TRADE AND TRAVEL IN THE FAR EAST;
OR RECOLLECTIONS OF TWENTY-ONE YEARS PASSED IN JAVA, SINGAPORE, AUSTRALIA, AND CHINA.
BY G. F. DAVIDSON.
LONDON: MADDEN AND MALCOLM, LEADENHALL STREET. 1846.
LONDON: PRINTED BY MADDEN AND MALCOLM, 8 LEADENHALL STREET.
The following pages were written to beguile the tediousness of a long voyage from Hong Kong to England, during the spring and summer of 1844. When I state, that the whole was written with the paper on my knee, for want of a desk, amid continual interruptions from three young children lacking amusement during their long confinement on ship-board, and with a perpetual liability to be pitched to leeward, paper and all,—I shall have said enough to bespeak from every good-natured reader a candid allowance for whatever defects may attach to the composition. It is necessary, however, that I should also premise, that the sketches are drawn entirely from memory, and that the incidents referred to in the earlier chapters, took place some twenty years ago. That my recollection may have proved treacherous on some minor points, is very possible; but, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the work in other respects, it contains, to the best of my knowledge and belief, nothing but truth in the strictest sense of that term; and, as imbodying the result of my own personal observations in the countries visited, it may possess an interest on that account, not always attaching to volumes of higher pretensions.
My wanderings have been neither few nor short, and, perhaps, verify the old proverb, that a rolling stone gathers no moss. I have crossed the Ocean in forty different square-rigged vessels; have trod the plains of Hindostan, the wilds of Sumatra, and the mountains of Java; have strolled among the beautiful hills and dales of Singapore and Penang; have had many a gallop amid the forests and plains of Australia; have passed through the labyrinth of reefs forming Torres' Straits; and have visited the far-famed Celestial Empire. My first idea, in endeavouring to retrace my journeyings and adventures, was, that the personal narrative might serve to amuse a circle of private friends. But the notices relating to the openings for Trade in the Far East, and to the subject of Emigration, together with the free strictures upon the causes of the recent depression in our Australian colonies, will, I venture to hope, be not unacceptable to those who are interested in the extension of British commerce, and in the well-being of the rising communities which form an integral part of the mighty Empire now encircling the Globe.
Some parts of the work refer to coming events as probable, which have since become matters of fact; but I have not deemed it necessary to suppress or to alter what I had written. I am more especially happy to find that my suggestions respecting Borneo have, to some extent, been anticipated; and that the important discovery of its coal-mines has been taken advantage of by Her Majesty's Government in the very way pointed out in observations written at sea fifteen months ago. Since my arrival in England, I have learned also, that the feasibility of the navigation of Torres' Straits from west to east, has struck others more competent to form a correct judgment than myself. Captain T. Blackwood, commander of Her Majesty's ship, Fly, at present employed in surveying the coast of New Holland, the Straits, and parts adjacent, has expressed his determination, after refitting at Singapore, to endeavour to enter the Pacific Ocean, during the north-west monsoon, by sailing through Torres' Straits from the westward. I trust that this enterprising Officer will succeed in the attempt, and thereby put beyond question the practicability of the passage; which would not only shorten the distance between Australia and our Indian territories, but contribute, more than any thing else could do, to facilitate the transit of the Overland Mail to Sydney. The Australians, I find, are still sanguinely bent upon discovering an overland route from the present frontiers of the Colony to Port Essington; but, although I heartily wish them success, my opinion, as expressed in the subsequent pages, remains unaltered.
I observe, that the Singaporeans are already complaining of the decrease of the number of square-rigged vessels that have visited their port during the recent season, and of the falling-off of the Chinese-junk trade, which they correctly attribute to the opening of the trade with China; thereby verifying my predictions. I fear that they will have still greater cause for complaint before twelve months shall have rolled away. But the merchants of Singapore, it gives me pleasure to add, are taking advantage of the times, by entering upon the China trade, and seem determined not to suffer loss, if they can help it, by the effect of Sir Henry Pottinger's famous Treaty. This is as it should be.
With these few remarks on the motives which have induced me to write and give to the world the following sketches, I now commit them to their fate; trusting that they may serve to beguile an hour, to some of my numerous friends in the different parts of the world they refer to, and that, to the reader unacquainted with those countries, they may prove both useful and entertaining. Before taking leave of the reader, however, I must apologize for an unfortunate error my printer has fallen into, (at p. 3 note), in misprinting the name of Mr. Mercus, one of the best men that ever ruled a Colony, whether Dutch or English. This name has been converted into Minns; and the error was not detected, till the sheet had passed through the press.
As for the critics.—for any kind or friendly remarks they may make, I shall feel grateful; while any of a contrary nature will neither surprise nor displease me.
HULL, January 1846.
PREFACE P. i
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BATAVIA—NARROW POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT—DESCRIPTION OF THE TOWN AND NEIGHBOURHOOD—ROADS AND POSTING SYSTEM—STATE OF SOCIETY—CLIMATE AND SEASONS—TROPICAL FRUITS 1
SAMARANG—A TIGER FIGHT—JAVA PONEYS—EXCURSION TO SOLO—WILD SPORTS—DJOCKDJOCARTA—REMAINS OF THE ANCIENT PALACE—IMPERIAL ELEPHANTS—EXPERIMENT IN INDIGO-PLANTING—JAVANESE EXECUTION—A PET BOA—ALLIGATORS—FOREST LABOUR—SLAVERY IN JAVA—OPIUM-SMOKING—TEA—THE UPAS-TREE 16
ADVANTAGEOUS POSITION OF SINGAPORE—CULTIVATION OF THE NUTMEG AND COCOA-NUT—ROADS AND SCENERY— MOTLEY POPULATION—EUROPEAN RESIDENTS—CHINESE EMIGRANTS—KLINGS—SAMPAN-MEN—PLACES OF WORSHIP—TIGERS 39
TRADE OF SINGAPORE—CHINESE TRADERS—BUGIS TRADERS—SIAMESE AND COCHIN CHINESE—ARAB SMUGGLERS—BORNEO—TRADE WITH CALCUTTA— COMMERCIAL PROSPECTS. 53
DUTCH SETTLEMENT OF RHIO—ISLAND OF BANCA— BENCOOLEN—PADANG—CHINESE SLAVE-TRADE—NATIVE TRIBES OF SUMATRA—PEPPER TRADE 73
MALACCA AND PENANG 94
FIRST VIEW OF CALCUTTA—STATE OF SOCIETY— MERCANTILE CHANGES—UNPLEASANT CLIMATE—SIGHTS AT AND NEAR CALCUTTA—IMPROVEMENTS IN TRANSIT AND NAVIGATION—CUSTOM-HOUSE NUISANCE—PILOT SERVICE—CHARACTER OF THE BENGALEES—RIVER STEAMERS 101
NEW SOUTH WALES.
VOYAGE FROM SINGAPORE TO SYDNEY—PORT JACKSON—FIRST IMPRESSIONS PRODUCED BY SYDNEY—THE PUBLIC-HOUSE NUISANCE—SYDNEY JURIES—CATTLE-DEALERS—TOWN IMPROVEMENTS—LAWYERS, DOCTORS, AND CLERGY 117
NEW SOUTH WALES.
TOWNSHIP OF MAITLAND—THE PATERSON DISTRICT—WINTER SPORTS—THE KANGAROO—AUSTRALIAN HUSBANDRY—CONVICT SERVANTS—BENEFIT OF ENFORCING AN OBSERVANCE OF SUNDAY—THE HOT SEASON 128
NEW SOUTH WALES.
BUSH-RANGERS—THE DROUGHT OF 1838-9—THE SETTLER'S TROUBLES—ORNITHOLOGY OF AUSTRALIA—ABORIGINAL TRIBES 139
NEW SOUTH WALES.
THE HOT WINDS—PROJECTED MAIL-ROAD FROM SYDNEY TO PORT ESSINGTON—SHEEP-FARMS—GRAZING IN AUSTRALIA—HORSE-STOCK 155
NEW SOUTH WALES.
CAUSES OF THE RECENT DISTRESSES—CONDUCT OF THE BANKS—MANIA FOR SPECULATION—LONG-ACCOUNT SYSTEM—BAD SEASONS 169
NEW SOUTH WALES.
ELEMENTS OF PROSPERITY STILL EXISTING—HINTS TO THE COLONISTS—FUTURE PROSPECTS 182
NEW SOUTH WALES.
