Page images





by order of the French

C HA P. tal concealment of deeds, of which the witnesses' are necef

sarily numerous, cannot be effected, even by an arbitrary
ministry; and, to their machinations, the destruction of the
brave Benyowsky, was universally attributed, when I was

at Paris, in 1787. But this did not satisfy my curiosity, reminiltry,

specting the fate of so distinguished a friend to Africa. I
made particular enquiry, and was assured that the ministry
ordered out a frigate to secure the Count, alive or dead;
but the particular minister who issued the order was not
mentioned. This information I received from Mons. Hall,
one of Europe's first artists, a near relation of the com-
mander of the frigate, who, of course, was obliged to exe-
cute, and, I have not a doubt, did execute his orders. This
was what I chiefly wished to know; and it would have been
indelicate to trouble a gentleman, so connected, with minute
questions. He said, however, that the Count aimed at the
sovereignty of Madagascar, independent of the French; but
he was far from impeaching him, in other respects, and
candidly admitted, that he possessed consummate bravery
and ability.

298. These qualities shine conspicuous in every page of fcriptive of the Count's history; which also exhibits marks of other vir

tues, more to be regarded, than the vague assertions of per-
fons, who have obvious reasons for wishing him to be thought
the tyrant and the robber. But a very different character
appeared, in his earnest and successful endeavours to induce
some tribes of the natives, to abandon their criminal prac-
tice of sacrificing deformed children, and those born on
unlucky days-a reform, however, of which Mme. de Ben-
yowsky ought to share the praise. The detestation with
which he speaks (p. 352) of the “avidity, injustice and op-
pression of the usurpers and tyrants," who conducted


Circumflances de

bis character.





former attempts in (or rather on) Madagascar, and his re-
signing, rather than violate a treaty, by attacking the li-
berties of the natives—if these circumstances account, as
they partly do, for the number of his enemies, his
friends may also insist on them, as marks of a noble, hu-
mane, and generous disposition. They may insist, still
more strongly, on the attachment of his officers and men
(my poor fellows,” p. 201) in the most trying conjunctures,
and even when he appeared to be dying of a tedious illness
(p. 283) and when nothing but an ardent affection to their
leader, not to say an admiration of his virtues, could have
kept them within the limits of discipline.--In short, Mr.
Nicholson, who had all the letters and documents before
him, declares, that he has “ not yet seen any thing against
the Count, which will not bear two interpretations, or which
has not been written by men who contradict each other, and
had an interest in traducing him.”—I must add, that, for
aught I ever heard to the contrary, the Count de Ben-
yowíky, deserved a better fate. Nay, I am clearly of opi-
nion, that his conduct in Madagascar, deserves no small por-
tion of admiration, and even of respect : 'and, all things duly
considered, I see no reason, why a monument might not be
erected to his memory, inscribed MAGNIS TAMEN EX-
CIDIT AUSIS.—But, after all, I wish my readers to peruse
the “Memoirs,” and to judge for themselves, of the character
there exhibited; especially as I have only examined that
part of the work which relates to Madagascar. In order to
assist persons, in forming their conclusions, who may not
have time to read this instructive piece of biography, I have
inserted the dates in this epitome.

Some may think, that I have commented rather too The condu? freely on the conduct of the French ministry. Far, far be Ministry

feems unjuftiA a 2

299. Some

of the French

it fiable.




CHA P. it from me, to imitate the immediate destroyers of Ben

yowsky, whoever they were, by insulting the mighty fallen (See § 296 at the end). But it was absolutely necessary that the failure of this colonial enterprize should be traced to its true source, and not attributed as usual, to the climate, the constant excuse for European perfidy and violence, within the tropics, especially in Africa. The benevolent professions of the ministry towards the natives of Madagascar, may have once been sinceret; but ministerial benevolence is evanescent, and, in modern practice, must always give way to expediency. It was expedient for the French ministry, to change their system, respecting Madagascar. It is also expedient, or convenient (see Johnson's Dict.) that, if possible, a distinction should be established between the minister and the man. Accordingly it is allowed, by fome, that certain ministers, whose plans have been pernicious to mankind, were yet very good sort of men; and my opinion of M. de S. though as good as it should be, upon the whole, would be much improved, were it possible for me to conceive, that an arbitrary minister could deviate into evidently crooked paths, without carrying the man along with him. Benyowsky showed the minister what he should have done, rather than violate a sacred principle.—The Count dared to be consistent, and resigned: but he was a foldier, not a mi. nister.--Yet I sincerely wish it were credible, that the French ministry were not concerned in the foul treatment of Benyowsky. But truth and Africa are more dear to me

