Page images
PDF
EPUB

There are about four hundred planters in this island, and about an hundred women of superior rank, not more than ten of whom live in the town. On firing the evening gun, at eight o'clock, every one retires to his own habitation.

" The Blacks. • Of the population of this island, we must consider the Indians and Negroes as forming a considerable proportion.

«. The first are from the coast of Malabar, and are very mild and gentle people: they come from Pondicherry, and let themselves out for a certain number of years. They are almost all of them workmen, and occupy a suburb which is called the Black Camp; they are of a deeper colour than the illanders of Madagascar, who are real Negroes, have the features of Europeans, and their hair is not woolly : they are sober and economical. Their head is dressed with a curban, and they wear long dresses of mulin, with large gold ear-rings, and silver _bracelets at the wrists. There are some who enter into the service of the rich and titled inhabitants, as pions; a kind of domestic, which answers to the character of an European running footman : his pecan liar distination is a cane in his hand, and a dagger at his girdle. It were to be wished that there were a greater number of the inhabitants of Malabar established in this island, particularly of the cast of hul bandmen. 1 " At present, Madagascar furnishes the Negroes which are destined to cultivate the land in the Isle of Bourbon. The common price of one of them is a barrel of gunpowder, a few muskets, some pieces of cloth, and, above all, a certain proportion of piattres. The dearest of them costs about fifty crowns of France.

“ These people have neither so flat a nose, or fo dark a complexion as those of Guinea; some of them are only brown; while others, as the Balambous, have long hair : nay, others of them have fair, and even' red hair. They are dexterous, intelligent, and have a sense of honour and gratitude. · The greatest insult which can be offered to one of these people, is to speak disrespectfully of his family; they are far less sensible to personal injuries. In their own country they work up various articles, with equal ingenuity and industry. Their zagaye, or half pike, is very well forged, though a couple of stones form their hammer and their anvil. The linens which their women 'weave are very fine, and well dyed; these they cast around them in a graceful form, and the manner in which they arrange their hair produces a pleafing head-dress; it consists of curls and tresses very taste. fully blended with each other, and is the work of the women. They are passionately fond of dancing and music; their instrument is the taniam, which is a bow fixed to a gourd, from whence they draw a soft harmonious sound, with which ihey accompany the airs that they compose. Love is the general subject of them, and the girls dance to the songs of their lovers: the spectators beat time and applaud.

" They are very hospitable. A black who is on a journey, enters without previous ceremony, or being known to the owner, into any hut which suits his convenience; and those whom he finds in it most wil. lingly share their meal with him. Nor is it their custom to ak from whence he comes, or whither he is going,

66 Suck “ Sach are the qualifications and manners with which they arrive at the Isle of France. They are all disembarked with no clothing or aoy kind, but a strip of linen round their loins. The men are placed on one fide of the beach, and the women with their children on the other. The planters then examine them, and make their purchases accordingly. Brothers, liters, friends, and loyers, are now separated, and are led away to the respective plantations to which hey are des. fined. Sometimes, in the paroxysms of their despair, they jinagine that the whice people are preparing to eat them, that they make red wine of their blood, and gunpowder of their bones,

“ Their manner of life is as follows; ar day-break, the smacking of a whip is the signal that calls them to their work; and : ey then proceed to the plantation, where they labour in a state of almoh encire nakedness, and in the heat of the sun. Their nourishment is ground maize boiled in water, or loaves of the manioc; and a small piece of cloth is their only covering. For the leaft act of negligence, they are ried hand and foot go a ladder, when the overleer gives them a certain number of strokes on their back, with a long whip; and with a threepointed collar clasped round their necks, they are brought back to their work. It is not necessary 10 describe the severity with which these punishments are sometimes indicted. On their return to their habitations in the evening, they are compelled to pray to God for the prosperity of their masters, * " There is a fubfisting law in favour of llaves, called the Code Noir, which ordains that they shall receive no more than thirty strokes at each chastisement; that they hall not work on Sundays; that meas thall be given them every week, and Thirts every year: but this law is mot observed,

« The Negroes are naturally of a lively disposisjon, but their state of slavery foun renders them melancholy. Love alone seems to allay their pain : they exert themselves to the utmost in order to obtain a wife; and, if they can choose for themselves, they always preler those who are advanced into a {tate of womanhood, who, they say, make ibe beft roup. They immediately give them all they poffefs; and if their wives live in anoi her plantation, they will undertake the most difficult and dangerous journies to see them. On such occations they fear neither fatigue nor punishment. Parties of them sometimes meet in the middle of the night, when they dance beneath the shelter of a sock, to the mournful found of a gourd filled with peas.

