Page images
PDF
EPUB

boughs of trees, bent so as to hold a thatch or tiling of palnı leaves ; their beds are made of dry grass. Having little idea of planting or tillage, they depend for subsistence almost entirely on their bows and arrows, and on the roots and wild fruits wbich they casually find in the woods. A chief brought about fifty of these Indians to pay me a visit. The dress of the men consisted of a waistcoat and a pair of drawers; that of the women, of a chemise and petticoat, with a handkerchief tied round the head after the fashion of the Portuguese females. They bore the general characteristics of their race, the copper-coloured skin, short and round visage, broad nose, lank black hair, and regular stature, inclioiog to the short and broad sef. Being desirous to see a proof of their skill and precision in shooting, of which I had heard much, I placed an orange at thirty yards distance, which was pierced by an arrow from every one who drew his bow at it. I next pointed out a banana tree, about eight inches in circumference, at a distance of forty yards; not a single arrow missed its aim, thougli they all shot at an elevated range. Interested by these proofs of their archery, I went with some of them into a wood 10 see them shoot at birds; though there were very few they discovered them far more quickly than I could; and, cautiously creeping along until they were within bow-shot, never failed to bring down their game. The stilloess. and expedition with which they penetrated the thickets, and passed through the brush-wood, were truly surprising. Their bows are made of the tough fibrous wood of the iri, six or seven feet long, and very stout; their arrows are full six feet long, and pear an inch in diameter, pointed with a piece of cane cut to a feather edge, or with a bone, but of late more frequently with iron. They are loathsome in their persons, and in their habits but one remove from the anthropophagi; for they will devour almost any animal in the coarsest manner; for instance,

a bird unplucked, half roasted, with the entrails remaining. Ere they - departed, I saw an instance of that dangerous excess to which the

passions of savages are liable when once excited; for, on presenting a few bottles of liquor there was a general strife for them, and the persob, man or woman, who first obtained one, would have drank the whole of its contents, had it not been forcibly taken away. It is very unsafe to give them ardent spirits, for when intoxicated it is necessary to confine them. If preferen

lf preference is given to one, the rest are insolent and unruly until they obtain the same marks of favour. They are not of a shy or morose character, but have a great aversion to labour, and cannot be brought to submit to any regular employment. Rarely is an Indian to be found serving as a domestic, or working for hire, and to this circumstance may be ascribed the low state of agriculture in the district ; for as the farmers, when they begin the world, have seldom funds sufficient to purchase negroes at Rio, their operations are for a long time very confined, and frequently languish for want of hands."

The mode of travelling in this country is nearly on a level with the manners of its inhabitants. Beds are an indispensable part of a traveller's equipage, and candles are scarcely less requisite, un

less he be prepared to sit down contented with the cheerless gloom of a solitary lamp. As to snuffers, they are seldom seen, except as a curiosity. Wbat else can be expected in a country which is cultivated only in small and distant spots? Here are no enclosures, no artificial grasses, no provision of fodder against the season of scarcity. The want of suitable buildings makes the settler frequently throw into promiscuous heaps products of a totally different nature; cotton, coffee, maize and beans, being frequently piled under the same shed. Their dairies, if such they may be called, are managed in a very slovenly manner; the little butter which they make becoming rancid in a few days. Pigs, which form the principal animal food of the inhabitants, are nourished on Indian corn in a crude state. Of this grain the average return is not less than two hundred for one, and it ripens in the course of four or five months. The mandioca is seldom ready to take up in less than eighteen or twenty months; by which time it produces, on a suitable soil, from six to twelve pounds weight per plant. To make it serve as a substitute for bread, little preparation is required, as it will keep a long time, and affords rich nourishment.

Abundant as are the gifts of nature in this favoured soil and climate, a striking contrast is afforded, at almost every step, by the state of artificial accommodations. The farm houses are miserable horels, of a single story in height; the floor is neither paved nor boarded; and the walls and partitions are formed of wicker work, plastered with mud. The kitchen is generally a dirty apartment, having, on one side, pools of slop-water, and, on the other, fireplaces rudely formed by three round stones put together in such a way as to hold the earthen pots used for boiling meat. Where they have no chimney, which is often the case, the smoke can find an issue only throngh the doors and other apertures. He who travels through Brazil musi, therefore, be contented to look for his chief gratification from external objects.