CLASSES OF SOCIETY IN SYDNEY—DISAPPOINTMENT OF EMIGRANTS—CHARACTERISTICS OF IRISH AND BRITISH EMIGRANTS—AVAILABLENESS OF CHINESE LABOURERS—AUSTRALIAN COAL MONOPOLY—TORRES' STRAITS THE BEST PASSAGE FOR STEAMERS—BOTANY BAY—PASSAGE FROM SYDNEY TO BATAVIA 195
DESCRIPTION OF MACAO—ITS MONGREL POPULATION— FREQUENCY OF ROBBERIES—PIRACIES—COMPRADORE SYSTEM—PAPUAN SLAVE-TRADE—MARKET OF MACAO— NUISANCES—SIR HENRY POTTINGER'S REGULATION DEFENDED—ILLIBERAL POLICY OF THE PORTUGUESE, AND ITS RESULT—BOAT-GIRLS—BEGGARS—PICTURESQUE SCENERY 216
ADVANTAGEOUS POSITION OF HONG KONG—THE OPIUM TRADE—IMPORTANCE OF THE STATION IN THE EVENT OF A FRESH WAR—CHUSAN—HOW TO RAISE A REVENUE— CAUSES OF ALLEGED INSALUBRITY—RAPID PROGRESS OF THE SETTLEMENT—PICTURESQUE SCENERY— MARKETS—SANATORY HINTS 237
FIRST VIEW OF CANTON—DESCRIPTION OF THE EUROPEAN QUARTER—HOSTILE FEELINGS OF THE PEOPLE—COMMERCIAL PROSPECTS OF CANTON—AMOY—FOO CHOW—NINGPO— SHANG-HAE—MR. MEDHURST—RESULTS OF THE TREATY WITH CHINA 266
NECESSITY OF APPOINTING BRITISH CONSULS IN THE SPANISH AND DUTCH COLONIES—NEW SETTLEMENT ON THE WESTERN COAST OF BORNEO—IMPORTANT DISCOVERY OF COAL ON THE NORTH-WEST COAST—CONCLUDING REMARKS 287
PLAN FOR THE ACCELERATION OF THE CHINA MAILS (i. e. THEIR CONVEYANCE FROM SUEZ via CEYLON TO HONG KONG direct) 303
MEMORANDUM ON BORNEO, AND MR. BROOK'S SETTLEMENT ON THAT ISLAND 305
TRADE AND TRAVEL IN THE FAR EAST.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BATAVIA—NARROW POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT—DESCRIPTION OF THE TOWN AND NEIGHBOURHOOD—ROADS AND POSTING SYSTEM—STATE OF SOCIETY—CLIMATE AND SEASONS—TROPICAL FRUITS.
Early in the year 1823, I left England, quite a youngster, full of life and spirits, bound for that so-called grave of Europeans, Batavia. Of my passage out, I shall say nothing more, than that it lasted exactly five months, and was, in point of wind and weather, similar to nine-tenths of the voyages made to the same region.
Well do I remember the 5th of October 1823, the day on which I first set foot on the lovely and magnificent island of Java. How bright were then my prospects, surrounded as I was with a circle of anxious friends, who were not only able, but willing also, to lend me a helping hand, and who now, alas! are, to a man, gone from me and all to whom they were dear. I was then prepared—I might say determined—to be pleased with every thing and every body. At this distance of time, I can scarcely remember what struck me most forcibly on landing; but I have a vivid recollection of being perfectly delighted with the drive, in a light airy carriage drawn by two spirited little Java poneys, from the wharf to the house of the friend with whom I was to take up my abode. The pluck with which those two little animals rattled us along quite astonished me; and the novel appearance of every thing that met the eye, so bewildered and delighted me, that I scarcely knew how to think, speak, or act.
What a joyous place was Batavia in those days, with every body thriving, and the whole town alive and bustling with an active set of merchants from all parts of the world! The Dutch Government, at that time, pursued a more liberal system than they have of late adopted; and, instead of monopolizing the produce of the Island, sold it by public auction regularly every month. This plan naturally attracted purchasers from England, the Continent of Europe, and the United States of America, who brought with them good Spanish dollars to pay for what they purchased; so that silver money was as plentiful in Netherlands India, in those days, as copper doits have since become. The enlightened individual who now governs Java and its dependencies, is, I have good reason to think, opposed to the monopolizing system pursued by his Government: his hands, however, are tied, and he can only remonstrate, while the merchants can but pray that his remonstrances may be duly weighed by his superiors. Java exports one million peculs of coffee per annum, one million peculs of rice, and one million peculs of sugar; besides vast quantities of tin, pepper, hides, indigo, &c. Were its trade thrown open to fair competition, as formerly, it is as certain that His Majesty the King of the Netherlands would be a gainer, as that his adopting the more liberal system would give satisfaction to every mercantile man connected in any way with his East-Indian possessions. The experience of the last three years ought to have taught His Majesty this lesson; and we may hope he will take warning from the miserable result of his private speculations during that period.
Batavia is not the unhealthy place it has been usually deemed. The city itself is certainly bad enough; but no European sleeps a single night in it out of a twelvemonth.
[Footnote 1: 1845. His Excellency Mr. Minns, since dead.]
[Footnote 2: A pecul is a Chinese weight used all over the Eastern Archipelago, and is equal to 133-1/3 lbs. avoirdupoise.]
From four to five o'clock every evening, the road leading from the town to the suburbs is thronged with vehicles of all descriptions, conveying the merchants from their counting-houses to their country or suburban residences, where they remain till nine o'clock the next morning. These country residences are delightfully situated to the south of Batavia, properly so called, extending inland over many square miles of country. Every one of them has a garden (called here a compound) of considerable extent, well stocked with plants, shrubs, and trees, which serve to give them a lively and elegant appearance, and to keep them moderately cool in the hottest weather. Servants' wages being very low here, every European of any respectability is enabled to keep up a sufficient establishment, and to repair to his office in his carriage or hooded gig, in which he may defy the sun. Many of them, particularly Dutchmen, have an imprudent practice of driving in an open carriage, with an umbrella held over their heads by a native servant standing on the foot-board behind his master.
Having resided several years in the suburbs of Batavia, I have no hesitation in saying, that, with common prudence, eschewing in toto the vile habit of drinking gin and water whenever one feels thirsty, living generously but carefully, avoiding the sun's rays by always using a close or hooded carriage, and taking common precautions against wet feet and damp clothing, a man may live—and enjoy life, too—in Batavia, as long as he would in any other part of the world. Many people may think this a bold assertion; nevertheless, I make it without fear of contradiction from any one acquainted by experience with the country.
One great and invaluable advantage over all our Eastern Colonies, Batavia, in common with every part of Java, possesses, in the facilities that exist for travelling from one part of the Island to another. Throughout Java, there are excellent roads, and on every road a post establishment is kept up; so that the traveller has only to apply to the post-master of Batavia, pointing out the road he wishes to travel, and to pay his money according to the number of miles: he obtains, with a passport, an order for four horses all along his intended line of route, and may perform the journey at his leisure, the horses, coachmen, &c. being at his command night or day, till he accomplishes the distance agreed for. Thus, a party going overland from Batavia to Samarang, a distance of three hundred miles, may either perform the journey in three days, or extend it to three weeks, should they wish to look about them, and to halt a day or two at various places as they go along. In no part of British India is there any thing approaching to such admirable and cheap facilities for travelling. And what an inestimable blessing they are to the Batavian invalid, who can thus, in a few hours, be transported, with perfect ease and comfort, into the cool and delightful mountainous regions of Java, where he may choose his climate, by fixing himself at a height varying from one thousand to seven thousand feet above the level of the sea! Java, from east to west and from north to south, is a favourite region with me, and, I believe, with every Englishman who ever visited it. Gin and brandy have killed five-sixths of all the Europeans who have died in Batavia within the last twenty years; but with pleasure I can add, that this destructive habit has almost entirely disappeared: hence the diminished number of deaths, and the more robust and ruddy appearance of the European inhabitants. The surrounding country is both salubrious and beautiful, rising gradually as you proceed inland, till you reach Buytenzorg, forty miles S.S.E. of Batavia, where the Governor-General of Netherlands India generally resides, in a splendid palace, surrounded with extensive and magnificent gardens. The climate is cool and pleasant, more particularly in the mornings and evenings, and the ground is kept moist by daily showers; for it is a singular fact, that scarcely a day in the year passes without a shower in this beautiful neighbourhood.
Buytenzorg is a favourite resort of the merchants of Batavia, who take advantage of the facilities for travelling to visit it on the Saturday afternoon, remaining the whole of Sunday, and returning to town, and to the renewal of their labours, on the following morning. The scenery is magnificent; and the view (well known to every visiter) from the back verandah of the inn, is the finest that can be imagined. Standing on the steps of this verandah, you have, immediately under your foot, an extensive plain, thoroughly cultivated, sprinkled with villages, each village being surrounded with evergreen trees, and the whole almost encircled by a river. To the left of this valley rises an extensive and picturesque mountain, cultivated almost to the summit, and dotted here and there with villages and gentlemen's houses. Looking into the valley at early morn, you will see the lazy buffalo, driven by an equally indolent ploughman, dragging a Lilliputian plough through the slimy paddy-field; the lazy Javanese labourer going to his work in the field; the native women reaping, with the hand only, and stalk by stalk, the ripe paddy (rice) in one field, while those in the next are sowing the seed; the adjoining fields being covered with stubble, their crops having been reaped weeks before. Upon the declivity of the mountain is seen the stately coffee-tree, the plantations of which commence about 1300 feet above the level of the sea, and proceed up the hill till they reach the height of 4000 feet. Nothing can be more beautiful than a full-grown coffee-plantation: the deep green foliage, the splendid bright-red berry, and the delicious shade afforded by the trees, render those spots altogether fit for princes; and princely lives their owners lead. One is always sure of a hearty welcome from these gentlemen, who are ever glad to see a stranger. They give him the best horse in the stable to ride, the best room in the house to occupy, and express regret when his visit is drawing to a close. I speak from experience, having put the hospitality of several of them to the test.
