most pleasant in the year, at least to the feelings of persons from more northern climes. Though the thermometer is not often below forty, and seldom so low as thirty, the cold of the Chinese winter is often very severe. Ice often forms about one eighth of an inch thick; but this is usually in December or January.

The months of December and January are remarkably free from rain; the average fall, in each month, being under one inch; and the average number of rainy days being only three and a half. On the whole, the climate of Canton, but more especially of Macao, may be considered superior to that of most other places situated between the tropics.


Tables of observations on the thermometer and barometer for the year 1831. The averages at Canton are taken from the Canton Register. The averages at Macao, from a private diary, kept by Mr. Blettersnan.

Table I.
Thermometer at Canton.
Table II.
Thermometer at Macao.
Table III.
Barometer at Canton.
Table IV.
Barometer at Macao.
aver. noon.aver. night.highest.lowest.aver. 7 a. m.aver. 2 p. m.highest.lowest.mean height.highest.lowest.mean height.highest.lowest.

The average of rain is the mean of its fall at Macao, during sixteen years, furnished by Mr. Beale. The number of rainy days and continuance of winds, are the mean of four years at Canton, taken from the Canton Register.

Table V.
Hygrom. at Macao.
Table VI.
Rain at Canton.
Table VII.
Continuance of Winds at Canton, the mean of four years.
average.high.low.mean quantity in inches.mean number of rainy days.days.

After remaining nearly two months at Canton, I took passage in a fine cutter, under English colours, for Macao, via Linting, and anchored in about twenty-four hours, within half a mile of the landing, at Pria Grande. Immediately on our nearing the harbour, a race took place among the amphibious damsels that inhabit the numerous sampans, tanka or egg-boats, which always lie within a short distance of the shore. Whole families inhabit them, and they are extremely encumbered with children, and the various articles used by the family. Their length is from twelve to eighteen feet, and the breadth is about one half the length. They have oval,[165] sliding roofs, made of bamboo or mats, in two or three sections, which are extended occasionally the whole length of the boat. The occupants are extremely poor and miserable; they wear slight dresses, consisting of a long frock and trousers, of tan-coloured cotton. Except when heavy gales prevail, they rarely sleep on shore.


The town of Macao presents a pretty appearance from the roadstead. A spacious semi-circular bay is encompassed with hills, crowned with forts, convents, churches, and private buildings: the houses being kept well whitewashed, it gives the town quite a neat appearance. The streets are generally narrow, but they are exceedingly so through the Chinese bazar, &c., not exceeding, perhaps, six or eight feet. Most of the houses are built in the Portuguese style; but the Chinese houses are, with very few exceptions, dark, filthy, and uncomfortable. Macao is the summer residence of the foreign merchants of Canton; and it is reputed to be one of the most immoral places in the world. It is a rocky peninsula, about eight English miles in circumference; its greatest length is about three, and its breadth less than one mile. It forms part of the island of Heong-shan-nne, and was renowned, long before the Portuguese were settled there, for its safe and commodious inner harbour, and a temple consecrated to Ama. This settlement was formerly called Amangas, that is, the port of Ama; and first took the name of A-macao; but, in time, the first letter was suppressed, and the place has ever since been called Macao by the Portuguese, and Moon by the Chinese. The Portuguese had temporary abodes at this place, for about twenty years, by giving bribes to the authorities to erect huts, under the false pretext of drying damaged goods, until they were expelled by mal-conduct, in 1558, from Ningpa and Chinchew, when they induced the local officers of Macao, by their old system of bribery, to erect permanent dwellings.


The population from that time, rapidly increased; a temporary government was established, and a great influx of priests followed. In the year 1573, the wall across the isthmus was erected by the Chinese government, to prevent the kidnapping of children, as well as the sale of them by their wretched parents to over-zealous missionaries, who adopted every means, however infamous, to make converts to their religion, and to prevent the ingress of the[166] Chinese; but it has been long disregarded by the latter. The wall is now in a ruinous state near the bay, being partly broken down by the encroachment of the sea; but still no foreigners are allowed to cross it; and all provisions must come to the gate, where a market is still held at daybreak.

It was supposed by the world, that Portugal exercised sovereign authority over Macao, till 1802, when a British military detachment arrived and offered to defend it, in conjunction with the Portuguese, against an apprehended attack from the French; knowing if they obtained possession of it, the British commerce with Canton would be destroyed: the Portuguese governor could not accept of their assistance, because the Chinese authorities would not permit it. In 1808, although a British force obtained possession of three forts, by the connivance of the Macao government, the Chinese authorities ordered them to quit their territories, or they would put a stop to the British trade at Canton, and drive the Portuguese from Macao, for suffering foreign troops to land there, without first obtaining permission of the emperor. Macao, therefore, is still part of the Chinese empire. This is acknowledged by the Portuguese, who still pay an annual ground-rent, which has varied at different times, but is now limited to five hundred taels. The Portuguese and Chinese are both governed by their respective laws and officers; but in case of collision between two persons of the different nations, the Chinese always dictate to the former in what way the affair must be settled. For fifty or sixty years, the Portuguese enjoyed the exclusive trade to China and Japan. In 1717, and again in 1732, the Chinese government offered to make Macao the emporium for all foreign trade, and to receive all duties on imports; but, by a strange infatuation, the Portuguese government refused, and its decline is dated from that period. In 1686, when all vessels of the Chinese empire were prohibited from navigating the southern sea, their shipping and commerce declined rapidly, till, in 1704, only two ships remained, which could neither be manned nor fitted out. This prohibition was, some time after, annulled. The vessels that belonged to the port in 1832, consisted of only fifteen, (being ten less than is allowed by the Chinese government;) their united tonnage being four thousand five hundred and sixty-nine tons. In 1833, the number had diminished to twelve. These vessels are principally[167] chartered for foreign ports by Chinese adventurers, the owners generally being destitute of means to load them. The whole income from the customs, in 1830, was only sixty-nine thousand one hundred and thirty-eight taels; and of this sum, thirty thousand one hundred and thirty-two taels were paid on one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three and a half chests of opium. The disbursements were: to the military, twenty-nine thousand six hundred and twenty-two; civil servants, twenty-four thousand four hundred and seventy; and to the church establishment, eight thousand seven hundred and thirty. The extraordinary expenses were forty-six thousand six hundred and twenty-nine, making a deficiency of about forty thousand eight hundred taels, which must be supplied from Goa. The population of Macao was estimated, in 1830, at four thousand six hundred and twenty-eight, viz.: one thousand two hundred and two white men; two thousand one hundred and forty-nine white women; three hundred and fifty male slaves; seven hundred and seventy-nine female slaves; and thirty-nine men, and one hundred and eighteen women, of different castes, who are all Roman Catholics. The Chinese population is estimated at thirty thousand. The European Portuguese consist of only sixty-two persons.

Macao is walled on one side, and has six forts; twelve churches, including the church and college of St. Joseph; five small chapels, and one Budhist temple: without the walls are three additional temples. There is one school, where children are taught to read and write correct Portuguese, (for this language, as spoken at Macao, is exceedingly corrupt;) and another, where the Portuguese and Latin grammar are taught. These are supported by royal bounty. There are an English opthalmic hospital, and a small museum.

I visited a Budhist temple, facing the inner harbour, situated in the midst of a number of large rocks, trees being seen growing out of their crevices. It was really composed of a number of small temples, seated on terraces, communicating with each other by means of steps cut out of the rock. All the buildings, wall, and steps, leading to it, are of hewn granite, very neatly wrought, and having ornamental work, finished in a masterly manner. This temple is a place of great resort for mariners; and near the landing, are various offerings of anchors, ropes, and spars. The devo[168]tees were constantly passing in and out from the temple to the priests’ houses, seated in a court. There were several priests in attendance, and others were lounging about the altars, with some old women, who appeared to be attached to the premises. This temple is called “Neang-ma-ho,” a temple of the “Queen of heaven.” The origin of it is said to be this: A number of Fokein fishermen were about sailing from that province, when a lady made her appearance, and told them they would all be lost in a storm, unless they deferred it for some days. They paid no heed to her advice, (excepting the crew of one boat,) and they were all lost in a “ta-fung-pao,” or “great tempest.” The lady embarked on board the remaining boat, when the storm had subsided, and safely landed near to the spot where the temple now is; from that moment she was never seen again. She is esteemed as holy, and is invoked as the protectress of all Chinese mariners.

I here witnessed a piece of superstition, which reminded me of drawing lots, or cards, or opening the Bible in search of a cheering text of Scripture, which is practised by superstitious people, in some Christian countries, for good luck. It was this: Many Chinese, of both sexes, drew from a box on an altar, after considerable hesitation, a bamboo slip, having Chinese characters marked on the end; which, I was informed, was done by every one before they undertook any great enterprise, and often in the minor affairs of life. They were asking a sign from the gods; their request was to be answered favourably or not, by carrying the mark on the stick to the priest, and ascertaining what the corresponding mark decided. I went down near to the priest’s house, and saw many return with cheerful countenances, and a light, elastic step, having received a favourable decision; while others walked out very slowly and despondingly, as though good fortune and themselves had for ever parted company. The view of the inner harbour, from this spot, and the beautiful garden, in which is found the celebrated cave, as it is called, of Camoens, (which, by the by, is no cave, but a narrow passage between two very large masses of rock; and on their apex, is placed a summer-house,) is highly picturesque. The garden is extensive, and laid out in a picturesque style; most of the walks are chunamed, and it is suffering by neglect. The ascent to the higher grounds is steep; but I was amply repaid by the fine scenery which it disclosed.
I had the pleasure of seeing[169] the celebrated aviary of Mr. Beale. There, for the first time, I saw one of the several species of the bird of Paradise; also the silver pheasant, mandarin ducks, and a great variety of the rarest birds, all in a most thriving condition, and under the immediate superintendence of their worthy owner.

Mr. John R. Morrison, son of the Rev. Dr. Morrison, here joined me, for the purpose of acting in the capacity of Chinese translator, interpreter, and private secretary, on the mission to Cochin-China and Siam, and to return to China from Singapore.





After enduring several days of rainy and squally weather, we weighed anchor, and proceeded towards Turan bay, on the northern coast of Cochin-China, being the nearest and best point to hold communication with the capital, called Hué, from which it is distant about fifty miles; it being impossible to anchor off the bar of Hué during the northeast monsoon. The weather during the passage, with the exception of one day, was misty or rainy; and on the first day of January, 1833, we found ourselves off the bay of Turan: but the weather was very thick, with a heavy sea running, and the wind shifting nearly every half hour, from northwest to northeast.

Finding it unsafe to run nearer to the land, we endeavoured to hold our station, as well as we could, till the weather cleared up sufficiently to see our way in; but it continued nearly the same till the fifth, the wind remaining most of the time in the northwest quarter: daily we lost ground, by contrary winds, and a strong current setting to the southward and eastward along the coast. The very mountainous land about the bay, was first lost sight of; in two or three days following, the group of islands called Champella, or Cham Callao; afterward the island of False Champella. Finding ourselves at length drifted down to Pulo Cambir, and losing ground on every tack, we were under the unpleasant necessity of bearing away for the most suitable and nearest harbour, which was done at sunset on the fifth, calculating the distance to the united harbours of Shundai, Vung-chao, and Vung-lam, (represented by Horsburg to be very safe, and having sufficient depth of water,) at[172] one hundred and twenty miles. The wind, during most of the night, was light from the northeast; and we had run, by the log accurately kept, at seven the next morning, a distance not exceeding seventy to seventy-five miles. At daybreak, the ship’s head was directed towards the coast, but not seeing any very conspicuous landmarks, we kept along shore till eight; having, within an hour, passed an island, and a group of small jagged rocks, standing so near the coast that we at first supposed the island to be part of the main land; it was, however, Pulo Cambir, lying to the north of our port of destination. Seeing, to the southward of us, a large fleet of fishing boats; a very high conical mountain, which we supposed must be mount Epervier; and the land, extending far to the eastward, which we were satisfied must be cape Averella, or Pagoda cape; and, at the same time, discovering the island of Maignia, a short distance to the southward of the harbour, we stood boldly in, and, at twelve, came to anchor, in six and a half fathoms water, in the fine harbour of Vung-lam;
the village of that name, bearing to the southwest, distant a mile and a half, and within three quarters of a mile of a small, uninhabited, and unnamed island, bearing south, called, by us, Peacock island. The beautiful harbour of Vung-chao, being open to our view, in the northeast, two miles distant; and the harbour, or roadstead, of Shundai, with Nest island, bearing east, about the same distance. It will be seen, by the distance per log, that we were currented along, in fifteen hours, fifty miles; nearly equal to three and a half miles per hour.

To the southward of Cambir, lies a sand-beach, extending up a rising ground, which, together with a more extensive plot near the southern entrance, but to the southward of the island of Maignia, assist, as a leading mark, in running in.

This is, truly, one of the finest harbours in the world, and free from all obstructions, save a rock, called the buoy rock, within one and a half miles of our anchorage, the top of which is above water.

The country around is apparently well cultivated, being laid out in small patches, resembling gardens. It is beautifully picturesque and bold, frequently running into hills, from one to fifteen hundred feet high; the verdure of which extends, in many places, to the water’s edge. The hand of the workman has here been busy on every spot susceptible of cultivation. Villages were seen among[173] the palm-trees, near the sandy beaches, and on the cultivated swells of land, for many miles around us.

In the afternoon of the day on which we anchored, an old man came on board; though raggedly dressed and dirty, he appeared to be somewhat superior to the fishermen who brought him off. Not being offered a seat at first, he seemed rather disconcerted, and expressed a desire to leave; but, having learned that he was an official personage, he was invited down to the gun-deck, and there seated. Being interrogated more particularly, in relation to his rank in the village, he stated himself to be a Keep-tu (literally, assistant keeper) of Vung-lam and King-chow, and the principal person in the village; but that he had a superior, or commandant, at Shundai, under whom is also another officer of equal rank with himself.

In reply to questions about the names of places, he said that the southernmost, or principal town or village, was called Shun-dai; that the central one, opposite which we lay, is Vung-lam; that the most northern is Vung-chao. Shundai, he said, formed one part, and Vung-lam and Vung-chao, another. He was asked whether there were any fortifications on shore; and it was explained to him that a salute would be fired in honour of the king, if there were any guns on shore to return it. He said there was no fortification at Vung-lam, but that there was a fort at Shundai. He was then informed, that, on the next morning, a salute would be fired; which was accordingly done, with thirteen guns. Upon inquiring whether the vessel was come to trade, or for public business, he was informed that she was a ship of war, sent out by the President of the United States, containing a special envoy, with a letter for the King of Cochin-China. It was explained to him, also, that the envoy wished to go to the capital, as speedily as possible, in order to have an audience, and to present the President’s letter. He seemed desirous to have some written paper, which he might present to his superior: but no such paper was in readiness for him. It was told him, that the special agent would himself write to the capital, to announce his arrival, and desire an audience.

In order to obtain a better idea of what measures would be requisite, to expedite the application to Hué, various questions were asked respecting the government, &c. He stated that the government of Shundai and its dependancies, are immediately subordi[174]nate to the supreme provincial government of Fooyan (or Phuyen). That the provincial government consists of a Tongdok or governor who presides over two provinces, and is now in the adjoining province, to the north, a Bo chāng-sü, or treasurer and sub-governor, and Au-tat-sü, or judge; and that the seat of government is within a day’s journey. The name of the capital he said, is Tüa-tien-pu; that of the king is Ming-meng. Speaking of the capital, he said that the ship might return northward to it in three or four days. Attention to other points prevented any reply being made to this remark at the time, and it was afterward forgotten. He inquired the name of the envoy, and the number of men on board. He then took leave after having drunk a little wine. The old man was throughout lively and cheerful. As he wrote Chinese pretty well, it was easy to hold intercourse with him.

January sixth. Towards evening, a large party came on board, consisting of the old head-man of Vung-lam, who visited us yesterday, two persons despatched by the commandant of Shundai, and two Chinese interpreters, with a number of attendants anxious to satisfy their curiosity. The Chinese being able to speak the Mandarin as well as their own provincial dialect, (that of Canton,) conversation was kept up with greater facility than yesterday, little of it being held in writing. They stated that two officers of the ninth rank, deputed by the chiefs of the provincial government, had arrived about noon, and had sent them to ascertain where the ship was from, and what was the object in coming. They were answered that she was a ship of war, and sent by the President of the United States of America, and that she brought a special envoy, bearing a letter to the king of Cochin-China. They were told, also, that the envoy wished to repair speedily to the capital, and intended to send a letter himself to announce his arrival. They requested a written paper to enable them to report to their superiors. The following paper was therefore given them, in Chinese and English. After receiving it they returned to the shore:—

“This is a ship of war of the United States of America. This ship is called the Peacock. The captain’s name is David Geisinger. This ship has been sent here by the president of the United States, he wishing to form a treaty of friendly intercourse with the king of Cochin China.

“There is on board the ship a special envoy, Edmund Roberts,[175] bearing a letter from the president of the United States, which he is to present personally to the king of Cochin-China. The number of persons on board, including both officers and men, is one hundred and sixty-six.

“The ship at first intended going into Tonquin bay, but not being able on account of the current, she came here.

“January sixth, 1833.”

Before they left, inquiries were made respecting provisions, and they were told, that it was desirable they should tell the people to bring things off to the ship to sell. They replied that the market was open to go and purchase any thing. On this occasion, as well as yesterday, no restriction was imposed on our visiting the shore, although to prevent offence being taken, they were informed that we should do so.

January seventh. This morning, the same party as yesterday came off again, with the addition of the two deputies from the seat of government, and their retinue, consisting of umbrella-bearers, trumpeters, and sword-bearers. The two deputies appeared anxious to make as much as possible of themselves. They ran over various questions of the same nature as those put by their precursors; which having been briefly answered, they were told that the envoy was then preparing a despatch for the king, and that in about an hour, it would be taken on shore by a naval officer; when they must be prepared to receive and forward it immediately to the capital of the province, or wherever else it might be necessary for them to send it, in the first instance. They then entered upon a number of impertinent queries, such as, whether there were any presents for the king; what were the contents of the letter to him; asking to see a copy of the envoy’s despatch to the capital, and the envoy and captain’s commissions. In all these inquiries they were immediately checked, and with some difficulty, brought to answer the questions, whether they were willing to receive and forward the despatch or not. Having answered in the affirmative, they were told that was satisfactory—that the despatch was being completed—that in the meanwhile they should return and make preparations to receive the officer who bore it.

The subject of provisions and particularly water, was again introduced, but nothing satisfactory was elicited in reply; the market, they said, was open.


A little after noon, the despatch was carried on shore by Lieutenant Brent. It was a letter in the form of a Chinese memorial, from the envoy to the king of Cochin-China, and was written both in Chinese and English. The following is a copy:—

“To his majesty, the king of Cochin-China:—

“The undersigned, Edmund Roberts, has the honour to inform your majesty, that Andrew Jackson, president of the United States of America, being desirous of opening a friendly intercourse with the king of Cochin-China, has despatched the United States’ ship-of-war Peacock, commanded by Captain David Geisinger, to your majesty’s dominions. The president of the United States of America has despatched the undersigned, his special envoy, to your majesty’s court, intrusting him with a letter to your majesty, and has clothed him with full power to treat with your majesty, for the important objects which the president of the United States has in view. He therefore requests that your majesty will grant him an interview, with the least possible loss of time.

It was the intention of the commander of the said United States’ ship-of-war, to have entered the bay of Turan; but having been driven from thence, after repeated attempts, by adverse winds and currents, he has been compelled at length to enter this port. As contrary winds and currents now prevail, it is rendered impossible for the envoy to proceed to Turan bay. The undersigned must, therefore, await your Majesty’s answer here.

Dated on board the United States’ ship Peacock, in Vung-lam roads, province of Fooyan, Cochin-China, the seventh day of January, A. D. 1833, the fifty-seventh year of Independence.


Not being well acquainted with the Cochin-Chinese forms, the letter was simply folded up in paper and sealed, being enclosed in vellum, and addressed—

To His Majesty,
The King of Cochin-China, &c., &c., &c.

The two deputies had made considerable parade, opposite the low and dirty hut, in which they were waiting to receive the despatch. There was a party of soldiers, with pikes fixed in the[177] sand, at regular distances; three elephants, with small riding-boxes on their backs; palanquins, or travelling conveyances, of the kind used in the country; and several ponies. The village generally has a dirty and miserable appearance. There are a few neat little brick and wood houses, with tiled roofs; the rest are all of mat, or the kind of leaf called attap, little better than mere sheds.

After the despatch had been received by them, with a promise that it should be forwarded immediately, several questions were asked respecting the roads, the conveniences for travelling, and accommodations between this and Hué. Answers were elicited from them with considerable trouble. One of them, who admitted that he had twice followed the road, saying that he had forgot all about it. They seemed desirous to give as bad an idea as possible of the road, as though they considered it not quite impossible for the ship to go further north, and thus to relieve them of all trouble and responsibility. The road, they said, was big with numerous dangers and difficulties; few stopping-places or accommodations, and those few bad. The conveyance for baggage, cumbrous, being on men’s shoulders. Houses were, however, numerous on the road, and provisions abundant.

Their answers respecting provisions and their prices were unsatisfactory; nor could they be induced to make any arrangements for the natives to bring things off to the ship. Every thing appears much dearer here than we expected to find it; even rice and sugar, which we supposed the chief productions, are not much cultivated in this neighbourhood. But the country around seems well fitted to afford abundance of cheap provisions, did commerce hold out any inducement to produce more than is needed for personal use. They stated the number of inhabitants in Vung-lam to be about three thousand, and rather less in each of the other places.

Before leaving, they were again requested to forward the despatch for the king speedily; and, at the same time, to report to their superiors that the envoy would require to be accompanied by a party of at least fifteen or sixteen persons, and considerable baggage. As the boat pulled off, they set out, with their retinue of elephants, palanquins, and ponies; and, as we afterward found, returned at once to their superiors, at the capital of Foo-yan.


January eighth. In the forenoon, a Cochin-Chinese Roman[178] Catholic priest came off, and held a written conversation, in Latin, with Dr. Ticknor, of which the following is the substance:—

Priest. “I am a Catholic priest. The prefect (or governor) has sent me to inquire whether you are Catholics, and of what nation you are, whether French or English?”

Answer. “A few of us are Catholics. We are from North America.”

Priest. “On what business has your king sent you? On business to our king, or for the purpose of trade?”

Ans. “Our business is with your king. This is a ship-of-war, (or king’s ship,) not a merchant’s ship.”

Priest. “Have you any presents?”

Ans. “I cannot answer that question.”

Priest. “Do you remain here, or go to our king at Hué?”

Ans. “We shall go to your king, at Hué, when we hear from him.”

Priest. “The prefect sent me to learn whether you have business with our king, what it is, and of what nation you are?”

Ans. “Our business has been communicated to your king, and it is with him alone. We are from the United States of North America. Have you any knowledge of North America?”

Priest. “I have no knowledge of North America. I know England, France, Spain, &c. Will you tell me whether you have a minister (nuncium ad visitandum et cognoscendum) authorized to negociate.”

Ans. “We have a minister (nuncium) to your king, to be acknowledged by him.”

Priest. “Has your king sent you to our king with presents or empty-handed?”

Ans. “This is a question which I am not permitted to answer.”

Priest. “Is your visit here friendly?”

Ans. “We have come here with the most friendly motives.”

He laughed and said—“A ship-of-war come with friendly motives!”

Here the conversation ended; he said he would return to the prefect who sent him. The priest’s age was probably about sixty-five. He said he was educated at the college of Jadent. He was attended by six persons.


January ninth. Going on shore to-day, Mr. Morrison was informed that two deputies had left, the same evening they received the letter for the king, and that the old head-man of the town, who first came on board, was under arrest, for not having been sufficiently alert in reporting the ship’s arrival. In reply to a question concerning the priest who was on board yesterday, he was informed that he had been sent by the governor of the province. He was informed, also, that two or three Chinese junks, from Hainan, visit this port annually.

Some anxiety, too, was shown, to prevent any one walking beyond the beach. The market-time was found to commence between two and three o’clock, and to end about sunset.

January fourteenth. Mr. Morrison went on shore to make inquiries respecting the trade, &c., of the place, from the principal of the two Chinese interpreters who had been on board on the sixth and following days; and who had since been employed as comprador for the ship. On most points this Chinese appeared ignorant; a little information was, however, obtained from him.


He stated that from one to three Chinese junks, annually visit Vung-lam, about the month of January. They come from Hainan, and import, almost solely, tea and paper. The former, if of good quality, sells for two kwan (or about eighty cents) a catty, if inferior, for about half that price. They take back fah-sang, or ground-nut oil, manure, and a few small articles. The oil costs about twenty-five kwan a pecul. Cocoa-nut oil is made, but to a very small amount. It costs about half a kwan a catty. The coasting-boats trade chiefly in rice, which they import from the south, Ne-hats-ang. There seem to be from twenty-five to forty of these boats in Vung-lam and the surrounding anchorages, and not less than one hundred and fifty or two hundred fishing-boats. The Chinese trade at Quin-hone, or Kwei-nyun, does not exceed, he said, four or five junks annually. This is the capital of the province of Pring-ding, on the north of Fooyan. The capital of the province of Fooyan is not large. Its name is Tui-yan. It does not possess much trade, and of that none is maritime, the city being some miles from the coast. The truth of this statement seems somewhat doubtful. The provinces of Fooyan and Pring-ding are under the same dsong-dok or governor.

January sixteenth. This evening the old head-man of Vung-[180]lam made his appearance again, somewhat altered in his dress, for the better, and seemingly alarmed at his arrest and punishment, the cause of which he professed to be ignorant of. He came to request that the paper, on which the conversation held with him the first day had been written, might be given up to him, which was accordingly done.

He then expressed a desire that every one should remain on board, and that none should go on shore, except to market; speaking, at the same time, of “vexing and annoying the people.” He was asked to explain, and said the people were alarmed. This, he was told, their behaviour contradicted; and no molestation had been given to any of them, while some of the soldiers had been very troublesome to those who went on shore; even urging and almost forcing Mr. Roberts to return to the ship, when it was evident he was waiting for the arrival of a boat.

Two instances of vexatious behaviour were particularly mentioned; to which he replied, that he was ignorant of the circumstances, but would inquire respecting them. He then left.


January seventeenth. Increased difficulties having been met with in the purchase of provisions required for the ship, Mr. Morrison went on shore in the afternoon, to try the effect of remonstrance with the old head-man. On reaching the shore, he met a large travelling retinue coming into the town; and was informed that two deputies, Mandarins, from Hué, had arrived, and were accompanied by the anchasze or judge (the under-governor) of the province. He therefore returned to the ship, whither he was shortly followed by the newly-arrived officers, in a large galley, rowed by thirty-two soldiers, wearing red, lacquered, peaked caps, with very ordinary waist clothes. The boat was about sixty feet in length and twelve in breadth, and built most substantially and neatly. She was decked with loose plank, a small cabin was erected amid-ships, covered with palm-leaf. She had neither masts nor sails; as the stern-post raked more than a whale-boat, she would not readily answer her helm; a man was therefore placed at each bow with a broad-bladed paddle, to assist her steering. The men rowed in unison, standing up and facing the bows. An officer was placed amid-ships, beating time by striking against two pieces of bamboo, which was answered by the rowers by a sharp quick cry when their oars touched the water. A small[181] red square flag was hoisted on an ornamented staff at the tafferel, and many long spears bristled along the quarters. She had no projecting stem, a bluff bow, and was sharp aft.

The deputies were dressed in their robes of ceremony, consisting of very stout figured or plain satin dresses, of blue, open on the sides at the bottom, the sleeves very wide; short satin trousers of yellow or red; black crape turbans, and Chinese shoes; but the cotton underdress was exceedingly dirty. They all wore long thin beards and mustaches.

They had quick black eyes, with a lively expressive countenance. Three most filthy servants attended them, each bearing boxes containing areca-nuts, betel, chunam, and paper cigars; and they were continually employed in scratching and picking off vermin. There were three umbrella-bearers, some soldiers, &c., and two men dressed in long blue woollen garments, bound with a wide strip of red cloth about the neck and on the lower part of the sides, and of the same height in front. They wore a low, red, peaked cap, secured to the head by means of strings passing from the sides across the forehead and back of the head, over a black turban—the cap only covered the head to the top of the ears. These men bore ornamented ivory sticks, with red silk tassels; but, contrary to the custom of those who had previously visited us, these officers left the majority of their attendants behind. The anchasze’s office designated him as of the third rank; while the two deputies, it was afterward ascertained, were of the fifth rank. They were preceded by two interpreters, one of whom spoke fluently the corrupt Portuguese dialect of Macao, and also a little French; the other, having been for some years in a British frigate, had a pretty good knowledge of the English, so long as the conversation was confined to what was commonplace. The Portuguese interpreter was a native Christian, named Miguel, and had acquired a knowledge, both of speaking and reading, at Macao. The quondam man-of-war’s man, was named Joseph, when in the British service.

From the nature of the conversation with the two deputies, it was chiefly kept up in writing, notwithstanding the presence of the two interpreters. The deputies commenced by stating, that they had been commissioned by the “minister of commerce and navigation,” at Hué, to come, in company with a provincial officer,[182] to inquire respecting the ship, and attend to her wants. They wished to know, therefore, if she stood in need of any thing. They were thanked, and informed that she was not in want; at the same time, they were requested to publish permission for the people to bring provisions alongside for sale. They replied that they would do so. They then inquired to what country the ship belonged, and produced a large sheet, containing representations of every known national flag, with the names of the countries attached, in French and in Chinese characters. The flag of the United States was pointed out to them, and they were informed that the ship was a man-of-war. They then put some complimentary questions, respecting the health of our “king,” and of the individuals on board, &c., which were answered and reciprocated. They had long, they said, heard of the country, as a good and happy one; and were now rejoiced at the meeting. They inquired the purpose of our coming, a species of question which every new comer repeated, as though ignorant of any previous intercourse with the officers of government. The necessary answer being given, they were asked respecting the letter from the envoy to the king, whether it had reached the capital before they left. They replied it had; but the address on the cover was erroneous; and therefore the minister of commerce and navigation, (whom they afterward stated to be the chief minister,) could not venture to hand it to the king. The country, they said, is not now called Annam, as formerly, but Wietman, (in Mandarin dialect, Yuènan;) and it is ruled, not by a king, (wang,) but by an emperor, (hwang-te.)[†] They said, also, that they had received orders to pay particular attention, and examine every thing, so as to prevent any farther miscarriage or delay in the business of the mission. It was explained to them, that the errors they mentioned did not arise from any disrespect towards the king, (or emperor,) but from the ignorance of their forms, which want of intercourse occasioned. They were asked to point out in what manner the address should be altered, and replied, that it would be preferable to address a letter to the minister of commerce and navigation, informing him of the ship’s arrival and object of coming; and requesting him to state the same to the king. They desired to be allowed to see the letter, in order to prevent the[183] admission of “interdicted words,” that is, expressions which, according to the Chinese punctilios of writing, are considered inadmissible in official correspondence with the higher ranks of officers. The letter to the king was then returned, at the desire of the envoy; and the deputies expressed a wish to know the contents of the President’s letter, as well as the particular and specific object of the mission. They were informed that the President’s letter was an introduction of the envoy to the king, and that the envoy was prepared to negotiate respecting the particular objects of this mission, after his arrival at Hué; but that the one general object, a treaty of friendly intercourse, was inclusive of all other objects. This answer was far from being satisfactory, and they repeatedly returned to the same point, till, finding they could obtain no other reply, they at length desisted. Being now requested to give an explicit address for the letter to be written to the minister, they drew a short letter to the following effect:—


“Edmund Roberts, envoy from the United States of America, desires to state to your excellency, that he has received the commands of his president, deputing him, a petty officer,[†] to bring a public letter to this effect: ‘I have long regarded the fame of your kingdoms with a desire for friendly intercourse; but I have not previously had an opportunity for obtaining it. I now entreat earnestly for a friendly intercourse. Beyond this, there is no other point I desire.’

“The said envoy presumes to make this statement, praying you to report it to the emperor, that having glanced thereat, he may happily allow him to repair speedily to the capital, and respectfully present the letter,” &c.

The tone of this letter is extremely objectionable, for, besides the servileness of particular expressions, the general language is that of an inferior, (the same idea being often expressed in Chinese by different words, according to the respective ranks of the writer, and the person he addresses;) the letter was therefore immediately rejected; and some of the most offensive expressions, such as “petty officer” and “earnest entreaty,” were pointed out and animadverted on. With the effrontery of falsehood common among the Chinese, they denied that the expressions were those of an in[184]ferior; but truth does not form a part of their creed. They were then informed that a letter would be written by the envoy the next day, and that the expressions should be respectful, but not mean or servile. They repeated their desire to see the letter before it was closed, in order to expunge improper words; and insisted on the necessity of their so doing. They were told, that they might see the letter; but that no material corrections could be made at their suggestions, after a fair copy of the letter had been prepared. After some further conversation and dispute concerning points of small import, they returned to the shore, at about eleven o’clock in the afternoon. The old judge had left early in the evening, having become seasick.

January eighteenth. This morning, the deputies came on board by appointment, to receive the letter from the envoy to the minister. They were again accompanied by the judge, who had recovered from his seasickness. Some refreshments were brought, consisting of a bullock, a hog, a few poultry, some rice and wine, which were presented to the envoy and captain, with felicitations on their arrival.

There being some doubt whether the minister of commerce and navigation was the chief minister of state, (although they had asserted he was,) the address of the chief minister was now asked. Before they answered this question, they wished to see the letter; but this being refused, they eventually gave an address the same as yesterday, viz.: “To the minister of commerce and navigation of Cochin-China.” This address was therefore inserted without alteration in the Chinese copy of the letter. In the English, it was altered to “the minister for foreign affairs, commerce and navigation;” he being the same minister called by Mr. Crawford, the “Mandarin of strangers.” The letter was then shown to them, and after a few trivial alterations of single words in the Chinese translation, which were acceded to, they expressed themselves satisfied; it was therefore sealed, and delivered to them to forward. The following is a copy:—

“To the minister for foreign affairs, commerce and navigation, Hué:—

“Edmund Roberts, special envoy from the United States of America, desires to inform your excellency that Andrew Jackson,[185] the president of the United States, wishing to open a friendly intercourse with the emperor of Cochin-China, has sent the United States’ ship-of-war Peacock, commanded by Captain David Geisinger, to his majesty’s dominions.

“And the president of the said United States of America has deputed me his special envoy to his majesty’s court, intrusting me with a letter to his majesty; and has clothed me with full powers to treat, on behalf of the president of the United States, for the important objects which he has in view. I therefore request your excellency to state this to his majesty; and hope that an interview will be granted with the least possible loss of time.

“It was the intention of the commander of the said United States’ ship-of-war to have entered the bay of Turan; but having been driven from thence, after repeated attempts, by adverse winds and currents, he has been compelled at length to enter this port of Vung-lam. As contrary winds and currents still prevail, it is rendered impossible for him to proceed to Turan bay. The undersigned therefore awaits his majesty’s answer here.

“Signed and sealed on board the United States’ ship Peacock, in Vung-lam roads, province of Fooyan, Cochin-China, the eighteenth day of January, A. D., 1833, and of the Independence of the United States, the fifty-seventh.


A little general conversation ensued, at the conclusion of this business; they having promised that an answer should be received in seven or eight days.

They asked several questions respecting America and Europe, for instance, what is the meaning of “the fifty-seventh year of independence?”—“Is England now at peace with France?”—“Has France recovered peace since the last revolution? and where is the dethroned king living?”—“Is America at war with any country?” &c. These and other questions of a similar nature having been answered, they took their leave, inviting Mr. Roberts, Captain Geisinger, and the other gentlemen on board, to call on them. They were at the same time invited to visit the ship whenever they wished.

January nineteenth. Three of the gentlemen went on shore, about noon, to visit the deputies, taking an excuse for Mr. Roberts[186] and Captain Geisinger. They were found residing in a neat little brick house, situated in a small garden of areca and betel plants; the latter being generally twined round the smooth round trunk of the areca-tree. The house is the most respectable in the place, and appears to be a private residence hired for the occasion. The conversation was for the most part common-place. The judge, they informed us, had returned to the capital of the province, to attend to the duties of his office.

A little information was obtained respecting provisions, firewood, and the nature of their mission to Hué. On the latter subject, they confirmed for the most part, the account previously obtained from the two first deputies, and insisted on making a present of some fire wood, saying they would send a person next day to show where it could be cut. They were requested to give permission to shoot and ride, but declined doing either. Shooting, they said, is prohibited by law. During the conversation, they stated, that there is an American named Leemesay (probably Lindsay) engaged as a pilot on board one of their ships. This is an Englishman who finds it more convenient to pass among these people as American than as English. On leaving, the deputies said they would call on board the following day. A present of firewood was brought along-side in the evening.

January twentieth. This morning, another present of firewood came off, and with it the Portuguese interpreter Miguel. He brought a note in French, addressed to the younger M. Vanier, whose mother being Cochin-Chinese, he remains in the country, although his father has returned to France. M. Vanier is now employed as a pilot, and is about to go to the straits of Malacca, with a cargo of sugar from Turan. He will be joined by a vessel from Ahiatrang, laden with rice, and piloted by Leemesay, (or Lindsay,) the American whom the deputies spoke of yesterday. Miguel informed us that the Roman Catholics are persecuted under the present religion; and that the few French, Spanish, and Italian priests, who are living in the country, are obliged to conceal themselves.

Père Jacard, a Frenchman, is confined wholly to the precincts of the palace, where he is employed in the care of the king’s European books, charts, mathematical instruments, &c. It is difficult for foreigners (excepting Chinese) to gain admission; legal per[187]mission must be obtained from the chief officers of the provincial government, in that part of the country, where admission is sought.

About noon, the deputies made their appearance. The conversation was short and common-place. They requested to be shown the ship’s voyage, on a chart, and were curious to know why China was visited before coming to Cochin-China, it being more to the north. They desired to be shown about the ship, and then took their leave promising to send their barge (a large boat, manned with thirty oars) to cut and bring off firewood, the next morning. As they spoke of tigers, they were told that guns must be taken as a defence; and they at length gave their consent to shooting. As they left, they particularly invited the envoy and Captain Geisinger to visit them the following day. Their invitation was accepted, being desirous of not giving offence.

January twenty-first. The weather being unfavourable, an excuse was sent, deferring the visit until better weather.


January twenty-third. Notwithstanding the weather continued unfavourable and rainy, another visit was received this morning from the two deputies, whose names were now found to be Yuen and Le. They asked numerous questions respecting Europe and America, seeming particularly desirous to know the affairs of England, and the nature of the United Slates government. In answer to their inquiries about the President, they were informed that he is elected by the people, once in four years. They asked also a few questions respecting American productions, particularly ginseng, of which they knew something; they repeated their inquiries as to the object of visiting Canton, and the time spent there, and whether there were any presents from the president, &c.

In reply to questions put to them, they stated, that the tribunals and officers at court, and the titles of their ministers and other officers, are the same as in China; but they evaded telling the names of any of the ministers, saying, that they could not remember them all. They declined some trifles offered to them, on the plea that they dare not receive any presents. They then repeated their invitation to Mr. Roberts and Captain Geisinger, to visit them on shore, and promised assistance in procuring provisions. They urged, that the ports were already open to trade, and therefore the mission unnecessary. They were told in reply that the regulations of trade were not known, and the charges on ships[188] were so high, it was found impossible to trade—that the mission was not destined to apply to them but to the court; and that whatever might be the state of the case, speedy measures should have been taken to enable the mission to proceed to Hué.




On this morning, January twenty-fourth, Captain G. and myself visited the deputies: their residence was somewhat improved, since the previous visit paid to them; considering the filthy habits of the people, it was neat and comfortable. Our conversation was short and common-place. The deputies informed us that they had been to Bengal, a year or two before, and also to Manila.

January twenty-sixth. One of the officers, who had come from the capital of the province on our first arrival, appeared again to-day, accompanied by another whom we had not before seen, and the two interpreters, bringing complimentary messages to the envoy, and refreshments, which, they said, were sent by order of the king. They consisted of a feast, (comprising fifty-one dishes,) two bullocks, four dogs, five sacks of rice, five jars of native liquor, thirty ducks, thirty fowls, eggs, and a variety of fruits.

As it would have given offence, and impeded, if not wholly destroyed the object of the mission, to have refused the present, it was immediately accepted with thanks; and the officers, who brought it off, were informed, that a salute of thirteen guns would be fired in honour of the king, as the present was said to have come from him. The feast was brought on the board in handsomely varnished and gilded cases; to all outward appearance, it was very neat and cleanly; but we could not divest ourselves of the idea, that it was cooked in the uncleanly vessels we had seen on shore, and that it had come in contact with the filthy paws, dirty nails, and heads filled with vermin, which we had seen on shore: we,[190] therefore, barely tasted of one article, the confectionary. A complimentary toast was drunk to the emperor, in a glass of their favourite rice wine.

The mandarin, who came to present the feast, was dressed in a robe of ceremony, of very stout, light blue, flowered silk. He was invited to partake of the feast, but politely excused himself, saying, “I dare not partake of a feast presented by the emperor.” He was therefore furnished with other refreshments.

The feast was arranged in the cabin, by a servant sent with it, assisted by several others: it was served up in China, and consisted of fifty-one articles, (exclusive of fruits,) arranged in the following order: At the head was placed an entire tortoise, jellied on the outside, and filled with rice, &c.; then followed a leg of fresh boiled pork; two roasted ducks; one roasted fowl; a deep saucer of roasted pork, cut in square pieces; and three stewed pigeons in a bowl, with sauce. The preceding seven articles were arranged from the head to the foot of the table, in the centre, and were flanked with seventeen bowls, each containing a different article. One contained stewed eels, whether of the hedge or ditch, I am not able to determine; another was filled with stewed mullet. One had within it a piece of stewed fish, with sauce; a fourth held fish pickle, or the essence of balachang, emitting a most unsavoury smell. Seven of the bowls were covered with yellow paper, and ten with red: they contained chow-chow, or mixed meats, deers’ sinews—which latter were particularly recommended.

The name and contents of each article were inscribed in Chinese characters, on its cover. The remaining portion of the dishes, consisted of two bowls of boiled ducks’ eggs, and one of fowls; one of boiled crabs; three of red, yellow, and white rice; two of sausages; three of rice pilau; one of stewed fowl; one of shrimps; one of bitter cucumbers; two of sponge-cake; and the rest were forced-meat pasties and confectionary. They were cooked with ground-nut oil, or the fat of fresh pork; and were, generally, very insipid, and totally without seasoning.

These refreshments had been sent in consequence of the receipt, at Hué, of the envoy’s letter to the minister, and the officers said that a reply might be expected in two or three days, at farthest.

In the afternoon, the deputies’ barge came alongside, and the interpreters said there were two mandarins on board: but, seeing[191] that the ship rolled very much, they would defer the visit until the next morning.


This morning, January the twenty-seventh, the two interpreters appeared, to say, that two officers had arrived from Hué, but that the vessel was so unsteady they were afraid to come on board, lest seasickness should prevent them from fulfilling, to the full extent, their mission. They, therefore, requested Mr. Roberts to visit, and to converse with them on shore.

This attempt to make the envoy wait on them, could not, they were told, be complied with; but Mr. Morrison would go on shore, if they desired it, to ascertain their business.

Mr. M. accordingly went on shore, immediately after breakfast, and found the two former deputies, accompanied by two others, said to be of higher rank, who were far less prepossessing in their appearance, and much ruder in their manners.

The following conversation took place with them:—

Mr. M. “Is there any letter from Hué?”

Deputies. “No; we two officers have been deputed by the minister to come here.”

Mr. M. “Will there be any letter?”

Dep. “No; we are sent in place of a letter.”

Mr. M. “What message do you bring from Hué?”

Dep. “The minister of commerce and navigation has received the letter sent by the envoy; the contents being respectful and reasonable, he gave directions to the local officers to prepare a feast for the envoy. With regard to shooting, although it is contrary to the laws, permission is granted, in the present instance, for a few to shoot at a time, in consideration that you know how to regard the laws.”

Mr. M. “Shooting is not the business on which the envoy has come here. That is a trivial matter, not worth mentioning again. The envoy has come on important national business, with a letter for the emperor: he wishes to know what message you have from the emperor.”

Dep. “Though the shooting is a trivial matter, we have mentioned it, because you formerly made a request on the subject. As to the business of the letter, we require to converse respecting it with the official gentlemen:” meaning the envoy and those who they supposed were associated with him; for the Cochin-Chi[192]nese, like the Chinese, seldom send officers singly on any special business.

Mr. M. “It would be contrary to all etiquette, for the envoy to come on shore, to converse with you on this subject. If you have any thing to communicate, tell it to me, or (which would be better) go on board and tell it.”

Dep. “We like your regard for etiquette, and have now come with the wish to conduct your business according to etiquette, and to conclude it speedily. Yesterday we were prevented going on board by the wind: as you have now come, we will enter on the business with you at once.

“The minister of commerce and navigation desires us to communicate to the envoy the necessity of his having a copy and a translation of the president’s letter to lay before the emperor; also to state, that without full and complete information, the minister dare not report to his majesty. Having come so great a distance, you are doubtless anxious for the speedy conclusion of the business of your mission. It is on this account we have been sent; for our laws are strict, and demand implicit obedience: therefore, we are directed to show you how to conform to them. What ought now to be done, is to give a copy and translation of the President’s letter.

“Further, in the letter from the envoy, mention is made of the important objects which the President has in view. Without knowing what these important objects are, the minister can make no report to the emperor. Were he to do so, and the emperor should make any particular inquiries of him, respecting the mission, he would be unable to reply. If you will give a copy of the letter, and information with regard to these objects, four or five days will be sufficient to come to some determination respecting your mission.”

Mr. M. “Letters between the rulers of nations ought not to be submitted to the inspection of their ministers and people, but must first be delivered to the rulers to whom they are addressed. Of the President’s letter, there is both an original and a translation; which will be delivered, together, to the emperor, after the envoy has reached the capital.”

Dep. “If you will allow us to see a copy of the translation, your business may then be advanced.


“In the intercourse of China with France, England, &c., copies of their letters must first be shown to the minister or his deputies, before they can make any report to the emperor. Otherwise, being ignorant of the contents of the letter, they dare not report.”

Mr. M. “We know not the etiquette of China, but that of Europe, and all the nations of the west. Letters are first presented to the rulers, to whom they are addressed. Copies are not first shown to their ministers.”

Dep. “France and England have sent envoys here, who did not refuse to show copies of the letters which they brought.”

Mr. M. “I have heard that the English envoy, who complied with this demand, had no audience.”

Dep. “The governor-general (Ta-ping-t’how, great military headman) of Bengal, sent an envoy here, with a letter to the minister, and he concluded the business satisfactorily. Would we treat the English well and you ill?”

Mr. M. “You are, indeed, putting difficulties in the way. It has never been customary with us to show copies of letters previously to presenting the originals.”

Dep. “We are all the servants of our respective rulers, and we desire, equally with you, to bring your business to a satisfactory conclusion. We request you to think what object we can have in raising difficulties?”


Not being able to come to any conclusion on this point, they were asked if they had any thing else to say, when they pointed to what they had before written, respecting the important objects which the President had in view. They then wrote again: “You should return to the ship, and get the directions of the envoy and captain, on these two important points, viz.:—

“1st. To show a copy of the President’s letter.

“2d. To state clearly the particular objects of the mission. In the evening come again, and inform us of the result.”

“Our country wishes to receive and treat you in a liberal manner. France and England did not refuse to show copies of their letters. Why do you? We have been sent by the minister with these orders, and wish you to act in accordance with the advice we have now given. Your business will then be soon finished, which will afford the minister pleasure also.”


Mr. M. “If these are the orders you have received, I fear we must soon leave.”

Dep. “Why do you say so? Our endeavour is to bring your business to a speedy conclusion. All envoys must desire to bring their business to a satisfactory conclusion. We wish to aid you in doing so. Of what use is it to talk of returning? What object will be effected if you do so?”

Mr. M. “If such points are insisted upon, we must consider that the emperor desires no intercourse with our country; in which case there is nothing left for us but to return.”

This view of the matter was strongly objected to by the deputies, whom Mr. Morrison left with an understanding that he would probably visit them again in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, accordingly, Mr. Morrison, having received farther instructions, went on shore and recommenced the conversation, saying:—

“I have now received directions from the envoy to tell you, that what you insisted upon this morning, cannot be complied with; for it would be disallowed by our government. The letter is sealed, and cannot now be opened; but must either be carried by the envoy to the capital, or must be carried back, and the cause stated to the President.”

The deputies now inquired if there were really a translation of the President’s letter, in a manner which implied distrust and unbelief of what they had been told. Being assured that a translation really existed, they returned to their former point, desiring a copy—not, however, of the translation, but of the general scope of it. Compliance with this request was refused, unless they could show directions to that effect from the emperor.

Dep. “If there is, indeed, a Chinese translation, it is requisite to show a copy of it, before a report can be made to, or an order received from, the emperor. Being foreigners, how can you refuse to have your business conducted by us, who are the appointed deputies? or how can you insist on going at once to the capital to present the letter personally?”

Mr. M. “Without seeing an order from the emperor, the letter cannot be shown to any one; nor can the envoy stay here much longer. In a few days, either he must repair to the capital, or the ship must leave this port and go to sea. Two of you have been[195] already informed of this, when you received the envoy’s letter to the minister. As we have been detained here nearly a month, without any thing having been done, it is now repeated to you all.”

Dep. “This delay is owing to your own mismanagement, in not having given a translation of the President’s letter, stating the objects of the mission. It is in consequence of this mismanagement, that the minister has been unable to state your arrival and object to the emperor. Hence the delay, which has in no way arisen from any want of kind reception on the minister’s part, or of attention on ours. Our laws are very strict, and the forms required by our etiquette, numerous. Were we to offend against either, the offence would not be considered slight. We have now been sent to see that every thing be done according to etiquette and law, and this requisition must, indeed, be acceded to, before you can obtain permission to proceed to Hué.”

Mr. M. “A letter between the sovereigns of two nations, cannot be carelessly and inconsiderately shown to any or every one. As to the letter and the objects of the mission, should the envoy go to Hué, the former can then be presented, and the negotiation of the business entered upon. But, should the envoy not go to Hué, it will be needless to speak of either.”

Dep. “We, the officers specially deputed by the minister alone, require to see the letter. How can it be careless or inconsiderate to show it to us? If every thing is left unexplained, then, although you should go to the capital, the minister would still have to depute officers to obtain a clear knowledge of your business, before he could make any report to the emperor!”

Mr. M. “Was the envoy’s letter to the minister received?”

Dep. “It was; but the expression, ‘important objects,’ was not explained, nor was there a translation of the President’s letter; hence, he could not venture to make any report. He has, therefore, sent us to repeat these inquiries; that, after he has learned the result from us, he may report to the emperor.”

Mr. M. “If the envoy were at the capital, he would then make all requisite explanations to the minister. If he cannot go to the capital without making such explanations to you, the ship will have to go to sea.

“Is the minister of commerce the same as the minister of elephants?


“If he received the letter, why is there no written answer from him?”

Dep. “The minister of commerce is a great minister, who directs the affairs of all foreign vessels that come here. In the letter sent to him, there was much that was not explained. Therefore, we have been sent to arrange and explain every thing; after which he will be able to report. Of what use would it be to give any previous written reply?”

Mr. M. “You had better make a speedy report of to-day’s conversation; for if the envoy does not shortly obtain leave to go to Hué, he will be necessitated to leave. The envoy is not likely to retract what he says.”

Dep. “Your ship has crossed a wide sea to bring an envoy from your country; and the minister has acted towards you according to his majesty’s gracious wishes of tenderness towards foreigners. He wishes to conclude your business speedily and satisfactorily for you; but you also must act according to our laws and etiquette: then you will not fail in your object. Return, and tell the two gentlemen (meaning Mr. R. and Capt. G.) that they may think maturely on the subject; to-morrow we will visit the ship.”

Mr. M. “The subject has been already fully thought on; I request you to think it over once more.”

They then again insisted on the necessity of every thing being fully explained, before another step could be taken; and, addressing Mr. Morrison personally, they said: “As you have read Chinese literature, you are acquainted with our forms of etiquette, and what is right and proper. Explain these to the envoy, that he may follow them; the success of the mission will then be owing to your efforts; whereas, by refusing to do so, the blame of failure will rest entirely on you.”

To this absurd language no reply was returned. They were told, that the envoy came with a desire to open a friendly intercourse, and would be sorry to return without having effected that object: but that he would not act contrary to the rules of his own country; and that he thought, if the emperor were informed of the circumstances, he would not desire any previous copy of the letter to be given. The conversation then ended, the deputies refusing to answer questions on any other subjects.


January twenty-eighth. This morning, early, the four deputies came on board, as they had yesterday stated their intention of doing. The conversation was commenced by asking the object of their visit, as they had yesterday been told, that the envoy could not give up the President’s letter, nor enter into any further particulars respecting the objects of the mission. They were at the same time told not to speak of “two gentlemen,” as the business of the mission rested wholly with the envoy.

Dep. “The letter which the envoy sent to the minister, spoke of very important objects, but did not explain what those objects were; therefore, the minister being unable to speak to the emperor, has sent us to inquire particularly; that when we have informed him of the objects, he may make his report, and conclude the business of your mission speedily.”

The Envoy. “Two of your number have already asked repeated questions on this subject, and have been as often told, that the subject cannot be treated of before the mission proceeds to Hué. As this has been often told you, why do you now delay the mission with repetitions of the same questions? The minister is fully aware that my mission is for the purpose of opening a friendly intercourse between the two countries. Why, then, does he not make report thereof to the emperor? and why is there no order from the emperor, either permitting me to go to Hué, or directing my return? This line of conduct certainly appears uncivil; I must, therefore, conclude that the emperor is unwilling to admit our intercourse. If you have any thing further to speak of, say it; but do not go over yesterday’s conversation again.”

Dep. “Our country wishes to receive and treat you with liberality; but there is an appearance of secrecy in the letter to the minister, which requires explanation. Our conduct is in accordance with true politeness. How say you we are uncivil?”

Envoy. “If, when the ship arrived, the minister of commerce had immediately reported to the emperor the arrival of a United States’ vessel, with a special envoy on board, bearing a letter from the President to the emperor, and had requested leave for the mission to proceed forthwith to the capital, such conduct would have been open, polite, and becoming. But to profess that he dare not report to the emperor, and detain the mission here for a[198] long period, refusing to let it proceed at once to the capital, is, indeed, extremely rude.”

Dep. “Hitherto all envoys bringing letters here, from whatever country, have stated their contents and the objects of their mission, through officers deputed, like us, to receive such information. This has always been necessary before a report could be made. We have heard of you as a just, polite, and well-demeaned nation; and the minister, when he heard of your arrival, was much pleased, and desirous of bringing your business to a satisfactory conclusion, in order to establish a friendly intercourse with you. [They were here told that the minister was required to make no such request.] What answer would he be able to give, should the emperor inquire about particulars?”

