Imágenes de páginas

island two or three years ago, found the inhabitants of the capital exceedingly wealthy and hospitable. He arrived on the eve of a grand festival, which he was invited to witness. Three thousand men of rank and property, or noblemen, as they were termed by the English merchants, came down from the mountains and the interior to join in the festivities and display their loyalty to the prince. The populace assembled in vast multitudes, and the spectacle presented to the eye called to mind the most gorgeous seenes described in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. The Sultan or Rajah went in procession through his capital, surrounded with the most superb insignia of power, and accompanied and followed by a long train of princes, chiefs, and nobles, mounted on richly caparisoned steeds, and bearing spears and banners, with shafts of burnished gold. Their own dresses, as well as the harness of their horses, glittered with plates of the same metal and with jewels, while their waving plumes and bright coloured robes augmented the grandeur of their appearance. Being an early rising people, they sat down to dinner at nine o'clock in the morning, and continued eating and drinking, without intermission, till two in the afternoon. During the whole of this long interval they swallowed arrack like water; but though considerably more than half-seas-over, they managed to preserve both their temper and their dignity, and no exhibition unworthy of gentlemen took place. Their women are handsome and well-formed, and they indulge in a plurality of wives, a custom which our countrymen settled on the island approve and conform to, one of them having in his harem several ladies belonging to the Sultan's family. The formation of Lombok is peculiar. In the central parts of the island are numerous mountains, some of them exceedingly lofty : their slopes, on almost all sides, descend precipitously to the plains, which, well watered, fertile, and highly cultivated (generally with rice), stretch away in soft green levels to the sea. An extremely peculiar branch of husbandry prevails in Lombok; we mean the rearing of myriads of ducks, which men follow to pasture as shepherds do their flocks, each having in his hand a long rod with a strip of red cloth at the top. This he uses as a whip to direct the motions of his quacking obstreporous subjects, which are driven out early in the morning to the small lakes, ponds, and rivers, and home again at night, when they are housed in sheds erected for the purpose. Lombok is thus enabled to export vast numbers of ducks and ducks' eggs, which find their way to all the surrounding divisions of the Archipelago. There is scarcely, however, an island in this prodigious group, which, if our limits permitted us to go into details, would not supply materials for an exceedingly curious picture. With some small sections of Pulo Kalamantan Mr. Brooke's journal has recently familiarised the public ; omit we, therefore, to dwell on those points, on the head hunting, on the common tenements, on the simplicity displayed inland, on the recklessness and rapacity evinced at sea. We are not in search of excitement, or the picturesque; but desire to lift, if possible, a corner of the veil which conceals from Europe the infinitely varied resources of the Indian islands. Whether or not it will ever be thought desirable that we should carry on ship building to any great extent in these parts of the world is more than we can foresee ; but should that ever come to be the case, we may certainly command a supply altogether inexhaustible of the most magnificent timber. With the teak forests of Java most persons are already acquainted, but it is not so generally known that Sumbawa likewise furnishes excellent teak, and that many other islands and small groups further east abound with species of timber as yet nameless, which, for size and durability, may possibly come in the end to be preferred to that valuable wood. In many places the trees are twenty feet in circumference, and rise to a height of eighty feet before they begin to send forth branches. - : Another source of wealth will be found in the rich spices which flourish in a thousand places beyond the circle of Dutch monopoly, and might consequently be obtained in any quantity, if we would but give encouragement to the natives to cultivate them. At present they grow wild, in which state the nutmeg especially has comparatively little flavour. The tree is found in Sawarak, in the Sultan of Borneo's territories, and probably throughout Kalamantan, where Mr. Brooke believes it might be brought to perfection. There are those, however, who think differently, as, according to them, both the nutmeg and clove trees will flourish properly only on islands of a certain geological formation, which they believe to be peculiar to the Moluccas. Our own opinion is different. It matters. comparatively little, however, whether this be the case or not; as, when commerce comes to thread habitually the innumerable channels of the Archipelago, and quicken the now slumbering energies of its inhabitants, the Dutch monopoly will have to contend with obstacles and obstructions altogether insurmountable. Smuggling will completely break down its regulations, and cause it to be abandoned by rendering it worthless. It is not our wish to speak harshly of any neighbouring Government, but we think the crimes of which Holland has been guilty, in order to uphold her monopoly of spices, would, if faithfully described, send a thrill of horror through the whole frame of European society. Of some islands, the whole population has been literally exterminated, while in other places the natives have been reduced to so hopeless a state of slavery, that it may be questioned whether, by a braver race, death itself would not be esteemed preferable; and yet the monopoly is of little value, but is clung to rather as an hereditary and pleasing delusion than as a profitable reality. To keep it up, moreover, our phlegmatic and persevering neighbours have relinquished far more prolific and unquestionable sources of wealth. But this part of the question is theirs, though it may, we think, be doubted whether their excesses in the Moluccas do not call for the animadversion of the civilised world. But publicity is a great check to crime, whether in individuals or communities. It is probable, therefore, that the Dutch in the Moluccas will be awed into humanity by our presence, as present we must frequently be from the moment that our establishment in Labuan shall be in operation, and our steamers shall begin to run from Singapore to Sidney through Torres Straits. Our neighbours and their subjects must behold us constantly, if not within the magic circle of the Spice Islands, at least close on its circumference; and, as facts will then speedily ooze out, be carried home, and actively bruited throughout Europe, it is quite impossible that the rigours of their iron system should remain unrelaxed. We know, by the short experience gained at Balambangan, what an establishment in those seas may effect, if properly managed; and the example of Singapore is infinitely more striking and conclusive. For many years hundreds of Bugis prahus have come from the most distant parts of the Archipelago to our emporium on the Malay Peninsula, bringing along with them all the valuable commodities of the islands; their camphor, their gold, their antimony, their frankincense, their pearls, and their diamonds, and taking in exchange our hardware, woollens, cottons, and silks. These, in spite of storms and piracy, they have regularly distributed through the Archipelago, for the most part avoiding the NO, XXII.-WOL, IW, Y

