5th March. I this day left London, charged with dispatches from the Secretary of State’s office, and from the Admiralty, relative to the embarkation of that part of the marines and convicts intended for Botany Bay; and on the evening of the seventh, after travelling two days of the most incessant rain I ever remember, arrived at Plymouth, where the Charlotte and Friendship transports were in readiness to receive them.
General Collins, commander in chief at that port, lost no time in carrying the orders I had brought into execution: so that on the morning of the ninth the detachment of marines were on board, with all the baggage. But the next day being ushered in with a very heavy gale of wind, made it impracticable to remove the convicts from on board the Dunkirk prisonship, where they were confined. So violent was the gale, that his Majesty’s ship the Druid, of thirty-two guns, was forced to cut away her main-mast to prevent her driving on shore.
The weather being moderate the following day, the convicts were put on board the transports, and placed in the different apartments allotted for them; all secured in irons, except the women. In the evening, as there was but little wind, we were towed by the boats belonging to the guardships out of the Hamaoze, where the Dunkirk lay, into Plymouth Sound. When this duty was completed, the boats returned; and the wind now freshening so as to enable us to clear the land, we proceeded to Spithead, where we arrived the seventeenth, and anchored on the Mother Bank, among the rest of the transports and victuallers intended for the same expedition, under the conduct of his Majesty’s ship the Sirius.
As soon as the ship came to anchor, I visited all the other transports, and was really surprised to find the convicts on board them so very healthy. When I got on board the Alexander, I found there a medical gentleman from Portsmouth, among whose acquaintances I had not the honour to be numbered. He scarcely gave me time to get upon the quarter-deck before he thus addressed me — “I am very glad you are arrived, Sir; for your people have got a malignant disease among them of a most dangerous kind; and it will be necessary, for their preservation, to get them immediately relanded!”
Surprised at such a salutation, and alarmed at the purport of it, I requested of my assistant, Mr. Balmain, an intelligent young man, whom I had appointed to this ship for the voyage, to let me see the people who were ill.
“Sir,” returned Mr. Balmain, taking me aside, “you will not find things by any means so bad as this gentleman represents them to be; they are made much worse by him than they really are. Unlike a person wishing to administer comfort to those who are afflicted, either in body or in mind, he has publicly declared before the poor creatures who are ill, that they must inevitably fall a sacrifice to the malignant disorder with which they are afflicted; the malignity of which appears to me to exist only in his own imagination.
“I did not, however,” continued Mr. Balmain, “think proper to contradict the gentleman, supposing, from the consequence he assumed, and the ease with which he had given his opinion, or more properly his directions, that he was some person appointed by the Secretary of State to officiate for you till your arrival. When you go among the people you will be better able to judge of the propriety of what I have said.”
Mr. Balmain had no sooner concluded than I went between decks, and found every thing just as he had represented it to be. There were several in bed with slight inflammatory complaints; some there were who kept their bed to avoid the inconvenience of the cold, which was at this time very piercing, and whose wretched clothing was but a poor defence against the rigour of it; others were confined to their bed through the effects of long imprisonment, a weakened habit, and lowness of spirits; which was not a little added to by the declaration of the medical gentleman above mentioned, whom they concluded to be the principal surgeon to the expedition.
However, on my undeceiving them in that point, and at the same time confirming what Mr. Balmain had from the first told them, viz. that their complaints were neither malignant nor dangerous, their fears abated. To this I added, that I would immediately give orders for such as were in want of clothing, to be supplied with what was needful; a power delegated to me by Captain Phillip, together with the liberty of giving such other directions as I thought would tend to the recovery or preservation of their health. And, further, as they had been nearly four months on board, and during that time had been kept upon salt provisions, I would endeavour to get fresh for them while in port.
This short conversation had so sudden an effect on those I addressed, and was of so opposite a tendency to that of the gentleman alluded to, that before we got from between decks I had the pleasure to see several of them put on such clothes as they had, and look a little cheerful.
I then pointed out to Lieutenant Johnson, commanding officer of the marines on board, and to the master of the ship, the necessity there was of admitting the convicts upon the deck, one half at a time, during the course of the day, in order that they might breathe a purer air, as nothing would conduce more to the preservation of their health. To this these gentlemen readily assented; adding that they had no objection to the whole number coming upon deck at once, if I thought it necessary, as they were not apprehensive of any danger from the indulgence.
On returning to the quarter-deck, I found my new medical acquaintance still there; and before I could give some directions to Mr. Balmain, as I was about to do, he thus once more addressed me —“I suppose you are now convinced of the dangerous disease that prevails among these people, and of the necessity of having them landed, in order to get rid of it.”
Not a little hurt at the absurd part the gentleman had acted, and at his repeated importunity, I replied with some warmth, “that I was very sorry to differ so essentially in opinion from him, as to be obliged to tell him that there was not the least appearance of malignity in the disease under which the convicts laboured, but that it wholly proceeded from the cold; and was nearly similar to a complaint then prevalent, even among the better sort of people, in and about Portsmouth.”
Notwithstanding this, he still persisted so much in the propriety of their being landed, and the necessity there was for an application to the Secretary of State upon the occasion, that I could no longer keep my temper; and I freely told him, “that the idea of landing them was as improper as it was absurd. And, in order to make him perfectly easy on that head, I assured him that when any disease rendered it necessary to call in medical aid, he might rest satisfied I would not trouble him; but would apply to Doctor Lind, Physician to the Royal Hospital at Hasler, a gentleman as eminently distinguished for his professional abilities as his other amiable qualities; or else to some of the surgeons of his Majesty’s ships in Portsmouth harbour, or at Spithead, most of whom I had the pleasure of knowing, and on whose medical knowledge I was certain I could depend.”
This peremptory declaration had the desired effect. The gentleman took his leave, to my great satisfaction, and thereby gave me an opportunity of writing by that evening’s post, to inform the Secretary of State, and Captain Phillip, of the real state of the sick; and at the same time to urge the necessity of having fresh provisions served to the whole of the convicts while in port, as well as a little wine for those who were ill. Fresh provisions I dwelt most on, as being not only needful for the recovery of the sick, but otherwise essential, in order to prevent any of them commencing so long and tedious a voyage as they had before them with a scorbutic taint; a consequence that would most likely attend their living upon salt food; and which, added to their needful confinement and great numbers, would, in all probability, prove fatal to them, and thereby defeat the intention of Government.
The return of the post brought me an answer, and likewise an order to the contractor for supplying the marines and convicts daily with fresh beef and vegetables, while in port. A similar order I found had been given long before my arrival; but, by some strange mistake or other, had not been complied with.
The salutary effect of this change of diet, with the addition of some wine and other necessaries ordered for the sick, through the humanity of Lord Sydney, manifested itself so suddenly that in the space of a fortnight, on comparing my list of sick with that of a surgeon belonging to one of the guardships, allowing for the disproportion of numbers, mine did not exceed his. And yet, notwithstanding this, which is a well-known fact, the report of a most malignant disease still prevailed: and so industriously was the report promulgated and kept alive by some evilminded people, who either wished to throw an odium on the humane promoters of the plan, or to give uneasiness to the friends and relations of those engaged in the expedition, that letters from all quarters were pouring in upon us, commiserating our state.
The newspapers were daily filled with alarming accounts of the fatality that prevailed among us; and the rumour became general, notwithstanding every step was taken to remove these fears, by assurances (which were strictly true) that the whole fleet was in as good a state of health, and as few in it would be found to be ill, at that cold season of the year, as even in the most healthy situation on shore.
The clearest testimony that there was more malignity in the report than in the disease, may be deduced from the very inconsiderable number that have died since we left England; which I may safely venture to say is much less than ever was known in so long a voyage (the numbers being proportionate), even though not labouring under the disadvantages we were subject to, and the crowded state we were in.
During the absence of Captain Phillip, I mentioned to Captain Hunter, of the Sirius, that I thought whitewashing with quick lime the parts of the ships where the convicts were confined, would be the means of correcting and preventing the unwholesome dampness which usually appeared on the beams and sides of the ships, and was occasioned by the breath of the people. Captain Hunter agreed with me on the propriety of the step: and with that obliging willingness which marks his character, made the necessary application to commissioner Martin; who, on his part, as readily ordered the proper materials. The process was accordingly soon finished; and fully answered the purpose intended.
12th May. His Majesty’s ship the Hyaena joined us this day, and put herself under the command of Captain Phillip, who had instructions to take her with him as far as he should think needful. In the evening the Sirius made the signal to weigh, and attempted to get down to St. Helen’s; but the wind shifting, and several of the convoy not getting under way, through some irregularity in the seamen, she was obliged to anchor. When this was done, Captain Phillip sent Lieutenant King on board the ships which had occasioned the detention, who soon adjusted the difficulties that had arisen, as they were found to proceed more from intoxication than from any nautical causes.
13th May. This morning the Sirius and her convoy weighed again, with an intention of going through St. Helen’s; but the wind being fair for the Needles, we ran through them, with a pleasant breeze. The Charlotte, Captain Gilbert, on board of which I was, sailing very heavy, the Hyaena took us in tow, until she brought us ahead of the Sirius, and then cast us off.
15th May. An accident of a singular nature happened to-day. Corporal Baker of the marines, on laying a loaded musquet down, which he had just taken out of the arms chest, was wounded by it in the inner ankle of the right foot. The bones, after being a good deal shattered, turned the ball, which, taking another direction, had still force enough left to go through a harnesscask full of beef, at some distance, and after that to kill two geese that were on the other side of it. Extraordinary as this incident may appear, it is no less true. The corporal being a young man, and in a good habit of body, I had the pleasure, contrary to the general expectation, of seeing him return to his duty in three months, with the perfect use of the wounded joint.
20th May. A discovery of a futile scheme, formed by the convicts on board the Scarborough, was made by one of that body, who had been recommended to Captain Hunter previous to our sailing. They had laid a plan for making themselves masters of the ship; but being prevented by this discovery, two of the ringleaders were carried on board the Sirius, where they were punished; and afterwards put on board the Prince of Wales transport, from which time they behaved very well. Being now near one hundred leagues to the westward of Scilly, and all well, Captain Phillip found it no longer necessary to keep the Hyaena with him; therefore, having committed his letters to the care of the Hon. Captain De Courcey, he in the course of this day sent her back.
28th May. Departed this life, Ismael Coleman, a convict, who, worn out by lowness of spirits and debility, brought on by long and close confinement, resigned his breath without a pang.
30th May. In the forenoon passed to the southward of Madeira, and saw some turtle of the hawks-bill kind.
2nd June. Saw and passed the Salvages. These islands are not laid down in any of the charts we had on board, except a small one, by Hamilton Moore, in the possession of the second mate. They lie, by our observation, in lat. 30°10’N. long. 15°9’W.
3rd June. This evening, after seeing many small fish in our way from the Salvages, we arrived at Teneriffe, and anchored in Santa Cruz road, about a mile to the N.E. of the town of that name, in sixteen fathom water; some of the ships came to in twenty fathom. We were visited the same night, as is the custom of the port, by the harbour master, and gained permission to water and procure such refreshments as the island afforded. The marines were now served with wine in lieu of spirits; a pound of fresh beef was likewise daily distributed to them as well as to the convicts, together with a pound of rice instead of bread, and such vegetables as could be procured. Of the latter indeed the portion was rather scanty, little besides onions being to be got; and still less of fruit, it being too early in the season.
4th June. Captain Phillip, as governor of his Majesty’s territories in New South Wales, and commander in chief of the expedition, accompanied by twenty of the principal officers, paid his respects to the Marquis de Brancifort, governor of this and the other Canary islands. We were received by his Excellency with great politeness and cordiality; and, after the ceremony of introduction was over, he entered into familiar conversation with Captain Phillip on general topics. In person the Marquis is genteel; he is rather above the middle size, but cannot boast of much embonpoint; his countenance is animated; his deportment easy and graceful; and both his appearance and manners perfectly correspond with the idea universally entertained of the dignity of a grandee of Spain. This accomplished nobleman, as I have been informed, is not a Spaniard by birth, but a Sicilian; and descended from some of the princes of that island. On this ancestry and descent, it is visible that he prides himself not a little. The people he is placed over will have it that he carries himself with too much stateliness to be long a favourite there; they cannot, however, help acknowledging that he preserves a degree of disinterestedness, moderation, and justice, in his conduct towards them, that is not to be objected to.