Here they were pointed to Mr. Crawford’s account of his mission to Siam and Cochin-China, page 269; where he received what amounted to a reprimand, for having shown to the governor of Saigon the governor-general’s letter, when the minister of elephants told him: “It is his majesty’s wish, when the governor-general writes again, that the letter may be sealed, for this is the custom of Cochin-China.” And again, “It is not agreeable to the customs of the country, that any should inspect letters addressed to his majesty, before they reach his own presence.”

They did not appear, or choose not to appear, acquainted with the circumstances of Mr. Crawford’s mission, and did not want, they said, the original letter, but a translation.

Envoy. “If I return, and report to the President that, when I came here to propose a friendly intercourse between our countries, the ministers of Cochin-China refused to report my arrival to the emperor; took upon themselves to treat me rudely, and, after having detained me a whole month, forced me to leave, without obtaining admission to the capital; when this is told, what, think you, will be the world’s opinion of your country? Its opinion will be, that you are an extremely rude nation. If permission be not soon given for me to proceed to the capital, I shall be necessitated to leave; for within the present year I have to go to eight or nine other places.”

The latter part of this reply was intended to remove an error they seemed to have fallen into, in supposing that the ship had[199] come from the United States, solely to negotiate a treaty with Cochin-China.

Dep. “Every thing in our country must be done according to etiquette. Hitherto all countries, whether far or near, have paid regard to this rule. The etiquette to be observed by ministers of government, is to report no business, until they have obtained complete knowledge of it. We have been desirous to effect for you the objects of your mission, but you have been obstinate in your determinations. Pray, what would you think of an envoy from any other country coming here, and refusing to have any thing done through the medium of officers deputed, like us, for the purpose of arranging the business of his mission, and insisting on immediate admission to the emperor’s presence? If the circumstances be told to all the world, the right and wrong will then be known. Our country has always received other nations liberally, without deriving any advantage from them.

“Before,” they continued, “you said there was no translation of the President’s letter; now you say there is:—before, you said the vessel was going to no other place; now you say she is going to nine other places. What are we to understand by this?”

As not the slightest hint had been given to favour either of these assertions, they were immediately contradicted. They had never been told, either that the President’s letter was not translated, or that the envoy had business in Cochin-China alone.

They now stated they did not want the letter opened; they only required to know what was desired; whether land to build factories on, privileges of trade, or what?

Envoy. “No favours or privileges are asked for. Our government does not build factories. Friendly intercourse alone is desired.”

Dep. “Is commerce desired?”

Envoy. “That is necessarily included in friendly intercourse between the two countries; which will be for the advantage, not of one, but of both.”

Dep. “You have now come over an extensive ocean as an envoy. The minister has acted according to the emperor’s gracious wishes of tenderness towards foreigners. He wishes to conclude your affairs happily and satisfactorily; but you persist and determine, of your own accord, to return unsuccessful. Say not[200] that you were not received well and liberally. The fault lies with you!”

Envoy. “As you refuse our intercourse, and I cannot obtain permission to go to Hué, I must leave shortly. The fault lies not with me, but in the minister’s uncivil treatment. On my return, I shall have to report, that the minister had the presumption to take the business of the mission into his own hands, without making any report to the emperor. How call you such conduct ‘liberal treatment?’”

Dep. “We too have been sent to bring the business of your mission to a determinate point; but your obstinacy leaves us at a loss what to do. We will return in a day or two to the capital, and make a report of the circumstances.”

This was said by the two who had arrived on the twenty-sixth.

In reply, they were told that the envoy could have nothing to do with their movements; that when quite ready he would leave; but that, when he did so, he would write a protest against the manner in which he had been treated, and would send a copy of such protest to the emperor, and copies to other princes also. At first, not seeming to understand what was meant, they desired that it should be sent to the minister instead of the emperor; but this, they were told, was out of the question.

January twenty-ninth. Some gentlemen who had been on shore in the course of yesterday, having been asked when the ship would sail, Mr. Morrison visited the deputies this morning, with the following written communication:—

“I hear that you inquired last evening when our ship would sail. I am directed by the envoy to tell you, that if, within six days, the imperial permission be not received for the mission to go to Hué, the vessel will then sail.

“The envoy does not act inconsiderately, as deeming this an affair of a trivial nature: but he is necessitated to leave, because the business confided to him, in other places, will not admit of a long delay.

“Nor does he consider it a thing of small import, that the minister of commerce, &c., refuses to report his arrival to the emperor, or to afford him the means of presenting the letter.”

In reply, the two deputies who had first arrived, (for the other[201] two, though not yet on their way for Hué, did not appear,) returned to their former position, that they were desirous of bringing the business to an amicable and satisfactory conclusion, but were prevented by the obstinacy of the envoy. If a translation of the President’s letter, and a complete statement of the objects of the mission, were delivered to them, then some conclusion might be come to.

They were told it was useless talking thus, as the determination of the envoy had already been communicated to them. Should the envoy go to Hué, on his arrival there, the minister might receive a copy of the President’s letter, and what explanations he might desire as to the objects of the mission. Similar conversation was kept up for a few minutes, during which the deputies received a written paper from the other two, who were within. They then wrote, that “the President, being elected and promoted by the people, and not possessing the actual title of king, it behooved him to write in a manner properly decorous and respectful; on which account it was requisite for the translation to be examined, in order to expunge improper words.”

In reply to this insulting language, they were told that the President was inferior to no king or emperor, and were then left.


In consequence of the insult thus offered to the President, Mr. Morrison again went on shore in the afternoon, in company with Mr. Fowler, for the purpose either of obtaining an apology, or of handing the deputies, for the information of the minister, a protest from the envoy against the adoption of such language. They now withdrew what they had said in the morning; and, having previously torn up the paper on which they had written, they denied that they had said what was attributed to them. “The other day,” said they, “you told us that your President is elected by the people; we asked, therefore, whether he was really a king or not: and letters, we said, should be humble and decorous.”

Had there been any doubt (which there was not) of the real sense of what they said in the morning, the total incoherency of what they now advanced would afford strong presumption against its truth; for who could write in one sentence, the question, “Whether or not the President is a real king;” and the assertion that “letters should be humble and decorous,” with other than the insulting views attributed to them in the morning? But, as they[202] denied having spoken by command of their master the minister, and wholly disclaimed any intention of insult, the apology was thought sufficient, and the envoy’s protest was not handed to them. They were again told that, though the President did not bear the title of king, yet he was equal to any king or emperor, and was so acknowledged by all with whom the United States had intercourse.

This point being set to rest, a list of the refreshments, which had been received from them at different times, was handed to them, with a request that they would say whether it was correct or not. They were then told, that if the business of the mission were to end unsuccessfully, the refreshments they had sent could not be accepted as presents, but must be paid for. This they strenuously resisted, saying, repeatedly, that the things were of small value. “Nothing,” they were answered, “of the smallest value, could be accepted, if the mission ended without going to Hué. Should the mission proceed thither, they would be accepted as tokens of a friendly disposition between the two countries; but otherwise, no friendly intercourse being established, every thing must be paid for.”

As the feast, when brought on board, had been represented as coming from the emperor, it was now asked how that could be the case, since the emperor was not yet apprized of the vessel’s arrival? The deputies replied, that it was customary to present such refreshments to foreign vessels on their arrival; therefore it was considered as coming from the emperor, although prepared by the provincial officers, at the direction of the minister.

They were then asked what the minister’s object was in thus delaying the business of the mission, and refusing to report to the emperor. They replied, as usual, that their wish was to expedite, not to retard the business of the mission; which was hindered, they said, only by the envoy’s refusal to act according to their advice. It was argued, that if any one had business with them, he would not stay to explain his business to their servants, but would require to speak with themselves at once. Arguments, however, proved useless. They either could or would not comprehend them. The two deputies, who were returning to Hué, had not left, but were to start the same evening.


January thirtieth. The deputies appearing to act under specific orders, from which they could not deviate in the least, the[203] envoy now addressed a letter to the minister of commerce, specifying the objects of the mission, and enclosing a copy of the President’s letter, with a Chinese translation of it. The following are copies of the documents:—

Letter from Edmund Roberts, Esq., special envoy from the United States of America, to the Cochin-Chinese minister of foreign affairs, commerce, &c.:—

“Edmund Roberts, special envoy from the United States of America, desires to inform your excellency, that he wrote, on the eighteenth of the present month, acquainting your excellency with the wish entertained by the President of the United States to open a friendly intercourse with the emperor of Cochin-China; and with his consequent appointment of myself to be the bearer of a letter which I am to present to his majesty; having, at the same time, full powers to treat, on behalf of the President, for the important objects which he has in view.

“I have now the pleasure to enclose copies of the original, and a translation in Chinese, of the President’s letter to the emperor, for your excellency’s inspection. The important objects of the President, mentioned in the letter, are solely to ascertain, if the emperor is willing to admit the American commercial intercourse on the same terms as those of the most favoured nations; or on what conditions he will admit it, and into what ports. No exclusive privileges are asked for. And the envoy is not charged with any other matter or thing, excepting to establish a suitable commercial treaty between the two nations. These are the only objects of the mission.

“Had your excellency sent a written answer, requesting the above information, the envoy would have given these particulars previously; but certain persons inquired the object of the vessel’s coming, and asked for a copy of the President’s letter, to whom this information could not be given, as they could show no document or authority from your excellency.

“The envoy has already been here some time, and will be unable to delay much longer. He therefore requests your excellency to provide the means for himself, and others who are to accompany him, to proceed to Hué speedily. For unless, within seven days,[204] permission be received, from the emperor, to proceed thither at once, the vessel must go to sea.

“Signed and sealed on board the U. S. ship-of-war Peacock, in the roadstead of Vung-lam, in the province of Fooyan, this thirtieth day of January, A. D., 1833, and of independence, the fifty-seventh.


“Andrew Jackson, President of the United States of America, to his majesty the emperor of Cochin-China:—

“Great and good friend—

“This will be delivered to your majesty by Edmund Roberts, a respectable citizen of these United States, who has been appointed special agent, on the part of this government, to transact important business with your majesty. I pray your majesty to protect him in the exercise of the duties which are thus confided to him, and to treat him with kindness and confidence; placing entire reliance upon what he shall say to you in our behalf, especially when he shall repeat the assurances of our perfect amity and good will towards your majesty. I pray God to have you, great and good friend, under his safe and holy keeping.

“Written at the city of Washington, the twentieth day of January, A. D. 1833, and in the fifty-sixth year of independence.

“Your good and faithful friend,


“By the President.

Edward Livingston, Sec’ry of State.”

“The foregoing is a true copy of the original now in my possession.

Edmund Roberts.”


These documents being completed, the packet was sealed up, and taken on shore by Mr. Morrison; but now a new and unexpected difficulty arose. The letter (which, they were told, though addressed to the minister, was intended to be seen by the emperor) must be opened, submitted to their inspection, and corrected entirely according to their taste, ere they would receive or forward it.

This unheard-of and arrogant requisition was strongly objected to. “What is the cause,” they were asked, “of such behaviour?[205] Here are four officers of whose names and rank we are equally ignorant. (For their rank they had evaded telling, when asked, and their names, though told by two of them, were not suffered to be written down.) These officers require full information, respecting the objects of our mission, and refuse to forward our official letters. In no other country, we have been to, is an envoy thus treated.”

With the deputies, however, nothing that could be said was of any use. They acted apparently on specific and peremptory orders, and evinced a total disregard for every thing but a complete concession to all their demands. On the present occasion they refused to write an answer to what was said to them. Through the interpreter they repeated the same language they had before so often used, respecting their own and the minister’s anxiety to conclude the business of the mission satisfactorily; the necessity of conforming to the customs and etiquette of the country, and the obstinacy of the envoy, &c.

“Were a letter,” they were asked, “sent to you, would a copy be first shown to your servants?”

“No,” they replied, “but the case is not parallel. Your envoy is like one standing at the door of a house.”

“Admitting that, suppose me coming to the door of your house, on business with you, should I have to inform your servants what my business was before I could enter?”

The quick little interpreter, Miguel, said that this was agreeable to reason, a point which the deputies were less ready to admit. They could not allow the comparison. “Such,” said they, “are our laws. They must be implicitly obeyed.”

“Had there been an imperial order,” it was resumed, “or a written answer from the minister, then the business of the mission might be communicated to you; but how can it be communicated to persons of whose names and rank we are ignorant? The objects of the mission have, therefore, been stated in the letter, which it will be well for you to forward. This obstinacy in requiring to know our objects is insulting.”

Mr. Morrison was now pressed to return to the ship, to receive the envoy’s permission for them to see the contents of the packet, and correct the phraseology of the letters. Finding them determined not to receive it as it was, he accordingly left, after having[206] repeated the necessity of paying for their presents, should their continual opposition cause the failure of the mission. They appeared personally desirous of conciliation, though their national vanity and prejudices would not suffer them to see any thing absurd or improper in the conduct which their orders obliged them to adopt.

In the evening Mr. Morrison again went on shore, with Chinese copies of the President’s letter to the emperor, and the envoy’s letter to the minister. Having required that the crowd of attendants, who usually stood round, listening to the conversation, should be dismissed, the envoy’s letter was shown to the deputies. They immediately proceeded to criticise every word and sentence, making several alterations and corrections, which, though of small importance, and generally unobjectionable, occupied considerable time. During the conversation, which the remarks, made on various parts of the letter, occasioned, the interpreter Miguel, apparently of his own accord, though probably prompted by his employers, remarked, that the President was equal to a king; but that the emperor was superior to a king. The natural inference, that the emperor of Cochin-China is superior to the President of the United States, he left to be deduced by others. The remark arose from an endeavour, on the part of the deputies, to have the President’s title placed lower than that of the emperor; not, they would have it believed, from an idea of inequality, but on account of the humbler style, which they insisted, the writing party must adopt in speaking of themselves. The envoy, it was answered, had taken that station, which courtesy to the person he addressed, required; but to place the President lower than the emperor, was a point of a different nature—a point which courtesy did not require, and which, the President and emperor being in every respect equal in rank, could never be complied with. Having at length concluded with the letter to the minister, every correction which could be considered derogatory or mean having been rejected, the deputies now desired to see a copy of the President’s letter. This was for some time objected to; and the impropriety of the demand, as well as the unpleasantness of compliance pointed out. They were resolved, however, to see it, and at length it was shown to them; but as they were proceeding to make alterations in it also, they were stopped, and told that the President’s letter could[207] not be altered. Without making alterations in it, they insisted that the letter could not be forwarded; nor would they consent to receive it at all, unless, after seeing every correction made in both letters that they wished, the packet should be sealed before their eyes. They were told this want of confidence was offensive, and required a similar discredit of their authority, as their names and rank were unknown, and they had shown no credentials. They thereupon stated their names and rank, said they had no credentials; and argued that they too had been shown no credentials by the envoy. The envoy, it was replied, would show his powers to the proper individuals in fit time and place.

They still insisted on correcting the President’s letter. Mr. Morrison therefore returned, about nine, P. M., leaving the sealed package, addressed to the minister, in charge of the deputies.


January thirty-first. Mr. Morrison, having made a copy of the envoy’s letter to the minister, with the corrections which were last night agreed to, as being immaterial, repaired on shore, in the forenoon, with authority to make such trivial alterations, in the translation of the President’s letter, as the deputies might desire. He first inquired if the packet that was left on shore had been sent to the minister; and was answered, that, not being corrected, it could not be forwarded. The deputies then repeated their unchanging expressions of a desire, on the part of the minister who had sent them, to arrange matters speedily, and on a friendly footing. Such conversation being little likely to lead to any good result, it was avoided; and they were requested, as they would not forward the packet, to return it. This was accordingly done; and the envelope being removed, the translation of the President’s letter was laid before them, accompanied with a remonstrance against their conduct, in insisting that it should be altered before they would forward it. About two hours were now spent in objecting to particular words and sentences, either as being improper and contrary to etiquette, or as being unintelligible. They also made particular inquiries respecting the original letter, whether it was sealed or not, and whether the Chinese translation was signed by the President. They put some questions, also, respecting the signature of the Secretary of State, what was his rank, &c.; and asked if the original letter was kept on board; and if the one shown to them was only a copy. When told, “of course,” they said, “that is right.”


Among other points, they professed not to understand the expression, “Great and good friend;” and they interpreted it according to their preconceived ideas, as a “request for a friendly intercourse.” The expression was explained to them, and shown to be perfectly intelligible, (for it was only their astonishment at such familiar language, that prevented their understanding it.) But still they considered it quite inadmissible; the common word yew, a friend, was unsuitable and improper between two great powers. The only thing that would satisfy such hairbreadth distinguishers, was to say, “Your country and mine have amicable intercourse.” Wherever the simple and common word I (wo) occurred, it became necessary to substitute some other word, having a similar meaning, (as pun.) And for he or him, (ta,) referring to the envoy, they required in substitution of kae-yuen, “the said officer.” Where the President says, “I pray your majesty to protect him, and to treat him with kindness and confidence,” they wished to introduce a request for “deep condescension” on the part of the emperor, which was rejected; and, to satisfy them, a slight change was made in the phraseology of the translation, but without permitting any thing servile. The President’s letter concludes with this expression:—“I pray God to have you always, great and good friend, under his safe and holy keeping.” This they wished to change into a prayer to “imperial heaven, for the continual peace of your majesty’s sacred person.” In opposition to this proposed change, which would present the President in the light of an idolater, the Christian notion of the Deity, as “one God, the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, of the nations and their sovereigns,” was explained to them; and the divinity of heaven and earth, believed by the Chinese and Cochin-Chinese, was denied. They then proposed, by another change of the term used to express the Deity, to make the President pray to the “Gods of heaven.” But this point they were obliged also to give up.

Having thus gone over the whole letter, without the admission of any degrading terms, though some expressions which they wished to have adopted were still of a doubtful nature, they were informed, that if, after consideration, it should appear right to make the proposed alterations, a copy would be taken on shore in the evening. As they insisted on having the packet closed before their eyes, it was agreed that the despatch should then be sealed up,[209] and given them to forward to the minister. But they were not yet satisfied. After suffering the letter to the minister to pass muster, (which they did with some reluctance,) they re-examined the President’s letter, and pointed out how much the words, emperor, Cochin-China, &c., should, as indicative of respect, be elevated above the head margin of the page; and finally, they decided that it would be very improper for the President to address his letter simply to the emperor, (te che;) it must, they said, be transmitted either with silent awe, (suh te,) or with uplifted hands, (fung, or te shang)—terms in frequent use among the Chinese, and their humble imitators, the Cochin-Chinese, in addresses from subjects to their sovereigns. These expressions were, therefore, rejected, and Mr. Morrison returned on board, to consider the other expressions, and explain them to the envoy. They were told that a translation must be faithful to the original. They said it should give the sense without adhering to the words of the original. This was admitted; but if a different tone were adopted, they were told, the sense could not be preserved.


Shortly after Mr. Morrison had reached the ship, he was followed by one of the deputies, the other being kept back probably by his liability to sea-sickness. The former came furnished with written directions, to which he at times referred, having neglected to gain satisfactory knowledge of two important points, viz.:—whether there were any presents for the emperor, “as a token of sincerity;” and whether the envoy was prepared to submit to the etiquette of the court, at an audience of the emperor—this point being rendered very doubtful by the previous resistance shown to their numerous requisitions.

In reply to the first question, the deputy was told, that as the subject was not mentioned in the letter from the President, it was unnecessary to refer to it, before the conclusion of a treaty. Should the emperor desire any thing particular, it might be sent at his request.

Deputy. “The emperor’s coffers are full and overflowing, well provided with every thing curious and valuable; how can he desire any thing from you? But you have come to seek trade and intercourse. Although the emperor is tender and kind to strangers, and willing to admit them—yet, consider, if it appears well to come without presents and empty handed.”


Envoy. “My country asks no favours or ‘tenderness’ from any; but I desire to know how the emperor is willing to admit our merchants to trade; whether on the same footing as the Chinese, &c., or not. Our ships are found every where, but we seek favours from none.”

Dep. “I have heard that it is customary among the nations of the west, to send presents, when seeking intercourse with the dominions of others. On this account I ask the question, not because the emperor wants any thing.”

Envoy. “As the emperor does not want presents, why do you speak of them? Should a treaty be concluded, this is a minor matter, which can then be spoken of; but which does not require any previous attention.” To this the deputy assented.

The ceremony of presentation was easily dismissed, by informing the deputy, that nothing beyond a bow, as to the President, would be performed. The ceremony of the country was then asked. He said, that it was to make five prostrations, touching the ground with the forehead; and asked if five distinct bows would be acceded to without the prostrations. To this the envoy replied, yes; he would make five, ten, or as many bows as they desired; but the kneeling posture is becoming only in the worship of the Creator.


The deputy now urged the necessity of proper regard being paid to the elevation of the words emperor, Cochin-China, &c., and to the use of “humble and decorous expressions.” To this advice he endeavoured to give greater force, by saying, that in the correspondence held by the kings of An-nam, before the assumption of the present title of emperor, such humble phraseology was made use of. This argument would imply inferiority in the President, to one who bears the high title of emperor, and was, therefore, instantly repelled as insulting. The deputy denied its being insulting, maintained the propriety of his argument, and insisted on the use, at the commencement of the President’s letter, of one or other of the derogatory terms already mentioned, viz.: that the letter was sent with “silent awe,” or that it was presented with “uplifted hands.” He was admonished not to repeat so insulting a demand; for that the President stands on a footing of perfect equality with the highest emperor, and cannot, therefore, use any term that may make him appear in the light of one inferior to the[211] emperor of Cochin-China. The same term, it was added, will be used as it is used in the letter from the envoy to the minster, which term implies equality, without any disrespectful arrogation of it. Such demands, he was told, far from being amicable, were of a very unfriendly nature.

In reply, he said, that unless this requisition was complied with, he and his fellow-officers dare not forward the despatch, enclosing the copy of the President’s letter, nor dare they, he added, forward the letter to the minister, without the President’s letter, although the mention made in it of the latter should be erased. As this determination left no alternative, but complete failure or dishonourable concessions, he was required to repeat the refusal, which he did more than once, and then returned to the shore.





Two days having elapsed, on the third of February, without any official intercourse with the shore, the junior deputy again appeared; his colleague still remaining on shore on account of sickness. The professed object of his coming, was a mere visit; the real one, to propose another word to be used at the commencement of the President’s letter, if the words previously suggested would not be adopted. This word was kin, implying reverence, solemnity, and veneration, &c., not differing materially from that which had before been proposed: it was also rejected. The expression as it already stood, contained, he was told, nothing disrespectful, and was a plain and simple version of the original. He was determined, however, that without the adoption of some derogatory expression, the letter should not be sent on to Hué; so that the business of the mission remained at a stand.

The deputy now shifted his position, as indeed none of his fellows scrupled to do when needful, by adopting a false assertion: “While on shore,” he said, “every word was assented to; why is the use of these words now refused?” This shows the convenient deafness or forgetfulness, which these little-minded politicians can assume, when occasion requires; for it had been specifically stated, that not a word would be altered without farther consideration, and the permission of the envoy.

Thus baffled, he said that the obstinate determination of the envoy left him at a loss in what way to act.


“There is but one way,” he was answered, “in which you can act. Take the President’s letter without these alterations. If you insist on them, the business of the mission is at an end. The vessel will, however, stay the time already mentioned, till she is quite ready to leave. But you must not suppose she can wait to receive farther refusals to fresh applications for permission to go to Hué.”

When leaving, it was carelessly said to him, that as he had said American vessels were at liberty to trade, he should give a copy of the regulations of commerce. This he refused.

The next day, some similar questions respecting commerce, which were asked during a short complimentary visit, were received uncourteously, and answered by the deputies with professions of ignorance.


February seventh. Eight days having now elapsed since the return of the deputies to Hué, and nothing having been heard relative to the mission, the two remaining deputies were informed, that the vessel would go to sea on the morrow; and Mr. Morrison was about to pay a farewell visit, and urge the receipt of payment for the refreshments, at different times sent off, when the younger deputy came on board.

After a few compliments had passed, he was told, that if the wind were favourable, the ship would go to sea in the morning. He was asked, also, if there was any news.

The native Christian, Miguel, before interpreting what was said, asked if the ship would not wait till something was heard from Hué. But the deputy, who was more cautious of expressing his feelings, simply replied, that he had no news. Had he heard from Hué, he would immediately have come to report the news. He requested that no offence would be taken, nor any unpleasant feeling be entertained, on account of the manner in which the mission left; as the failure was entirely owing to the difference of custom in the two countries. He hoped that all unfriendliness would be dismissed, and that American vessels would frequent the Cochin-Chinese harbours, as much as if the mission had succeeded.

In reply to what he said respecting the difference of customs, he was told, that it could not be the custom of the country to exact professions of inferiority from other countries, as the minister had endeavoured to do in the present instance. The emperor, he said, would have used the same phraseology, as that proposed to be[215] used in the letter, if addressing, by his envoy, the President of the United States. This, he was told, would not be desired in the United States; and, on the contrary, would only be subject to ridicule. He replied: “Though you might not require it, our customs would!” It was rejoined: “Since you would adhere to your own customs, if on a mission to the United States, it stands to reason that the envoy of the United States should adhere to his customs here.”

He now shifted his ground, and, while admitting that the expression proposed was a strong one, maintained, nevertheless, that it was not indicative of inferiority. Its use, by inferiors in addressing their superiors, was pointed out to him; and he was asked, why, as the word first used was far from disrespectful, he should wish it to be changed? being, at the same time, again assured, that the words he had suggested, should not be adopted. “If you have so determined,” he rejoined, “I cannot receive this letter. But though the mission fail, that will not prevent your vessels coming to trade.”

“The trade,” it was replied, “is on so bad a footing, the regulations being unknown, and the government-charges and duties unascertained, that vessels cannot come here.”

“All nations that come here,” he answered, “for instance, the English and French, are on the same footing with you. They do not inquire about the laws; and none dare extort from them more than the regular charges.”

“This,” he was told, “is not true; for the Chinese are on a different footing, being able to go to many places where the English and French cannot go. England and France have endeavoured to form treaties, but without success. We know the regulations of the English and French trade, but do not know any for the American trade: hence our mission.”

Being thus driven from one untenable position to another, he at length pleaded ignorance. Admitting the fact, that the Chinese are allowed to trade in Tonquin and other places, he however knew only the regulations of Hué and Turan, and knew nothing of the laws in other places.

“The mission,” it was answered, “is not sent to you, but to the emperor. He knows what the regulations are in every place.”

“The minister,” he replied, “would know all, if the letter were[216] sent to Hué: but without the change of phraseology already pointed out, it could not be sent. The envoys of Burmah and Siam have used the same expressions as those proposed to you.”

“This,” he was answered, “can be of no avail with the envoy of the United States. If the envoys of Burmah and Siam have assented, either ignorantly or with full knowledge, to adopt expressions of a servile nature, that can have no influence on this mission.”

“Without the letter,” repeated the deputy, “the minister cannot report to the emperor.”

Envoy. “If he will, he can.”

Dep. “As I have not received any notice from Hué, I cannot say what he has done.”

Envoy. “Eight days have elapsed since the two deputies have returned to the capital.”

Dep. “Only five days have elapsed since your last letter to the minister was shown us.”

The deputy was now requested to receive payment for the refreshments sent to the envoy and the ship, as it was unpleasant to accept any thing in the form of presents, the envoy not having obtained the objects of his mission. He was urged not to refuse payment, and assured that the envoy was sorry he was obliged to leave, without having brought about a friendly intercourse between the two nations. He refused, however, all payment as strenuously as it was urged upon him. The things, he said, were mere trifles, and he could not accept any thing for them. Nor in this did he say wrong; for they probably cost the government very much less than their real value, small as that was.

Before leaving, the deputy drank the health of the President; and the health of the emperor of Cochin-China was drunk in return. He then took leave, wishing us health and a pleasant voyage, and a speedy return. He was thanked and told that he must not expect to see us again.

The next morning, the ship got under weigh; and though all day slowly beating out of the harbour, nothing more was seen of the Cochin-Chinese.


During the discussion with the Mandarins relative to the letter which was to be written to the minister, I refused to consider him in any other light than my equal in rank, as they were so strongly[217] disposed to exalt him, and debase me if possible. The deputies expressed some surprise at this observation, and demanded upon what ground I claimed an equality with them; they were answered, as the representative of an independent power. They then asked what were my titles; if they were of as much importance as the minister’s, and if they were as numerous. They were told that there was no order of nobility in the United States, and so they had been previously informed; still they insisted that there must be something equivalent to it, and that, as I held an important office under the government, I should not be without titles of some sort. Finding the gentlemen were so extremely desirous that I should have an appendage to my name, and as they would not be satisfied with a denial, I at once concluded to humour them. I replied that I would comply with their wishes, and furnish them with the greatest abundance of titles. As they had been extremely unwilling to give the titles of the emperor or the minister, or their own, they probably concluded that I was actuated by the same motives as themselves in withholding mine, whatever they were. The gentlemen belonging to the ship who were in the cabin, looked very much astonished at this reply, wondering how I was to extricate myself from this seeming difficulty; but they were speedily relieved. The principal deputy having prepared his Chinese pencil and half a sheet of paper, sat down to write. I immediately observed to him, that it was necessary to commence with a whole sheet, at which he expressed some surprise, and said that the minister’s titles would not occupy one fourth of it. Having determined to give them, in the first place, the names of all the counties, and the two hundred and odd towns in my native state, as well as the mountains, rivers, and lakes, which would supply the places of titles, and then, if they were not satisfied, to proceed in the same manner with all the other states in the Union, which, by giving first the names of the several states, then the counties, towns, &c., would probably occupy them for some days, if they had had sufficient perseverance to proceed to the end of what I intended should be endless. I then commenced as follows, Mr. Morrison acting as interpreter and frequently translator:

Edmund Roberts, a special envoy from the United States, and a citizen of Portsmouth, in the state of New Hampshire. I then proceeded with the counties of Rockingham, Strafford, Merrimack,[218] Hillsborough, Grafton, Cheshire, Sullivan, and Coos. When he had written thus far, which occupied much time, owing to the almost insurmountable difficulties in rendering them into Chinese, he expressed strong signs of impatience and asked if there were any more; I requested him not to be impatient, as I was very desirous that not one should be omitted, as it was a matter of primary importance in all governments where titles were used. He remarked, that already they were greater in number than were possessed by any prince of the empire. However, he dipped his pencil in the ink, and recommenced as follows: I first took Gosport, in the Isles of Shoals, being farthest at sea, and then went on with the towns on the seacoast; with Hampton and Seabrook, Rye and New Castle, and then Newington, Stratham, and Exeter. Having proceeded thus far, and finding difficulties succeeding difficulties, at every syllable and at every word, he laid down his pencil, seemingly exhausted, and asked if there were any more, as he had then filled a sheet of Chinese paper. I answered, he had scarcely made a commencement: at this he said it was unnecessary to record the rest; and that he never heard or read of any person possessing a like number. He complained of a headache and sickness, owing to the rolling of the ship. I then begged he would desist, for that time, and call on board as early as he could make it convenient on the following morning, for I was exceedingly anxious he should have them all; then there would be no hesitation in acknowledging that I was not presumptuous, when I stated that the prime minister could not be considered my superior in point of rank, as he did not possess so many titles. It was now very evident that he began to be alarmed at the extent of my titles, lest they should totally eclipse those of the minister, and that I might be desirous of ascending a step higher than his excellency. He replied that he was fully satisfied that I was every way equal to him in point of rank. I urged him to proceed, but without effect, for he refused very firmly, but politely, and therefore most reluctantly I was obliged to accede to his wishes.

The whole scene was certainly most ludicrous. Some of the gentlemen could with much difficulty restrain their risible faculties, while others walked out of the cabin, being utterly unable to refrain from laughter, while I kept a most imperturbable countenance until the whole matter was concluded. I renewed the attempt the[219] next morning, when he came on board, but he looked quite aghast at the mere request, and thus ended this farcical scene.


It may be thought by those who are for submitting to every species of degradation, to gain commercial advantages, that I was unnecessarily fastidious in the course I adopted in the negotiation with Cochin-China; but when it is known that there is no end to the doctrine of submission with the ultra-Gangetic nations; and all past negotiations of European powers will fully confirm what I now state, that neither privileges, nor immunities, nor advantages of any kind, are to be gained by submission, condescension, conciliation, or by flattery, (they despise the former as a proof of weakness—the latter as arguing a want of spirit;) that threats and aggressions are neither justifiable nor necessary, a dignified, yet unassuming conduct, jealous of its own honour, open and disinterested, seeking its own advantage, but willing to promote that of others, will doubtless effect much with nations of this stamp and character, and must in the end be able to accomplish the object desired.

Previous to visiting Cochin-China, I had laid down certain rules of conduct, which I had resolved to adopt towards these people, as well as the Siamese. In the first place, I had determined to adhere most strictly to the truth, however detrimental it might be to the interest of our commerce at present, or however unpalatable it might be to either of the nations. I had further resolved, not to submit to any degrading ceremonies, by performing the Ko-tow, uncovering the feet, &c., &c. My answer to such requisitions would be: We do not come here to change the customs of your court with its own statesmen, but we come as independent people, for a short interview. Let your statesmen preserve their customs, and we will preserve ours. Still, it may be answered: You come to us, we do not go to you: my reply then would be: When you come to us, you shall be allowed your own customs, in the mode of presentation to the President. Reasoning with these people, must not be founded on the ground of lord and vassal, but reciprocity. National usages should be avoided as much as possible, and natural reason, common sense, the reciprocal rights of men, be taken as the foundation of intercourse. There is no end to the doctrine of submission to law, where every worthless justice of peace tells you with a bare-faced lie in his mouth, that his will and[220] present declaration are the law of the land. Seeing the gross impositions practised, by apparently friendly nations, with other negotiators, I had further determined never to repose any confidence in their advice, but to let my own judgment be the guide of what was just and right. Furthermore, to be kind and courteous to all; but after some little formalities, to reveal as little to inferior officers as possible; and lastly, to use some state and show, as they are useful auxiliaries in making an impression upon the uncivilized mind.

I deem it best, here to remark, that in my negotiations with Asiatics, all apparent acknowledgments of inferiority, which precedes signatures to letters, as “your humble servant,” &c., are always construed literally, and of course have an injurious effect upon a conceited and arrogant people; and great nicety should be observed in preparing documents on parchment, to which should be attached a large seal, incased in a gold box, having the envelope of rich yellow silk or satin, or otherwise it will give offence.

To all outward appearance the country surrounding this noble bay is in a highly flourishing condition, but on a more close examination this beautiful vision is not realized. The inhabitants are without exception the most filthy people in the world. As soon as the boat touches the strand, out rush from their palm-leaf huts, men and women, and naked children and dogs, all having a mangy appearance; being covered with some scorbutic disease, the itch or small-pox, and frequently with white leprous spots. The teeth, even of the children who are seven or eight years old, are of a coal black, their lips and gums are deeply stained with chewing areca, &c., their faces are nasty, their hands unwashed, and their whole persons most offensive to the sight and smell; for the most part the comb has never touched the children’s heads, and a whole village may be seen scratching at the same time from head to foot. They are apparently brought up in utter idleness; not a school is to be found, and they are seen playing all day long at hide-and-go-seek under the boats, lounging among the palm-trees, or sleeping on the bare ground in the shade or sun, as they find it most convenient. The dress of the men and women is nearly the same, being a wide long shirt, buttoned generally on the right side, with a pair of short simple trousers, made of cotton. Those who are able, wear a turban of black crape, and every man who makes any pretensions[221] to gentility, has a pair of reticules or broad-mouthed purses, in which he puts areca and tobacco: these are thrown over the shoulders, and are generally neatly made; some are wrought extensively in gold, some embroidered with silk; others are of plain silk or satin, and generally of their favourite colour, blue: those of an ordinary kind are worn about the waist, or carried in the hand. But the dress of nineteen twentieths of the inhabitants is merely a waist-cloth, which is kept in a most filthy condition.


In the course of a whole month, the period of our residence here, I have not seen a person bathe, although beaches abound every where: the Cochin-Chinese appear to have an utter aversion to cleanliness, and one would be apt to infer that they all had a touch of the hydrophobia, from their aversion to water. From the highly flourishing appearance of the land, the immense number of fishing and coasting boats constantly employed, it would be reasonable to conclude that great quantities of sugar, coffee, cotton and fish were exported, and that provisions of all kinds could be had in abundance; but such is not the fact: from one to three small miserable junks, from the island of Hainan, visit here annually, bringing coarse tea and some paper, and take in return, ground-nut-oil, a small quantity of wax, and some colambac, here called kinam; being a resinous aromatic concretion, and generally said to be taken from the heart of the aloe wood. Sapan wood is occasionally to be bought. The terrace culture is resorted to, in raising upland rice. In fact, not enough rice is raised for the use of the inhabitants, and they are obliged to import part of this necessary article of food from Nhiatrang, and other parts of the kingdom.

Their mode of freeing rice from the husk, is by means of a long beam having a pestle at one extremity; the beam plays on a pivot secured between two parallel upright posts, a large mortar being firmly fixed in the ground; the beam is elevated by the operator placing his foot upon the other end; this is a primitive, and a very slow method of freeing the husk from the kernel, and it causes it to be much broken. Indian corn appears to thrive well, but they obtain but a scanty supply: if more attention was paid to agriculture, and a less number of people were employed in fishing, exports to a large amount might be made within a few years; they import rice and tea, when they might raise both in abundance, as well as coffee.


Elephants appear to be used here for domestic purposes; they are said to be found in great numbers. Buffaloes, having a hump between the fore shoulders, are used in the plough as well as the common ox; the price given for the former for the use of the ship, has been from ten to fifteen dollars. A small fleet horse, or rather pony, is here much used, the price being about twenty quans, equal to eleven dollars. Fowls, ducks and pigs, are by no means plentiful, and are only bought at high prices; they will offer two, three or four of the two former for a Spanish dollar or for a couple of common jackknives, which they much prefer. The fruits which have been thus far offered for sale, are the custard-apple and the jack, limes, oranges, pomegranates, watermelons, lemons of immense size, and a great variety of the plantain and banana, in one kind of which I found a great many seeds; they were disposed of in horizontal layers in six compartments, having a small pith running through them; there are about fifty seeds in each, of an irregular shape, pointed slightly, and white at the apex; immediately beneath them was a black ring, extending about one fourth of the way down. Never having seen any seed-bearing plantain, I am induced to note it; when ripe, the outside is of a reddish yellow, and the fruit pleasant to the taste. The vegetables are few in number, and all we have yet seen, are beans, the egg-plant, and the sweet potato.

Great care appears to be taken of the remains of the dead—some are placed in tombs of stone, neatly built and plastered, having a small wicker-work house placed in the centre—others are deposited in a common grave, having a basket-work roof which is placed there to protect them from wild beasts. The inhabitants are civil, but sometimes troublesome in approaching too near—they seem desirous of handling every part of the dress—but the sad condition they are in, makes it necessary frequently to use coercive measures to keep them at a wholesome distance. The naval button, with an eagle and an anchor on it, demands universal admiration. A few small junks are built of wood and many are repaired at Vunglam.
Fishing occupies a large portion of the time of the inhabitants, and from one hundred to one hundred and fifty boats are seen issuing out of the bay every morning at sunrise from the various villages. Some of them carry lug sails, and others are of a triangular shape, &c., &c., and some have two masts and others three; the[223] largest mast being stepped in the centre, the next being equi-distant between that and the smallest one, which is stepped as near to the bows as possible; the sail on the middle mast is less than one half the size of the mainmast, and the forward one about half the size of the second. They are built very sharp forward; the bottom is of basket-work, very closely woven, and stretched on a frame, and dammer or pitch is used freely both within and without; the upper works are of wood, and oil is frequently applied to the bottom. There are a few built entirely of wood and very little iron, being generally tree-nailed on to the timbers. The sails are of matting, neatly woven, and generally well cut in a seamanlike manner. The cables are of cocoa-nut fibres, and the anchors of a species of very heavy wood. Chunam is used on the vessels, having wooden bottoms; and the upper works are blacked with a substance resembling lacquer. The largest class may carry forty or fifty tons.

Trees of a large growth are very scarce, being cut away to the tops of the highest hills; they are therefore obliged to resort further inland for ship-timber; a few planks of forty feet in length and about four inches in thickness, of a very hard wood, were seen in the ship-yards, sawed out quite roughly. Temples or houses for religious worship and priests, there are none; they are said to be prone to superstitious rites—this assertion has been fully confirmed in many instances.

In passing along between the village of Vunglam and the beach, I saw a shed erected, having within it some characters written on a board resembling the Chinese, but being blended so much together, they could not be understood; the picture of a frightful object was also there. A Chinese, who was with us, said it was placed there to guard against evil spirits, which greatly infested that place. In another part of the village was erected a similar shed, under which was a board, on which was inscribed in Chinese characters, only the word God, it therefore reminded me at once of what St. Paul found written on an altar at Athens, “To the unknown God.” I suppose those more refined barbarians and these poor Cochin-Chinese, are alike ignorant of Him who made and governs all things. Traversing the beach near Vung-chow, we saw a small cell erected on posts, in the middle of a grove of trees; looking into it, we found two chalk-fish painted green, suspended from the roof, and some pots containing half-burnt joss-sticks. When they[224] wish for success in fishing, offerings are made to the presiding Deity. Great quantities of sea-shells were scattered about the place, and fires were evidently frequently made; thus they present the essence of their feasts only to the Neptunian Deity, while the pious devotee devours the substance. In another similar place about four miles from thence, we found another cell or box erected on posts, but it was more neatly constructed—in it were two paintings in water colours, evidently Chinese, each having one large and two small female figures; before them were half-burnt incense rods and on one side a horse’s head wrapped in a cloth, which, on opening, we found filled with maggots: a great number of small green glazed pots were scattered about.

Tigers abound throughout the country: a few nights since one came into the village of Vunglam, and carried off into the jungle a good-sized pig. The woods abound with wild hogs, goats, deer, peacocks, &c., &c., and the wild elephant is also abundant in the forests. About two miles from hence is a large barrack, containing a number of soldiers: the only arm I have yet seen them to possess is a very long spear, having a small flag or tassel attached to it. I was introduced to an old man, the commander of two thousand, the other day; himself and attendants were on horses of a small size, or rather ponies; they sat on saddles of a peculiar construction, the hinder part being the lowest; the saddle-cloth being fancifully painted, a rope used instead of a bit and bridle, and a string of small ornamented bells placed around the neck: the commander was dressed in a long robe of blue satin, and wore a black crape turban. He endeavoured to show every civility by dismounting and walking.


It has been heretofore stated, that, after repeated requests, we returned the ceremonious calls of two of the mandarins. On approaching the house, towards the outer gate, we found twelve long spears, bearing small flags, placed perpendicularly in the ground, in two lines. A wattled fence separated the dwelling from the beach: in passing through the outward entrance, we found a short neat avenue, of the graceful areca-palm, intertwined with the piper-betel leaf. We then passed through the inner entrance to the court-yard, which was in neat order. The mandarins received us with much politeness: a temporary arbour had been erected, and a table spread, having on it rice-wine, cakes, sweetmeats, fruits—tea being[225] also served. At each end of the arbour, were suspended, from the roof, two elegantly embroidered cloths, having silk tassels and worked lappels: Chinese characters were wrought on them, the purport of which could not be ascertained, as they were so much blended together. Two brass tripods, for burning incense, were placed on the table, ornamented with a lion couchant, from the mouth of which and the open-work cover, issued the grateful perfume of the kinnam or calembac, which was kept well replenished. Paper cigars, pipes, and areca, completed the regale. The house was of brick, with a neat tiled roof. Flowers, in pots, were neatly arranged around the court-yard.

Many of the natives stood looking on, and behaved with perfect propriety. The mandarin, or chief of the village of Vung-lam, who paid us the first visit on our arrival, was in attendance, standing at my left hand, and served us, in common with the interpreters. The mandarins were dressed in their robes of ceremony. Three houses occupied as many sides of the court-yard. The mandarins and guards attended us to our boats.

When the discussion was going on relative to the letter to the minister, which occupied many hours, they finally approved of every sentence, and every word, except “friendly,” which they thought was rather too familiar a word to be used between nations; and therefore they proposed substituting the word “neighbourly,” which would read, “neighbourly intercourse.” Seeing that I was rather amused at the proposed alteration, they were desirous of knowing the cause. Being told, that, as we lived some twenty thousand miles apart, we could not hold a very neighbourly intercourse, they were much amused by the gross blunder committed by their ignorance, and replied, it was very true, and therefore they would be satisfied with the word friendly, as proposed by me. They were not aware, however, of the distance between the two countries, neither did they know the situation of North America, but supposed it to be in Europe, as we afterward ascertained.

When they take leave, they always place our right hand between theirs, bow their heads very slowly, and as low down as possible.

The government of Cochin-China is thoroughly despotic, being framed in close imitation of that of China. The sovereign, who, till lately, bore the title of king, and who still pays a nominal tribute to China under that title, assumes, among his own subjects,[226] and with all foreign countries, except China, the Chinese title of hwang-te, (or emperor,) with the peculiar attribute, “sacred,” “divine,” &c., commonly used by the court of Peking. The name, or epithet, by which the present monarch is designated, (which name was taken by the monarch himself, at his accession to the throne,) is ming-ming; it signifies, “emperor appointed by the brilliant decree of heaven.”

According to the account of the deputies, who visited the ship at Vung-lam, the administration is also formed in imitation of the Chinese—consisting of a council of four principal, and two secondary ministers. The chief of these, (whom Mr. Crawford, the British envoy, calls the minister of elephants, or of strangers,) was said to be the minister of commerce, navigation, &c.

The provincial government is also formed in imitation of the Chinese. Two or more provinces are governed by a toung-tuh, (tsong-dok,) or governor; under whom, the principal officers, in each province, are two, viz.: a pooching-sze, (bo-chang-sze,) or treasurer and land-officer: and an anchasze, or judge. Subordinate to these, are magistrates, called che-foos, che-keens, &c., presiding over the districts into which each province is divided. In Cochin-China, as in China, there are nine grades of rank, each of which is divided into a principal and secondary class. Every officer, employed in the government, is of one of these grades: thus, the ministers of the council are of the first grade, principal class; and the governors of provinces, are of the first grade, secondary class.

This is all the information respecting the government of Cochin-China, that could be obtained from the natives.




We weighed anchor on the eighth of February, for the gulf of Siam; light winds and calms detained us nearly two days, within sight of the bay, in which lies Vunglam, &c., &c. We kept near to the coast, and found it bold and free from dangers; the land was hilly and frequently broken into mountains, more particularly between that bold promontory, called Cape Varela, and Cape Padaran. We passed the latter within three miles; from thence the land gradually dwindled into a gently undulating country, and then into low land. We finally lost sight of it off the numerous mouths of the great river, Kamboja. On the same afternoon, being the twelfth, we passed Padaran, and saw Pulo Cica de Terre and Lagan point. At meridian, on the following day, Pulo Condore was in sight, and the islands to the westward, called the Brothers. At daylight, the next morning, we beheld Pulo Ubi, or Yam island, which lies to the southward of cape Camboja. On the fourteenth, the islands and islets called Pulo Panjang, and ascertained their correct position to be in latitude 9° north, by a meridian observation, and by the chronometers, in 104° 32′, east longitude. At daylight, on the following morning, we found ourselves in the midst of a group of islands, lying so peacefully amid the glassy surface of the gulf, that Dana’s beautiful description of “Quiet Islands,” was at once brought to my recollection, from which I have made the following extract:—


“The island lies nine leagues away,
Along its solitary shore,
Of craggy rocks and sandy bay,
No sound but ocean’s roar,
Save where the bold, wild sea-bird makes her home,
Her shrill cry, coming through the sparkling foam;
“But when the light winds lie at rest,
And on the glassy, heaving sea,
The black duck, with her glossy breast,
Sits swinging silently,
How beautiful! no ripples break the reach,
And silvery waves roll noiseless up the beach.”

These islands are uninhabited, excepting when they are used as a place of resort by Malay pirates. They are six in number, and a rocky islet. As they are not laid down in any of our charts, they were named the “Woodbury Group,” in honour of my friend, the Honourable Levi Woodbury, the secretary of the navy. The northernmost island was called “Geisinger;” the most southern and eastern, “Roberts;” the centre one, between the two, “Peacock;” and that one lying farthest to the westward, and nearly in latitude of Roberts island, was named “Boxer:” the others were left unnamed. Their latitudes and longitudes, from three chronometers and a meridian observation, are as follows:—Two of them are about two miles long; one is in latitude 10° 16′ N., and longitude, 102° 43′ E., and the other in 10° 7′ and 103°. Two small islands and a rocky islet to the westward of them, lie in 10° 25′ and 103°. Two narrow islands, four or five miles in length, one in latitude 10° 19′ and 103° 12′ E., and the other in 10° 15′, and 103° 21′ E. On the sixteenth February, at noon, we were abreast of cape Liant and the islands in its vicinity; the latter are high and bold of approach. Their latitude and longitude are laid down in the charts too far to the southward and eastward. On the eighteenth we came to anchor in four fathoms of water, about ten miles from the mouth of the river Menam.

The Ko Si-Chang islands bore as follows: The most southern and westward of the group, S. S. E. ¾ E.; centre, S. E. ½ S. The mountain of Bang-pa-soe, on the main land, E. S. E. The entrance of the eastern or main branch of the Menam, and the easternmost land in sight, W. S. W. The land is very low, even[229] with the water’s edge, and covered with trees; that at the entrance, on the starboard hand, is a little more elevated. On the nineteenth, the tide had fallen to nineteen. We weighed again, and stood a mile or two to the southward, and anchored in five fathoms. The latitude and longitude of the anchorage is in latitude 13° 26′ N., and longitude 100° 33′ E., as was ascertained by frequent lunar observations and by four chronometers. During the height of the river, when it is swollen by the periodical rains, sixteen feet of water may be found on the bar. At high spring tides, in the dry season, twelve to thirteen feet, and eight to nine in common tides. The above-named islands, by some navigators called the Dutch islands, possess a safe and beautiful harbour, formed between the principal, or Si-Chang island, and the next in magnitude, called Koh-kam. They are inhabited only by a few fishermen, and produce some yams, bananas, capsicums, gourds, and cucumbers. A boat was despatched to them to obtain water, if possible, but it could not be found in sufficient quantities to furnish the ship. We had no other resource, but to send upward of forty miles for it, to Bang-kok, or else to take the brackish water of Packnam. Water, we were informed, could only be had at the Si-Changs during the rainy season.


A boat was sent to the governor of Packnam on the eighteenth, to inform him of the arrival of the ship, &c., and a letter was sent to the minister for foreign affairs, announcing the arrival of the mission. On the following day, an interpreter came on board, who asked among the first questions if there were any presents for the king, but received no satisfactory answer. A vast number of questions were also put to Mr. Morrison by the governor. A Cochin-Chinese ambassador arrived at Packnam on the same day, with several small filthy junks laden with merchandise. It was said to be only an annual mission sent by the emperor, while others stated that it was to honour the ceremony of burning the body of the “second king” who died some months since at the capital. On the twentieth, the captain of the port came on board, who said he was sent by the praklang or prime minister, by order of the king, to congratulate us on our arrival; that his majesty was much gratified at the good news, and very desirous of having a friendly commercial intercourse with the United States. After making similar inquiries, as the governor of Packnam, he returned. The day fol[230]lowing, the praklang sent some fruit as a token of regard, with a complimentary message to me.

On Sunday the twenty-fourth, three large boats came to anchor near the ship, under the charge of the captain of the port of Bang-kok, Mr. Josef Piedade, a Christian Portuguese born at Bang-kok. He stated that preparations were made at Packnam by the governor for the reception of the mission, that a feast was there prepared by order of the king, that we should be under the necessity of remaining there that night, for it was customary for all foreign ministers to stop there, and notice to be given of their arrival; in congressional language, to “report progress.” The vessel in which I embarked was from seventy to eighty feet in length, and perhaps eight or nine in breadth, sharp built; having three long brass cannon, highly ornamented with silver, inlaid in fanciful devices. One was placed forward, between the bows, the vessel having no bowsprit; one aft, and two long swivels mounted on fixtures, between the fore and main mast, and between the main and mizen mast. She had three fore-and-aft sails made of light canvass, and cordage made of hemp, with good iron anchors, which are rarely seen on board native vessels in the China seas, wooden ones being in general use. The vessel was propelled with forty short oars, manned by as many Burmese slaves, dressed in the king’s uniform; being a coarse red cotton long jacket, a cap of the same material, trimmed with white, and a blue waist-cloth. The boat had two rudders, one under each quarter; and from having two helmsmen, it was either “hard up, or hard down,” continually; consequently, she “yawed” not a little. There were no less than seven red flags; one to each peak, two to each bow, and two to each quarter. A small house on deck was appropriated solely for the use of the envoy. It was covered with a carpet, and furnished with a pillow to recline on. The boat was neatly built and painted, and the house slightly decorated with carving and gilding. The passengers in the two boats consisted of Capt. Geisinger, Second-Lieut. Purveyance, Lieut. Fowler of the Marine Corps, Acting-Lieut. Brent, Doctor Ticknor, Midshipmen Carrol, Thomas, Crawford and Wells, and Mr. J. R. Morrison of Macao, Secretary and Chinese Interpreter, and four servants. The other was, in all respects, a similar vessel, but manned with thirty-six oars; rowed by Malay slaves dressed in blue, with caps of the same, trimmed with white. The ship[231] lay in five and a half fathoms water, and not less than fifteen miles from Packnam, which is situated about two miles from the mouth of the river Menam: Packnam means the river’s mouth or embochure. The shores are every where very low, and as flat as the south side of La Plata, or Arkansas on the Mississippi, and in the rainy season are completely submerged. The entrance to the river on the starboard hand is rather more elevated than on the left, which is quite sunken, mangrove and other trees only appearing out of the water. The river takes a sharp turn to the northward, at the entrance; the left bank running parallel, gives it the appearance of being closed at the mouth.


We arrived at Packnam, on the left bank of the river, about eight, and found there, waiting for us, the captain of the port, and a great number of slaves at the landing, with torches in hand, and fastened also to temporary posts, to light us on the way to the government-house, situated just without an extensive fortification. There was a narrow way paved with broad bricks, which led to the governor’s. The gentlemen composing the company, the servants on each flank with their numerous flambeaux, with many hundred lookers-on, preserving the utmost decorum, made no small show, and produced, upon the whole, rather an imposing effect, for this was the first envoy ever sent to the “magnificent king of Siam,” from the United States.

We were ushered into the best house in the village, enclosed by a bamboo-fence and guarded by soldiers with long wooden poles, pointed with iron. The houses are erected as all the houses are here, from five to seven feet above the ground, on substantial posts; the sides are covered with attap, a species of palm growing abundantly on the banks of the Menam; they have a double roof, one of tile and another of attap to moderate the intensity of the heat. We ascended a stairway and were ushered into “the presence” through lines of prostrate slaves, from thence to a raised platform.