During my first stay at Batavia, from 1823 to 1826, the celebrated Java war broke out, the so-called rebel army being headed by a native Chief of Djockdjocarta, named Diepo Nogoro. Shortly after the first outbreak, the then Governor-General, Baron Vander Capellen, called on all Europeans between the ages of sixteen and forty-five to serve in the schuttery, or militia. An infantry and a cavalry corps were formed, and I joined the latter, preferring a ride in the evening to a walk with a fourteen-pound musket over my shoulder. After a probation of pretty tight drilling, we became tolerable soldiers, on "nothing a day and finding ourselves," and had the good town of Batavia put under our charge, the regular troops being all sent away to the scene of war. As I do not intend to return to the subject, I may as well mention here, that the war lasted five years, and that it would have lasted five years longer, had Diepo Nogoro not been taken prisoner—I fear by treachery. I saw him landed at Batavia, in 1829, from the steamer which had brought him from Samarang. The Governor's carriage and aides-de-camp were at the wharf to receive him. In that carriage he was driven to gaol, whence he was banished no one knows whither; and he has never since been heard of. Such is the usual fate of Dutch prisoners of state! Diepo Nogoro deserved a better fate. He was a gallant soldier, and fought bravely. Poor fellow! how his countenance fell—as well it might—when he saw where the carriage drew up! He stopped short on putting his foot on the pavement, evidently unwilling to enter the gloomy-looking pile; cast an eager glance around; and, seeing there was no chance of escape, walked in. Several gentlemen followed, before the authorities had the door closed, and saw the fallen chief, with his two wives, consigned to two miserable-looking rooms. Java has been quite tranquil ever since.
The society of Batavia, at the time I am referring to, was both choice and gay; and the influence of my good friends threw me at once into the midst of it. The Dutch and English inhabitants did not then (nor do they now) mix together so much as would, in my opinion, have been agreeable and mutually advantageous. A certain jealousy kept the two parties too much apart. Nevertheless, I have been present at many delightful parties in Dutch families, the pleasures of which were not a little heightened by the presence of some ten or a dozen charming Dutch girls. Charming and beautiful they certainly are while young; but, ere they reach thirty, a marvellous change comes over their appearance: the fair-haired, blue-eyed, laughing romp of eighteen has, in that short period of ten or twelve years, become transformed into a stout and rather elderly-looking matron, as unlike an English woman of the same age as one can well fancy. When I look back on those gay and pleasant parties, and think how few of the individuals who composed them are now alive, the reflection makes me sad. What a different class its English inhabitants of the present day are from those of 1823-1826! I may be prejudiced in favour of the former state of society; but, in giving the preference to it, I shall be borne out by any of the few survivers who knew Batavia at both periods. From 1823 to 1835, the Governor's parties were thronged with our countrymen and countrywomen. Let any one enter His Excellency's ball-room now-a-days, and he will not meet with more than one or two English of the old school, and not one of the new. The causes of this change are obvious: it arises from the different class of people that now come out from Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow, compared with the British merchant of former times, and from the total deficiency of the most common civility, on the part of our countrymen, towards the many highly respectable, agreeable, and intelligent Dutch families that form the society of the place. It is with pain I write this; but, as a citizen of the world, who has seen a good deal of life, in recording my sentiments on these matters, I cannot avoid telling the plain truth as it struck me from personal observation.
The vicinity of Batavia affords the most beautiful drives; and hundreds of vehicles, from the handsome carriage and four of the Member of Council to the humble buggy of the merchant's clerk, may be seen every evening, from five till half-past six, that being the coolest and best time for taking out-of-door exercise. The roads are excellent, lined on both sides with trees, which keep them shaded and cool nearly all day. The scene is altogether gay, and affords a gratifying indication of the wealth and importance of this fine colony. By seven o'clock, the drives are deserted; and, immediately afterwards, lights may be seen glittering in every dwelling in the neighbourhood, while, in every second or third house, the passer-by may observe parties of pleasure assembling for the evening. The Dutch have adopted the social plan of exchanging friendly visits in the evening, avoiding our more formal ones of the morning. At these chance evening parties (if I may so term them), the company are entertained with music and cards, and other diversions; and should the visiter be too old to join the young folks in their gayety, he will find one or two of his own standing snugly seated in the far corner of the verandah, where he is sure to be supplied with a good cigar and the very best wine. These groupes are perfect pictures of comfort and content. With all his good qualities, however, "John Dutchman" is jealous of "John Bull," and cannot help shewing it, particularly in commercial matters. How short-sighted his policy is, in this point of view, it would be no difficult task to prove.
The pleasantest months of the year, in Batavia, are, June, July, and August, when the sun is to the northward. I have frequently found a blanket necessary at this season: indeed, the nights, throughout Java, are generally sufficiently cool to allow the European to enjoy a refreshing sleep, after which he will find no difficulty in getting through a hot day. The public health is generally very good from May till September inclusive. In April and October, strangers, particularly the recently arrived European, are apt to suffer from colds and fever, caused, in a great measure, by the breaking-up of the monsoon, which takes place in those months. In November or December, the north-west monsoon brings on the rains, which certainly then come down in torrents, and render the city of Batavia a perfect charnel-house for those poor Natives and Chinese who are unfortunately compelled to remain in it. I have seen it entirely flooded with water, to the depth of four or five feet in some parts. The malaria occasioned by the deposit of slimy mud left all over the town by the water, on its retiring, causes sad havoc among the poorer Chinese and Malays, who reside in the lowest parts of the town, and inhabit wretched hovels. These floods seldom annoy the inhabitants of the suburbs; yet I well remember, in the season of 1828, a friend of mine lay down on a sofa and went to sleep, about eight o'clock in the evening: at three next morning, he awoke with the water just reaching his couch, much to his surprise and no small alarm, till, on becoming collected, he bethought him of the cause. The neighbouring river had risen, from mountain rains, whilst he was asleep, and had completely flooded his house, to the depth of eighteen inches, together with the garden and neighbourhood.
I know no market, east of the Cape of Good Hope, better supplied with fruit than that of Batavia. Among the choicest, I would name the mangistan, the durian, and the pumaloe or shaddock. The first is unknown beyond eight degrees from the Equator, and is, perhaps, the best fruit with which nature has blessed the tropical regions. It is about the size of an orange, its rind of a dark purple, and its pulp divided into parts like the contents of an orange, as white as driven snow. Its taste I cannot attempt to describe, knowing nothing to which I can compare it. The best quality of the mangistan is its perfect harmlessness. The patient suffering from fever, liver complaint, consumption, or any of the numerous ills that flesh is heir to, may, with perfect impunity, cool his parched tongue with a dozen of this delightful fruit; and no one who has not been laid on a sick bed within the tropics, can appreciate this blessing. The rind, when dried, and made into tea, is an excellent tonic, and is often successfully used in cases of dysentery, by Native as well as European practitioners. The durian is a favourite fruit with most people who can overcome its smell, which certainly is no very easy matter. Natives of all classes are passionately fond of this fruit, and almost subsist on it when in plenty. Strange to say, goats, sheep, poultry, and even the royal tiger, eagerly devour the durian, of which I confess myself, notwithstanding the aforesaid smell, an admirer, in common with many of my countrymen. Its size is that of a cocoa-nut, husk and all; its rind is very thick, of a pale green colour, and covered with strong sharp thorns; its interior is divided into compartments, each of which contains three or four seeds about the size of a pullet's egg; these seeds are covered, to the thickness of a quarter of an inch, with a pale yellow pulp, which is the part eaten. The taste resembles, according to the description of those who like the fruit, that of a very rich custard, and, according to those who have never succeeded in overcoming their antipathy to the smell, that of a mixture of decayed eggs and garlic. This fruit cannot be eaten in large quantities with impunity by Europeans, being of a very heating nature. With me it never agreed; nor do I remember a single instance of its agreeing with my countrymen, when eaten freely. Half a one is as much as most people can manage at a time. The durian seeds, when roasted, make an excellent substitute for chestnuts.
The shaddock of Java is a magnificent fruit, and surpasses those of any other country with which I am acquainted. In addition to these three prime fruits of Java, I may mention the pine-apple, soursop, rambutan, rose-apple, guava, dookoo, and sixty different kinds of plantain and banana. These, and many others, thrive and abound on this favoured island. With poultry, butchers' meat, fish, and vegetables, Batavia and Java generally are abundantly supplied; while the residents on its mountains may enjoy strawberries and cream in perfection.
SAMARANG—A TIGER FIGHT—JAVA PONEYS—EXCURSION TO SOLO—WILD SPORTS—DJOCKDJOCARTA—REMAINS OF THE ANCIENT PALACE—IMPERIAL ELEPHANTS—EXPERIMENT IN INDIGO-PLANTING—JAVANESE EXECUTION—A PET BOA—ALLIGATORS—FOREST LABOUR—SLAVERY IN JAVA—OPIUM-SMOKING—TEA—THE UPAS-TREE.
Between three and four hundred miles eastward of Batavia, on the north coast of Java, is the small, neat, old-fashioned town of Samarang, which, when I visited it in 1824, was the residence of several English merchants: now, there is only a single one remaining, so completely has monopoly destroyed mercantile enterprise! The harbour is a safe one in the south-east monsoon, but the reverse when the north-west winds prevail. It is, however, constantly visited by European shipping, which take cargoes of coffee, sugar, rice, &c. &c., to all parts of Europe, Australia, Singapore, and China.