• The discontented Negroes generally Ay for resúge into the woods, where they are pursued by detachments of soldiers: when they are taken, they are punished with great severity; and the third offence of this kind is followed by death."

" Religion is, indeed, sometimes employed to alleviate the evils of their situation. Some of them are occasionally baptised: they are then told that they are become the brethren of the white people, and that they will go into paradise; but it is not an eafy matter to persuade them, that the Europeans will ever prove their guides to heaven.

• It is not for us to discuss, in this place, the subject of flavery, on which very able writers have differed, and with which volumes have been filled. That discipline, and sometimes a severe one, may be ner

cessary Cessary in the management of plantations, cannot be denied, and that the owners fometimes exercise their power with unnecessary rigour, must also be acknowledged; at the same time it would be ridiculous to assert that, because a white man is the master of a plantation, he Inuft be cruel, and because a black man is a lave, he must be wreiched. We all conclude this subject with some remarks of the late Admiral Kempenfelt, made by him in the year 1758:

“The Naves of Madagascar are the most inclined to desert from their masters. Many of them, inciced by the love of liberty, have retired into the most inaccessible woods and mountains, and, forming themselves into bodies, attack the plantations in which they have been Naves. The mischief they occafion is fomerimes very destructive, both to the plantations, as well as to thole who inhabic them. When they are impelled by hunger, neicher domestic or wild animal, not even the monkies, escape them. They also make a kind of short spear or javelin, which they throw to a considerable distance, and with great dexterity. Many, on their defertion, have put out to sea in canoes whicis they have stolen, and have trusted to the mercy of the waves, in ordes to regain their native island of Madagascar; and it is known that some of them, by the force of the currents, and the favour of the winds, wllich generally blow that way, have arrived there, having been Tecognized by French people who had seen them at Mauritius.

" Many of the black Maroons have been taken and destroyed by the detachments of troops tlnt are sent after them; they are ftill however numerous, and from the ferocity of their character, the subject of continual alarm to the planters, who live in the vicinity of the forests which they inhabit. When they are taken, they are punished with the greatest severity ; but what appears perhaps to be a cruel creatment is the effect of dire necellity, as the French are naturally humane; and if very levere examples were not made, they would not live in Tafety. 1t is indeed well known, that many inconveniences have resulted from the indulgence of the planters, particularly in granting liberty to the favourite Naves; so that it has been absolutely necessary to abridge that power, and to limit freedom co those alone who have saved the life of their inaiter.” P. 72.

The local firuation of the Islands of Bourbon and Mauririus, renders them of peculiar importance to the European power who potfelles thein ; particularly as the furiner mode of proceeding to India by the Mosambique Channel seems to be laid afide. They are alike remarkable for the salubrity of their climate, and the excellency of Their natural produciions, and render the intercourse with India easy and agreeable. This publication will, without doubt, render the navigation of ihose seas more caly; and the number of astronomical, geographical, and maritime observations which is comprehends, would have made it a most acceptable, and indeed valuable addirion to our collections of a similar kind, if a liitle more skill had been applied in compiling the most eilential ingre

dients

dients from the rude mass of materials which is here put together.

A respectable List of Subscribers is prefixed to the volume; and the book has all the advantages of the present improved ftate of typography.

Art. III. An Esay, tending to prove that Christianity has

promoted the Happiness of Man, as an intelle&tual, moral, and

focial Being. 8vo. 93 pp. 25. Deighton, &c. 1800. THE design of this Essay is to show, that the effects of reli

gion even on the temporal character of man, have promoted human happiness.