The governor was sitting cross-legged on an elevated seat, under a broad canopy, surrounded, a little beneath him, by his sword and silver-stick bearers, and a man holding a long fan made of feathers, which was kept in constant motion to keep him cool and to drive off the myriads of moschetoes. His menials were all prostrate, resting on their knees and elbows, coming in and going out in the same attitude, always keeping their faces turned towards him.[232] He was smoking a long pipe, having before him areca-nut, chunam, ceri (siri) or betel-leaf, and tobacco, all of which were deposited in several large gold cups or goblets. His dress consisted of a waist-cloth—his head was shaved excepting on the crown, “à la Siamese.” He received us very graciously, courteously, and hospitably, shaking us heartily by the hand; chairs were prepared for us and the best viands the place could afford, consisting of at least a dozen dishes, were shortly ordered in, well cooked in the Portuguese fashion, clean and neat with porter, cocoa-nut water, and a square Dutch bottle of gin—there were clean table-cloth, knives, forks, plates and spoons, and the floor was covered with a neat woollen carpet. The usual inquiries were made for our healths, ages, children, &c., &c. He congratulated us on our arrival, and said the mission was not only gratifying to him personally but to the country, as he was informed by the praklang or principal minister.

Supper being ended, bamboo-chairs covered with mats, some mattresses and pillows, were prepared, and the raised canopy or throne was assigned to me. Three fourths of two sides of the room were open to the air, protected from rain only by the long projecting attap roof—we were guarded during the night by soldiers and excessively annoyed by moschetoes. By daylight, all were upon the “qui vive,” glad to escape from the torments of the night. An early ramble carried us to a pagoda, neat in appearance, decorated with carved work and gilding—it was built of brick and neatly plastered—figures of non-descript animals were about it, which were probably intended for lions, cut from granite, and there were small pra-chades or single spires built of brick and plastered, the whole being enclosed by a wall; the doors were shut so that we could not obtain an entrance; the ground every where was very low and swampy, and the houses mean; the people appeared to be wretchedly poor, diseased and dirty, but still cleaner than the Cochin-Chinese. Breakfast ended, we took leave of the hospitable governor and proceeded up the river.

Very extensive fortifications are here to be seen on both sides of the river, having water batteries, apparently of great strength. A great number of soldiers manned the walls in compliment to us, all dressed in the royal red uniform. We proceeded on with the flood tide, cheered by the passing scene. Occasionally, we met a single hut or a group of huts, having a boat at the door, and a ladder to[233] ascend into their only room; this ladder is taken away at night, making their habitations more secure against wild beasts and reptiles, which are in great abundance in the swamps. Their principal neighbours are tigers and leopards, snakes of various sizes from the boa-constrictor and venomous cobra de cappello to the more deadly viper, which they say is black, about four or five inches in length, and has two short legs. Alligators bask in the sun at the foot of the ladder or under their building, and moschetoes bear the palm here over the swamps of Louisiana and Texas, coming in myriads so as partially to obscure the sun.

We passed on to Pack-lac situated on the right bank, where we again found very extensive fortifications; but we were unable to ascertain the number of guns either here or at Packnam, which is probably about ten or twelve miles below. The ebb tide here met us, and the slaves made but slow progress in rowing—a breeze occasionally helped us, but the remainder of the passage was rendered tedious by the great heat of the sun. The river has a great many bends, so that it is nearly double the distance, by water, from Packnam to the capital, being from thirty to thirty-five miles, and only twenty by land. The shores are upon a level with the river at high spring tides, even at Bang-kok, and as I am informed, a long distance above Jutaya the ancient capital.

Not until we were within a dozen miles of the capital, were there many clusters of huts to be seen; but, from thence, they gradually increased in number till we arrived at the city. The graceful and favourite areca-palm, with its tall slender trunk and brush-like head, and the towering bamboo and cocoa-nut, were to be seen every where along the banks, interspersed with a great variety of fruit and forest trees; and the water’s edge was bounded by the attap, or cocos-nypa, which is in universal use as a thatch for their huts. As we approached the capital, we began to see pagodas, some houses with tiled roofs, and a great many large junks, building in dry docks, which consist of a simple excavation made on the banks, the water being drained out by an ordinary barrier of plank, well banked with clay. Many of these junks were upward of a thousand tons. From two to three hundred were lying in the river.


Numerous temples of Budha were now seen, covered with neat coloured tiles, some blue, and others green or yellow. Tall single[234] spires, or prah-chadis, were observed every where. The temples present a very splendid appearance, having highly ornamented carved work in front, and literally blazing in gold. There is something very novel in their style of architecture, which can only be made clear to the understanding by drawings. Fruit and palm-trees overshadow their houses, interspersed with the sacred fig-tree, giving to them a cool and tropical-like appearance. Floating houses, resting on rafts of bamboo secured to piles, line both banks of the river, which seem to be occupied by industrious Chinese, as their long narrow red signs indicate: the latter serve to show the various articles they have for sale, &c. The Chinese are easily distinguished by their complexion, being more yellow than the Siamese; but they have generally docked the entail to their heads, and dress à la Siamese, with a circle of hair on the roof. But few of the “long tails,” the distinguishing appendage to a Chinaman’s head, are to be seen.

We were upward of nine hours in reaching the landing,[†] in front of the house assigned to us by the king. We landed, and formed a procession to the house; the officers being dressed in their uniforms, and the servants bringing up the rear. We were ushered in by the pia-visa, or general of artillery, benedetts de arguelleria, and some other of the king’s officers, to the finest looking house we had seen on the river, having the front view entirely unobstructed. Passing through a neat white gateway, having a well-built stuccoed wall, over a grass-plot, through the inner gate, we found ourselves within an extensive area, between two long rows of buildings, having large trees in the centre; an outside staircase conducted us to a saloon, where we found a table set, and shortly after supper was announced. It was cooked in the European and Indian style, having a variety of curries of fish and fowl. It was well served, and in profusion; and followed by a great variety of sweetmeats, and fruits of the season. Certain king’s officers attended, and ordered every thing; bedsteads and beds were brought; and, in a day or two, moscheto-nets, &c., &c. A cook was provided, and a purveyor, who partially supplied us with provisions. There was, also, a superintendant of the household, a Siamese[235] Portuguese by birth, Domingo by name, having four other servants to do the ordinary work of the house; and these, again, are all under the orders of Piedade, the captain of the port, who receives his orders from the praklang, or prime minister for foreign affairs.

Every day or two, presents of sweetmeats, fruit, or more substantial food is sent, by the praklang, served up in glass dishes, and sent on gold and silver salvers. When brought in, the servants kneel down and present them, in a more humble manner than suits our republican notions. Our residence has two ranges of buildings, running back about one hundred and fifty feet, exclusive of the front yard, with a wide area between them. It is built of brick and stuccoed, having a neat tiled roof. A long covered gallery conducts to the dormitories, consisting of eight on each side, which are about twenty feet square, with wooden floors; underneath are magazines, or offices; between the two ranges of building, and connected with them by a high wall, is the dining-hall, open so as freely to admit the air, commanding a fine view of the capital and suburbs, on the left bank: underneath the dining-hall, is a private go-down, or magazine. The river at all times has a great number of boats upon it; but in the morning, when the bazar is being made ready, there are many hundreds, probably thousands, going in all directions, from the smallest canoe, scarcely able to contain a single person, to others which are nearly a hundred feet in length, and made from a single teak-tree: they are paddled by a great number of men, having a house in the centre, or a palm-leaf roof; the passengers reclining on a raised platform, covered with mats, carpets, and pillows.


Water-pedlars, of both sexes, but principally women, are in abundance, carrying tin and brass ware, English, and China, and India goods. Rice, oil, dried and fresh fish, balachang, eggs, fowls, areca, siri-leaf, chunam, pork, fruit, vegetables, &c.; indeed every thing that is wanted, or supposed necessary for the comfort, convenience, or luxury of the inhabitants. Budhist priests, with their yellow waist-cloths, mantles, shaven heads and eyebrows, are seen in great numbers, going their daily rounds among the inhabitants, in canoes, for food and clothing. Women, also, use the oar, in great numbers, and with equal dexterity as the men.

Although the Siamese are not a cleanly people, they are far superior to the Cochin-Chinese; they bathe frequently, their skins[236] are clear and free of eruptions, and they do not everlastingly scratch, scratch, and keep scratching, like the people of Vunglam; but their coal-black teeth are excessively disgusting, and the saliva created by chewing areca, siri-leaf, and tobacco, is constantly issuing in a red stream, from their mouths. Fishing being farmed out, there are not the same lively scenes exhibited here as on the Pasig. I have seen but a very few occupied in that way since my arrival. Every floating house has necessarily a boat to go visiting, from place to place, or to transact business. The front parts of all these houses are shops, having their wares neatly arranged on shelves and terraces. These buildings are of one story only, and are used as a bedroom at night, or to take a siesta when the heat of the day, low water, and want of customers, give to their inmates a temporary respite.

The river here is about fifteen hundred feet wide, and very deep, probably fifty or sixty feet, and the stream rapid on the flood and ebb; the water is notwithstanding, fresh, and is used for all domestic purposes, filthy as it is. The upper stratum of the banks of the river is alluvial, and the under, where exposed, shows a stiff strong clay. The houses on the land, with very few exceptions, are of one story, built on high piles, made of plank or bamboo, and roofed with tile or attap.


Having expressed a desire to the praklang, through the interpreter, to enter as early as possible on the subject of the mission, I received an invitation early the next morning, from the minister of foreign affairs, to meet him the same afternoon at five. He sent me word at the same time, that it was always customary for foreign ministers to pay him the first visit. Suitable boats were sent in due time, and Captain Geisinger and his officers, and Mr. Morrison, accompanied me, dressed in their uniforms. A few minutes brought us to his house. Numerous people were present to attend our landing, a large portion of whom came, probably, from motives of curiosity only. The house being but a short distance from the river, we were soon within his gates, and entered by a flight of steps into the audience hall. In the centre was a raised seat, on which the minister reclined. He is a very heavy unwieldy man, weighing, probably, nearly three hundred pounds, and about fifty-five years of age; his only dress was a waist-cloth of silk; he was resting on a new crimson velvet cushion, sup[237]ported on the back by one of triangular shape. In front, on the seat, were utensils of gold, handsomely wrought, containing areca, chunam, betel-leaf, &c., the gift of the king. The front of the hall was entirely open, the room decorated with a great number of very ordinary oval gilt looking-glasses, placed near to the ceiling, on the pillars which supported the roof; common English prints of battles, rural scenery, &c., were closely placed along the walls. Instead of wooden panels, painted Chinese glass was placed in compartments of about four feet in height, with a profusion of blue and gold, and outré figures of Chinese men, animals, &c. Brass chandeliers and common glass lamps were suspended from the roof. On the left of the praklang, being the seat of honour in the East, and at the distance of a dozen feet, were placed two chairs for Captain Geisinger and myself. I was requested to occupy the one nearest to the minister. A short distance from us, parallel with the praklang’s seat, chairs were placed for the officers of the Peacock and Mr. Morrison. On the right, on a raised platform, but lower than the minister’s or our seat, and fronting Captain Geisinger and myself, were Mr. Piedade and other interpreters, secretaries, &c., to the number of six or seven, closely wedged together; they were all crouching, in a brute-like attitude, on their knees and elbows. On the left, between me and the minister, were two of his younger sons, decorated with a profusion of golden necklaces, set with large stones, having beautiful golden coronets around the tuft of hair, on the top of the head, and a large golden bodkin secured the hair on their crown; a silken waist-cloth covered their loins, and silver bangles or rings decorated their wrists and ankles. Their skins were stained with turmerick, sandal-wood, or saffron. A sword-bearer, resting on his shoulder a sword, having a rich and highly-finished and ornamented gold sheath; another slave, with a long feathered fan, to keep his excellency cool, if possible, with others, were all prostrate on the floor, like the interpreters; without, in the court-yard, were a great number of people, all in this humiliating posture. His sons, when called, crawled as well as the others, and went backward in the same attitude, always facing their lord and master. One of them was ordered to bring us palm-leaf cigars; he came crawling on, poor fellow, bowed his head to the ground, and presented them; he then went to the officers, but stood up, after leaving Captain[238] Geisinger and myself; he afterward crawled back to his station, on the left of his father. We all made a bow in the usual style of our country, on entering and retiring, and were presented with tea, sweetmeats, and fruit.

The minister congratulated us on our arrival, inquired, as is customary here, as to our ages, children, &c., what ports we had been to, the object of the mission, all of which he previously knew by a letter received from me, dated on the day of our arrival off the mouth of the Menam. Having got through with this interview, and appointed the next evening for a conference, we took leave. I observe that the greater chiefs within sight of our habitation, have high poles erected close to their houses, on which small flags are displayed, and at night large lanterns are hoisted at the top, as a distinguishing mark, over their less fortunate neighbours. Every sort of humiliation is practised by the lower to the higher classes, according to their rank: from that of making a simple obeisance by uniting their hands, and raising them to the forehead, and bowing the head low, to kneeling, and the entire prostration of the body.

We went by invitation, on the sixth of March, to the house of the praklang’s brother, to attend the celebration of the feats given, in consequence of cutting the tuft of hair on his son’s head, which is done between the ages of ten and fifteen. The principal part of this evening’s entertainment was comic acting and posture dancing, which consists in graceful attitudes of the body, and in slow movements of the arms and legs, particularly of the former, even to the distinct motions of the hands and fingers. The actors consisted of a king and queen, and male and female attendants, amounting to a dozen, all glittering in gold and tinsel, barefooted and barelegged, their faces painted white, and having silver guards to their nails, not less than six inches long, pointed at the end, and recurvated: singing in rather a melancholy strain, not altogether unmusical. There were about a hundred beating sticks on a long board, which were changed occasionally for another stick, which, when struck, sounded like castanets: two drums beaten by the hands, trumpets, small horns, and an instrument called a ranat: it is made in Lao or Laos, of graduated pieces of bamboo, which give a sweet sound when struck with a sort of wooden hammer covered with pieces of coarse cotton thread: it has eighteen keys or bars, each fifteen inches long, two inches broad, strung together, and sus[239]pended over a wooden boat-shaped box; the top part being left open. There was another instrument also, the khong-nong; being a series of small cymbals in a bamboo-frame, forming a large segment of a circle.


During the posture-dances, and through a considerable part of the divertisement, the principal singer to all splendid entertainments, the prima donna, squalled to the very top of her voice, various ditties in a melancholy strain, until I thought she would have swooned from exhaustion: but I was mistaken; for she was made of tougher materials, than ever fell to the lot of any other female. She was seated on the ground, and dressed in a dingy cotton waist and breast cloth, and her hair arranged “à la Siamese;” it being all shaved off excepting on the crown, which was combed perpendicularly, standing “like quills upon the fretful porcupine.” Her teeth were as black as ebony, and her lips and gums were of a livid red: out of the corners of her mouth issued a stream of dark coloured saliva, which, ever and anon, she wiped off with the back of her hand, and which was finally deposited on the waist-cloth behind: the saliva was produced by masticating areca, siri, chunam and tobacco; the latter projecting from the right corner of her mouth, according to the disgusting practice of the Javanese and Siamese. A Catalani, a Sontag or a Garcia, could not feel much flattered by this addition to their sisterhood. When the actors enter on the floor, it is in a crouching or kneeling position, till they come in front of the master of the feast; then all kneel, bow their heads, and at the same time touch their foreheads with their united hands, and then slowly lower them to the waist. The second night’s entertainment consisted mostly of representations of gladiators engaged in combat, fighting with swords and sticks, while numerous Chinese crackers were let off in imitation of musketry: there were pugilistic contests also with the fists, and slapping with the flat of the hand; but there was no real “set-to.” There was also a most excellent company of vaulters and tumblers; some of the feats were truly surprising, as the following description will show: it was a feat of strength, which surpassed every thing of the kind that I ever witnessed. Four men placed themselves in a solid square, two others then got up and stood upon their shoulders, and another man again upon theirs; a very athletic young man apparently about sixteen years of age, by the as[240]sistance of a ladder, placed himself in a similar position, on the shoulders of the last man, standing however only on one foot, occasionally shifted; a boy of about twelve, then mounting a ladder high enough for the top man to seize him by a belt round the waist, he was raised at arms’ length with perfect ease, standing on one leg, and occasionally shifting it to the other. After balancing him for a minute or two he threw his burden from him, who descending turned a somerset and came without harm on his feet, being pitched from an elevation of about twenty-four feet. There were a great many hundred spectators all sitting on the floor, excepting the wives and relations of the master of the feast, who sat in a narrow gallery. Chairs were used only by our party, consisting of eleven.

A handsome entertainment was served up to us, in a very neat large room, to which we ascended by a flight of four stairs, leading from a court open on two sides. The supper consisted of a great variety of sweetmeats and fruit, served up in a very neat pretty style, on silver salvers, placed on half a dozen tables—the chairs being borrowed expressly for our use; the head of the table was assigned to me; cocoa-nut water was the only drink, which was taken from the shell. The room was decorated, at one end, with an elegant canopy, rich in gold and silk, under which were displayed elegant glass, China ware, and gold and silver utensils, arranged on a wooden-terraced frame, highly gilt, painted, and varnished, flowers being interspersed here and there. The canopy was brilliantly lighted with coloured lamps, and made a handsome, rich, unique, but rather tawdry appearance. As I cannot tell a Siamese man from a woman, when numbers are seated together, so it is out of my power to say whether any females were present, excepting the young actresses, who were all barefooted young girls. The hair of the Siamese women is cut like that of the men; their countenances are, in fact, more masculine than those of the males: they are generally very fat, having very stout lower limbs and arms; are excessively ugly; and when they open their mouths, truly hideous; resembling the inside of a black painted sepulchre.


On the eleventh, a large fire took place, in the Christian Portuguese company, of Santa Cruz, immediately in our neighbourhood, which stopped at our premises. It blazed with great fury, the houses being roofed with attap, and the bamboo-frames being covered with the same combustible material: it produced great[241] distress among the poor people: their houses were probably all their property, their beds being only a mat, and their cooking utensils, small earthen pots and a water jar; a waist-cloth or two, and a few trifles, were easily saved; but plunderers, in great numbers, stole their few miserable trifles as fast as they were conveyed to the rear. About one hundred and fifty huts were burnt, and some fifty or sixty of the sufferers took shelter in and about our house, and some of the unoccupied rooms; and, for many days, we supplied most of them with food. The king and the praklang ordered them to be assisted with bamboo, &c., to rebuild their houses; and rice, and other small articles, were sent to them by their more fortunate neighbours. As soon as the fire commenced, every person who could use a long-handled scoop, made of closely woven basket-work, began throwing water on their houses, even on the opposite side of the river. The floating houses moored along the shore near the fire, were cast off, and it being the first of the ebb, they moved down the river in great numbers. As many of them were on fire, they exhibited a very novel but painful scene: four, unfortunately, were consumed, with all their goods, and two China-men were burnt to death. On the next flood, the river was filled with the floating houses returning. It was predicted, by a superstitious Siamese, some days previously, that a fire would take place, as a vulture was seen to alight on the house of the port-captain. This officer’s house, situated close to the Roman Catholic church, was burnt—the latter building receiving no injury, as the walls only are up; and, I suppose, from the great poverty of the Catholic Christians, it will take many years to finish it. The old Catholic church, in the rear, built of wood and attap, is in a very dilapidated condition. There are four other churches at Bangkok and the suburbs, and only one at Jutia—the rest have fallen into ruins.

We landed, on the thirteenth, near the walls of the city, at the point where one of the white elephants is confined: he was in a large, airy stable, and had a great number of attendants. His colour is dusky, or rather yellowish white, and he was far from being clean; his skin was scurfy, and his eye very small, and of a bluish or light-gray tinge. On account of his unruly temper, he is secured by a cable around his right fore leg; the two fore feet are also well secured. One tusk is entirely broken, and the other[242] partly destroyed. He is annually confined, for about three months, during the rutting season. We entered the city, and saw part of the king’s elephants. In one place were six noble animals, males and females; two of the largest sized males had several massive silver rings on their tusks; they were kept clean, and were in fine order. There were many other elephant-stables, bordering on two streets, which we visited.

The streets, through which we passed, were from sixty to eighty feet in breadth; the houses, generally, ordinary in appearance, built of boards or brick, stuccoed, with tile roofs, or with bamboo with attap roofs. Most of them are raised on posts, and stand five or six feet from the ground. The streets are paved with very large-sized bricks. Stalls are kept in front of most of the buildings, where are sold fowls and pork, fruit and vegetables. The China, and Indian, and European goods, are sold mostly in the floating bazars. There were few people to be seen.

Our object in visiting the left bank of the river, was, to see an immense edifice, in the form of a temple, which was erecting for the purpose of burning the wang-na, generally called the second king, who died about six months since; and whose body has been embalmed, according to the imperfect knowledge of the Siamese in this art. The body is first washed, and then a large quantity of crude mercury or honey is poured into the mouth; it is then placed in a kneeling posture, and the hands are brought together before the face in the attitude of devotion; strips of cloth are then bound tightly round the extremities, and the body is compressed in a similar manner, for the purpose of squeezing out the moisture. It is then put into an air-tight vessel, more or less expensive, according to the rank of the deceased; (some of the vessels are even made of gold;) a hollow tube is inserted into the mouth, passes through the upper part of the box and the roof of the house, to convey away the effluvia; a similar tube is placed in the bottom, which communicates with a vessel, placed there to receive the draining from the body. The sordes thus collected, if they belong to a prince, are conveyed, with many ceremonies, below the city, and there emptied into the river. Should they belong to the king, they are boiled until an oil separates, and this is used on certain occasions, (as when his family or his descendants pay their devotions to his departed spirit,) to anoint the singular image, called[243] Seina, which is generally placed in a temple, after his death. By the process, named above, the body, in a few weeks, becomes quite dry and shrivelled.


I am fully sensible that any description I can give of the building to which I have alluded, will fall far short of the reality; in fact no language can convey an adequate description of it. The “tout ensemble,” when viewed at a distance, glittering in gold and flowers, recalls to our recollection the brilliant and splendid castles of fairy-land, so bewitchingly set forth in many an idle work of former days. Many hundreds of people have been employed in its erection ever since his death; the centre building is a large open dome, and probably reaches to the height of eighty or ninety feet; it is supported by immense wooden pillars of teak all in one piece—the roof is of various indescribable forms, and differs from any I have ever seen—the parts rise one above another till it comes to a point; from the centre rises a high slender spire, and from the base to its apex cannot be less than one hundred and fifty feet; the roof is covered with brass leaf, which gives it a splendid appearance at a distance: it has a great number of projections with various singular ornaments on their edges and the inside of the roof is dome-shaped: beneath it was erected a small temple, in the same form, having in the centre a high platform, to which we ascended by a flight of steps, over which was a small spire: it is supported upon four pillars and cannot be less than thirty-five feet high—the roof is ornamented with neat carved work and richly gilt—on the platform the body is to be burnt. The whole inside of the building was painted to resemble flowers, profusely gilded, and otherwise richly decorated with gold and silver leaf—the walls were made of matting covered with paper and secured to bamboo-frames, as well as the outer covering, which was painted brown, decorated with large flowers made of brass or copper leaf and pasted on, which gave it a brilliant appearance. Eight temples, one fourth of the size of the great temple, stand about one hundred feet from it, so that the whole forms a complete square, of rather less than five hundred feet on each side; these are similarly gilt and painted, and are connected with each other by a corridor inside; the covering outside is similar to the great centre temple, being painted brown and overlaid with flowers. Around the base of all these buildings are projections of about three feet, like the base of a column, having imitation[244] mouldings: these are overlaid again with sheets of brass leaf, as well as the cornices and architraves. The entrances to all the doors have a profusion of gilt and painted ornaments as well as the base, shaft, capital, and architrave of all the columns. The great building was surrounded at proper intervals (so as not to appear crowded) with small temples or sheds standing on four columns, and neatly gilt and ornamented. A wide space on the east side was left open, on which were erected very high narrow stages, neatly built, for the use of musicians, for the exhibition of rope dancers, tumblers, and gladiators, or sword fighters, pugilists, &c. At regular intervals were raised conical umbrellas or a series of canopies, the lower one being about six feet in diameter and each covering gradually lessening to the top, which terminated in a point—they were about thirty feet in height and alternately were of silver-leaf and brass-leaf, gilt, and ornamented with flowers. The whole ground and passages were covered in with bamboo framework, as well as the passage leading to the king’s palace; the latter had a covered walk or roof of the same material extending the whole distance to the entrance within the enclosure. There were four entrances through long passages to the temple-altar or place of burning, and the whole building was surrounded with hideous images of men about a foot high, low dwarf-trees being interspersed between them, protected again by a low neat network railing of iron.


On the fourteenth, we went to partake of a feast at the praklang’s, in company with Mr. Silveiro, the Portuguese consul, and Captain Geisinger and the officers. This invitation was given about ten days since, and renewed from time to time. It was conveniently arranged by the praklang, as this day was set apart for shaving the heads of two of his sons and a nephew. The feast could not have taken place without our assistance, for they borrowed one of our cooks, the tables, tumblers, wine-glasses, tureens, ladle, spoons, &c. We were informed they had no wine, and, therefore, requested me to furnish the requisite quantity. At three, covered barges were in waiting for us, and in a few minutes, we found ourselves seated in the hall of audience; the praklang was sitting in all his majesty, on a raised seat. The dinner was already on the table. As soon as the usual compliments were over, and we had sat down to dinner, music struck up within the house, accompanied by female voices, which were good and natural, and the[245] songs were not unmusical, being rather of a plaintive cast. The court-yard, during the feast, was thronged with people, who came, I suppose, “to see us eat,” and to see the officers in their uniforms; they were very orderly and quiet, crouching to the ground. I have seen no instance, thus far, of the slightest degree of rudeness, which was much and justly complained of by Mr. Crawford and others, but quite the contrary: every mark of respect has been shown.

The dinner was dressed “à la Siamese and Portuguese.” A stage was erected in the court-yard for vaulters and tumblers; when the dessert was produced, which consisted of some thirty dishes of confectionary and fruit, they commenced their surprising feats. They consisted of about a dozen, belong to the step-brother of the king, the prince Cha-fa-Nooi, or Mum-fa-Nooi, and are the same that were exhibited at the praklang’s brother’s, a few nights since. After the cloth was removed, the king of Siam was given, as a toast by me, all standing; and in return, the praklang proposed the President of the United States, which was drunk likewise, all standing up. Two or three complimentary toasts then followed. The tumblers continued their sports for two hours, until sunset; then twelve young actors and actresses, very richly clad, made their appearance, and performed pantomimes and posture-dances, till past nine, when our party, being heartily tired of the performances, begged leave to retire. Their sports, we understood, were continued till after midnight; the music was the same we had before. The three curtains, which conceal the entrances into the interior of the house, were raised; when the players began, each door appeared to be full of the minister’s numerous wives, and in front some dozens of his children, all bedecked with necklaces, bangles, &c.; their skins being coloured with saffron or turmeric, for it is considered here a great desideratum to have the skin of a light yellow. The women were not generally so masculine in appearance as those we saw abroad, and were of a lighter complexion, being less exposed. Some of them appeared but a shade or two less than white. They were clad in sombre-coloured silk waist and breast cloths, but wore no jewels; the teeth of even the youngest were black as jet, and their lips and gums of a livid hue.

On the cutting of the hair from the crown of the male children,[246] a display is made by every person, however humble, from the firing of two or three muskets to feasting, fireworks, dancing, music, and acting, in all their varieties; presents are expected from all relatives, acquaintances, and friends, which constitute a fund for the boy. A similar amount of gifts is expected in return, upon a like occasion; but a man high in office always has the best of the bargain.


To show the extreme indelicacy, in truth, grossness, of these people, even among the higher classes, the captain of the port, Piedade, was sent to me from the praklang, to say that the envoy from the United States would of course make a present, as Mr. Crawford and the Portuguese consul had done on a similar occasion; being placed in rather a delicate situation, in regard to the treaty, having two troublesome points unsettled, I complied with this piece of spunging, and gave a hundred silver dollars, which were presented to the praklang in the course of the afternoon, in a gold vase, by the general of artillery, Benedito, with a complimentary message from me, wishing that his children might be useful members of society, virtuous and happy, &c. It was highly ludicrous, yet most disgusting, to see the general of the eleven ranks of nobility, who stands second in order, viz.: a phaya, crawling like a dog on all fours, dressed in a striped silk cloak, bound round with heavy gold lace, of the fashion of the fifteenth century, shoving the vase before him, till he came to the praklang, and delivering it, making his obeisance to the ground with hands united; then backing out of “the presence,” in the same degrading position, till he reached me, to return the great man’s thanks. The vase was then taken just beyond our table, (one step below, for every step, in fact, has its appropriate rank,) and delivered to two persons, one of whom, I suppose, was the treasurer, the other the Moorish or Chuliah secretary, who always makes his appearance, crawling on all fours, with his black paper, slate, and pencil, whenever there is any business to be transacted. The money was counted within our sight, and reported to the praklang to be all right!!! It was but a few days previous to this, that an elegant gold watch, set in pearls, two cases of silks, and four elegant fillagreed silver baskets, edged with gold, and ornamented with enamelled figures, had been presented by me to the praklang, which I intended to deliver at the conclusion of the treaty; but he having obtained information,[247] by some means, that I had a present for him, sent Piedade to inquire of what it consisted, and the cost; the next day he returned, with the eldest son of the praklang, who is one of the four household officers of the king, being the second in rank, and called, “Luang-nai-Sit,” requesting to have them examined and an inventory taken, which was done; a hint was then thrown out by the captain of the port, that it would facilitate my business, if the praklang had his presents. It was evidently improper to give them, until those intended for the king were presented; but I complied with it, satisfied in my own mind it was done by command. They were presented the same afternoon, on gold vases, when I went to discuss certain points in the treaty.

The king’s presents, consisting of silks, elegant watches set in pearls, and very superior silver fillagreed baskets, with gold rims, and enamelled with birds and flowers, were shown at the same time, at their request, and an inventory of them taken also; again they inquired the cost of them, made some remarks respecting the colour of the silk, and said that some other colour would have suited the king better; that the reason why they were ordered to examine the articles was, to know if they were suitable presents to give the king. Having expressed some slight degree of indignation at their gross conduct, they said, such were their orders from the praklang, and that Major Burney—who succeeded Mr. Crawford, in finally making a better treaty with them than was ever made before, although it was effected after a long negotiation, by the sacrifice of the personal liberty of the king of Quedah, and their great fear of the English government, who possess the key of their country, in holding possession of most of the strong holds of the Burman empire, as well as Malacca and Singapore, and their possessions at Pulo Penang—brought, among other articles, a parcel of painted boxes, &c., which they rejected. After a slight personal knowledge of three weeks only with this people, I infer that they are extremely disingenuous and fickle-minded, because many articles of the treaty, passed and agreed upon in the evening, have the following day been subverted, or the strength of the language so materially weakened, as to take away nearly its whole force. That they are great intriguers, past history will confirm: the present king, the illegitimate son of the late monarch, by the sudden death of his father, aided by bribes, placed himself on the throne, to the exclu[248]sion of the eldest legitimate son, who, on the death of his father, fled the place, and became a Talapoy to save his life. Cha-fa-Nooi, the next in succession, has a small stipend allowed him, and lives in what is called the Portuguese fort, opposite the city: his life is safe, as long as his eldest brother lives.

That these people are highly superstitious, is shown by their constant watching for the flight of vultures, and the worshipping of idols; and the ten thousand follies attached to the Budhist religion, is sufficient evidence. That they are servile, is a necessary consequence, arising out of their despotic government. Subordination of rank is carried to a most degrading and revolting point; true politeness therefore is destroyed; they are abject in the extreme to superiors, and most insolent and disdainful to inferiors. It appears to be impossible for an inferior, to stand erect and manly, in presence of a superior: they are sluggish, ignoble and crouching. A people who are habitually crawling upon their knees and elbows, and performing “the knock-head ceremony,” cannot be otherwise than ungraceful and inelegant in their manners. If they were allowed to carry arms, they would be constrained to be civil and polite to each other; but custom sanctions the right of avenging private wrongs. They are a most extravagantly vain people; are reputed to be very deficient in courage; excessively lascivious and immoral; of which proofs are presented at every step. Temporary marriages are so notorious, that to sell a daughter wholly to a stranger, or for a stipulated term of time, is as common among the middling and lower classes of people, as to sell any common commodity, usually to be found in a bazar. Custom has also fixed a certain price for a certain rank. It is said by Mr. Gutzlaff, that they are in expectation of the coming of the Saviour of mankind, and that the people who are to effect a change in their religion, are to come from the West, (meaning Europe and America.)

If the overturn of an idle, superstitious and debauched priesthood like the Talapoys, (or Talapoins,) who are said to amount to upward of ten thousand generally, in Bang-kok and its neighbourhood, can be effected, what a glorious field will there be opened, to enlighten a nation who are not blood-thirsty or revengeful, but naturally mild and tractable, and exceedingly charitable to distressed objects. They are willing to be instructed, and gladly accept of any books in their own language, which are presented to them. A[249] better form of government would of course make them a better people, but they are now bowed down by oppression, and their highly productive soil is almost untilled, because the hard earnings of the labourer are wrung from him by the rapacious cruelty of his rulers. I omitted to say, that during the evening’s entertainment at the praklang’s, a brown, highly varnished, and gilt seat, was brought in and covered with carpets, cushions, &c., and placed on the floor a short distance from where we were sitting, and shortly after, (preceded by crawling slaves,) a sword-bearer, others carrying highly wrought gold vases, containing areca and a water goblet, a small tea apparatus, &c.; then followed the prince Cha-fa-Nooi, or Mom-fa Nooi, and, without any ceremony whatever, took possession of the seat without noticing in any degree the praklang: when the prince entered, the praklang left his usual seat, which was of the same height as the prince’s, and seated himself on the floor, with his feet resting on a broad landing, leading to the upper floor: this is an acknowledgment of inferiority in rank. On this landing, at his feet, reposed the praklang’s son and brother, and a step below, were his chubah, secretary, &c., &c.: actors beneath the last, and a host of crawlers. The prince retired after sitting a short time, but without noticing his host, who immediately returned to the upper or highest seat.

During the afternoon of the feast of the entertainment, the supercargo, a Chuliah, belonging to the English brig Highland Chief, Captain Henry, from Madras, came crawling in on all fours from the inner gate, and presented, on salvers, some coarse Indian calicoes and lawns. They were received with a sullen air, and I could not perceive that the slightest notice was taken of them, when the praklang was informed of the present. This same supercargo was one of the crouchers, placed on the seat with the captain of the port, when we paid the introductory visit to the minister.


I went to visit the great resort of the fox-bats, on a branch of the river leading to the sea. We found them in immense numbers within the grounds owned by mendicant Talapoys, whereon were many temples in a state of ruin. These birds were hanging by their claws, head downward, where they remain during the day, occupying the limbs of many hundreds of large trees. Having procured some, we measured one, and found it was forty-three inches in length, measuring from one extremity of its wings to the[250] other: it has the head of a fox; the body is covered with long hair, and it has a most unsavoury, strong, foxy smell; it uses its teeth when fighting, but its main defence is in a hooked claw, placed at the middle joint of the wings, by which it occasionally suspends itself. In walking about the grounds of the pagodas, we observed hundreds of small conical mounds, which had been moulded by a form made of plantain stock, and surmounted by small paper flags fastened to a slender rod; these were said to be offerings made by some votaries of Budhistical nonsense.

In passing up the river a day or two since, we saw a snake of about twelve feet in length, and about eight inches in circumference; he was swimming about close to our boat, and did not appear to notice us, excepting when we struck at him with a paddle. Crows, vultures, and sparrows, abound every where, and we find the former very annoying to us, occupying the trees in the area of our house, pouncing upon the cooks’ premises, continually, and carrying off large pieces of meat or fish. The most common reptiles about our premises are lizards; several beautiful species are found every where. We have, among others, the tokay or ghecko in great numbers. This name is given to it here from its singular harsh and monotonous cry, which sounds like its name, to-kay. Throughout the night, these noises are made at intervals, probably of half an hour, commencing with a loud cry, and gradually growing weaker, making pauses of perhaps five or six seconds, between the cries; they are repeated from three to nine or ten times before exhaustion takes place. These reptiles are frequently seen eighteen inches in length, having red and light-green spots, with many tubercles. Fish are abundant in the Menam, and the Siamese, notwithstanding their pretended aversion to taking animal life, do not hesitate to eat fish, flesh, or fowl, if it is killed for them. All these articles are sold daily. Beef is not to be had but there is plenty of pork. Fruit is by no means abundant here at this season, although this is said to be the greatest fruit country in all Asia. A few small mangoes have made their appearance, but the stones are so large that little fruit is to be found on them. We have seen no oranges excepting those brought by China junks—a few poor watermelons and guavas, which are a tasteless fruit, and plantains, bananas, and cocoa-nuts: the latter are in abundance, and the water from the young ones is very refreshing.



Here, for the first time, I tasted the water of a certain delicious kind of cocoa-nut, which was frequently sent by his majesty; it was highly flavoured, and tasted like burnt almonds. Oil is made in large quantities, and is used, when fresh, for cooking, burning, and for anointing the skin, and nourishing the hair. A little later, and the delicious mangosteen will be ripe, the orange, the durian, the pineapple, and lichi, will be in abundance, besides all the other tropical fruits common to this climate. The only vegetables we have yet seen on our table are the sweet potatoe, yam, garlic, onion, Indian corn, beans, peas, and celery, which latter is used in soups only.

The valley of the Menam produces marsh-rice, of various qualities, and in the greatest abundance; it is often exported in large quantities, by license from the king. Rice is almost the only article of food used by the inhabitants; this vegetable is mixed with a little balachang and compound of shrimps, or the spawn of shrimps, or small fish, mixed with salt, and dried in the sun, and then moistened with fish-pickle: it is not only unsavoury to Europeans, but some of it is most offensive to the smell. The inhabitants have but two meals a day, in the morning and evening; the richer add tea, which is drunk in great quantities, without sugar or milk, during the day. Chewing areca and smoking cigars, are common to all, even among small children, and both are constantly used during their waking hours.






On Monday, the eighteenth, arrangements having been previously made, three large boats were sent by the praklang, to convey us to the palace, for the purpose of being presented to his majesty. On the previous evening, the second praklang, or the phaya-phiphat kossa, with a long train of attendants, came to visit us, with the ostensible object of talking farther respecting certain articles, which the praklang wished to have altered in the treaty. After a few minutes’ conversation upon this subject, the audience of the king was spoken of, and he said that certain ceremonies, according to court etiquette, must be observed on our visit. I replied, that every proper respect would, of course, be shown to his majesty; but that nothing mean or servile must be expected. He then said, on our entrance into the hall of audience, on passing the screen, three bows were expected in the European style; that, on sitting down, in the Asiatic style, (as no chairs are there ever used,) our feet must be placed behind us, that three bows were then to be made, by uniting the hands and touching the forehead, and lowering them to the breast. Seeing nothing unreasonable or degrading in this formality, it was agreed to, excepting that we refused to bow the head, like the Siamese. On the king’s naming us personally, we were to bow in the usual style of recognisance with us; and when the curtain was drawn on his appearance, we were to make three such bows, as might suit us. This was all very well; and I was glad to find the taking off the shoes was not spoken of, and entering in a stooping position, which could not[254] have been complied with, as it was by Mr. Crawford, when on a mission a few years since, who, to effect his purpose, (in which he totally failed,) complied with their insulting demands. The Siamese amuse themselves with talking upon this subject even now, and say, that the gentlemen belonging to the mission, were obliged to walk ankle deep in mud and water; that some of them lost their shoes, they being thrown away purposely by the Siamese servants; of course, by order of their masters. Once or twice, the subject was named to me, and I severely reproved them for their disgraceful conduct. Major Burney, it seems, on a more recent mission, agreed to comply with the demand of taking off his shoes, but on the condition that he kept on his hat: they, however, preferred he should keep on his shoes, and take off his hat.

Our mode of conveyance from the water-side to the palace, was agreed upon previously, viz.: A palanquin, with eight bearers, dressed in red uniforms, and caps to correspond, was to be provided for myself, and ten horses for the other gentlemen, properly caparisoned, according to rank. We embarked at nine o’clock, and were, in a few minutes, at the palace-stairs. Spectators were numerous, in the floating houses and boats, on our way; and on landing, the place was thronged with them, leaving sufficient space, however, for the procession, there being officers in attendance to keep the multitude in order. However, every thing was well conducted, and without noise. Excellent horses, handsomely caparisoned, with elegant saddles and silk bridles, breastplate and head-stall, ornamented with various-coloured gems, decked in rich embroidery, were provided: each horse was led by one of the king’s servants.

The procession moved on, the envoy being placed in front, through two long streets, passing a gate of the city, and finally arrived at one of the gates to the palace-yard, where we found a guard, dressed in red broadcloth coats, and waist-cloths of every colour, with and without hats and caps, bearing muskets with black barrels and red stocks. We proceeded to the hall of justice, where we dismounted.

Fronting the building, were ten large elephants, well caparisoned, having a guide on their necks, with his hook and spear fixed to a staff, while another sat on the rump with a similar weapon; and in the centre, a standard-bearer, having a spear, to which was attached a long tassel of elephant’s hair: these men wore red tur[255]bans and neat parti-coloured dresses, well fitted to the shape. We ascended two or three steps to a landing, which was crowded with people of various descriptions: from this we advanced one step, which led to the floor, being escorted by the officers in waiting, by Col. Pasqual, and others. We were desired to wait a short time, till his majesty had arrived in the hall, which was at a short distance. The floor was covered with a good Persian carpet, apparently made for the place. Among others present, were ten Pequan officers of rank, sitting on the landing, outside the pillars which supported the roof, for none were permitted to be on the floor where we were but the interpreters, and these, according to etiquette, sat on the floor. The Pequan officers were dressed in gold-flowered crimson silk, and long jackets, reaching below the knee, and turbans of silk of the same colour, trimmed with gold fringe: all were sitting in the Asiatic style. Having waited some time, we were told the king was ready to receive us. In proceeding to the hall, through a very spacious and extensive yard, we saw, on our right, drawn out, standing on a grass-plot, under high canopies, eight other elephants, richly caparisoned, having no riders, but plenty of attendants. We passed on—preceded by a number of Chuliahs, or Moors, having elegant silk dresses, reaching to the feet, and turbans, some of flowered crimson: others with white silk having gold flowers, and turbans of the same—through several hundred musicians, in red coats and caps. In the rear were soldiers, placed in pens, in a crouching posture, armed with spears and shields, with the interpreters and peace-officers. The music, consisting of drums, brass horns, trumpets, &c., &c., struck up a most deafening noise, on our entering within their lines, which ceased when we arrived within the walls of the hall.

Every thing was conducted with the utmost decorum. Just before reaching the hall, we passed a most noble spotted elephant—he had four massive gold rings, which must have weighed several pounds each, studded with jewels, secured around each tusk: a raised seat, a foot or two above the ground, was fixed for him to stand on, because he was a royal elephant, and could only be mounted by the king: a servant was feeding him with fresh cut grass and bananas. Facing us was part of the king’s stud of fine Arabian horses, placed under a high shed, richly, and in fact, superbly dressed, attended by their keepers, which we were requested to[256] admire. The spectacle thus far was quite imposing, and it seems every thing had been arranged to make a favourable impression. The elephants were placed in those positions, where they would show to the greatest advantage—as well as the king’s stud of horses, the immense number of military with a vast many officers richly clad, many of them being most splendidly dressed—the singular unique style of architecture of the king’s palace—a large number of cannon placed under open sided sheds, the hall of audience, &c., &c., illumined by a brilliant sun and an unclouded sky, gave to every thing an Asiatic and novel appearance.


We entered at length the vestibule through a line of soldiers, and passed to the right of a Chinese screen of painted glass, into the presence of his majesty. There lay prostrate, or rather on all fours resting on their knees and elbows, with hands united and head bowed low, all the princes and nobility of the land: it was an impressive but an abasing sight, such as no freeman could look on, with any other feelings than those of indignation and disgust. We halted in front of the presents which were delivered the day previous, being piles of silks, rich fillagreed silver baskets, elegant gold watches studded with large pearls: they were well disposed to make a show. Having gone through the first ceremony of bowing, we sat down on a carpet: on our being seated the prostrate slaves around us (being the great men of the land) bowed simultaneously three times to the ground, in a slow solemn manner, and we joined in the ceremony as had been previously agreed upon. The king was seated under a canopy, in the Asiatic style, on a cushion of red silk velvet, on the lower and more advanced of the two thrones, which occupied the upper end of the apartment: this was a square seat raised some half dozen feet from the floor. Every thing was blazing in gold, in and about the two thrones: the larger and unoccupied one was of an hexagonal shape, and resembled a church pulpit, so that the king’s person when seated in it, can be visible only through the open spaces, in the form of Gothic windows, about four feet in height by one and a half and two in width. One of these windows is in front, and one on each side of the throne. A pair of curtains of gold cloth formed a partition between him and several individuals of the royal family, who lay crouching just without, on separate carpets, leaving a wide open space between the throne and the two interpreters, who were midway of the hall. Before the curtain and[257] on either side, were eight or ten umbrellas of various sizes: these consist of a series of canopies of eight or ten tiers, decreasing in size upward.

His majesty is a very stout fleshy man, apparently about forty-five years of age, of a pleasing countenance. He was dressed in a cloth of gold tissue around the waist, while a mantle was thrown gracefully over the left shoulder. Four noblemen’s sons were seated at the base of the throne, at the rear and sides, having long-handled pear-shaped fans, richly gilt, which they kept in constant motion. A few questions were addressed by the king in an audible voice: they were repeated in a lower tone by the phaya phiphat, or second praklang, to the phaya churat, or chief of the Chuliahs, by whom they were whispered to the captain of the port, who interpreted them to us in the same low tone—the answers were returned through the same channels by us; inquiring, in the first place, as to the health of the President and all the great men in our country—our own healths—those of the officers and crew—how long we had been from America—where we had been, and whence bound—desiring me to acquaint the praklang with all my wants, that they might be supplied, &c., &c., &c. The curtain was now drawn and his majesty disappeared; the court made three solemn kotows, and we our three salams, and then retired. The hall is probably one hundred and twenty feet in length by sixty in breadth, and has seven or eight stout square pillars on each side, probably built of brick and stuccoed, which support the roof; the highest part of the ceiling must be thirty-five or forty feet, is painted vermillion, having gilt starlike ornaments: the pillars and sides of the wall were painted so as to resemble paper hangings, and were altogether in bad taste: common looking-glasses, and ordinary European paintings of men with frizzled and powdered hair, were placed against the wall. The floor was covered with a new kidderminster carpet, such as may be bought in the United States for about a dollar and a quarter a yard; in fact there was no richness or elegance displayed; excepting about the throne there were neither jewels nor costly workmanship: the dress of the king himself was by no means extraordinary.

We were surrounded by Siamese, Cambojans, Burmese, Pequans, Malays, Chinese, Cochin-Chinese, Moors, and people of Lao, dressed all in the costumes of their respective countries, but[258] all of them at the disposal of the “master of lives,” as the king of Siam is styled. It was before observed, that the princes were nearest the throne, on a separate carpet; behind them, on another carpet, were the praklang and the higher officers of state, as precedence is decided here by relative vicinity to the throne: the lowest officers admitted, are those at the very entrance of the hall. When the courtiers enter, they crawl in on all fours, and, when dismissed, crawl out again backward, “à la crab,” or “à la lobster;” and when the numbers are great, their appearance is most ludicrous. During the audience the utmost silence was observed by the courtiers; not an eye was even cast toward us until it was ended. One would suppose that all who were there present, were assembled before the throne of Him who is to sit in judgment at the latter day, rather than before a temporal monarch; there were such a stillness and solemnity at times, that the scene was quite oppressive. The audience, which lasted about half an hour, being ended, his majesty ordered us to be shown the white and other elephants, the temples, &c., within the palace-walls.

On our exit from the building, the music again struck up and ended when we passed the lines. We were first conducted by the interpreters and some half dozen officers, to the stables of the more valuable elephants, kept within the enclosure. The first shown to us was the sacred white elephant, a more gentle and peaceable character than the one secured without the walls, near the river; he was much whiter also, but this might be owing to his being kept cleaner, his eyes were larger, sound, and healthy in appearance, and the skin free from scurf. I was particularly requested to feed him with bananas and sugar-cane, which he received from my hands most gently, rubbing his long proboscis once over the back of my hand and then made three salams with his trunk. Fresh cut grass was placed in small bundles before him, and when annoyed by the flies and moschetoes, he would take a wisp and brush his legs, throwing it afterward on his back. In this stall was a white monkey, of the size of a small dog, a perfect Albino, the iris, pink, &c., &c.; he was kept in a cage, and appeared never to be quiet for a single second. We passed on to four other stalls, which contained spotted elephants; they are noble animals, and I consider them more worthy of notice than the white ones. We passed on to the great temple of the palace, which was repairing,[259] where Budha sat enthroned on high, of a gigantic size, shining with gold and yellow cloths, and protected with a yellow umbrella. The walls were covered with historical paintings, relative to the wanderings of Rama; and the outer courts were filled with descript and non-descript animals of all sorts, in plaster, stone, and marble. Within the columns, plates of artificial fruits were placed; the favourite lotus was growing in large ornamented stone and porcelain vases, and there were artificial ones in stone. Two warriors, of immense size, guarded the entrance as usual. The doors were splendidly adorned with mother-of-pearl, inlaid so as to represent flowers and fruit of various elegant devices. The thermometer being at nearly a hundred, we remained but a short time, being much exhausted by fatigue and the intense heat of the sun. We returned in the same order in which we came, being much gratified with our reception, and rejoiced that it was at an end.


I have frequently asked the question, How many priests there are belonging to the different pagodas? The answer has been always, sometimes ten, and sometimes twenty thousand; there is no particular number. Pray, what is the cause of this great difference in numbers, at different times? Oh! it depends altogether upon the price of rice; if rice is abundant, priests are fewer in number than when it is scarce; for a great number of them enter the priesthood for a short time only, when they have nothing to eat: this is the reason, why there are so many small boys dressed in yellow, because their parents have no food for them. During the great inundation of 1831, the number of priests doubled, in consequence of the scarcity of provisions. This vicinity was, until that time, remarkable for the great abundance and variety of its excellent fruit. In the course of three months, during which the country was so submerged, it was almost totally destroyed, as well as the crops of rice and cane. In speaking one day of the extreme servility of the lower classes to the higher, I was informed, that the praklang, in coming out of his house during the overflow of the river, always had the usual homage paid to him by the people, of kneeling or stooping when he passed them; and that they have been frequently seen so deeply immersed in water, as to be obliged to rise a little to prevent its entering their mouths, and suffocating them. This degrading homage, I have seen frequently paid him[260] by his eldest son, Luang-nai-Sit, crawling on all fours into his father’s presence, and bowing his head to the ground, with united hands. He is about twenty-five years of age—has several wives and many children; he is of an inquiring mind, but said to be very intriguing and cringing to those who can promote his interests. He says, “his father frequently sends for him to breakfast, and the constrained position in which he is placed (on all fours) prevents his eating much, he, therefore, unfortunately suffers before he can obtain his dinner.”

Among the queer articles of export from this place to China, are snake-skins, which are there used for musical instruments principally, and also for medicinal purposes. Many of the reptiles, from which these are taken, are of large size; and it is said are upward of thirty feet in length, and wide in proportion. The floating houses on the river, when sunk nearly to the water’s edge, by the decaying of the bamboos on which they rest, are frequently annoyed with them, for they are always in search of poultry. Among other methods of taking them, is this: a chicken is placed at the further end of a bamboo coop, near the door, over-night; a hole is made in this coop of a sufficient size to admit the entrance of a snake of fifteen or twenty feet in length; if the reptile enter, after having gorged himself with his prey, he is unable to get out, and is then easily killed. The skin is then dried, and rolls of it are found suspended from the ceiling of the floating shops. The entire carcasses of tigers are also exported to China, for the people of that country ignorantly suppose them to possess great medicinal qualities. Last year, sixty carcasses paid duties on exportation, besides a large number smuggled; they are generally in a very putrid state long before they are shipped.

The thick hide of the rhinoceros is also another article of export to the same country, and by a peculiar process, it is made into, and used as a nutritious jelly.


March twenty-seventh. Reconnoitring in my boat yesterday evening, on the left bank of the river, up one of the numerous canals, we saw under a common shed, a short distance from a wat or temple, a number of idols. We stepped on shore to examine them, and at the feet of the great idol, lay a poor wretch, dying with the confluent small-pox; his bloated features and his person, covered with pustules, made him a disgusting object; he had crawled thith[261]er that morning, and had brought half a dozen saucers of sweetmeats, cooked rice, and fruit, and placed them on the lap of Budha, praying no doubt most fervently, that he would be pleased to cure him of his foul disease: but his cries were of no avail to this gilded block of wood, although they lasted from morning until eventide; for he died that night, at the feet of Budha.

March twenty-eighth. This morning, it being very high water, we entered on the canal which runs near to the southern wall of the city; passing along it, about a mile and a quarter, we turned to the left, and proceeding along about the same distance, we again shot out into the main river: thus taking a complete circuit of the city. The wall is about twenty feet in height; not a piece of cannon was seen, nor even a solitary sentry taking his weary round; but a number of canals passed under the wall, and were filled with market-boats: there are no portcullises ready to drop, in case of a rebellion, or the invasion of an enemy; these canals, therefore, offer a ready and easy entrance. The houses in the suburbs in many places, are built immediately against the walls. No defence could be made, against even a small disciplined force, for there is no regular military force in the kingdom; the soldiers are never drilled with muskets, the government being unwilling to trust them with arms in their hands: their mode of warfare is altogether desultory. Many parts of the canal which surrounds the city, were much crowded with pedlars’ boats, containing coarse cloth, paper, brass, and iron utensils, &c.; others with salt, sapan-wood, cotton in small baskets, areca-nut, siri-leaf, chunam, coloured with turmeric, dried fish, oil, sugar, balachang, fresh pork, fish, fruit, and vegetables.

The back of the city bore, altogether, a rural appearance; the banks were thickly settled, people of all ages were bathing, washing at the same time their simple dresses; children were seen asleep in short square-net hammocks, and the mother lying at full length on a mat, chewing areca-nut, or smoking a cigar, propelling with her foot the hanging cradle; the cat and dog lay stretched also at full length on the platform, overcome with the intense heat of the day; the banks were, however, well shaded by the many trees which occupied every vacant place. The mango, now fully laden with its oblong green fruit; the religious fig-tree with its broad and pointed leaf; the plantain bending beneath the weight of its fruit;[262] the areca-palm with its slender and regular stem, and brush-like head; and the useful cocoa-nut and bamboo, were seen towering in every direction. We visited a number of the king’s boat-houses, and saw a canoe one hundred and five feet long, made from a single teak-tree, excepting the high curved stem and stern; we saw also, hundreds of useless boats, most of them intended for war, while others were for pleasure, being neatly gilded about each quarter. The war-boats would be altogether useless in a sea-fight.


