« AnteriorContinuar »
worth, Astelius, &c. His method consisted in applying his hand on the affected part, and making slight frictions.
We should extend this article beyond all bounds, were we to quote half the well authenticated cases of cures, performed through the medium of the imagination. We have no doubt, that many of the histories of recovery from disease, occasioned by placing the sick on the tombs of saints, as well as from their relics, have really occurred. The effects of incantations, amulets, magic, witchcraft, tractors, and magnetism, all arise from one common source; and, on the same principle, may we also account for the marvellous recoveries ascribed to empyrical remedies, which, whether they are inert or powerful, have an equally remedial effect on those who have faith in them. In vain is the spirit of quackery exorcised in one form; it rises again immediately, “ with twenty mortal murders on its crown, to push us from our stools." Public credulity is an ample fund for all those who wish to levy contributions on it. Whoever has contemplated the progress of real knowledge, during a long course of years, will have seen bubble after bubble arise, glitter for a moment, and then disappear for ever, to be succeeded by another as gorgeous and illusory.
ART. VIII. --Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-Ge
neral of India, to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China; exhibiting a View of the Actual State of those Kingdoms : by John CRAWFURD, Esq., late Envoy, &c. 4to. pp. 598. London: 1828.
Many lustres have not been counted, since the nations of the continents of Asia and Africa were objects of interest and knowledge for the people of Europe and our hemisphere, only through tales invented for amusement, or legends and reports which had scarcely a more instructive and authentic character; or narratives and opinions appertaining to religious creeds and traditions. Within the present century, new enterprises of commerce, scientific research, liberal travel, military conquest, or the apostolical spirit, have awakened attention to the East, in a wider and more earnest degree, and furnished much ampler details of genuine information. It is not wonderful, that common curiosity and philosophical inquiry, should be palled with the European countries so often and fully described; so near, and comparatively so familiar and uniform; and the study of the more distant and strange varieties of the human constitution and state, be deemed more profitable and poignant. This appetite would naturally be increased, by such works as Sir John Malcolm's Sketches of Persia ; the books of Fraser and Morier; the narrative of Heher; and, we may add, the Journal of the Embassy to Siam and Cochin-China, upon which we are about to dwell. Mr. Crawfurd, the envoy, is not a new candidate for literary honours ;-he had acquired much reputation by his excellent His. tory of the Indian Archipelago, one of those compositions which the reader often recommends to his friends, with a sense of gratitude for the enjoyment they have yielded to his leisure hours. The present volume will surely be comprised in the same list; and we shall be equally warranted, no doubt, in referring to that list also, another from the same pen, which is promised under the title of Journal of an Embassy to the Court of Ava, in 1827.
The British have written more and better on foreign countries, as travellers, than any other people; but their prejudices, pride, and spleen, have caused them to be guilty of gross mistakes and misrepresentations, in treating of the Christian
nations of Europe and America, with whom they differ in language, religious faith, or political institutions. We should distrust them less as painters of oriental character and manners, which they examine with a clearer vision, and more impartial spirit. The envoy to Siam and Cochin-China, inspires us with comparative confidence, though, as to the population of the latter kingdom, he exhibits them altogether in a more favourable light, than our countryman, Lieutenant White, in his History of a Voyage to the China Sea. We rely implicitly on Mr. White's statements; but it is probable that the Cochin-Chinese conducted themselves in a less offensive manner towards the British embassy, who were an imposing body, and more under the protection of the Cochin-Chinese government, which, as we shall have occasion to notice particularly, reaches every subject, with a power and rigour well adapted to control even the worst and most inveterate propensities. It is not unlikely, moreover, that Mr. Crawfurd's representations are kinder, from obvious considerations of policy; though, in saying this, we would not be understood to dispute his general frankness. That he is not perfectly generous as an author and an Englishman, is evident, from his total silence concerning Lieutenant White's History, which was printed in Massachusetts, in 1823, and obtained some time ago special notice and commendation in the London reviews. The American voyager preceded Mr. Crawfurd by nearly two years; and his vessels, the Franklin and Marmion, were the two first American, that “ever ascended the Don-nai river, and displayed the stars and stripes before the city of Saigon."