6th June. A convict, named James Clark, died of a dropsy; he had been tapped ten days before, and discharged twelve quarts of water.
8th June. During the night, while the people were busily employed in taking in water on board the Alexander, a service in which some of the convicts assisted, one of them, of the name of Powel, found means to drop himself unperceived into a small boat that lay along-side; and under cover of the night to cast her off without discovery. He then drifted to a Dutch East Indiaman that had just come to an anchor, to the crew of which he told a plausible story and entreated to be taken on board; but, though they much wanted men, they would have nothing to do with him. Having committed himself again to the waves, he was driven by the wind and the current, in the course of the night, to a small island lying to leeward of the ships, where he was the next morning taken. The boat and oars, which he could not conceal, led to a discovery; otherwise he would probably have effected his escape. When brought back by the party sent after him, Captain Phillip ordered him into irons, in which state he remained for some time; but at length, by an artful petition he got written for him, he so wrought on the governor’s humanity as to procure a release from his confinement.
As you approach the island of Teneriffe, and even when you are near to it, the appearance from the sea conveys no very favourable idea of its fertility, one rugged, barren hill or mountain terminating in another, until it forms the famous Peak. The town of Santa Cruz is large and populous, but very irregular and ill built; some of the private houses, however, are spacious, convenient, and well constructed. Although this town is not considered as the capital, Laguna enjoying that pre-eminence, yet I cannot help thinking it ought to be so; not only from its being more frequented by ships of various nations, and having a greater share of trade than any other port in the Canaries, but on account of its being the residence of the governor-general.
Among other steps for its improvement, the Marquis set on foot a contribution, and from the produce of it has caused to be built an elegant and commodious mole, or pier, about the center of the town. To this pier, water of an excellent quality is conveyed by pipes; so that boats may come along-side, and by applying a hose to the cocks, placed there for this purpose, fill the casks without the usual trouble and fatigue. The landing or shipping of goods is likewise, by means of this pier, rendered both convenient and expeditious. In short, I think I may safely recommend this port as a very good one for ships undertaking long voyages to water at and refresh their crews, more especially in the time of the fruit season.
About four or five miles, inland, from Santa Cruz, stands the city of Laguna, so called from a lake near which it is situated. This lake, during the winter, or in rainy weather, is full of stagnant water, that in a little time becomes putrid, and, in very dry hot weather, is totally exhaled. I have before observed, that Laguna is considered as the capital of the island, and added my reasons for thinking this an ill-judged distinction. The road from Santa Cruz to it is a pretty steep ascent until you approach the town, which is situated at the extremity, or rather on a corner, of a plain three or four miles long. This city has two churches, one of them richly ornamented; and several convents both of friars and nuns. It has likewise three hospitals; two of which were originally instituted for the wise, but ineffectual, purpose of eradicating the lues venerea; a disease that has long been, and still continues to be, very common in this island. I was, however, informed that persons afflicted with other disorders are now received into these two charitable institutions; and that the third is appropriated to the reception of foundlings.
Besides the foregoing, there are some other public, as well as private buildings, that tend to improve the appearance of the town. There is very little trade carried on at Laguna, it being rather the retired residence of the gentry of the island, and of the merchants of Santa Cruz, which is the principal seat of commerce. The officers of justice likewise reside here; such as the corrigedor, lieutenant of the police, etc. and a judge whose business it is to regulate commercial affairs. An office of inquisition, with the proper officers, delegated from, and subject to, the tribunal of the holy office held at Grand Canary, is besides established here.
The present natives of this island seem to have in them very little of the stock from whence they sprung; intermarriages with the Spaniards have nearly obliterated all traces of the original stamina: they are of a middle stature, inclining to be slender, and of a dark complexion, with large animated black eyes. The peasants in general are wretchedly clothed; when they do appear better, they are habited in the Spanish fashion. The men in a genteeler line dress very gaily, and are seldom seen without long swords. It is remarked that few of them walk with dignity and ease; which may be attributed to the long cloaks they usually wear, except on particular occasions.
The women wear veils: those worn by the lower ranks are of black stuff, those of the higher, of black silk; and such among the latter as have any claim to beauty, are far from being over careful in concealing their faces by them. The young ladies, some of whom I saw that were really pretty, wear their fine long black hair plaited, and fastened with a comb, or a ribbon, on the top of the head.
The common people, and in this they resemble the inhabitants of most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean lately discovered, have a strong spice of furacity in them; they are besides lazy; and the most importunate beggars in the world: I observed likewise, that the itch was so common among them, and had attained such a degree of virulence, that one would almost be led to believe it was epidemic there.
Some of the women are so abandoned and shameless that it would be doing an injustice to the prostitutes met with in the streets of London to say they are like them. The females of every degree are said to be of an amorous constitution, and addicted to intrigue, for which no houses could be better adapted than those in Teneriffe.
The manufactures carried on here are very few, and the product of them little more than sufficient for their own consumption. They consist of taffeties, gauze, coarse linens, blankets, a little silk, and curious garters. The principal dependance of the inhabitants is on their wine (their staple commodity), oil, corn, and every kind of stock for shipping. With these the island abounds, and, in their season, produces not only the tropical fruits but the vegetable productions of the European gardens in the greatest plenty.
Teneriffe enjoys an agreeable and healthful mediocrity of climate. Indeed I know of none better adapted for the restoration of a valetudinarian; as, by going into the mountains, he may graduate the air, and chuse that state of it which best suits his complaint. But although the inhabitants are thus healthy, and have so little occasion for medical aid, they loudly complain of the want of knowledge in the professional gentlemen of the island.
The present governor has established a manufactory of silk and woollen goods in the suburbs of Santa Cruz, which is carried on by poor children, old and infirm people, and by abandoned females, with a view to reclaiming them: an institution that will ever do honour both to his excellency and to those who have liberally aided him in so laudable a scheme.
Like the inhabitants of most catholic countries, the people of this island are very profuse in decorating their churches, and even their dwellinghouses, on the festivals held in honour of their saints. This being Corpus Christi, a day of much solemnity and parade, I went on shore with Lieutenant Ball of the Supply to see the procession incident to the occasion. Before we landed we formed a resolution to avoid, as much as lay in our power, giving offence even to the most zealous devotee. But we found this was not to be done.
When we arrived at the church, from whence the procession commenced, the Host was just making its appearance, a circumstance that is announced by ringing of bells and firing of guns. As it passed by us we fell on our knees, as we observed those around us to do; but, it unfortunately happening that the spot we knelt upon consisted of sand intermixed with small rough pebbles, the posture we were in soon became so exceedingly painful that, in order to procure a momentary ease, we only let one knee remain on the ground. This heretical act did not escape the observation of one of the holy fathers, all of whom were intent on the exact performance of every ceremonious etiquette. It procured for us a frown from him, and treatment that was not of the most civil kind; so that, in order to pacify him, we again dropped on both knees. He did not, however, pass on, without exhibiting strong marks of ill-nature and resentment in his countenance, at this trivial and unintended breach of respectful attention to the religious rights of the country.
The procession, in which the governor and all the principal inhabitants joined, having passed through most of the streets, returned, with the same solemnity, to the church it had set out from, which was richly ornamented and splendidly illuminated with large wax tapers upon the occasion.
During our stay here, his excellency the governor entertained Captain Phillip and all the officers belonging to the expedition with a very elegant dinner.
Before we sailed from the Motherbank, a sporatic disease had appeared among the marines and convicts. On its first appearance it resembled the mumps, or swellings of the chaps; and as that distemper sometimes terminates in a translation of the inflammation to the testicles, so this complaint (after the swelling and induration of the jaws had subsided, which usually happened on the sixth or seventh day) never in one instance failed to fix on those parts; and that in so very obstinate a manner as not to give way to the treatment generally found effectual in similar inflammations. One of the convicts, thus affected, was seized with an intermitting fever: between the paroxysm I gave him an emetic, which had such a sudden and wonderful effect on this strange complaint that I was induced to repeat it; and I found it effectual in this, as well as in all subsequent cases.
As soon as we got to sea, the motion of the ship acted on all those who were affected, to the number of seventeen, in a most surprising and extraordinary manner. Indeed it was so sudden that it was like a placebo. I could never account, with any satisfaction to myself, for the origin of this uncommon disease, though much acquainted with those incident to seamen; nor did I ever see or hear of any that resembled it. The most steady and prudent of the mariners, even those who had their wives on board, were equally affected with those who led more irregular lives.
At first I attributed it to the verdigrease that might gather on the copper utensils wherein the provisions were cooked; but I am now fully persuaded that this was not the source from which it proceeded; for at the very time it was most prevalent, and attended with the greatest degree of inveteracy, the coppers were cleaned, and made as bright as they could be, every day, under my own inspection. Another proof, and a very strong one, that it did not proceed from the before-mentioned cause is that the provisions still continued to be dressed in the same coppers, when the smallest trace of the disease was no longer to be perceived; which was the case after being four or five days at sea.
9th June. P.M. The Sirius made the signal for all officers to repair on board their respective ships; an officer was likewise sent to the governor to inform him that we intended to put to sea in the morning, and, at the same time, to thank him for the civilities and politeness he had shown us. His excellency returned, in answer to this message, that his best and most sincere good wishes should attend us, and that he should ever feel a very particular interest in our success, which he hoped would answer the intention of government and the expectations of those who had so cheerfully entered as volunteers on so novel and very uncertain a service.
10th June. This morning the fleet got under way with a light breeze, which carried us out of Santa Cruz, but left us two days becalmed between Teneriffe and the Grand Canary. After this a fine breeze sprung up from the north-east; and no occurrence worthy of notice happened for some days. We crossed the tropical line in 18°20’ west longitude, and was nearly pressed on board the Lady Penrhyn transport, whose people did not attend to her steerage, being deeply engaged in sluicing and ducking all those on board who had never crossed it.
17th June. In the morning saw a strange sail to the northward, and at night the Sirius made the signal for the convoy to shorten sail.
18th June. Early this morning the Sirius threw out the Supply’s signal to make sail, and look out ahead. She immediately obeyed, and at eight o’clock made the signal for seeing land, which was repeated by the Sirius to the convoy. At eleven we passed the Isle of Sal, in lat. 16°38’N. long. 22°5’W., and in the evening Bonavista; two of the Cape de Verd islands, a cluster of islands so called from a cape of that name situated opposite to them on the continent of Africa. We passed the latter island so close, that we saw the breakers which endangered Captain Cook’s ship in his last voyage.² It blew at the time pretty fresh, and was so hazy that we could make no other observation than that the land was high, and the shore (what we could perceive of it through the haze, for the horizon line did not exceed two miles) had a white appearance, as if sand or chalk cliffs. At six in the evening, the Sirius made a signal for the convoy to observe a close order of sailing, and to shorten sail for the night; and at twelve, running under an easy sail, she made the signal for the ships to bring to, with their heads to the south-east.
19th June. At day-break we made sail, the Supply being ahead on the look-out. At eight o’clock she made the signal for seeing land; which proved to be the isle of Mayo, another of the Cape de Verd islands, lying in lat. 15°10’N. long. 23°W. The Sirius now made the signal to prepare to anchor; which was followed by one that the boats from the victuallers and transports may land, as soon as the ships came to an anchor, without asking permission as at Teneriffe. We ran down the east side of the island, close in with the shore, on which we could perceive a high surf, or rather the sea, breaking violently among the rocks. The haze still continued so thick that we could only observe the shore to be rough, craggy, and bold, and that several parts of the island seemed high and mountainous. At twelve, through the haze, saw the island of Saint Jago, the principal of the Cape de Verd islands, lying in lat. 14°54’N. long. 23°29’W.
Half after one, the Sirius leading into Port Praya Bay, on a sudden brought to, as we imagined, to wait for the sternmost ships, which, as they all came up, likewise brought to, on the outside of the entrance into the bay. After the preparations which had been made for anchoring, and the disposition shown by the Sirius to run in, we were not a little surprised to see her, at two o’clock, throw out the signal for the convoy to keep nearer the commanding officer; then make sail and bear away, steering south-west. At six in the evening we lost sight of the island, running with a smart top-gallant, and steering sail, breeze at north-east.