March thirtieth. Yesterday we visited a wat or pagoda, built by the present king, when he was prince Chroma Chiat; it is called wat-chan-tong, or “the temple of the golden sandal tree;” it is situated about six or seven miles from the outlet of Bang-kok Yai, into the Menam. The company consisted of the Rev. Mr. Jones, and Doctor Ticknor; a boat and rowers were sent to us by the praklang. The buildings are more substantial, and in better order, than any I have heretofore seen; hewn granite steps and pillars were about the principal entrances; the floors of the temples were of marble tessellated; the walls leading to the temples, and the dwellings of the Talapoys, were of square pieces of split granite; and there was a greater air of neatness about them, than any we have yet viewed. Noble banyan, and the religious fig-tree, shaded the walks; large porcelain figures of men, and non-descript beasts, embellished the fronts of churches, the entrances into the outer courts.

There are two islets near to the landing place, having on them miniature temples, and small images, overshadowed by noble banyan trees, which are to be found in great abundance every where in the vicinity of Bang-kok. It is one of the most curious of nature’s productions: each full-sized tree is a grove; for every branch, on reaching the ground, vegetates and increases to a large trunk, and these again send forth others, till, from old age and exhaustion, the parent dies, and the progeny gradually decay for want of sustenance, leaving a forest in ruins. It affords most beautiful walks, vistas, and cool recesses; and bears a small fig, which is scarlet when ripe, and affords a luxuriant repast to monkeys and peacocks, and other birds, which inhabit this father of trees, that shades and protects their young, in cool recesses, from a burning sun, where they sport and idle their leisure hours away, free from cares, excepting from the mischievous monkey, which robs them of[263] their eggs, or the wily serpent, that beguiles them of their tender progeny.

The principal wat is occupied by a colossal figure of Budha, lying on his right side, supported by the elbow and hand, and seven square and triangular pillows, with ornamented ends of coloured glass. It is of the enormous length of sixty-three feet, having on its head a high peaked cap. The “phra-bat,” or “holy feet,” are each six feet nine inches in length, having five toes, all of equal length, being one less than the Budha of the Burmese. It is made of brick and stuccoed; but overlaid with heavy gilding, highly burnished. It was covered, on its exposed or left side, with yellow, or talapoy cloth, and canopied by an enormous yellow umbrella. Many priests and young students of the monastery accompanied us. They were asked why the idol was protected with cloths, and the umbrella? They replied, that the great Budha would be offended if neglected, and he ought to be kept warm. As the thermometer was little short of one hundred, and we were panting for breath, with the perspiration running from us in streams, they were told that all clothing was oppressive; but they said, they dared not neglect him. They were also asked, how long he was to lie? They said, about three thousand years, when Budha would be annihilated, or his authority rather would cease.

The ceiling of the wat was painted of a rich vermillion, and “thickly inlaid with patines of bright gold.” The walls, and inside of the doors and window-shutters, were entirely covered with rural and aquatic scenes, birds, flowers, &c., &c.; all rich with gold and beautiful colours, highly varnished, displaying a cultivated taste. The doors, at the entrance, were most splendidly inlaid with mother-of-pearl, wrought into various and elegant devices. Surrounding the wall of the court-yard, was an extensive corridor, containing eighty Budhas, of about four feet high, in a sitting posture generally, while others were standing. At the feet of each were two smaller sized devotees, kneeling and facing them, with their hands spread out and united in the attitude of prayer. These, together with a group of eight in one corner, made, altogether, two hundred and forty-six images, being all highly burnished with gold. Other images, of women, are scattered about the court; and the two gigantic warriors, as usual, placed as guards at its common entrance. The Indian lotus was growing in handsome vases of[264] granite, porcelain, and marble. There was also a large gilt image in a sitting posture, made of a composition of copper, tin, and zinc. The ceiling, walls, &c., were nearly similarly painted to the other, having a tessellated marble pavement; but the doors were painted black, with borders of richly gilded flowers. A devotee had taken up his lodging within the temple, near one of the doors, and was then praying at the feet of the image. He passed his days there, and at night watered his couch with his tears, in the vain expectation that, at his death, Budha would cause his soul to be transmigrated into a higher and holier state of existence.

There were about one hundred and fifty Talapoys generally at this monastery. Here, also, was a small deep bathing place, having in it a number of small alligators—they are common. We passed a great number of temples, and counted twenty-five on this route. The banks were thickly inhabited, having a low but rich country; and the various fruit and flowering forest trees, by which it was overshadowed, contributed greatly to its beautiful scenery. Boats were continually passing in great numbers, variously laden. The fronts of the cottages being open, all the domestic operations were fully seen. At the foot of the ladder, childhood and old age were seen, bathing in the turbid waters of this tributary of the Menam, all seemingly happy, although living under one of the most despotic governments in the world.

On our return, observing an artificial mound near a small wat with a gilded front, we were induced to stop and examine it; it was in height about twenty feet, built of brick and overlaid with rough pieces of rock. We entered by a flight of steps into some dark winding passages in imitation of caverns—on the step was a small temple court and a relic of gautama, which we were unable to see owing to the Talapoy who had charge of it being asleep. The thermometer being at ninety-five, with a dead oven-like heat, we were glad to retreat to some cooler place. Proceeding on by another route, we saw a number of Talapoys, collected near to a place for the burning of the dead, under a high pyramidal shed placed amid a grove of the religious fig-tree: we landed and proceeded to the spot. In the centre of the building, on a brick platform, was placed a bier of seven or eight feet in height—the sides which concealed the body were covered with white muslin and the top, &c., ornamented with yellow tinsel; the bier, I suppose, was of wood,[265] but it was neatly covered with plantain stock, and being fresh cut resembled ivory with a slight tinge of yellow: fanciful devices were cut in the sides and red paper inserted, which gave it a very neat and finished appearance. In each corner were raised platforms, and on one of them sat fifteen or twenty Talapoys, having before them a feast of nice things, such as rice cooked in various ways, sweetmeats and fruits, and a pile of yellow cloth, all of which were presents, from the parents of a dead daughter, lying before these senseless worshippers of idols. They were talking aloud and laughing, apparently insensible to the solemn occasion for which they were assembled: being disgusted with their conduct, and finding that the ceremony would not take place until three in the afternoon, we left the place intending to return in due time.


At the appointed hour, we were again there, but the burning had commenced half an hour previously: a part of the scull was remaining, the head having separated from the body: the back bone was nearly entire as well as part of the limbs; two grim looking fellows were replenishing and stirring the fire with three-pronged forks, smoking cigars, and laughing as though they were attending a baker’s oven. They were constantly employed in going from this funeral pile to another, situated in the open air, a short distance off, where was consuming the body of a dead slave.

Besides the “fire-feeders,” there was assembled a party of young females, acquaintances of the deceased girl, waiting to collect the unconsumed bones, that they might be conveyed to the mourning parents: they were decent in their behaviour, but there were no visible signs of grief on their countenances at this sad spectacle; they were seated on one of the raised platforms, chewing areca-nut, and talking with considerable earnestness—but the instant they saw us, they started on their feet, and exhibited very strong symptoms of curiosity; probably, many of them had never seen a white person before, and our dress, of course, appeared strange to those who were only accustomed to the sight of a waist-cloth. They inquired of a gentleman who spoke Siamese and English, if we came to see a body burnt, or what was the object of our visit: we told them it was to see a body burnt, and to view the temple near by. They asked us to look at the remains, on the funeral pile, and see if we could tell whether it was a male or female, (for the natives are under the impression that Europeans[266] know every thing, and all the European race even if born in America, are called Europeans.) They were told after taking a view of them, that they were those of a female. At this answer, they held up their hands, and appeared to be exceedingly astonished, for they were not aware that we had ascertained this fact in the morning. We immediately left them, not wishing to be questioned further, and they are under the delusion without doubt, that we do, indeed, “know every thing.”

The poor slave who has just been mentioned, must have had a friend who was willing to pay the expenses of the burning to the Talapoys, or alias the phratais or phra-bo-coots as they are called in Siamese, otherwise he would have been thrown without ceremony into the Menam and become food for fish or alligators. A worthless priesthood, who daily spunge the most abject in society of their scanty pittance of rice, clothing, or fruit, refuse even a few sticks of wood to consume the dead bodies of their poor benefactors, and to recite a few heathenish prayers without being amply paid for their trouble; but the priests of Budha are not the only ones who exact payment for what is obviously their bounden duty. Some of the Christian churches, even in this vicinity, as well as those of other countries, will be paid for burying their dead, and saying mass for the repose of departed souls.


The ceremony of burning the dead may be witnessed almost daily, between noon and three o’clock, within the precincts of the temples. During the ceremony, music of a most discordant kind is frequently introduced. The instruments are noisy and consist of gongs, drums, &c., &c. Prayers, written in the Pah language on slips of palm-leaf, are first read by a priest from a pulpit; females and males set beneath it each holding a taper: the language is probably unintelligible to every one present, for most of the priests can barely read it, and few of them understand it.

These places are generally thronged with idle persons, who take no part in the ceremonies, and walk in and out talking and smoking cigars, &c., &c. At the head of the coffin is a piece of white cloth; a number of priests take hold of it on each side, reciting certain prayers—this being ended, the coffin and bier are dismantled, the body is washed by one of the servants of the pagoda, who is always paid a small fee for this most disgusting piece of service. Bodies are frequently kept for days in this sultry climate, and then the[267] office is no sinecure—it is truly loathsome. The ablution being concluded, a layer of wet earth is laid on the bier and dry wood is piled upon it—the body is then replaced in the coffin, and carried three successive times around the altar by the nearest male relatives, and afterward deposited upon the pile; tapers and incense rods are distributed to all who will receive them; a priest delivers a final prayer, then sets fire to the funeral pile, and is followed by all who receive tapers and rods for that purpose. The scull is always broken with a heavy bar of iron, to prevent, as they say, an explosion and scattering of the bones and brains. Small pieces of money are now distributed to objects of charity, who are always in waiting at these places at the usual hours, and are disappointed if there are no rich victims ready for the funeral pile; sometimes the male relatives throw bundles of cloth over the pile—those on the opposite side carefully catch them, and in other cases it is dispensed with.

No explanation of this singular piece of ceremony could ever be obtained. I ought to have mentioned, previously, a horrible custom which occasionally prevails here: many Siamese give directions that their dead bodies shall be stripped of the flesh and given to dogs, and carniverous birds, which infest the neighbourhood of the altars, and the bones only are burnt. This is considered to be both laudable and charitable. The unconsumed bones are carefully collected, prayers are recited over them, and various ceremonies are performed by the priests. They are then burnt to ashes, reduced into a paste with water, and then formed into a small figure of Budha, and gilded; the latter is then placed among the household gods, or deposited in a temple of Budha. If any important branch of the family die, it is carried in procession, and this is called “the procession of the bones of their ancestors.” But as the priests are very exorbitant in their demands for this small piece of service, none but the richer class can afford the expense.


I omitted to mention the arrival, some days since, from Singapore, of the English schooner Reliance, commanded by an American, Captain Burgess of Maine, and owned by Robert Hunter, a Scotch gentleman, who has been trading for eight or nine years past between Singapore and some of the ports on the eastern side of the Malay peninsula, but more particularly with this place. In this vessel came an American Baptist missionary, the Reverend[268] John Taylor Jones—wife, child, and servants: he has been residing for about two years past at Maulmein, in Burmah, but latterly at Rangoon. He had been expected for some months, and a house was preparing for him by the very respectable Mr. Silveiro, the Portuguese consul at Cokai, near a campong of Burmese. I immediately wrote a note and sent it to the roads, about forty or fifty miles distant, offering them every accommodation in our extensive house, until they should be able to take possession of their own. Two days afterward, the family arrived with the exception of Mr. Jones, who came the following day, and remained with us till every thing was arranged. Their house is a tolerably comfortable one for the climate; they appear to be well satisfied with it, and their contiguity to Mr. Silveiro, who speaks French, English, and Siamese, and is able to give every sort of information relative to the people and the country, having resided here about thirteen years. The house is situated a short distance back from the river, amidst palm and other trees, and is surrounded by a dense population. The house formerly occupied by the Reverend Mr. Tompkin, an Englishman, Mr. Gutzlaff, a Prussian, and Mr. Abeel an American, all missionaries, residing here within the last few years, is a short distance from it, and immediately on the banks of the Menam; it is a very small cottage, fit only for humble dwellers, and the very appearance of it, with the very respectable men who occupied it, will convince any one, that a life of luxury and indolence was not their object in leaving their country and their homes, and all that was dear to them; but to go about doing good in the cause of Christ, according to their best abilities.

These worthy men did much good when they were here, by administering medicines to the sick, and in many instances, no doubt, in distributing useful and religious tracts in the Siamese and Chinese languages; but the injudicious though well-meant zeal of Mr. Gutzlaff in the very outset, within the first two days of his arrival, gave great cause of offence to the government; for he immediately threw many thousands of tracts into every floating house, boat and junk, as well as into cottages. An order was issued for his immediate expulsion from the country, and that his tracts should be collected and burnt; and had it not been for the friendly interference and good management of Mr. Hunter, who was a favourite with the praklang, the order would have been executed.


The king ordered a translation of the tracts to be made, which was done very fairly; he read them and said candidly and openly that there was nothing objectionable in them, but he preferred his own religion. The government raise no objections to Christian missionaries residing in the country, and it is as favourably disposed toward them as can be expected, considering the great influence of the Budha priests; but missionaries must never suffer their zeal to transport them beyond the bounds of common prudence. A certain sect of Christians here are very inimical to Protestant missionaries, much more so, I am credibly informed, than the Talapoys, who believe themselves so firmly seated that they do not trouble themselves about the Protestant preachers. As a convincing proof that the government is far from being unfriendly to missionaries, the praklang sent down a good covered boat, expressly to convey Mr. Jones and his family to their new residence, at Cokai, two miles distant from our house. Mr. Jones was introduced by Mr. Hunter to the praklang, who received him with apparent kindness.

It it said, by some, that this favourable reception is owing to his being an American citizen, and because of the friendly terms existing between the government of Siam and the United States. It is true, without doubt, that the king openly expressed much gratification, that an American man-of-war had arrived with an envoy, for the purpose of forming a treaty of amity and commerce. This fact was named to me repeatedly, by the praklang and by others, who daily attend the court. His Siamese majesty immediately ordered his best unoccupied building to be prepared for us, (and it certainly is the best on the river;) two of his best war-boats to be sent to bring us to the city, and a feast to be prepared by the governor of Packnam; and on our arrival at the house, every comfort and every luxury were spread on the table; and cook, purveyor, servants, interpreters, and guards, at our service. The praklang was ordered to facilitate the speedy execution of the treaty, &c.

All this was very gratifying; but, under the frequent delays and obstructions thrown in the way of the treaty by the praklang, influenced, probably, by the preference which the government people of Siam were said to have for my countrymen, it is said by Mr. S. and by many others, to have been the most extraordinary instance of despatch ever known in the history of diplomacy in[270] this country, even when an enemy was at their door. Their friendly disposition towards us was confirmed by Major Burney, who was sent to Siam, by the governor-general of India, about six years since, now ambassador at the court of Ava. He informed Mr. Jones, that the Americans were decidedly preferred to any other foreigners. He was detained here about seven months, and met with a thousand vexations. He was not more successful in his negotiations than we were, although aided by the sacrifice of the king of Quedah, and the fears the Siamese have of their English neighbours in Burmah, and the Malay peninsula. Mr. Crawford, his predecessor, likewise, who came here for a similar purpose, in 1812, was detained several months, treated with insult, and dismissed without obtaining a single commercial advantage. I omitted to mention that Mr. Abeel is held here in the highest estimation, by those who have the pleasure of his acquaintance. He possesses talents of a very superior order, and acquirements that do great credit to his industry; is mild and conciliating in his manners, forcible in his arguments, yet possessing a sufficient degree of zeal, never giving offence to the government, nor creating dislike by being over-zealous, and thereby disgusting the natives; but the bad state of his health would not permit him to remain on this good missionary ground, which may be made, in a few years, ready for the harvest. Missionary stations should never be left vacant, and several teachers should be on the spot at the same time, so as to be able to relieve each other occasionally. The language of the country must first be learned, and at least a partial knowledge obtained of the Mandarin and Fo-kien languages of China. Missionaries should also be well acquainted with the peculiar doctrines of the Budhists, which they are labouring to subvert: free schools should be established; a printing-press put in operation, and those children should be preferred who have never attended the schools of the Talapoys. Although a good wife contributes in a thousand ways to the comfort and convenience of the missionary, yet the prejudices of the people they visit should be consulted, at least for the present; for the Siamese are firm in their opinion, that the vow of perpetual celibacy should be observed by all who bear the title of priests, of Christians as well as worshippers of Budha. All missionaries should also have some knowledge of medicine and surgery.




The climate of Siam is more healthy than that of Batavia. Notwithstanding the great heat of the climate, and the vast quantity of uncleaned and undrained land, epidemics do not often prevail; yet the spasmodic cholera, a few years since, swept off upward of sixty thousand inhabitants.

During our stay, the weather has been clear and serene, a breeze visiting us about the middle of the day; yet the thermometer has ranged 93°, and has frequently been 94° and 95°. No one has been sick, excepting of complaints in the bowels, occasioned by a change of diet.

The profuse perspiration under which we suffered, day and night, considerably exhausted our strength. Those pests of all swampy countries, moschetoes and other insects, have not appeared in such vast quantities as they do in the rainy season, nor reptiles, which then abound every where; nor is the heat so great as it will be within the next four or five months, when the thermometer will rise from 100° to 103°; yet, it is said, the climate then is not more unhealthy than it is at present. Where the ship lies, the thermometer has not risen above 84°, and prevailing winds have been from the southward, blowing fresh the most part of the time, with a considerable sea. During the heat of the day, notwithstanding bathing is resorted to, and the natives are often seen with a wet cloth on their shoulders, to keep them cool and mitigate the effects of a scorching sun; yet it is a rare circumstance to see any of them with a covering on the head, excepting the women-pedlars on the river, who wear a palm-leaf hat, the exact shape of a milk-pan reversed; this is kept on the head by means of a frame-work,[272] made of split rattan; their dress also is different from other women’s being a tight cotton jacket, with sleeves, and the usual waist-cloth worn by both sexes.

It is surprising how few of the mechanic arts are here practised, excepting those which are connected with the building of junks and boats; and in this case, strickly speaking, there are but two or three employed. The carpenter, who builds the vessel, makes the masts and wooden anchors, and the very few blocks that are used; pumps are not known, for the water is bailed out from vessels of one thousand tons burden. They go to market and buy their mats to make sails, which are spread out on the ground within certain pegs, which give the proper dimensions and shape; the bolt-rope is then sowed on, being made of a species of very coarse strong grass, abounding every where; and the sailmakers, being the sailors of the vessel, make the cordage generally, and assist in making the immense cables. Blacksmiths are necessarily employed to make bolts, and calkers are indispensable.


A true Chinese junk is a great curiosity; the model must have been taken originally from a bread-trough, being broad and square at both ends—when light, (I speak of a large one,) it is full thirty feet from the surface of the water to the tafferel, or the highest part of the poop. Forward, a wide clear space intervenes, where the cable is worked, there being a stage erected, some twelve or fifteen feet above the forecastle, on which they help to work and keep a lookout for sail. The mainmast is a most enormous stick of teak or other hard wood, big enough for a line-of-battle ship, on which they hoist an enormous sail, which generally takes all the crew, consisting of at least a hundred or a hundred and fifty men; when they wish to lower it, it is necessary to send a number of men on the bamboo poles, which stretch from side to side, to assist in its descent. A small mast, the after or mizen mast, is placed on one side, not in the centre as in other vessels, but stepped or secured on the deck. The enormous cable is hove up by a common windlass, without the assistance of pauls, stretching from side to side of the vessel, through the bulwarks. The centre of the vessel is at least fifteen or twenty feet lower than the tafferel, open for the most part amidships, planks being placed here and there to step on. There is tier upon tier of cabins aft. The hold is divided into compartments and made water proof; these are hired[273] or owned by the shippers, so that each one keeps his goods separately; and in case the vessel spring a leak, in any particular part, it is more easily repaired. The caboose is on one side; and their meals, as at home, are made of rice and salt or fresh vegetables, and perhaps a little fish, and of every cheap article, however unsavoury, served up in a great number of small saucers.

The vessels are kept in a most filthy condition, and can be scented a long way off. Scenes of the grossest debauchery are practised on board these junks; and gambling is carried on to a great extent. They are called either male or female, according to the shape—the former being sharp aft, if not forward; but these are considered to be illegitimate upstarts of modern date, and are not the true Chinese junk. The female has an enormous broad convex stern, there being a hollow or cavity, where the broad, clumsy, grating-like rudder is placed; it probably recedes two feet from the quarters to the sternpost. They are generally painted white and red, perhaps blue, and the two enormous eyes of vigilance are ever to be seen on each bow. On the stern, all the art of the painter is exhausted by a profusion of meretricious ornaments—an eagle, or what is intended for one, occupies the centre of the stern, surrounded by all sorts of non-descript figures, and on one side of the counter is a Josh, or god of wealth, resembling in shape Toby Filpot, besides a great variety of indescribable nothings.

The boat is exceedingly stout and clumsy, and an exact counterpart of the junk, being of an oblong square, nearly flat, and propelled by a long oar, placed on a swivel.

Another kind of mechanics, are tin and leather-dressers, which, strange to say, are always to be found in the same shop. The makers of qualtahs, or iron pots and pans, which are a very neat, light article, and little liable to be broken, owing to the ductility or toughness of the iron. These pots are sold at a cheap rate, and are preferred to all cast-iron vessels imported from Europe. Some iron is also made into small bars or pieces. There are also makers of sandals, which articles are worn only by the Chinese. The tin-ware is very neatly made, and the patterns show a good deal of taste; but it is useless to put on the fire, as there is no alloy mixed with it. The leather is died a common red, made of[274] deer-skin, and smoothed by a black stone, the size of a brick; it is used for mattresses, pillows, &c. House-carpenters, canoe, and boat builders, and a few makers of musical instruments, with a little coarse pottery, and a few ordinary knives and locks, comprise all the mechanic arts that have fallen within my knowledge. Gold and silversmiths, I have nowhere seen; if there were any, who possessed such ingenuity, they would be seized upon by the king or his officers, and employed in their service. The gold vessels, containing areca, cigars, &c., &c., are carried to every place they visit, by the princes and higher officers of government, are made at the palace, and can only be used by the king’s favourites. I have seen a few rude hand-looms in operation; but the fabrics, both of silk and cotton, were very ordinary.

They import their brass ware and silk stuffs from China and Surat, and their cotton and woollen goods, cutlery, &c., principally from Singapore. Even the Talapoys’ razors for shaving their heads, are imported from Canton: they are made of thin brass, of a curved shape, about two inches wide throughout, and six inches long, fixed into a coarse wooden handle. The mechanic arts are carried on almost wholly by the industrious Chinese. The common houses are of bamboo, with attap roofs; some are built of wood, and few of brick; but with few exceptions, they all stand upon high piles. They are thus raised, in consequence of the inundation of the river, to make them more secure against depredations, to keep them dry, and to avoid the numerous reptiles. The bridges which cross the canals, are generally a single plank; some few have timbers laid on apartments of wood or brick, planked, and about six feet wide, but an arched bridge is nowhere to be seen. Roads there are none; and the only carriages are those owned by the king, which are brought out only on some great occasions, and are never seen beyond the walls of the city; of course, there is scarcely any use for horses or elephants. The Menam with its thousands of boats, and the numerous canals and branches of the river, make the communication every where cheap and easy, and compensate in a great measure, for the want of roads.

The principal amusement of the inhabitants, within their houses, is singing and playing on musical instruments, of various kinds: their singing is of a plaintive and melancholy cast, and they display considerable taste in its execution: but there is too much mo[275]notony, too much sameness in it; still they have got beyond the point of being pleased with mere sound, like the Chinese. Their musical instruments are very numerous: I have been able to describe but few; the music produced by them is very different from the vocal, being cheerful and lively. Playing chess is also a pastime. Dancing girls are kept for the amusement of the women of the higher classes. Tumblers, rope-dancers and actors, are considered necessary appendages for a complete establishment. Gambling is carried to great excess by the Siamese and Chinese; and the revenue derived from it, as will be seen in a statement of the revenue, is of considerable importance to the government. Flying kites is a favourite amusement with all, especially with the Talapoys, and a great number of them may be seen employed, in this way, at all hours of the day. Playing shuttlecock with their feet, three on a side, is much practised by them, as well as the laity; and in their houses, and even within their temples, they spend a large portion of their time at chess. These amusements, together with chewing areca, smoking cigars, begging, and sleeping, leave but little time for devotion and study.


A few days since, a Siamese came into the yard, and desired to exhibit some dancing snakes; he uncovered a basket, and drew out with his naked hand several of a large size, and of the most venomous kind known in India, the cobra de capello—they were full six feet in length, and large in proportion; he had eight in the basket, and took out three or four at a time, and suffered them to run about: he would then touch one slightly on the body, as he was retreating, which caused him instantly to turn his head backward toward the tail. The head, from being round and small in proportion to the body, was quickly expanded to the width of full three, and probably five inches in length, showing a crown or circle in the centre; the head was nearly flat, his forked tongue was thrust out with great rapidity, and he kept vibrating from side to side, and his keen fiery eye shot forth most terrific glances; but he made a most noble and graceful, although frightful appearance.

The exhibitor kept a cloth moving, a short distance in front of his eyes, and the snake, in endeavouring to elude it, so that he might spring upon his adversary, kept in a dancing motion. Having tied two or three of the largest round his neck, and put the head of one of them in his mouth, the exhibition ended. Being[276] satisfied that the fangs were extracted, or otherwise they could not be handled with impunity, I suffered two of them to run between my feet, but they did not offer to molest me or any one else.

The water used for domestic purposes is taken, with all its impurities, from the river, in water-tight buckets, neatly and strongly woven; it is put into unglazed earthen jars of thirty or forty gallons, and is suffered to settle in the best way it can, without any foreign aid. The filth of half a million of people, which is all emptied into the river, renders it most impure, and dead bodies are frequently thrown in to save the expense of burning. In a family, where no garments are mended—in which there is no baking or ironing of clothes; no stocking nor shoes worn, and the washing and drying of their simple garments, done at the river, does not occupy a month in a year—no books read, and no writing done—a large portion of the time of the females must, of course, be spent in sleep and idleness. This is the life led by the Siamese women of a good condition, they having in fact no occupation—this must be the true “dolce farniente” of the Italians, and a sorry one it is.

They wear no jewels, these being used altogether by the children, their dress consisting only of a waist and breast cloth of dark silk. A little music, the dancing girls, actors, and tumblers, occasionally exhibited, chess, colouring their skin yellow with turmeric, and anointing the tuft of unshorn hair on the top of their head; scandal, with frequent dissensions, the natural consequence of a plurality of wives; no riding out, seldom paying visits, and rarely diverting themselves with shopping, the almost unvaried repetition, from day to day, of the same dull round of occupations and amusements, cause their lives to drag on wearily, heavily, and listlessly. Long nails being considered a sort of patent of nobility by the Siamese, as well as the Chinese and Cochin-Chinese, draw a certain line of distinction between the vulgar, who are obliged to wear short ones and work for their living, and the higher orders. Those of the latter are carefully preserved from being broken, but not quite so much pains being taken to keep them clean, they are generally disgusting in their appearance—some of them are full two inches in length, and are put into cases of bamboo or metal on retiring to rest. The female actresses wear silver-pointed cases to them, which curve backward with a high sweep, nearly touching the wrist.


The higher orders of nobility, in fact, all who are allowed to crawl as far as the lowest place within the palace, and all the officers of state, must pay a morning and an evening visit to the “Lord of the White Elephant,” to his “golden-footed majesty,” “the master of all men’s lives.” Not to attend regularly, is considered a mark of disrespect and disaffection to the king: sickness, or some great calamity, only, is good cause for excuse.

Regularly, at half past eight in the morning, the praklang passed the mission house, having about a dozen paddles to his long canoe, sitting cross-legged or sidewise under the palm-leaf awning, or reclining on a carpet and cushions, a slave crouching on all fours in front of him, administering to his comforts in lighting a cigar, or helping him to areca. His palanquin (or rather a lacquered hand-barrow) protected from the rays of the sun by a large umbrella, was carried in the same boat, so as to be in readiness, on landing, to carry his unwieldy person to the palace. About noon, he returned. Between six and seven, he again regularly passed, and returned again usually about midnight. The paddlers on the numerous boats crouched low when he passed, as they all do when passing by the king’s bathing-house on the river: he never notices, in the slightest degree, their obeisance, but wo to them if they omit it. The bath-house is of great length, painted red, and decorated in front with numerous dwarf-trees and shrubs, and is used, it is said, daily, by his hundreds of (some say, eight hundred) wives and many scores of children, with their countless attendants.


Annually, every public officer renews his oath of allegiance to his majesty, in the most horrid and revolting terms, calling down upon himself every curse and punishment in the present and future world, should he prove disloyal. At the commencement of the Chinese year, every governor, or other important officer, even of the most distant province, is obliged, on pain of death, to present himself at the krong, or capital, for this purpose.

A few days after our arrival, the venerable bishop of the Roman Catholic church sent a deputation to wait upon me, consisting of a young French priest, who has been in the country about two years, and a native Portuguese priest. The bishop sent an excuse for not paying a visit in person, owing to his advanced age and great infirmities, and requested me to call upon him, which I accordingly did in a few days thereafter, in company with Mr. Sil[278]veira and Doctor Ticknor. He made but few inquiries respecting his own country, which he had apparently almost forgotten. He said he was born at Avignon, in 1760, left France in the year 1786, and, with the exception of the time occupied by a tedious passage, three months passed at Macao, and six months at Hué, the capital of Cochin-China, he had been ever since in Siam. He was very infirm, and in his second childhood: sans teeth, sight dim, sans every thing. The house he lived in was very old and far from being clean. The church was built of brick and stuccoed, having a very gaudy and ordinary altar-piece, and destitute of images. It has been finished but a few years, and is called Santa Assomption.

A college, erected within a few years since the church, and neatly built of wood, stands near it, having about twenty students. It is erected on high posts, and is one story high. This Christian campong stands in the midst of palm and forest trees; and the situation is altogether very rural and pleasant. It will bear no comparison with its neighbours, the rich and gorgeous temples of Budha. The Catholic churches in this country, since the first bishop arrived, in 1662, have scarcely made any progress: the descendants of the Portuguese constitute, I may say with propriety, all the Christians in the kingdom; so say the Catholics themselves. All that can now be found here, and in the vicinity, do not exceed, according to the most zealous of that sect, thirteen hundred; but, according to a Protestant Christian missionary, who resided here nearly three years, and numbered them with considerable accuracy, they do not exceed four hundred. There are four churches in this vicinity; three of them are merely long sheds, in a wretched condition. In the campong of Santa Cruz, the walls of a brick one are erected, near to the old shed of that name; but the building will never be finished, for there are, already, evident signs of dilapidation in many parts of it.

Of the splendid churches that once adorned the old capital of Jutaya, there is but a small one now remaining, built out of the ruins of the others; and in Camboja, where the Catholics once had a strong foothold, they have dwindled to a mere name. The descendants of the Portuguese, in whose veins courses the blood of the courageous adventurers with the bold and fearless Vasco de Gama, who had the temerity first to double the cape of Good Hope, and the cruel Albuquerque, are now crouching slaves before[279] the nobles of the country; and are employed only in menial offices, with the exception of two, which give them a bare subsistence.


The number of temples erected in the city and vicinity, I was unable to ascertain: that they amount to several hundreds, (some report from four to five hundred,) there cannot be a doubt. They occupy the most conspicuous and beautiful spots on the bank of the Menam, on its tributaries and numerous canals: you never lose sight of them; frequently eight or ten are in view at the same moment. In the most sequestered rural spots, they are always to be found; and wherever a brick pathway leads into the depths of the forest, it is a sure indication that there is a temple to be found. They are erected by pious individuals generally, believing that it will be the means of their souls being transmigrated into a higher and holier state of existence, than would otherwise enjoy; they but most of them are built from ostentatious motives.

They are of brick, and plastered; are one story in height, having neither arch nor dome; of a square form, and the roof is covered with neat coloured tiles, which gives them a gay appearance. At a first view, one is deceived, by supposing that there are three or four roofs to every building, as there are a series of them, which gradually diminish in size, to the main roof. The fronts, or gable ends, are laboriously and elegantly carved, with fanciful devices, and richly gilded. The eaves, doors, and window-frames, are, more or less, carved and gilt, painted and varnished. The doors and windows greatly resemble the pointed, or Gothic style of architecture. A figure of Budha, generally in a sitting posture, wearing the peaked crown, and having the soles of his holy feet turned upward, occupies nearly one entire end of the building, and is usually surrounded by votaries of a small size. He is partially covered with yellow cloths, having a high umbrella suspended over his head. Incense is occasionally burnt before him. The ceiling of the roof, which is flat, is painted with vermillion, ornamented with gilded stars. The entire sides, doors, and window-shutters, are covered with figures, fruit, and fancy work of various kinds—painted, varnished, and gilt. The floors of most of the buildings are of cement, having neither galleries, benches, nor seats of any kind, and scarcely a mat to kneel on. There are but few public temples. The front and rear of all have a portico. China plates, saucers, and common English crockery, stuck into plaster, intended[280] as ornaments, are seen on many of them; bits of coloured glass, also, make up part of the ornaments around the doors and windows. The images are either of brass or iron—brick plastered, and wood; but all richly gilt and burnished. Two temples, of a lesser size, stand on either side of the principal: they are generally not so highly ornamented. Small pyramidal pagodas, of six or seven feet in height, and open at the sides, surround these buildings, and contain two stones, or rather slabs, standing about six inches apart; they are of the exact shape of a bishop’s mitre. I repeatedly asked the use of them, or what they were intended to resemble; but all professed their ignorance of their origin. In them were generally found palm-leaves, containing characters, written in the sacred or Bali and Siamese languages, strung together in the centre, at a proper distance.

Small temples, or rather buildings, for various purposes, occupy the fronts and sides, among which, in a distinct building, is the belfry, which is ascended by a flight of steps, containing generally five or six bells, having no tongues, but being sounded by means of a heavy stick, or piece of metal.

Early in the morning, “when dying clouds contend with growing light;” when the fox-bat is returning from his nightly wanderings, to suspend himself on the holy fig trees, which lie scattered about the temples of Budha, and like the midnight marauder, shrinks from the sacred light of day; the tokay has ceased to send forth his harsh, loud, and monotonous cry; the prowling tiger has retired to his lair; the tuneful birds have chanted forth their first matins, or the labourer has returned to his daily task; when every thing is hushed in the solemnity of night, in the stillness of a temporary death, you are suddenly aroused by the din of the pagan bells, sounding far and wide through the depths of the surrounding palm-forests, summoning the worshippers of Gautama to early prayers. In the confusion of the moment, between slumbering and waking, you are transported, in imagination, to far distant lands, where the Sabbath bell calls forth its votaries. But how great the contrast! One summons to the worship of an imaginary god; the other to the worship of the everlasting and true God, the Lord of all things—of light and life.

Pra-chadis, or thin tall spires, from twenty to sixty feet in height, are in great numbers; and there is one at the krong or capital,[281] which towers to the height, probably, of a hundred and fifty feet. The houses of the Talapoys are contiguous to the temples, and are generally shaded by fruit and forest trees. Small temples, having a high roof, and four wide avenues leading to the centre, for the burning of the richer sort, and a raised platform in the open air, for those who can only pay small fees, are placed at the most convenient spot near the water. A long bath, or small pond, containing young alligators, seems to be a necessary appendage to all temples. The grounds about the front of many of the richer temples, are neatly and prettily laid out with avenues, clumps of trees, shrubbery, &c. The priests derive a considerable revenue by making small images, either of the unconsumed bones of certain deceased persons, or else of common clay, gilt; and also by writing on palm-trees, certain moral or religious sentences, in the sacred language. The Indian lotus, with its broad leaf, is nowhere neglected, but is found about every temple, growing from large porcelain or stone vases, neatly, and sometimes elaborately wrought. Every Siamese temple is not only a place for worship, but it is likewise a monastery: females are in them, old and worn out, and their characters are far from being respected. They only do menial offices, dress in white, and have nothing to do with the worship in the temples. As rice, their chief support, is abundant, it is but just that the Talapoys should support them in their old age.

The spot on which the present capital stands, and the country in its vicinity, on both banks of the river for a considerable distance, were formerly, before the removal of the court to its present situation, called Bang-kok; but since that time, and for nearly sixty years past, it has been named Sia yuthia, (pronounced See-ah you-tè-ah, and by the natives, Krung, that is, the capital;) it is called by both names here, but never Bang-kok; and they always correct foreigners when the latter make this mistake. The villages which occupy the right hand of the river, opposite to the capital, pass under the general name of Bang-kok.


A Cochin-Chinese ambassador, with several junks, arrived here from Longuar (alias Saigon) a few days before our arrival, being the same mentioned previously. Ambassadors’ junks of both nations, whenever they visit each other’s country, or pay their annual tribute to China, are always well laden with goods, out and home,[282] on account of the king or his ministers; it is in part a trading expedition, and the secret is, they are allowed to go duty free, as I have before stated.


The object of the emperor of Cochin-China, in this case, is blended with a more serious piece of business; it is no less than to demand the delivery, to them, of the person of the first minister of state, and superintendant of Pegu, and the principalities of Laus and Camboja, whose title is “Chan-phaya-bodin-desha;” he is a “meh-tap,” or commander of the Siamese forces now in Camboja. It seems, in 1827, the Siamese government oppressed the subjects of one of the Laos tributary princes, Chow-vin-chan, to such a degree, that he was obliged to take up arms in defence of his rights, against the neighbouring Siamese government; this was the point to which the Siamese government wished to force him, for the purpose of taking into possession his territory. Hordes of soldiers were sent among them under the command of the said Chan-phaya-bodin-desha, and they committed all sorts of enormities; the country was stripped of its riches, and the inhabitants, fleeing from the enemy, were shot down indiscriminately like wild beasts; this process being found too tedious, thousands were packed into houses and blown up with gunpowder; the younger women became the prey of a licentious soldiery, and the smoking ruins of a peaceable people marked the track of a band of savages, whose knives were steeped to the hilt in the blood of their fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, and children. Those who escaped were sent to the capital and sold as slaves; thousands and thousands died on the rafts which floated them down the Menam, with wounds, sickness, and starvation. In fact, the country was made desolate, was in ruins: “He made a solitude and called it peace.” The survivors were never more to see their country; their soil was given to their savage invaders. In the midst of these horrible excesses, an ambassador from the emperor of Cochin-China was sent to the general in command, with the ostensible object of interposing in behalf of Chow-vin-chan and his family, who had fled into their territory—not from motives of compassion, I conceive, for the present emperor of Cochin-China is an ignorant, blood-thirsty savage, and pursues his enemy, where he dares, with an unrelenting hand. The object was, in truth, to prevent the conquest of the kingdom of Laos by Siam, which would give the Si[283]amese a better chance of obtaining a larger slice at a future day, which they had long contemplated with eager and with gloating eyes. The Siamese commander, smarting with all his wounds, and red-hot from the bloody battle-field, or to speak less hyperbolically, not having filled a heavy purse from the spoils of the conquered, anticipating a golden harvest from the onward march, and feeling deeply indignant at the insidious policy of his wily neighbours, ordered an instantaneous massacre of the envoy and his suite of a hundred men, with the exception of one, who was sent back to say, “I alone am left out of all my brethren.” Highly enraged as was the emperor at the fell swoop of the embassy, and the gross violation of the law of nations, he dissembled, not daring to wage a war or revenge cruelty by cruelly; for his crazy, disjointed, and puny government would probably crumble into atoms, the moment a large force should quit the kingdom.

The Cochin-Chinese government are aware that the Tung-kinese, on the north, are watching keenly for the first possible chance which offers of freeing themselves from their despotic oppressors; the Cambojans on the south are desirous also of measuring the length of their swords with their hard task-masters, and the lower class of Cochin-Chinese, which comprise nine hundred and ninety-nine of the thousand, are ripe for a revolt; being ground to the earth by the higher orders. They are ragged, filthy, and starving, from the gulf of Tung-king to the gulf of Siam, and from the coast washed by the China sea, to the boundaries of his “golden-footed majesty.” Year after year this demand has been made and evaded, and so far from his Siamese majesty ever intending to comply with it, he has lately sent this same “Meh-tap” into that part of Camboja which fell to his majesty’s share in the division of that kingdom with Cochin-China, to receive, and to protect from capture, the many thousands of Cambojans, who have recently fled into the Siamese territory. The ambassador paid his first visit a few days after his arrival, to the chow-pia-praklang, and was treated with bare civility; he was told, by order of his majesty, that a copy of the same letter which was sent to his majesty the last year, was all the answer which would be returned to the letter received from the emperor through his hands. His audience with the king, which took place a few days previously to ours, was marked by no distinguished honours; the pomp and parade exhibited to us were[284] dispensed with upon that occasion. It is said by Mr. Silveira, and all others, that no embassy from a foreign country ever had so favourable and honourable a reception as ours, marked at the same time with the most extraordinary despatch ever known.

This same emperor of Cochin-China, this deep sympathizer in the wrongs of the people of Lao, has lately persecuted to death a handful of poor Roman Catholics, all who would not trample on the cross and renounce Christianity. To conclude, the Chow-vin-chan and family were betrayed into the hands of the Siamese. Sickness, distress of mind, and long exposure to the elements, fortunately put an end to the prince. He died in a cage, a few days before his cruel oppressors intended to put him and his family to the most excruciating tortures; the heir apparent escaped, but committed suicide by throwing himself from the roof of a temple to the ground, rather than fall into the hands of his blood-thirsty pursuers. The female part of the family receive a scanty subsistance from the government and remain in the capital. Thus ended the dynasty of Chow-vin-chan, adding another victim to the millions that have heretofore perished, from the effect of inordinate ambition.

The barbarous conduct of the Siamese last year, in the Malay peninsula, in sending hordes of soldiers, or rather common coolies, under the command of the chow-pia praklang, which destroyed Patani, Singora, &c., plundering them of their property, and sending nearly five thousand prisoners as slaves to this place, which had been given away, or “sold in lots to suit purchasers;” the thousands that died from wounds, bad treatment, and starvation—deserve the bitter execration of every friend of humanity.

Education is carried to a very limited extent; a mere smattering only is generally diffused among the Siamese, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The suan-pawn is in general use as an assistant in making calculations. Those who wish to attain to a greater degree of knowledge, more particularly in the Pali or sacred language, resort to the monasteries of the Talapoys. In their composition, (if I may be allowed to judge from the various articles of the treaty, being again and again altered to make them clear and perspicuous,) they are fond of being ambiguous in all their forms of expression. There was always a disposition evinced to hint obscurely at things, like the Chinese, rather than express their full meaning.



A plain unmasked style, in speaking or writing, is totally unknown to a cringing people, born under a despotic government; but they are rapidly becoming wiser. Their intercourse with the English and Americans is gradually bringing about a more honest, manly, and open mode of expressing themselves, both in speaking and writing; but it can never be thoroughly effected under such a form of government as the present. The lower classes of the people are obliged to make use of gross flattery and adulation to their superiors, who again treat them as slaves, using high authoritative language. Subordination in rank is so strongly marked, that not the slightest appearance of equality is to be seen. They attach a ridiculous importance to mere form and ceremony. A Siamese, in the presence of a superior, either crouches to the ground, or walks with his body bent. It seems utterly impossible for him to sit or walk in an upright posture. Women are allowed more freedom here, than in any other country where polygamy is tolerated. They wear no veils, and almost hourly boat-loads of the wives of the nobility were seen to pass; the curtains were drawn aside to satisfy their curiosity, which always appeared to be more ardent than ours. The lower orders of women, apparently, do most of the labours of the field, and are employed in the boats on the river in great numbers. They are the principal traders, and are said to be very shrewd and cunning.

The most conspicuous objects which strike the eye of the traveller on the Menam, besides the splendid wats, are the new palace, a large watch-tower, and a prachade or tall thin spire, which is many feet higher than any other building; all are situated within the walls of the city. The palace itself, with its pagodas, and many other buildings, is surrounded by a high wall, having strong gates, and a guard of a miserable and undisciplined militia. The palace is a handsome and extensive building of brick, and stuccoed; the doors and windows are similar in style, taste, and outward decorations to the better class of temples, and bear a strong resemblance to the Gothic style of architecture. It has a high cupola, formed by a series of roofs, or it rather resembles a conical umbrella diminishing in size to the spire, which is without decorations, and rises to the height, perhaps, of one hundred and sixty feet. The roof of the building has also a diminishing series of roofs like the pagodas, and it is covered with very neat coloured[286] tiles. The cupola appears to be gilded upon copper, or more probably slabs of tin.

The watchtower is of the height of the palace, and is an oblong square building; the base is probably one hundred feet square, built of brick and plastered, having a guard-house and strong gates; fifty feet from the base commences the first look-out room, and there are two others above it. In them are gongs and bells, which give notice of an enemy, or a fire, or an insurrection of the people. The inhabitants are at once informed by the sound of one of these instruments, of the calamity which assails them, each one being appropriated to one of these particular objects. A few days before the procession of the wang-na took place, there arrived the governor of Ligor, whose title is chow-phay-a-lakhow, alias Ligor; he commands one of the most important provinces belonging to the Siamese, in the Malay peninsula, is a Siamese by birth, a man of powerful talents, fond of Europeans, and adopts all their improvements in the mechanic arts. His boats are handsomely modelled, carrying two or three fore and aft sails; they are coppered, carry a suitable number of cannon, and every thing about them is in excellent order. The model is superior to that of the king’s, having a greater breadth of beam, and they are of a greater length. The soldiers are well and uniformly clothed, and well drilled with the musket and the use of the bayonet, according to the tactics of the Europeans. There is some trade from the port of Ligor, in what is generally called the Malayan produce, viz.:—tins, black pepper, rattans, rice, sapan-woods, &c., and several small cargoes of cotton are taken away annually by Chinese junks. Four of his sons govern other provinces in the peninsula; the eldest is governor of Quedah, the former king of which now remains at Pulo Penang, or Prince of Wales island.

Although the British agreed by treaty, on the cession to the Pulo Penang, to protect him and his kingdom against any invasion by the Siamese, yet the latter were suffered to capture Quedah, and the British violated their treaty, for they offered no assistance. The king fled to Penang for protection, demanded to be reinstated, and was refused. Major Burney, in order to obtain a favourable commercial treaty with the Siamese, agreed to keep him a prisoner, and he is now in durance, living upon a small salary, under British protection. The cause of the failure of Mr. Crawford’s mission,[287] was his refusal to deliver him to the Siamese, or confine him as a close prisoner.

The governor of Ligor was ordered here to attend the procession and burning of the wang-na; and it was also necessary he should be here at the commencement of the new year, to renew his oath of allegiance. He is a powerful chief; the government is alarmed at the extent of his power, but they dare not dispossess him of his government, or do his person any violence, for his sons would most certainly avenge his cause, and the king’s possessions in the Malay peninsula, would probably be lost to him.


The Chinese, who are noted every where for their villanous tricks, import large quantities of ordinary goods here, as well as those of a good quality—among other articles is tea. A story I heard almost daily in Canton, respecting the gross imposition practised upon foreigners in this article, here proved to be true. It is a well-known fact, that all the tea used in China, particularly about Canton, is bought up again, “fired anew,” as it is termed, and coloured green; even black teas, it is said, are thus coloured, by the use of smalts, and then exported to various countries. Tea of a good quality is exceedingly scarce here, and at a high price, notwithstanding the proximity to China, and the great number of junks which enter here from all the maritime provinces of that empire.

Until the ascension of the present king to the throne, it was a custom with the sovereigns of the country to hold the plough at the commencement of the rains, which generally take place at the latter end of April or beginning of May; this is now dispensed with, and one of the nobility is appointed instead of the monarch.

The rains continue till September, when the lower part of the Menam begins to rise, and it is at its utmost height in November and December: it then begins to subside. Its rise is generally from twelve to sixteen feet, but two years since it rose to the height of twenty-one feet.

The thermometer is occasionally as low as 73° in the months of December and January, during the height of the northeast monsoon.

Vast numbers of boats and rafts, bringing in the productions of the upper country, visited the capital during the flood above alluded to.






April second. Having received an invitation from his majesty through the praklang, some days since, to witness the procession of the remains of the late second king to the funeral pile, and this day being set apart for that purpose, a suitable boat was sent to us early by the praklang, and soon after seven in the morning, we proceeded across the river to the city.

The party in the praklang’s boat consisted of Mr. Hunter, Dr. Ticknor, Lt. Fowler, Mr. Morrison and myself—and in my boat were Midshipmen Rumfort, Weed and Wells, Mr. Robinson, &c., &c., and Raymondo the Portuguese interpreter. We landed near one of the city-gates and passed through it to the place assigned us, a great concourse of people being collected in the principal street through which the procession was to pass.

Finding the place by no means convenient to see the procession, owing to the lowness of the roof of the building, and being annoyed in some degree by the concourse of people who came to have a sight of us, (although they were altogether civil in their conduct,) I made known to the interpreter that we must remove from that place to one more commodious. Shortly after we went near to a part of the king’s palace: it was an open building standing on columns of about twenty feet square, having a tiled roof; mats were spread on a part of it for our accommodation. The praklang was there and a prince of Lao, &c., &c. The former shortly took leave to attend the procession, having seen that we were properly accommodated. At nine, or rather at three, in Siamese time, the procession commenced and continued about an hour and a quarter, in the following order:—

First: several hundred standard bearers (three hundred and eighty-[290]four,) dressed in red embroidered cloth, wearing caps of the same material; the banners were of silk richly embroidered with gold of a triangular shape, bearing devices of dragons, serpents, &c., all neatly embroidered also. A band of music, consisting of drums, harmonicon and small hautboys, accompanied them.

Second: a young rhinoceros of about four feet in height, drawn by a party of soldiers dressed in embroidered blue cloth long jackets, on a sledge or low carriage, having on his back a small gilded castle and containing in the centre a small bundle of Talapoy or yellow cloths.

Third: two horses having two pairs of wings, about five feet in height, bearing similar castles with Talapoy cloths; one of them was spotted with red and the other with blue.

Fourth: two gigantic cocks, with demons’ heads, having four wings, castles, &c., of various colours.

Fifth: two four-winged elephants, full size, one white and one green, bearing castles and cloth, followed by a band of music.

Sixth: two gigantic cocks with cocks’ heads, four wings, beasts’ tails, and partly human bodies, castles, &c., accompanied by a band of music; colours of these nondescripts were various.

Seventh: two more with cocks’ bodies and tails, four wings, with elephants’ trunks and tusks, gilt castles and cloth.

Eighth: two more cocks with four wings, castles, &c., but a little different from the seventh.

Ninth: two cocks with griffin-legs and human arms, four wings, castle and cloth.

Tenth: two cocks with long snouts, four wings, castle and cloth.

Eleventh: two horses with dragons’ tails, four wings, castles, &c. Then came one hundred and twenty men carrying flowers made of yellow or Talapoy cloth, having artificial green leaves: they were of the shape of a sunflower and attached to bamboo-poles ten or twelve feet in length.

Twelfth: two horses’ bodies, with elephants’ heads and snakes’ tails, four wings, castles, &c.

Thirteenth: two cocks with horses’ bodies, four wings, castles, &c.

Fourteenth: two lions, with deers’ horns, wings, castles, &c.

Fifteenth: two lions, with horses’ bodies, long tails, wings, &c.

Sixteenth: two leopards, with elephants’ heads and tusks, wings, &c., &c.


Seventeenth: two elephants’ bodies, with non-descript heads, wings, &c., &c., colour, a dark ground with white spots.

Eighteenth: two horses, covered with green circles, cocks’ crests, lions’ tails, wings, &c., &c.

Nineteenth: two striped and spotted leopards, with wings, castles, &c.

All the above animals were from four to six feet in height; they were made of bamboo frame and covered with paper; the different pairs were variously painted and gilt, striped, spotted, in circles, &c., &c. They were drawn on low sledges, sometimes by men alone, dressed in blue or green cloth, embroidered with the figure of a tiger, and caps to correspond, with waist-cloths of all colours; others by men and horses: all the animals were in pairs, and about twenty feet apart: they had four wings each, and bore small gilded towers on their backs, containing on a salver, cloths of yellow, intended as offerings to the Talapoys.

Then followed one hundred and thirty men with tom-toms or drums, which they struck occasionally with a covered stick. They were dressed in coarse red cotton jackets, caps, and drawers reaching to the knee.

These were followed by seven hundred men representing angels, dressed in long white frocks, having white high peaked caps in the style of the royal crown of Siam. These represented celestial messengers, and were to show the soul of the deceased the way to heaven: each one bore the sacred Indian lotus and leaf, artificially made: these were accompanied by a great number of musicians, having trumpets and small brass horns, making a great discord: then sixty-four conical umbrellas, each consisting of five separate pieces: they were about fifteen feet high, the lowest part being about four feet in diameter and were made of cloth of gold and embroidered.

Between each two of these men, was carried what resembled a section of a bishop’s mitre, similar in appearance to those placed in front of all the wats. They were fastened to the tops of staves, of about nine or ten feet in length, and were flat, broad, neatly ornamented, and gilt.

Following these, came the san-krat, or Siamese bishop, apparently reciting prayers, in a car about twenty feet high. This carriage was broad at the base, gradually lessening to the seat; neatly[292] carved and gilt, and sparkling with various coloured glass. The carriage was drawn by six horses, and led by servants. Then came, dressed in a robe of gold tissue, one of the youngest sons of the deceased, wearing a royal gilt cap, in a car nearly similar to the last, and drawn in like manner. An immense white umbrella was held over him, conical umbrellas at each corner, and four long gold fans, pear-shaped: these are a sign of royalty. Then came another son of the deceased king, wearing the royal peaked cap, in a carriage like the last, drawn by one hundred men, in embroidered green dresses and red caps, assisted by five horses richly caparisoned, holding in his hand the end of a broad sash of silver tissue, which was connected with the funeral car of his father, being about thirty, forty, or fifty feet distant. This latter car was about twenty-five feet in height. It was elegantly decorated with carved work, superior to its predecessors, and highly gilt. The body was seated in a square gilt tower, having gilt network sides, and was supported by two angels, kneeling, in front and rear. The car was drawn by angels dressed similarly to the former, and also by horses. Many of the high officers of state walked in single files by the side of the carriage, dressed in white muslin, and peaked caps, carrying white wands.

The body was placed in a sitting posture, with the knees drawn up to the chin, and the hands united in the attitude of prayer: it was said to be embalmed.

Eight hundred angels next followed, in two lines, succeeded by a large carriage, containing Agila, and other odoriferous woods, for consuming the remains of the deceased.

