Imágenes de páginas

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 cntrusted 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 understand 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 likely 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

ing a clean contrary theory, undertook to convert the natives by wholesale. It was not in his power to imitate the Russians, who coax or force a whole pagan tribe to wade through a river, and then swear they have been baptised. As Mynheer's means were humble, his achievements were so also ; but he did ultimately succeed in persuading large numbers of people to call themselves Protestants. Shortly, however, after he had accomplished this undertaking, there happened a considerable derangement in the seasons, and the usual rains did not fall, which occasioned great scarcity and suffering among the ignorant islanders, who, regarding it as a chastisement inflicted on them by their ancient gods in revenge for having been abandoned by them, unanimously came to the resolution to return to their original creed, which they did, and the enterprising Dutch missionary, finding himself exceedingly unpopular, moved off to some new field of exertion. But this could not have happened had the natives been first instructed in those departments of knowledge best calculated to enlarge their minds.

In the arts of life several tribes inhabiting these groups have made more progress than might have been imagined. Necessity has taught them the practice of navigation, and the elementary processes of agriculture. But they have proceeded in many cases far beyond these ; entered upon the manufacturing career ; taught themselves, or have been taught by others, the working of the precious metals, the cutting and setting of gems, the fabrication of jewellery, particularly of the most delicate filagree work, and the preparation of luxuries coveted by the most refined nations of the East. For much of this progress they are indebted, it must be confessed, to Mohammedanism, in common, perhaps, with the greater part of the East. Several recent writers have been betrayed by their zeal into very erroneous notions on this subject. Imagining, apparently, that to acknowledge the beneficial effects of Islamism in any degree would be to be guilty of religious indifference. This, however, is a mistake. Imperfectly as the Mohammedans are civilised by their creed, they are taught some truths which Paganism does not recognise, and are incited to aim at many virtues to which Paganism can lay no claim. Even the practice of making pilgrimage to Mecca is highly beneficial, since it subjects the Hadjis to a variety of influences, most of them favourable to civilization, so that the Moslem, who has visited the holy cities, is generally more agreeable in his manners and in

finitely better informed than his countrymen, who remain at home. It is true that the professors of Islam in the eastern Archipelago are often hostile to the Pagan tribes, such as the Dyaks and the Papuas, who consequently regard them with apprehension. But trade breaks down even this barrier, and engages the professors of every variety of creed to tolerate each other for their mutual advantage. We may now safely calculate on the introduction of a new element of civilization which will probably mingle with and leaven the whole mass of society. But to produce this effect we must not content ourselves with a solitary station, since the Archipelago is so immense that it would take ages to exert an influence over it all from a point like Labuan, lying at its north-western extremity. We must judiciously select other positions from time to time as opportunity offers, that we may faithfully discharge towards the natives of that part of Asia the obligations we tacitly take upon ourselves by settling permanently among them.



It is written among the tales of the Wise Men of the East, that—" once upon a time”—there was a certain Ben Somebody, who, desiring to guide the people as a Prophet, and to receive, in repayment of his oracles, precious robes, slaves of rare price, jewels, and jars of honey ; announced himself to the citizens of Bagdad as the Pilgrim who had travelled to the end of the World, and looked over the Wall ! The people heard him, and trembled.

What a depth of experience must Ben Somebody's be!” said they. Who might open their mouths when he told them of the Limbo of Aged Moons: and described how the Planets were hung -each by its long golden chain ?” So they brought to him their wives and their little ones when sick, and they entreated him in seasons of drought with skins of rich wine, that he might promise them Rain; and they built him a house, and they appointed one with a trumpet to stand at the gate thereof, and to cry aloud, “ This is the house of Ben Somebody, the Wise Man, who hath been to the end of the World and looked over the Wall !”

Now, there were others in Bagdad, besides Ben Somebody, who

would fain be wise men also, for the sake of the rich garments and the moon-faced slaves, and chiefly for the trumpeter at the gate! And one of these went forth in the streets, with a round ball in his hand, and cried aloud as he went,-“ Lo ! this is the World, and it hath no end !” And he pointed out to the people the place where the name of their city of Bagdad was written. And when the people saw the written name they were amaz

nazed, saying, “ This must needs be true!” And the fame of the New Prophet spread, and the men of Bagdad went to the gate of Ben Somebody, and took him with the trumpet thence, and bade him follow the New Prophet, crying, “This is a wiser man than Ben Somebody, for he hath shown us that the world hath no end, neither wall; also, the place on which the name of our city of Bagdad is written!” And the gates of Ben Somebody were deserted, and his wealth failed him, and he fell sick, and gave up the ghost, and was laid in a sepulchre. Yet left he sons and daughters—and some of their seed are still alive in the kingdoms of the earth—and they are known as the tribe of Ben Somebody,

66 who had been to the end of the world ;” and a remnant believe in them, even unto this day.

Well, we have of late years been treated to a prodigious amount of talk in the highways, to remind us of the existence of this strange tribe. Who can have escaped the arguments brought against certain changes--not as being bad in themselves. O, no ! but as destroying “ the People's trust in all public men. ” Now, far be it from me to determine how far individuals are hit by this -how far Sir Robert is indicated to be a Whited Sepulchre, full of dead Protectionists' bones—how far Lord John may be placed under suspicion as a quiet volcano, capable at any instant of

breaking out in a fresh place.” It is the principle laid down, which, however showy in the eyes of the vulgar, must, methinks, be felt as so strange by all thinking men. The tribe of Ben Somebody forget that their ancestor himself changed the opinions of mankind by acquainting them that the world had an end, and everything stood fast thereon! Just as much as his successor, who showed to their eyes that our globe was a round one ; and that, insomuch as it was perpetually rolling, nothing could, by mathematical certainty, remain precisely stable in its old original place, form, and fashion.

But what is odder—behold! by a whimsical inconsistencythese

very children of Ben Somebody, who would have it so few

« AnteriorContinuar »