Dutch settlements. At Labuan they will find our goods, brought seven hundred miles nearer to their doors. They will, moreover, no longer be under the necessity of facing that breadth of sea stretching from the western shores of Pulo Kalamantan to the Straits of Malacca. To our own merchantmen the dangers of that intricate navigation will be greatly diminished by the surveys which Government has ordered, or is about to order. The examination of New Guinea is to be entrusted to Captain Stanley, while that of Kalamantan, Celebes, and Mindanao will, it is hoped, afford employment to some no less skilful and enterprising officer. Experience has long shown the necessity of accurate surveys in that part of the world. When Captain Keppel, in the Dido, proceeded to Sarawak, for the purpose of chastising the pirates, he sailed for seventy or eighty miles over the tops of high mountains, according to the Admiralty charts, which had projected the coast of Pulo Kalamantan a degree and a half too far westward. Elsewhere, islands are introduced which have no existence, while dangerous rocks and shoals lying in the very track of navigation are completely unnoticed. The native prahus, which seldom draw more than three feet of water or are above ten tons burden, are able to make use of channels and pass over shoals which would immediately be fatal to English merchantmen, and besides, they who navigate them possess an intimate acquaintance with the localities, which it will be very long before European mariners can acquire. The necessity, therefore, for extensive surveys is imperative, and, as ministers have boldly entered into the right course of commercial policy in relation to that part of the world, we trust they will also recognise this necessity, and be prompt to obey it. There is one remark which we would make now at the dawn of this commerce, which may be extended almost indefinitely if conducted with prudence. It is, that the people of this country should be at the pains to familiarise themselves with the new nations, remote and singular as they are, with which we are to be brought into relations, friendly and profitable, or otherwise, according as we act wisely or unwisely. It is a truth too obvious to be insisted on, that we cannot trade advantageously with any people without knowing its habits and character, without understanding the principles of its religion, the peculiarities of its manners, the modifications of its taste. But the Indian Archipelago, with its multiform races and tribes, is to most persons a sort of geographical Utopia. We are not educated to underständ our own interests. On the contrary, our studies, as gentlemen and scholars, are thought elevated and liberal exactly in proportion as they are profitless. What the world is now ; by what races it is peopled ; by what principles, opinions, and errors the minds of these races are swayed; with what strange animals they are placed in juxtaposition; what skies are over their heads; what soils and minerals beneath their feet;-these are questions which we regard as of inferior importance, while we consume our time and exhaust our energies in acquiring an exact knowledge of the ancient squabbles of popes and patriarchs, of the jargon of polemics, of the ridiculous dreams which men have put forward under the name of philosophy. It is full time that we should let in the light of common sense upon these things, and persuade ourselves that the inquiries upon which we enter would be more Hikely to promote our own happiness and that of the rest of mankind, if they were more frequently made to embrace the present and the future. . Of what has been done, or thought, or said, we should not, of course, be ignorant; but our paramount duty is to know what we ourselves ought to do, and of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and how we may most effectually promote the well-being of our neighbours and contemporaries. The inhabitants of the Oriental Archipelago are both. We have taken up our abode next door to them, and have invited them to enter with us into the operations of buying and selling. It may consequently, we think, be regarded as one of our duties to inform ourselves respecting their notions and idiosyncrasies; to learn who are the Malays, the Bugis, and the Papuas ; in what kind of dwellings they live, what forms of industry they practice, what is their costume, and what civil and political institutions they enjoy. If we instruct ourselves on these points, our trade will flourish all the better for it, and the means of instruction, if diligently sought, are unquestionably accessible in this country, and will be multiplied daily with the extension of our commercial intercourse. There exists already a sort of bastard civilisation in the Archipelago, and some progress has, in various islands, been made towards converting the natives to Christianity. But this process should not be rashly commenced. An experiment was made in one of the smaller islands, which, by its results, may show how much better it would be to educate the natives before we undertake to impart our tenets to them. A very estimable Dutchman, hold

« AnteriorContinuar »