The circumstance at this distance of time most clear and distinct in my memory, in connection with my first visit to Samarang, is a tiger-fight, which I will attempt to describe. The exhibition took place on an extensive plain near the town, just after daybreak. A square of men, armed with the native spear, was formed three deep, and one hundred yards across. Inside this square was placed a box resembling in shape a coffin, but much larger, containing a royal tiger fresh from his native forests, which had been brought to town the day previously for this express purpose. Imagine every thing ready, the square formed, the box in its centre, and a silent multitude looking on,—some perched on trees, some on the coach-boxes of the numerous carriages, others on horseback, and thousands on foot; whilst the native chief of the district, with his friends, and the European officials of the place, occupied a gay pavilion, placed in an advantageous situation for viewing the coming strife. A native Javan, in full dress, is now seen advancing into the square, followed by two coolies or porters, one carrying a bundle of straw, the other a lighted torch. The straw is thrown over the box, and the torch-bearer stands ready to set fire to it at the end where the tiger's head is, the box being too narrow to permit his turning round in it. The leading native then lifts a sliding door at the other extremity of the box, carefully covering the opening thus made with mats, to prevent the light from penetrating, and inducing his royal highness to back out too soon. This operation completed, the straw is set on fire. The native and his two coolies now retire slowly, keeping time to Javanese music as they make their way outside the square. By this time, the fire has got fair hold of the box, filling it with smoke, and the tiger begins his retreat, his berth becoming rather warm. Presently, his hind quarters appear issuing through the sliding doorway, its covering of mat readily yielding to the pressure: by degrees, his hind feet gain firm footing outside, and his whole body is soon displayed. On appearing, he seemed rather confused for a few seconds, and, laying himself quietly down, looked all round upon his foes, and gave a roar that made the welkin ring, and my young heart quake a little. He then rose, deliberately shook himself, turned towards the rising sun, set off first at a walk, then at a trot, which he gradually increased to a smart canter, till within a few yards of the points of the spears pointed at him; he then came to the charge, and made a spring that surprised me, and, I fancy, every one present. I am afraid to say how high he leaped, but he was on the descent before a single spear touched him. This leap was evidently made with the intention of getting clear over the heads of the men and their spears too; and he most certainly would have accomplished it, had he not leaped too soon, and fallen within the square, the height of the spring being quite sufficient for the purpose. As it was, when on the descent, the spears of the six men nearest him being pointed at his breast, one of them inflicted a frightful wound. On reaching the ground, the noble beast struggled hard for his liberty; but, finding his efforts of no avail, he ultimately started off at full gallop to the opposite side of the square, where he renewed his exertions, though with less vigour than that displayed on his first attempt, and with no better success. He then galloped twice round the square, just at the point of the spears. Not a man advanced to touch him, it being the rule, that the tiger must come within the range of the spears before they can be used. He was ultimately killed while making a third attempt to escape; and thus ended the sport. His first charge was very brilliant and exciting; his second much less so; his third and last was very feeble.
Immediately after the tiger's death, the same ceremonies were gone through with a leopard, who took the spear-men rather by surprise, and, instead of trying to leap over their heads, darted in under their spears, got among their feet, and effected his retreat, to the no small consternation of the surrounding multitude, who soon scattered in all directions. He was, however, pursued by the men he had baffled, and was killed under a bridge in the immediate neighbourhood.
Tigers are frequently pitted by the native chiefs of Java against buffaloes, but I never was fortunate enough to witness one of those conflicts. The buffalo is generally the conqueror, and is sure to be so, if he succeeds in getting one fair butt at his adversary, whom he tosses in the air, and butts again on his fall. Occasionally, the tiger declines the combat altogether, when his tormentors rouse him by the application of lighted torches to the tenderest parts of his body: but even this extreme measure has been known to fail; in which case the terrified animal is withdrawn, and another is put forward in his place. These are cruel pastimes, though they may be thought not more so than dog-fighting and cock-fighting, which were formerly so much practised in Britain; and not so barbarous as a pugilistic combat between two hired brutes called prize-fighters.
The society of Samarang is neither so extensive nor so attractive as that of Batavia: it is, however, a pleasant and healthy place, notwithstanding its proximity to an extensive swamp. Its safeguard against the malaria we might naturally look for in this situation, is the tide, which flows over the marsh twice a day, and keeps it sweet.
During the Java war, a small volunteer corps of cavalry was formed here, the members of which, in their zeal, offered their services to join a party who were proceeding to Damak, (a small village about forty miles off,) to put down a body of armed rebels. Poor fellows! they went out in high spirits, but trusted too much to their unbroken horses, which took fright, and threw them into inextricable confusion on hearing the first volley. The sad consequences of this rash though gallant day's work, were, the death of seven young English gentlemen, all highly respected, and sincerely regretted by their countrymen. They were all personal friends of my own. I well remember the gloom which the intelligence cast over the society at Batavia.
In and about Samarang may be collected any number of the beautiful Java poneys, animals unsurpassed for symmetry in any part of the world. The work they perform is beyond belief. Ten miles an hour is the common rate of travelling post: four of them are generally used for this purpose, and the stages are from seven to nine miles, according to the nature of the country. When within half-a-mile of the first house where relays are kept, the native coachman cracks his long, unwieldy whip, which can be heard at a great distance. At this signal, the grooms harness the four poneys whose turn for work it is; and, by the time your carriage halts under the shed that crosses the road at every post-house, the fresh poneys are to be seen coming out of the stable, all ready for the next stage. Your attention is then attracted by a man with a stout bamboo, some eight feet long, in his hand, full of water, which he pours over the naves of the wheels, to cool them. By this time, the tired poneys are unhooked, the fresh ones put-to, and away rattles the carriage again with its delighted passengers. I know nothing more exciting and agreeable than a ramble amongst the mountains of this favoured isle, under the direction of the post establishment.
[Footnote 3: The Java poney in Her Majesty's stable at Windsor, is certainly no fair specimen, being the worst-favoured brute under the sun.]
From Samarang, early in 1824, I posted with a friend to Solo and Djockdjocarta, the ancient seats of the Emperors and Sultans of this part of Java. They are now shorn of their splendour; but they still possess novelty enough to attract a stranger. On our route, we visited some beautiful coffee-plantations, and passed through the pretty and romantic-looking village of Salatiga. We had a splendid view of the far-famed Gunung Marapi, or fire-mountain; and, on every side, we saw evidence of the thriving condition of this magnificent part of Java.
At Solo, I was so fortunate as to be present at the then Emperor's marriage; a scene which brought painfully to mind the fallen state of the chiefs of this neighbourhood, by its being superintended by the Dutch Resident at the Court. There were three days' feasting, royal salutes from the imperial guard, Javanese music, and dancing girls in great numbers; but I found the whole affair very fatiguing. Fallen as was the Emperor's state at that time, it subsequently became much more reduced, in consequence of his having been found guilty of being secretly concerned in the late war or rebellion. He has long since followed his friend and coadjutor, Diepo Nogoro. A tool of the Dutch Government now reigns in his stead, who cannot even leave his house for twenty-four hours without permission from the Resident at his Court.
[Footnote 4: A name derived from the Malay words, sallah, "a fault or crime," and tiga, the numeral "three"; consequently meaning the "third fault." How this pretty spot came by such a name, I never heard.]
One day, I accompanied a party of friends to see the Emperor's tigers, a number of which animals he generally had ready for exhibitions similar to those already described. We found one very noble fellow confined in a house some fifteen feet square, formed of the trunks of cocoa-nut trees, placed about five inches apart. On looking through, we saw the tiger in the position usually chosen by a dog when he wants to warm his face at the fire. Hearing our approach, he stared us steadily in the face for about a minute, and then made a spring at us, so suddenly that he came with his whole force against the bars, before we had time to move a step. The shock shook the building, as well as our nerves, not a little, though we were of course scatheless.
At Solo, I first tasted the Javanese "Findhorn haddock," which is, in fact, a trout caught in the beautiful Solo river. After being cleaned, it is wrapped up in a bundle of rice-straw, which is forthwith set on fire; and as soon as the straw is consumed, the fish is ready for eating, and really resembles in flavour its celebrated name-sake.
In the neighbourhood of Solo, a bold sportsman may find game to his liking, and willing natives to guide him in his search after tigers, wild hogs, the huge boa, deer, snipe, and quail. In pursuit of the last, too many a fever is caught, through the imprudence of young men in staying out too late in the day, and in keeping on their wet and soiled clothes and shoes during their ride or drive home. A little attention to such apparent trifles would save many a valuable life. Deer and wild-hog are generally pursued and shot by a party armed with rifles, who post themselves along one side of a jungle, while a party of natives advance from the opposite, driving the game before them with long poles and shouting. Great care must be taken by the sportsman, on these occasions, not to fire too soon: if he fires into the jungle, he runs the risk of shooting one of the bush-beaters; if to the right or left, he may plant his bullet in the breast of one of his companions. He must reserve his fire till the game is fairly out of the bush, and in rear of the line of rifles, when he may turn round and deliver his charge. I recollect a fatal accident happening near Salatiga, through a gentleman's deviating from the strict rule, never to change your position when once placed by the leading sportsman. A party were out after hogs by moonlight, when one gentleman, thinking he heard a noise as of an approaching porker on his left, very imprudently got on his hands and knees to crawl round in the hope of getting the first shot. The sportsman stationed next to him got a glimpse of him on the path, and mistaking him in the uncertain light for a hog or other wild animal, fired his rifle without a moment's hesitation, and mortally wounded his unfortunate friend, who lived just long enough to acknowledge his error, and to beg that no blame might be attached to the individual who caused his death. Poor fellow! he paid dearly for his imprudence.
Solo is protected by a small fort, which is always garrisoned by European troops, the Government not choosing to trust native soldiers in that part of the country. For this, no one can blame the Dutch; for the chiefs require looking after, and are apt to give trouble. While the Island was held by the British Government, a mutiny broke out at Solo among the Bengal sepoys: on its suppression, it was found they had been tampered with by these chiefs, and that numbers had been gained over to their cause.
Nothing can exceed the hospitality of the Dutch inhabitants of this part of Java: their houses are always open to the stranger, of whom they think too much cannot be made. The Resident's establishment is a splendid one, and to his liberality and hospitality I can testify from personal experience. Indeed, our countrymen, in many parts that I could name, might, with great advantage to themselves and to travellers in their districts, take lessons from their Dutch brethren in office.