From a region thus newly settled and thinly peopled, our countrymen, bad they been well informed, would not have expected an extensive consumption of British manufactures. Yet, after the enigration of the royal family from Lisbon, our merchants poured in cargo on cargo, as if the market of Brazil knew no limits. Never was the cxiggerated estimate, which we are apt to form of distant objects, more surprisingly exemplified. The civilized population of Brazil, which is fitted to use and able to pay for European goods, may amount to half a million, and the warehouses of Rio de Janeiro are adapted to the limited supply which they require: but our vessels succeeded each other with a rapidity which surpassed the means of accommodation both in the town and the custom-house, and made it necessary to pile our goods along the beach. Prices fell forthwith one hundred per cent.; and the deceitful practice of selling goods, apparently damaged, on the account of the insurer, was often adopted. This fraud, so inuch dreaded at Lloyd's, and so little comprehended by persons out of business, becomes practicable to a great extent in a town which possesses few respectable merchants. The insurer being, by the terms of his contract, bound to make good all loss arising from damage, a fraudulent merchant can often, in the case of an unfavourable market, ascribe to damage the diminished price which was in fact produced by a very different cause. The safety of the underwriter consists chiefly in the respectability of the gentlemen who are called to examine the ostensible damage ; and hence the disadvantage under which he labours in a country that is not likely to afford witnesses of undoubted character.

The immense loss on our shipments to Brazil arose from a double cause : the ridiculous excess of quantity, and the still more ridiculous unfitness of many of the articles for the intended market:

“ One speculator, of wonderful foresight, sent large invoices of stays for ladies who never heard of such armour; apother seat skates, for the use of a people who are totally uninformed that water can become ice; a third sent out a considerable assortment of the most elegant coffin furoiture, not knowing that coffins are never used by the Brazilians, or in the Plata. To these absurd speculations may be added numerous others, particularly in articles of taste : elegant services of cut glass were little appreciated by men accustomed to driuk out of a hora or a cocoa-nut shell; and brilliant chandeliers were still less valued in a country where only lamps that afforded a gloomy light were used. Superfine woollen cloths were equally ill suited to the market; no one thought them sufficiently strong. Au immense quantity of high priced saddles, and thousands of whips, were set out to a people as incapable of adopting them as they were of knowing their convenience. They were astonished to see Englishmen ride on such saddles; nor could they imagine any thing more insecure. Of the bridles scarcely any use could be made, as the bit was ont calculated to keep the horse or mule in subordination : these articles were of course sacri. ficed. Great quantities of the nails and ironmongery were useless, as they were not calculated for the general purposes of the people. Large cargoes of Manchester goods were sent; and, in a few months, more arrived than had been consumed in the course of twenty years preceding. No discrimination was used in the assortment of these articles, with respect either to quality or fineness, so that common prints were disposed of at less than a shilling a ird, aud frequently ia barter. Fish from Newfoundland met with a similar fate; also porter, large quantities of which, in barrels, arrived among a people, of whom a few only had tasted that article as a luxury. How the shippers in London, and other British ports, could imagine that porter would at once become a general beverage, it is difficult to conceive, especially when sent in barrels. These cargoes, being unsaleable, were of course warehoused, and of course spoiled. Many jovoices of fancy goods, and such as do pot constitute a staple trade, were sold at from sixty to seventy per cent. under costs and charges, and others were totally lost. What must have been the delusions of those traders who sent out tools, formed with a hatchel on one side and a hammer on the other, for the conveniency of breaking the rocks, and cutting the precious metals from them, as if they imagined that a man had only to go into the mountains, and cut as much gold as would pay for the articles he wanted !"