It was in September, 1821, that Mr. Crawfurd was nominated by the governor-general of British India,' to proceed on the mission to the two courts; and, in the month of November follow.
ing, that he embarked with scientific and medical assistants, and an escort of thirty sepoys. In the earlier period of the Indian commerce of the European nations, the trade of Siam and Cochin-China formed no immaterial part of it; but, owing to several causes, this dwindled by degrees to insignificance, and was regarded as extinct, for the seventy years preceding 1820; when the local rulers of India were taught to believe, that “the industry and civilization, together with the geographical position and natural fertility of soil which characterized the kingdoms of Siam and Cochin-China, were such as to render it extremely desirable to negotiate with the sovereigns of those countries, the renewal of a commercial intercourse with Great Britain and her Indian dominions." For this purpose chiefly was Mr. Crawfurd deputed, as a thorough man of business in Indian concerns; an experienced and acute observer; and an able relater of events and appearances. He had it in charge, to endeavour first to disarm the apprehensions, and to remove the antipathies of the governments and subjects of the two countries-obstacles which might well be styled very considerable, when heed was given to the lessons conveyed to the independent nations of the East, in the history and fate of the British Indian dominions.” The envoy was instructed, carefully to refrain from “demanding or hinting at any of those adventitious aids or privileges, upon which the earlier traders of Europe were accustomed to found their expectations of commercial benefit; such as the establishment of forts and factories ; exemption from municipal jurisdiction and customary imposts," &c. It was also suggested to him, to keep in mind the advantage which might result from his remaining such a time at the court of Siam, as would afford him an opportunity of attaining a competent knowledge of the character of the court, the manners of the people, and the resources of the country.
In embarking, our author makes one remark with regard to the Ganges, which must not be lost,—that with all its difficulties and dangers, the English, if their Indian conquests be of any advantage to them,” owe almost as much gratitude to the river as the Hindus themselves; for it is the great military road which conducted them into the richest provinces of Hindustan, the acquisition of which, enabled them eventually to conquer and maintain the rest of their possessions. On leaving Penang, or Prince of Wales's island, he takes occasion to give an account of a place possessing some importance in the commerce of the East. In the culture of articles where skill can compensate for natural defects, the agriculture of the island is much superior to that of any other country of Asia. So neat and perfect a specimen of husbandry,--observes Mr. Crawfurd,--no where exists in the East, as the pepper culture of Penang, the
joint effect of European intelligence and Chinese industry. The population is nearly sixty thousand, and the chief proprietors of the soil are Europeans and Chinese. Malacca is also described before the embassy reaches Singapore. The Hindus of Malacca are the only ultramarine colonists of that people known to Europeans; and the Portuguese descendants of the haughty. conquerors who fought by the side of Albuquerque, are “a timid, peaceable, and submissive race," in number about four thousand. At Singapore, much attention was paid to the Chinese junks, and in terminating his description of them, Mr. Crawfurd proceeds thus :
“ While on the subject of the trade and navigation of the Chinese, I may take the opportunity of mentioning the very singular species of adventure carried on by them, in the Straits of Malacca, in large row boats, commonly known by the native name of prahu pukat. One of these which I measured, was about sixty-five feet long, nine feet in the beam, and about four feet in depth, and carried a car. go, of from one hundred and eighty to one hundred and ninety piculs, or near twenty tons. She was rowed by twelve oars and fourteen paddles, and had the occasional assistance of a sail, with fair winds. She had a crew, consisting of the commander and twenty-six rowers. Such a boat is usually the property of the commander, and the cargo belongs to the crew, each according to the capital he has contributed to the joint adventure. There is not one idle person on board, for the commander steers, and each of the adventurers has his oar or his paddle. Their adventures are confined between the islands at the eastern ex. tremity of the straits of Malacca, and the town of that name, out of the influence of the monsoons, and under the protection of the variable winds which charac. terize these latitudes. From the rapidity of their course, they are quite secure from the attack of pirates. The voyage backwards and forwards may, of course, be performed at every season. In fair weather, one of them will sail between the island of Linga and Singapore in two days ; and in the least favourable weather, in six ; performing the voyage, therefore, on an average, in four days. The distance is about one hundred and eighty miles ; so that these boats go, under the most favourable circumstances, at the rate of ninety miles a day, or close upon four knots an hour, and, at an average, forty-five miles a day. Three voyages may be performed in a month, if the state of the markets do not occasion extraordinary delays. When pepper is the cargo, as very frequently happens, the adventurers are contented, I am told, with a profit of three fourths of a dollar per picul, when the selling price of this commodity is ten dollars. This supposes a profit of eight and a ball per cent., on each adventure."