From Solo, I went to Djockdjocarta, distant forty miles, in a gig. A kind friend having placed relays of horses on the road for me, I performed the journey with perfect ease, without the aid of a whip, in four hours. The poney I had the last stage, was the best little animal in harness I ever sat behind: he literally flew along the road. At one point, I came to a bridge, which, as I could see at some distance, had been broken, so as to render it impassable. While meditating how I was to get across the river, not knowing there was a ford in the neighbourhood, my poney, which had come the road in the morning to meet me, settled the question, by suddenly darting off, through a gap in the hedge at the road-side, down the river bank, at the top of his speed, and, before I could collect my scattered senses, was across the stream and up the opposite bank, to my no small surprise and pleasure. He was a noble little animal, of a mouse colour; and was originally purchased from a native dealer for twenty-eight guilders (about 2l. 6s. 8d.).
At Djockdjocarta are to be seen many ancient residences of the Javanese Chiefs; amongst others, the celebrated Cratan or palace, the taking of which, in 1812, cost General Gillespie a hard struggle. It is surrounded with a high wall, which encloses an area of exactly one square mile: outside the wall runs a deep, broad ditch. The place could offer but a feeble resistance against artillery, in which arm Gillespie was deficient when he attacked and took it. Another curious building is that in which the Sultans, in days of yore, used to keep their ladies: it is composed entirely of long narrow passages, with numerous small rooms on each side; each of which, in the days of their master's glory, was the residence, according to tradition, of a beautiful favourite. To prevent the escape of the ladies, or the intrusion of any gallants, the whole pile is surrounded with a canal, which used to be filled with alligators: the only entrance was by a subterranean passage beneath this canal, and which ran under it for its whole length. When I visited the place in 1824, the canal, passage, &c. were all in good order, though the latter was getting damp from neglect;—a proof that the masons and plasterers of Java, in old times, must have been very superior workmen.
Djockdjocarta was the birth-place of Diepo Nogoro, and the scene of his earliest warlike movements against the Dutch. So unexpected and sudden was his first attack, that he caught the garrison napping, and had them within his grasp before they knew he was in the field.
In the Cratan, the Sultan had, in 1824, three noble elephants, each kept under a separate shed. I went, with three other visitors, to see those animals; and we passed sometime amusing ourselves by giving them fruit and other dainties. We did not remark, however, that one of our friends had been for sometime teasing one of them, by offering him a plantain, and constantly withdrawing it just as the poor animal was laying hold of it with his trunk. We had not gone twenty yards from the spot, when the elephant's keeper approached, and gave him a couple of cocoa-nuts, (minus the husk, but with the shells,)—part of his daily food, I presume. The elephant took one of these, and, with a wicked look at the gentleman who had been teasing him, threw the nut at him with great force. Fortunately he missed his aim. The nut struck a post within six inches of the teaser's head, and was literally smashed: had it struck where doubtless it was meant to do, it would certainly have proved as fatal as an eighteen-pound shot. So much for teasing elephants. We beat a speedy retreat, not choosing to risk a second shot.
Djockdjocarta can hardly be called a town; yet it is more than a village. The houses of the European inhabitants are much scattered, and many of them occupy very pretty situations. The climate is delicious; and exercise on horseback may be taken with impunity from six to nine A. M., and from three to seven P. M. It is not uncommon to see Europeans riding about during the intervening hours; but this is generally avoided by old residents.
A successful attempt was made here, by a countryman of mine, in 1823, to grow indigo. The quantity produced was limited, but the quality was excellent; and, but for some vexatious regulations of the Government regarding the residence of foreigners in this part of Java, which drove the spirited individual alluded to from the neighbourhood, I have no doubt he would speedily have realized a handsome fortune. Since that period, indigo-planting has been carried on in various parts of Java to a large extent. The quantity produced annually is now about one million and a half of pounds; and the quality is such as to command the first prices in the continental markets. Indeed, the Bengal planters are becoming quite jealous of those of Java.
Shortly before my arrival at Djockdjocarta, a daring house-robbery, by a band of Javanese, took place in the neighbourhood. Six of the robbers were afterwards caught, tried, convicted, condemned, and executed a la Javan on the scene of their crime: they were tied hands and feet to separate stakes, and krissed by a native executioner, who performed his dreadful office so scientifically that his victims died without a groan. The cool indifference with which five of the unfortunates witnessed the execution of the first sufferer, and successively received the kriss in their own bosoms, was quite surprising, and shewed with what stoical composure the Mohammedan fatalist can meet a violent death.
The forests of Java are inhabited by the rhinoceros, tiger, black tiger, leopard, tiger-cat, boa-constrictor, and a variety of animals of milder natures. The elephant is not found in its wild state in these woods, though numerous in those of the neighbouring island. I am not aware of any other animal that may be called dangerous to man in these unrivalled forests; nor is there much to be apprehended from occasionally coming in contact with either of those above-named, though accidents happen now and then. I have known a carriage and four attacked on the main road between Batavia and Samarang, by a tiger, and one of the poneys killed by the fierce onset. This, however, is a rare occurrence, and can happen only when the tiger is hard pressed for food; which is seldom the case in the woods of Java, overrun as they are with deer, wild-hog, and other royal game. The boa is harmless to man, unless his path is crossed, when a speedy retreat is advisable. A friend of mine in Samarang once kept one of these monsters as a pet, and used to let him crawl all over the garden: it measured exactly nineteen feet. It was regularly fed twice a month, viz. on the 1st and the 15th. On the first day of the month, a moderate-sized goat was put into his house. The poor animal would scream, and exhibit every symptom of extreme terror, but was not kept long in suspense; for the snake, after eyeing his victim keenly, would spring on it with the rapidity of thought, coil three turns round the body, and in an instant every bone in the goat's skin was broken. The next process was, to stretch the carcass to as great a length as he could before uncoiling himself; then to lick it all over; and he commenced his feast by succeeding, after some severe exertion, in getting the goat's head within his mouth. In the course of twenty minutes, the whole animal was swallowed: the snake would then lie down, and remain perfectly dormant for three or four days. His lunch (as I may call it) on the fifteenth of the month, used to consist of a duck. This snake was given, in 1815, to Lord Amherst, on his return from China, and reached the Cape in safety: there it was over-fed to gratify the curious visitors, and died in consequence before the ship reached St. Helena.
While on the subject of wild animals, I may mention a leopard that was kept by an English officer in Samarang, during our occupation of the Dutch colonies. This animal had its liberty, and used to run all over the house after its master. One morning, after breakfast, the officer was sitting smoking his hookah, with a book in his right-hand, and the hookah-snake in his left, when he felt a slight pain in the left hand, and, on attempting to raise it, was checked by a low angry growl from his pet leopard: on looking down, he saw the animal had been licking the back of his hand, and had by degrees drawn a little blood. The leopard would not suffer the removal of the hand, but continued licking it with great apparent relish, which did not much please his master; who, with great presence of mind, without attempting again to disturb the pet in his proceeding, called to his servant to bring him a pistol, with which he shot the animal dead on the spot. Such pets as snakes nineteen feet long and full-grown leopards are not to be trifled with. The largest snake I ever saw was twenty-five feet long, and eight inches in diameter. I have heard of sixty-feet snakes, but cannot vouch for the truth of the tale.
In my enumeration of animals dangerous to man, I omitted the alligator, which infests every river and muddy creek in Java, and grows to a very large size. At the mouth of the Batavia river, they are very numerous and dangerous, particularly to Europeans. It strikes one as extraordinary, to see the copper-coloured natives bathing in the river within view of a large alligator: they never seem to give the animal a thought, or to anticipate injury from his proximity. Yet, were a European to enter the water by the side of the natives, his minutes in this world would be few. I recollect an instance that occurred on the occasion of a party of troops embarking at Batavia for the eastward, during the Java war. The men had all gone off, with the exception of three sergeants, who were to follow in the ship's jolly-boat, which was waiting for them at the wharf: two of them stepped into the boat; but the third, in following, missed his footing, and fell with his leg in the water, and his body over the gunwale of the boat. In less than an instant, an alligator darted from under the wharf, and seized the unfortunate man by the leg, while his companions in the boat laid hold of his shoulders. The poor fellow called out to his friends, "Pull; hold on; don't let go"; but their utmost exertions were unavailing. The alligator proved the strongest, and carried off his prize. The scene was described to me by a bystander, who said, he could trace the monster's course all the way down the river with his victim in his immense mouth.
The inhabitants of Java are, generally speaking, a quiet, tractable race, but rather lazy withal. The Dutch Government could never have made the Island produce half the quantity it now yields of either sugar, coffee, or rice, without a little wholesome coercion;—coercion that seemed somewhat tyrannical at first, but which has ultimately pleased all parties concerned, and done wonders for Java. If my memory serves me, it was in the time of Governor Vandenborch that this system of coercion commenced. The inhabitants of the villages, in various parts of the Island, were compelled by an armed force, when milder means had failed, to turn out at day-light, and labour in the fields planted either by Government itself or by Government contractors, which naturally caused a great deal of discontent; but, as the labourers were regularly paid in cash for their day's work every evening, they very soon became reconciled to a system that not only provided amply for their families, but gave them the means of indulging in their favourite pastime, gambling. To this vice, all classes are passionately addicted; and nothing is more common than to see a gang of coolies sit down in the middle of the road, and gamble for hours on the few pieces they may have just earned for having carried a heavy burthen a couple of miles. The inhabitants of the districts in which the coercion I speak of has been put in force, are now better satisfied with their rulers than ever they were before.