The preceding carriages were all similar in structure, and from eighteen to twenty-five feet in height to the top of the towers, fifteen feet in length, and ten feet in width. The wheels were of a solid piece of wood, and about two feet in diameter, similar to those used in buffalo-carts in Manila, Sumatra, and Java: the carriage being broad at the base, and gradually lessening to the tower, and of an oblong form.

Following the foregoing, came six open carriages, covered with beautifully figured cloth of gold, containing Talapoy cloths.

Fifty-six umbrella towers, of a very large size, being a series of canopies, gradually lessening to the top, covered with rich gold cloth, having tassels of green, red, &c., &c.


One hundred men with green and gilt drums, or tom-toms, wearing red cotton frocks and caps.

One hundred and fifty men bearing artificial yellow flowers, made of Talapoy cloth, similar to those already described. On each flank were men carrying artificial yellow flowers, like those before named. Then followed:—

Three pairs of horses’ bodies, with non-descript heads, cocks’ crests, lions’ tails, &c.

Two pairs, with giants’ heads and bodies, cocks’ tails and legs, in green and gold.

Two pairs, with cocks’ legs and fishes’ tails, in white and gold.

Two pairs, with gorgons’ heads, human bodies, lions’ tails, in white and gold.

Two pairs lions, painted blue.

Two pairs, yellow, with horns.

Two pairs, blue, with horns.

Two pairs, yellow, no horns: All having gilt towers, containing Talapoy cloths.

Fifty men, carrying rich silk embroidered pennants.

Then followed on horseback, in pairs, four princes, two and two, wearing the gold-peaked crown, and dressed in long robes of silver tissue: following them, eight more, of a lower rank. These were succeeded by a great number of slaves or attendants, dressed in white waist-cloths. The horses were richly caparisoned, with gold housings, bridles, &c., and led by slaves. At every few steps they would stop, and the attendants in front would kneel down, facing their masters, as well as those in the rear.

Preceding every prince, went a man, bearing a bundle of rods, like a Roman lictor. In the rear were open palanquins, having gold, or richly gilt supporters on the sides, and rich velvet cushions. Then followed a vast concourse of people, but all preserving good order.

There was an immense multitude convened to witness this splendid funeral procession. Governors and rajahs from distant provinces of the empire, came, by order of his majesty, each one bringing a gift to assist in paying the enormous expenses attending this idle and useless ceremony. Here were assembled persons of all nations. From the western hemisphere, Americans; from the east, Indians, Arabs, Bengalese, Burmese, Pequans, Malays, Su[294]matrans, Javanese, Cochin-Chinese, Cambojans, the Chans, or people of Lao, Siamese, &c.; and among the whole of them no serious impression could possibly have been made. It could only be considered a fine farcical scene, a pretty raree show, got up as a benefit for the king and his ministers, (for it is expected that every one, who is able, will contribute something,) to show the public that splendid mausoleums are only fit for the great of the land, and that the vulgar herd must be burnt in the common way, either under a shed, or else on a raised platform in the open air: to impress their minds with the magnificence of majesty, and, at the same time, to strike them with awe and fear, so that they may be more easily ruled by the iron hand of despotism.

This whole assembled multitude (with the exception of our party) crouched to the ground like base slaves, whenever any of the higher ranks passed. Along an extensive street, on one side, were play-houses erected, open to public use, in which were exhibited shows of all kinds, and fireworks might be seen nightly, within the enclosure surrounding the temporary funeral pile. His majesty was desirous we should witness the burning of the body on the funeral pile, which was to take place the seventh day after the procession;[†] but the ship was in want of provisions; the southwest monsoon was about commencing, which is generally attended with violent squalls and heavy rains, the ship was riding at anchor ten or twelve miles from the mouth of the river, in five and a half fathoms’ water, in a very exposed situation; and it was necessary to bring our water some forty miles, near the city, besides which, the only provisions to be obtained, were fowls, pork, and rice.


The Budhist religion of Siam, according to historians, originated in Magadha, the modern Behar, in the sixth century, (or 542,) the founder being Gautama, the son of a prince, called Sudhodana. After many centuries it was introduced into Ceylon; and in the seventh century of the Christian era, first into Camboja, and from thence into Lao; and lastly, into Siam. Sommona Kodom, the cattle stealer, a Singalese, was the missionary who first propagated this religion in those countries. He is described as being benev[295]olent in the extreme. He even carried his zeal so far, as to murder his whole family, (considering them as encumbrances upon his country,) so that he might maintain a greater number of priests. He was renowned for the daily mortifications of his body, his fastings, his prayers, his miracles, and the fantastic appearance he could assume—now swelling to the size of a mountain, and again shrinking to a mere atom. But notwithstanding he possessed great supernatural powers, he could not resist the cravings of an un-saint-like appetite; for eating a large quantity of pork one day, he died in a fit of anger, because he had transgressed one of his rules, and thereby set a bad example to his disciples.

All professors of Budhism, whether of Tartary or Magadha origin, are atheists. They do not believe in one God, the creator of the universe. The leading doctrine of this religion, is that of the transmigration of souls.

After being purged of all their sins, by being punished in some one or all of their numerous hells, having practised the regular number of virtues, they believe that they will at length reach the highest of all their more numerous heavens, and then no longer come into existence or die; that then they are emancipated from all the cares and passions which belong to our natures, and sink into annihilation.

Here they will enjoy the company of the blessed Guatama, who occupies the uppermost seat, and that of many worthies who will there be found; yet the existence of the founder of their religion is limited to a term of five thousand years, and nearly one half of that time has actually expired. The Budhists say the world was created by chance; it will be destroyed and reproduced, and destroyed again and again.

The founder of this religion—seeing that all mankind was in a state of gross ignorance and barbarism, ferocious, their feet swift to shed blood, that they were given up to a life of rapine—persuaded them that it was a sin to shed the blood of any living creature; that they must cultivate the soil, and live in peace and harmony with all mankind.

He, therefore, enjoined on his converts the following moral precepts, viz.:—First: Thou shalt not kill any living creature. Second: Steal not. Third: Commit not adultery. Fourth: Thou shalt not lie or prevaricate. Fifth: Thou shalt not be guilty of[296] drunkenness, or use any intoxicating drugs. Sixth: Eat not after noonday. Seventh: Frequent not play-houses, or any place of amusement. Eighth: Use no personal amusements. Ninth: Sleep on a clean mat, and use no costly, soft, rich, or elevated beds. Tenth: Do not borrow or run in debt.

The first commandment is violated in every war that takes place; and how many instances have we on record of blood being poured out in profusion, to make clear the path for the ascension to the throne of a lawful sovereign or a usurper, or for some more trivial object. The clergy and laity also daily partake of fish, flesh, and fowl; but they consider the crime of killing them as attached to the vender only, although they may hire him to commit the act. The second and third are but little attended to. As it regards the fifth, the large revenue, derived from the distilling of arrack, is a convincing proof of its general use; and wine and spirits form a part of the cargo of every English and American vessel, which are sold at a good profit; and the use of opium is likewise rapidly increasing, notwithstanding its use is prohibited by their laws and religion. As for the last five commandments, they are imperative on Talapoys only, and they do, or do not, observe them, as it suits their inclination. As for the fourth, it is considered quite obsolete; I believe, it is observed or not, as it may subserve the interests or convenience of either the clergy or the laity. If there were not so great a number of Talapoys employed in cutting grass for the king’s elephants, one would be led to suppose that the third commandment was originally intended to be observed more strictly among them than it now is, but he must first be stripped of his sacerdotal vestments, before he can be punished by the secular arm.


All spiritual concerns are delegated to the priests. A strict observance of religious duties is not expected from the laity; if they administer to the daily necessities of the clergy, pay them the customary honours, and strictly attend to the observance of the holy day, &c., they consider that they have fully acquitted themselves of every essential part of their duty. Almost every freeman in Siam is, for a longer or shorter period of time, a priest. If married, he must be divorced, having previously made a suitable provision for his family. If he enters the priesthood a second time, it is for life. There are six grades of priests; they enter as[297] noviciates, and are promoted according to their respective merits. Above all, is the san-krat, bishop or high-priest, who receives his appointment from the king.

The sovereign is the pope, or real head of the religion of the country, and the priests depend wholly upon him for promotion, and in a great measure for subsistence; he is always deemed holy, and must have been truly virtuous in a former life, to have attained his present eminence. Eighty-four thousand six hundred bats or ticals, equal to the sum of about fifty-three thousand five hundred dollars, are placed down among the items of the expenditures of the government, for the year 1832, as given in alms to the priests by the king. The Talapoys cannot be engaged in any of the temporal concerns of life; they must not trade or do any kind of manual labour, for the sake of a reward; they are not allowed to insult the earth by digging it. Having no tie, which unites their interests with those of the people, they are ready, at all times, with spiritual arms, to enforce obedience to the will of the sovereign.

No Talapoy can ordain a layman, without first obtaining a license from the san-krat, and all classes of people pay him unbounded honours. Secular persons must make obeisance to Talapoys—even parents to their children; this mark of homage is considered as their due, and, therefore, they never return the salutation. One strong inducement to enter the priesthood, is an exemption from the conscription law, which bears so heavily upon the people; to avoid paying taxes, and to obtain an easy livelihood.

Their time must be spent in studying the sacred Pali or Bali language, in reading hymns, prayers, and moral discourses, and begging: for they must not lay in a store of food, nor make any arrangement for preparing it for use, but still they employ others for that purpose.

They are forbid to be burdensome to beast or tree; but it seems they may be so to their own species. Twice in the month, the head and eyebrows must be shaved, as a token of mortification, and to render them less captivating to the fair Siamese. Attached to all temples are monasteries, slenderly endowed by the government or rich individuals—yet by far the largest part of their support is derived from casual alms and gifts. Early in the morning,[298] they may be seen in great numbers, sallying forth in their yellow dresses, which are either of silk or cotton; some carrying a large bason, and others with their scrip, suspended over the left shoulder by a band of yellow cloth; this is made of a composition of iron and sand, and it is exceedingly brittle. These pots are manufactured just without the walls of the city, on the south side. They are covered with a material more or less rich, according to the ability of the owner. Great numbers of Talapoys are seen rowing their little boats, in search of alms, having then no protection for their closely shaven heads against the heat of a powerful sun. But when they go out for exercise, or to pay a visit, they use a long neat pear-shaped palm-leaf fan, called talapat. When they present themselves at the foot of a ladder, or in front of a floating-house, they never ask for charity, but wait patiently till they are supplied with clothing or food: it is received in silence, and they never return thanks to the donor.


Siam appears to have no place in history, prior to the introduction of the Budhist religion, in the year of Christ, 638, when a sovereign by the name of Krek governed the country. In 1521, their first intercourse with Europeans (the Portuguese) took place. There were two revolutions, and the country was conquered by the Burmans, and recovered again its independence between A. D. 1547 and 1596. In the year 1612, the first English ship made her appearance, and ascended the river to Yuthia, the ancient capital, about fifty miles above the present seat of government. In the year 1621, a Portuguese mission was sent to Siam, by the Portuguese viceroy of Goa; and in the same year, some Roman Catholic missionaries first made their appearance. In 1627, another revolution took place, which placed a new dynasty on the throne. In 1684, the son of the usurper was instigated by Constantine Phaulcon, a Greek adventurer, to send an embassy to Louis XIV. In 1685, the Chevalier Chaumont was sent there, at the head of a splendid embassy, which was the cause, in 1687, of sending a second mission, with a squadron of ships and five hundred soldiers. The total destruction of the English took place at Magni, this year, in consequence, it is said, of their overbearing and insolent conduct; and, in the year following, their factory at Yuthia was removed. In 1690, a revolution took place, and the reigning family lost the throne; the minister, Phaulcon, lost his[299] life, and the French were expelled from the country, which destroyed their hopes of establishing a French empire in the East, until the year 1787, when they made that famous treaty with Cochin-China, ceding the peninsula of Haw, the bay of Turam, &c.; but which failed in consequence of the troublesome state of public affairs in France, at that period, followed by the revolution. Since that time, and within the last five years, the French government sent a frigate to Cochin-China, and endeavoured, but without effect, to have the treaty ratified. The dynasty of 1690 reigned till the capture of the capital by the Burmans, under Shembuan, the second son of Alompia, which took place in 1767, when the king was killed at the entrance of his palace.

The Burman army retired with great plunder, after destroying vast numbers of the inhabitants, making slaves of others, destroying the temples, and committing every sort of excess. The Siamese immediately rose upon the Burmans who remained, and massacred them and their partisans.

A chief, of Chinese descent, Pla-tah, alias, Phria-metah, in 1767, seized upon the throne, and proclaimed himself king. In the early part of his reign, he behaved with moderation, good sense, and discernment, and his courage was unquestionable. He reconquered Piseluk and Ligor, which had declared themselves independent, during the Burmese invasion: but in the last year of his reign, he ruled in so strange a manner, that it was generally believed he was insane. His tyrannical and capricious conduct, in 1782, was the cause of a formidable rebellion, under the chakri, so called, being the title of a great officer of state: it ended in the dethronement and death of the king, in the same year, at the present capital. The chakri reigned in his stead, until his death, in 1809. His eldest son then mounted the throne, but not without opposition, for there was a large party in favour of his nephew, the prince Chow Fa, (or Chaou Pha.) He commenced his reign by committing an act of great atrocity, ordering, within thirty-six hours after the death of his father, the execution of upward of a hundred persons, supposed to be inimical to his right to the throne, including his nephew.

After the committal of this sanguinary act, he ruled with great moderation. Nothing of much importance occurred. Three abortive attempts at insurrection took place during his reign; one was[300] by the Talapoys, occasioned by an attempt to force a large number of their order into the ranks of the army.

The acquisition of the fertile and extensive province of Batalang, in Camboja, took place the same year he ascended the throne. The year following, their implacable enemy, the Burmese, captured the island Junti Ceylon, on the western coast of the Malay peninsula, which was shortly after recaptured by the Siamese, attended with scenes of great barbarity. Since the conquest of the Burman empire by the British, the Siamese have lost all dread of their ancient enemy.

In July, 1824, the father of the present king died very suddenly, it was said of stranguary, but not without strong suspicions of his being poisoned; in fact, it is said, by every one, that this was the cause of his death. His eldest, but illegitimate son, Chromas Chit, ascended the throne the same day, without bloodshed, to the exclusion of the rightful heir, prince Chow-Pha-Yai, who immediately embraced the priesthood, in order to save his life, or his liberty, or because he would not do homage to a usurper. His younger brother Chow-Phoi-Noi,[†] otherwise Mom-fa-Noi, was the next legitimate heir to the throne. He lives at the Portuguese fort, on the right bank of the river, opposite to the palace, and is now about twenty-five years of age.

Joined to a playful disposition, he possesses considerable abilities; he is a friend to the mechanic arts, and to the sciences; and very friendly disposed, as well as his elder brother, towards foreigners. He seems solicitous to become acquainted with all the Europeans and Americans; and not a day or evening passed, during our stay there, but his boat was sent, desiring the company of some of the gentlemen residing at the mission house. In the night-time, by stealth, he went down the river and visited the Peacock, having previously received letters from Captain G. to his first officer. He examined the ship throughout; the men were mustered to quarters, and went through the exercise of the great guns, small arms, &c. Never having seen a man-of-war before, he appeared to be astonished at the neatness of the ship, the order, regularity, and activity, of the men when at quarters; and stated, after his return, he was exceedingly surprised at every thing he saw, and highly gratified[301] with his visit. A strict secresy was enjoined upon every one, not to divulge this visit, or it might cost him his liberty, or, perhaps, his life. He made application, afterward, through the praklang, to the king, to pay a visit, which was granted; but there was not time; he was obliged to be present at all the ceremonies attending the burning of the second king.[†]


The government of Siam is a despotism, subject to no restraint except the apprehension of popular tumult or foreign invasion. The fact of being in high station, is regarded as sufficient evidence of exalted merit in a former state of existence. The king is therefore considered almost, if not altogether, equal to a deity; and is always addressed as such. His most common designations are Chaocheveet, “the lord of lives,” Khun-luang, “the owner of all,” Phra-putty-chao-jahooa, “the sacred lord of heads,” and numerous others of the same nature. His more formal title, as translated in the treaty with the British, concluded by Captain Burney, is the following: “The great lord who is in possession of every good and every dignity, the God Bood’h, who dwells over every head in the city of the sacred and great kingdom of Sia-yoo-thya, incomprehensible to the head and brain.” The Siamese, when they possess titles, cease to be designated by any personal names; hence the king is never spoken of except by the abovementioned or other similar titles.


Next in rank and station to the king, is the wang-na, commonly called, by Europeans, the second king. This high officer is always one of the most exalted of the princes, and is chosen by the king at the time of his accession to the throne. When he survives the king he commonly succeeds him on the throne; but when the wang-na dies first, it is seldom that another is appointed to fill his place, during the reign of the same king. Hence there was no one who held the office at the time of our arrival, the one chosen on the accession of the present king having died about ten months before.


At the head of the Siamese administration is the supreme council, consisting of the following officers:—

First: A president, a prince of high rank. When the mission was in the country, this office was held by the prince Khroma-luang-rah.

Second: Chao-phaya-bodin-deeha or khroma-ha-thai, formerly called Chao-phaya-chakri. He has the general superintendance of the northern provinces adjoining Pegue, and of the principalities of Laos and Camboja.

Third: Chao-phaya-maha-sena, or khroma-ka-la-hom; he is of equal rank with the lastmentioned, and holds the office of commander-in-chief of all the land and sea forces, with the general superintendance of the southwestern provinces, even to the last tributary Malay rajah.

Fourth: Chao-phaya, praklang or khromatha, the minister of commerce and foreign affairs, who also has the superintendance of the southeastern provinces adjoining Cochin-China. This office and the lastmentioned, are at present held by one individual.

Fifth: Chao-phaya-jomarat, or khroma-muang, minister of criminal justice.

Sixth: Chao-phaya-phollathep, or khrom-na, minister of agriculture and produce.

Seventh: Chao-phaya-therama-terat, or chroma-wang, governor of the royal palace.

The mission, during its stay in the country, had intercourse only with the praklang, and the subordinate officers of his department. These were:—

First: Chao-phaya praklang: Chao-phaya is the first in order of the honorary titles. Praklang is said to signify, “lord of the store-houses,” and is the title of the office. This signification corresponds with the title given to him by the Chinese, viz.: “Great minister of the treasuries or store-houses.”

Second: Phaya-si-piphat. This office is held by one of the brothers of the praklang. Phaya is the second honorary title.

Third: Phaya-piphat-kossa, called by the Portuguese, the second praklang.

The other officers in this department, consisting of four phayas, two pras, (or officers of the third rank,) eleven luangs, (of the fourth rank,) &c., were never met with by the mission, except[303] when in the presence, and acting under the orders, of their superiors.

Connected with this department is that of the Farang-khroma-tha, “Frank (or European) commercial board,” under the direction of the Luang-sura-sakhon, chief of the Linguists, or captain of the port. This office is at present held by Sur-Jose-da-Piedade.

The commander of the artillery, Phaya-viset, Song-khiam, is also often brought in connexion with foreign missions. This office is held by Sur-Beneditto-de-Arvellegeria, a Cambojan Portuguese, who, with his brother, Sur-Pascoal, has been for many years in the employ of the king of Siam. The governors of all provinces, whether great or small, are of the second rank, or phayas, with one exception, that of the governor of Ligore, called Chao-phaya-lahhon. Their subordinate officers are not known.





The Siamese have written laws, which are dated as far back as 561 of Christ; and others are referred to in their courts, to the years of 1053-1614 and 1773.

The higher officers of state are the justices and magistrates, but the final decision rests with the principal local authority within whose district the delinquent resides. Where the government is a perfect despotism, and the channels of justice are polluted by corrupt propounders of the law, equity and justice are but empty names, and good laws a mere mockery. Oaths are administered to witnesses only on formal and solemn occasions: the following being the form used in their courts as translated by Capt. Lowe:—

“I, who have been brought here as an evidence in this matter, do now, in the presence of the divine Prah-Phutt hi-rop (Budha,) declare that I am wholly unprejudiced against either party, and uninfluenced in any way by the opinions or advice of others, and that no prospects of pecuniary advantage, or of advancement to office, have been held out to me; I also declare that I have not received any bribe on this occasion. If what I have now spoken be false, or if in my further averments I should colour or pervert the truth, so as to lead the judgment of others astray, may the three Holy Existences, viz.: Budha, the Bali (personified,) and the three priests, before whom I now stand, together with the glorious Dewatas (demi-gods) of the twenty-two firmaments, punish me.

“If I have not seen, yet shall I say I have seen; if I shall say that I know that which I do not know, then may I be thus punished. Should innumerable descents of the Deity happen for the[306] regeneration and salvation of mankind, may my erring and migrating soul be found beyond the pale of their mercy—wherever I go, may I be encompassed with dangers, and not escape from them, whether arising from murderers, robbers, spirits of the earth, of the woods, of water, or of air, or from all the divinities who adore Budha, or from the gods of the four elements, and all other spirits.

“May blood flow out of every pore of my body, that my crime may be made manifest to the world; may all or any of these evils overtake me within three days, or may I never stir from the spot on which I now stand, or may the hatsani, or lash of the sky, (lightning,) cut me in two, so that I may be exposed to the derision of the people; or if I should be walking abroad, may I be torn to pieces by either of the four supernaturally endowed lions, or destroyed by poisonous herbs or venomous snakes. If when in the waters of the rivers or ocean, may supernatural crocodiles or great fishes devour me, or may the winds and waves overwhelm me; or may the dread of such evils keep me, during life, a prisoner at home, estranged from every pleasure, or may I be afflicted with the intolerable oppressions of my superiors, or may a plague cause my death; after which may I be precipitated into hell, there to go through innumerable stages of torture, among which may I be condemned to carry water over the flaming regions in open wicker baskets, to assuage the heat felt by Than-Wetsuan, when he enters the infernal hall of justice, and thereafter may I fall into the lowest pit of hell; or if these miseries should not ensue, may I after death migrate into the body of a slave, and suffer all the hardships and pains attending the worst state of such a being, during a period of years, measured by the sand of four seas; or may I animate the body of an animal, or beast, during five hundred generations; or be born an hermaphrodite five hundred times, or endure in the body of a deaf, blind, dumb, houseless beggar, every species of loathsome disease during the same number of generations, and then may I be hurried to varah, or hell, and there be crucified by Phria-yam, one of the kings of hell.”

The Siamese are extremely capricious, in the standard value of witnesses; the oath of priests and men in office, bearing a preference over all others, while there are not less than twenty-eight in number, who are excluded, and declared to be incompetent; they are as follows: contemners of religion, persons in debt, the slaves[307] of a party to a suit, intimate friends, idiots, those who do not hold in abhorrence the cardinal sins, among which are enumerated, besides theft and murder, drinking spirits, breaking prescribed fasts, and reposing on the mat or couch of a priest or parent, gamblers, vagrants, executioners, quack-doctors, play-actors, hermaphrodites, strolling musicians, prostitutes, blacksmiths, persons labouring under incurable disorders, persons under seven or above seventy, bachelors, insane persons, persons of violent passions, shoemakers, beggars, braziers, midwives, and sorcerers.

Tortures are resorted to in cases of treason or atrocious robbery, and even among debtors where property is supposed to be concealed, as well as the ordeal by water and immersing the hands in boiling oil or melted tin. He who remains the longest under water, and the hand which comes forth unscathed, are pronounced to be innocent. A debtor may be punished by stripes and imprisonment, or dried, as it is termed by the Siamese, that is exsiccated by being exposed to the direct rays of a burning sun, suffering in addition the torments from myriads of noxious insects, and finally to be sold as a slave if he is unable to discharge his debt.

A great number of debtors are seen in irons about the bazars, whose only mode of subsistence is by begging; and they seldom ask in vain of a people who are pre-eminently charitable.


Theft is punished with the bamboo and with imprisonment, and even hard labour for life, in aggravated cases. Murder, counterfeiting coin, and forging the royal signet, with imprisonment for life, and the severest punishment of the bamboo; and in cases of cruel and deliberate murder, with death, by decapitation. A breach of the marriage-vow is not deemed a highly criminal act, and it is easily commuted by paying a fine, according to the rank or standing of the parties, from the sum of two hundred and seventy to ninety dollars. Marriage is a civil contract, and the Talapoins are not considered, in any way, necessary to legalize the contract; but their prayers and benedictions are occasionally bestowed. Insults are punished, from an inferior to a superior, according to the aggravation of the offence, by a fine, and even by corporal punishment, when a priest is the aggrieved party.

If a priest commits a criminal act, he is divested of the sacerdotal habit, and is punished generally with more severity than a layman. Divorces are easily obtained, and each party receives back what[308]ever was contributed to the common stock. The minor male children go to the mother, and the female to the father. Property can only be given to the wife and children, and daughters receive from a half to a whole share more than the sons. Wills must be made in the presence of four witnesses.

Siam appears to be a place of refuge for the surrounding nations, and is composed of a great variety of people, viz.: Siamese, Laos, Cambojans, Malays, Kariangs, Lawas, Kas, Chongs and Semangs, Chinese, Mohammedans, and Hindoos of western India, Peguans, and Portuguese. The population of the whole empire, including their late conquests in the Malay peninsula, does not probably exceed three millions and six hundred thousand, (although many Siamese rate it, in round numbers, at five millions.) Of this number, I am led to believe, from frequent conversations held with men in office, that the Siamese do not exceed one million and six hundred thousand. The native population of Lao, about one million and two hundred thousand. The Chinese at not less than half a million, there being nearly three hundred and forty thousand in the capital and the villages which compose Bang-kok. The Malays, probably, amount to three hundred and twenty thousand; and the remainder are natives of western India. Peguans, Cambojans and Portuguese, the latter from pretty correct authority, do not exceed fourteen hundred in the whole Siamese dominions. The Kariangs, the Lawas, the Kas, and the Chongs, are wild and migratory races; the three first inhabit the mountains and fastnesses of Lao, from the Burman dominions to Camboja. The Chongs inhabit the hilly country, bordering on the eastern side of the Siamese gulf. The Semangs are a race of savage negroes, dwelling in the mountainous regions of the Malay peninsula, of which a very curious and particular statement was published by J. Anderson, Esq., included in his account of the “Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula,” which I have subjoined at the end of my Journal on Siam.[†]

By actual admeasurement of a great number of Siamese, it is ascertained that the average height does not exceed five feet and four inches. Their skin is darker then the Chinese, yet they are several shades lighter than the Malays; their complexion is rather a dark shade of yellow or a yellowish brown. All classes delight in[309] heightening it, by using turmeric. A light yellow is considered to be the “ne plus ultra” of all colours and all shades. This taste is derived, probably, from the numerous Chinese who reside there. Owing to their frequent bathing, and daily using a clean waist-cloth, their skin is remarkably smooth, soft, and shining. They are inclined to obesity, have large lower limbs and stout long arms; yet they are by no means a strong or robust people. The face is broad and flat—the cheek-bones round, but prominent—the nose rather small, round at the point, and rather hollow at the bridge—they have large mouths and rather thick lips—the lower jaw is long and full at the extremities, and the countenance apparently square—the eyes are small and black, the white tinged with a yellow cast—the forehead, although broad in a lateral direction, is generally low—the beard is very scanty. The diameter of the head is remarkably short from the front, backward; the top is unusually flat, and from the crown to the nape of the neck, (in a large proportion of them,) is nearly in a straight line. The hair is always black, thick, coarse, and lank.


The Siamese week consists of seven days; the months, alternately, of twenty-nine and thirty days; and twelve months, or three hundred and fifty-four days, make a year. The year being solar, an intercalary month of thirty days is added every third year after the eighth month. The month is divided into a dark and a bright half, as the moon is upon the increase or the wane. The Siamese new year corresponds with that of the Chinese, which commences after the last half of the month of January, or the sun’s entrance into Aquarius. It is very certain, that in forming their calendar, they depend upon that constructed at Peking. There is also a greater division of time, consisting of twelve years, each year taking the name of some animal, thus:—

First yearChuatRat.
Second yearChabuOx or cow.
Third yearKhānTiger.
Fourth yearThōHare.
Fifth yearMarongDragon, or great snake.
Sixth yearMasengSnake, or lesser serpent.
[310]Seventh yearMa-miaHorse.
Eighth yearMa-meeGoat.
Ninth yearWock, or VockMonkey, or ape.
Tenth yearRay-ka, or RakaCock, or fowl.
Eleventh yearChō, or Chō-ChōDog.
Twelfth yearKhan, or KunPig, or hog.

The Siamese have two epochs, sacred and popular. The sacred era dates from the death of Gautama, and the year 1833 corresponded to the 2376 year. The vulgar era was instituted when the worship of Gautama was first introduced; and the year 1833 corresponded with the year 1194, and was the fifth, or dragon year.

Siam proper extends from about the latitude of 23° north, to the gulf of that name, and is bounded, west by the Burman empire, and east by the Lao (Lau) mountains. This is the valley of the Menam, the “Mother of waters,” the country of the true Siamese. The Menam, after watering the low, flat land, by its annual deposites, empties itself, by three channels, into the gulf of Siam. The boundaries of the Siamese dominions on the bay of Bengal, extend from the Burman, (or more correctly speaking, in the present day,) the English Burmese dominions, as far south as the boundary line between the petty states of Perak and Quedah, in the straits of Malacca, in about the latitude of 5° north, in which is included the valuable island of Junk, Ceylon or Salung, containing a vast body of tin ore. It then extends nearly east, across the Malay peninsula, in about the same latitude, between the provinces of Tungano and Pakhang, the shores of which are bathed by the China sea: it then extends north to the head of the gulf of Siam. The Siamese government, during the year 1832, brought under their immediate subjection, nearly the whole of the tributary states in the Malay peninsula. They possess, also, a large part of the late kingdom of Lao, including the former capital of the empire, called Lau-chang, situated on the great river Camboja, in about the sixteenth degree of north latitude, and which is represented to be very populous. They hold also (with the exception of a small portion of the southern part) the province of Batabang, in Camboja. Their eastern boundary line is in about the longitude of 105°, and extends north to the latitude of 15°, being the dividing line between Lao and Camboja, and extending south to the Siamese[311] gulf, the boundary being the island of Kong, (alias Ko Kong,) situate in north latitude 10° 43′, and longitude 103° 17′ east. Extending north, on the east coast of the gulf, lies Chautabun, once a part of the ancient kingdom of Camboja. It is well known as a rich and valuable possession of Siam.

The Siamese possess no ships of war, but they have an immense number (probably not less than five hundred) of war-canoes; some of them being over a hundred feet in length, and made of a single teak-tree: they have also, probably, fifty or sixty vessels, having two or three masts, using fore and aft sails, and carrying from three to eight brass guns: the largest do not exceed a hundred tons’ burden: these are neatly and strongly built, and many of them are even elegant models. The whole number of mariners employed in foreign and coasting voyages, may be fairly estimated as amounting to not less than thirteen thousand.


Siam is a very fertile country, and abounds in productions suited for foreign trade, beyond any other with which I am acquainted to the eastward of the cape of Good Hope. It is no less distinguished for the variety and abundance of its mineral, than it is acknowledged to be for its vegetable productions. I have annexed a statement, showing the exports of 1832, the quantities of each article, the prices, &c., &c.

To the Siamese trade may be added that of ship building, which is carried on very extensively. A great number of Chinese junks are built here annually; the timbers are of a very hard wood called marbao, and the plank is of the finest teak in the world. Many of these vessels are of a thousand tons’ burden.

The imports consist of British piece goods, white and printed, with some woollens. India goods, of all descriptions, the coarser from Bengal, and the finer and more expensive, from Surak. From China are brought silks and teas, porcelain, quicksilver, and almost every other article exported from that country. From other sources powder, arms, and cannon; glass ware, and crockery; cutlery; some drugs; arrack; wine, &c., &c. Opium is strictly prohibited; but the Chinese and others introduce, clandestinely, large quantities for sale. There is an immense trade carried on at the capital, called Si-a-Yuthia, (pronounced See-ah-you-té-ah,) and on the opposite, or right bank of the river, at Bang-kok.

Cotton twist is daily increasing in demand, more particularly[312] low numbers, from twenty to thirty. Twist, of a bright red, (not narrow,) from number forty to fifty, always sells well; yellow and green are died in the country, as well as ordinary red. Not more than twenty peculs should be sent by one vessel.

Siamese dresses should be of small star patterns, on red, blue, and green grounds, with a few chocolate grounds: the red grounds must be bright; they should be in the proportion of four to one of the others. Each case should contain twenty corges, containing four hundred dresses.

Prints, generally called seven eighths, find a ready market. They must be all of the star pattern, bright ground and narrow. The proportion is, two pieces of red to one of black or blue, in a case of a hundred pieces. Some on cloth, of thirty-four to thirty-six inches, would also sell.

Chintz. Large pattern furniture chintz is saleable. It is used for curtains and screens. Patterns running lengthwise, are preferred.

Ells. Long ells find a ready sale. The consumption of red is very great. There should be one hundred pieces of red to twenty of green.

Woollens. Thin ladies’ cloths only are in demand; heavy, thick broadcloths will not sell. From September to December, there is a demand for them. Red and green are the favourite colours. In a bale of twelve pieces, each seventeen and a half to eighteen yards in length, there should be five of red, four of green, one of yellow, one of light blue, one of light purple.

Steel, in tubs of a small size, sells readily in small parcels.[†]

The inland trade is a very important branch, especially with Lau, and the Chinese province of Yunan, &c. This domestic traffic is carried on, on the Menam, in flat-boats, and on bamboo-rafts. Boats leave Lau in August and September, when the river is swollen by the periodical rains, and arrive at Bang-kok in November and December. They bring stic-lac, benzoin, raw silk, ivory, beeswax, horns, hides, timber, &c., &c. The articles of merchandise exported into China, through Lau, consist of coarse woollens, broadcloths, cutlery, gold, copper, lead, &c., &c. The Chinese are the principal foreign traders. The Siamese prosecute a large foreign and coasting trade to China, Camboja, Cochin-[313]China, the Malay peninsula, to Singapore, to the eastern coast of Sumatra, to the bay of Bengal, &c., &c. The traffic between the countries lying on the shores of the straits of Malacca and the bay of Bengal, is generally conducted by three different routes, across the Malay peninsula; and then reshipped, in boats, on the gulf of Siam, to the capital: the imports being British and Indian goods, opium, esculent swallows’ nests, &c., &c.

The population of the capital and Bang-kok, with their suburbs, may fairly be rated at four hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, I deem it best to state this fact, so that it may be seen that, in a commercial point of view, it is a place of great importance.


The Siamese coin no money strictly speaking; they use bent bars of silver, made nearly round and stamped with a star. Those of the largest size are called baats, and by Europeans ticals. They are of the value of sixty-one cents and a small fraction. The halves are denominated two salings, the quarters one saling; there are also eighths, called one tuang. They have a gold currency formed in the same manner and of various values; they have no copper or tin coin: occasionally, some of the latter may be seen brought from Calantin, &c.: cowries or bias are used in their stead.

The currency is as follows: one thousand and fifty cowries or bias make one tuang; two tuangs, one saling; four salings, one baat or tical.

Imaginary or money of account: four baats, one tamling; twenty tamlings, one catty or eighty baats; fifty catties, one pecul or one thousand baats.[†]

The weights are the same as in China, being the pecul and catty; one hundred catties making one pecul; one catty, one and a third pounds avoirdupois. The fathom is the measure in most frequent use, being six feet, six inches; also, twelve finger-breadths make one span; two spans, one cubit; four cubits, one fathom; twenty fathoms, one sen; one hundred sens, one yuta or yut.


On the twentieth day of March, 1833, corresponding to Wednesday, the last of the fourth month of the year 1194, called Pi-ma-rong-chat-tava-sok, (or the year of the dragon,) the final articles of the first commercial treaty between Siam and the United States[314] were concluded after a negotiation of twenty-two days, and on the first day of April they were signed and sealed; but only a single copy of the treaty could be obtained, notwithstanding the promise of the chao-phaya praklang, one of the first ministers of state, that two copies should be furnished me. No other reason was assigned for this breach of promise, than that it was not customary.

It is written in four languages, viz.: Siamese, Chinese, Portuguese, and English, and is of the great length of nine feet and seven inches. Previously to the signing of the treaty, the charges were not defined and fixed; now, all obstacles and impositions are removed, and but a single charge is made of seventeen hundred ticals on every Siamese fathom of seventy-eight inches on the breadth of the vessel, if merchandise is imported, and fifteen hundred if specie only is brought. This charge is in full of all import and export duties either on vessel or cargo. The sixth article of the treaty relates to debtors. As foreigners were equally liable to the penalties with the natives, I deemed it most proper to guard against the barbarity, which gave the creditor in fact the power of life and death over his debtor, and therefore in the early stage of the negotiation, I proposed an article (which was agreed to) which released the American citizen only, from all pains and penalties, by delivering to his creditors all the property he possessed. About a fortnight after its conclusion, the minister inserted an additional clause, making it reciprocal, so that the Siamese debtor might receive the same benefit of the American creditor. He was told it would have an unequal operation, as it would very rarely occur that an American would incur a debt to a Siamese; but he insisted that it should remain as it was, although I proposed nullifying the whole article. But still if any American feels disposed to take advantage of a code of laws written in blood, it will readily suggest to him that a transfer of his debt to a responsible Siamese, will give him a free and unimpeded course to hunt down a prostrate victim.

An attempt was made to reduce the measurement-duty on vessels bringing specie only, to eight hundred ticals (instead of fifteen hundred) but it did not prove successful, and a similar failure was the result of another proposition to admit vessels wishing to purchase a part of a cargo only, by paying a proportionate part of the measurement-duty.

The treaty has removed all obstacles to a lucrative and impor[315]tant branch of our commerce; the merchant being left free to sell or purchase where and of whom he pleases. Prior to this period, the American merchant was not allowed to sell to a private individual the cargo he imported, nor purchase a return cargo. The king claimed the exclusive right of purchase and sale in both cases; and furthermore, such parts of the imported cargoes as were most saleable, were selected and taken at his own valuation, which was always at prices far below the market value, as profit was the sole object in making the purchases.

Secondly: he also fixed the prices of the articles wanted for return cargoes, and no individual dared offer any competition either in buying or selling.

Thirdly: the American merchant not only did not obtain a fair value for his merchandise, but it is notorious that he had to pay from twenty to thirty per cent. more for the produce of the country than he could have purchased it for from private hands.

Fourthly: the vexations occasioned by delay were a matter of serious complaint. It was no uncommon circumstance to be delayed from two to four months beyond the stipulated time. The loss sustained, say for three months’ charter, and interest on the capital employed for that time, &c., &c., amounted to several thousand dollars. In addition to all these evils the merchant was frequently obliged to take payment in inferior articles, at the highest market value for the best, and even unsaleable merchandise at high prices.

Fifthly: the duties on imports were not permanent; they varied from eight to fifteen per centum.

Sixthly: the export duty on sugar of the first quality, was one dollar and a half (Spanish) per pecul, which was not less than from 25 to 30 per centum upon the first cost, and other articles were charged in the same proportion.

Seventhly: port-charges and other exactions were not defined and fixed, but they generally amounted to not less than three and a half (Spanish) dollars per ton.

Eighthly: Presents were expected, and in fact exacted, from the king to the lowest custom-house officer, according to the usages of Asiatics; there were but a few vessels that did not pay upward of a thousand dollars, if they had a valuable cargo. The difference, therefore, in exactions and impositions, prior and subse[316]quent to the conclusion of the treaty, may be stated on a vessel of two hundred and fifty tons, having a twenty-five feet beam, as follows: The duties, formerly, were from eight to fifteen per cent. on imports; the average rate was not less than ten per cent.

Now, on a cargo of $40,000, it would give the sum of$4,000
Add to this $1,50 per pecul on sugar exported, which was equal, at the lowest calculation, to twenty-five per cent., on $40,000, which gives10,000
Also, $3,50 per ton for charges975
And presents, say1,000
If there is added the difference in the sale of the imported cargo to the king or to individuals, the estimate cannot be less than twenty per cent., and probably twice that amount would not cover the loss,8,000
Add to this an additional price paid to the king on the produce exported, say it was twenty per cent., is8,000
Three months’ charter, arising from detention, at $900 per month2,700
Three months’ loss of interest is600
From this amount deduct the single charge of 1,700 ticals per each Siamese fathom on the breadth of vessels bringing merchandise. If only specie were brought, 1,500 ticals.
Sixty-eight thousand ticals at sixty-one cents, on seventy-five feet beam, is4,275
Making a difference of not less than$31,000

The result is, that the treaty has secured to us a valuable branch of commerce which was entirely destroyed, and which will continue to increase vastly, as the Siamese recover from the serious disasters which resulted from the inundation of the valley of the Menam, for upward of three months, during the year 1831.

Exports from the river Menam (Siam) during the year 1832, showing the quantity and market value of each article.

Pepper,38,000 peculs,10 ticals per pecul.
Sugar, 96,000 peculs,15,000 1st sort,8 do.   do.
60,000 2d do.7 a. 7½ do. do.[317]
20,000 3d sort,6 a. 6½ ticals per pcl.
1,000 Preto or black,2½ a. 3½ do.   do.
Sugar candy,5,000 peculs,15   16 do.   do.
Tin, 1,600,000 lbs.,1,200   do.20   22   do.   do.
Tobacco,3,500   do.100 bundles, 4 ticals.
Benzoin,100   do.50 a. 55 peculs.
Cardamom, 73,150 lbs.,550 1st sort,100 a. 360 a. 380.
do. 2d   do.150 a. 280   300.
3d   do.300   200   220.
Ivory, 40,000 lbs.,300 peculs,160 a. 180.
Bar-iron, 2,260,000 lbs.,20,000 do.3½ a. 4.
Kwalahs or iron pans, 60,000,1st size,4 ticals per peculs.
2d   do.3   do.   do.
3d   do.2½ do.   do.
4th   do.2   do.   do.
5th   do.2   do. do.
6th   do.1½ do. do.
7th   do.1¼ do.   do.
Aguils or eagle-wood,10 a. 12 do.1st sort, 400 ticals.
2d and 3d, 250 and 200.
Cotton,30 a. 40,00026 clear, 8 in seed.
Swallows’ nest, (esculent,)10 a. 121st sort, 10,000.
2d do. 6,000.
3d do. 4,000.
Bichos do Mar or Tripang,
Camphire, Malayan,
Wax, yellow,1,800, do.55 a. 60.
Gamboge,250, 6 quantities averaging from 40 to 80 p. p.
Varnish,500,50 per pecul.
Salt,8,000 peculs,2½ a. 3½ per pecul.
Dried fish,60,000,3 a. 4     do.
Sapan-wood,200,000,from 1 a. 3½ salings per pec.
Teak-timber,127,000 logs,
Rose-wood,200,000 peculs,3 salings per pecul.
Barks, Mangrove, &c.,200,000 bundles,6 ticals per 100 bundles.
Leather, Deer,100,000,20 a. 25 per 100.
Iron-wood, (ebony)1,500 peculs,2½ peculs.
Dried meat,1,600,6 per   do.
Copper300,50 a. 55.
Rhinoceros skins,not ascertained.
Buffalo   do.1,500,8 a. 10.
Ox   do.300,7 a. 8.
Elephant   do.not ascertained.
„   „ Drug,not ascertained.
Dragons’ blood,do.
Sharks’ fins,65 to 70 peculs,a. 65 per peculs.
Buffalo and ox horns,300   do.3 a. 4 per   do.
Deers’ antlers, do. soft,26,000 pairs,1½ a. 2 ticals per pair.
do.   horns,   do.3,000 peculs,8 a. 9 per pecul.
Ox and Buffalo bones,300,1 do.
Elephant   do.450,7   do.
do. horns,do.
Tiger, the entire bodies for China market,56 a. 60   do.
Peacock’s tails,1,200 trains,7 a. 8 per pecul.
Raw silk, (from Lao)200 peculs,200 ticals per do.
Rough pitch,10,000,3 to 8 do.   do.
Wood oil,15,000,3 to 6 do.   do.
Takan, an inferior or bastard Cardamom,4,000,32 to 40 do.   do.
Feathers,4,000 pairs of wings,65 a. 100 do.   do.
Large feathers for fans,100 to 150 pairs,30 ticals per pecul.
Fish skins,1,800 peculs,30   do.   do.
Jagra or palm-sugar,150,000 pots,4 to 6 pots 1 tical.
Rattans,200,000 bundles,4 ticals per 100 bundles.

The foregoing is the quantity ascertained by the government for 1832, to which may be added a considerable quantity for each article smuggled, and principally by the Chinese. The exports, therefore, for the year 1832, taking the foregoing statement to be correct, amount to a sum not less than four and a half millions of dollars.




Having brought my mission to a close in a very satisfactory manner, I was, on the evening of the third of April, invited to wait upon the praklang. The principal object of the visit was to reiterate his assurances, that every facility should be granted to American commerce, both in selling their cargoes, and in collecting their debts. And, furthermore, to state, that the presents the king and himself desired, should be returned with the ratified treaty.

The following list was then given of the presents desired by the king and the praklang:—

For the king: Five pairs of stone statues of men and women; some of the natural and some of the larger size, clothed in various costumes of the United States. Ten pair of vase lamps, of the largest size, plain glass. One pair of swords, with gold hilt and scabbards; the latter of gold, not gilt—shape of blade, a little curved.

For the praklang: One mirror, (or pair of mirrors,) three cubits long by two broad, fixed in a stand, so as to form a screen; frame, carved and gilt; back, painted green. Soft, hairy carpeting, of certain dimensions; and some flower and fruit trees, planted, or in seed, with flower-pots.

I then took leave, after many demonstrations of good-will.

Some presents of the productions of the country, were sent to me, of very mean quality, and of inconsiderable value.

On the fourth, the same boats being in readiness, which brought us to the city, in the evening we embarked, reached the ship in the morning, and the day following, made sail down the gulf.


Our passage to Singapore (a distance of less than a thousand miles) occupied us till the first of May; the winds being very light and adverse, and constantly shifting between the south and southeast points. On the nineteenth, we made the group of islands, called the “Great Redangs.” On the twenty-second, when Pulo Brala was in sight, we spoke a Portuguese brig from Singapore, having on board an assistant Roman Catholic bishop for Siam, and a new consul, to take the place of Mr. Silviera; two days subsequently, we fell in with two small Cochin-Chinese junks, from the province of Nhiatrang, for Singapore, who sent a boat alongside, and asked most beseechingly for water, having been, as they said, destitute of any for the last six days, as they had brought only an earthen pot or two, for the supply of two vessels; being apparently wretchedly poor, a full cask was given them, after they had drunk to satiety. We successively fell in with Pulo Timoan and Pulo Aor. The vicinity of these islands is remarkable, as well as the southeastern point of the Malay peninsula, for piratical vessels, which are constantly cruising about in search of small trading vessels. On the thirtieth, we were swept by the violence of the current on the Romania bank, where we anchored in nine and three quarters fathoms of water; the following day we anchored about two miles from Singapore, near to our old friend, Captain Lambert, of his Britannic majesty’s frigate, Alligator.


We called upon governor Ibbetson, who presides over this island, Malacca, and Pulo Penang, and were received by him and the Honourable Mr. Bonham with much hospitality and kindness; and subsequently, by the Honourable Sir Benjamin H. Malhin, the recorder, and lady. The situation of the governor’s house is upon a hill, which overlooks the town and the numerous islands in the straits. It is a most delightful situation; the approach to it, from the base of the hill, is lined on the right side, by nutmeg and other spice trees, &c., being the garden belonging to the government; but owing to some cause, they do not succeed well—the fruit does not arrive at maturity. The country in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, excepting in the direction of the new harbour, and a few other spots, is still in a state of nature, the soil giving an ungrateful return for the labour of the husbandman. Fruit succeeds well, even the delicate mangusteen; but wheat, coffee, and pepper have repeatedly failed, or the crops have[321] been so inconsiderable, as to be unworthy of attention. Gambir, alias catechu or terra japonica, succeeds well; it is used as a die, or chewed with areca. Esculent plants and farinaceous roots, natural to a tropical climate, are here in perfection. This island is about twenty-seven miles long, and from five to fifteen miles in breadth. It is separated from the Malay peninsula by the old strait of its own name, being from one fourth to a mile and half in width.

About three leagues south of the settlement is an extensive chain of islands, very thinly inhabited by a race of savages. This open space of water is a continuation of the straits of Malacca, and is called the strait of Singapore; it is the high road of commerce between the eastern and western parts of Asia. The town of Singapore was founded by the British in 1819, and was then only the resort of fishermen and pirates; and was carefully avoided by the regular traders. The year following its occupation, it was visited by nearly seventy thousand tons of shipping, and of this amount, about one fifth were native vessels, belonging principally to the various islands in the Indian Archipelago. The establishment of this as a free port, most seriously affects the commerce of Batavia; it has drawn from it a most valuable native trade.

The town is formed upon a regular plan, the streets intersecting each other at right angles; the streets and roads are in excellent order, the former having sidewalks. There is a great number of well-built houses of brick, which are stuccoed, and have tile roofs. Many of the houses have galleries or porticoes, and the grounds are prettily laid out with trees and shrubbery. On the less valuable streets, the houses and shops are built of wood, and covered with tile. On the outskirts, the houses are thatched, and more particularly those inhabited by the Bugis and Balinese, and the poorest class of Chinese. A good wooden bridge connects the peninsula or western part with the eastern. On this creek, or arm of the sea, into which empties a rivulet, are situated the principal warehouses; and here small vessels discharge their cargoes into very convenient and well arranged buildings. The quays are built of stone, with very convenient slips, and good cranes for landing goods. The island being situate within a degree and a half of the equator, no material change takes place—a perpetual summer reigns—flowers never cease blowing, and fruits are ever in blos[322]som or progressing towards maturity. It is an old saying, that not a day passes at Singapore without rain; but it has been well ascertained that the rainy and fair days are about equal in number throughout the year; although in some years it has rained about two hundred and forty days, or two thirds of the year. November and December are the coolest and most rainy months; the thermometer then falls occasionally as low as 72°, and in the hot and dry months of April and May, it attains to 90°. The climate is remarkably salubrious, and fevers and dysentery, which are so fatal within the tropics, are here of rare occurrence, owing, it is supposed, to the free current of air which passes through the straits; but wherever its beneficial influence is excluded, those diseases are very fatal; and this is the case about that beautiful and romantic spot, the new harbour, situate but a few miles to the westward of the town. The island is also free of those dreadful scourges, storms and hurricanes, and violent gusts of wind.

I visited (in company with Captain Lambert, and the commander of the Peacock) the person who is styled the sultan of Johore, who ceded this and other islands to the British, for the sum of sixty thousand dollars, and an annuity of twenty-four thousand per year. He was formerly chief judge to Sultan Mahomet, of Johore. At his decease, he seized upon this part of his possessions. The sultan’s residence is surrounded by a high brick wall, having strong gates, guarded by soldiers. Within it is a new mosque; a hall of audience, neatly built; with many other houses of brick and thatch. We were conducted into the hall, which is used as a banqueting place also; and shortly after, we heard the loud breathing of a person who seemed in deep distress, endeavouring to ascend the staircase; finally the sultan made his appearance, and with great difficulty reached the centre of the room. I verily thought he would have died within the first ten minutes, of suffocation. He was most grossly, or rather beastly fat, and reminded us of the Anthropophagi, or men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders; for neck, he had none. His eyes were enormously large, and they had the terrific appearance of having started from their sockets. He was truly a most disgusting and frightful object. After he was able to breathe a little freely, the usual compliments passed, and inquiries made, a feast was brought in, consisting of a great variety of articles, which were neatly[323] served up by numerous waiters. Two fine lads, his sons, accompanied him; they were handsomely dressed, wearing turbans, and armed with daggers. The sultan expressed himself gratified with the visit, and we then took leave.


The population, on the first of January, 1833, was ascertained to amount to twenty thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight persons. Of these, fifteen thousand one hundred and eighty-one were males, and only five thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven females. This motley group are made up of—one hundred and nineteen Europeans; ninety Indo British; three hundred native Christians; thirty-five Armenians; two Jews; ninety-six Arabs; seven thousand one hundred and thirty-one Malays; eight thousand five hundred and seventeen Chinese; one thousand eight hundred and nineteen natives of Coromandel; five hundred and five Hindoos; six hundred and forty-five Javanese; one thousand nine hundred and twenty-six Bugis, Balanese, &c.; thirty-seven Caffrees; two Parsees. The country and plantations contain seven thousand three hundred and sixty-two; the islands, which form a dependancy, of which there are about fifty, contain one thousand and seventy-two; total, eight thousand four hundred and thirty-four: which leave for the town of Singapore, twelve thousand five hundred and forty-four, exclusive of the military and convicts, which amount to about one thousand.

Singapore is merely a mart for the exchange of merchandise for the products of Europe, India, and China, the Indian Archipelago, and of the neighbouring states—the imports from one part forming the exports to another. The total value of imports, for the years 1831 and 1832, was seventeen millions, eight hundred and nine thousand nine hundred and forty-eight sicca rupees; and the exports, fifteen millions, fifty-one thousand five hundred and seventy-three. Of this amount, nearly one eighth, or about nine hundred thousand dollars in value, was conducted by native vessels. The fixed exchange of sicca rupees, is two hundred and ten and a half for one hundred Spanish dollars. The currency is the Spanish dollar divided into cents. The common weight is the pecul, of one hundred and thirty-three and a third pounds, avoirdupois, divided into one hundred catties. The English gross hundred is also used, as well as the neat hundred. Salt, rice, and coarse, or unpearled sago, by the koyan, of about forty peculs.


In the harbour, there may be frequently seen vessels from England, France, Holland, and other parts of Europe; from the Brazils, Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, New South Wales; from Arabia, and various parts of British and Portuguese India; from Siam, the Malay peninsula, Camboja, and various ports in Cochin-China, from the gulf of Siam to the gulf of Tonquin, (Tung-king;) from Macao, and various parts of the provinces of Canton and Tokien, the former being called the “Red-headed Junks,” and the latter the “Green-headed,” owing to their being distinguished in this manner by being painted with these colours; from Manila, Dutch and native craft from Java, Banca, and Bulembang; and by Malay craft only, from the river Campar, and other eastern ports in Sumatra. But the most important branch of the trade with the Indian islanders, is that conducted by the Bugis of Wajo, a state of the Celebes.