A small Portugueze brig lay at anchor in Port Praya, which was the only vessel of any kind at that time there. This bay is rendered memorable by the action that took place there, on the 16th of April 1781, between Commodore Johnstone and Monsieur Suffrein; in giving an account of which, the French admiral (in a letter said to be written by him) humorously thus observes: “In leading into the bay, I was some time at a loss to distinguish which was the commodore’s ship: but on getting more in, I at length saw his pendant blushing through a forest of masts; the Romney being securely placed in shore of the merchant ships and smaller men of war.”
The entrance into this bay appeared to be about a mile, between two bluff points, which makes it secure from every wind except a southerly one; and when that prevails a very high sea tumbles into it. On an eminence, in the center of the bay, stands a fort, where the Portugueze colours were displayed. Many people appeared on the batteries, looking at the ships; which were probably more in number than had been seen there since the memorable 16th of April.
The appearance of the town and the island, from the distant view we had, gave us no very favourable opinion of them. The face of the country seemed to be sterile in the extreme. The lifeless brown of the Isle of Mayo, described by Captain Cook, may very well be applied to this island; for as far as my eye or glass could reach, not the smallest trace of vegetation or verdure was to be perceived, except at the west end of the fort, on the left side of the bay, where a few trees of the cocoa-nut or palm kind appeared. But, notwithstanding the sterile picture it exhibits when viewed from the sea, geographers, and those who have been on shore, describe it to be, in many places, well cultivated and very fertile; producing sugar canes, a little wine, some cotton, Indian corn, cocoa nuts, and oranges, with all the other tropical fruits in great plenty; and point it out as a place where ships bound on long voyages may be conveniently supplied with water, and other necessaries, such as fowls, goats, and hogs; all of which are to be purchased at a very easy rate.
20th June. This evening, standing to the southward with all sail; the wind moderate; the air warm and damp, with haze; the Sirius made the Alexander’s signal, who had dropped considerably astern, and reprimanded the master for hoisting out a boat without permission. The two following days the weather was moderately warm, with some flashes of lightning.
23rd June. The weather became exceedingly dark, warm, and close, with heavy rain, a temperature of the atmosphere very common on approaching the equator, and very much to be dreaded, as the health is greatly endangered thereby. Every attention was therefore paid to the people on board the Charlotte, and every exertion used to keep her clean and wholesome between decks. My first care was to keep the men, as far as was consistent with the regular discharge of their duty, out of the rain; and I never suffered the convicts to come upon deck when it rained, as they had neither linen nor clothing sufficient to make themselves dry and comfortable after getting wet: a line of conduct which cannot be too strictly observed, and enforced, in those latitudes.
To this, and to the frequent use of oil of tar, which was used three times a week, and oftener if found necessary, I attribute, in a great degree, the uncommon good health we enjoyed. I most sincerely wish oil of tar was in more general use throughout his Majesty’s navy than it is. If it were, I am certain that the advantage accruing from it to the health of seamen, that truly useful and valuable class of the community, and for whose preservation too much cannot be done, would soon manifest itself. This efficacious remedy wonderfully resists putrefaction, destroys vermin and insects of every kind; wherever it is applied overcomes all disagreeable smells; and is in itself both agreeable and wholesome.
In the evening it became calm, with distant peals of thunder, and the most vivid flashes of lightning I ever remember. The weather was now so immoderately hot that the female convicts, perfectly overcome by it, frequently fainted away; and these faintings generally terminated in fits. And yet, notwithstanding the enervating effects of the atmospheric heat, and the inconveniences they suffered from it, so predominant was the warmth of their constitutions, or the depravity of their hearts, that the hatches over the place where they were confined could not be suffered to lay off, during the night, without a promiscuous intercourse immediately taking place between them and the seamen and marines.
What little wind there was, which was only at intervals, continuing adverse, and the health of these wretches being still endangered by the heat, Captain Phillip, though anxious to prevent as much as possible this intercourse, gave an order, on my representing the necessity of it, that a grating should be cut, so as to admit a small wind sail being let down among them. In some of the other ships, the desire of the women to be with the men was so uncontrollable, that neither shame (but indeed of this they had long lost sight), nor the fear of punishment, could deter them from making their way through the bulk heads to the apartments assigned the seamen.
25th June. Still inclinable to calms, in lat. 8°30’N. long. 22°36’W. we perceived a strong current setting to the north-west; so that on the following day, though by our log we had run thirty miles south by east, yet by observation we found ourselves in lat. 8°45’; which shows the current against us to be nearly a knot an hour. I visited the different transports, and found the troops and convicts from the very great attention paid to cleanliness, and airing the ships, in much better health than could be expected in such low latitudes and unfavourable weather.
27th June. Still calm, with loud thunder and incessant heavy rain.
28th June. A gentle breeze sprung up to the westward, and the next day, about eleven in the forenoon, we saw a strange sail standing to the south-west. At twelve she tacked, stood towards us, and hoisted Portugueze colours. The Sirius spoke her, after which we all made sail again, steering south-east by east.
2nd July. The wind continuing southerly, in latitude 6°36’N. and being still so far to the eastward as 20°23’W. longitude, the Sirius made the signal for the convoy to tack, and stood to the westward. This day we saw some remarkable flights of flying fish; they were so very numerous as to resemble flights of small birds. The poor creatures were so closely pursued, on all sides, by their common enemy, bonitoes, albacores, and skip-jacks, that their wings availed them little.
The succeeding night was a continuation of heavy rain. Every evening, while we continued between nine and six degrees of north latitude, we were baffled with calms, and adverse winds. For seven days together I observed that each day generally closed with heavy rains and some squalls of wind, which were always remarked to be from the northward.
5th July. The wind south-west by south, the fleet tacked by signal and stood to the eastward. In the evening, a more numerous shoal of porpoises than ever remembered to be seen by the oldest seaman on board, presented themselves to our view. They were, as we conjectured, in pursuit of some wounded fish; and so very intent were they on the object of their chase that they passed through the fleet, and close to some of the ships, without showing any disposition to avoid them. The sailors and mariners compared them to a numerous pack of hounds, scouring through watery ground; and, indeed, when the rays of the sun beamed upon them I know not what they resembled more.
The weather being moderate, I went round the ships, and was really surprised, considering the damp and unfavourable weather we had had, to find the people look so well, and to be in so good a state of health.
6th July. In lat. 5°38’N. long. 21°39’W. the wind S.S.W. we tacked by signal, and in the course of the day spoke a sloop bound to the coast of Africa, belonging to the house of Mether in London; had been out four months, and was then standing to the westward.
The wind continuing adverse, and the fleet making little progress in their voyage, Captain Phillip put the officers, seamen, marines, and convicts to an allowance of three pints of water per day (not including a quart allowed each man a day for boiling pease and oatmeal); a quantity scarcely sufficient to supply that waste of animal spirits the body must necessarily undergo, in the torrid zone, from a constant and violent perspiration, and a diet consisting of salt provisions.² Necessity, however, has no law in this instance as well as in every other; and I am fully persuaded the commander acted upon this occasion from the best of motives, and for the good of the whole.
Were it by any means possible, people subject to long voyages should never be put to a short allowance of water; for I am satisfied that a liberal use of it (when freed from the foul air, and made sweet by a machine now in use on board his Majesty’s navy) will tend to prevent a scorbutic habit, as much, if not more, than any thing we are acquainted with. My own experience in the navy has convinced me that when scorbutic patients are restrained in the use of water (which I believe is never the case but through absolute necessity), and they have nothing to live on but the ship’s provision, the surgeon’s necessaries being ill-chosen and very inadequate to the wise and salutary purposes for which government intended them, all the antiseptics and antiscorbutics we know of will avail very little in a disease so much to be guarded against, and dreaded, by seamen.
In one of his Majesty’s ships, I was liberally supplied with that powerful antiscorbutic, essence of malt; we had also sour krout; and, besides these, every remedy that could be comprised in the small compass of a medicine chest; yet when necessity forced us to a short allowance of water, although aware of the consequence, I freely administered the essence, etc. as a preservative, the scurvy made its appearance with such hasty and rapid strides, that all attempts to check it proved fruitless, until good fortune threw a ship in our way, who spared us a sufficient quantity of water to serve the sick with as much as they could use, and to increase the ship’s allowance to the seamen.
This fortunate and very seasonable supply, added to the free use of the essence of malt, etc. which I had before strictly adhered to, made in a few days so sudden a change for the better in the poor fellows, who had been covered with ulcers and livid blotches, that every person on board was surprised at it: and in a fortnight after, when we got into port, there was not a man in the ship, though, at the time we received the water, the gums of some of them were formed into such a fungus as nearly to envelope the teeth, but what had every appearance of health.
7th July. Dark, cloudy, unpleasant, sultry weather; the wind south by east. We saw many fish, and caught two bonitoes. The boat-swain struck, with a pair of grains, out of the cabin window, a most beautiful fish, about ten pounds weight. In shape it a good deal resembled a salmon, with this difference, that its tail was more forked. It was in colour of a lovely yellow; and when first taken out of the water, it had two beautiful stripes of green on each side, which, some minutes after, changed to a delightful blue, and so continued. In the internal formation of this fish I observed nothing particular, except that its heart was larger, and its respirations contracted and dilated longer, than I had ever seen before in any aquatic animal, a tortoise not excepted. As we were at a loss what appellation to give it, having never met with a fish of this species, and it being a non-descript, the sailors gave it the name of the Yellow Tail.
8th July. The wind still S. by E. in lat. 4°36’N. long. 23°W. we saw a large vessel standing to the northward under a press of sail. Her colours, though at a considerable distance, were judged to be Imperial. Again saw fish of various kinds in chase of the flying fish, whose enemies seem to be innumerable. In order to avoid being devoured by their pursuers, they frequently sought for shelter in the ships, but much oftener flew with such force against their sides as to drop lifeless into the water. We caught three fine bonitoes, and thereby rid the poor flying fish, whose wings seemed to excite the enmity of all the larger finny race, of three formidable enemies.
9th and 10th July. Caught a great number of fish, as did the Alexander, who was near us. At night, in the wake of the ship the sea appeared quite luminous; a phaenomenon we attributed to the spawn of the fish which surrounded us on all sides.
14th July. About five in the evening we crossed the equator, without any wish or inclination being shewn by the seamen to observe the ceremony usually practised in passing under it. The longitude was 26°37’W. the wind at east, the weather moderate and clear. In lat. 1°24’S. long. 26°22’W. the boatswain caught sixteen fine bonitoes, which proved a very seasonable and acceptable supply.
At night the sea, all around the ship, exhibited a most delightful sight. This appearance was occasioned by the gambols of an incredible number of various kinds of fish, who sported about us, and whose sudden turnings caused an emanation which resembled flashes of lightning darting in quick succession. What I before spoke of as the spawn, I am now fully convinced were rather the fish themselves, turning up their white bellies at some little distance below the surface of the water, and these sudden evolutions were what gave the sea the luminous appearance observed on it before.
I can the more readily affirm this to be the cause, as, one evening, when we had immense quantities about us, I carefully attended to them till it became dark, and was fully satisfied, from the observations I was then able to make, that it was the fish, and not the spawn, which occasioned the appearance; for there was not an officer or person on board but what was able very plainly to perceive their frolicsome turnings and windings. Indeed, some of them came so near the surface that we frequently attempted to strike them with a pair of grains.
18th July. Being informed that several of the mariners and convicts on board the Alexander were suddenly taken ill, I immediately visited that ship, and found that the illness complained of was wholly occasioned by the bilge water, which had by some means or other risen to so great a height that the pannels of the cabin, and the buttons on the clothes of the officers, were turned nearly black by the noxious effluvia. When the hatches were taken off, the stench was so powerful that it was scarcely possible to stand over them.
How it could have got to this height is very strange; for I well know that Captain Phillip gave strict orders (which orders I myself delivered) to the masters of the transports to pump the ships out daily, in order to keep them sweet and wholesome; and it was added that if the ships did not make water enough for that purpose they were to employ the convicts in throwing water into the well, and pumping it out again, until it become clear and untinged. The people’s health, however, being endangered by the circumstance, I found a representation upon the subject to Captain Phillip needful, and accordingly went on board the Sirius for that purpose.