The extent to which the growth of coffee and sugar has been carried, has rather checked that of rice, which has been twenty-five per cent. dearer the last fifteen years, than during the preceding twenty: it is, however, still cheap enough as an article of food, though the price is too high to compete, in the China or Singapore markets, with the produce of Lombok, Bally, Siam, or Cochin China.
[Footnote 5: By the last overland papers from Singapore (Sept. 1845), I observe, the Dutch Government has been importing rice from Pondicherry to Java;—a proceeding quite unprecedented in my time, and to be accounted for only by the extent to which the cultivation of sugar, indigo, and coffee is carried, in order to satisfy the constant demands on the colonies of the Netherlands for money. To this cause may be added, however, the occurrence of one or two dry seasons;—a rare phenomenon within the tropics, and attributable, probably, in some degree, to the vast extent of country recently cleared of forest and jungle to make way for the plough. No policy can be so blind as that which compels the poor Javanese to eat imported rice, while living in a country capable of yielding food for all Europe.]
Slavery still exists in Java, and every Dutch family has its domestic slaves. The law forbids the importation of fresh ones, and provides for the good treatment of those now in bondage. It also prohibits the slave-owner from separating a family; so that the wife and husband cannot be parted from each other, or from their children, except in the case of a crime having been committed by a member of the family. In that case, the guilty party is, on application to the chief magistrate, put up to auction, and sold to the highest bidder. This, however, is a rare occurrence, though I have witnessed such sales. The slaves, knowing well the consequence of an act of dishonesty, are cautious how they venture to trespass on the rights of meum and tuum. I may safely say, I have never, in all my wanderings, seen a race of people better treated than the slaves of Java: they are well fed and well clothed; and adults of both sexes receive a monthly allowance of two guilders (3s. 4d.) under the name of pocket-money. This sum may seem small; but, when we take into consideration, that a free man can be hired for eight guilders per month in Batavia, and for six in the country, on which sum he has to feed and clothe himself and his wife and children, it will be sufficiently evident that the slave's allowance is ample, his master feeding and clothing him and his family. I object in toto to slavery in any form; but I confess I do not think the slaves of Java would be benefitted, were their liberty given them to-morrow.
The natives of Java are by no means free from that prevalent Eastern vice, or luxury, opium-smoking; and the Dutch Government derives an immense revenue from the article. I have, in various parts of the Eastern world, seen the evil effects of opium-smoking; but am decidedly of opinion, that those arising from gin-drinking in England, and from whisky-drinking in Ireland and Scotland, far exceed them. Let any unprejudiced European walk through the native towns of Java, Singapore, or China, and see if he can find a single drunken native. What he will meet with are, numbers of drunken English, Scotch, and Irish seamen, literally rolling in the gutters, intoxicated, not from opium, but from rum and other spirits sent all the way from England for the purpose of enabling her worthy sons to exhibit themselves to Chinese and other nations in this disgraceful light. That spirit-drinking at home is no excuse for opium-smoking abroad, I admit; but I would recommend the well-intentioned persons who have of late been raising such an outcry on the subject of opium, to begin at home, and attempt to reform their own countrymen: they may then come to China with a clear conscience, and preach reform to the poor opium-smoker.
Among other improvements in Java, its rulers have lately turned their attention to the cultivation of tea, and with considerable success so far as regards the quality, I have no means of ascertaining the quantity of tea at present produced yearly; but have no doubt it will, before long, become an important article of export from the Island.
Before quitting Java, I must say a word about the far-famed upas-tree. Such a tree certainly exists on the island; but the tales that are told of its poisoning the air for hundreds of yards round, so that birds dare not approach it, that vegetation is destroyed beneath its branches, and that man cannot come near it with impunity, are perfectly ridiculous. To prove their absurdity, a friend of mine climbed up a upas-tree, and passed two hours in its branches, where he took his lunch and smoked a cigar. The tree, however, does contain poison, and the natives extract the sap, with which they rub their spear and kriss blades: wounds inflicted with blades thus anointed, are mortal. Such I believe to be the origin of the many fabulous stories that have passed from hand to hand, and from generation to generation, about the upas-tree of Java.
ADVANTAGEOUS POSITION OF SINGAPORE—CULTIVATION OF THE NUTMEG AND COCOA-NUT—ROADS AND SCENERY— MOTLEY POPULATION—EUROPEAN RESIDENTS—CHINESE EMIGRANTS—KLINGS—SAMPAN-MEN—PLACES OF WORSHIP—TIGERS.
In the month of May 1824, I returned from my trip to the eastward, and was kept tightly at work in Batavia, till fate sent me wandering in July 1826. Singapore was the first place I visited; and to it, therefore, I must devote the next few pages of these retrospective lucubrations.
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles deserved a great deal of credit and praise from the mercantile community of Britain, for having established this emporium of trade. A more lovely or better situation could not have been chosen; and its surprising prosperity has more than realized its founder's expectations, sanguine as they were. Since 1826, I have resided some considerable time in Singapore; have witnessed its progress towards its present nourishing condition; and am sufficiently well acquainted with its trade and its inhabitants to enable me to speak confidently respecting them. The Island itself, though only seventy-six miles from the Equator, enjoys a delightful climate, and is remarkable for salubrity. Its proximity to the Line secures frequent refreshing showers, and its foliage is in consequence always in the full bloom of summer. During an acquaintance with it of eighteen years, I have never known a drought of more than three weeks' duration. Its soil, with little tillage, produces the nutmeg, the clove, coffee, the cocoa-nut, the sugar-cane, the pepper-vine, gambia or terra japonica, and all the fruits common to Malacca and Java. The East-India Company's regulations regarding land checked, for a few years, the spirit of the agriculturist; but, within the last ten years, a few spirited and praiseworthy individuals have laid out considerable sums of money in nutmeg, coffee, sugar, and cocoa-nut plantations. It is a somewhat doubtful point, in my opinion, whether sugar or coffee plantations on this island will ever pay; but, of the nutmeg and cocoa-nut groves, I have the best opinion, and think their proprietors have a very fair chance of ultimately being well paid for their outlay. Of the nutmeg gardens, that of Dr. Oxley's is by far the finest on the island. This gentleman has spared neither trouble nor expense in bringing his plants forward, and has now five thousand of the very finest nutmeg-trees I ever saw. Nothing can be finer than their beautiful position, tasteful outlay, and luxuriant foliage. It is now eighteen months since I last saw those trees: they were then just coming into bearing; and they are now, I hope, paying their spirited proprietor for his monthly outlay at all events, though it may be a few years yet before they return him interest for his money, and adequate remuneration for his trouble.
A plantation of ten or fifteen thousand cocoa-nut trees is a more valuable property than many people imagine. As soon as they come into bearing, which they do in five years from seed, they are worth three-quarters of a dollar each per annum net profit, after paying the labourers: thus, fifteen thousand of them will yield their proprietor 10,250 dollars per annum, (i. e. at the moderate calculation of 4s. 2d. to the dollar, 2135l. 8s. 4d. sterling,) a sum that would cover all the outlay incurred during the five nonproductive years, and be a secure revenue to the owner of the estate for ever, provided that he is careful in replacing the old trees, as fast as they die, with new plants.
My reasons for doubting the success of coffee-plantations in Singapore are, that there is not sufficient depth of soil for the tree, and that, if there were, labour is too high to enable the planters to compete with those of Java. As regards sugar, Singapore being a sugar-importing colony, its own produce pays, on being imported into England, 8s. per hundred-weight more duty than the produce of non-importing British colonies. The high price of labour is also against the sugar-planter. An able-bodied labourer costs, in Singapore, four dollars per month, while the same man can be had in the mountains of Java for three guilders in money, and the value of two in rice. Thus, the Singapore planter pays more than double the rate of wages for his labour; and, as his lands are not so rich as his neighbour's, he stands, I fear, but a poor chance in the competition with him.
[Footnote 6: Since my arrival in England, an Act has been passed, removing, in some measure, this bar to the prosperity of the Singapore sugar-planter;—I allude to the recent reduction in the duty on all sugars, excepting slave-grown. The Singaporeans are naturally anxious to be allowed to send their sugars to the English market on the same terms as their brethren of Prince of Wales' Island have lately been permitted to do. This they can hardly expect, however, while they continue to be such large importers of Siam and other foreign sugars as they are and always have been. To require them to give up this foreign trade, would do them far more injury than the granting of their planters' petition would benefit them.]
To the eastward of the town of Singapore, extends a considerable plain, on which the sugar and cocoa-nut plantations stand. To the westward and inland of the town, the country consists almost entirely of hill and dale; and its aspect is very striking and picturesque. On many of these miniature (for they are but miniature) hills, stand pretty bungalows, surrounded with nutmeg and fruit trees: they are delightful residences, and have the very great advantage of cool nights, when the tired planter or merchant can enjoy a sound sleep after the fatigues of a hot day.