The Bugis write and speak a different language from either of the other tribes of the Celebes, either of Macassar, Mandar, or Kaili. They have a code of civil and criminal law, referring to a state of government and society, of a patriarchal character; and they have also a code of maritime laws, dated in the year 1087, of the Hejera, (Hegira,) from which I have made some extracts. Wajo is situated nearly in the centre of the Celebes, and the Bugis live on the northern banks of an extensive lake, about twenty-four miles in breadth. The outlet of the lake is a river, which falls into the bay of Boni, and is navigable for boats of twenty tons. This people are the sole native carriers of the Archipelago, possessing an industry and enterprise far beyond the generality of the Malayan tribes. They carry on an extensive trade with all the ports in the Celebes; to Bonivati; to the eastern and western coasts of Borneo; to the islands of Lombok, Bali, Sumbawa, Flores, Sandal Wood, Ceram, Timor, the Arrows, New Guinea, &c. These bring gold-dust, bird’s-nests, tortoise-shell, camphor, paddy, bichos do mar, rattans, pepper, shark’s-fins, fish-maws, agar-agar, (sea-weed,) garro-wood, mats, pamore, iron, striped and Tartan cotton cloths, oil, tallow, mother-of-pearl, shells, &c., &c. Their cargoes are valuable, and vary from ten to forty thousand dollars. They take, in return, opium, British and Indian piece-goods, fire-arms, powder, Siamese iron-pans, &c.; Chinese coarse earthenware, &c., &c.


Maritime laws were established (as stated in a pamphlet published[325] in the year 1832) by Matorvei Father Gapa, (a practitioner in law,) at Macassar, in the Hejera 1087, on Monday, the seventeenth day of Moharain. The first five sections relate to the rate of freight and passage-money, to and from various places, and explaining a mode of trade, existing to the present day, in the east. A person having goods, either natural produce or manufactured, puts his articles on board a prahū, going to any place where he can find a market: these goods pay a per centage freight, as laid down by the law, and the passage-money is included in that charge; and during the voyage, he takes part in rowing or sailing the prahū, &c., &c.

The sixth treats on the freight of money. If the amount is one hundred and ten real, or less, it pays no freight; but if it exceeds that sum, it pays one half the charge on goods to the same place. The people of the prow (prahū) are not allowed to land if the master does not receive the full freight; and further, they must assist in bailing the water out and fastening the boat: nor are they to be freed from their charge till she is laid up for the season. The seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth sections, treat on a mode of shares in trade and shipping, viz.:—Seventh: if the owner of the prahū send a man in charge of her, or if he let her to any one in the season, and furnish the turobatu and turomudi, together with crew, and arms and stores sufficient, and the boat should be damaged or lost, through the neglect of the crew, &c., in that case they must make good the damages, or loss of the boat: the shares of the turobatu and turomudi, and the expenses of the prahū, being first paid. Eighth: if the person who sails the prahū, also furnish the turomudi, turobatu, the crew and arms, then the owner and the captain go equal shares, after the turomudi, turobatu, and the expenses of the outfit, are adjusted.

Ninth: if the owner of the prahū gives her in charge to a captain and the latter provide turomudi, turobatu and the crew, then the profit is divided into three equal shares; two are taken by the owner of the prahū, and one by the captain or person who charters her for the trip; but previous to the division of the profits, the shares of turomudi, turobatu and expenses of the prahū are always paid.

Tenth: if the owner of the prahū furnish the turomudi, and the captain provide the turobatu, and both go equal shares in the ex[326]penses of the crew, arms, and outfit, &c., in that case the profits are divided into two equal shares, between the owner and the captain, after the turomudi, turobatu, and expenses of the prahū are paid. If the persons who sail the prahū furnish the turomudi, turobatu and crew, arms, &c., then the profits are divided into three shares: two shares go to the person who navigates her, and one to the owner. The turomudi, turobatu and expenses of the prahū being first paid; if there be a previous contract or agreement between the owner and the navigator, in that case, the law takes no cognizance in the matter: if not, the law directs as stated above.[†]

The eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth sections regulating the amount of passage money, have, no doubt been framed principally, if not exclusively, in consideration of the practice of carrying slaves to distant parts for sale, since women are included, who otherwise never travel by water. The fourteenth and last section, lays down the principle of a court of native admiralty law, but the latter part is vague, as well as arbitrary; it is as follows: the captain is king while at sea, and his will is absolute law, from which there is no appeal; but if the turomudi, turobatu and the whole crew unite without one dissentient voice, they can overrule the will of the captain. The turomudi and turobatu hold the rank of prime ministers while on board the prahū. If any matter of difference arise between the crew, the captain, and turomudi, and turobatu, shall sit in council, and give judgment in the case; and if they should pass the sentence of death it must be executed; nor can any judgment given at sea be disannulled after the prahū is returned to port. If an affray or murder should take place among the crew, and the king’s son be involved, or if a freeman should kill a king’s son, in either case the captain is not held responsible on his arrival into port, by virtue of the power delegated to him by the king.

We sailed from Singapore at midnight, on the eleventh of May, intending to pass through the straits of Rhio, and to touch at the Dutch port of that name in the island of Bintang. This port is the resort of American vessels; being excluded from Singapore, they are obliged to carry on their trade by means of coasting craft,[327] between the two ports, which causes an additional expense of about two and a half per centum. The wind being contrary from the southern quarter, and the strait very narrow, we were compelled to pass again through the straits of Singapore, between the Malay peninsula and Pedra Branca (white rock) into the China sea. The current being at times strongly against us, and the wind very light between S. W. and S. S. E., the ship was frequently brought to anchor in the China sea, which we found generally very smooth. On the eighteenth, we saw Pulo Toty—on the day following, the “Gooning” mountains on Banca. On the twenty-second, we anchored near the woody island of Gaspar, and sent a boat on shore, but not an inhabitant was discovered, it being only an occasional place of resort for pirates. On the twenty-fourth, we anchored in the straits of Gaspar, between the islands of Leat and Banca, and remained there till the thirtieth, the wind being from the southward, and contrary, and the current setting to the northward, from half a knot to three miles per hour; it being rather feeble between eight and ten, in the morning, and strongest towards midnight.


On the evening we anchored in the straits, we discovered twenty-one piratical proas off the north end of Pulo Leat, and fourteen off the southern point; rockets were thrown up by vessels stationed midway between the squadrons, during the night. The ship being in readiness for action, it is probable they discovered lights from the battle-lanterns on the gun-deck, during the night, for in the morning only a few scattered vessels were to be seen. We were at length released from this unpleasant strait, which has shipwrecked so many lives, either by being drowned, or else murdered by the savages which infest them, by a fine leading breeze, passed safely into the Java sea, through the great group called the “Thousand Islands,” and anchored on the fifth of June in the unhealthy roadstead of Batavia, where at length we found the United States’ schooner Boxer, Lieut. Comdt. Shields, at anchor awaiting our arrival. Having received a very hospitable invitation from Mr. Forrestice, an American merchant, of the first respectability, to reside with him at “Fancy Farm,” his beautiful country-seat, three miles from the city, I accepted his kind offer and remained there for nearly two months. According to history, the Portuguese first visited Java in 1511, an ambassador having been sent there from Malacca. The Dutch arrived in 1596, settling first at Bantam, but[328] they afterward removed to Jacatia and in 1618 it was seized by them, and all the inhabitants put to the sword who did not seek safety in flight; the walls of the ancient city were razed to the ground, the town burnt, and nothing remained but the name. On this spot was the present city of Batavia founded. The island, with the exception of five years, from 1811 to 1816, when it was in the possession of the British, has been held by no European nation, but the Dutch. The island of Java, called generally by the natives Jawa, is in a straight line to its extreme points six hundred and sixty-six statute miles: and in breadth, from fifty-six to one hundred and thirteen.

The origin of its name remains still in great uncertainty. The northern coast is low, and generally swampy and unhealthy. The southern coast, on the contrary, consists of a series of perpendicular rocks, but, generally speaking, it is low and swampy; in some places suddenly rising into hills, as about Angier. The largest mountains have an elevation of from five to twelve thousand feet—they plainly show their volcanic origin. The western part is called the Sunda country; and the eastern the Javan, or the country of the true Javanese. They occupy nearly equal parts; different languages are spoken in the two districts, mixed a good deal with Malay, which is almost wholly spoken on the seacoast. Java, like most mountainous countries, is extremely well watered; but the size of the island precludes the possibility of there being any large rivers. The rain commences with the westerly winds, in October, is at its height in December and January, gradually subsides in March or April, and is succeeded by easterly winds and fair weather.

During the rainy season, the whole of the extensive swamp, on which Batavia stands, is completely submerged, and the roads to the city are then nearly impassable; this is the season when reptiles abound, and moschetoes and insects bear sovereign sway. This is not the most unhealthy part of the year; but when the rains are subsiding, and expose an immense surface covered with vegetable matter, in a state of putridity, fevers, dysenteries, &c., &c., are then uplifted by every breeze, and borne on every wind.

The principal harbour of the island is Surabaya, which is formed by the approaching extremities of the eastern part of Java, and the[329] island of Madura. The second river in size, in Java, empties itself into the sea at this place. The next in importance, is Batavia; the roadstead is sheltered by several islands, in the outer part of the bay.

The population of Java and Madura, in 1815, amounted to four millions, six hundred and fifteen thousand, two hundred and seventy, of which ninety-four thousand four hundred and forty-one were Chinese; and the island of Madura contained two hundred and eighteen thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine. The population of the principal capitals was estimated as follows:—Batavia and its extensive suburbs have a circumference of about twenty-four miles, and contain about three hundred and fifteen thousand souls; Semarang, is calculated at twenty thousand; and Surabaya, at twenty-five thousand.


I herewith present a comparative statement of exports from Java, during ten years, according to the report of the customs:—

[†]Coffee. Pepper. Indigo. Arak. Hides.



Java exports, besides the articles named, camphire from Sumatra and the Celebes. Edible bird’s-nests, beeswax, gold dust, precious stones, saltpetre, teak and other timber, and cabinet woods, tobacco, stic-lac, brass, European, India and China goods; tin, from Banka, &c.; benzoin, bichos do mar, rattans, die-woods from Borneo and Sumatra, sandal and other fine woods, pungent oils, horses, Bali clothes, elephants’ teeth, Japan, copper, leather, areca-nuts, cubebs, boots, shoes, &c.

Imports during 1831.Imports during 1832.
Exports during 1831.Exports during 1832.

Passing the straits of Sunda, not touching at Angier, there arrived at Batavia, in one year, ending the first of July, 1833, twenty-nine American vessels, containing eleven thousand one hundred and thirty-eight tons; and touched at Angier, eighty-two[331] American vessels, containing twenty-seven thousand one hundred and thirty-nine tons; of these, twenty-four went to Batavia, the remainder to Canton, Manila, &c., &c.


To show the importance, in part, of American commerce, trading to the eastward of the cape of Good Hope, I herewith subjoin the following statement of arrivals at two ports in Java. It appears, by the custom-house returns, that there arrived at Batavia, in one year, ending the first of July, 1833, twenty-nine American vessels, amounting to eleven thousand one hundred and thirty-eight tons; and that eighty-two American vessels, having a tonnage of twenty-seven thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine tons, touched at Angier during one year, ending the first of June of the same year. This latter statement does not show all the vessels that passed through the straits of Sunda, and from the China and Java seas. If to this statement is added, the great and valuable conveyance to Sumatra, the bay of Bengal, &c., who will say it does not deserve the fostering and protecting hand of the government of the United States?

With the exception of two vessels, sent out on a special mission, the Peacock and Boxer, to Asia, &c., the visit of the Potomac to Qualah Battu, to punish an act of piracy and murder; with the hurried return of one or two vessels from the western coast of South America, which barely touch at Manila or Java for refreshments, this most valuable part of our commerce has been extremely neglected.


We have also a valuable whale-fishery on the coast of Japan; and accounts often reach us of American vessels being cast on shore, on the islands and reefs in the vast Indian Archipelago, the crew being either murdered or made slaves, until a ransom is paid for them, unless they are relieved by some humane merchantman or foreign man-of-war: there is not a single armed vessel of the United States to relieve or protect them. Our vast commerce to the eastward of the cape of Good Hope, most assuredly, should not be so overlooked, and left unprotected; at least, it deserves an occasional visit from our vessels of war, to Madagascar and the Comoro islands; the ports in east Africa, as far as Zanzibar and Mombos; to Mocha, in the Red sea, and the western coasts of India. They should also visit, once in two or three months, the native trading ports in Sumatra, and proceed as far as the western[332] coast of Japan, and among the islands of the Indian Archipelago, showing their flag, and conciliating, by every possible means, the natives they may meet, by giving them suitable presents occasionally, which would cost but a small sum. These visits ought to be paid once or twice during each and every subsequent year.

The totally unprotected state of our commerce, from the cape of Good Hope to Japan, deserves the immediate and constant protection and attention of the American government. The silkworm has never succeeded well, owing to the want of common information or gross negligence; therefore the chief material of Javan clothing is cotton. The favourite cloth made in the country is called batik, of which they make their sarongs, or loose clothes, which extend from the waist nearly to the ankles. If it is intended to ornament the cloth with one or more patterns, it is first steeped in cunjee, or rice-water, to prevent the colours from running; it is then dried and calendered; hot wax is then distributed over it, from a vessel, running through a small tube; the pattern is then formed by being traced, or etched over with a pointed stick. Every part which is intended to be white, is left covered with wax. It is then dipped once or more in the die, or else the die is placed on with a pencil. If two or more colours are intended, every part of the ground, excepting the new figure, is covered with wax, and so on till the whole figure is finished: the wax is then melted off in hot water. The figures have a velvet appearance, the edges of the different colours lessening in brightness. The only permanent colours are blue and scarlet, or red. They stamp palempores, or coverlids, with carved wooden blocks.

The English imitation cottons, readily fading, have been brought into disrepute. The kris, or kreese, is universally worn; and the value and beauty of the weapon, are a test of the rank or wealth of the wearer. In full dress, two are frequently worn, and sometimes even four: it seems to be an indispensable part of their dress. It is an instrument more suitable for assassination than for war.

Neither the nutmeg, clove, nor cinnamon, is indigenous; those which have been cultivated, are found to have thriven very well. But it does not comport with the views of the government to extend the cultivation of spices in Java: it is even in contemplation to destroy the rice plantations on Sumatra, in the neighbourhood of[333] Bencoolen. The vine was extensively cultivated in some of the eastern provinces; but the growth of it was discouraged by the government, as it interfered, at that time, with the Dutch possessions at the cape of Good Hope. The soap-tree, of which the kernel is used in washing; the cotton-tree, the wax and caoutchouc, or the tree which yields the gum-elastic, and the bamboo and rattan, are common. The cocoa-nut, and gomuti-palms, are also very abundant, &c., &c.


No region of the earth, says Marsden, can boast an equal abundance and variety of indigenous fruits as Java; but the Mangusteen bears the pre-eminence among Indian fruits, and, in the opinion of most foreigners, is superior to the cherrapayer of Lima, or any other known fruit; it suits the greatest diversity of tastes: is mildly acid, of a most delicate flavour, by no means luscious or cloying to the appetite; the shape is globular, the rind about a fourth of an inch in thickness, and it is as large as a good-sized apple; the shell is of a deep crimson or rather purple and quite brittle; disrobing it of its purple coat, there is displayed to view a snow-white pulp, distributed in three or four cloves; they are soft, very juicy, and occasionally touched with imperial purple, a colour once thought worthy of royalty only, and had it been known in ancient days, it would have been called the royal fruit; within this truly delicate pulp lies the seed. But in the opinion of the natives and many foreigners who have long resided in the East, the durian has the highest rank: the odour is peculiarly offensive to most foreigners, savouring of roasted onions: it has the appearance of bread-fruit, but the spires of the husk are larger: it is of a spherical shape, generally, and the size of a man’s head, some being larger; when ripe they are yellow, and crack like a ripe melon, at the stalk end: they are generally split into quarters, each one having several small cells, that enclose the fruit, which is covered with a pellicle or skin, and encloses a stone covered also with a skin; these are roasted and eaten, and partake of the flavour of chestnuts; the fruit is the size of a small egg, white as milk but sometimes tinged with yellow, and as soft as cream; it can only be eaten when at maturity; it grows on the body or greater branches of the tree, is the product only of the Indian islands, and does not grow in Siam or Cochin-China; it is always more expensive than any other fruit. I do not deem it necessary to name any other fruits, excepting the[334] wild raspberry, which grows in the mountains, and the fruits named in the account of Buitenzorg.

Of esculent vegetables which contribute to the food and sustenance of man, rice is the most important, of which it is said there are upward of a hundred varieties. Maize or Indian corn ranks next. They cultivate also wheat, the sweet and the American or European potato, the yam or ubi, and pulse in a great variety; the bread-fruit also, and most of the vegetables of colder climates, the seed being imported continually from the cape of Good Hope.

Neither milk, nor any preparation from it, is prized by the natives; salted eggs are an important article of food: they are covered with equal parts of salt and ashes, or salt and brick-dust, made into a thick paste: it preserves them for many months.

The chewing of areca-nut, as well as siri or betel-leaf, tobacco and gambir, is common to all classes. Every person who is able owns a siri-box, more or less valuable; opium is exceedingly coveted by them, and is both chewed and smoked; added to these is the disgusting practice of holding tobacco between the lips, and at one corner of the mouth, the saliva from it staining the lips, and running over the chin; they use, also, arrack, and an intoxicating liquor made from the gomuti palm.

There are no metals or precious stones, but there are many minerals.

They possess a fine breed of horses, strong, fleet, and well made, of about thirteen hands high—also the ox, buffalo, goats, some sheep, and the hog. Of wild beasts, there are several species of tiger, cat, the jackall, wild dog, rhinoceros or wild Javan ox, the wild hog and the stag, the rib-faced and axis deer, the weasel, squirrel, and a variety of monkeys. The turkey, goose, duck, fowls; also, two kinds of parrots: the peacock, falcon, carrion-crow, and the owl. The number of birds of distinct species are said not much to exceed two hundred.





I now proceed to give some account of Batavia, &c. Although this city is situated in the midst of low, marshy ground, abounding in rice-swamps, and considered as the most unhealthy spot in the world, yet it is, nevertheless, a great commercial place, and is much frequented by vessels bound to or from the China sea, Hindostan, Sumatra, Singapore, &c., &c.; and it is the only place in the world which has any trade to Japan, with the exception of China. It is most conveniently situated to obtain commercial information, and for refreshments. Before Singapore was made a free port, it was the principal mart for the country trade of the East Indies. Subsequently it has much diminished, and the very valuable trade with the Bugis, or natives of the Celebes, and other islanders of the Indian Archipelago, has been entirely diverted to Singapore, where the traders can always obtain a ready sale for their cargoes, and receive, in return, European, India, and Chinese goods, at more moderate prices, without having to pay any duties, or be subject to those inconvenient restrictions, which are so annoying in Dutch ports.

The immense ware-houses, running from street to street, situated on the great canal and river, leading into the bay, which were once burdened with merchandise, are now scantily filled, or nearly empty; and there are but few places so large as Batavia, in the present day, which show less signs of an active commerce, less bustle on the quays, or exhibit a greater degree of dulness, and want of bustle in the streets. This is owing, in part, to the belli[336]gerent attitude of Holland and Belgium; the alarming war with the Sumatrans; the establishment of a free port by the British; but more particularly, to the narrow-contracted views of the government, in regard to commerce. The Dutch government wish to drive all foreign commerce from their ports in Netherlands’ India, with the exception of the native traders of the Indian isles; and to extend, if it be possible, their unjust and iniquitous system of monopolies, and of forced cultivation, upon the natives, which have so often driven them to despair and revolt, causing whole districts, containing many thousands, to abandon their lands and their homes, and fly to the fastnesses of the mountains, or to what are called the native provinces—preferring a very precarious mode of living, to being made the worst of slaves to the worst of masters, by being forced to cultivate coffee, and then to sell it for about half its fair market value, to the Dutch company, leaving them, in fact, no means of support.

Old Batavia is but the shadow of what it was in former days. It was once called the “Queen of the East;” her merchants were “princes of the earth,” in point of wealth, and lived in a style of magnificence, which far surpassed every other to the eastward of the cape of Good Hope, with the exception, in more modern days, of Calcutta. A traveller, visiting Batavia at the present day, inquires for the splendid palaces, noble avenues of trees, and neat canals, with the gay pleasure-boats, which used to be seen sporting on their surface, accompanied with music, and graced with numberless enchanting females. He then visits the most fashionable streets of former days, and a truly painful sight is presented at every step: of choked canals covered with slime, and green stagnant pools, a resort of frogs and snakes, and other reptiles. The noble avenues of trees, which led to splendid habitations, and the heavy, massive gateways, are still seen; but the houses are either crumbling in the dust, or else a miserable palm-leaf hovel encumbers the space they once ornamented. But the gay inhabitants, who once gave life and animation to these fair scenes, where are they? Alas! fled with “the years beyond the flood.” Their bodies lie mouldering, not only in the tens of thousands, or even the hundreds of thousands, but in the millions of graves which occupy, for many miles in extent, the city and its suburbs.

They present a most painful and humiliating spectacle to every[337] beholder, whose feelings are not wholly callous to so sad a scene. The tenantable houses which remain, are occupied by a squalid and sickly race of Chinese, Malays and Bugis, who are generally very poor, and live upon the scantiest substance, being unable to remove to a better country, away from the pestiferous air which destroys their health, occasioned by deleterious swamps, stagnant pools, and the miasma which is constantly generating from the decomposition of vegetable matter.

It may be thought that I have given an exaggerated statement of the frightful mortality which has prevailed, and frequently does prevail at Batavia—which clothes the ground with graves, and encumbers it with monuments; but the returns of the Dutch records, according to Raynal, give the deaths of eighty-seven thousand sailors and soldiers, in the hospitals, from 1714 to 1776; and upward of one million of inhabitants, in the very short space of twenty-two years, from 1730 to 1752, which can no longer leave any doubts as to its perfect correctness.

Since the walls of the city were demolished by the British, and a great number of filthy and useless canals have been filled up, the general opinion is, (and more particularly within the last half dozen years,) that the old town is rather less sickly than formerly; however, no new houses are being erected within the city proper, but are extending altogether beyond the old barrier, in a southerly and easterly direction towards the country, from two to five miles, where it has been found much more healthy.

Stately avenues of trees line the roads, and the few canals remaining are kept more clean than formerly. The modern houses are airy and spacious, generally of one story in height, and surrounded generally, with very wide piazzas. The avenues leading to the houses are kept neatly gravelled; and the grounds are adorned with trees, shrubs, and flowers: showing a correct taste which seems (to make use of a mercantile phrase) to have been imported from England, for it is quite at variance with the general style of laying out Dutch pleasure-grounds. In fact, there is an air of neatness and comfort displayed, which serves to divert the mind from dwelling too much on the fact, that you are living in the midst of this store-house of disease, where you are constantly warned by the inhabitants to keep away from every partial draft of air, for if the perspiration is checked, a fever or diarrhœa, or more[338] fatal dysentery will ensue; and you are again warned, if the sea-breeze should set in early, before the sun has had time to absorb the exhalations, the malaria of the marshes, to keep within your room with closed doors. The night air is also highly deleterious, and the fervid rays of a noonday sun not less fatal, so that no person who is able fails to keep a carriage. Constant and profuse perspiration soon impairs the digestive organs, loss of appetite follows and debility ensues: mental and bodily exertion becomes painful, and the health is soon impaired.

These are a few among the many, many drawbacks of an unhealthy tropical climate; yet every climate is to be found in Java, from the most unhealthy to the most salubrious, from swamps teeming with exhalations in the highest degree noxious, to the pure mountain-breeze, which brings health on its wings, and is redolent with the sweets wafted from a thousand fragrant flowers.

The merchants go to the city about nine, take tiffin at their counting-houses at twelve, return to the country about four, and dine between six and seven. As soon as the lights appear on the table, it is the signal for the sport of myriads of moschetoes and midges. Boots are then indispensable, unless the feet and ankles are otherwise well covered; when the knife and fork do not claim the attention, your hands are industriously employed in driving off these eternal pests from the exposed parts of the body.

The hospitality of the English, Scotch, and Americans, is proverbial, and they live upon the most amicable terms; there is none of that petty jealousy, and bad feeling, which is seen to exist among rival houses, in many other places.

The custom-house stands on the brink of the great canal, which leads into the bay, and where it once terminated, it probably extends now three quarters of a mile beyond it, to the barrier or break-water, which has lately been erected at its entrance; it is extremely shallow, suitable only for very small craft, and as it is constantly filling up by accumulations of filth from the city, and by mud and sand thrown in by the sea-breeze, it is probable it will within a few years, extend as far again into the bay. As a baneful monopolizing spirit seems to pervade this government in almost every particular, even the poor fishermen are not exempt, who labour continually in a broiling sun, or a deluge of rain, following their vocation far at sea. Their fish are sold at public auction at two o’clock[339] every afternoon, so that the government may take their share of the “fishes” which fall to their lot; the “loaves” are obtained from the poor cultivators of the soil. The retailers, mostly Chinese, buy and hawk them about in baskets every where, at a very considerably advanced price.

The criminals repairing and extending the canal, may be hourly seen in the water, among caymans or huge alligators, and are said never to have been molested by them, but in one instance, while a white man is certain to be seized at once. If the alligator show a decided preference for the whites, the buffaloes throughout India show a very strong aversion to them, and either attack them or run from them in dismay; yet the smallest Indian boy has them under complete control.

The buffaloes, on the great western prairies in the United States, show the same aversion to the whites, or probably to all hunters, and, whenever they see them, they fly in great terror; the hunters, therefore, always go to leeward of the herd.


The Chinese burying-grounds occupy a vast extent of land in the suburbs; I may say, with truth, of many miles. Near one of them is an old temple, in which are deposited, probably, fifteen or twenty idols, principally made of granite, dug up at various times, on the island. They are said to be of Javanese origin, but they must have been brought thither by Bramins in bygone days. The Chinese worship them, as they do every thing else that bears the remotest appearance to “the human face divine,” or any of the hideous images representing the demon of mischief—any thing, but the one, great, invisible Being. The public archives are kept in the extensive building, called the palace, at Weltevoredem.

The governor does not occupy this building, when in town, but a much smaller one, on the street of which the “Genootschap,” or academy of arts and sciences occupies one part, in the building kept for public parties, called the “Harmonic.”

The palace is a noble building, and kept in good order. In the audience hall are about forty pictures, of the Dutch governor-generals of Netherlands’ India. Some of them are dressed in very quaint costume, and if their countenances are faithfully represented, I must say, no man would willingly change faces with the greater part of them. There are a few, however, of noble and[340] manly features, who have nothing savouring of the “thumbscrew” in their countenances. Generally, the paintings are bad—some four or five are very valuable. A full-length portrait of his present majesty is placed at the head of the room.

The wages paid to servants have nearly doubled within a few years; the present rate is from six to twelve guilders (equal to two dollars, forty cents, or four dollars, eighty cents) per month, out of which they furnish their provisions in part, which consist principally of rice, it being a very cheap article in Java. Considering that each servant attends to but one piece of duty—that one bujong attends to the cutting of grass only, for two horses, which occupies but a small part of the day, and that the larger portion of the time of the almost innumerable servants is spent in idleness, labour is excessively high, compared with that of any other country, even the dearest parts of the United States. The house-servants, with few exceptions, are Malays, who speak no English.

The Genootschap, or Academy of Arts and Sciences, has a small library of a few hundred volumes. With the exception of a model of a bridge, a Javanese lion, some half dozen miniature models of Japanese houses, warlike instruments, a few coins, and a few common shells, there is nothing worth naming.

Our kind Batavian friends accompanied us on board, and on the twenty-second of July we sailed for Angier, where we arrived the following day. During our stay the thermometer ranged in the roadstead from 83° to 89°, and the barometer between 29.75 to 29.95. There were only five days on which it rained, and then only light showers. There were some cases of dysentery, diarrhœa, and fevers, but there were no deaths among the crew. There were about two cases of dysentery to one of fever.

Toward midnight, on the twenty-eighth of July, as the moon was gently sinking behind the mountains which overlook the campong of Angier, a light land-breeze suddenly sprung up. Orders were immediately given to weigh anchor. The shrill whistle of the boatswain and his two mates, followed by their deep grum voices, calling all hands, “roused many a heavy sleeper, unwillingly from his hammock,” wishing the boatswain, and his call together, in Davy Jones’s locker. We were under way in a few minutes, in company with the Boxer, proceeding through the straits of Sunda, having once more launched into the Indian ocean.[341] The lofty peak, of Crokatoa, the mountainous island of Tamarind, and the lesser islands of Thwart, the Way, the Button, and the Cap, with part of the coast of Sumatra, were distinctly visible. Before losing sight of Prince’s island, the wind came from the southward and eastward, accompanied with fine weather, which continued to waft us rapidly over the rolling billows to the westward, till the sixteenth of August, having run our westing down mostly between the latitude of 10° 11″ to secure strong breezes; being then in latitude about 2° south and 52″ east longitude, the wind veered to the southwest, but without any diminution of strength, or any alteration of the fine weather we had previously enjoyed. It continued until the evening of the twentieth, when we descried, first, the most easterly land on the continent of Africa, cape Orfui, otherwise called, by the Arabs, Ras Hafoon; then the mountains lying to the northward of this cape, called Gebel Jordafoon; and then cape Guardafui, or the cape of burials; the northeast extremity of Africa, and the southernmost cape of the gulf of Arabia. The land appeared like the outline of a well-defined cloud, high in the heavens. The next morning, we doubled close round this bold promontory, which was so formidable in ancient times to the timid Arabian mariner.


“The shrill spirit of the storm sat not dim upon the bluff brow,” “nor enjoyed the death of the mariner,” for the morning was bright, and fair, and joyous. The loud roaring of the sea shamed not the thunder, as it was wont to do, for it was almost unruffled. The tremendous sound of the mysterious bell, which was wont to be heard high above the loud surges of the ocean, warning the mariner of his fate, if he approached too boldly, was hushed; and the bodiless hand, which was seen to give it motion, had disappeared in the lapse of ages. We kept close to the northern shore, as far as Metté, or Burnt island, to take the benefit of a current setting to the westward.

Being so near the land, we suffered severely from the hot, suffocating air of this inhospitable region. Clothes were a burden, sleep fled from us, and the slightest exertion was painful. The whole aspect of the land was most dreary and most desolate. Mountains and plains of sand, only, were presented to our view, looking “like drifted gold in summer’s cloudless beam.” Not a tree, nor a shrub, nor scarcely a blade of grass, to relieve the eye[342] of the extreme aridity of this vast wilderness. Here and there, at great intervals, were a few miserable huts, in a gully, formed by the washing away of the sand; and the great comfort derived from the “shadow of a high rock in a hot and dreary land,” would have been felt here as an inestimable blessing. Now and then, a naked and poverty-stricken fisherman was seen stealing along the shore, propelling, with his double-bladed paddle, a frail catamaran, made of two or three sticks of wood, sitting to his waist in water, having a rush sack to put his fish in, and liable to be made the prey of the voracious blue shark, which abounds in these waters. He was in search of what could not be found on the land, to wit, something edible; something to nourish his own frail body, or satisfy the cravings of a famishing wife, and a brood of naked, starving, helpless children.

We were a few days in accomplishing the short distance of two hundred and forty miles, from the cape to Metté, and then shaped our course for cape Aden in Arabia Felix, which we descried the following morning, presenting a bold, broken outline. We continued coasting along the shore till the twenty-ninth, when we spoke an East India company’s cruiser, the Nautilus, the same brig which the Peacock captured at the termination of the late war with Great Britain. She had under convoy four brigs from Mocha, bound to Surat. They were very much crowded with good mussulmans, from Mecca, who had been on a pilgrimage to the holy city, and were purified of all their sins, past, present, and to come, by the waters of the miraculous well of Zemzen, &c., and were now sure of admission into the sensual paradise of the prophet.

The triple and quadruple mountains of Yemen were distinctly visible, and the sandy coast was interrupted at intervals by high land, till we made the broken hill which forms the celebrated cape of Death, or cape of Tears, Babel Mandeb, better known to the world as Babel Mandel. The passage between this headland and the island of Perim, and Babel Mandeb, is less than a mile and a half wide according to the chart of Sir Home Popham. It is called by modern navigators the lesser Bab, or Gate.


Head winds and adverse currents obliged us to enter the Red sea through the great channel formed between Perim and the group of islands, called “Souamba,” or the Eight Brothers, lying on the Abyssinian shore. We therefore had on either hand Afri[343]ca and Asia in full view, both equally steril and lofty in the interior. Although the distance is but forty miles to Mocha, from the straits, yet it occupied the remaining two days of the month to effect it, owing to contrary currents and winds. We anchored in five fathoms water, at the distance of two miles from the shore; immediately on anchoring, a lieutenant (Brent) was sent on shore to the dowlah or governor, to say that a salute of fifteen guns should be given, if an equal number were returned; this was promptly complied with. We found Mocha in possession of a Turkish rebel chieftain, Turkie ben al Mas by name, who it seems has held it for the last seven months; he was an officer in the service of Mehemet Ali the celebrated pacha of Egypt, and being discontented with his situation he thought it best to carve out for himself, with the assistance of his sword, a little good fortune, in the shape of a governor over a few cities; he collected together a number of followers, soldiers of fortune, who are always to be found in Egypt, as well as in Turkey and elsewhere, ready to draw the sword for those who will pay the best and make the largest promises. These troops consisted of Turks, Copts or Egyptians, Bedouin and other Arabs, and Abyssinians. It seems on his march from Grand Cairo, where the expedition was planned, he conquered the principal places, lying on the Arabian side of the Red sea; meeting with some opposition at Judda alias Djidda, the port of disembarkation for pilgrims going to the holy city of Mecca, it was plundered and many of the inhabitants were slain. Here he found seven large East India built ships, armed and equipped, belonging to his late master; of these, he took forcible possession, putting on board some troops, and ordering them to Mocha to co-operate with his army which proceeded by land. He marched on with about three thousand men, capturing on his way Hodeida, Loheia, &c., till he came to Zebid, better known as Waled Zebid: here he met with considerable opposition, but finally it was obliged to submit to the “strong arm.” Exasperated at the resistance made by the dowlah, he ordered him to be put to the most cruel death—such a one as could only enter into the imagination of a fiend of darkness. A copper cap was made, heated red hot, then fitted to his head, and his brains were literally fried out, he dying in the most excruciating tortures. This place (Mocha) capitulated after some slight skirmishing, on condition that the dowlah and the garrison should be suffered to depart unmo[344]lested, with their arms, accoutrements and baggage, to the interior; this was faithfully complied with as it regarded the troops; they were suffered to depart without molestation to the mountains of Yemen. The dowlah was promised every indulgence, and the conqueror apparently took a deep interest in his welfare. He was asked, with great seeming kindness, if he had a family, wives and children, in the interior, and if he did not wish to see them speedily. He answered in the affirmative, and expressed himself in very forcible and affectionate terms—such as may be supposed to emanate from a man of ardent temperament, and one whose feelings are centred in the bosom of his family. He was informed that all his fears should be speedily hushed, that he should depart for the mountains, and be allowed a body-guard for his protection. On the second night after their departure, as they drew near the first rise of mountains, and within sight of the hills which overlooked the home of his children, anticipating the delightful pleasure of once more beholding and embracing them, as he was resting on the ground and partaking an humble meal, he was most treacherously and cruelly shot, in two places, through the back, and there left to be a prey for the eagle and jackall of the mountains; while his poor and fatherless children were daily and hourly looking from their tent-doors into the valleys, wondering why he tarried so long, and complaining of his tardiness; but, alas, their eyes were never destined to behold him more.


By a particular invitation, we visited the conqueror. We landed at a stone-pier, and shortly passed through one of the city-gates. After winding through extremely narrow and crooked streets, which were as hot as the blast from a “baker’s oven,” we arrived at a building dignified with the name of “the palace,” fronting an open space of ground on one side, and on another, overlooking the harbour. There were, lounging about the grand entrance, a goodly number of his cut-throats, whose trade and pastime are blood, armed to the teeth, and ready for service. We were conducted through long dark passages, up a precipitous staircase, wide enough only for one person to advance at a time. Landing places were frequent, and heavy doors at each, so as to cut off all communication: wherever a soldier could be placed on the narrow landings or passages, either above or below, there was no space left empty. In passing through the entrance, up this narrow stairway,[345] the scene of so much bloodshed at different times, we were strongly impressed with the idea, that the lumps of dirt and the spots on the walls, were the blood and brains of many a victim; and however erroneous the opinion might be, we imagined every thing about the palace smelt of blood, as though it were the shambles of wretched human beings.

We passed through the anteroom, filled with his body guard, and found him reclining on a raised settee, covered with Turkey carpets. Captain G. and myself were requested to take seats on each side of him—he placing himself in the corner of the settee, probably as a precautionary means against treachery. He was a stout, noble looking man, having a bushy black beard and mustaches; his aspect was by no means ferocious. He was rather plainly dressed, in dark striped silk, and wore the red cloth cap.

He treated us with great affability and kindness, expressed himself highly gratified at the sight of two American men-of-war, (being the first, as we understood, that had ever entered the port.) He offered every assistance in his power, and sent to the ship a present of some bullocks, sheep, and vegetables. Our conversation related principally to the difference in charges paid on English and American vessels. It seems the English vessels pay a duty of two and a quarter per cent., without any other charges, while the Americans pay three per cent. Anchorage money, which was one hundred and eighty, has been increased as high as three hundred and fifty dollars on the largest vessels, although it has been lessened lately to two hundred and fifty: the harbour-master, also, is paid twenty-three dollars: there are, besides, some smaller impositions. He promised to do all that lay in his power, to equalize the charges on English and American vessels; but said that the government was in a very unsettled state at present; that he had sent despatches to the sultan of Stamboul, alias, Constantinople, announcing the conquest of this and other places in his name, and that he was now awaiting his orders, &c.

The wide anteroom-doors being open, the guard was within a few feet of us, and heard all our conversation. They were principally Turks: some wore the turban, and others the red military cap. They were heavily armed about the waist, with two pair of horse-pistols, a cimeter, and perhaps with one or two daggers; the handles of all being fancifully inlaid with silver. Their com[346]plexions were generally of a light olive, with black eyes and long beards. Some were quite white, having small very light blue eyes. They were fine looking men, possessing stout muscular frames. The sleeves of many were tucked up to the shoulder, showing a very brawny arm. They stood in a respectful attitude, but not cringing, like a Siamese or Cochin-Chinese, in the presence of a superior. They were indolent in their appearance, yet the ferocity of the tiger lurked in their countenances. A sign or a nod; a word, or even a wink, was sufficient for these blood-hounds to lay us dead at their master’s feet. But such fears were far from us, or that the delicious coffee of Yemen, which we were sipping, was imbued with poison.

Part of his fine stud of Arabian horses were handsomely caparisoned and brought to the door, for us to ride through the town and into the suburbs, to see the extensive villages of the Arabs, Sommanlis, or Abyssinians. The village, occupied formerly by the Jews, was deserted; what had become of them, we could not learn. Two slaves were placed at the stirrup of each horse to accompany the party: for the most part of the way they kept pace with the riders. These villages are situated, generally, in the midst of extensive date-groves. The houses of the Sommanlis have neat conical roofs, made of date-leaves, or coarse rushes, and the sides are of the same material, or of mats. They have woolly hair mostly, extremely black skins, but prominent noses, limbs well formed, fine teeth, and rather pleasant countenances: they are as straight built as the young areca.

There is a strange fashion prevailing among the fops of this village; that of changing the colour of their wool to a light brown or yellow; but as the colouring of gray hair, among a more civilized people, is by no means uncommon, they are not, therefore, altogether singular. These fops had no other covering to boast of than a waist-cloth.


The lofty mountains of Yemen afford great relief to the inland prospect; but in the immediate vicinity of Mocha, there is only an extensive date-grove; elsewhere every thing is desolate and steril: the eye wanders in vain for an oasis, for some green spot, and sees only tufts of coarse brown grass, and a plain of sand. The town has a very neat and substantial appearance from the roadstead, presenting to the view a compact mass of white buildings, mosques,[347] minarets, and castles, breaking only the uniformity of the scene. They are lofty, so as to catch every breeze which passes over the walls—are flat-roofed, and the inhabitants sleep on them in consequence of the excessive heat. They are protected, in part, against the baneful effects arising from heavy dews, and from the power of the moon, by a light leaf roof; are clumsily built, mostly of brick baked in the sun; and there is no appearance that a level was ever used. The floors are undulating, like the waves of the sea. Crooked, dark, and narrow passages, and steep staircases, with strong doors at every landing, ready to be barricaded in case of an insurrection, or an enemy making his appearance, are common in every house: in fact, every dwelling is a strong castle. On entering within the city walls, all idea of comfort instantly vanishes; dirty, intricate streets are every where lumbered with the rubbish from ruined buildings; turbaned heads, the red military cap, and loose floating garments, are seen at every step, all being heavily armed about the waist, “ready to do battle;” women, with closely veiled faces; porters, sweating most profusely, under heavy loads of luscious dates, oozing through the meshes of the slight mat covering; strings of camels, laden with coffee, &c., from Yemen, lying in the streets, munching their allotted portion of hard brown beans, or bearing about skins of water for sale; asses, without number, laden variously; small droves of miserable cattle, or rather frames set up ready for filling out, if sufficient encouragement should be given to effect it. Abyssinian sheep, covered with hair instead of wool, having broad tails, hanging nearly to the ground: they are mostly black-headed, affording delicious mutton: goats, every where, grown fat even upon the coarsest rushes, and the twigs and leaves of the common thorn. But the most distressing sight is that of the poor, blind, diseased, and lame beggars, which meet you every where, in the streets and in the bazars, at the mosque-doors and at the doors of the palace, in the suburbs and at the gates of the city, begging most earnestly for the smallest pittance, for even one or two commassées, (a small copper coin, being three hundred and eighty to the dollar,) or a few cowries. Some of them were mere walking skeletons; their frames being covered with shrivelled brown parchment, stretched over what resembled bunches of dried catgut, being the muscular parts of the body. They had deep sunken cheeks, hollow to the bones, and sharp noses; the nostrils[348] being so nipped in as to present only the mark of an orifice, like an old closed and deep-cut wound, badly united: not a particle of flesh was on their legs, arms, or their collapsed bodies. Some could walk, but how it was effected, in their extremely emaciated condition, was a mystery of wonder; the slightest breath of wind would almost overpower them; and I was, several times, upon the eve of holding out my hands to save these shadows from being dashed to the ground. Death stared them in the face, and only suffered them to remain in misery a few moments longer, that they might complete, perhaps, their allotted task of penance, for the vile deeds done in the body.

We passed through extensive covered bazars, which appeared to be well supplied with goods. The size of some of the shops, or rather closets, was extremely small, the vender sitting with his legs under him, having every thing within reach of his hands. There was but little fruit and vegetables for sale, but fish and fowls, goats, sheep, and bullocks, in abundance; plenty of dates; some highly-flavoured, but extremely small oblong grapes; raisins, without seed; and ordinary pomegranates. Occasionally, there may be had water-melons, sweet potatoes, onions, a superior kind of sorrel, and some long gourds.

About the coffee-houses, (or rather sheds,) were seen, in groups, soldiers, smoking their chebouks, and sipping their small cups (resembling egg-cups) of coffee, made from the husk of the berry, without the addition of sugar or milk. They were generally reclining on rough-made settees, covered with the strong leaf of the date-palm. They were of all shades, from the deep black to the brown Bedouin, and to the unadulterated white from Georgia and the Caucasian mountains. They were, with scarcely an exception, men of noble features: their dresses were as various as the nations they came from. They pay only three or four commassées for their refreshments. This small coin, and cowries, are the only currency used in the bazars for small transactions; but Spanish dollars and German crowns are almost wholly used in larger ones; and Persian rupees, and those of Bombay and Surat, and foreign gold, are no strangers. During the time I was examining this motley group of strange beings, the hour of evening prayer drew nigh. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains of Abyssinia, a loud cry was heard—“Hark!” cried many voices:—


“Hark, from the mosque, the nightly solemn sound,
The Muezzin’s call doth shake the minaret;
‘There is no God but God: to prayer—lo! God is great.’”

Each one then spread his garment, or a mat, upon the ground, and instantly the assembled multitude of Mussulmans were on their knees, facing to the north towards Mecca, and praying to Allah with low prostrations, and every outward demonstration of intense devotion. It was a pleasing sight even to a “Giaour,” to one who never doubted the founder of their religion was not the “true prophet;” but still, it must be acknowledged, he was of infinite service in turning millions from gross idolatry, to the worship of “one true and ever-living God.”


The export of coffee from this place, annually, is about eight thousand bales, of three hundred and five pounds each; and the price, at present, is said to be from twenty-nine to thirty-two dollars per bale; but we paid at the rate of thirty-six dollars for some bales of the very first quality. A small part of this goes to the Persian gulf, to Surat, and Bombay, probably making, altogether, one half; the remainder is taken by the Americans. From the other ports in the Red sea, as high up as Djedda, (Judda,) it is carried to El Coseir, or Kooseir, Suez, &c.; and so on to Egypt, Turkey, &c. Gum Arabic, myrrh, frankincense, dates, and a few smaller articles, may be added to the list of exports. The difficulty of egress, during the northeast monsoon, the wind and current adverse and very strong, which commences about the latter part of September, is a great obstacle in trading to this port. If it was possible to direct the trade to Aden, situated a hundred miles to the eastward of cape Babel Mandeb, which is furnished with two good harbours, this very serious obstacle would be obviated. In no part of the world have I seen fish in greater abundance; they go in immense shoals, and appear, to an inexperienced eye, like low breakers over spits of sand, or a barred harbour. Birds are, in great numbers, hovering over them, waiting with impatience for their portion of food. Rock-weed is seen floating down the Red sea in great quantities. The only boat used for fishing, is the catamaran, similar to those already described. The stationary number of inhabitants in the city, is said not to exceed five thousand; but, at present, there are probably about ten thousand, in addition, including the soldiers, women and children, and other fol[350]lowers of the army. In the environs of the city, are seen thousands of miserable beings, lying on mats or on the sand, having a slight tent made of the date-leaf, a mat or two, or some rags tacked together, possessing little or no covering for the body, and apparently scarcely any thing on which to feed it, to prevent the immortal part from deserting the mortal.

I observed, in several houses, the “transparent stone,” which is placed over the tops of the latticed windows; there was as much light shed through it as through ground glass.

The colour of the Red sea has long given occasion to a variety of conjectures and speculations. Doctor Ehrenberg discovered that it was owing to small animalcules, which he names, “oscillatoria,” which hold a rank midway between plants and animals. This colour may hold good, as it regards the more northern part of the sea, but at Mocha it is of a light sea-green.




We remained in Mocha roads only two days, and then sailed, on the evening of the first of September, for Muscat. Owing to light winds, we did not pass the “Lesser Bab,” or the narrow straits of Babel Mandel, till three o’clock in the morning of the third, having drifted through them by the help of the current, in a night resplendently beautiful, and “in silence” passed we “through the Gate of Tears.”

Nothing remarkable occurred on our passage through the gulf and sea of Arabia, till the thirteenth, when we made Ras el Had, or cape Rosselgate, being the extreme northeastern limit of Arabia, having had the winds, during the passage, very light, from the southward and westward. Ras el Had is a low sandy point. A range of high mountains form the background of the landscape, which have an altitude of nearly seven thousand feet; this is a link in a chain of mountains, which extend as far as the Devil’s Gap and Kuriat, and are known by the name of Jeebel Huthera, or the Green mountains. Off the cape, were a great number of small boats fishing, principally with spears and grains; the harpooner standing in the bow, who, immediately on striking a fish, sprung into the water, more effectually to secure his prey. Sharks appeared to be their object, which are dried and shipped to various places; and the fins reserved solely for the China market. The surface of the water was red with myriads of crabs, which were sent forth by the Great Provider of all things, to sustain the larger fish. The day previous to our arrival, as we lay at anchor, a few miles from Muscat, a boat was despatched, under the command of Acting-[352]Lieutenant Brent, to the sultan, to inform him of our arrival, and the object of the visit. The boat returned laden with abundance of exquisite grapes, of four different kinds, and ripe dates, just plucked from the trees, and strung together like large golden beads, refreshing to the taste, and by no means too luscious or cloying to the appetite. There were other fruits also sent, such as the season afforded, with a number of goats and sheep, being presents from the sultan; bringing also complimentary messages, and congratulating us on our safe arrival, and expressing himself highly flattered, that, at length, United States’ ships-of-war should, for the first time, visit his ports, and more especially for the object of the mission. On the evening of the eighteenth, we anchored in Muscat cove, in company with the Boxer. The winds from the cape, were very light, from between southwest and southeast; and the current constantly against us, setting out of the Persian gulf. The coast appeared to be nearly as steril as that of Abyssinia or Somauli, being mountainous, barren, rocky, and sandy; but villages were much oftener to be seen, and frequently of a large size, in the midst of groves of the date-palm. Boats also were in great numbers, and well built, instead of the frail catamaran; they were provided with cotton sails, and the owners were, apparently, better fed than those about the Red sea, and wore most venerable long beards, quite outstripping any of the goat family. The waters were teeming with food—fish were in greater abundance, if it be possible, than about Mocha. In the morning, an interchange of salutes took place. The harbour, or rather cove of Muscat, is extremely limited in its dimensions; it does not exceed three fourths of a mile in depth, from its entrance at the small islet, called the Fishers’ Rock, lying off the northern part of the Muscat island, and its width, between the fort on the island, and another fort on the main, on the western shore, is scarcely one half its depth. It is open to the north, and during the prevalence of northerly and westerly gales, in the winter, a heavy sea is thrown in. The cove is bounded by very precipitous black rocks, running up to the height of three or four hundred feet, being much jagged or serrated; and on the higher parts are perched small circular towers, which are said to have been placed there by the Portuguese, in the “olden-time,” when they held possession of the place. They are, apparently, inaccessible to every thing, but hawks, gulls, and sea-swal[353]lows, which abound in its caverns and fissures. No place (excepting always a plain of sand) presents a more forbidding aspect than this; not a green thing is to be seen, whether tree, shrub, or plant, from the roadstead. The town and its two castles, which crown the tops of very high rocks, to the east and to the north, and which are evidently intended as much to overawe and defend the town, as the harbour, together with the two forts and its towers, are the only objects (if I may except a few white stone houses) which at all relieve the dreary prospect. Unless the wind blows from the northward, or a strong breeze from the southward and eastward, through the narrow gap, which separates Muscat island from the main land, the heat is excessive, for there is not the slightest degree of elasticity in the air; and the heated rocks are never cooled during three fourths of the year, and the sun seems to dart forth its rays with great malignity. During our stay, the night wind occasionally blew from the land, and then the heat was almost insupportable; every one complained of its suffocating effects, the perspiration poured from the body like rain, and the strength was at once prostrate. The town lies at the bottom of the cove, at the only level spot to be seen, between very high ridges of rocks in the southwestern quarter. It is walled, excepting the part fronting the harbour, having round towers at the principal angles. With the exception of the sultan’s palace, whose walls are bathed on the harbour side by “Oman’s green waters,” and on another side by the bazar, a narrow, dark covered street, and a few other decent looking houses, miserably built of stone, and coated with chunam, the larger portion are small, dark, and filthy, made of palm-branches only, or at best covered with mats, or coated with mud, so that the periodical rains frequently demolish a considerable portion of the city, and they are then seen floating in fragments through the streets, which are converted into so many canals, by the torrents of water which descend from the circumjacent mountains. A mat laid on the bare earth, is the bed of the occupants, and their hands pillow their heads; an earthen pot is their only cooking utensil, and dried camel’s dung and palm-branches their fuel. Dates and fish, in scanty quantities, twice a day, form generally their meals; and when they are so fortunate as to obtain a few ounces of goat-meat, it is cut into small pieces, and roasted on wooden skewers. The inhabitants are indolent, and those who are[354] neither sailors nor soldiers, mechanics nor merchants, are miserably poor. Beggars are every where, and it is even a more remarkable place for blind people than Mocha; they are seen in groups at the corners of the streets, crying out in the most piteous manner, for the love of Allah, the holy prophet, and all the santons, to give them something to relieve their wretched condition. The lanes, or rather slits, between the buildings, are very irregular, encumbered with filth and rubbish; and the houses are similar in construction to those of Mocha. The city, within the walls, is reported to contain about twelve thousand inhabitants, and as every foot of ground is covered with buildings, (there being neither gardens nor open squares,) I suppose this number not to be exaggerated, notwithstanding the circumference of the walls does not exceed a mile. The larger part of the inhabitants are Arabs; the remainder are from various parts of Hindostan, Persians, Scindians, Abyssinians, and negro slaves from the coast of Zanzibar; all reposing in safety under the mild and equitable government of a very worthy prince. The population of the suburbs is estimated at five thousand. Here may be seen weavers manufacturing fine check cloth, with red and yellow silk ends, which form the turbans, universally worn by all who are born within the kingdom of Aman, whether the sultan or the subject. The weavers dig a hole in the ground, for their feet, and form a seat a step higher, to sit on; they use a very primitive loom, and the web is extended but a few inches above the ground, a light date-leaf shed serving to protect them against the rays of the sun. A few blacksmiths, coppersmiths, ropemakers, carpenters, and sandal-makers, are almost the only trades that are carried on to any extent. The mechanic arts are conducted in the streets, under open sheds. The bellows of the smiths are of a very primitive construction; two skins are so arranged, that while one is filling with air, they blow with the other; with a hand placed on each, they are alternately depressed and filled. A hole in the ground serves for a fireplace, and another for water; a stone serves for an anvil, and with clumsy hammers, and sitting on their hams, they carry on, in a very slow manner, their imperfect trade.
The slave-bazar is near the landing-place, and a sale is made every evening towards sunset; the slaves are well oiled, to show a smooth skin, and they are decently dressed; the males with a waistcloth, and the females have, in addition, a[355] breastcloth. The auctioneer parades them through the streets on the day of sale, and, if a higher price is not offered at public sale, than was bid privately, they are then delivered to the highest private bidder. Goods are hawked out about the streets in the same way; to wit, Cashmere shawls, swords, spears, rhinoceros shields, &c., &c. The slave-bazar is a great resort for Arab dandies; decorated with fine sabres and silver-hilted crooked daggers, which are worn in the shawls which encircle their waists; their long beards well perfumed, and their turbans arranged according to the prevailing fashion, they examine females as well as males, with little regard to delicacy, or even to common decency. In passing through the streets, we constantly met Arab, Abyssinian, and negro women with masks, having in them oblong eye-holes; they were made of black cloth or silk, some being bound with gold lace; their dress a black, blue, or dark robe, with trousers of the same, or else made of cross-barred silk. Very few of them turned their faces to the wall when we passed, but they stopped and took a full view of us. Hindoo barbers carry on their trade generally in the street. After having shaved the head, a part of the face, and over the eyelids, extracted the hairs from the nose and ears, trimmed the mustaches, and perfumed the beard with sweet-scented Arab oil, they conclude by cutting the finger and toe nails; the whole being done with an air of much gravity and importance. It is said they have the same characteristic marks here, that they do in many other parts of the world; being great tattlers, newsmongers, politicians, and story-tellers. The Arabs stain their feet black or red, nearly to the ankles; and the hands and nails of the fingers and feet with red henna, as well as a narrow black stripe along the outer edge of one or both eyelashes, with antimony, to give a more pleasing expression, and sparkling effect to the eye.