Captain Phillip, who upon every occasion showed great humanity and attention to the people, with the most obliging readiness sent Mr. King, one of his lieutenants, on board the Alexander with me, in order to examine into the state of the ship, charging him, at the same time, with the most positive and pointed instructions to the master of the ship instantly to set about sweetening and purifying her. This commission Mr. King executed with great propriety and expedition; and, by the directions he gave, such effectual means were made use of, that the evil was soon corrected: and not long after all the people, who, suffering from the effects of it, were under Mr. Balmain, my assistant’s care, got quite rid of the complaint.
I now returned to the Sirius and solicited an increase of water, which Captain Phillip with equal readiness complied with; and as we had by this time got into a regular south-east trade wind our allowance served tolerably well, every man having three quarts a day.
22d July. The weather moderate and cloudy, in lat. 9°6’S. long. 26°4’W. we saw a noddy and two pintado birds. At night, the commanding officer of marines having re ceived information that three men had made their way, through the hole cut for the admission of the windsail, into the apartment of the female convicts, against an express order issued for that purpose, he apprehended them, and put them in confinement for trial.
23d July. The weather being dark and cloudy, with heavy rain and strong breezes, the Sirius carried away her main-topsail-yard, in the slings, which, however, in a little time she got replaced. In the evening we saw some grampuses sporting about.
26th July. In latitude 15°18’ south, the Sirius made the signal for the longitude by lunar observation, which was found to be 29°34’W. Strong breezes and cloudy weather. The Borrowdale victualler carried away her foretop-gallant-mast. This evening we observed some flying fish, very different from those we had before seen. They had wings on both the head and tail, and when in the act of flying were said by our people to resemble a double- headed shot. About six o’clock the Alexander brought to, and hoisted out a boat in order to pick up a man who had fallen overboard from the spanker boom; but, as he sunk before the boat could reach him, the attempt proved ineffectual.
27th July. The Sirius made the signal to close and keep nearer the commanding officer. The weather rainy and unsettled, with strong breezes and a heavy swell from the eastward.
28th July. Fresh breezes and cloudy weather. At ten in the morning the Sirius made the Supply’s signal to come within hail, and desired the commanding officer to acquaint the different transports that in the track we then were, lat. 18°9’S. long. 28°2’W., there were some sunken rocks, for which we were directed to keep a good look-out. This signal was followed by one for the ships to take their proper stations in the order of sailing, and for the Lady Penrhyn, who was considerably to windward, and astern withal, to come into the wake of the Sirius. After these orders were complied with, we bore away, steering S. by W., the wind E.S.E.
30th July. The Supply hailed us, and acquainted me that a female convict, on board the Prince of Wales, had met with an accident which endangered her life. It being then nearly dark, and the ships making quick way through the water, it was judged imprudent to hoist a boat out. Lieutenant Ball, of the Supply, therefore promised to send a boat early in the morning, in order that I might go and see her: but it was then too late, as she died in the night. Her death was occasioned by a boat, which rolled from the booms, and jammed her in a most shocking manner against the side of the ship.
1st August. In latitude 22°39’S. Captain Phillip for the first time displayed his broad pendant; and in the evening made the signal for the longitude, which, being considerably astern, we could not discern.
2nd August. Early in the morning we passed and spoke a Portugueze brig steering the same course with us, which was to the coast of Brazil. She sailed so very dull that we passed her as if she lay at anchor, although we had not a fast sailing ship in the fleet. At eight in the morning saw a ganet, which are seldom seen out of soundings.
Being now in expectation of soon seeing land, the commodore made the Supply’s signal to look out ahead, and the Alexander’s and Prince of Wales’s to take their station in the order of sailing, being too far ahead. At three in the afternoon the Supply made the signal for seeing land, which was repeated by the commodore to the convoy. At nine at night, being well in with Cape Frio, we shortened sail, running at an easy rate until morning, when the wind was little and variable.
3rd August. This evening, finding it impossible to get hold of anchorage, the commodore dispatched Lieutenant King in the Supply, which sailed well in light winds, to the viceroy, with information that he was, with his convoy, arrived near the mouth of the harbour. He then made the signal for the ships to bring to, with their heads to the southward, about six miles from the shore, Rio de Janeiro Sugar Loaf bearing west half north, distant about six leagues. In the course of the day we saw many whales playing about.
4th August. This morning, standing in for the harbour, the wind headed us, which obliged us to tack, and stand out to sea a little, in order to prevent our falling to leeward of the port, which it would have been no easy matter to have regained.
5th August. Still calm. This morning a boat came alongside, in which were three Portugueze and six slaves, from whom we purchased some oranges, plantains, and bread. In trafficking with these people, we discovered that one Thomas Barret, a convict, had, with great ingenuity and address, passed some quarter dollars which he, assisted by two others, had coined out of old buckles, buttons belonging to the marines, and pewter spoons, during their passage from Teneriffe. The impression, milling, character, in a word, the whole was so inimitably executed that had their metal been a little better the fraud, I am convinced, would have passed undetected. A strict and careful search was made for the apparatus wherewith this was done, but in vain; not the smallest trace or vestige of any thing of the kind was to be found among them. How they managed this business without discovery, or how they could effect it at all, is a matter of inexpressible surprise to me, as they never were suffered to come near a fire and a centinel was constantly placed over their hatchway, which, one would imagine, rendered it impossible for either fire or fused metal to be conveyed into their apartments. Besides, hardly ten minutes ever elapsed, without an officer of some degree or other going down among them. The adroitness, therefore, with which they must have managed, in order to complete a business that required so complicated a process, gave me a high opinion of their ingenuity, cunning, caution, and address; and I could not help wishing that these qualities had been employed to more laudable purposes.
The officers of marines, the master of the ship, and myself fully explained to the injured Portugueze what villains they were who had imposed upon them. We were not without apprehensions that they might entertain an unfavourable opinion of Englishmen in general from the conduct of these rascals; we therefore thought it necessary to acquaint them that the perpetrators of the fraud were felons doomed to transportation, by the laws of their country, for having committed similar offences there.
About one o’clock a gentle breeze from the east carried us within about a mile of the bar, where, at nine o’clock, we anchored in sixteen-fathom water. The calms had baffled the Supply so much that she had only dropped her anchor a little while before us.
6th August. Early this morning, it being quite calm, the commodore dispatched an officer to the viceroy, who met with a courteous reception, and about eleven o’clock returned with the boat nearly full of fruit and vegetables, sent as presents to the commodore from some of his old friends and acquaintances.
Some years ago Captain Phillip was on this coast, commander of a Portugueze man of war. During that time he performed several gallant acts, which, aided by his other amiable qualities, rendered him extremely popular here, and recommended him to the notice of the court of Lisbon. Shortly after, his own country having a claim to his services, on the breaking out of a war, he declined a command offered him by the Portugueze, and returned to the English navy, where he served some time as lieutenant (a rank he had held before he had engaged in the service of Portugal) on board the Alexander, under the command of that brave and exemplary character, Lord Longford.
About two o’clock we got under way, with a gentle sea-breeze, which ran us into the harbour. In passing Santa Cruz fort, the commodore saluted it with thirteen guns, which was returned with an equal number. This day a Portugueze ship sailed for Lisbon, which gave us an opportunity of writing short letters to our friends in England.
8th August. In the forenoon, the commodore, attended by most of the officers on the expedition, paid the viceroy a visit of ceremony. On our landing, we were received by an officer and a friar, who conducted us to the palace. As we passed the guard on duty there, the colours were laid at the feet of the commodore, than which nothing could have been a higher token of respect. We then proceeded up stairs into a large anti-chamber, crowded with officers, soldiers, and domestics. Here we were received by several officers belonging to the household, and the surgeon-general to the army, who spoke good English, having acquired his professional knowledge in London.
A few minutes after our arrival, a curtain, which hung over the door of the presence-chamber, was drawn aside; and on our entrance we were individually introduced to the viceroy by the commodore. The ceremony being ended, and a short conversation having taken place, we were ushered into another spacious room, where we all sat down. I could not help remarking that the viceroy placed himself in such a manner as to have his back turned on most of the officers. I was told afterwards that he apologized for this; but I did not hear him, though very near.
Neither the room we were now in, nor that into which we were first introduced, exhibited any marks of magnificence or elegance. I acknowledge that, for my own part, I was exceedingly disappointed. From the parade without, such as the number of guards, etc., I was led to suppose that we should find everything within the palace proportionably magnificent and princely. But this was by no means the case. The only furniture I saw in the room we were in, except chairs, were six card tables, and portraits of two of the sovereigns of Portugal, one of which was that of King Sebastian the First, the other of her present majesty; the former placed in the centre, the latter at the upper end of the room.
The viceroy appeared to be of a middle age, somewhere between forty and fifty, stout and corpulent, with a strong cast or defect in both his eyes. He seemed to be a person of few words, but at the same time civil and attentive. I could not, however, help observing the very great difference there was between his excellency’s manner and address and that of the elegant and accomplished Marquis de Brancifort.
9th August. The contract being settled, the commissary supplied the troops and convicts with rice (in lieu of bread), with fresh beef, vegetables, and oranges, which soon removed every symptom of the scurvy prevalent among them.
11th August. The commodore ordered six female convicts, who had behaved well, to be removed from the Friendship into the Charlotte; and at the same time an equal number, whose conduct was more exceptionable, to be returned to the Friendship in their stead. The commodore’s view was (a matter not easily accomplished) to separate those whose decent behaviour entitled them to some favour from those who were totally abandoned and obdurate.
13th August. Cornelius Connell, a private in the marines, was, according to the sentence of a court martial, punished with a hundred lashes, for having an improper intercourse with some of the female convicts, contrary to orders. Thomas Jones was also sentenced to receive three hundred lashes, for attempting to make a centinel betray his trust in suffering him to go among the women; but in consideration of the good character he bore previous to this circumstance, the court recommended him to the clemency of the commanding officer, and, in consequence thereof, he was forgiven. John Jones and James Reiley, privates, accused of similar offences to that of Connell’s, were acquitted for want of evidence, their being no witnesses to support the charge except convicts, whose testimony could not be admitted.
15th August. This being a day of great parade and gaiety with the Portugueze, the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro, arrayed in their best and richest attire, as their custom is on regale days, began to show themselves, during the forenoon, between the city and the church of St. Gloria, which is about a mile distant, and situated on a rising ground near the sea. Persons of all ranks, as well in carriages as equestrians and pedestrians, joined in the crowd; but what was the purpose of this cavalcade, or to what circumstances it owed its origin, I am still at a loss to know.
Gloria church, which is rather neat than rich, was decorated with various flowers (in the disposal of which some taste was displayed), and most brilliantly illuminated. I observed that the multitude generally stopped here, in succession, and employed themselves in some religious ceremonies, such as praying and singing hymns, before they returned to the city. This kind of parade was continued the whole day; the better sort of people, however, made their appearance only in the afternoon.
Returning with the rest of the crowd, after it was dark, to the town, I perceived a small church, in one of the bye streets, richly ornamented and elegantly illuminated. As I saw men, women, and children, struggling for entrance, I joined in the throng out of mere curiosity, and with no little difficulty made my way in; but all the satisfaction I reaped from being thus squeezed and jostled was seeing such as could gain admission fall on their knees, and praying with more fervor, to appearance, than real devotion.
On one side of the church stood a shabby ill-looking fellow, selling to the multitude consecrated beads; as did another, on the outside of the door. I own I could not help resembling them to mountebanks vending and distributing their nostrums. There were many more of these religious hawkers in the streets, from some of whom, as I saw it was the custom, I purchased a few of their beads.
At a little distance from the door of the church was erected a stage, on which was placed a band of vocal and instrumental performers, who exerted themselves with might and main to please the surrounding audience. I cannot, however, say that they succeeded in pleasing me. About ten o’clock a display of fireworks and rockets, of which the Portugueze seem to be very fond, concluded the entertainments of the day.
Some intrigues, I have reason to believe, followed. I was led to this conclusion from seeing many well-dressed women in the crowd quite unattended; and this was the only time during my stay in the country that I ever saw any circumstances which could warrant my forming such an opinion. I know it has been asserted by some writers, that the women of Rio de Janeiro are not uncensurable in this point. They have affirmed that, as soon as it became dark, the generality of them exposed themselves at their doors and windows, distinguishing, by presents of nosegays and flowers, those on whom they had no objection to bestow their favours, a distinction in which strangers shared as well as their acquaintance.