+ I am sorry that I happened to omit, in its proper place, that M. de S. in his dispatch to the Count, of April 6th 1777 (and which the Count could not have received in Madagascar) expresses much concern that he should have lost so many men in filling up a marsh, a circumstance which the Count also mentions in his journal.





than the reputation, either of the Count or the Ministry: CH, A P. and I fear that their conduct to him cannot be even politically justified, without impeaching their wisdom.---The American troubles were coeval with the Madagascar colony. The ministry dropped the substance, and snatched at the shadow. Neglecting Madagascar, with her valuable and increasing productions * and her three millions of docile and ingenious people, † they lurked behind the mask of profeffions, for, what they thought, an opportunity of humbling Great Britain. The consequences to France have been already hinted at. But Britain, disencumbered of her financial burden, and having her strength concentrated, rose superior to the blow, and has since resumed, and, if undirturbed by war, was long likely to maintain, her respectabi. lity among the nations. Her astonishing restoration, I think, ought, in candour, to be partly ascribed to the dis, tinguished ability and industry of the statesman who has

Having, under the preceding articles, enumerated the most valuable productions of the continent of Africa, it did not seem necessary to dwell on those of Madagascar; which are very much the same. But, as the natives are far less har. ?.. raffed by the flave-trade, and upon the whole, more civilized; the produce of their labour is proportionably more abundant. This is evident from the great quantities and value of provisions, &c. exported and supplied to shipping, by the Count. . See the statement of charge and discharge above inserted.

A respectable merchant in London, of great experience in the French East India commerce, assures me, that the cotton of the eaft coast of fully equal to that of Bourbon ; and that a great part of the cotton which comes to Encope, under the name of Bourbon cotton, is either smuggled from the East Indies or brought regularly from Madagascar into Bourbon, where it is stored and repacked for exportation to Europe. For an account of the Bourbon coiton see ♡ 271.

+ See Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 397.' This, however, can be but a vague conjecture respecting the population.



CHA P. since conducted her finances. What should I say more of

statesmen and of their abilities or infirmities, but “ Alas !
poor human nature?"

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

C. Of Goou



300. The Dutch East India ships began to frequent the

Cape, about the year 1600; but it was not till 1650, that Van Riebeck Van Riebeck, a surgeon, first discovered the advantages that colony there. would result from forming a regular colony there. On re

turning to Holland, he presented a memorial on the fubject,
to the directors of the Dutch East India company, who ap-
proved of his proposal, and ordered four ships to be equip-
ped for the Cape, with some artificers, a few colonists, and
the necessary tools and stores. Van Riebeck was appointed
admiral of this ffeet, and governor of the new colony ; trusts
which he fulfilled with such fidelity and success, that he
well deserves to be recorded, as founder of that important

Liberality of 301. In executing this design, the directors acted with a
the Dutch E. degree of wisdom and disinterestedness, too seldom found

in the representatives of joint stock companies, and for
which, in many other instances, the conduct of their prede-
cessors and successors have not been very remarkable.
They authorized Van Riebeck, to purchase territory from
the natives, which he did, with goods to the amount of

* This sketch of the colony at the Cape is compiled from Mortimer's Diet. of Trade and Comm. 1776.—Menzel's Beschreibung von Cap de Bonne Esper, 1785.

-Das merkwurdigste aus den besten Beschreibungen von Cap 1787.-Tableau de Commerce, 1787.-Forster's Voy. round the World, 1777, and 'Sparrman's Voy. to the Cape of Good Hope, Perth edition.

« PreviousContinue »