« PreviousContinue »
universally the case, several feet from the ground. The farm of the bazar here sells for 300 Rs. per mensem ; the farmer, as at Maulamyne, levying a tax on the articles brought for sale. The Tavoyers are a different people from the Burmans, and may be said to speak a distinct language. They had the reputation under the Burman Government of being a riotous and rebellious set, and were kept with a strict hand. When they went to other towns they were obliged to quarter themselves in a particular spot, from whence they were not allowed to be absent between sunset and sunrise. Hence a suburb of Maulamyne is still called Tavoy-zoo, and there is, or was, I am informed, one so named at Rangoon.
The principal trade of Tavoy is carried on by the Chinese junks and Burman boats, which carry the staple produce, rice, to Penang. There is also a small trade with Rangoon and Maulamyne. Tavoy is only 15 days'journey, partly by water, from Bankok, the capital of Siam ; yet from the jealousy of the Siamese Government in excluding foreigners, little or no trade is carried on. A few Siamese come yearly and bring brass cups, gold leaf, and false hair, which the Burman women wear at the back of the head. Tavoy is celebrated for the manufacture of Burman musical instruments, the chief of which are the harp, the mee-gyoung, (in the shape of a crocodile, with three strings along the back) the patala, a sort of harmonicon made of bamboos and played with sticks, and a threestringed fiddle, precisely the same in form as the European violin, and must have been borrowed from the Portuguese who settled on this coast more than two centuries ago.
The hills East of the town contain tin, which was formerly used for coining by the Burman Government. The mines are not now worked. There is a race of people inhabiting the hills on the eastern frontier called Karens. They extend as far north as the Delta of the Irrawaddi, differing frequently in dialect, but being every where, substantially the same people. They are of a fair complexion, and stoutly made, like all mountaineers. They dress differently from the Burmans, and have a different language and religion. In all the various conflicts for this territory, they appear to have remained a secluded, though not an unmolested people. The Siamese used to make frequent forrays into the Karen villages subject to Burmah ; and the Burmans were not backward in making plundering excursions among the Karens subject to Siam. They cultivate rice in the hills, but appear seldom to remain above one season on the same spot. They used to reap their crop, and depart to seek a new home, hoping perhaps thereby to elude the search of their plunderers. Such was the state of these people until a few years ago, when they attracted the attention of an American missionary, the Revd. Mr. Boardman, who, in the true spirit of philanthropy, went among them, sought to reclaim them from their savage mode of life, and to impart to them the arts and blessings of civilization. At length worn out by his exertions, he fell a victim to his zeal in the cause of religion and humanity. The fruits of his labour have now sprung up. When Mr. Boardman first went among them, they were ignorant of the use of letters. The Burman character has been adapted to their language by the Missionaries, and a school established in Tavoy where their children are educated. Two hundred have been admitted to baptism, and a hundred more are now candidates for that holy ordinance. The beautiful spectacle is now presented in the midst of these wilds, of Karens living peaceably and permanently in villages; and from the protection afforded them by the British Government, no longer fearful of invasion and plunder. The Karens are taxed by families. Those on the hills pay 10 Rs. per annum ; those living on the banks of rivers in the plains, pay 12 Rs., as they can bring their grain and other produce to market with facility. They have no other imposts. One peculiar source of revenue which Tavoy possesses, is that of the well-known edible bird's-nests, which are taken from the caves of a rocky isle off the coast. They are found adhering to the perpendicular surface of the rock, far above the level of the water. The plunder of these used formerly to be a favourite and lucrative pursuit with the Malay pirates. The farm of the nests produce 12,000 Rs. per annum to Government. They are exported to Penang, whence they find their way to China. In Tavoy the cultivation of the Pernambuco cotton has been tried, and the plant thrives remarkably well ; yet the efforts to promote the extension of it has hitherto been fruitless, in consequence of the constant destruction of the pods by a worm or insect. The climate appears to be favourable to the plant. Some trees have borne very fine crops for four successive years. This year it is being tried in Amherst Province, on the banks of the river. The Sea-island cotton might perhaps thrive in the Mergui archipelago, but it has not yet been attempted.
Mergui is the southernmost province. The town of that name is in lat 12° 27' N. and a hundred miles from Tavoy by land. It is called by the Burmans Beit, the name of Mer-gye being given by them to an island further south. The town is delightfully situated on the sea shore. The Burman houses, raised as usual, court the flowing waves; while the few European houses are on high ground immediately in the rear. Opposite to the town, and separated from it by a narrow strait, is an island, which breaks the violence of the S. W. monsoon. From a hill on its southern extremity, an extensive view may be had of the coast, which is gemmed with innumerable isles, rising abruptly from a dark blue sea. The number of them quite bewilders the spectator. In a harbour of an adjoining island, the French frigates are said formerly to have sheltered during the boisterous S. W. monsoon, from whence they issued forth on the return of fine weather, and pounced upon the British merchant-men in the Bay. The Portuguese had formerly a factory at Mergui, founded perhaps by the fol. lowers of Albuquerque from the Straits of Malacca. Their descendants are stlil numerous. They have adopted the Burman dress and habits ; but most of them, though for a long time severed from all European connection, still preserve the language of their forefathers. There is a French Padre at present here as their Pastor, detached for that purpose from the Siamese mission. They have a neat church. The town of Mergui contains about 6,000 inhabitants, and the villages of the province 6,000 more. There is to be procured here sapan-wood, red-wood, lance-wood, satin-wood, tin ore, and tortoiseshell. The latter is brought by Burman traders from the Saloun islands, which are 3 days’ pull to the South. Tortoise-shell sells in Mergui for 25 to 30 Rs. per viss. (33 lb). In islands to the south the edible bird's-nests are found ; the caves are farmed out as before described. The troops at Mergui are one company of native infantry, and a small party of Europeans.