That this might have been the case I will not take upon me to deny, and, impressed with the idea, on my first arrival, I considered every woman as a proper object of gallantry; but a month’s residence among them convinced me that this imputed turn for intrigue is chiefly confined to the lower class, and that, in general, the higher ranks are as undeserving of the imputation as the females of any other country.
The popularity of our commodore with the viceroy and principal inhabitants here procured for the officers the liberty of going wherever they pleased. It has always been the custom for a soldier to follow every foreign officer that landed at this port, and it was scarcely ever dispensed with. It was, however, unknown to us, and this unaccustomed liberty gave us an opportunity of inspecting more minutely into the manners and disposition of the women as well as the men.
21st August. This being the Prince of Brazil’s birth-day, the commodore, with most of his officers, went to court, to compliment the viceroy on the occasion. As soon as we landed, we were received by an officer, who conducted us to the presence-chamber, where his excellency stood, under a canopy of state, receiving the compliments of the officers of the garrison, the principal inhabitants, and such foreigners as were in the place. After having paid our respects, we withdrew, as did every other person, except the principal officers of state, some general and law officers, and those of the governor’s household. The Sirius and one of the forts fired royal salutes.
The court was brilliant, if a place where a female does not appear can be said to be brilliant; but this, I was informed, is always the case here. Those gentlemen who appeared in the circle were richly and elegantly dressed. The officers of the army and of the militia were particularly so, and that in a stile and fashion which did no small credit to their taste. The viceroy wore a scarlet coat trimmed with very broad rich gold lace, and his hair, according to his usual mode of wearing it, in a remarkable long queue, with very little powder; an article of dress to which I observed the Portugueze were not very partial, while, on the contrary, they were profuse in the use of pomatum.
The day ended without any other demonstrations of joy. As the Portugueze seemed fond of fireworks and illuminations, and never fail to exhibit them on every religious festival, we were not a little disappointed in finding them omitted on the birth-day of their prince.
31st August. James Baker, a private marine, received two hundred lashes, agreeable to the sentence of a court-martial, for endeavouring to get passed on shore, by means of one of the seamen, a spurious dollar, knowing it to be so; and one he had undoubtedly got from some of the convicts, as it was of a similar base metal to those which they had coined during the passage, and had attempted to put off on our first arrival at this port.
1st September. Having now procured every thing at Rio de Janeiro that we stood in need of, and thoroughly recovered and refreshed our people, the commodore, with such officers of the fleet as could be spared from duty, waited on the viceroy to take leave, and to return our acknowledgments for the indulgence and attention shown us, which, I think we may say, we experienced in a greater extent and latitude than any foreigners had ever before done. On our landing, the same officer who had attended us upon every other public occasion, conducted us to the presence-chamber. As we passed, every military and public honour was paid to the commodore; the colours were laid at his feet, as they hitherto had been whenever he landed in his public character; a token of respect that is never bestowed on any person but the governor himself.
When we arrived at the palace, an officer of the household, who was waiting to receive us, conducted us through a most delightful recess, hung round with bird-cages, whose inhabitants seemed to vie with each other both in the melody of their notes and the beauty of their plumage. The passage we walked through was adorned on each side with odoriferous flowers and aromatic shrubs, which, while they charmed the eye, spread a delightful fragrance around. This passage led to a private room, on the outside of the door of which we were received by the viceroy, who stood uncovered, and noticed each person separately in the most friendly and polite manner.
His excellency preceded us into the room, and having requested all of us to be seated, placed himself by the commodore, in a position that fronted us. In return for our thanks and acknowledgments, he said, “it gave him infinite pleasure and satisfaction to find that the place had afforded us the supplies we stood in need of:” to this he added, “that the attention of the inhabitants, which we were good enough to notice, was much short of his wishes.”
We then arose and took our leave; but not before his excellency had expressed a desire of hearing from the commodore, with an account of his success in the establishment of the new colony. He concluded with saying, “that he hoped, nay did not doubt, from the character the English bore for generosity of disposition, but that those who had so cheerfully engaged in a service, strange and uncertain in itself, would meet with an adequate reward — a recompense that every one must allow they justly merited.”
The room in which the governor received us was that wherein he usually sat in his retired moments. It was furnished and painted in a neat and elegant stile; the roof displaying well-executed representations of all the tropical fruits and the most beautiful birds of the country. The walls were hung round with prints, chiefly on religious subjects.
Rio de Janeiro is said to derive its name from being discovered on St. Januarius’s day. It is the capital of the Portugueze settlements in South America, and is situated on the west side of a river, or, more properly (in my opinion), of a bay. Except that part which fronts the water, the city is surrounded by high mountains, of the most romantic form the imagination can fashion to itself any idea of.
The plan on which it is built has some claim to merit. The principal street, called Strait Street, runs from the viceroy’s palace, which is near the south-east end of the town, to the northwest extremity, where it is terminated by a large convent belonging to the Benedictine friars, situated on an eminence. The street is broad, well built, and has in it a great number of handsome shops. All the others are much inferior to this, being in general only wide enough to admit two carriages to pass each other in the centre. The pavement for foot-passengers (except in Strait Street, which is without any) is so very unsociably narrow that two persons cannot walk with convenience together.
The houses are commonly two, and sometimes three, stories high, of which, even though inhabited by the most wealthy and respectable families, the lower part is always appropriated to shops, and to the use of the servants and slaves (who are here extremely numerous), the family rather chusing to reside in the upper part, that they might live in a less confined air. To every house there is a balcony, with lattice-work before it, and the same before all the windows.
The churches are very numerous, elegant, and richly decorated; some of them are built and ornamented in a modern stile, and that in a manner which proclaims the genius, taste, and judgment of the architects and artists. Two or three of the handsomest are at this time either unfinished or repairing; and they appear to go on but very slowly, notwithstanding large sums are constantly collecting for their completion. As they are erected or repaired by charitable contributions, public processions are frequently made for that purpose, and the mendicant friars belonging to them likewise exert themselves in their line.
At these processions, which are not unfrequent, persons of every age and description assist. They usually take place after it is dark, when those who join in it are dressed in a kind of cloak adapted to religious purposes and carry a lanthorn fixed at the end of a pole of a convenient length: so that upon these occasions you sometimes see three or four hundred moving lights in the streets at the same time, which has an uncommon and a pleasing effect. Considerable sums are collected by this mode. At the corner of every street, about ten feet from the ground, is placed the image of a saint, which is the object of the common people’s adoration.
The town is well supplied with water from the neighbouring mountains; which is conveyed over a deep valley by an aqueduct formed of arches of a stupendous height, and from thence distributed by pipes to many parts of the city. The principal fountain is close to the sea, in a kind of square, near the palace, where ships water at a good wharf, nearly in the same manner as at Teneriffe, and with equal expedition and convenience. On the opposite side of the fountain are cocks, from which the people in the neighbourhood are supplied. This convenient and capital watering place is so near the palace that when disputes or contentions arise between the boats’ crews of different ships, the slaves, etc. they are suppressed and adjusted by the soldiers on guard, who, in the Portugueze service, have great power and often treat the people with no little severity.
While we staid at this place, we made several short excursions into the country; but did not go near the mines; as we knew the attempt would not only prove hazardous but ineffectual: and as the liberty and indulgence granted us was on the commodore’s account, we never extended our trips beyond a few miles, lest our doing so should appear suspicious, and reflect discredit on him, we considering him in some degree responsible for our conduct. As far as we did go, we experienced the same polite and attentive behaviour we met with from the inhabitants of the city. Never was more distinguished urbanity shown to strangers than was shown to us by every rank.
From its complicated state, I could learn but few particulars relative to the government of Brazil. The viceroy is invested with great power and authority, subject in some cases to an appeal to the court of Lisbon; but, like a wise and prudent ruler, he seldom exerts it, unless in instances where sound judgment and true policy render it expedient and necessary. He is a man of little parade, and appears not to be very fond of pomp and grandeur, except on public days, when it is not to be dispensed with. When he goes abroad for amusement, or to take the air, his guard consists only of seven dragoons; but on public occasions he makes his appearance in a grander stile. I once saw him go in state to one of the courts of justice; and, though it was situated not a hundred yards from his palace, he was attended by a troop of horse. His state carriage is tolerably neat, but by no means elegant or superb; it was drawn by four horses irregularly mottled.
Carriages are pretty common at this place; there is scarcely a family of respectability without one. They are mostly of the chaise kind, and drawn in general by mules, which are found to answer better than horses, being more indefatigable and surer-footed, consequently better calculated to ascend their steep hills and mountains.
The military force of Brazil consists of a troop of horse, which serve as guards for the viceroy, twelve regiments of regulars from Europe, and six raised in the country: these last enlist men of a mixed colour, which the former are by no means suffered to do. Besides the foregoing, there are twelve regiments of militia always embodied. This whole force, regulars and militia, except those on out-posts and other needful duties, appear early in the morning, on every first day of the month, before the palace, where they undergo a general muster and review of arms and necessaries. The private men, although they are considered as persons of great consequence by the populace, are, on the other hand, equally submissive and obedient to their officers. This strict discipline and regularity, as the city is in a great measure under military orders, renders the inhabitants extremely civil and polite to the officers, who, in return, study to be on the most agreeable and happy terms with them.
A captain’s guard (independent of the cavalry, who are always in readiness to attend the viceroy) is mounted every day at the palace. Whenever Commodore Phillip passed, which he did as seldom as possible, the guard was turned out, with colours, etc. and, as I before observed, the same mark of honour paid to him as to the governor. To obviate this trouble and ceremony, he most frequently landed and embarked at the north-west side of the town, where his boat constantly waited for him.
On both sides of the river which forms the bay or harbour, the country is picturesque and beautiful to a degree, abounding with the most luxuriant flowers and aromatic shrubs. Birds of a lovely and rich plumage are seen hopping from tree to tree in great numbers; together with an endless variety of insects, whose exquisite beauty and gaudy colours exceed all description. There is little appearance of cultivation in the parts we visited; the land seemed chiefly pasturage.
The cattle here are small, and when killed do not produce such beef as is to be met with in England: it is not, however, by any means so bad as represented by some travellers to be; on the contrary, I have seen and eat here tolerably good, sweet, and well-tasted beef. I never saw any mutton: they have indeed a few sheep, but they are small, thin, and lean. The gardens furnish most sorts of European productions, such as cabbages, lettuce, parsley, leeks, white radishes, beans, pease, kidney beans, turnips, water melons, excellent pumpkins, and pine-apples of a small and indifferent kind. The country likewise produces, in the most unbounded degree, limes, acid and sweet lemons, oranges of an immense size and exquisite flavour, plantains, bananas, yams, cocoa-nuts, cashoo apples and nuts, and some mangos. For the use of the slaves and poorer sort of people, the capado² is cultivated in great plenty; but this cannot be done through a want of corn for bread, as I never saw finer flour than at this place, which is plentiful, and remarkably cheap.
Brazil, particularly towards the northern parts, furnishes a number of excellent drugs. In the shops of the druggists and apothecaries of Rio de Janeiro, of which there are many, hippo, oil of castor, balsam capiva, with most of the valuable gums, and all of an excellent quality, are to be found; but they are sold at a much dearer rate than could possibly have been conceived or expected in a country of which they are the natural produce.
The riches of this country arising from the mines are certainly very great. To go near, or to get a sight of these inexhaustible treasuries, is impossible, as every pass leading to them is strongly guarded; and even a person taken on the road, unless he be able to give a clear and unequivocal account of himself and his business, is imprisoned, and perhaps compelled ever after to work in those subterraneous cavities, which avarice, or an ill-timed and fatal curiosity, may have prompted him to approach. These circumstances made a trial to see them without permission (and that permission I understand has never been granted the most favoured foreigners) too dangerous to be attempted.
In addition to the above source of wealth, the country produces excellent tobacco, and likewise sugar canes, from which the inhabitants make good sugar, and draw a spirit called aquadente. This spirit, by proper management, and being kept till it is of a proper age, becomes tolerable rum. As it is sold very cheap, the commodorepurchased a hundred pipes of it for the use of the garrison when arrived at New South Wales.
Precious and valuable stones are also found here. Indeed they are so very plenty that a certain quantity only is suffered to be collected annually. At the jewellers and lapidaries, of which occupation there are many in Rio, I saw some valuable diamonds and a great number of excellent topazes, with many other sorts of stones of inferior value. Several topazes were purchased by myself and others, but we chose to buy them wrought in order to avoid imposition, which is not unfrequent when the stones are sold in a rough state. One of the principal streets of this city is nearly occupied by jewellers and the workers of these stones, and I observed that persons of a similar profession generally resided in the same street.