A great deal has been done for Singapore by gangs of convicts from Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, who, under an experienced and able superintendent, have cut and made excellent roads, that now extend east, west, north, and south, for several miles. Cutting these roads has drained, and thereby rendered available, large tracts of land that were recently quite valueless: they also add much to the enjoyment of the Singaporean, by enabling him to extend his ride or drive of an evening. The scenery along the different roads consists of hills and dales, covered with the richest and most luxuriant foliage, with here and there a clearing, where some industrious China-man has squatted, in defiance of tigers and East-India Company's regulations. Now that land can be got on better terms than formerly, these clearings are being purchased by Europeans of the squatter,—whose prior right the Government always protects to the extent of a fair remuneration for his labour,—and are being turned into gardens or plantations. This drives back the squatter, who, like his brethren all over the world, is ever willing to sell and move further inland; thus materially increasing the extent of cleared land from year to year. The primeval jungles of Singapore are so thickly timbered and covered with underwood and large, tough creepers, that the man who undertakes to clear them has before him an Herculean task. According to the best information I could obtain, it requires a cash outlay of sixty dollars to clear a single acre; and even that large sum does not thoroughly stump it (i. e. clear off all the large roots and stumps of the larger trees) for the planting of coffee, nutmegs, or pepper. For these, however, this is less necessary, as the plants are placed at a considerable distance from each other: for sugar, it is very desirable to have every stump taken out.
Swamps abound on the island: fortunately, they are all salt-water swamps, and flooded daily by the tide, which keeps them sweet, so that no one suffers from residing in their neighbourhood.
A full description of the inhabitants of Singapore would fill a volume, they are of so many countries. Here may be seen, besides Europeans of different nations, and Americans, the Jew, the Armenian, the Persian, the Parsee, the Arab, the Bengalee, the Malabaree, the China-man, the Malay, the Javanese, the Siamese, the Cochin Chinese, with the native of Borneo, of Macassar, and of every island of the Eastern Archipelago; all in the costumes of their respective countries, and forming motley groupes that can nowhere be surpassed. With the exception of the Europeans, Americans, and Armenians, each class occupies a distinct quarter of the town, mixing but little with the rest, except in business hours, when one and all may be seen in eager converse on the all-important subject of money-making.
Europeans generally live in garden-houses in the suburbs. The favourite situation is along the beach to the eastward of the town, from which the merchant has a full view of the harbour, as well as of both its entrances, and can see every vessel that comes or goes. Pleasant, however, as is this part of the suburbs, it is gradually being deserted for country situations, where the hot winds of July, August, and September are not so much felt, and where the nights are cooler than on the sea-shore. The houses generally occupied by these gentlemen, are large and roomy, with verandahs in front and rear, enclosed with Venetian blinds: these are kept shut from ten A. M. till four P. M., which darkens the house so much that a visiter can with difficulty see his host or hostess for two or three minutes after entering a room, till the pupils of his eyes, contracted by the glare on the road, expand, and enable him to distinguish objects. This custom keeps the house wonderfully cool, and is universally adopted by newcomers after the first few months of their residence. The Chinese occupy the next best part of the town, and many of them have built substantial and commodious houses. A portion of this class are the descendants of Chinese who settled at Malacca two hundred years ago: they have never been to China, and speak Malay much more fluently than they do their own language. Numbers of them keep their families at Malacca, having superstitious objections to a final removal far from the graves of their ancestors. The real Chinese emigrant looks on Singapore only as a temporary home, and invariably remits something every year, according to his means, to his aged parents, wife, or sisters. He usually consoles himself for his absence from his wife, by taking to himself another of the country he resides in: the offspring of this second marriage is always properly cared for on the father's return to China, where he probably takes the eldest boy to be educated.
The Chinese junks bring annually to this part of the world, from six to eight thousand emigrants, ninety-nine-hundredths of whom land without a sixpence in the world beyond the clothes they stand in. The consequence of this is, that those who cannot succeed in obtaining immediate employment, take to thieving, from necessity; and some daring gang robberies are committed every year. They do not, however, long continue this mode of life; for the eight thousand new comers soon scatter, and find employment either on the Island, in the tin-mines of Banca, or on the Malayan peninsula.
Ship-loads of these men have been sent to the Mauritius, where they have given general satisfaction; and no better class of emigrants could be found for the West Indies. A tight curb on a China-man will make him do a great deal of work: at the same time, he has spirit enough to resist real ill treatment. All the mechanics and house-builders, and many boatmen and fishermen of Singapore, are Chinese.
Of the other inhabitants, the most numerous are the Malabarees, who are principally employed as shopkeepers, and are as knowing in the art of bargain-driving as any tradesmen of London or Paris. They generally go here under the denomination of "Klings," an appellation synonymous, in the Singapore vocabulary, with "scamp," to which I have no inclination to dispute their title. The boats employed to carry cargoes to and from the shipping in the harbour, are almost all manned by these Klings; and excellent boatmen they are. When pulling off a heavily-laden boat, they cheer their labour by a song, led, in general, by the steersman, the crew joining in chorus. They are a willing, hard-working race, though rather given to shut their eyes to the difference between meum and tuum. The original Malay inhabitants of this Island are now the most insignificant, both as to numbers and as to general utility, of the many races that are found on it. From this remark must be excepted, however, the sampan-men, who are of great service to the mercantile community. In their fast-sailing sampans (a superior sort of canoe, peculiar to the place), they go out ten, fifteen, and even twenty miles, to meet any ship that may be signalized as approaching the harbour. They are usually employed to attend a ship during her stay here, few masters choosing to trust their crews on shore in boats. Of late years, reports have been in circulation of a suspected connection between the sampan-men and the Malay pirates in the neighbourhood; but I question their having any foundation in fact. Those Malay families whose young men are thus employed as sampan-men, are called Orang-Laut, or "People of the sea," from their living entirely afloat. The middle of the river just opposite the town of Singapore, is crowded with boats about twenty feet long by five wide, in which these poor people are born, live, and die. They are wretched abodes, but are preferred, from long custom I fancy, by their inhabitants, who, if they chose, could find room on shore to build huts that would cost less than these marine dwellings.
Each different class of the inhabitants of the Island have their own place of worship. The English Church, built in 1836 by a contribution from the Government and a subscription among the European inhabitants, is a handsome building in a central situation, capable of holding four times as many people as are likely to be ever collected within it: it is neatly fitted up, but lacked a steeple, or even a belfry. This deficiency, however, is about to be supplied by a subscription raised at the suggestion of the Bishop of Calcutta, during his last official visit to this portion of his immense diocese.
[Footnote 7: Since this was written, the Chapel has been much improved, and an elegant steeple added to it. There seems to be some fatality attaching to Clergymen at Singapore. The last three incumbents, Messrs. Burn, Darrah, and White, all died young, and of the same complaint, namely, diseased liver. My own opinion is, that they were all three too strict adherents to teetotalism. In warm climates, a moderate and rather liberal allowance of wine, I believe to be absolutely necessary.]
The Chinese pagoda is a splendid building, according to the celestial taste in such matters, and is really well worth seeing: the carving and general fitting-up of the interior are very beautiful, and substantial enough to make one believe they will last a thousand years, as the Chinese say they will. In the centre, the Queen of Heaven is seen decked forth in robes of the most superb figured satin, richly embroidered with gold; robes that the wealthiest dames of the proudest cities of Europe might envy, but the like to which they never can possess. Her Majesty was brought from China; and the owner of the junk in which she came, would not receive a penny as freight for the room she occupied. On her arrival in Singapore harbour, the whole Chinese population of the Island turned out to see her land, and paraded her through the town, with all the noise they could by any possibility extract from about a thousand gongs. The building in which she has taken up her quarters, cost 40,000 Spanish dollars, and does credit to the Chinese workmen of Singapore. One day, shortly after the building of this temple, I asked an intelligent and wealthy Chinese, how often he went to it. His answer, in broken English, ran thus: "Sometime one moon, sometime two moon. Suppose I want ask God for something, I go churchee. Suppose I no want ask any thing, what for I go?" On my asking whether he never went to return thanks for past favours, he seemed to think my question a very silly one, and said, "No use."
The American Chapel is a remarkably neat little building. Besides these, there is no other place of worship in Singapore worthy of notice.
Before quitting the subject of the inhabitants of this land of perpetual summer, I must mention one class which the others would gladly get rid of: I allude to the tigers of a large size which abound here, and which, having cleared the jungles of wild-hog and jackalls, and nearly so of deer, have lately commenced preying on man, to whom they have become a most formidable and dreaded foe. Were I to set down the number of unfortunate individuals who have, since 1839, been killed by these lords of the forests, I should scarcely expect to be credited. Let any one look over the newspapers of the Island for the last five or six years, and they will tell him a tale of horror that will make his blood freeze. Many of the more distant gambia-plantations have been deserted by their proprietors in consequence of the ravages of these monsters. Government, in the hope of remedying or mitigating the evil, offered a reward of one hundred dollars for every tiger brought in alive or dead; but so dense are the jungles in which they seek shelter, that their pursuers have hitherto been far from successful. One is brought in now and then, for which the captor receives his reward, and sells the flesh for some forty dollars more; for the reader must know, that the flesh of a tiger is readily purchased and eagerly eaten by the Chinese, under the notion that some of the courage of the animal will be thereby instilled into them. Some time before I left the Island, a Malay fell in with two tiger cubs in the woods, and captured one of them: next day, he went back, like a fool, alone, in search of the other, when the dam captured and made a meal of him; a lesson to his countrymen, which has effectually cured them of meddling with tiger-whelps. On another occasion, a China-man, having set a trap for tigers, took a walk out about midnight, to see if his plan had been successful. He paid dearly for his temerity, being carried off by some prowling monster; and his mangled body was found near the place a few days afterwards.
TRADE OF SINGAPORE—CHINESE TRADERS—BUGIS TRADERS—SIAMESE AND COCHIN CHINESE—ARAB SMUGGLERS—BORNEO—TRADE WITH CALCUTTA— COMMERCIAL PROSPECTS.
The trade of Singapore has, until within the last three years, gone on increasing; but it has now, in the opinion of many people, reached its ultimatum. The harbour is visited regularly by native vessels from all the neighbouring islands, as well as from the Continent; and I shall proceed to notice the nature and value of their trade, respectively, class by class.
