« AnteriorContinuar »
is a liberal spirit in their government which gives reason to hope that the natural history of Brazil may be carefully investigated. Salt lakes and streams abound in the Chaco. Dobrizhoffer attempts to explain this by an odd hypothesis ; a shrub grows plentifully in that country which the Spaniards call la vidriera, probably because its ashes are used in making glass, and which the natives call by a name signifying salt, because they use the ashes for salting their meat and savouring their tobacco : he supposes that these shrubs and the caranday palm communicate a nitrifying principle to the rain which washes their leaves,--aqua pluvia er illarum foliis decedens per contractam ex iis salsuginem nitri videtur esse semen, Thus he argues from the fact that where these plants abound, nitre is always found, -overlooking the more natural couclusion that the plants themselves derive their saltness from the nitrous soil in which they grow. Is the caranday palm the same as the carnauba of Brazil ? Mr. Koster passed over many salt marshes or plains covered with these palms, growing upon a bare dark soil, and forming with their tall naked stems a dismal scenery. The tree, however, is one of the most useful plants of the Sertam ; the pith of its. young stem atfords a nutritious fecula ; the fruit, when properly prepared, has the taste of maize, and is wholesome food. The cattle in severe şeasons eat the dry leaves when they fall, and these leaves form a thatch which will last twenty years. Lastly, its wax is likely to form an article of commerce. Has Dobrizhoffer mistaken the small light coloured scales in which this wax is found, for an incrustation of salt, judging only by its appearance ?
Upon coming once more in sight of the sea, Mr. Koster felt as if be were at home, this was an Englishman's feeling. He now entered upon a country where comparative conforts were to be found, and was entertained with magnificent hospitality at Aracati, by Senhor Joze Fideles Barrozo, a wealthy merchant and landed proprietor, to whom he had sent forward a letter from the
governor of Rio Grande. The keys of a house were delivered to him as he entered the town, and soon after he had taken possession of it and slung his hammock, three black servants appeared, one bringing a large tray, with an excellent supper, wie, sweetmeats, &c.; a second carried a silver ewer and basin, and a fringed towel, and a third came to know. if there was any thing that he wished for which had not been provided ? The town of Aracati contains about six hundred inhabitants, and is situated upon the Jaguaribe, about eight miles from its mouth. . The river is wide, but the bar narrow and dangerous, and the sand is accumulating in the river. It is subject to great floods, which sometimes enter the houses, on which account they are built one story above the ground floor. From hence he sent back his English servant by sea to Pernambuco, the
man not being equal to the fatigue of such travelling, and hiring horses here, left his own to recover strength for the journey back. To Seara was thirty leagues, over a country which is for the greata est part flat; and consisting of sandy lands covered with brushe wood, some fine marshy grounds intervene, which in dry season yield the only crops, and the sea renders living comparatively easy in these parts. From Recife to Natal is a computed distance of 70 leagues, from Natal to Seara, 160. Considering the liberat manner in which miles as well as leagues are computed by those who are not ' licensed to deal in post-horses, the journey will not have been less than a thousand iniles.
The first settlement at Seara was made in 1608, as preparatory to forming an establishment at Maranham: the present town stands about three leagues to the southward of the old fort, the remains of which may still be seen. There is neither river nor harboural the beach is bad and the surf dangerous: but just at this poin the reef which runs along the whole coast from Pernambuco is rather bigher than at the old site, and affords some little protection to ships at anchor. The Villa da Fortalaza do Seara comprizes a fort, a town-hall and prison, a custom-louse, a treasury, a governor's palace, three churches, and from 1000 to 1200 inhabitants. There are no convents, and from the present state of public opinion in Brazil respecting such institutions, it is not likely that any will be founded there. The dwellings have only a ground floor, and the town, which is built upon heavy sand, is not paved, but there are brick foot-paths before some of the houses, as at Natal. The public buildings are small and low, whitewashed, neat, and well adapted for their respective purposes. The palace is the only house which has boarded foors; but the custom of flooring houses with wood renders them so perilously liable to destruction by fire, that it will probably one day be generally disused.