The manufactures here are very few, and those by no means extensive. All kinds of European goods sell at an immoderate price, notwithstanding the shops are well stored with them.
The Brazil, or native Indians, are very adroit at making elegant cotton hammocks of various dyes and forms. It was formerly the custom for the principal people of Rio to be carried about in these hammocks; but that fashion is succeeded by the use of sedan chairs, which are now very common among them; but they are of a more clumsy form than those used in England. The chair is suspended from an aukward piece of wood, borne on the shoulders of two slaves, and elevated sufficiently to be clear of the inequalities of the street. In carrying, the foremost slave takes the pavement and the other the street, one keeping a little before the other, so that the chair is moved forward in a sidelong direction, very unlike the procedure of the London chairmen. These fellows, who get on at a great rate, never take the wall of the foot-passengers, nor incommode them in the smallest degree.
The inhabitants in general are a pleasant, cheerful people, inclining more to corpulency than those of Portugal; and, as far as we could judge, very favourably inclined to the English. The men are strait and wellproportioned. They do not accustom themselves to high living, nor indulge much in the juice of the grape.
The women, when young, are remarkably thin, pale, and delicately shaped; but after marriage they generally incline to be lusty, without losing that constitutional pale, or rather sallow, appearance. They have regular and better teeth than are usually observable in warm climates, where sweet productions are plentiful. They have likewise the most lovely, piercing, dark eyes, in the captivating use of which they are by no means unskilled. Upon the whole, the women of this country are very engaging; and rendered more so by their free, easy, and unrestrained manner.
Both sexes are extremely fond of suffering their hair, which is black, to grow to a prodigious length. The ladies wear it plaited and tied up in a kind of club, or large lump, a mode of hair-dressing that does not seem to correspond with their delicate and feminine appearance. Custom, however, reconciles us to the most outré fashions; and what we thought unbecoming the Portugueze considered as highly ornamental. I was one day at a gentleman’s house, to whom I expressed my wonder at the prodigious quantity of hair worn by the ladies, adding that I did not conceive it possible for it to be all of their own growth. The gentleman assured me that it was; and, in order to convince me that it was so, he called his wife and untied her hair, which, notwithstanding it was in plaits, dragged at least two inches upon the floor as she walked along. I offered my service to tie it up again, which was politely accepted, and considered as a compliment by both.
It has been said that the Portugueze are a jealous people, a disposition I never could perceive among any of those with whom I had the pleasure of forming an acquaintance; on the contrary, they seemed sensible of, and pleased with, every kind of attention paid to their wives or daughters.
The current coin here is the same as that in Portugal, but silver as well as gold is coined at this place, where they have an established mint. The pieces of gold are of various sizes, and have marked on them the number of thousand rees they are worth. The most common coin is a 4000 ree piece which passes for £1. 2. 6, though not so heavy as an English guinea. The silver pieces, called petacks, value two shillings, are also marked with the number of rees they are worth. You get ten of these in exchange for a guinea; and for a Spanish dollar two petacks, five vintins and a half, which is about four shillings and eight-pence.
Here, as in Portugal, they have five, ten, and twenty thousand ree pieces. A ree is a nominal coin; twenty make a vintin, value about three half-pence; eight vintins make one shilling; a petack is worth two shillings, and of these there are some double pieces, value four shillings sterling.
One morning, as I attended Mr. Il de Fonso, surgeon general to the army, and a man of ingenuity and abilities in his profession, to a large public hospital, a soldier was brought in with a wound in his left side. The instrument had penetrated the abdomen, without injuring the intestines; and from its form and nature the wound must have been inflicted with the point of a knife, or a stiletto.
The patient, after being dressed, acquainted us that the preceding night he had had some words with another man about a woman, who, notwithstanding blows had not passed, stabbed him with some sharp instrument, of what kind he could not see, as it was then dark, and afterwards made his escape.
This account led me to believe that assassinations were not unfrequent in Brazil; but Mr. Il de Fonso assured me to the contrary, telling me that such instances seldom happened except among the negroes, whose vindictive and treacherous dispositions led them wonderful lengths to gratify their revenge, whenever night and a convenient opportunity conspired, at once to aid and to conceal their horrid acts.
While we remained here, the weather being cool and favourable, I prevailed on the surgeon who was about to amputate a limb to allow me to take it off according to Allenson’s method. During the operation I could plainly see that he and his pupils did not seem much pleased with it, and he afterwards told me it was impossible it could ever answer. A very short space of time, however, made them of a different opinion; and in eighteen days after, when we sailed, I had the satisfaction to leave the patient with his stump nearly cicatrized, to the no small joy of the surgeon, who said that if the man had died he should have been heavily censured for making him the subject of experiments.
The circumstance of a man’s leg being cut off, and almost healed in as many days as it generally takes weeks, soon became known, and added very much to the estimation in which the people of this place held English surgeons. Whenever I visited the hospital afterwards, the objects of pity with which it was filled used to crowd around me in such a manner, and in such numbers, for my advice, that I found it difficult to get from them. And they now would readily have submitted to any operation I should have proposed, but, as I saw the surgeon did not much approve of my interference, I gave up all ideas of it.
The harbour of Rio de Janeiro lies in 22°54’ south latitude, and 43°19’ west longitude, about eighteen or twenty leagues to the westward of Cape Frio. The entrance is good, and cannot be mistaken, on account of a remarkable hill, resembling a sugar loaf, that is on the left-hand side; and some islands before it, one of which is oblong and does not, at some distance, look unlike a thatched house: they lie from the mouth of the harbour S. by W. about two leagues. Ships going in may run on either side.
The bar, over which we carried seven-fathom water, is not more than three-fourths of a mile across, and well defended by forts. The strongest is called Santa Cruz, built on a rock, on the starboard side as you run in, from which every shot fired at ships passing must take effect. The other, named Fort Lozia, is smaller, and built on an island or rock, on the larboard side, a little higher up, and lying contiguous to the main-land. The tide in the harbour rarely ebbs and flows more than seven feet; however, ships, if possible, never anchor in this narrow pass between the forts, as the bottom is foul and the tide runs with considerable rapidity. All danger in going in, or running out, may be avoided by keeping the mid channel, or a little bordering on the starboard shore.
After Santa Cruz fort is passed, the course is nearly N. by W. and N.N.W.; but, as I before observed, the eye is the best pilot. When you get within a mile of a strong fortified island which lies before the town (only separated by a narrow pass), called the Isle of Cobras, you are then in the great road, where we anchored in fifteen fathom water; or, should you have occasion to get nearer the town, you may run round this island, on the north side, and anchor above it, before the convent of Benedictine friars at the N.W. end of the city, before spoken of.
The city and harbour are strongly defended and fortified, but with very little judgment or regularity. The hills are very high, and so is the coast, which has such strange, romantic, and almost inaccessible terminations that nature of her own accord, without the aid of military skill, seems disposed to defend them. Taking everything into the account, I think it one of the best harbours I have ever seen, and, upon the whole, better calculated to supply the wants of people who have long been at sea, and stand in need of refreshment, than any part of the world, everything being so remarkably cheap.
Beef may be purchased at seven farthings per pound; hogs, turkeys, and ducks, both English and Muscovy, were equally reasonable. Fowls were dearer, but still sold at a lower rate than in England. Fish was not very plentiful, but I was told that at other seasons they have a most excellent market for that article. Their market for vegetables, however, abounded with fruit, roots, and garden stuff of every kind, notwithstanding it was not the best season for fruit, it then being too early in the spring to expect abundance. Oranges, which we had in the greatest plenty, cost only fivepence the hundred.
On a hill about half a mile S.E. of the city stands a convent, named Convento de Santa Theresa, the nuns of which, amounting to about forty, are not allowed to unveil when they come to the grate: and on a plain between this convent and the city stands another, called Convento A. de Juda, a very large building, governed by an abbess and several nuns, all under the direction of a bishop. Here about seventy young ladies are placed to be educated, who are subject to all the restrictions of a monastic life, only they are permitted to be frequently at the grate, and that unveiled.
But, what is singular, the nuns of this convent, when they arrive at a proper age, are allowed either to take a husband, or to take the veil, just as their inclination leads. They are not, however, suffered to quit the convent on any other terms than that of marriage, to which the consent and approbation of the bishop is always necessary. If they do not get a husband early in life, it is common for them to take the veil.
Many of these young ladies were very agreeable both in person and disposition, and, by frequently conversing with them at the grate, we formed as tender an intercourse with them as the bolts and bars between us would admit of. Myself, and two other gentlemen belonging to the fleet, singled out three of those who appeared to be the most free and lively, to whom we attached ourselves during our stay, making them such presents as we thought would prove most acceptable, and receiving more valuable ones in return. These little attentions were viewed by them in so favourable a light, that when we took a last farewell they gave us many evident proofs of their concern and regret.
Indeed every circumstance while we continued at this charming place (except there being no inns or coffee-houses, where a stranger could refresh himself, or be accommodated when he chose to stay a night or two on shore) conspired to make us pleased and delighted with it; and I can truly say that I left it with reluctance, which I believe was the case with many of my companions.
3rd September. The commodore sent Mr. Moreton, the master of the Sirius, and two of his midshipmen, who had been put on the invalid list, aboard an English ship returning from the Southern whale fishery to England, which, being leaky, had been forced into Rio. As this ship was to sail in a few days, it furnished us with an opportunity of writing to our friends. About two in the afternoon the commodore made the signal for all officers to repair on board their respective ships, and for the transports to hoist in their boats.
4th September. At six the fleet weighed with a light land breeze. On the commodore’s approaching Santa Cruz Fort, he was saluted from the batteries with twenty-one guns; which he returned from the Sirius with an equal number. About ten o’clock we got clear of the land, steering to the eastward with a gentle breeze.
Thomas Brown, a convict, was punished with a dozen lashes for behaving insolently to one of the officers of the ship. This was the first that had received any punishment since their embarkation on board the Charlotte.
5th September. Wind variable and cloudy; Rio Sugar-loaf still in sight, about eight or nine leagues distant.
6th September. The officers, ship’s company, marines, and convicts, were, by signal from the Sirius, put to an allowance of three quarts of water per day, including that usually allowed for cooking their provisions. In the course of the day a steady breeze sprung up at N.E. About six in the evening, the Fishburne victualler carried away her fore-top-gallant yard, which she soon got replaced with another.
7th and 8th September. The weather continued dark and cloudy, with some heavy showers of rain. On the evening of the 8th, between the hours of three and four, Mary Broad, a convict, was delivered of a fine girl.
9th and 10th September. Fine, clear, dry weather. The commodore made a signal for the convoy to close, being scattered about at a considerable distance from him.
11th, 12th, and 13th September. Fresh breezes, with sudden squalls and heavy rain. The four succeeding days, light airs, and hazy, with some showers, and a damp moist air. On the evening of the 17th, our longitude being, by signal from the commodore, 31°34’W. we caught a shark six feet long, of which the people made a good mess.
18th September. Heavy rain, with dark and cold weather. Saw several albatrosses and pintado birds.
19th September. William Brown, a very well-behaved convict, in bringing some clothing from the bowsprit end, where he had hung them to dry, fell overboard. As soon as the alarm was given of a man being overboard, the ship was instantly hove to, and a boat hoisted out, but to no purpose. Lieutenant Ball of the Supply, a most active officer, knowing from our proceedings (as we were at the time steering with a fair wind, and going near six knots an hour) that some accident must have happened, bore down; but, notwithstanding every exertion, the poor fellow sunk before either the Supply or our boat could reach him. The people on the forecastle, who saw him fall, say that the ship went directly over him, which, as she had quick way through the water, must make it impossible for him to keep on the surface long enough to be taken up, after having received the stroke from so heavy a body.
23rd September. From the 19th, the weather had been cold, dry, and pleasant; it now became wet, squally, and unsettled; the wind westerly, with a high sea; albatrosses, pintado birds, and some small hawks hovering round the ship.
30th September. The weather became more moderate and pleasant, the wind variable, inclining to calms.
1st October. Light airs, with haze and rain. Saw a great number of different birds; we were then in latitude 34°42’S. longitude 1°10’E. of the meridian of London.