And first as to the China junks. These unwieldy vessels visit the Island in numbers varying from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty per annum, their size ranging from fifty to five hundred tons: they are manned and navigated entirely by Chinese. They of course come with the monsoon, and reach Singapore in the months of January, February, and March. Their cargoes form a very material item in the trade of the place, and consist of tea, raw silk, camphor, Nankin (both yellow and blue), immense quantities of coarse earthenware, and supplies of all kinds for the myriads of Chinese that reside on this and the neighbouring islands. The season of their arrival is one of great activity in the Chinese bazaars, and gives an impulse to the trade of the importer of Manchester and Glasgow manufactures. Their commanders and supercargoes are cautious dealers, and usually sound the market well before disposing of their commodities. Sometimes, however, they overstand their market, and suffer by refusing the first offers made. This was particularly the case in the season of 1841, in the article of tea, which fell in price with every overland mail that came in, making these wary men rue their having declined the offers that had been made them previously. Most of them are opium-smokers; and their countrymen, with whom they deal, take care to keep them well supplied with this luxury, and obtain many a good bargain from them when under its influence.
The export cargoes of this class of vessels consist principally of raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton goods, opium, beche-de-mer or sea slug, pepper, tin, rattans, edible birds'-nests, deers' sinews, sharks' fins, fish maws, &c. Of the first three articles, they have of late taken annually the following quantities:—raw cotton, 20,000 bales of 300 lbs. each; cotton goods, 50,000 pieces of 40 yards each; opium, 2000 chests of 164 lbs. each; the aggregate value of which I put down, in round numbers, at two millions of dollars.
Many of the small junks that arrive with the last of the north-east monsoon in April, are fast-sailing craft, and come expressly for opium, to pay for which they bring nothing but bullion: they take their departure early in May, and smuggle the drug into Canton by paying the usual bribe to the Mandarins. All the large junks have sailed on their return voyage by the end of June. Some few of them that waited in 1841 till the middle of July, in the hope of getting opium cheaper than their neighbours who sailed earlier, encountered heavy gales in the Chinese sea; and one or two of them were lost with valuable cargoes. This lesson has not been lost upon their successors, who have since taken care to run no such risks. Advantage is taken of the opportunity afforded by the return of these junks, every season, by the Chinese residents, to make remittances to their families in China; and the masters of them are entrusted with their remittances, which usually consist of money, though, occasionally, rice and other useful articles are sent. The shipper pays the master a per-centage on the sum transmitted; and instances of fraud on the part of the latter are extremely rare. A boy about fourteen years of age whom I had as a servant in my house at Singapore, used to ask me for a month's wages in advance, to send to his mother in Macao. Hundreds of similar instances might be adduced. This is one of the bright traits in the Chinese character.
The native traders next in importance to the Chinese, are the Bugis. These arrive in October and November, bringing in their uncouth-looking vessels, large quantities of coffee of very good quality, gold-dust, tortoise-shell, native clothes (celebrated all over the Archipelago for their durability), beche-de-mer, deer-sinews, rice, &c. They come from the different ports on the islands of Celebes, &c., but principally from Macassar. They are a shrewd race, but are no match for their Chinese competitors. On the arrival of a boat, her hakoda (or commander) lands with nearly every man on board; and he may be seen walking all over the place for a few days before making any bargain. They are a troublesome set to deal with, and require the exercise of more patience than a European in these parts generally possesses. They are, however, always received with a hearty welcome by the Chinese of the Island, who, inviting them to be seated, immediately hand round the siri-box (betel-nut, arica leaf, &c.) among them; and over this universal luxury, they will sit and talk on business matters for hours, during which time it may be fairly calculated that both host and guests tell a lie per minute, without betraying by their countenances the slightest consciousness of having been thus engaged. This strange sort of preliminary negotiation goes on, probably, for a week; at the end of which the passer-by may see the contents of the different Bugis boats entering the Chinese shops or stores, as the case may be. On getting rid of his import cargo, the Bugis trader takes a few days more to rest and refresh himself, before he begins looking round for a return cargo, which usually consists of opium, iron, steel, cotton yarn, cotton goods, gold thread, &c. He seldom or never takes money away with him. On an average, two hundred of these boats come to Singapore in the fall of the year, each manned by about thirty men. Their crews are not allowed to land armed with the kriss or any other weapon; a wise precaution, as they are rather too fond of having recourse to them in the event of any quarrel or misunderstanding with those with whom they deal. Notwithstanding this salutary regulation, I have witnessed serious disturbances, ending, on more than one occasion, in bloodshed, between these traders and the bazaar shopkeepers of Singapore. What I refer to occurred many years ago, however, and is not very likely to happen again, as the reins are kept much tighter over them than of yore. They are essentially a maritime people, and are not, as far as I have ever heard, addicted to piracy. They generally sail in small fleets, and are quite prepared to defend themselves against the common Malay pirate, who meets a stout resistance when he meddles with them. Like most, or, I may say, all the inhabitants of this part of the world, they deal more or less in slaves; and it would not be difficult to prove their having sold boys and girls in Singapore within these ten years, though I firmly believe that the disgraceful traffic has been put an entire stop to of late. These men visit, during the months in which the south-east monsoon prevails, Torres Straits, and the numerous islands in that neighbourhood, for the purpose of gathering beche-de-mer and tortoise-shell. They pick up, also, slaves from Papua (New Guinea), for whom they find a ready market in Celebes. Our settlement of Port Essington has long been a favourite resort of the Bugis trader; and were the Government to encourage Chinese and other settlers, by giving them grants of land, to establish themselves there, there can be no doubt that it would soon become a very important place, instead of a mere military station, or rather place of banishment, for some fifty royal marines. As for its being a refuge for shipwrecked seamen, I have never heard of an instance of a crew of the numerous vessels annually lost in Torres Straits seeking shelter there. This state of affairs would be altered, however, were the port thrown open to the commercial world. As it is, a shipwrecked crew landing there, might have to remain a twelvemonth for an opportunity to get away again; consequently, every seaman placed in that unfortunate position, pushes on in his open boat to the Dutch settlements on the island of Timor.
Next in importance to the Bugis, I may rank the Siamese and Cochin Chinese traders, who arrive at Singapore during the north-east monsoon. The trade of these two countries used to be carried on entirely in junks peculiar to each of them respectively; but the state of things has been materially altered of late. The sovereigns of Siam and Cochin China have recently built and fitted-out several square-rigged vessels, those of Siam being commanded by Europeans, and manned by natives of that country. These vessels are the private property of the kings whose flags they bear, and are loaded on their account and at their risk. Their cargoes consist principally of sugar and rice, which find ready purchasers in Singapore. The sugar of Siam is of very superior quality, and is sent up in large quantities to Bombay, whence it finds its way up the Indus and the Persian Gulf. The rice of Siam is a superior article, and has of late been sent in considerable quantities to London. The grain is liable to the disadvantage of not keeping so well as that of Bengal or Java; but this fault might, I think, be obviated, partially at all events, by adopting the Calcutta plan of putting a pound or two of rice-dust and lime into each bag: this not only tends to preserve the rice, but repels the destructive weavil; a little black insect that makes its appearance in wheat and rice, in immense numbers, in those warm latitudes.
The Cochin Chinese ships generally bring each four thousand peculs of sugar, which is of three qualities; namely, sixteen hundred peculs of first quality, the same quantity of second, and eight hundred peculs of the third sort. The first two are good articles, though not equal to the sugars of Siam. The cargoes of these ships are so carefully put up, that I have purchased and re-shipped them without opening or weighing more than five bags out of each hundred, and have never had cause to repent the confidence thus placed in the seller, who is an employe of His Cochin Chinese Majesty. In addition to sugar and rice, the Siamese vessels bring gamboge and cocoa-nut oil of a superior quality: the former is bought up for the London and Continental markets, and the latter for consumption in the Straits' settlements. Notwithstanding the monopolizing system of the sovereigns of the two countries just mentioned, the trade by junks is still carried on to a limited extent: their cargo consists of the same articles as the kings' ships bring; and their owners make money in spite of monopoly and of the iron rod with which they are ruled.
At the commencement of the rupture between Great Britain and China, His Siamese Majesty thought proper to follow the example of his Celestial Brother, and to interdict the trade in opium, which used to flourish in his dominions. His proclamation prohibiting the trade, came so suddenly upon the parties concerned in it, and took effect so immediately, that many of the opium-traders went into his capita of Bang-kok with their usual cargoes, in utter ignorance of what had taken place, and found their vessels seized, their cargoes confiscated, and themselves put in irons and thrown into prison, where they were kept till the interference of the Singapore Government procured their release as British subjects trading under the English flag. The restriction on this trade has not yet been removed (1844); nor is it likely to be, till the king finds himself in want of money, when he will be glad to allow his subjects to resume a traffic that yielded him a large revenue in former days.
Siam produces teak timber of excellent quality, which can be had on very reasonable terms; and of this, the ship-builders of Singapore do not fail to take advantage. A portion of the Cochin Chinese trade is carried on in vessels so small and so frail, that it is astonishing that men can be found to navigate with them the dangerous Chinese Sea: they do not exceed thirty tons burthen. Being wholly unprovided with defensive weapons of any description, many of them are annually taken by the Malay pirates as soon as they make their appearance inside Point Romania, at the mouth of Singapore Strait. They are lateen-rigged with mat sails, are fast sailers, hold a good wind, and have a very pretty appearance when entering the harbour in fleets of fifteen or twenty sail.