On the 24th March, the envoy cast anchor in the roads of Siam, and transmitted information of his arrival to the court. In the evening of the same day, his party were permitted to land at Pak-ham, the first station in ascending the river, where the curiosity of the natives seemed to be most strongly excited by their Hindu servants, and the abundant hospitality of the Governor was rendered the more novel, by the presence, near the table, of the eorpse of his predecessor and brother, which had been lying in state for five months, embalmed, according to the custom of the country. The good fare was pressed upon them with the Siamese form of compliment—"eat heartily and be not abashed;" an inscription for every refectory. Nothing that the envoy saw at Pak-ham raised his opinion of the progress of the Siamese in the useful arts of life. “The cottage of an English peasant, not on the brink of a workhouse, possesses more real comfort, than the mansion of the Siamese Governor, who exercises an arbitrary authority over fifty thousand people.” On the 28th of March, the ship ascended the river towards the capital, the appearance of which is pourtrayed as follows :
“ March 29—The morning presented to us a very novel spectacle—the capital of Siam, situated on both sides of the Menam. Numerous temples of Buddha, with tall spires attached to them, frequently glittering with gilding, were conspicuous among the mean huts and hovels of the natives, throughout which were interspersed a profusion of palms, ordinary fruit trees, and the sacred fig ( ficus religiosa). On each side of the river, there was a row of floating habitations, resting on rafts of bamboos, moored to the shore. These appeared the neatest and best description of dwellings; they were occupied by good Chinese shops. Close to these aquatic habitations, were anchored the largest description of native vessels, among which were many junks of great size, just arrived from China. The face of the river presented a busy scene, from the number of boats and canoes of every size and description which were passing to and fro. The number of these struck us as very great at the time, for we were not aware that there are few of 10 roads at Bang-kok, and that the river and canals form the common highways, not only for goods, but for passengers of every description. Many of the boats were shops containing earthenware, blachang, dried fish, and fresh pork. Venders of these several commodities were hawking and crying them as in an European town. Among those who plied on the river, there was a large proportion of women, and of the priests of Buddha ; the latter readily distinguished by their shaved and bare heads, and their yellow vestments. This was the hour in which they are accustomed to go in quest of alms, which accounted for the great number of them we saw."
Sons and deputies of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, were sent on board to welcome—not the ambassador, but the letter which he bore from the Governor-General of India ; and to ascertain all the points of the horse, which was one of the presents for His Siamese Majesty. The British party were soon invited to a first audience with the minister, whose attendants and family lay all the time prostrate on their knees and elbows, at the distance of several yards, and who proved to be quite an adept in diplomacy. The next public interview was with the heir apparent, the eldest son of the king, a corpulent figure, meanly dressed, in a splendid hall strewed with prostrate courtiers. During the two hours that it lasted, the strangers saw no article of food, but on their return to the mansion which had been assigned to them, they found eight large tubs of sweetmeats from the Prince's store. At length, (April 5), they were informed that their introduction to the monarch himself, might take place, but difficulties arose about the mode of conveyance to the royal palace. Elephants had ceased to be used in the capital, except by privileged officers of the government; to ride on horseback was not considered respectable ; palanquins or litters were therefore selected, and here a great obstacle presented itself. The Siamese, it seems, admire themselves as the first nation in the world_half naked and enslaved barbarians as they are:"-viewing, consequently,