Small fish being very abundant about the ship, the fishermen came in great numbers to throw their nets. They are of a circular form, and probably fifteen feet in diameter, loaded with small weights at the extremities, having a line fastened to the centre to draw it up; when thrown in it sinks gradually, the weights being light; when it has sunk to the depth of eight or ten feet, two divers jump overboard to drive the fish within the net; when they wish to draw it up, the weights close the bottom, and so secure all that are within its meshes.


Several divers were employed to find a sword which by an accident was lost overboard in eight fathoms, where the ship was anchored; two of them went down several times, and the greatest length of time either remained under water, was two minutes and five seconds. The ship’s bottom being very foul, two large gangs of divers were employed to cleanse it, which was thoroughly effected with scrapers and rubbers in the course of four hours, taking off oysters of the size nearly of the palm of the hand, and barnacles also of a very large size; this was done at an expense of twenty-five dollars. It had a very ludicrous effect to see so many venerable long beards, white, grizzled and black, thus employed, and constantly popping their bare heads and dripping beards out of the water.


We were many times in the day amused to see two very large fin-back whales fishing alongside, and under the bows and stern of the ship. The male has been a daily visiter in this harbour for upward of twenty years, and goes by the name of “Muscat Tom.” Formerly the cove was much infested with sharks, so that no person would venture into the water; but after he took possession, it was freed entirely of these pests, these sea-manduleens, (mandarins,) as the Chinese fishermen call them, in derision of the all-grasping land mandarins. A few years since he was missing for many days; the sharks ascertained by some means that he was “not at home” to pay particular attention to his visiters and invite them in; they therefore intruded upon his quarters, and not only banqueted upon his larder, which was filled with a great variety of fine fish, but actually invited and sore pressed some of the land bipeds to follow them; as they are equally as well pleased with flesh as with fish, the consequence was, the natives refused to join any other jamb or crush of the usurpers, and took a great dislike to aquatic parties. Happily at length, bold Tom returned, and every thing was restored to its proper order; for he had been like “Celebs in search of a wife;” and if he did not bring her home under his arm, he brought her under his fin, and “she was a helpmeet unto him;” and together they made a clear sweep of all the pests and incumbrances of their household, to the great joy of the land-animals, who again paid them frequent visits.

They have never been known wilfully to injure them; but occasionally when they were in full chase after a school of small fry[357] who were playing truant within their submarine garden, they would unluckily upset the water carriage of their neighbours; however, as no offence was intended, an apology was deemed wholly unnecessary, and the natives acted a very wise part by not showing a useless resentment to their benefactors. Hourly the happy pair may be seen moving along very lovingly together “cheek by jowl,” occasionally sinking to the bottom, but not in search, as some may foolishly imagine, for——

“Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scattered in the bottom of the sea,
Some lying in dead men’s sculls; and in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept
As ’twere in scorn of eyes:”—

but after something more useful; they are now seen rising with great swiftness perpendicularly half their length out of water, and with wide expanded jaws, catching all that comes within the vortex, filling the enormous sacks under their throats full to overflowing; and “thereby suck they in no small advantage.” Whenever the water is too shallow to rise in this manner, they dash forward with the rapidity of lightning, making a great breach; their ponderous body being thrown frequently entirely out of water. Many fishermen follow them to catch the fish they kill, but do not swallow; and by these means obtain during the day a great number. Muscat Tom and his wife are never known to sleep in the harbour, having sufficient sagacity to know, that they might be cast on shore by the current, and so caught napping. I observed that the same silly custom prevails here with the fishermen, as in many parts of the United States and elsewhere, by spitting on their bait to insure good luck. During our stay about two thousand Bedwin (Bedouin) Arabs arrived by order of the sultan; they were to be embarked on board the ships-of-war at the commencement of the northeast monsoon for Mombas, and other parts in Africa; they are a little darker coloured than the Arabs of Mocha, slender built, of good open countenances, and with fine sparkling eyes: the hair dressed in small-sized spiral curls, and profusely oiled, wearing a bandage around the head to confine it. They had no covering to the head, were naked excepting the waist, and were generally armed with spears.


There are a great number of small villages within a small distance of Muscat, wherever a tolerably level spot can be found between the precipitous rocks. The principal one of six, lying around the shore of Muttrah harbour, is the walled town of Muttrah, which is said to contain about eight thousand inhabitants, including a colony of Belooches, or Scindians, from the banks of the renowned Indus. They occupy a walled town within the walls of Muttrah, having sentries constantly posted at their only gate, which fronts the beach. The principal business transacted at Muttrah, is building and repairing of vessels. The poorer inhabitants of all these towns are very filthy and nearly naked, and not abundantly supplied with food, even of the meanest kind. They are very civil in their demeanour; but by no means deficient in curiosity. It is about two miles from Muscat to Muttrah. The passes between the rocks being very narrow, and exceedingly difficult, and the heat overpowering, the communication is kept up by means of canoes, neatly painted, having a temporary date-leaf roof, and a mat to sit on. Large droves of camels and dromedaries, from the interior, arrive daily, laden with wheat, dates, grapes, &c.

All religions, within the sultan’s dominions, are not merely tolerated, but they are protected by his highness; and there is no obstacle whatever to prevent the Christian, the Jew, or the Gentile, from preaching their peculiar doctrines, or erecting temples. The principal part of his subjects are of the sect of the Mahometans, called the Bee-asis: they profess to abstain from the use of tobacco, spirits, and all fermented liquors, and from every description of pomp and magnificence, in their dress, their houses, or their mosques. (The latter are very ordinary buildings, being destitute of all ornaments, and without minarets.) They do not grant pre-eminence to the descendants of Mahomet, but maintain that all who are Mussulmans by birth, are eligible for any employment in church or state. I was of the opinion, until I became better acquainted with these people, that they were more strict than the other sects, both in precept and practice; but their religious prejudices are broken down, the form only is left; and away from Muscat, or those who are not in the immediate employ of the sultan, and are therefore not in daily attendance upon his person, they use tobacco, as well as all intoxicating liquors, freely. This is frankly acknowledged by the sultan’s own officers. Several small craft[359] arrived from the Bahrein islands, bringing a deputation from the principal ruler, requesting assistance and protection against the Wahabees or Joassames, who had again collected a large army, and threatened to take possession of their islands. It was said, they were in arrears for three or four years’ tribute-money, which they were first commanded to pay. A compromise was attempted by the deputies; but it was not settled when we left there. The vessels wore a striped flag, either of red and green or red and white.


The sultan possesses a very fine stud of Arab horses. I saw, at different times, about two hundred. He is the owner, as I was informed by the colonel, or commander of the Bedwin cavalry, of all the horses in Muscat, or the neighbouring towns. He was very desirous of sending to the President of the United States, two stallions and two mares of the best blood; but it was declined, because the ship was not of sufficient size to carry them, comfortably and safely, through the tempestuous weather usually encountered from the entrance of the Mozambique channel to the cape of Good Hope. The sultan’s horses are fed upon lucerne and dates; and it is said that most of the cattle, sheep, and goats, are fed upon dates and fish. The coarsest kind of grass, and rushes even, are difficult to be obtained at any price, and all the lucerne belongs to the sultan.

We found the mutton here very excellent, the sheep costing two dollars, and goats at various prices: fowls from one dollar to two and a half per dozen: bullocks, very fat and very palatable, at ten dollars each. But there were no hogs, turkeys, geese, or ducks. Fish was very abundant and cheap, and generally good flavoured. Both white and purple grapes were supplied us daily, and in profusion, by the sultan. The pomegranates were much superior to any I have ever seen. There were but few mangoes, the season for them having passed. The oranges were insipid, and tasted like the sweet lemon. Limes were very plentiful. The muskmelons gave out a fine perfume, but they were very tasteless. The dates, when not too ripe, had the flavour of a very sweet green chestnut. Pistachios, almonds, raisins, and kismisses, (or seedless raisins,) were plenty. Of vegetables, there were the long purple egg-plant, potatoes, onions, okra, and parsley. The date molasses was very good; wheat sold for one dollar and a quarter for one[360] hundred English pounds; and a French brig was lading with it and jacks, for the Mauritius. The water, which supplies the shipping and the principal part of the inhabitants, is drawn from a very deep well outside the walls of Muscat, by a buffalo, up an inclined plane, and then brought in skins, on men’s backs, to the landing.

The sole object of our visit to Muscat, was to effect a commercial treaty with his highness, Syed Syeed bin Sultan, and to obtain a reduction of the duties and port-charges, heretofore paid on our commerce, so as to place it upon a footing with the most favoured nations. The sultan appointed an audience in the afternoon of the day subsequent to our arrival. I landed, in company with Captain Geisinger and Lieutenant-Commandant Shields, of the Boxer. We found the sultan, with his eldest son the governor of Burha, and ten gentlemen, composing his divan or council, sitting in the veranda, facing the harbour. The governor and the counsellors were sitting on chairs facing each other, and the sultan was seated about ten or twelve feet from them in a corner. He immediately arose, on our entrance, and walked to the edge of the raised floor, between the courtiers, and received us very graciously, shaking us by the hand. Here was to be seen no abasing crawling, and couching, and “knocking head,” like a parcel of slaves; but all was manly, and every one stood on his feet. The usual congratulatory compliments and inquiries were made; and coffee and sherbet were introduced. I was seated near to, and on the right hand of his highness; and we entered into a private conversation, through the interpreter, Captain Calfaun, relative to the object of the mission, (after having presented my credentials.) The sultan at once acceded to my wishes, by admitting our commerce into his ports upon the same terms of his most favoured friends, the British, to wit: by paying a duty of five per cent. on the cargo landed, and free from every other charge whatever, either on imports or exports, or even the charge of pilotage. When the fifth article of the proposed treaty was read, which related to shipwrecked seamen, he at once objected to that part of it relating to a remuneration for expenses, which would be necessarily incurred in supporting and forwarding them to the United States, and said, the article he wished so altered as to make it incumbent upon him to protect, maintain, and return them to their own country, free of every charge. He remarked, that it would be contrary to the usage of[361] Arabs, and to the rights of hospitality, which have ever been practised among them; and this clause was also inserted, at his request. The sultan is of a mild and peaceable demeanour, of unquestionable bravery, as was evinced during the Wahabee war, where he was severely wounded in endeavouring to save an English artilleryman. He is a strict lover of justice, possessing a humane disposition, and greatly beloved by his subjects. He possesses just and liberal views in regard to commerce, not only throwing no obstacles in the way to impede its advancement, but encouraging foreigners as well as his own subjects.


The sultan of Muscat is a very powerful prince; he possesses a more efficient naval force than all the native princes combined from the cape of Good Hope to Japan. His resources are more than adequate to his wants: they are derived from commerce, owning himself a great number of merchant vessels: from duties on foreign merchandise, and from tribute-money, and presents received from various princes, all of which produce a large sum: a small tithe also is taken on wheat and dates, but more on houses or lands.

His possessions in Africa, stretch from cape Delgado to cape Guardafui: and from cape Aden in Arabia, to Ras el Haud, and from Ras el Haud they extend along the northern coast of Arabia, (or the coast Aman) to the entrance of the Persian gulf: and he claims also all the seacoast and islands within the Persian gulf, including the Bahrein islands, and pearl-fishery contiguous to them, with the northern part of the gulf as low down as Seindy. It is true that only a small part of this immense territory is garrisoned by his troops, but all is tributary to him.

In Africa, he owns the ports of Monghow, or Mongallow, Lyndy, Quiloa, (Keelwah,) Melinda, Lamo, Patta, Brava, Magadosha, (alias Magadshe,) and the valuable islands of Monfeea or Mafeea, Zanzibar, Pemba, Socotra, alias Socotera, &c., &c.

From Africa are exported, gum-copal, aloes, gum-arabic, columbo-root, and a great variety of other drugs. Ivory, tortoise-shell, rhinoceros horns, hides, beeswax, cocoa-nut oil, rice, millett, ghee, &c.

The exports from Muscat are wheat, dates, horses, raisins, salt, dried fish, and a great variety of drugs, &c., &c. Muscat, being the key to the Persian gulf is a place of great resort in the winter months, for vessels from the Persian gulf and the western parts of India.


The productions of Africa, of the Red sea, the coast of Arabia, and the countries bordering on the Persian gulf, may be had there.

Their vessels trade not only to the countries named, but also to Guzzerat, Surat, Demaun, Bombay, Bay of Bengal, Ceylon, Sumatra, Java, the Mauritius, the Comoro islands, to Madagascar, and the Portuguese possessions in East Africa; bringing Indian, African, and European articles.


The number of vessels employed on these voyages I was unable to ascertain with any degree of exactness: but no number named was less than two thousand; of this a very large proportion are small craft, having but a few ships and brigs. The naval force of the sultan is very respectable in point of numbers, and they are daily becoming better ship sailors.

The officers practise the lunar observations, and possess excellent chronometers. His force is sufficient to give him entire control over all the ports in East Africa, the Red sea, the coast of Abyssinia, and the Persian gulf. He has an abundance of sailors and although he has but a small number of regular troops, yet he can command any number of Bedouin (Bedwin) Arabs he may want, by furnishing them with provisions and clothing. This force consists of between seventy and eighty sail of vessels, carrying from four to seventy-four guns. I have added a statement which shows the names of his largest vessels, with the names of some of the smaller classes: the rate of each: where built, and where stationed in the month of October last, as given by Capt. Seydlin Calfaun, the sultan’s English interpreter and translator, and a naval commander.

Previous to the conclusion of the treaty, American vessels paid generally seven and a half per cent. upon imports, and seven and a half per cent. upon exports, with anchorage money and presents. The governor of the out ports claimed the right of pre-emption in both cases, and they resorted to the most nefarious practices to accumulate wealth.

The commerce of the United States, under the treaty, is entirely freed from all inconvenient restrictions, and pays but one charge, namely five per cent. on all merchandise landed, and it is freed from the charge of pilotage, as every port has pilots which are kept in pay by the sultan.

The currency of Muscat differs materially from that of the Per[363]sian gulf, or Africa; it is as follows, viz.: twenty gass-rauz-auz or rauhzee, make one mamoody; one hundred and forty-two pise or pesos, make one Spanish dollar; but it varies from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty;[†] three and a quarter Persian rupees make one Spanish dollar at present; two and a quarter Bombay rupees, (less five pise,) one Spanish dollar; two and a quarter Surat rupees, (less five pise,) one Spanish dollar.

The Spanish doublon is worth from fourteen to sixteen dollars according to weight, but more than fifteen dollars is readily obtained.

The weights of Muscat are as follows, viz.: twenty-four rials make one maund; the custom-house maund is eight and three fourths pounds; the bazar-maund is eight, eight and a fourth, and eight and a half pounds.

The following exhibits a Statement of the Naval Force of the Sultan of Muscat, showing the names of his largest vessels, with some of the smaller classes—the rates of each; where built, and where stationed in the month of October, 1833.

Shah Alum,56,Bombay,Zanzibar.
Prince of Wales,36,Demaun,Muscat.
Soliman Shah,18,Muscat,Muscat.
Curlew, (brig,)12,Bombay,Muscat.
Psyche, (brig,)12,Cochin,Muscat.
Tage, (yacht,)6,Malabar coast,Zanzibar.

Also fifty baghelas carrying from eight to eighteen guns, and ten balits carrying from four to six guns. The baghela is a one-masted vessel, from two hundred to three hundred tons. The balit is also a one-masted vessel, from one to two hundred tons. Part of his naval force was employed in convoying vessels up the Persian gulf, some in Africa, &c., &c.





Our voyage from Muscat to Mozambique was not marked by any particular occurrence, excepting the death of a very young and valuable officer. The southwest monsoon having ended, we were in daily expectation of the advent of the northeast monsoon; but on the morning of the seventh of October, without waiting for a change of wind, as we were ready for sea, we weighed anchor again, in company with our consort, depending mostly upon the assistance of the current; for there was scarcely “a breath, the blue wave to curl.” As soon as the anchor was “apeek,” and the topsails sheeted home and hoisted up, eighteen guns were fired, as a parting salute to the hospitable sultan, (sooltaun,) which was returned with twenty-one. Not wishing to be behind-hand in an act of courtesy, three more were fired. The effect produced by the echo, among the serrated and cavernous rocks and mountains about the cove of Muscat, and the neighbouring hills, was surpassingly fine; loud, distinct, and repeated charges were heard, apparently, for the space of several minutes, until the reverberations died away, in faint echoes, among the distant hills in the southeast, west, and northwestern quarters. The winds were very light, from the southward and eastward, the first part of the passage, until we arrived in about 5° south, when it changed gradually to the northward and eastward, and continued so until we arrived at Mozambique. We had abundance of rain about the equator, accompanied by light squalls and calms; the currents setting generally to the southward and westward; they also set to the southward and eastward, and to the northward and eastward, due[366] west, and to the northwest. A short distance to the northward and eastward of the island of Socotra, (Socotera,) it set in for three successive days, about 70° west, eighty-six miles, and for the seven successive days to the southward and westward, two hundred and sixty-five miles. The particulars of each day, I omit, as it can only interest the navigator; but what I have stated, will serve to show the absolute necessity of having firstrate chronometers, or the lunar observations carefully attended to; and never omitted to be taken when practicable. On our passage through the channel, we entered the small port Quintangony, seeing the Portuguese flag flying on a fort, mistaking it for Mozambique, as the bearings answered to its situation, and the table-land being north of it. We weighed anchor forthwith, and in two hours afterward, on the afternoon of the seventh of November, we discovered the island of St. George, which has a flag-staff and a small battery, and to the southward of it, the island of St. Jago; and at the same time the island of Mozambique, lying to the westward, distant about three miles, with its formidable castle and its neat white houses, appeared in view.


Before the sun had sunk behind the forest of palm-trees, which clothe the mainland of Africa, we found ourselves snugly at anchor, in a fine harbour, surrounded by twenty or thirty coasting craft, and several large Brazilian and Lisbon vessels. The town presented the most respectable and pleasing appearance; our cares were lulled to rest, for the present, being most grateful to the Giver of all good, for having conducted us thus far in safety, though sickness and sorrow, anxiety and death, had caused sad havoc among us—making the ocean the grave and the winding-sheet of many a brave and worthy heart, although clothed with a rough exterior—leaving a sad chasm among companions and friends, among parents and wives, and poor fatherless children. The last death which took place among us, was that of a most worthy and excellent young man, Midshipman Lewis H. Roumfert of Mount Holly, Pennsylvania. Had he lived, he would have been an ornament to his profession, and a most useful member of society; but God willed it otherwise, and, therefore, we ought not to complain. A short distance to the eastward of the island of Socotra, in the Indian ocean, he was laid in his watery grave. The solemn and sublime service of the Protestant Episcopal church was read by[367] our worthy surgeon, Dr. Ticknor; the main-topsail being aback, and the colours hoisted half-mast. The topsails being filled again, we left him, poor fellow, sinking down into an earthless grave:

“Down, down through waters fathomless,”

there to remain, until the last trump shall sound, and the sea shall disgorge its mighty dead.

We had scarcely dropped anchor, before an official visit was made by a lieutenant. A salute was fired in the morning, which was returned by an equal number of guns from the castle. The commandant of the castle, Juan Alexander de Almedia, and the acting-governor, was desirous of receiving us at the fort with military honours, and a message was sent to that effect, but which was declined; and at noon we landed, and were received by the commandant at the grand entrance, with a double file of soldiers with “present arms.” This noble fort was built by Juan de Castro, in 1518, and it is certainly, for the most part, in a fine state of preservation. It is called Santo Sebastiano, and it appears capable of resisting any force which probably will ever be sent against it, notwithstanding the honeycombed state of many of the iron cannon, and the very weak state of the garrison. It is of a quadrangular form, having an extensive bomb-proof citadel, capable of protecting all the inhabitants of the town, in case of a siege, with sufficient magazines for munitions of war and provisions.

An immense cistern stands in the middle of the parade, which is filled by the annual rains. The inhabitants are supplied from this cistern, whenever the rainy season fails, as well as the shipping; the latter being obliged to pay one dollar per cask. Ships-of-war, of all nations, are furnished from it gratis. Our little squadron was supplied from it by means of pipes, made of condemned iron guns, which lead outside the gate. The fort and two water-batteries adjoining it, on the extreme point, mount one hundred and thirty guns, of all calibers, of brass and iron, in all stages of decay, and apparently of all ages, excepting the modern. Some of the large brass ones are highly ornamented, and of a handsome mould. Two of the heaviest enfilade the entrance, and throw each a hundred and five pounds of stone shot, which I should only have expected to meet with at the Dardanelles. The[368] oldest chapel on the island, fronts the grand parade. It is now in a state of dilapidation, being rent through the centre of the stone roof by an earthquake. A small new chapel has been built outside the walls, within a water battery, on the northern side.

In consequence of the death of the governor, the government is now administered by a junta, consisting of the civil, ecclesiastical, and military orders.

Joaquim Xavier Dinir Costa is the acting-governor, although second in the council. Trei Antonio da Maià, bishop, being the first member, and Colonel Francisco Heririquer Ferraò, being the third. We visited the acting-governor, who offered every assistance in his power, and sent us very generously, out of a scanty supply, as well as the commandant, fruit, vegetables, &c.

A council, consisting of such heterogenous materials, never did and never will amalgamate well together. It is like an attempt to combine vinegar with oil, which has never yet been effected, and so it was with these gentlemen; no two could ever agree upon any essential point, excepting always, to find “ways and means” to obtain their salaries. I omitted to state, that, in examining the magazines within the castle, they showed us a great number of flying-artillery, &c. Our curiosity was highly gratified by the sight of some ancient armour, consisting of helmets, cuirasses, and lances, which were deposited there in bygone days, soon after the fort was built, being brought by Juan de Castro from Portugal. There are two fortifications built at the other extremity of the island, to protect the southern and western passages. The officers in these forts are Canaveens, or natives of Goa and of East Africa, born of Portuguese parents, who, in the lapse of several generations, have become black, although they have no wool or negro features. A more deadly affront could not be offered them than to say they are not white. In the castle, they are from Portugal and Brazil. The island has a coral foundation, and is covered with white sand. It is about a mile and a half in length, and averages less than half a mile in width; it is almost wholly unproductive of vegetation: the inhabitants depending on Cabaceira and Mesuril, on the main, for their daily supplies of fruits, and vegetables, and meat.


The harbour abounds with fish; but they are nearly destitute of boats, (although not from the want of wood or workmen.) Not a single fish was offered us for sale, although the inhabitants have[369] become wretchedly poor, and are overburdened with slaves whose present low rate, from three to eight dollars, and often at half the price I name, holds out a temptation to purchase; although they have but a scanty meal for themselves, and yet, a quarter of a mile from their doors, the waters swarm with food. Such is the curse of the indolent habits produced by slavery. But as a happier day is dawning on them slowly, agriculture is taking place of this vile traffic. It is now said, that coffee, cotton, sugar, &c., may be cultivated from Da Lagoa bay to cape Delgado, with the utmost facility; and that tens of thousands of cattle, and sheep, and goats, may be raised, where the forest occupies the ground, and the wild beasts roam at large. Instead of being dependant upon foreign supplies for almost their daily food, they may become exporters to an enormous amount, in the various products of the forest, the field, the ocean; in timber, in ivory, in cotton and coffee, sugar, drugs, salt, rice. Cocoa-nut oil might be made in any quantity along their coast, yet not a gallon is exported. Already the beneficial efforts made, begin to develop themselves, in the increased quantity of various articles from the interior, more particularly in elephant’s tusks, which have amounted this year to upward of ten thousand Portuguese arrobas, equal to four hundred and thirty thousand pounds; besides the ivory from hippopotami, which is in great abundance. A large proportion of the ivory from elephants, comes from the country of the Majonas, at a distance of about fifty days journey inland. Since slavery has been abolished, the natives come to the seacoast with little fear of being kidnapped. Their confidence is daily gaining ground; and a brisk and praiseworthy trade will take the place of villany and barbarity. I observed previously that they were almost dependant upon foreign supplies for the necessaries of life. It is a fact, that a fortnight previous to our arrival, not a pound of flour, wheaten bread, coffee, sugar, salted beef or pork, or a bottle of wine or foreign spirits, could be purchased in the place; but the very fortunate arrival of several Brazilian and Lisbon vessels, laden with every variety of articles (put up in small packages,) relieved them from great distress.

The landing place is in front of the palace square, having the government-house and a church adjoining, on one side, and the custom-house on the other. This last is a building, which reflects great credit upon the place, being neat, commodious, and sub[370]stantial. The pier is built on arches of faced stone, and extends to low-water mark, and is, at all times, an excellent landing. The streets are narrow, but the principal ones are chunamed on the sides, and some entirely, where the banyans (the principal traders) inhabit. Many of the houses are lofty and flat-roofed; but the larger portion of them are only one story. They show that the inhabitants were once opulent, but are now fast sinking into poverty and distress. The moral and religious character of the people is at the lowest ebb possible. It wants the besom of destruction to pass over the land, to clean out this Augean stable from the filth and pollution which characterize this modern Sodom, giving the innocent a warning, which shall be heard in a voice of thunder. And such is the character of the people, in the present day generally, from Portugal and Macao. The colony in East Africa has been entirely neglected by the parent-country for the last three years, owing to its distressed situation, being wholly unproductive to the crown of Portugal. Hundreds of unhappy exiles are dragging out a miserable existence in this most destructive climate, banished for supposed political offences, without means to live, excepting by a precarious and scanty subsistence, picked up from day to day; separated from their distressed families, denied the solitary comfort of writing, to inform them they are still dragging out a lengthening chain, or receiving a line from them, if, by chance, they ascertain where they are to be found; and as if the diabolical malice of the government knew no bounds, they are banished from the seacoast to the interior, to prevent their escape, or engaging in insurrections. I was informed that there are innumerable instances of persons being taken from their beds at midnight, in Lisbon and elsewhere, hurried on shipboard, and sent to the Portuguese possessions in East and West Africa, without a form of trial, or knowing any cause for this outrage on justice and humanity. Many hundreds have died on the passage from sickness, brought on by distress of mind; others have been obliged to beg their daily bread, and finally died of starvation; while hundreds of others have fallen victims to a destructive climate.


A gentleman, now residing at Mozambique, told me, that he and his brother were taken from their beds at midnight, without being suffered to hold any communication with their families, with nothing but their clothes on their backs, and hurried on board two[371] different vessels, one to West Africa, to Benguela, and the other to East Africa, to Mozambique; and to make it the more heart-rending, all near relations were separated in this manner. We heard similar distressing accounts, when at the Cape de Verd islands and at Macao. The bitter curses which have ascended to Heaven, against the Braganza family, for the last three hundred years, from the exiles of Portugal, to South America, Africa, and India, from aged parents, heart-broken wives, and fatherless children, will shortly sweep from the earth this destructive scourge, and leave on record but a small part of the vile doings of the most heartless, worthless, lascivious, and diabolical monarch, which ever disgraced the face of the earth. When this place was first visited by Vasco de Gama, in the latter part of the fourteenth century, the crescent was flying instead of the cross, and he was welcomed by the Arabs with music and dancing. But the attempt to plant, rather too abruptly, the standard of our holy religion, was received with disgust; and the followers of the prophet flew to arms, but were discomfited by their more warlike foes. In fact, they at length submitted to the conquerors, who then made great exactions of provisions and of every thing else, of which they stood in need. It is stated, that at that time, every part of the country, capable of cultivation, was well attended to; that their flocks and herds were peacefully grazing upon the plains; that the slave-trade had barely a name; and that the people were trading to various parts of the coast, to Zofar, or Zofal, the Sofala of modern days—supposed by some to be the land of gold—the Ophir of King Solomon, to the Red and to the Erythrean sea, or Persian gulf.

From the time the Portuguese took possession of it, till the suppression of the slave-trade, a short time since, peace was banished from the land. The Mocouas, their immediate neighbours, were seized and sold, like beasts of the forest; the lands were made desolate, the palm, the mango, the casheu, (alia acajou,) soon covered the fields; and the wild elephants, the hippopotami, the rhinoceros, and the tiger, were to be seen roaming at large, as they are at this day, where peace, and happiness, and contentment had taken up their abode. The cross, the emblem of our holy religion, instead of proving a blessing, carrying with it, as it does, when duly propagated, a balmy influence, and bearing healing on its[372] wings, has proved calamitous in its tendency. It has blasted the hopes of millions, confirmed the superstition of idolaters, and fixed more deeply the rooted prejudices of the Moslem. Thus the cross has, unfortunately, proved in the Brazil, in East and West Africa, in Arabia, in the East Indies, in China, and Japan; so that the name of Christian has become a by-word and a curse, whereever its doctrines have been propagated by the Portuguese or Spaniards. Every engine, which brutal force could apply, has been used without the slightest compunction. Humanity appears to have had no place in their adamantine breasts, and the mild and peaceful doctrines, expressly laid down by our Saviour, have never been inculcated; but fire and the sword, assisted by a detestable and horrible inquisition, have been preferred in their place, and oppression, fraud, and cruelty have been resorted to in every shape, to answer the most nefarious purposes of the government and its religion, and the sordid views of unprincipled individuals. What might not have been the state of things, if the liberal views of the founder of the Roman Catholic religion, in Maryland, had been propagated, and they had been blessed with a government founded on just and equitable principles! Look at Maryland, and the Roman Catholic religion, as it exists in our own blessed country, and behold the contrast!!! Look at our political institutions, and the happy and prosperous situation of a settlement, begun upward of one hundred years after the Portuguese took possession of their present miserable colonies, by a noble, but persecuted band of English settlers—and see the present situation of Portugal and its conquests. With the exception of Brazil, which has just slipped her leading strings, what can be more wretched? To prove the unappeasable hostility of the nations, in East Africa, towards their oppressors, and every one who wears straight hair, it is a fact well known by all who are well acquainted with the state of things here, and substantiated by the Portuguese themselves, that they dare not go half a dozen miles into the country, without an armed guard. And this is the state of things, from Da Lagoa bay (alias Lorenzo Marques) to cape Delgado, after having had possession of the coast upward of three hundred years; and so it is at Bissaõ, Saint Paul de Loando, Benguela, &c., in West Africa. The Portuguese, under a liberal form of government, unshackled by a state religion, known to be corrupt beyond measure, would prove[373] themselves to be, as they once were, a noble people, zealous in all good works.

As it regards the first circumnavigator of the cape of Good Hope and the discoverer of South and East Africa, the world seems willing to award the whole merit of the discovery to Vasco de Gama, and he is held forth in bold relief, at the expense of others, who are entitled at least to a small share of it. In looking into ancient history, there is much light shed upon it. According to Herodotus, it seems that one of the most illustrious of native Egyptian kings, “actuated by the spirit of a great man, which raised him superior to the age in which he lived, eagerly sought the solution of the grand mystery, that involved the form and termination of Africa.” In furtherance of this noble project and to ensure it success if practicable, he employed the boldest of navigators in those days, to wit, certain Phenicians. Having obtained vessels which were thought suitable for the enterprise, they proceeded down the Red sea and boldly launched out into the Indian ocean, and after a voyage of three years, they made the complete circuit of the continent, passing through the Pillars of Hercules (straits of Gibraltar) and up the Mediteranean to Egypt.

They stated that in passing the most southern coast of Africa, they were surprised by observing the sun on their right hand, or to the north of them, a statement which the historian rejected as impossible. This very circumstance, which threw an air of discredit over the whole transaction, was the strongest proof that could be adduced in confirmation of what is known to every one in the present day, that to the south of the equator this must necessarily have taken place.—Some writers have deemed it impossible for other reasons, because of the smallness and weakness of their vessels—but as we see thousands of small craft, in the China, Java, Red and Arabian seas, and from cape Guardafui to Da Lagoa bay, of not more than fifteen to twenty tons burden and some even less, open amidships, or having merely a palmleaf-covering, sowed together with coir spun-yarn the seams being calked with the same stuff and chunamed outside, the rudders being tied on, where we use braces and pintles, which are always unshipped in port, and secured again by the crew who are expert divers—without even pumps, the water being bailed up amidships and poured into a spout which leads from side to side—the wonder[374] rather ceases, and it is certainly a strong and convincing proof that the craft of the Phenician navigators was no obstacle to the enterprise. Added to this, all small vessels as well as more large ones in the seas I have named, always keep in shore and never quit it unless from necessity—and furthermore, by far the greater part do not use compasses. And if further confirmation is wanted, look at the numerous enterprises projected by the Malegashes (people of Madagascar) a few years since, against the Comoro islands and various places in Africa, against the Portuguese settlement and those of the sultan of Muscat, in open canoes, without compass or sails, being propelled by paddles and carrying sometimes upward of six thousand warriors. This shows the practicability of exploring the coast even in more unsafe vessels, and of a much smaller description, for the Malegashes were necessarily out sight of land from two to three days occasionally, as the distance from Grand Comoro to the Querimba islands on the main, where they landed several times, is not less than one hundred and thirty-five miles. Look at the hardy sons of New England also, navigating the Atlantic ocean on vessels of thirty or forty tons, visiting every creek and nook in the Falkland islands, South Shetland and Cape Horn, in search of seals. Furthermore, there was the voyage of Pedro de Cavalho, and he transmitted his description to Portugal.

Now if the account of Herodotus is untrue, still Diaz’s discovery of the cape and Cavalho’s voyage to Soffala, left de Gama but the short distance of one thousand two hundred miles to explore, and therefore he is only entitled to a small share of the credit which threw so much lustre on the Portuguese name, in effecting a passage by sea to the East Indies, which was previously performed by a most circuitous and tedious route by land and by water; for de Gama, on his arrival at Quilmany, obtained pilots to Mozambique, and from thence onward all obstructions were removed.

All that vast tract of country lying between the cape of Good Hope and cape Guardafui, may now be said to be parcelled out among three nations. The English are gradually or rather rapidly settling that whole tract of country lying between the cape district (cape of Good Hope) and Da Lagoa bay. There is a considerable settlement at Fish river, about six hundred miles east of the cape, and there is a small one begun at port Natal, about two hundred and seventy miles to the north and eastward of it, on the coast of[375] Natal, which is about the same distance to Da Lagoa bay, still further to the eastward; and they claim part of Da Lagoa bay by gift from a negro king, Mayetta, the sovereign of Temba. This brings them to the borders of the Portuguese settlements. The Portuguese claim from Da Lagoa bay to the cape Delgado, lying in about 10° south. From the latter cape to cape Guardafui, it is claimed (with all the islands adjacent to the coast) by the sultan of Muscat.

The exports from Mozambique do not exceed half a million of dollars, (since the suppression of the slave-trade.) These consist in elephant and hippopotamus ivory, gold dust, tortoise-shell, ambergris, columbo-root, drugs, cowries, rhinoceros-horns, and hides, &c., &c. This is certainly a very meager account of the value of its exports, to which may be added, pearls of a superior quality, there being an abundance about the Bazaruto islands; but its resources are yet to be developed, and I have stated previously of what they may consist, provided the government will throw off all shackles which embarrass trade, and have a duty not exceeding that which is now imposed by the sultan of Muscat, to wit: a duty of five per cent. only, on goods landed and sold, without any other charge whatever. If this is not done, all trade among foreigners must necessarily proceed to the sultan’s dominions, in East Africa. The duties and exactions on foreign commerce are so exorbitant, but more particularly on the American trade, that our flag has almost entirely deserted all the Portuguese ports in West as well as in East Africa. The Americans pay twenty-four per cent. and the English fifteen, on imports, exclusive of an almost endless number of fees, besides export duties.

Imports consist of coarse cotton goods, white, brown, blue, and striped, as well as some fine cottons, and a small quantity of light quality woollen cloth, principally blue, suitable for the army. Powder, arms, beads, sugar, tea, coffee, wine, spirits, &c.; in fact, every article useful to eat, or to drink, or to clothe themselves.


Our passage from Mozambique to Table bay, was marked with storms and tempests, violent and sudden gales, accompanied with a mountainous sea. After passing the dangerous reef of rocks, called the Bassas de India, in the southern part of the Mozambique channel, we were assailed by one gale, with the rapidity of lightning, in the latitude twenty-eight, and longitude thirty-four east,[376] taking the ship “flat-aback” instantaneously, and placing us in a most dangerous and critical situation. It was a doubtful case, for some minutes, whether she would not overset, or go down stern foremost. But “He who holds the winds in his power, the waters in the hollow of his hand,” mercifully decreed that we should once more see the living objects of our affections, and be restored in safety to our beloved country—“to the land of the brave, and the home of the free;” for the ship’s head “payed off,” and she was got before the wind, all sail being taken in, and drove before this furious hurricane for the space of eight hours, under bare poles, the captain not daring to loosen an inch of canvass to the tempest during that time. The first three or four hours, she went at the rate of twelve miles per hour, and when her rate had diminished to about eight knots, having had, in the meantime, every article that would lessen the weight on the spar and gun-decks, placed in the hold and on the berth-deck, she was “hove to.” It would have been done in the commencement of the gale, but as the ship was very light, and the stock of provisions nearly expended, it was apprehended, in bringing her “to the wind,” she would overset, when all would inevitably have perished. We touched on the northeastern edge of bank Agulhas, for the purpose of taking advantage of the strong southerly and westerly current, and we were by no means disappointed, for the ship was set to the extraordinary distance of one hundred and twenty-three miles, in twenty-four hours, south, 71° west, between the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh of November, from the latitude of 32° 36′, and longitude 25° 16′, to the latitude of 35° 21′ and longitude 23° 8′; but it was accompanied by a tremendous wrecking sea. As we had three excellent chronometers, and made the land at daybreak the following morning, about the bay of St. Sebastian; we ascertained, both then and afterward, there was no error; and yet, on the twenty-sixth and twenty-eighth, the current was very feeble, not exceeding thirteen miles in the two days. On the thirtieth, we made the most southern land of Africa, being cape Agulhas. It is a low flat point, the sea always breaking over it. We saw, in the course of the day, cape Hanglip, and the cape of Good Hope also, which bound the entrance into False bay. Heavy gales of wind, between west and northwest, continued until the fourth of December, when we made Table mount, and stood into the bay in[377] a violent southeast gale. We then saw, for the first time, the phenomenon of the cloud-capped mount, which is always seen when the wind is from that quarter. One looks with astonishment, at what seems always to be the same cloud, sideling along from east to west, apparently remaining stationary, without being instantly dispersed by the furious tempest; but Doctor Arnott thus accounts for the singular beauty and density of the clouds, which frequently envelop the mount, and the cause of its creation and final dispersion: “The reason of the phenomenon is, that the air, constituting the wind from the northeast, having passed over the vast southern ocean, comes charged with as much invisible moisture as the temperature can sustain. In rising up the side of the mountain, it is rising in the atmosphere, and is therefore gradually escaping from a part of the former pressure; and on attaining the summit, it has dilated so much, and has consequently become so much colder, that it lets go part of its moisture: and it no sooner falls over the edge of the mountain and again descends in the atmosphere to where it is pressed, and condensed and heated as before, than it is re-dissolved and disappears: the magnificent apparition dwelling only on the mountain-top.”


The ship came to anchor, about one mile from the landing, soon after sunrise, and a beautiful home scene was presented to our view. The town is on a sloping plane, and rises gradually to the foot of the celebrated Table mountain, a distance of about three miles, the height of this precipitous mountain being three thousand six hundred feet. The town is seen stretching out also on the right towards the Lion’s Head, which is at an elevation of two thousand eight hundred feet, and again to the extreme right towards the Lion’s Rump, which is at an elevation of one thousand one hundred and forty feet. Around the base of this hill, which is called Green Point, are a great many neat villas and cottages. On this point stands the light-house, containing two excellent lights on the same level. On the left again, farmhouses are scattered about the base of the Devil’s Peak, which is three thousand three hundred feet high; the road leading to Wynberg is seen winding round it. The vine-fields were beautifully verdant, the grape just beginning to fill out, and the fruit and ornamental trees appeared to be abundant in the city and about the cottages; but still the general appearance of the country was far from being verdant, and the few[378] trees called the protea dispersed about the elevated and uncultivated parts of the land, disappoint an American eye, being deficient in noble forest-trees. The violent southeast gale of the previous day having subsided, ushered forth a day redolent with sweets to the weary mariner, being calm, mild and beautiful; the smoke was ascending from a thousand fires in the town, preparing the early meal; a school or church bell was heard in the distance; the people who visited us, speaking the English language, forcibly reminded us of home and a thousand endearing and painful recollections, after an absence of nearly two years; but our cares were once more hushed, and the stormy Indian ocean and its ten thousand perils were almost obliterated from our memories, like the forms of last year’s clouds; and with grateful hearts we found ourselves again within the pale of civilization, in a bracing and healthy climate which we had long and ardently desired to meet, to recruit our debilitated frames, which were nearly exhausted by the baneful climates of Java and Manila, Siam and Muscat, Mocha and Mozambique. An interchange of salutes took place on our arrival, but the effect of the echo, was not comparable to that produced by the amphitheatre of rocky hills and caverns which encompass Muscat. In passing up from the landing, we went through the water street of every seaport town, across the grand parade to George’s hotel, in the street called Heeregracht, through the centre of which is a canal which conducts off the waste water flowing from the base of Table mount. From the same source the town and shipping are supplied, the fountain-head being at the beautiful seat of Mt. Breda, by means of iron pipes which conduct it to the jetty: hose being led into the casks from the conductors, boats are enabled to load with great ease. The canal is shaded on either side by the cape oak; it also passes through a fine shaded walk which is still called the public garden, although a very large portion of it is appropriated, most ignominiously, to the culture of vegetables: it is probably two thirds of a mile in length. The town is regularly laid out, is said to contain about twenty-two thousand inhabitants, and has a neat appearance; there are shops in abundance, but prices are extravagantly high. The houses are generally made flat-roofed, so that the violence of the winds may less affect them: they are built of ordinary brick and stuccoed; the interior arrangements of the richer class, are similar to those in larger cities. One[379] is very much reminded of a Dutch American town in the state of New York, excepting that soldiers are stationed at every principal place, as though the inhabitants were not trustworthy; they are seen before courts of justice, the government-house, postoffice, and custom-house, but they are never seen in my own country, even before the palace of the President.


The climate of Cape Town is unquestionably very healthy, and not surpassed in equability and in the agreeableness of its temperature. In fact, the transition from heat to cold is very inconsiderable, in comparison with many other climates. It seems, from a meteorological table, kept for several years, that the mean temperature of Cape Town, was at 67¼° of Fahrenheit; the mean temperature, for the coldest winter month, was 57°, the hottest, 79°, and the least heat during summer was 63. Although the proportion of deaths is more than double that of Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, yet this number is greatly augmented by invalids from India, who there find their graves; but in the other districts it is about in the same ratio as Portsmouth, averaging about one and a half per centum. It was truly refreshing, to see the rosy-cheeked children, and the healthy appearance of the inhabitants generally, after having spent many months among the pale, sallow complexioned and dying East Indians. Here an Indian may renovate his exhausted frame, and be cured (if it be possible) of that never-ending source of complaint, a diseased liver. There are good roads, pleasant country-seats, fine horses, and good carriages; and he must be very fastidious in his taste, who cannot be suited in his viands, for here are fish, flesh, and fowl, in great variety. As to fruit, the quality is excellent; the prices are very low, and the variety is certainly extraordinary—for in January there are plums, apricots, peaches, almonds, strawberries, mulberries, grapes, apples, oranges, lemons, figs, muskmelons, and watermelons. In February the same. In March the same, adding thereto lemons and pomegranates. In April, add pears, limes, and quinces. In May, medlars, jambos or rose-apple, loquats, a Chinese fruit, &c. In June, add shaddocks and citron, with various kinds of apples and pears. In July, August, and September, the same, adding oranges to the last month. In October, adding guavas, &c. In November, early figs, strawberries, green almonds, and the fruits of September and October. In December the same. And as to vegetables, they[380] are in every variety, almost at all seasons of the year. And who could be so devoid of taste, as not to be gratified with the sight of the immense variety of flowers, shrubs, and parasitical plants which greet the eye at every step? It may, therefore, truly be called Florida, or the Land of Flowers. The luxuries of Europe, of America, of India, of China, and Australia—in short, of the world, are here; and as to the inhabitants, so far as I had the pleasure of being acquainted with the English part of them, they deserve every commendation it is in my power to bestow, for their hospitality and unwearied kindness—more particularly the acting-governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Wade, the Honourable Mr. Justice Menzies, A. Oliphant, Esq., the attorney-general, J. B. Edwards, Captain Bance, and the officers of the seventy-second Highlanders; Captain Stevens, the commander, and the officers of the ninety-eighth regiment.

The articles of export of the most importance, are aloes, oil, raisins, and other dried fruits; salt, tallow, and wool. There is exported also excellent salted beef and butter, and bread, but no pork. The following prices were paid for sundry articles, purchased by Mr. Stockton, the purser, for the Peacock:—ale, two Spanish dollars per dozen, (Cape made;) geese, one dollar; sheep, two dollars; fowls, fifteen rix dollars; per dozen; flour, averages generally from ten to eleven dollars, it is rarely as low as eight dollars fifty cents, frequently at twelve Spanish dollars per barrel, of one hundred and ninety-six pounds; hams and bacon, from Europe, twenty-three to thirty-five cents per pound; butter, (Cape,) thirty-one and a quarter cents, including keg; potatoes, six dollars per barrel, including barrel; pork, (Irish,) twenty-five dollars; salt beef, (Cape,) eleven dollars per barrel, two hundred pounds, including barrel, or four and a quarter cents per pound without; beef, (fresh,) five cents; biscuit, five cents, including bags; bread, (soft,) four cents; cheese, (Dutch,) twenty-one cents; brandy, (Cape,) including pipe, which costs ten dollars, sixty cents per gallon; Cape Madeira wine is from five to eighteen pounds sterling per pipe of one hundred and ten gallons, according to quality and ripeness; cordage, sixty shillings per one hundred English pounds; ratline and spunyarn, fifty-four shillings; Stockholm tar, fifty-four shillings per barrel; blocks eight-pence per inch; sperm oil, seven and sixpence per gallon; linseed oil, seven shillings; nails, nine[381]pence sterling per pound; fir-plank, four-pence halfpenny per foot; carpenters, six shillings per day; spirits of turpentine, seven shillings and sixpence per gallon; pump-leather, five shillings per pound; three and a half sides, tanned leather, cost sixty shillings sterling; houseline, seven shillings and sixpence per dozen. The four kinds of the celebrated Constantia are sold as follows:—

Frontignac, per half aum of 19 gallons1326
White                        ditto         ditto1150
Red                           ditto         ditto976
Pontac, the richest,    ditto         ditto22100

The last costing nearly six dollars per gallon. There will probably be added to the list of exports in a few years, olive-oil, cocoa, figs, almonds, nuts, dried, pickled and smoked fish, raw silk, cotton, tobacco, grapes and currants. If the British government would impose a reasonable duty on cape produce at home, the quantity of wine, brandy, dried fruits, &c., would be vastly increased, and many a barren field and neglected hill would blossom like the rose, and pour forth riches inexhaustible. That any duty at all should be paid, seems most strange and unnatural to an American, but that it should amount to a prohibition (as on wine) is unbearable. At their own sister-colonies, they are obliged to pay as follows; at Mauritius, six per cent. at New South Wales, five, and at Hobart town, Van Diemen’s land, fifteen per cent.: whereas in Brazil they pay only the latter duty. What would seem more strange to an American planter in Louisiana, than to have his produce most extravagantly taxed, or taxed at all in the state of Maine, but most fortunately it is prohibited by the constitution of the United States. No less a duty than two shillings and six pence sterling per gallon is paid on cape wine in England, and dried fruits are extravagantly taxed. Taxation without representation was one of the causes of revolution, and the stamp act was another, with both of which their colonies are burdened. It matters not whether they tax their colonists, on the spot where there domicil is, or whether it is done in England on their produce. The duty on imports and exports is the most important branch of the revenue of the cape. Great Britain requires the colony to pay the whole expense of her establishments, except the army and navy, and yet all important offices are filled by the crown. As it respects the local taxes they[382] are almost innumerable. Among these enumerated, I find every male or female, bond or free, who has arrived at the age of sixteen, pays an annual tax of six shillings sterling each, and ten shillings more on every servant, besides a tax on horses and carriages, on the productions of the farm, wine, brandy, &c., &c. In reference to household expenses, meat, fish and bread are cheap, but wood is extravagantly high, and ever will be, as no coal has ever yet been found in this, or in any other part of Africa; it is frequently as high as six to seven pounds ten shilling sterling per chaldron. Sydney can furnish it at a much cheaper rate, and it will probably soon be brought altogether from that quarter. Servants’ wages are higher here than in any other country, and house rent is at about the same rate as in New York. It seems almost incredible, yet it is unquestionably true, that the contract price for fresh beef and mutton (for 1833) to supply the garrison at the cape, should be at a fraction less than a penny per pound, and that bread should be furnished at a penny per pound; but I presume it is made of barley and oats, and probably a proportion of beans, as it is frequently in England, for it cannot be made of wheat for three times the price. This information is derived from Governor Wade. It is most surprising, that not a single whale-ship belongs to the cape, when whales are so abundant, even within sight of their harbours. There are two small boat-whaling establishments in False bay, one at Cape Town, one in Algoa, and one in Plettenberg’s bay. The boats are mostly of a bad construction, and too small; they fish only for cow whale, when they come into still water to calve, and cleanse themselves with sand; but this kind of fishery is very destructive to the species, and they have greatly diminished in numbers, so that the business is scarcely worth following. Neither do they dry, pickle or smoke fish for exportation, and yet the bays swarm with them, and there is a mine of wealth yet untouched on the bank of Agulhas. The Brazil and La Plata, the Mauritius, &c., would furnish good markets, and a fine hardy set of seamen would be raised for commercial and other purposes. The fishing on the bank is not so hazardous as that of Newfoundland, and they save a tedious voyage, in going and returning; in fact, it may be said they may be always in sight of their own homes. Salt is abundant, and the weather never cold, they can make their own lines and leads, lead being found in the colony, and they can raise[383] cotton and make their sails and cordage, and there is a plenty of timber on the east and northeast coast. There are but eleven vessels belonging to the cape, of all descriptions, which are principally employed in coasting voyages to Port Elizabeth; they are from forty to one hundred and seventy tons, and their united tonnage is but one thousand one hundred and four tons. The colony has been represented to me, by many gentlemen, who have visited all the districts, as being poor, the soil generally very light and thin, and very deficient in water, the rivers being deep seated, which drains off the moisture from the surrounding country, subject to long and destructive droughts, and cursed with locusts and grasshoppers, and the karras or plains being very extensive, and totally unfit for cultivation, and withal very mountainous. But still, I am convinced, that abundance of grain can be raised to advantage, and wool, raw silk, wine, dried fruits, beef, &c., &c., besides the products of the ocean, can be exported to a large amount, but Saxony or Merino wool must become the most prominent article among the exports. The farmers are wisely rooting out the wire-haired, big-tailed cape sheep, and substituting those which have wool on their backs. It is not an article of luxury like wine, subject to fluctuations from mere change of fashion. If his late majesty, George the fourth, had taken a fancy to cape, instead of xeres, (sherry,) as he did a few years since, it would have been a fortunate circumstance for the colony: the hills would have been clothed with vines, instead of a green patch, here and there, dotting the surface like the oases in a desert.


The cape of Good Hope, from its fine geographical position, being placed on the highway between the world’s nations, must become a place of great importance, when the India and China trade is left free and unrestricted, as it ought and must be. It is a most convenient stopping place for the interchange of commodities, or to touch for supplies, or to obtain information; all they now want is an unshackled commerce, and a moderate duty laid on their produce in the parent-country, and by their sister-colonies. Without this reasonable aid, their agriculture, fisheries and commerce, will make but slow progress, and if the colony does not become a burden, it can never be of much advantage to England, excepting to draw off a part of her surplus population, or in case of a war. But the commerce of the Cape has latterly increased, notwithstanding[384] burdens and the neglect of the parent-country. The number of foreign arrivals in Table bay (which was in every month in the year) from December seventeenth, 1831, to thirtieth November, 1832, was one hundred and ninety-seven; and at Simon’s bay thirty-six, including ships-of-war. At the time the Dutch held the Cape, no vessels lay in Table bay during the winter months, but now I am informed, no difference is made in the premium of insurance, between the winter and summer months. Hempen cables of an extreme size (and anchors of course in proportion) are always preferable to chain cables in any roadstead, where there is a heavy swell and violent gales from the ocean; but the first few fathoms from the anchor, should be chain to guard against rocks and other obstructions and anchors, and it can readily be secured to the hempen one. But still no cable is equal to coir, having three valuable properties, being strong, buoyant and exceedingly elastic. In the La Plata and elsewhere, it has been found, that riding by two or more hemp cables in one string, in a violent gale and heavy sea, enables the ship to rise with buoyancy, but if a great length of chain is veered out, it lies upon the bottom and operates against the rise of the vessel, and she therefore feels the full force of the sea, which causes her to plunge deeply, or the sea to break over her, and consequently there is more danger of foundering.




The village in Algoa bay now called Port Elizabeth, is rising into importance most rapidly. Twelve years since, it contained four houses, and now it has upward of one hundred, and its residents are rated at above twelve hundred persons. It is one of the most prominent portions of the Cape colony, a place of resort for vessels to or from India. Subscriptions to the amount of five thousand pounds have been raised, for the purpose of building a lighthouse on cape Receife, and a jetty for the landing of goods. There are five ships connected with the direct trade to Europe. The number of vessels which have visited the port this year is about fifty. There is a good road leading to Graham’s Town, ninety miles in length; it is in the Albany district, and is said to contain upward of six thousand inhabitants. All imports and exports by sea, from Graham’s Town, &c., and the adjacent district of Uitenhage, are from this port. The imports in 1828 were fifty-five thousand two hundred and one pounds, and had increased in 1832 to one hundred and twelve thousand eight hundred and forty-five pounds, and the exports from forty-one thousand two hundred and ninety pounds, to eighty-six thousand nine hundred and thirty-one pounds. Provisions of all sorts are in abundance, and ships can be watered with great facility by pipes, leading from a pump to the sea. The exports are wine, brandy, vinegar, ivory, hides, skins, leather, tallow, butter, soap, wool, ostrich-feathers, salted beef, wheat, candles, aloes, barley, &c., &c.

Plettenberg’s bay is another place of resort for vessels in the[386] winter season, bound home from India. The roadstead is open to southeast, but the anchorage is good, in eight, nine, and ten fathoms. The bay is spacious, with sufficient room to beat out, in southeast gales. The number of inhabitants is about four hundred, upward of one half being white. Cattle and sheep are plentiful, and it is noted for the excellence of its butter; and the timber is abundant.