13th October. The Sirius made the signal for seeing land; and at seven in the evening we came to, in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, in seventeen-fathom water, abreast of Cape Town, distant about a mile or a mile and half. As soon as the Sirius anchored, the commodore and commissary went on shore and took up their residence in lodgings at the house of Mrs. De Witt. They were soon followed by such officers as could be spared from the duty of the fleet, all wishing to prepare themselves, by the comforts and refreshments to be enjoyed on shore, for the last and longest stage of their voyage.
14th October. The contract for provisions being settled with Messrs. De Witts and Caston, the troops, men, women, and children, were served with a pound and half of soft bread, and an equal quantity of beef or mutton daily, and with wine in lieu of spirits. The convicts, men, women, and children, had the same allowance as the troops, except wine.
16th October. Commodore Phillip, attended by most of the officers of the fleet, paid a complimentary visit to his excellency Mynheer Van Graaf, the Dutch governor, by whom we were received with extreme civility and politeness.² A few hours after we had taken leave, he called on the commodore at his lodgings, to return his visit, and the next day returned the visit of such officers, residing on shore, as had paid their respects to him.
Notwithstanding this studied politeness, several days elapsed before the commodore could obtain a categorical answer to the requisition he had made for the supplies he stood in need of for the expedition: and had it not been for the judicious perseverance Commodore Phillip observed, in urging his particular situation, and the uncommon exigency of the service he was engaged in, it was believed the governor fiscal, and council would have sheltered their refusal under the pretence that a great scarcity had prevailed in the Cape colony the preceding season, particularly of wheat and corn, which were the articles we stood most in want of.
This idea they wished to impress us with; but, as just observed, the commodore’s sagacity and industrious zeal for the service subdued and got over the supineness shown by the governor, etc. and procured permission for the contractor to supply us with as much stock, corn, and other necessaries, as we could stow. It is, however, much to be lamented that the quantity we could find room for fell very short of what we ought to have taken in, as the only spare room we had was what had been occasioned by the consumption of provisions, etc. since we left Rio de Janeiro, and the removal of twenty female convicts from the Friendship into the Charlotte, the Lady Penrhyn, and the Prince of Wales.
After the supplies had been granted, his excellency Governor Graaf invited the commodore, and many of the officers of the expedition, to a very handsome dinner at his town residence. The house at which we were entertained is delightfully situated, nearly in the centre of an extensive garden, the property of the Dutch East India company, usefully planted, and at the same time elegantly laid out. The governor’s family make what use they please of the produce of the garden, which is various and abundant; but the original intention of the company in appropriating so extensive a piece of ground to this purpose was that their hospital, which is generally pretty full when their ships arrive after long voyages, may be well supplied with fruits and vegetables, and likewise that their ships may receive a similar supply.
This garden is as public as St. James’s park; and, for its handsome, pleasant, and well-shaded walks, is much frequented by persons of every description, but particularly by the fashionable and gay. There are many other agreeable walks about Cape Town, but none to be compared with these. At the upper end of the principal of them is a small space walled in for the purpose of confining some large ostriches and a few deer. A little to the right of this is a small menagery, in which the company have half a dozen wild animals and about the same number of curious birds.
As you approach the Cape of Good Hope, a very remarkable mountain may, in clear weather, be discovered at a considerable distance; it is called the Table Land, from its flat surface, which resembles that piece of furniture. Mr. Dawes, lieutenant of marines on board the Sirius, an ingenious and accurate observer, who has undertaken during the voyage the astronomical observations, accompanied by Messrs. Fowell and Waterhouse, midshipmen of the Sirius, Lieutenant De Witt, of the Dutch navy, and myself, went to the top of this mountain, an undertaking which we found to be of a far more serious nature than we at first were aware of. For my own part, I suffered so much from heat and thirst that, had not the fear of shame urged me on, my companions being determined to accomplish it at all events, I should most certainly have given it up before I reached the top. During this sultry and fatiguing expedition, I found great benefit, towards alleviating my thirst, by keeping a small pebble in my mouth; and sometimes by chewing rushes, which we met with in our way. But, when we had reached the summit, the delightful and extensive prospect we there enjoyed, the weather being uncommonly fine, fully atoned for the trouble, fatigue, and every suffering, we had undergone. From this elevation we could overlook all the country about the Cape.
As soon as we got to the top, our first business was to look out for water; but all we could find was some stagnant rain, which lay in the hollow of the stones. Our thirst, however, was so intolerable that the discovery even of this gave us inexpressible pleasure, and, notwithstanding we all perspired most violently, and were sensible of the danger and impropriety of drinking a quantity of bad water in such a situation, yet we could not refrain. As for my own part, it was utterly out of my power to listen at that time to the dictates of prudence, and I believe it was equally difficult to my companions, if I might judge from the avidity with which they drank out of the little pools, lying on the ground at full length, that being the only posture in which it was to be obtained.
The regularity of the streets of the town, which intersect each other at right angles; the buildings, gardens, castle, and forts, with twenty-three ships then at anchor in the bay, all which appeared directly underneath us, was a sight beautiful and pleasing beyond description. The perpendicular height of this land is 1857 feet from the surface of the water. On the top of it we gathered several species of heath, some wild celery, a few shrubs, and some nondescript plants; we found also some little stones of a fine polish and singular whiteness.
In our descent, which proved nearly as difficult and troublesome as going up, we saw some runaway negroes, round a fire, on the clift of a stupendous rock, where it was entirely out of the power of their owners to get at them. To look at their situation, one would think it beyond the utmost stretch of human ingenuity to devise a way to reach it. Here they remain all day in perfect security, and during the night make frequent excursions to the town and the parts adjacent, committing great depredations on the inhabitants.
The whole subsistence of these fugitives depends on this precarious method: and even this method would prove insufficient were it not for the assistance they receive from those who were once their fellow slaves. Nor is it always that they succeed in the depredatory trips, which necessity thus urges them to take; they are often betrayed by their quondam friends; and when this happens, as the Dutch are not famed for their lenity in punishing crimes, they are made horrid examples of. But neither the fear of punishment, nor hunger, thirst, cold, and wretchedness, to which they are often unavailably exposed, can deter them from making Table Land their place of refuge from what they consider to be greater evils. Scarcely a day passes but a smoke may be seen from some of these inaccessible retreats.
In the mild or summer season, which commences in September, and continues till March, the Table Land is sometimes suddenly capped with a white cloud, by some called the Spreading of the Table-cloth. When this cloud seems to roll down the steep face of the mountain, it is an unerring indication of an approaching gale of wind from the south-east; which generally blows with great violence and sometimes continues a day or more, but in common is of short duration. On the first appearance of this cloud, the ships in Table Bay begin to prepare for it, by striking yards and top-masts, and making everything as snug as possible.
A little to the westward of the Table Land, divided by a small valley, stands, on the right hand side of Table Bay, a round hill, called the Sugar Loaf, and by many the Lion’s Head, as there is a continuance from it, contiguous to the sea, called the Lion’s Rump; and when you take a general view of the whole it very much resembles that animal with his head erect. The Sugar Loaf, or Lion’s Head, and the Lion’s Rump have each a flagstaff on them, by which the approach of ships is made known to the governor, particularizing their number, nation, and the quarter from which they come.
To the eastward, separated by a small chasm from the Table Land, stands Charles’s Mount, well known by the appellation of the Devil’s Tower, and so called from the violent gusts of wind supposed to issue from it when it partakes of the cap that covers the Table Land, though these gusts are nothing more than a degree of force the wind acquires in coming through the chasm. When this phaenomenon appears in the morning, which is by no means so frequent as in the evening, the sailors have a saying, as the Devil’s Tower is almost contiguous to the Table Land, that the old gentleman is going to breakfast; if in the middle of the day, that he is going to dinner; and if in the evening, that the cloth is spread for supper.
The foregoing high lands form a kind of amphitheatre about the Table Valley, where the Cape Town stands. From the shipping the town appears pleasantly situated but at the same time small, a deception that arises from its being built in a valley with such stupendous mountains directly behind it. On landing, however, you are surprised, and agreeably disappointed, to find it not only extensive but well built, and in a good stile, the streets spacious, and intersecting each other at right angles with great precision. This exactness in the formation of the streets, when viewed from the Table Land, is observed to be very great.
The houses in general are built of stone, cemented together with a glutinous kind of earth which serves as mortar, and afterwards neatly plastered, and whitewashed, with lime. As to their height, they do not in common exceed two stories, on account of the violence of the wind, which at some seasons of the year blows with great strength and fury; indeed sometimes so violently as to shake the houses to the very foundation. For the same reason, thatch has been usually preferred to tiles or shingles, but the bad effects that have proceeded from this mode, when fires happen, has induced the inhabitants in all their new buildings to give the preference to slates and tiles. The lower parts of the houses, according to the custom of the Dutch nation, are not only uncommonly neat and clean in appearance, but they are really so; and the furniture is rather rich than elegant. But this is by no means the case with the bedrooms or upper apartments, which are more barely and worse furnished than any I ever beheld: and the streets seem to be much upon a par with them, they being rough, uneven, and unpaved. I was, however, upon the whole, extremely well pleased with the town. Many of the houses have a space flagged before the door, and others have trees planted before them, which form a pleasant shade, and give pleasing novelty to the streets.
The only landing-place is at the east end of the town, where there is a wooden quay running some paces into the sea, with several cranes on it, for the convenience of loading and unloading the scoots that come along side. To this place excellent water is conveyed by pipes, which makes the watering of ships both easy and expeditious.
Close to this quay, on the left hand, stands the castle and principal fortress, a strong extensive work, having excellent accommodations for the troops, and for many of the civil officers belonging to the company. Within the gates the company have their principal stores, which are spacious as well as convenient. This fort covers and defends the east part of the town and harbour, as Amsterdam fort does the west part. The latter, which has been built since commodore Johnstone’s expedition, and whereon both French and Dutch judgment have been united to render it effectual and strong, is admirably planned and calculated to annoy and harass ships coming into the bay. Some smaller detached fortifications extend along the coast, both to the east and west, and make landing, which was not the case before the late war, hazardous and difficult.
In a word, Cape Town is at this time fortified with strength, regularity, and judgment.
There are two churches here, one large, plain, and unadorned, for the Calvinists, the prevailing sect, and a smaller one for the Lutherans.
The hospital, which is large and extensive, is situated at the upper end of the town, close to the company’s garden. It is an honour to that commercial body, and no small ornament to the town. The only objection that can be made to it, as a building, is its situation: had it been erected on an eminence, and a little detached from the town, which might easily have been done, no fault could have been found with it. As it is, the convalescents have free access to the company’s gardens, where they reap the benefit of a wholesome pure air, perfumed with the exhalations of a great variety of rich fruit trees, aromatic shrubs, and odorous plants and flowers; and likewise have the use of every production of it, as before observed, advantages that compensate, in a great measure, for the flat situation of the hospital.
The inhabitants are all exceedingly fond of gardens, which they keep in most excellent order. The doing this is very little trouble to them, the climate and soil being most benign and friendly to vegetation. Among the many which afforded me delight, I must not forget that belonging to Colonel Gordon, commander in chief of the Dutch troops at the Cape; where not only the taste and ingenuity of the gardener, but the skill and knowledge of the botanist, are at once manifest.
The colonel is a man of science, of an active and well-cultivated genius, and who appropriates those hours he can spare from his military duties (in which he is said to excel), to a perusal of the book of nature, and researches after useful knowledge. These pursuits tend not only to his amusement, but to his honour; and they will, doubtless, at some time or other, further conduce to the advancement of natural history, and to the honour of his country, as it is said he intends to publish the observations and remarks which have been the result of his researches. Those he has made on the Hottentots, Caffres, and the countries they inhabit, will doubtlessly be valuable, he having made himself better acquainted with the subject, and penetrated farther into the interior parts, than any traveller or naturalist that has hitherto visited the Cape. It is to be lamented that he has so long withheld from the world the gratification and improvement, which most assuredly must be derived from the observations of a person so well and so extensively informed. His polite attention and civility, during our stay at the Cape, claim our most grateful acknowledgements.
Besides their hospital, the Dutch East India company have several other public buildings which tend to improve the appearance of the town. The two principal of these are the stables and a house for their slaves. The former is a handsome range of buildings, capable of containing an incredible number of horses. Those they have at the Cape are small, spirited, and full of life. The latter is a building of considerable extent, where the slaves, both male and female, have separate apartments, in a very comfortable stile, to reside in after the fatigues and toil of the day, which undoubtedly is great, but by no means equal, in my opinion, to that endured by the slaves in our own colonies.