This evil led to another of equal magnitude: a ruinous loss by the Brazil produce received in barter. The young men, who were sent out in such numbers from England as supercargoes, found themselves placed in a new sphere, and were obliged to take goods in return, of the quality of which they were unfitted to judge. Hides and Brazil-wood are principal articles of export from this part of the world: but, with regard to hides the English purchaser was ill qualified to discern the injury received in the drying; and as to wood, he learned when too late, that the kind growing around Rio de Janeiro is greatly inferior to that of Pernambuco, on which the favourable character of Brazil wood has been founded. Other objects of speculation proved still more unfavourable:

“ Precious stones appeared to offer the niost abundant source of riches; the general calculation was made upon the price at which they sold io London; but every trader brought them, more or less, at the price at which they were offered; invoices of goods were bartered for some, wbich in London would sell for, comparatively, a trifle, as they were taken without discrimination as to quality or perfection ; tourmalines were sold for emeralds, crystals for topazes, and both common stones and vitreous paste have been bought as diamonds to a considerable amount. Both gold and diamonds were well known to be produced in Brazil ; and their being by law contraband, was a sufficient temptation to eager speculators who had never before seen either in their native state. False diamonds were weighed with scrupulousness, and bought with avidity, to sell by the rules stated by Jefferies. Gold dust, as it is commonly called, appeared in no inconsiderable quantity, and, after being weighed with equal exactness, was bought or bartered for. But previous to this many samples underwent the following easy and ingenious process: The brass pans purchased of the English were filed, and mixed with the gold in the proportion of from five to ten per cent. according to the opinion which the seller formed of the sagacity of the person with whom he had to deal: and thus, by a simple contrivance, some of our countrymen repurchased at three or four guineus per ounce the very article which they had before sold at 23. 6d. per pound.”

Amid this scene of folly and misfortune, numerous litigations could not fail to arise ; and it is a consolation to reflect that, as far as the interference of the Portuguese governor and the British ambassador could go, the evil was prevented from expanding in its course. A judge of great respectability was appointed for the determination of all cases concerning the English; and the latter, in consideration of being strangers, were allowed certain privileges, similar to those of the nobility of Portugal. They were permitted to claim the occupancy of such houses as could be spared, exempted from rise of rent, and indulged with long delay in cases of embarrassment in their affairs. Hence arose a current saying among the Portuguese, “that to live comfortably in Brazil it was necessary to become an Englishunan.”-So great was the overstock of British goods, and such the miserable fall in their value, that, for one fourth part of the quantity sent to Brazil, we should have obtained an equal return by keeping the market at a fair and steady rate.” A recurrence of this evil may be prevented by carefully attending to the articles which are adapted to the consumption of the country, and which may be thus enumerated: hard-ware, low-priced cotton goods, hats, boots, shoes, earthen-ware, glass, cheap furniture, shot, drugs, fancy articles, common woollen cloths, and salt either from Liverpool or the Cape de Verd islands. A time will arrive, and is probably fast approaching, when the intercourse of Rio de Janeiro with India will be greatly increased: it may become a kind of half-way station between Europe and Asia : and if Brazil on the one hand be freed from the colonial restrictions of the Portuguese, while India on the other is laid open to the enterprise of British merchants, we may safely conclude that the extension of trade would proceed with great rapidity.

Having this adverted to the state of agriculture and of foreign trade in Brazil, we come next to a description of a branch of industry almost peculiar to that country, viz. the manner of working, or rather of washing, the gold mines. The soil containing particles of this treasure is generally a loose, gravel-like stratuin, incumbent on granite. This ground is cut into steps twenty and thirty feet in length, two or three feet broad, and about one foot deep. At the bottom of what we might term a flight of such steps, a trench is cut to the depth of two or three feet: water is then let in from higher ground, and on each step are placed six or seven negroes, who, as the water flows gently down, keep the earth continually in motion with shovels. Ainid the soil thus stirred and carried down as mud to the lower trench, the particles of gold descend, and are, by their weight, precipitated to the bottom. This operation continues for several days, workmen being in the meanwhile employed at the trench to re

VOL. IV. Nerv Series. 46

« PreviousContinue »