There is no port of consequence lying between Plettenberg’s bay and Da Lagoa excepting port Natal, and this has but thirteen feet of water at its entrance; but it is well sheltered from prevailing winds. A few English traders are only to be found there at present, but there is no doubt that the British government will have a small garrison stationed there in the course of 1834. The merchants at Cape Town are preparing to take immediate advantage of this well-situated port, and protection from the government follows of course. The traders now penetrate one hundred and fifty miles along the southern coast beyond Natal, and far into the interior, in a northerly direction. There are no other ports, suitable for large ships to visit, than those already named, lying between False bay and Da Lagoa. The country about Natal is represented as being very fertile, well wooded and watered, and the climate healthy; it was exceedingly populous until the modern Attila, Chaka, took possession of it, and slaughtered most of the inhabitants. It abounds in cattle, and ivory is abundant. The Kowie and great Fish rivers, where there is a great number of English settlers, may be made good ports, whenever suitable improvements are made at their embouchures; they are barred like most of the rivers from the Cape to Da Lagoa, or I may as well say all the rivers in Southern, Eastern and Northeastern Africa, or from the cape of Good Hope to cape Guardafui.

The whole line of North Africa, or the coast leading from the cape of Good Hope to Benguela, is represented as being worthless, Saldunha bay, and the coast lying between it and Cape Town, being the only part where European settlers are found. Saldunah bay is well sheltered from violent winds, having a sufficient depth of water, but the country is very sandy and agriculture but little attended to; a few cattle and sheep are raised among the scanty herbage. Except one or two bays where whales resort, the remaining part offers no inducements to adventurers.



I herewith present the amount of the imports and exports into Table, Simon’s, and Algoa bays, for the year 1831:—

Pounds sterling.
The imports into Table bay, from Great Britain, were271,687
„                    „                 „            British colonies35,620
„                    „                 „            Foreign states35,833
„                    „                 „            United States of America1,207
Pounds sterling
The imports into Simon’s bay, from Great Britain120 10 0
„                    „                 „            British colonies1,352 5 0
„                    „                 „            Foreign states628 5 0
Ditto, ditto, Algoa bay, port Elizabeth, from Great Britain 9,458 5 0
„                    „                 „            British colonies778 15 0
„                    „                 „            Foreign states187 0 0
The whole amount of imports into the Cape of Good Hope colonies£345,052
The exports from Table Bay to Great Britain were100,509
„                    „                 „            British colonies64,596
„                    „                 „            Foreign states11,513
Ditto, ditto, Simon’s Bay to Great Britain2,941 0 0
„                    „                 „            British colonies1,561 0 0
„                    „                 „            Foreign states1,296 0 0
„                    „                 „            Navy supplies5,476 0 0
Ditto, ditto, Algoa Bay, port Elizabeth to Great Britain24,019 0 0
„                    „                 „            British colonies4,800 0 0
„                    „                 „            Foreign states1,892 0 0

In the amount of exports, from the three ports named, twenty-nine thousand and thirty-six pounds were articles of foreign growth or manufacture, leaving the sum of one hundred and eighty-nine thousand, five hundred and seventy pounds, being the value of articles of colonial produce for the year 1831.

The value of exports to Port Elizabeth, in 1831, from Table Bay, was£44,672
Value of imports, in return, from Port Elizabeth34,640


These sums not being included in the above statements, must be added to the aggregate of these ports respectively. Since April, 1832, Cape Town and Simon’s Town have been declared “free warehousing ports;” and Port Elizabeth was declared a “free port” only—all goods of every description whatever, the growth, productions, or manufacture of Great Britain, or any of the possessions of the British crown, pay a duty of three pounds per centum. All goods being the growth, produce, or manufacture of any of the East India company’s possessions, pay ten pounds per centum. Any foreign nation, at peace with Great Britain, may import, in foreign ships, any goods, being the growth, produce, or manufacture of such foreign nation, ten pounds per cent., and they may export any goods to any country, &c. All casks, barrels, staves, heading, or hoops, to be used as wine casks, duty free.

No gunpowder, arms, ammunition, or utensils of war, or fresh or salted beef, pork, dried or salted fish, train oil, blubber, fins, or skins of creatures living in the sea, can be imported, except from Great Britain, or some British possession in America. No tea can be imported, except by the East India company, or some British possession in America.

Accounts are kept in pounds, shillings, pence, and farthings, or rix dollars, skillings, and stivers. One stiver is equal to three eighths of a penny; six stivers, two and one fourth, or one skilling; eight skillings, eighteen pence, or one rix dollar. Three shillings and ninepence is the par value of the Spanish dollar, but they were sold by the purser of the Peacock at four shillings; and doubloons, at sixteen dollars, or three pounds four shillings. Bills on England were three shillings and eleven pence sterling per dollar.

The weights made use of in this colony, are derived from the standard pound of Amsterdam, and the pieces permitted to be assized, are from fifty pounds down to one loot, or the thirty-second part of a pound, which is regarded as unity.

Proportions between colonial and British weights and measures. Weights: ninety-one pounds and four fifths, Dutch, are equal to one hundred pounds English, avoirdupois. Measures: corn, four Dutch schepels are equal to one Dutch muid, one hundred and seven ditto, to eighty-two.


Winchester bushels. A load of ten muids is equal to thirty bushels, two pecks, one gallon, and one pint English; eight bushels make a quarter English.

One ell of cloth is equal to twenty-seven Rhynland inches; one hundred and thirty-three, fifty-one hundredths, Dutch ells, are equal to one hundred English yards.

The truth is, that all articles of produce are sold by English weight, and not Dutch, unless by a special agreement.


The colony of the cape of Good Hope is divided into ten districts. Herewith, I present a table, showing the whole amount of the population for 1831-1832; the number of births, marriages, and deaths. Mr. Greig, the editor and publisher of the South African Almanac, says, “It is compiled from tax and rolls, and there is an omission of the itinerants’ and Hottentots’ settlement at Kat river, &c., to the number of between fifteen and sixteen thousand;” and Cape Town is supposed to contain about twenty-two thousand, in December, 1833, instead of the number stated.

Districts.Free Persons, white & coloured.Slaves.TotalBirths.Mar.Deaths.
Cape Town6,4106,9492,9212,9069,3319,855644138638
Cape District3,7032,9772,7091,4736,4124,4501232898
Graff Reinet6,3974,6131,5059447,9025,55715612774
Add for the army2,500
Add omissions, say15,652
Making a grand total of145,000


This settlement, which was founded by the Dutch, under Governor Riebeck, in 1652, contained in 1832 but a little upward of one hundred and forty thousand, there not being so many inhabitants as there are in the city of New York or Philadelphia, whereas the first English settlement of Puritans, which landed in New England but thirty-two years previous, now numbers upward of two millions, and the United States not less than fifteen millions. The Dutch held it from 1692 to 1795, when it was placed under the protection of the British government, by order of the prince of Orange. It was restored to the Batavian government in the commencement of 1803. In January, 1806, it capitulated to the English arms under General Sir D. Baird, and it is now an integral part of the British empire.

On a calm and beautiful morning, before the sun had tinged the mountains of Hottentots’ Holland, or Table mount, we were preparing for a ride to the celebrated vineyard of Constantia and to Simon’s town. J. B. Ebden, Esq., Captain Geisinger and myself, went in an excellent carriage, having six fine horses, accompanied by Captain Shields of the Boxer, Lieut. Craver of the Peacock, Mr. Poor of the Boxer, &c., on horseback. A pleasant ride of five miles brought us to the beautiful village of Wynberg, passing on the right of the Devil’s Peak. This village is adorned with a great number of gentlemen’s seats, and neat cottages, the avenues leading to them having well-trimmed hedges of myrtle and oak, and over shadowed by pine, oak or fruit trees, the grounds being ornamented with flowers and shrubs, and the porches shaded with luxuriant grape-vines. A small but very pretty new church, belonging to the Episcopalians, graces a rising ground on the right. We proceeded on about five miles further, where the road branches to the left and to the right, the former being the direct road to Simon’s town, and the latter leading to Constantia, &c. We breakfasted at the picturesque seat of the late Governor Cole, at Protea, with Mr. Scott of Bengal. From thence we went about three miles out of the direct road, passing the Newlands, a celebrated seat of a former governor, Lord Somerset, who lavished some eighty thousand pounds sterling upon it, at the expense of the British government. We passed through a noble avenue of ancient oaks, which led to Great Constantia, where we found a very substantial Dutch dwelling-house, having extensive out-buildings on the right, with[391] the wine-store in the rear. We were very kindly and hospitably received, and treated to a taste of four kinds of very old, rich wine, drawn out of some of the immense leaguers, which line both sides of an extensive building. Every thing about the place is in excellent order; the variety of fruits, flowers, shrubs and creeping plants, and live hedges, made it truly enchanting.


A fine stream of water runs through it, from the range of mountains, on the decline of which the vineyard is situated. From this estate two other vineyards have been formed, viz.: high and low Constantia, so called from their relative positions to the mountains. There is a most commanding view from the upper garden, the mountains about Hottentots’ Holland, cape Hanglip and the range of mountains leading towards the celebrated cape of Good Hope, as well as False bay and the Indian ocean, and had we ascended to the top of the mountains, which overlook Constantia, about three thousand feet, we could have seen both oceans at one view, the Indian and South Atlantic. The vines, which were hanging thick with clusters of fruit, are kept as low as three feet; only two fruit-bearing shoots of three eyes are left of the last year’s growth. The grapes are trodden out with the feet, as well as pressed out, the former being preferred, as in ancient times. There was but little to gratify the sight after leaving this hospitable place, till our arrival at Simon’s town. On the left is a low sandy isthmus, (having on it many lagoons,) which connects the cape district with Hottentots’ Holland; it is about twelve miles in length, and separates Table from False bay; there can be no doubt but that cape district was once separated from the main land, and this plain was formed by the accumulation of sand, thrown in by the gales from the Atlantic and Indian oceans. A few miserable hovels are scattered here and there, over this dreary isthmus, and on the right toward the mountains, there were a few ordinary cottages, and a solitary shepherd watching his flock, but scarcely a tree was seen in any direction, excepting a few Proteas, or those about the farm-houses. We wound round the base of Mysenberg, which is about two thousand feet high, passing through a dreary and uncomfortable looking fishing village of the same name. Proceeding on, we came next to Fishhook bay, where there is a poor village, having a small whaling establishment. At this place we came to a low, sandy isthmus, which is mostly covered at high water, and leads to Chap[392]man’s bay, on the west; this isthmus separates in nearly equal divisions the northern from the southern range of mountains, they being in length twenty-nine miles, from the Lion’s Rump to the cape of Good Hope.

About two miles from the latter village is Elsey peak, about twelve hundred feet high, round which the road passes, the base being washed by the sea, and then we came to the bay and village of the same name, having another small whaling establishment; but the inhabitants had shaken hands with poverty, and these three villages are evidently fast going to ruin. Two miles further brought us to Simon’s town; it was suddenly presented to our view on winding round the base of a mountain, with its naval arsenal and pretty white houses, having altogether a neat and cheerful appearance. A frigate, a merchant-ship and a sheer hulk, were riding quietly at anchor on the glassy bosom of the bay. We stopped at a neat hotel, and after a visit to Admiral F. Warren and family, by whom we were very kindly and hospitably received, we visited the arsenal, this being the cape rendezvous for British ships-of-war on this station, and found every thing in fine order and well arranged, viz.: suits of sails, boats, blocks, rigging, masts, chain and hemp cables, anchors, &c.; all in readiness for use from a seventy-four-gun ship to a sloop. The streets were in good order, and the houses very convenient and well built of stone or brick, and stuccoed, and the whole aspect of the place was favourable, and had an air of comfort and cleanliness, although bounded by barren, woodless and precipitous mountains and hills, with only here and there a few scattered fruit or forest trees about private enclosures. The town is represented to have a population of one thousand seven hundred inhabitants.

False bay is easy of access to vessels of the greatest depth of water, having but few dangers and those visible. No harbour can surpass that of Simon’s bay in point of security, having a sufficient depth of water for ships of any burden; the winds may be said never to blow from the east, which is the only point from which vessels are exposed. The winds most prevalent in False bay, are from the southeast, and Simon’s bay is completely sheltered from their violence; and in the winter from the north, which does not affect vessels materially, which are properly secured. Boats can always land, and refreshments of all kinds may be had, excel[393]lent fresh beef and mutton, and salted cape beef, with bread, biscuit, vegetables, wine, butter, &c., &c.

The bay abounds with fish, and if there is any deficiency of articles in the town, they may always be procured from Cape Town by the wagons. Horses and carriages are always to be had, and the mail runs twice a week to the capitol, during the warm months, and three times during the cool part of the season; the distance is twenty-one miles. Within the district there are plenty of cattle, and sheep, and wheat raised, and wine and brandy made in abundance. It is every way a most convenient and safe port for refreshments, and to repair vessels, and a most desirable haven for shelter to the way-worn mariner, who has been buffeting the storms of winter about this “cape of torments.” Our return occupied the space of three hours, and was performed by the same set of horses throughout, with perfect ease.


The following public institutions are established at Cape Town: The South African library, in a building at one end of the Grand Parade, is at once the pride and boast of the colony. It contains about ten thousand volumes in all departments of literature, and is highly creditable to the place. The South African college, founded in 1829, is spoken of in high terms by the inhabitants, although a large portion of the sons of wealthy parents are sent to England to complete their education. It has a professor of classical and English literature, as well as one for Dutch, and one for mathematics and the principles of astronomy. It has also a Dutch assistant and teacher of German, an English assistant, a mathematical assistant, writing-master, and drawing-master. There is also a society for promoting Christian knowledge, a philanthropic society for the diminution of slavery in the colony, and a royal observatory, having an astronomer, an assistant-astronomer, and a chronometer and instrument maker; a Bible union instituted in 1818; a South African infant school; a savings bank; a South African literary and scientific institution, to which is attached an excellent museum; a medical society, a “European and burial society;” this society was formed in 1795, for supporting poor and unfortunate fellow-countrymen, during their illness, and in the event of their death, to cause them to be respectably interred. It is a Dutch institution, and now possesses considerable funds. A “Saint Andrews,” friendly society, for the benefit of the Scotch, founded in[394] 1820, to afford relief in sickness, and medical assistance. A widows’ and old women’s fund; a widows’ private fund to afford relief to the widows of deceased members; a South African missionary society; a London missionary society, established in 1795; a Wesley missionary station society for Southern Africa. The school of industry, for the instructing female children of all denominations in reading and needlework; there is also a Sunday school attached to it. There are also a ladies’ benevolent society, an English choral society, and eight Sunday schools.

The commercial exchange is a handsome commodious edifice, having a lofty and spacious centre-hall: the tables are furnished with newspapers, and there is a good supply of mercantile works of reference with maps, &c. Most of the public meetings are held here; the north wing is used by the South African public library; a masonic hall is held in another room, and it has a ball-room, fifty-eight feet by twenty-four.

There are also a colonial insurance company and an agricultural society, which are likely to be highly useful, not only to Cape Town but the whole colony, branches being already established in most of the districts. There are a temperance society, having nine branches, in almost every district; an orphan house, and two “free schools,” besides other institutions. There is an English church now building, called St. George’s church, at a probable expense of sixteen thousand pounds sterling; the Rev. George Hough is the chaplain; the service is at present performed in the Dutch reformed church, at noon, after the Dutch society has retired. The new church is calculated to hold one thousand persons, of which three hundred seats are reserved for the poor. A Lutheran church: St. Andrew’s church (Presbyterian:) a Roman Catholic chapel, and a Wesleyan and Methodist chapel, &c., &c.

There are four newspapers printed in the colony, three at Cape Town and one at Graham’s town, the Government Gazette being one of them. There has also been published since June, 1830, a monthly publication called the Cape of Good Hope Literary Gazette; each number contains twelve quarto pages. It is a most respectable periodical, and contains a great deal of original matter, on general and local topics: it is independent in its tone, liberal in its doctrines, and deserving of encouragement. The “South African Almanac and Directory,” for 1833, possesses very high[395] merit, and I am deeply indebted to it, for no inconsiderable portion of statistical matter, &c., relative to the colony of the cape of Good Hope.


Attached to the South African literary and scientific institution is a museum; no museum I have yet seen, will compare with this, in the superior arrangement of the birds and beasts; nothing can be in finer order than the first: it would require many years of study and observation, and a fine tact, to be able to arrange them in their natural state as they are—to catch, in fact, the “living beauty,” when sporting among the wilds of his native bowers. There are many hundreds in the highest state of preservation; the beauty of their plumage is unsurpassed. There is also a small but valuable collection of shells, minerals, fossils, coral, sponge, &c., &c. A French gentleman is the artist, the preserver and arranger of this beautiful museum. I regretted much, that an hour was all I had to devote to these beautifully arranged objects of nature. There are a noble lion and a lioness at the upper end of the public garden, belonging to government. There were for sale in Cape Town a number of zebras from the Snow-berg mountains; these were in fine order and appeared to be very tractable, and several were mounted without any difficulty. This animal is so well known that it is unnecessary to attempt giving any description of it; their coats were in such good order, and the yellow ground and black stripes so bright, distinct, and perfect, that one can scarcely believe it is other than a work of man’s fancy; it differs from the zebra of the plains, by having black rings upon the legs. The price was ninety pounds sterling per pair; they are built very compactly, and are said to be a very hardy animal; there was an “ant bear,” but it differed materially from one I saw at Buenos Ayres; the body and nose of the latter were longer, and the bristles on the back also of greater length, and more rigid and wiry: he was very harmless, and suffered any one to handle him: a spring-bock-springer, antelope, or showy-bock was also for sale: he had a cavity about the lower part of the rump, adjoining the tail, the hair being quite white: when he bounded in the air this spot dilated by the effort, and closed again on descending. The above animals, as well as birds, reptiles, &c., were for sale by Mr. Reid, in Roland street—a “collector of curiosities” as he styles himself on his card.


Mr. Villet in Long street has a very great collection of animals living and dead: the living ones are at his garden at Green Point. He is also a nursery seedsman and florist: prepares birds, skins, insects, &c. There are many other “collectors of curiosities.” The enormous prices paid by the English generally, put all the traders on the frontier upon the “qui vive;” and the shell-collectors at Table and Simon’s bay, &c., find a ready sale and high prices for paper-nautilus, beautiful limpits in great variety, as well as scaly chitons, &c.

Dr. Smith has in his possession a stuffed Hottentot woman, formerly a well-known notoriously bad character in Cape Town; she was skinned in a very complete manner, excepting the head, hands and feet, the fleshy part being taken away, and then preserved and stuffed and placed in a standing position; it is almost the first attempt ever made: the features are the same as when living: she was about thirty years of age, of middle height, and well made, having close set and small tufted twists of hair; apparently no bridge to the nose, thin lips, with the extraordinary projection behind, which is common to her nation. The Hottentots are unquestionably a distinct race, from the rest of mankind, with the peculiarities well known.

There is a race-course at Green point; the horses have a high celebrity for swiftness, strength and beauty. It has been found that the racehorses imported from England cannot compete with them. It is probable they never fully recover from the fatigues of a tedious voyage.

The oil which is preferred, is taken from the top of the tail of the cape sheep; it burns without smoke or smell. The acorns are preserved in fresh water, and the cattle fed on them as well as grass.

There are regular mails to twenty-five different towns. The rate of postage for a single letter, is from twopence to thirteen pence sterling.

There are stationed within the colony three regiments of soldiers, the seventy-second Highlanders, the ninety-fifth and seventy-fifth regiments; the two first named are at Cape Town and vicinity, the seventy-second being stationed in various parts of the colony. I will only say they are in the finest order possible, and the officers of the royal artillery and royal engineers, are gentlemen that would honour any situation in which they might be placed.


Robbin island is low land, raised but a few feet above the level of the sea, and can only be seen at a short distance, lying parallel with the main and devoid of trees. It seems on the first view to be a part of the continent; it is the Botany bay of the cape, and has a small garrison; there is a good anchorage on the southeastern side, and a safe passage between it and the continent.


There is an expedition preparing for discoveries in the interior of Africa, to consist of about forty persons, under the direction of a most worthy and scientific man, Dr. A. Smith. It was to leave Graff Reinet, being the most convenient place of rendezvous, on the first of June, 1834. At that place there can easily be procured oxen, wagons and attendants. It is in contemplation to penetrate as far as the equator, in a northeasterly direction, but the course will be varied according to circumstances; the time it will occupy will probably be two years. The objects in view are to enlarge the geographical knowledge of the extensive and unknown regions to the northward of this settlement, to obtain scientific information, especially as it regards the branches of meteorology, geology and magnetism; to collect botanical specimens, and those of natural history, and to ascertain what prospects the productions of the country, and the disposition of the native tribes, hold out to commercial enterprise, are the chief aims of the intended experiment. There is to be a botanist, a surveyor and a draftsman, capable of delineating landscape and portraying objects of natural history, and a person capable of conducting the trading department of the expedition. It seems there are to be seven wagons, with one European, and four Hottentots, to each, and one hundred and twenty crew, and it is probable that two sergeants and ten soldiers will be added to the number. The cost of the expedition will amount, probably, to not less than two thousand pounds, exclusive of the necessary instruments, maps, &c. Lieutenant Edie of the ninety-eighth regiment will assume the command, in case of accident to Dr. Smith. Both of these gentlemen lately returned from a journey to Natal. May every success attend so laudable an undertaking: it is fraught with innumerable dangers, from sickly climates, savage beasts, and still more savage men.

It is in contemplation to build a break-water, into the bay, commencing near the Chavonne battery, and a survey has been completed. If a double railway is made from the quarries on the side[398] of the hill called the Lion’s Rump, which is at a very short distance, the full cars on descending could be made to return the empty, and then it would be done at a small expense, considering the importance of the object.

On the twenty-first, our stock of provisions being replenished, we took leave of our hospitable friends. The ship tacked and stood in shore, and then tacked again and stood off, the main-topsail being aback; a salute of twenty-one guns was fired, the English flag being hoisted at the main. The compliment was returned by the castle, the ship “filled away,” and we passed between Robbin island and the main, owing to the wind being light, from the northward and westward. The convict-houses on the island are on the eastern side. The neatness of the officers’ quarters and the soldiers’ barracks, gave some relief to a very barren spot. The verdant vine-fields, the pleasant town, and the cloud-capped Table mount, gradually receded from our view, as we approached the land about Saldanha bay. The weather was fine, the temperature of the air was delightful; a smooth sea, with light breezes, accompanied us to the coast of Brazil, so that the smallest boat in the ship could have performed the passage with perfect ease and safety. We did not attempt to make much westing until the ship had arrived in the latitude of about eighteen, and in the longitude of about eight west, owing to the baffling and uncertain winds which are always experienced in a higher latitude, as an approach is made toward the sea, midway between the two continents, and toward the coast of America. And we derived but little benefit from northerly and westerly currents, which only assisted us about one hundred and fifty miles. On the seventeenth January, (1834,) we once more were blessed with the sight of “Lord Hood’s gigantic nose,” and the Vac d’Assucar, and anchored the next morning in Rio harbour. Having been deprived nearly twenty months of letters from home, great anxiety was expressed by all for the return of the boat, which had been despatched on shore and to the Natchez to procure them—hopes and fears rushed on the fancy of all, as the return boat approached the ship—the budget at length arrived, and was opened and distributed, the seats torn asunder, and the contents read with the utmost rapidity, and in a few minutes the delightful sound that “all’s well” was heard from the cabin to the ward-room, and from the steerage to the berth, gun,[399] and spar decks, repaying all for the thousand perils they had encountered from stormy oceans, treacherous reefs, and baneful climates. Such is the delight most painfully earned by a long, protracted absence from our country, and our friends.

The Boxer having parted company soon after leaving Table bay, and keeping more to the westward than the Peacock, caused a delay of two days in her passage beyond ours. I remained at Rio until the arrival from “the river” of the Lexington, commanded by Captain M’Keever.


Having taken leave of many worthy friends on board the Peacock, I embarked on board the Lexington, and on the first day of March we were cheered with the welcome sound of the first lieutenant’s voice, ordering the capstan bars to be manned. The band immediately struck up the cheering tune of “Homeward bound,” the capstan bars flew round like a top, and in a few minutes, the ponderous anchor was at the bows, and as we “filled away,” every countenance seemed exultingly to say, “Our next anchorage ground will be within sight of home, and friends, and our dear native shore.” Light and unfavourable winds annoyed us for the first fortnight, until we stretched as far to the eastward as 28°, and latitude 19°, when the northeasterly wind began to prevail more steadily. On the twenty-seventh day, we crossed the equator and passed between cape St. Roque and the island of Fernand de Noronha. The whole passage was marked with light winds, until we arrived in the latitude of Bermudas, when strong gales from the northward caused us to suffer severely from the cold. On the twenty-fourth of April we caught the first sight of land at cape Cod, and that evening, after “battling the watch” all day with a furious northwester off cape Ann, we put into Boston harbour and anchored near the light-house. On quitting the ship and her worthy commander and officers, the next morning, the music played, “Home, Sweet Home,” which I was upon the eve of visiting, after a painful absence of twenty-six months.


A Table, showing the names of the various places visited in rotation, on board the United States ships-of-war, Peacock and Lexington, from the eighth of March, 1832, to the twenty-fourth of April, 1834; together with the distances between each place, and the number of days at sea.

FromToDistance in miles per log.Number of days at sea.
BostonPort Praya3,67231
Port PrayaRio de Janeiro2,64122
Rio JaneiroMontevideo1,15913
MontevideoBuenos Ayres1102
Buenos AyresMontevideo1333
BencoolenCrokatoa and Angier5939
ManilaMacao} Canton
LintingPhuyen bay and Cochin-China7187
Phuyen baySiam95010
AngierRed Sea4,69438
Red SeaPersian Gulf1,41617
MuscatQuintangony and Mozambique2,78230
MozambiqueCape of Good Hope2,30624
Cape of Good HopeRio de Janeiro3,67327
Peacock, miles38,230370 days.
Lexington, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston6,94854 do.
Whole distance of miles, exclusive of currents45,178424 do.





State of Commerce in the year 1833, at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Condensed and brought into Form from Various Documents.

There arrived 1704 national vessels, and departed 1629; and arrived 696 foreign vessels, and departed 617.

The exports consisted of the following articles, viz.:—

Coffee, 577,764 bags and barrels10,494,576000
Sugar, 15,000 boxes, 11,204 barrels, and 7,217 bags1,459,513500
Hides, 187,530754,048880
Horns, 380,24248,922340
Rice, 14,248 bags80,276000
Rum, 3,492 pipes192,928000
Tobacco, 15,919 rolls158,584500
Ipecacuanha, 458 barrels and bundles59,880000
Tapioca, 937 barrels and bags3,002000
Cotton, 196 bales1,488000
Timber, 1,633 dozens40,860000
Tanned half hides, 5,21020,987000
Gold, diamonds, &c.2,400,000000
Valued at15,715,060820
Mil Reis.Rs.
The imports were valued at16,560,372752
The revenue amounted to the sum of4,847,952550

There were imported 184,000 barrels of flour, including 13,000 barrels on hand, on the first of January; and there were exported 48,500; and[404] there were on hand, the first of January, 1834, 35,000, which gave 100,500 barrels consumed—164,185 barrels were imported from the United States, and 6,815 barrels from Europe and elsewhere.

The number of foreign vessels despatched during the year, were 565, measuring 149,746 tons, of which,

208were English,measuring53,985tons.
167   „ American   „50,410   „
7   „ Austrian   „1,771   „
5   „ Belgian   „1,149   „
16   „ Danish   „4,688   „
26   „ French   „7,252   „
6   „ Spanish   „1,059   „
3   „ Dutch   „1,225   „
13   „ Hamburgh   „3,919   „
6   „ Montevideo   „1,054   „
4   „ Neapolitan   „815   „
40   „ Portuguese   „7,327   „
26   „ Sardinian   „5,661   „
21   „ Swedish   „5,496   „
2   „ Tuscan   „382   „
2   „ Russian   „1,366   „
3   „ Bremen   „904   „
1   „ Roman   „158   „
9   „ Argentine   „1,116   „

There were shipped, by American vessels to the United States, 236,708 bags of coffee, and to Europe, 67,043 bags; making 303,751 bags, &c., which is upward of one half of the whole quantity exported.

Production of coffee throughout the world, in 1833:—

Rest of India and Arabia30,000,000
Porto Rico15,000,000
St. Domingo40,000,000
British West Indies20,000,000
French      „15,000,000
Dutch       „10,000,000
Spanish    „10,000,000
Total pounds322,432,240


Consumption of coffee in 1833, copied from an Antwerp newspaper:—

Low Countries90,000,000
Germany and the Baltic70,000,000
Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean65,000,000
England and Ireland25,000,000
United States80,000,000
In 1830, Brazil produced 391,785 bags62,685,600
  „ 1831,    „                  „    430,672  „ 68,907,530
  „ 1832,    „                  „    513,296  „ 82,127,360
  „ 1833,    „                  „    577,764  „ 92,432,240

Being an increase of nearly fifty per cent., from 1830 to 1833.

Coffee consumed in the world:—

The consumption in Great Britain,is about10,000
          „         „          France20,000
          „         „          Netherlands40,000
          „         „          Spain and Portugal10,000
          „         „          Germany and the Baltic32,000
          „         „          United States15,000

This quantity is produced as follows:—

British West India Islands13,390
St. Domingo16,000
Dutch West India Colonies5,000
French   ditto   and Bourbon8,000
Brazil and S. Main32,000


Population of Brazil in 1819, continued:—

Free casts426,000
Ditto blacks150,500
Black slaves1,728,000
Produce:100,000 cases sugar, of 15 qtt., of 128 pounds each.
150,000 bales of cotton, 12,500,000 pounds.
Between 12 and 13 millions pounds of coffee.



Of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Malayan Peninsula, and particularly of the Negroes called Semang.

This subject has afforded matter of curious and interesting speculation, to several writers of modern date. Marsden, Leydon, Raffles and Crawfurd have alternately bestowed a slight attention upon it; but it is one which requires more minute investigation, and would amply repay the labours of the philosopher.

Of the interior parts of the Malayan peninsula, which is the Suvarna or Gold island, one of the three sacred isles of the Hindoos[†] and the grand depot for souls after death,[†] there is little known even at the present day, and the researches which have hitherto been made, regarding the Aboriginals of this portion of the East, have as yet been exceedingly defective, and unattended with any satisfactory result. “In our present state of knowledge,” as a late author observes, “I fear we must pronounce that the origin of the nations which inhabit the Indian islands seems buried in unfathomable obscurity, and hardly appears less mysterious than that of indigenous plants and animals of the country they inhabit.”[†] Mr. Marsden, in the introduction to his Malayan grammar, has quoted the opinion of Sir S. Raffles, (then Mr. Raffles, secretary to the governor of Prince of Wales island,) who published a paper on the Malay nation, in the twelfth volume of the Asiatic Researches, relative to the Aborigines of the peninsula. “The Malays,” observes this author, “seem to have occupied a country previously unappropriated, for, if we except an inconsiderable race of Caffrees who are occasionally found near the mountains, and a few tribes of the Orang-Benua, there does not exist a vestige of a nation anterior to the Malays in the whole peninsula. As the population of the peninsula has excited much interest, my attention has been particularly directed to the various tribes stated to be scattered over the country. Those on the hills are usually called Semang and are woolly headed; those on the plains, Orang-Benua, or people belonging to the country; the word Benua being applied by the Malays to any extensive country, as Benua China, Benua Kling, but it appears to be only a sort of Malay plural to the Arabic word Ben or Beni, signifying a tribe.”[†] This hypothesis, however, is satisfactorily confuted by Marsden, who asserts that Benua is a genuine Malay word signifying country, region, land, and that a slight[408] variation of the word, as Whennua or Fennua is found in the Bisagan dialects of the Philippines, and the languages of the South Sea islands, bearing a precisely similar signification. In my inquiries among the Malays, I have not been able, however, to discover that the term Orang-Benua (which is literally Aborigines or people of the land) is ever applied to any particular race of the Malayan peninsula, the supposed Aboriginal tribes being styled Sakei or Orang-Bukit, Orang-Laut or Semang. According to the Malayan legends, indeed, there is a race of wild people said to be found in the interior of Buman, the boundary between the states of Perak and Salengore, designated Tuah-Benua[†] by the Salagorians, and known at Quedah by the name of Mawas. They are represented as bearing a strong resemblance to the Mawa or long-armed gibbon, and instead of having a bone in the lower part of the arm, they have a piece of sharp iron which serves the double purpose of an arm and a cleaver for cutting wood. There is another savage race, according to the Malays, called Bilian, who are covered with hair, and have nails of extraordinary length. Their principal occupation is said to be tending the tigers, which are their peculiar flock, as the buffaloes are of the Malays. In rainy nights, they are represented by the Malays as sometimes coming to their residence and demanding fire, which those who are acquainted with their savage disposition, hand them upon the point of a sumpit or arrow tube, or at the extremity of a sword; as were the person to present it with his hand, he would inevitably be seized and devoured by the savage monster, a fate, which the credulous Malay firmly believes, has befallen many. It is admirable how the Mahometans of the present day even, assign to these regions inhabitants so aptly coinciding with the mythological superstitions of the Hindoos. Fitter subjects could not indeed be attributed to the sovereign of darkness, whose abode is said to be in the peninsula of Malacca, than the Mawas and Bilian races above described; whose appearance is quite consistent with what some intelligent Christians even, consider as the imps of the infernal regions, and it is still more remarkable that the supposed residence of the Mawa species is, according to the Malays, in the very neighbourhood of the city of the Hindoos, yama-pari, or the grand depot for souls after death. Another circumstance deserving of notice is, that the Menang-Kebans of Sumatra, supposed to be the primitive Malays, “deduce their origin from two brothers named Perapati See Batang and Kei Tumunggungan, who are described as being among the forty companions of Noah in the ark, and whose landing at Palembang, or at a small islet near it named Lauha Pura, (probably the small island of Lucepara) is attended with the circumstance of the dry land[409] being first discovered by the resting upon it of a bird (Perapati is literally a pigeon) that flew from the vessel. From thence they proceeded to the mountain named Sigantang-Gantang, and afterward to Priangan in the neighbourhood of the great volcano, which at this day is spoken of as the capital of Menang-Kaban.”[†] There is a mountain called Gunon-Gantang in the Perak country, the supposed Yama-puri, and what is still more extraordinary, the king of Perak, in opposing the claims of the Siamese to a Boonga-Mas or Golden Flower, in a letter to a friend, says, “I am he who holds the royal sword and the dragon Betel Stand, and the shell fish which came out of the sea, which came from the hill of Segantang.” I do not profess myself to be sufficiently conversant with the subject, to reason farther on this singular coincidence, but it appears to me that many curious inferences might be drawn from it, and I shall leave the matter for the investigation of a more scientific pen.

At Perak, the principal tin country of the peninsula, there are two distinct races of wild people in the interior, the one called Semang, resembling those of Quedah in personal appearance, but speaking a different dialect, somewhat more civilized, and fond of collecting silver and gold, with which they ornament their spears and knives, which they obtain in exchange for the products of the wood; the others are called Orang-Sakei by some, and Orang-Bukit or hill-people by others.[†] They are much darker complexioned than the Malays, but fairer than the Semangs, and speak a distinct language of their own. They are not so timid as the Semangs, and sometimes come down to the Malayan villages to amuse the inhabitants by their peculiar dances and music. Their ordinary dress consists of pieces of bark beat out, tied round their middle, but in their woods they are frequently met quite naked. Both tribes are reported to be pretty numerous on the hills which divide the Perak from the Patani states, and they are often engaged in hostilities with each other. They are not so untractable as the Semangs, and some of their children are trained up as domestics in the Malayan families.

The Orang-Laut is a race of people resembling the Malays in appearance, who live almost entirely on the water; they are certainly the Ichthyophagi of the East, and they subsist wholly upon fish. Dr. Leyden supposes the Battas of Sumatra to be the Ichthyophagi described by Herodotus; but there are several circumstances in his description which would seem to contradict such a supposition. The same author also, in alluding to the Batta Anthropophagi or cannibals of Sumatra, says:[†] “This inhuman custom is not however without a precedent in[410] history, for Herodotus positively asserts that the Padang or Pedasi, about five hundred years before our era, were not only addicted to the eating of raw flesh, but accustomed to kill and eat their relations when they grew old.” Now it is curious that Batta or Battey, for the name is written both ways, seems to be the very word which in Greek, is rendered Padasi, the letter P being almost always pronounced B among several of the Indo Chinese nations, as in the word Pali, which is almost always pronounced Bali. The following is the account which Herodotus gives us of the Paday or Padasi:—“Another Indian nation, who dwell to the eastward of these, (the Indian Ichthyophagi,) are of Nomadic habits and eat raw flesh; they are called Paday and are said to practise such customs as the following: whoever of the community, be he man or woman, happens to fall sick, his most familiar friends, if it is a man, kill him, saying, that by his pining in sickness, his flesh will be spoiled for them, and though he deny that he is sick, they do not attend to him, but put him to death and feast on him. When a woman falls sick, she is treated in like manner by her most intimate female associates. They also sacrifice and feast on him who arrives at old age, and this is the reason that so few ever attain it, for they kill every one who falls sick, before that period.”[†] Although this account corresponds in some particulars with the habits of the Battas, yet it differs materially in others. The Battas, it is well known, inhabit the central parts of Sumatra and but rarely approach the seashore; they could not therefore be termed Ichthyophagi, as they scarcely see fish. The Orang-Laut of the present day are not known to be addicted to cannibalism, though it is extremely probable they were in former times, as they yet retain all the characteristics of the most savage life. They rove about from one island to another, and are found in greatest numbers about the Lancavy group of islands opposite Quedah, and likewise in the straits of Singapore, Dryon, Banca and Belitong. They subsist wholly by fishing, and are very expert at striking fish with the spear; they live principally in small canoes: sometimes when the weather is boisterous, or their little barks require repair, they erect temporary huts on the seashore: they are almost all covered with ring-worms and scorbutic eruptions, and have altogether a most squalid, wretched look; they are sometimes, when chance throws them in the way and they have become a little civilized, employed by the Malays to pull an oar, at which from their continual practice, they are very expert; “their religion is,” (as Symes says of the Andamaners,) “the genuine homage of nature,” offering up a hasty petition to the sun and moon. Of the origin of that most singular and curious race called Semang,[†] the Ma[411]lays possess no tradition: certain it is, however, that the tribes of them which inhabited various parts on both sides of the peninsula, were much more numerous before many of the Malayan colonies were founded by emigrants from Sumatra. The Semangs are designated by the Malays Semang Paya, Bukit, Bakow and Bila. The Semang Paya are those who reside on the plains and borders of morasses; the Semang Bukit whose abode is on the hills, and the Semang Bakow are so called from their frequenting the seashore, and occasionally taking up their quarters in the mangrove jungles; the Semang Bila are those who have been somewhat reclaimed from their savage habits and have had intercourse with the Malays. A similar race of people are said to have formerly inhabited all the islands of the Archipelago, and small parties are still to be found on many of them. To the eastward they are called Dyake, and on the east coast of the Peninsula, Pangan. They are at present most numerous in the interior of Jan, a small river to the northward of Mirlow, near the lofty mountain Jerei, in the Quedah territory. There are small parties also in the mountains inland of Jooroo and Krian, opposite Pinang. Their huts are temporary dwellings, (for they have no fixed habitations, and rove about like the beasts of the forest,) consist of two posts stuck into the ground, with a small cross-piece, and a few leaves or branches of trees laid over to secure them from the weather; some of them indeed, in the thicker parts of the forest, where the elephants, tigers, and other wild animals are most abundant, make their temporary dwellings upon the cliffs, and branches of the large trees; their clothing consists chiefly of the inner bark of trees, having no manufactures of their own; a few who have ventured to approach the Malayan villages, however, obtain a little cloth in exchange for elephant’s teeth, gahru, dammer and canes, which they procure in the forest, but of the intrinsic value of which they possess little knowledge, and are imposed upon by the crafty Malay. From the Malays also, they procure their arms, knives and tobacco, of which last they make great use; they in turn frequently impose upon the superstitious Malays, when they have no products to barter and wish to procure a supply of tobacco, by presenting them with the medicines derived from particular shrubs and trees, which they represent as efficacious for the cure of headaches and other complaints. The Semangs subsist upon the birds and beasts of the forest and upon roots; they eat elephants, rhinoceroses, monkeys, and rats, and with the exception of the partial and scanty supplies which they obtain from the Malays, they have no rice nor salt: they are very expert with the sompit, and poison their darts with the ipoh, procured from the juice of various trees, which are deadly poison; they handle[412] the bow and spear with wonderful dexterity, and destroy the largest and most powerful animals by ingenious contrivances. They seldom suffer by beasts of prey, as they are extremely sharpsighted, and as agile in ascending trees as the monkeys. Their mode of destroying elephants, in order to procure their ivory or their flesh, is most extraordinary and ingenious; small parties of two and three lie in wait, when they perceive any elephants ascend a hill, and as they descend again, (which they usually do at a slow pace, plucking the branches as they move along,) while the hind legs are lifted up, the Semang, cautiously approaching behind, drives a sharp-pointed bambic or piece of weebong, which has been previously well hardened in the fire, and touched with poison, into the sole of the elephant’s foot, with all his force, which effectually lames the animal and most commonly causes him to fall, when the whole party rush upon him with spears and sharp-pointed sticks, and soon despatch him. The rhinoceros they obtain with even less difficulty. This animal, which is of solitary habits, is found frequently in marshy places, with its whole body immersed in mud, and part of the head only projecting. The Malays call them bodak tapa, or the recluse rhinoceros. Toward the close of the rainy season, they are said to bury themselves in this manner in different places, and upon the dry weather setting in, and from the powerful effects of a vertical sun, the mud becomes hard and crusted, and the rhinoceros cannot effect its escape without considerable difficulty and exertion; the Semangs then prepare themselves with large quantities of combustible materials, with which they quietly approach the animal, who is aroused from his revery by an immense fire over him, which being kept well supplied with fresh fuel, soon completes his destruction and renders him in a fit state to make a meal of; the projecting horn on the snout is carefully preserved, being supposed to be possessed of medical properties, and highly prized by the Malays, to whom they barter it for tobacco and other articles.

A more simple and natural mode of bestowing names cannot well be imagined, than that adopted by the Semangs: they are called after particular trees: that is, if a child is born under or near a cocoa-nut, or durian, or any particular tree in the forest, it is named accordingly. They have chiefs among them, but all property is in common; they worship the sun. Some years ago, I am told, the bindahava or general of Quedah, sent two of these people for the inspection of some of his English friends, at Penang; but shortly after leaving Quedah, one of them, whose fears could not be appeased, became very obstreperous, and endeavoured to upset the small boat, in which they embarked; the Malays, therefore, with their usual apathy and indifference about human life,[413] put the poor creature to death, and threw him overboard; the other arrived in safety, was kindly treated, and received many presents of spades, hatchets, and other implements, which he appeared to prize above every thing else. On his return to Jan, he built himself a small hut, and began to cultivate maize, sugar-cane, and yams, and it is said that he is still there, and is a quiet inoffensive man. This man was, at the time of his visit to Penang, according to report, about thirty years of age, four feet nine inches in height: his hair was woolly and tufted, and of a glossy jet-black;[†] his lips were thick, his nose flat, and belly very protuberant, resembling exactly the natives of the Andaman islands. The Semangs are found also at Tringand, on the eastern side of the peninsula. I am informed by the Malays that the dialect of that tribe is different from those of Quedah, but much the same as of those near Malacca: they are not of such a jet-black, glossy appearance as the Semangs from Quedah, nor as the Andamans. There is little doubt that the degenerate inhabitants of the Andaman islands, in the bay of Bengal, are descended from the same parent stock as the Semangs, and it is extraordinary that they have preserved the same uniformity of manners and habits, through such a series of ages. It will be seen by a reference to the following specimen of the Semang language, that there is a very material difference in many of the words collected by Colonel M’Lunes, (late Malay translator at Penang,) from a Semang or Jan, and published by Mr. Crawfurd, and those collected by Mr. Maingy, the president of Province Wellesley, (government of Penang,) from the Semang of Jooroo, and that the Andaman language bears no resemblance to either.

Specimens of the Semang Language in two Dialects, and of the Andaman.

English.Semang Jooroo.Sensing Jan or Quedah.Andaman.
LandTeh KarmonTehTatonguangu
MountainMaidapTabing Chubak
PlainTeh Haita
DarkTin, Amea
LightCha hai
ColdGun, AmadChoma
HeadKula KuyiKaiTabay
Nail of the handTiku Tong
Nail of thefootTiku Chan
ToeWong Chan
HogTuban, Badai







It is well known wherever tea is used, that there are two descriptions of it, the black and the green. In the account of the domestic commerce of China heretofore mentioned, it is shown that the black teas are brought from the province of Tuh-keen, (which lies at the distance of about four hundred miles from Canton,) and the green teas from Keang-nan, (at the distance of about eight hundred miles.) The hilly upland districts of these provinces are the native and favourite soils of the tea-tree. It has not been supposed that these leading kinds of tea, as an article of wide consumption, were the produce of the same tree—but it has been and still is questioned, whether the black and the green teas are the produce of plants specifically differing, or whether these differences of colour, flavour, &c., are the result of the action of soil and sun on the same original tree. Botanists have never been permitted to traverse these provinces, and so decide this question; we believe however, that their opinion now is, that there must and do exist differences sufficiently great to be denominated specific, between the black-tea tree and the green-tea tree.

Beside this region producing the real tea of commerce, the greater part of the Chinese provinces, and even Cochin-China and Japan, have their tea-tree. The provincial tea of China is a widely different, and very inferior article, though used by the poorer local population; and sometimes when prices are high, it is used to adulterate, before exportation, the true tea. Perhaps the grape is the only plant whose produce can be compared for singular diversity of flavour, &c., to the tea of the tea-tree. The delicious “Woolung” differs as totally from the common Souchong, as does the “Vin ordinaire” of the worst districts, from the “Chambertin of Burgundy.”

We are not aware that there is any thing peculiar in the cultivation of the tea-tree, except that, like the mulberry, it is kept down to a sapling size, to secure a tenderer leaf, and to render its gathering the more easy. It is said to be cultivated by small proprietors, who sell the produce of their tea-groves to collectors, called at Canton “teamen.” These collectors leave Canton in the winter and spring with their own, and perhaps a loaned capital, and after purchasing, curing and packing, as much tea as their means will command, return with it to Canton in the autumn. In the curing of tea, we are not aware that any unwholesome[421] methods are regularly resorted to—it is certain, however, that iron filings have sometimes been detected in black teas, and that the colour of the green is sometimes attempted to be heightened by a little “Prussian blue.” It is perhaps from a few cases of this kind, that prejudices have been excited against this wholesome, temperate and social beverage. The green tea, when arrived at Canton, is spoken of in the market as a “Sunglo,” or a “Hyson” tea; the black tea is called a “Mohea,” or an “Anki” tea. These names, derived from the districts where the tea is grown, are used as general distinctions of flavour and quality—the “Hyson” and “Mohea” being sweeter and more valuable—the “Sunglo” and “Anki,” more astringent and less esteemed teas. These names are however almost unknown to the consumers in Europe and America. The names with which they are familiar, are found under both these general distinctions in tea. The Hyson—Hyson Skin—Young Hyson—Gunpowder and Imperial, all green, may be either Sunglo or Hyson teas. These names, viz.: Hyson, Hyson Skin, &c., merely designate the sortings, or siftings of the green leaf into its different sizes, or stages of growth, but plucked from the same tree. The Hyson, being the full-grown, mature leaf, has hitherto been in much the greatest quantity; but the increasing demand for Young Hyson, Gunpowder and Imperial—younger leaves—will no doubt be followed by a corresponding effort to increase by a different time of gathering, the proportion of these kinds of tea.

There is not so much care taken in sorting the produce of the black-tea tree. Its rougher, coarser leaf cannot be made to curl or roll when dried, like that of the green-tea tree. In the spring, the first sproutings of its twigs and tender leaves are gathered—these make the Pecco tea; they may be distinguished by the white down which covers them, as it does the spring shoots of other plants; hence the name “Pih-haou,” white down. In the course of the summer, there are three other gatherings, each less valuable than the preceding, of the leaves of the black-tea tree. The “Congo,” the great article for the English market, is made from one of the early gatherings, without any mixture of inferior tea. The “Campoi,” though not at the present day a favourite article, or a very inferior one, has a large clean leaf, and should be, as its name signifies, a “selected” tea. It is not correct to say that the “Souchong” is an inferior tea. Its name merely designates it as a “small-leafed” tea; its different qualities take in a wide range of flavour and value. Its first gatherings, from favourable soils, are delicious teas; while the third crop, “Souchong,” is superior only to Bohea. The “Pouchong” is only a peculiarly packed tea; a clean unbroken black tea is chosen and tied up in small papers to make Pouchong tea; its name signifies “enveloped,”[422] or a “packed tea.” The very inferior article called “Bohea,” is at the present time, rather a manufacture than a growth of tea. Its name is corrupted from “Woo-E” the hills bearing the black tea. It is now prepared either in the country, by mixing the refuse of the Souchong, or with “Wa-ping,” a neighbouring provincial tea, or at Canton by adding farther, the tea which has been damaged on its passage from the interior, and all the leaves within reach of collection, which have been once infused and dried again.

The “teamen” are in the habit of affixing the same name, year after year, to the tea which they bring to market; this name given to their whole parcel, or to each of the qualities it may contain, is called the “Chop” name. The foreign resident at Canton has little or no intercourse with the “teamen.” The “hong” merchants, or the merchants trading through the hongs, are the medium of sale; they often, however, purchase largely on their own account and judgment from the “teamen.”

The Dutch learned the use of tea at Bantam from the Chinese, and first introduced it into Europe in 1610. It was not known in England until after 1650; and from 1700 to 1710, there was imported less than eight hundred thousand pounds; but from 1710 to 1810, it amounted to seven hundred and fifty millions of pounds: between the years 1810 and 1828, the total importation exceeded four hundred and twenty-seven millions, being on an average of between twenty-three and twenty-four millions a year. In the year 1831, the quantity amounted to twenty-six millions, forty-three thousand, two hundred and twenty-three pounds; and in the season of 1832-33, the export of the English Company was thirty millions, thirty-six thousand, and four hundred pounds. The expiration of the English East India Company’s charter, and the ill success of the Netherlands Trading Company, are now turning the commerce in this valuable article into private hands. At the close of the company’s charter, (in 1834,) the consumption of tea in the United Kingdom, was estimated at thirty-two millions of pounds. Under the free trade now opening, it may be estimated at thirty-five millions. The consumption of the rest of Europe, imported almost entirely through Hamburgh and Holland, may be estimated at five millions of pounds. The quantity imported into Russia by land from China is not included.

The American trade to China commenced in 1784-5; and that season, eight hundred and eighty thousand, one hundred pounds, were exported. In the next season, six hundred and ninety-five thousand pounds were taken. In 1786-7, five ships were engaged in the trade,[423] and they exported one million, one hundred and eighty-six thousand, eight hundred and sixty pounds; but in the season of 1832-3, fifty-nine vessels exported thirteen millions, two hundred and fifty thousand, one hundred and eighty-five pounds of the following descriptions:—

Bohea, 13,665 quarter chests of 50 catties each,making683,255
Souchg. and Pouchg.39,538 chests 50 catties1,876,900
H. Skin and Tonkay,36,608 „         52   „1,903,616
Young Hyson,51,363 „         70   „3,595,410
Gunpowder and Imp.12,583 „         83   „1,041,899
Hyson,14,248 „         49   „710,972
Pecco,2,563   „         49   „125,587
Equal to pounds,13,250,185

The consumption of the United States, and the ports supplied from the commerce of the United States, may be estimated for 1834, at fifteen millions of pounds.

We have therefore a total annual consumption, on this side of the Cape of Good Hope, of this great staple of China, of FIFTY-FIVE millions of pounds. This amount will in a few years be increased to sixty millions. The quantity of tea exported by the Dutch cannot be accurately estimated. Some seasons there are five or six ships engaged in the trade, and in other seasons there are none: when there is any deficiency it has been supplied by the Americans. The quantity exported to British India averages about two millions, three hundred thousand pounds annually. The export by vessels of other nations is very inconsiderable.

The Portuguese, notwithstanding their direct, early, and intimate connexion with China, neglected to import it, being very indifferent to its use; they, as well as the Spaniards, place but little value on it even to this day; coffee and chocolate being preferred in Spain and Portugal, as well as in South America, Mexico, Cuba and Porto Rico, with the addition of the Yerba de Paraguay or Maté, the favourite beverage of the Spaniards of La Plata, Paraguay, Chili, and other parts of South America.


Comparative Estimate of the principal Exports from Canton to the United States.

1822-23.1823-24.1824-25.1825-26.1826-27.1827-28.1828-29.1829-30.1830-31.1831-321832-33Catties each.
Bohea, one fourth chests10,0182,4135,7953,3401,0951,1009011,9043,59212,18213,66550
Souchong & Pouchong37,82829,29631,56624,52727,40524,77517,21625,42817,51439,59639,53850
Hyson skin & Tonkay37,13432,42656,78845,29929,39533,92618,09768,1345,44720,88336,60852
Young hyson22,16531,21739,30345,46128,48731,08526,19229,47625,52840,06551,36370
Gunpowder & imperial4,8995,5876,8178,0195,9926,6144,8886,2893,9539,11712,55383
Total chests127,022112,816154,985146,086101,666112,46378,749102,79463,386131,706170,538
Cassia, peculs7,7736,4598,6249,0234,0357,2092,9162,8881,8283,5417,428
Silks--Crape, pieces91,44755,616103,23646,70329,61569,02824,6059,6605,8819,5074,559
„ Crape shawls156,631142,425220,635264,630104,060}77,57077,876
„ Crape scarfs45,2648,6838,10015,8004,160} 57,293101,42587,304102,162--
„ Crape dresses32,45723,29846,50058,05032,940}
„ Florentines4,2953,8462,8791,0257502,135850400------
„ Sarsnets46,26445,38464,23162,66220,47423,48917,29525,43953,38527,45522,289
„ Senshaws24,14512,30210,9197,7409,48514,95711,34010,11325,81022,29213,172
„ Pongees5,6492,8502,9672,1455,36913,53016,08710,49141,43944,57848,741
„ Handkerchiefs92,33837,87780,97990,98542,63576,56924,31414,66214,18923,15727,274
„ Satins8,1505,6147,3847,88010,88118,6064,8365,1548,9856,9657,201
„ Levantines10,9448,6459,6006,2807,65713,4977,3824,3566,15513,6436,351
„ Camlets--------1,4772,6202,4653109903,5001,091
„ Droguets--------425------------
Sewing silk,peculs755875411818414416435435072
Raw silk--------21015768230285109144
Total value $6,760,5825,006,2437,716,4447,650,9383,806,7085,318,9663,337,4803,629,7223,356,5515,577,7316,691,412


Average Prices for Teas.

Bohea tea11--121212121212121111
Hyson skin21--282718212118182427
Young hyson33--404025333032304447
Gunpowder & imperial55--505055504548495658

Export of Teas for Account of the English Company, to London, season 1832-1833.

Bohea Peculs52,844Cost Tales837,556
Hyson Skin78621,450
Pounds[†]30,036,400on account of the English Company, exported during the season 1832-33
13,250,185by vessels of the United States.
43,286,585Pounds of tea exported by America and English vessels, from Canton, in the season 1832-1833.