There are three Indian villages, containing each about three liuni dred inhabitants, within two or three leagues of Seara. The ad joining country was 'the scene of some of Vieyra's labours in reclaiming the savages; he and his brethren the Jesuits made the most persevering and virtuous efforts in behalf of this race of men, sparing no labours for their conversion, and contending at the same time for their liberty. They effected' much, but the freedom of the reclaimed Indians was not finally established till the Jesuits were overthrown, and in consequence of their overthrow the Indians in many places have relapsed into barbarism, and in none have they made amy progress towards a more civilized state. This is clearly proved by the Bishop of Para's Journal of his Visitations in 1784, 1787, and 1788; and the fault lies inore in their teachers than in the people themselves. Yet it must be admitted that Mr. Koster's
representation of the Indians is by not means favourable, and that the opinions which he expresses are of the more weight, because, as bis feelings and principles are of the best kind, they lead him always to judge charitably, and to look forward with hope. Each village has its priest, its director, who is supposed to be a white man, and two juizes ordinarios, (who hold their office for one year, Y one of whom is an Indian. The landholder who wants workmen, applies to the director, who agrees for the price, and commands one of the chief Indians to take the allotted number of men to the estate: the labourers receive their money themselves, and spend it as they please, but the bargain is usually below the regular price of labour. Infinitely ameliorated as their condition has been, this is still no very desirable state of existence ;-they are always regarded as childrení, and not always treated, as they were by the Jesuits, with paternal kindness. But when they eseape they shew little capability of acting for themselves, and an evident tendency (as if instinctive) to return to a wandering and savage life ;-it does not arise from any feeling connected with the love of their ancestors, or a tradition of their free state; they do not appear to know that their ancestors had been slaves, much less would'any knowledge be preserved of their anterior state. The Indian who has escaped from controul scarcely ever plants for himself,-or if he does, he sells the growing crop for half its value, and removes to some other district; fishing and hunting are his favourite pursuits, and he is never stationary for any length of time, unless it be near a lake or rivuleta : A few of them are said to retain in secret some of the old hea-' thenish customs, and to adore the maraca; but this does not lessen their implicit belief in all the superstitions which they have been taught--for what they are taught is an abject superstition,—a gross and palpable idolatry. All the Indians of Pernambuco speak Portugueže; this at least is an improved policy: there was a time when slaves of a different nation were taught the Tupi, or general tongue, which many of them at this time cannot speak. If education bas hitherto done little in implanting good qualities, it has done much in eradicating evil ones. They were among the fiercest and most revengeful of the human race. they are now quiet and inoffensive, rarely committing murder, (in a country where murder is accounted venial, and generally obtains impunity;—if not applause,) and even those who are dishonest, confine themselves to pilfering. Their conversion has not cured them of drunkenness, for they will still drink for nights and days without ceasing, and they are still • vilely indifferent regarding the conduct of their wives and daughters ;' in this point they were not likely to be improved by their intercourse with the white men. The strangest, and worst part of their character, is their want of natural affection, an old charge against them, which Mr. Koster's unexceptionable testimony confirms;
they appear,' he says, “to be less anxious for the life and welfare of their children than any other cast of men who inhabit that country. The cause of this must be found in their dissoluteness: where the marriage laws, which are of all laws the holiest, are disregarded, there will be little natural affection and less social virtue. The condition of the women has been improved, for they no longer perform the drudgery. Both sexes are particularly clean in their persons, and in many of their habits. They are capable of great fatigue, and for that reason are employed as letter-carriers from one province to another, walking day after day, with their goat skin wallets upon their shoulders, at a regular pace, which is not altered by rough or smooth, and with little rest, for months together. They are short, stout, and large limbed, but with no appearance of muscular strength: the face broad, the nose fiat, (this, perhaps, is an artificial deformity,—a fashion retained from their heathen state,) the mouth wide, the eyes deep and small, the hair black, coarse, and lavk;
none of the men have whiskers, and their beards are not thick. The negro character,' Mr. Koster says, 'is more decided; it is worse, but it is also better.' The Indian seems to be without energy or exertion, equally incapable of great evil or great good. Rich Mulattos and Negroes are not uncommon; there is no instance of a wealthy Indian, nor did he ever see an Indiay mechanic. The priesthood is open to them, bųt to little purpose; Mr. Koster heard of only two Indians who were ordained as priests, and both died from excessive drinking. This is a melancholy picture, drawn as it is by ove who would willingly think better of the race if he could. But without inclining to the preposterous system of Helvetius, it may be affirmed that all this is the effect of unfavourable circumstances, and wretched education, degrading the parents generation after generation, and thus by moral nieans producing a physical degeneracy. The fault is in the mould, not in the materials.
Some anecdotes of the late Governor of Seara will shew the state of society in this part of Brazil. He was appointed to the rank before he was twenty years of age;--absolute power should never be entrusted to any man; when entrusted to one so young the nature must indeed be excellent which is not corrupted by it; and he left behind bim the highest character for justice as well as intrepidity. The town was disturbed at night by outrages which were the work of mischief rather than malice: after endeavouring in vain to discover who the offenders were by other means, the governor cloaked himself well, and apprehended some of them with his own bands. The Feitozas were a powerful faunily, or rather clan, in the interior, and in the adjoining 'captaincy of Piauhi; they set the laws, civil and criminal, (such as they are,') at defianice, and put to death any person who offended them; these murs ders were committed openly and with impunity. The chief of the clair was a colonel of inilitia, and could call together, at a short notice,' about a hundred men, which is equal to ten or twenty times the number in a well peopled country. He received deserters, and men who had committed murder honourably: that is to say, for revenge and not for gain; but he would not receive a robber into his service. Joam Carlos received secret intimation to arrest this lawless chieftain. He sent him word that he should visit him on a certain day and review his regiment. The village in which he resided is at a considerable distance from Seara, but not many leagues from the coast: the governor went there with ten or twelve persons; Feitoza received him with great courtesy; the men, who had been assembled to make the greatest possible shew, were reviewed and dismissed, fatigued with the day's exercise, many of them having travelled several leagues, and the governor went to Feitoza's house as his guest for the night. When they were all preparing to settle, He rose and presented a pistol to his breast, arresting him in the Prince's name; his followers did the same to Feitoza's relations and servants, who were taken by surprize; horses were ready, the chieftain was mounted and carried off with all speed to the sea side, where jungadus were in waiting to take them on board a smack. They arrived there very early in the morning, and just as they got on board, Feitoza's people were seen upon the beach, embarking in jangadas to overtake them. But they were too late. It is supposed that Feitoza was in prison at Lisbon when the French entered that city, and that he either died about that time, or was released by them. His people, however, still look for his return. An Englishman feels mortified at seeing a brave and honourable man compelled to have recourse to treachery; such means, however, are not thought dishonourable in a state of society which renders them necessary,—the fault belongs to the circumstances, and the intrepidity of the individual is not the less entitled to praise.
It is wholly and exclusively the fault of the government that the laws are not observed in Portugal; but in great part of Brazil it is as yet impossible that law can have its course.
A scanty population scattered over an immense territory inust be in a barbarous state. A great proprietor in Brazil is, in many respects, what the head of a clan was in the Highlands half a century ago: even in cities there is little law, in the Sertain there is none. The Sertanejos therefore have all those qualities which arise from ignorance and independence, a remote government, and a profligate religion. VOL. XVI. NO. XXXII.