« PreviousContinue »
THE PRINCIPLES OF COMMERCE.FRENCH.
159 * But it was soon perceived that this enterprize was C H A P. founded on false principles; and it was abandoned, from the impossibility of affording the advances of every kind, which M. de Maudave required for the new colonists* ' That the enterprize was founded on false principles, is far from being improbable; and, from the minister's own words, just quoted, we may safely infer that it was given up from false æconomy. We shall make this inference with the more confidence, when we consider the feeble support given by the court of France to their next attempt to make an establishment on Madagascar.
276. The attempt alluded to was made in 1772, under the Benyowky's conduct of the Count de Benyowsky, a Polish nobleman prize, in 1772 who, whether we consider the vigour and capacity of his mind, or the astonishing variety and danger of his adventures, must certainly be ranked among the most extraordinary characters that any age or nation has produced. My limits will not contain the minute particulars of the expedition, and, if they could, I am not sure that I should insert them; rather wishing to stimulate than to gratify the reader's curiosity, relative to that interesting piece of biography, the Memoirs of the Count de Benyowsky, translated from the Count's own MSS. and from authentic, official documents, chiefly by the editor, the learned and ingenious Mr. Nicholson.
277. I must therefore content myself with stating a few is not pro principal facts, relative to this extraordinary enterprize. In perly fitted
* See the letter from the French minister M. de Boynes, to Mell. De Ternay and Maillart, dated March 19, 1773, in“ Memoirs and Travels of the Count de Benyowsky,” 2 vols. 4to. from the text of which, together with the preface of the able editor, and the documents and vouchers annexed, this short sketch is chiefly compiled,
ment and merchants of the Ile de France.
CH A P. 1772, the Count prevailed on the court of France to enter
into his views; and he was accordingly placed at the head of the expedition, with a corps of 300 volunteers under his command. But his present supplies of every kind were evidently less calculated to insure success, in an undertaking of national magnitude, than to inspire the Count with confidence in the fair ministerial promises he received, of ample future fupport. In the mean time, the ministry, thought proper to refer him to the government of the He of France, who were ordered to furnish him with ships and provisions, and, in every respect, to co-operate with him in
the undertaking Oppakid by
278. In September 1773, the Count landed on the Isle of France, there to experience a succession of the most mortifying disappointments. Whether he there betrayed any symptoms of that ambition which, though it does not appear to have been ill directed, was certainly an ingredient in his character; or whether, as seems far more probable, a vile spirit of intrigue, which, as I myself have experienced, was perfectly characteristic of the former French placemen, tinctured the characters of the governor and intendant,. I shall not presume to decide. Neither shall I attempt to appreciate the degree of influence, which the evident aversion of the jealous traders of the Ile of France to any establishment at Madagascar, had on the minds of the go vernment of that colony. I shall: only mention the simple fact, as established by the proofs before me, that they were, from the beginning, extremely adverse to the views of the Count.
279. After great delay, and a tardiness scarcely distinin Madagar.
guishable from the most insulting opposition, and which, in the servants of an arbitrary government, seems unaccount
Lands at last
able on any supposition favourable to the French ministry, C H A P. the Count finally took leave of his dilatory coadjutors, on the sa 2d of February 1774; and, on the 14th, he arrived, with his troop, not 300 effective, in the Bay of Antongil, on the N. E. coast of Madagascar.
280. Before the 5th of September, the Count had con- Builds fort structed all'the necessary works on the lands which he had road. purchased, including a respectable fort and a road 6 French leagues (about 21 English miles) in length, and 24 feet in breadth. His means were certainly very sender, and, unaided by his address among the natives, would have been quite inadequate. They were, however, greatly superior to those with which, as we shall hereafter see, Mr. Beaver lately performed similar wonders at Bulama.
281 On the last mentioned-day (September 5th 1774) he Diftributes began to distribute grounds among his troops, for the com- digo a canal. mencement of a vigorous cultivation, on which he seems all along to have been intent. From the 14th to the 16th of February 1775, he was again employed in distributing lands of a superior quality; for they naturally produced sugar: canes, cotton, indigo and tobacco. He had already found means to engage about. 6000 of the native blacks, whom he found both willing and expert labourers, to join the harbour with the neighbouring river, by a canal, above an English mile and a half in length, a work which they actually performed in four days.; and, on the oth of March, we find him agreeing with two chiefs, for about the same number of their men, to make a road towards Angontzi, 63 En-glish miles in length. í..
282. Among his other difficulties, the Count unfortunate- Opposed 74 ly had to: struggle with the hostility of some of the chiefs:
supported by Their jealousy of independence, was originally excited by others.
CH A P. that perfidy and tyranny, which, the Count officially ob
serves, ruined all the former French settlements in this island; and which appears, on this occasion, to have been inflamed by emissaries from the Isle of France. The Count, however, was not unprepared to meet his enemies. After various skirmishes, which he could not possibly avoid, and in which his troops, or rather his allies, conducted by himself and his officers, were generally successful, we find him (April 2d 1775) at the head of 22,000 armed natives. An engagement seemed unavoidable, when the Count proposed a negociation, in which he succeeded so compleatly, that the adverse chiefs took the oath of friendship, and the day ended in festivity.-On the 14th of October, he purchased from
the King of the North, the Island of Nossebe on the N. E. Cloaths his coast, in S. latitude 13° 15'.—November 21st. Having yet country cloth received no effectual supplies, and his remaining brave fel
lows being almost naked, he collected a number of the native women to spin and weave cotton cloth; and having succeeded in tanning leather, he fet his shoe-makers and taylors to work, and, in a short time, compleatly cloathed his troop.-On the 17th of November, the storekeeper died, leaving all his account-books blank. He was a man of bad character, appointed by the government of the Isle of France, with a view to discredit and embarrass the undertaking.–With a similar intention, they sent the Count, on the 27th of December, only four recruits, and these were
notorious vagabonds. Not support 283. On the 14th of March 1776, he had yet received no ed by the French mi- order whatever from France.-August 23d, he obferves that niftry.
the island enjoyed perfect tranquillity; that the chiefs of the whole east coast were united to the establishment; that the west was ready to join in the common interest; that agri
culture had every where been increased; and that nothing C H A P. but support was wanting to improve this happy juncture.
284. A circumstance must now be noticed, which explains, in a certain degree, the conduct of the French ministry, and which, with some, may serve to justify it.-An reported to aged negress, fifty years before, had been stolen from be the son of
a MadagasMadagascar, and sold as a slave in the Isle of France, to- car princess. gether with a princess of the royal family of Ramini, the greatest and the most ancient in Madagascar, and which, in this long interval, had become extinct. The Count brought back this negrefs to her native country; and, whether by his concurrence or not is uncertain, she reported that he was born by the princess—the fon of her sorrowful exile. The remembrance of beloved kings, and sympathy with the supposed offspring of their unfortunate princess, were easily excited in the minds of a people naturally susceptible of tender impressions; and the chiefs, formerly subject to the Ramini family, now wearied out with their disfentions, were ready to acknowledge the Count, as their Ampansacabe, or supreme chief.-Had this circumstance been known much earlier, the conduct not only of the Count, but of the French ministry, and the government of the Isle de France, would have been almost divested of mystery. It would then have been apparent, that the Count entertained an ambition, which might have called for the vigilance and direction of the other parties. But still it would not have been clear, that his ambition was of that mischievous kind which ought to be violently counteracted, far less totally repressed; for it really does not appear, that he had any views incompatible with the peace and happiness of mankind. 285. This extraordinary affair (if then first known to the