« The immediate end of Christianity, no doubt, is, to prepare man. kind for the enjoyment of a future ftate; but, in the prosecution of this end, its doctrines necessarily produce a collateral effect on the human species, as intellectual, moral, and social creatures. And, fince human happiness consists in the proper exercise and application of the intellectual, moral, and social powers; we shall consider the effects of che Chriftian religion upon these respective powers; and endeavour to Thew in what manner, and how far, it has operated on their nature and extent." P. 4.

In Chap. I. On the intellectual Powers, the author combats well an allersion of some writers, “ that the limits of our intellectual capaciiy are contracted by the doctrines of the Chrissian Theology.” P.5. Here the Christian Theology is con. traited: ist, with that of the Jews; and, 2ndly, with the loose and uncertain principles of Polytheism; and this part of the argument is thus vigorously concluded :

“ After all, it will be easy for sophiftry to invent new forms of ob. jection, while the sceptic, the infidel, and the libertine will be ever ready to linen to arguinents to congenial to their wishes. The concrired philosopher may infinuate with a malignant sneer, that the Chriftian religion was the primary cause of the intellectual darkness of the middle ages: he may describe in specious terms, the lamentable consequences of a pernicious luperftition, or the poisonous rancour of theological hatred. The artful historian may paint in the most ftriking colours, che arbitrary decrees of councils and of popes; the vices of ecclefiaitics, and the horrors of religious wars; the fullen gloominess of the recluse; and the wanton penance or the ascetic. But when they have lavished all their understanding and ingenuity upon the subject, they have merely been detailing the passions and errors of men, weak and fallible as themselves. The candid and impartial inquirer will trace thele enormities to a different source. He will see that the Christian, no more than any other dispensation, is to be judged of by its perversion, but by its genuine tendency. He will be at a loss to account for the corruptions of those times, the most calamitous and afflictive to mankind, recorded in the annals of history, from an initi. tution which discountenances every vice, speculacive and practical. From the nature of things he will see that it is morally impollible." P. 23. . It is then stated, that “ Christianity however has been adduced as a primary cause of the intellectual darkness of the middle ages :" (p. 24) and it is urged, " that the nature of the Christian religion, and the nature of the effects that have been ascribed to it, are in themselves so repugnant, as never to be a consequence, one of the other.” P. 24. An adequate and real cause is then produced from history, for that long night of intellectual darkness; namely,

" three events, which, had there been no Christian ́religion, would have been more than amply adequate for the worst effects of those worst of times; the subversion of the Roman empire; the introduction of the more fanciful and obscure parts of the ancient philosophy, into the scholaftic disputations, and the appearance of Mahomet in the East." P. 25.

It is admitted, that a “rage for the dialectical and meta. physical parts of the ancient philosophy, seems to have increased from the twelfth century to the Reformation ;" (p. 32) and " that polemics conducted their disputes with vehemence and acrimony.” P. 32. But it is jultly' contended, that

« in admitting accounts of this kind, we admit nothing to the prejudice of the genuine tendency of Christianity. From these very premises, we are led to conclude, that no less an object than the Christian theology could have kept alive the spirit of inquiry, during such times of turbulence and rapine. And though these religious disputes ab. forbed the whole attention of mankind, yet they paved the way for rhac patient investigation and bold inquiry, which diftinguish the pro. ductions of succeeding ages; they were a means of calling forth that penetration, which no depth could elude, that comprehension of genius for which no object was too large, thote riches and powers of mind, which immortalize the illuftrious labours of Erasmus and Bacon." P. 33.

The Reformation is spoken of with a high degree of animated eloquence. : - The Reformation indeed can never be forgotten; it has been the most splendid and auspicious change recorded in the annals of history. No event was ever attended with more beneficial consequences in every department of private and public life, in the sentiments of the rich, and the habitudes of the poor. Ar that glorious era, the human mind burst asunder the fetters of bigotry and superstition, and rose refulgent and majestic froin ruin and depression. Since that period, it has laid all nature under tribute, and encompassed with giant strides every field

« PreviousContinue »