However severe and cruel the Dutch may be considered in other respects, they certainly treat their slaves with great humanity and kindness, which, I am sorry to say, I scarcely ever saw done in the West Indies, during a residence there of three years. On the contrary, I have frequently been witness to the infliction of the most brutal, cruel, and wanton punishments on these poor creatures, who are the source and immediate support of the splendour of the Creoles. The bare retrospect of the cruelties I have seen exercised there excites a kind of horror that chills my blood. At the Cape, there are several officers placed over the slaves, who have commodious apartments, and treat them humanely.
The first week after our arrival at this place, the militia, consisting both of horse and foot, were embodied, and held their annual meeting: I say annual, as that is the usual period, but this was the first time of their assembling since the conclusion of the war in 1783.
The Cape militia differ from the English in not receiving pay or wearing regimentals. In fact they should rather be called volunteers, who turn out for the protection of their own property, and are not subject to strict military discipline. Most of them wore blue coats, with white metal buttons, aukwardly long, and in the cut and shape of which uniformity had not been attended to. Neither was it visible in the other parts of their dress or accoutrements; some wore powder, others none, so that, upon the whole, they made a very unmilitary appearance. The officers are chosen annually from among themselves. Some of these, indeed, I observed to be very well dressed. Neglect, non-attendance, and every other breach of their military rules, is punished by fine or forfeiture, and not corporally.
At this burlesque on the profession of a soldier, I could not help observing that many of them had either got intoxicated that morning or were not recovered from their overnight’s debauch; notwithstanding which they marched to the field and went through their evolutions with a steadiness and regularity that was really astonishing, considering the state they were in: but it is said, and I believe with some truth, that a Dutchman when half drunk is more capable of performing every kind of business than if he were perfectly sober.
After these annual exhibitions, the members of the corps meet their wives, daughters, etc. (who take care to be present, that they may be witnesses of their military skill and achievements) at some friend’s house, where they crown the night in dancing, of which they are uncommonly fond. To dancing are added substantial suppers and potent libations, in which they indulge not only upon this but on all other occasions. A Dutch supper to me, at first, was a matter of wonder, as I could never see any kind of difference, either in the quality or quantity, between them and their dinners, which were always abundant, and consisting chiefly of heavy food.
The inhabitants of the Cape, though in their persons large, stout, and athletic, have not all that phlegm about them which is the characteristic of Dutchmen in general. The physical influence of climate may in some degree account for this; for it is well known that in all southern latitudes the temper and disposition of the people are more gay, and that they are more inclined to luxury and amusements of every kind, than the inhabitants of the northern hemisphere.
The ladies at the Cape are lively, good-natured, familiar, and gay. They resemble the women of England more than any foreigners I have ever seen. English fashions prevail among them (the female part of the governor’s family excepted, who imitate the French), notwithstanding their intercourse with France is now by far greater than with England.
The habits and customs of the women of this place are extremely contrasted to those of the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro. Among the latter a great deal of reserve and modesty is apparent between the sexes in public. Those who are disposed to say tender and civil things to a lady must do it by stealth, or breathe their soft sighs through the lattice-work of a window, or the grates of a convent. But at the Cape, if you wish to be a favourite with the fair, as the custom is, you must in your own defence (if I may use the expression) grapple the lady, and paw her in a manner that does not partake in the least of gentleness. Such a rough and uncouth conduct, together with a kiss ravished now and then in the most public manner and situations, is not only pleasing to the fair one, but even to her parents, if present; and is considered by all parties as an act of the greatest gallantry and gaiety.
In fact, the Dutch ladies here, from a peculiar gay turn, admit of liberties that may be thought reprehensible in England; but perhaps as seldom overstep the bounds of virtue as the women of other countries.
During my residence on shore, whenever I heard of any Hottentots being in town, I made a point of endeavouring to get a sight of them, in order to see whether their manners and appearance corresponded with the description given of them by travellers; such as being besmeared with grease, and decorated with the stinking entrails of animals, on which they likewise, when pressed by hunger, are said to feed.
I saw many of the men, without being able to make any other remarks on them, than that they were thin, of rather a low stature, but formed for activity: and, further, that their hair, which was short and woolly, as well as their whole bodies, was bedaubed with some unctuous or greasy substance, which was very offensive. They were of a dark brown colour, had a flat nose, thick lips, large full eyes, and were ornamented with ivory rings, and wore narrow strips of the skin of some animal, devoid of its hair, around their neck, legs, and arms. The only female of that nation I could get a sight of was during a little excursion in the environs of Cape Town: walking one evening with a Dutch gentleman, to see a garden about a mile from the town, I accidentally met one of these ladies, who was equally as offensive as the male I had met.
The heavy draft work about the Cape is mostly performed by oxen; which are here brought to an uncommon degree of usefulness and docility. It is not uncommon to see fourteen, sixteen, and sometimes eighteen in one of their teams; when the roads are heavy they sometimes, though rarely, yoke twenty; all which the Hottentots, Malayes, and Cape slaves have in the most perfect subjection and obedience. One of these fellows places himself on the fore part of the waggon, or, when loaded, on the top of the load, and with a tremendous long whip, which, from its size, he is obliged to hold in both his hands, manages these creatures with inexpressible address. I have often seen the driver, when he has found expedition needful, make them keep whatever pace he thought proper, either trot or gallop (a gait performed or kept up with difficulty by European oxen), and that with as much ease as if he was driving horses.
This immense whip, the only thing with which they guide the team, the drivers use so dexterously that they make them turn a corner with the utmost nicety; hitting even the leading pair, in whatever part they please. The blows thus given must inflict intolerable pain, or these slow animals could never be brought to go with the velocity they do at the Cape.
These sooty charioteers likewise manage horses with the same dexterity. To see one of them driving three, four, five, and sometimes six pair, in hand, with one of these long whips, as I have often done with great surprise, would make the most complete master of the whip in England cut a despicable figure. Carriages are not very numerous at the Cape, as the inhabitants in general travel in covered waggons, which better suit the roughness of the country. The governor and some few of the principal people keep coaches, which are a good deal in the English stile, and always drawn by six horses. The only chariot I saw there belonged to the governor; I however heard there were some others.
11th November. Having got on board such animals, provisions, etc. as we could stow, the commodore, with all the officers that had lodgings on shore, embarked. Previous to the commodore’s embarkation he gave a public dinner to some of the gentlemen of the town and the officers of his fleet. The Dutch governor was to have been of the party but by some unforeseen event was detained in the country, where he had been for some days before. Commodore Phillip had his band of music on shore upon the occasion, and the day was spent with great cheerfulness and conviviality.
13th November. About half past one o’clock we sailed from the Cape of Good Hope.
A small American ship had arrived during the forenoon, bound on a trading voyage to China, with several passengers on board. We learnt from her that the Hartwell East Indiaman had been lost, by bordering too close on the island of Bonavista, in order to land some recruits, who had mutinied and occasioned great disorder and confusion in the ship. It gave us pleasure to hear from the carpenter of the Hartwell, who was on board the American ship, that no lives were lost by the accident. The principal part of the crew, we found, had got to Madeira, on their return to England.
Abreast of Penguin Island, about three o’clock, we passed a large Dutch ship from Holland, bound to the Cape, with troops on board. A little before it was dark, we spoke the Kent whaler, from London, who had been four months out. She with ourselves was endeavouring to get to the eastward. On our first discovering her, as she seemed desirous of joining or speaking to the fleet, we were in hopes of her being from England, probably to us, or at least that we might get letters by her; but our suspense on these points, a suspense only to be conceived by persons on long voyages, was soon put an end to by hearing she had been so many months out.
A few days before we left the Cape, some of the officers of the expedition received letters from England by the Ranger East India packet, Captain Buchanan, who had put in to water, and stop a leak; both of which being soon accomplished, she proceeded on her voyage.
14th November. This morning Catherine Pryor, one of the convicts, was delivered of a male child. The officers, seamen, troops, and convicts, were put to an allowance of three quarts of water a day.
17th November. The wind variable, inclining to the southward and eastward, with hazy weather, an epidemic dysentry appeared among the convicts, which very soon made its way among the marines, and prevailed with violence and obstinacy until about Christmas, when it was got under by an unremitting attention to cleanliness, and every other method proper and essential for the removal and prevention of contagion. It gives me pleasure to be able to add that we only lost one person by this disease, violent and dangerous as it was, and that was Daniel Cresswell, one of the troops intended for the garrison, who was seized on the 19th of November and died the 30th of the same month, the eleventh day of his illness. From the commencement of his disorder, he was in the most acute agonizing pain I ever was witness to; nor was it in the power of medicine to procure him the shortest interval of ease. His case being a very singular one, I have transmitted it, with some others, to a medical friend in London, with permission to make what use of them he may think proper. The wind kept to the southward and eastward until the 21st, without veering a point in our favour, which carried us far out of our way to the westward; but that day it shifted.
23d November. We spoke the Prince of Wales, who informed us, that the preceding night one of the seamen had fallen from the top-sail yard, and was drowned. Indeed it was so dark, and the ship went so fast through the water, that all efforts to save him, had any been made, would have proved fruitless. This day and the following running to eastward, with the wind to the southward and westward, we saw many aquatic birds.
25th November. The commodore removed into the Supply armed tender, and took with him Lieutenant King of the Sirius, and Mr. Dawes of the marines, whom I had before occasion to mention as having undertaken the astronomical observations during the voyage. Having likewise selected some artificers from among the convicts, he went on, taking the Alexander, Scarborough, and Friendship with him, being fast sailing vessels; leaving the heavy sailers, both transports and victuallers, under the direction of Captain Hunter of the Sirius. Major Ross, commanding officer of the troops, removed into the Scarborough, as did the adjutant.
26th November. We had not lost sight of the Supply and other ships, though they were considerably ahead. Between nine and ten at night the wind came to the S.S.E. which made us tack and stand to the S.W. In the morning could see nothing of the flying squadron, as the seamen termed them. The wind continued all this day at E.S.E. with pleasant clear weather.
28th November. The wind shifted to the E.N.E.; the weather hazy, with small rain and strong breezes. The Sirius made a signal for the convoy to close.
30th November. The wind variable, with some heavy showers, and in the intervals clear weather.
1st and 2nd December. The wind from W.S.W. to S.W. by W. in lat. 40° south, long. 35°10’ east; the weather moderate, cold, clear, and pleasant. We saw birds of different kinds.
3rd December. In the evening, and on the succeeding day, the wind to northward and westward; fresh gales, dark, wet, unpleasant weather, with a high sea. The Sirius, for fear of separation, as the weather did not look kindly, made the signal for the convoy to keep nearer the commanding officer.
5th December. In the morning almost calm, with a heavy swell; in the evening a small breeze sprung up at the N.E. which next day shifted to the westward.
16th December. In lat. 41°7’ south, long. 74°54’ east, clear weather, with a small breeze at N.N.W. we saw some large whales, several birds, mostly of the peteral kind, a seal, and some rock weed.
17th December. Dark, cold, and gloomy. Had some gulls and whales round the ship.
20th December. Wind variable, inclining to the south. I visited the Prince of Wales, where I found some of the female convicts with evident symptoms of the scurvy, brought on by the damp and cold weather we had lately experienced. The two succeeding days the wind to the westward, though at times variable, with dark, wet, gloomy weather; in lat. 41°18’ south, long. 90°7’ east. We saw and passed some sea-weed. On those days the scurvy began to show itself in the Charlotte, mostly among those who had the dysentery to a violent degree; but I was pretty well able to keep it under by a liberal use of the essence of malt and some good wine, which ought not to be classed among the most indifferent antiscorbutics. For the latter we were indebted to the humanity of Lord Sydney and Mr. Nepean, principal and under secretaries of state.
24th December. The weather still dark and gloomy. Had several birds round the ship of the albatross and peteral kind; with what appeared to me to be something of the sea-hawk species.
27th December. Dark hazy weather, with some light squalls. We passed more seaweed; some gulls, and many of the before-mentioned birds, about the ship.
30th and 31st December.
Strong breezes, with unsettled-looking weather; birds still about us, and likewise some whales.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14