The population of the Tenasserim provinces being comparatively scanty, “the duties of the civil offices are light compared with those of a Magistrate and Collector in Upper India. The population is too thin, and the location of it too recent, to permit the existence of those fertile sources of quarrel in Hindustan—village boundary disputes. There is no frightful file of arrears of civil suits. There are no Mooktears surrounding the
Total about 100,000.
courts, and urging on their clients to go to law. It is the custom in common quarrels and disputes, for the Magistrate to grant a previous hearing of the case, and if he see no reason for granting a summons, to advise the complaining party to go “and be reconciled with his neighbour,” instead of putting himself to the trouble and expense (though the latter is trifling) of coming into court. Instances have occurred of native officers bringing money which had been offered to them as a bribe. But the Commissioner is so open to the complaints of the people that an act of injustice or bribery on the part of the native officers, could scarcely pass uncomplained of and undetected. The comparative paucity of cases, and consequently the attention which can be devoted to the investigation of them, compared with what a Magistrate in India can give, is doubtless one reason ; but the chief cause is, the easy access of the people to the Commissioner. There are no chuprassees round the gates of his house who require a fee before they will permit a petitioner to enter. Neither are they at the kutcherree door to demand the “oil of palms" as an indispensable preliminary to an audience. The people can make their complaints to the Commissioner, or his assistants, at their houses or on the public road, without any danger of being seized and beaten as insolent intruders. The business of the courts is carried on in the Burmese language, in which the evidence is recorded. The assessment of the land is light; the prosperity of the cultivator being regarded as the best interest of Government; nor do I think that even the FR I e ND to INDIA would be able to trace here the zealous exactions of “a first-rate settlement officer.” The blessings of a mirkh are unknown in the bazars. Every man, or rather every woman, (for the women are the chief traffickers) takes her goods to market, and charges what she sees fit; prices thus find their level. All that is wanting to raise the importance and prosperity of Tenasserim, is a population to clear and cultivate her extensive forests. The gross amount of the revenue collected in the three provinces is, I believe, four lakhs of Rs. per annum ; the total expenditure, civil and military, nearly twelve lakhs. The military establishment is disproportionately large, in consequence of the peculiar isolated position of these provinces, surrounded as they are on three sides by foreign states; with one of which, (Siam) we have no regular intercourse, and no resident at its court. The provinces are at the same time cut off from any direct support from the rest of British India. A corps of Talains, for local duties, was lately attempted to be raised ; but Government would not sanction the high rate of pay which they required, the project therefore was abandoned. In consequence of the heavy expenditure beyond the revenue collected, there must be a great accumulation of specie among the Burmans. A part of their money is spent in silk cloths of Ava manufacture, which are very expensive, and a small proportion in English cottons and muslins for the head dress. All Burmans are fond of dressing smartly. The superiority of their clothes, and the comfort of their houses on this coast, as compared with those of the same classes in Hindustan, immediately strike a new comer. The Burmans possess in an eminent degree the elements of becoming a superior people to the surrounding nations. They have few prejudices and no cast. They are brave; they have great energy of mind and body; and possess what may be called a desirable quality in an uncivilized people, namely, great curiosity. They are an independent set of men, and have an open, free bearing, though perfectly respectful in their demeanor to their superiors. I speak of the people under our Government. I do not mean to say that in the Burman Empire there is not to be found the same chicanery and disregard
to truth which unhappily prevails in India; but I do say, that the Burmans appear to have a greater capacity for improvement than their neighbours. Fewer difficulties and prejudices lie in their way; they are not encased in the impenetrable armour of caste ; under a good Government, with the blessing of education, their many good qualities will be turned to account. Had we possessed any considerable portion of thickly populated territory in Burmah, (Rangoon for instance and the surrounding country,) for one half the time we have been in Bengal, the English and Burmans would by this time have become an united people. The women of rank would have mingled in European society, and the intermarrying of Europeans with respectable Burman families, would have cemented our hold on the country, and the affections of the people. We should not have been the isolated, separated set we are in India. Perhaps no Englishman can associate freely with any person unless he eats in company with him. A Burman is not backward in doing justice to the good cheer of an European. A capital understanding exists between the European soldiers and the Burmans. The former go to the market without knowing a word of the language of the latter, but from mutual confidence a bargain is soon struck. The food of the labouring classes consists of rice, fish and gnapee ; the latter is salted fish, mashed into a paste, the odour of the commonest sort of which is not very agreeable to an European. All the fruits of Bengal are found here in perfection, with the exception of the mangoe, which is inferior. The Coast also produces in addition, the doreean and mangosteen ; the latter grows only at Mergui. The wild plantain is found here; it has scarcely any pulp, being filled with large black seeds. The cultivated plantains have a superior flavour to those of Bengal. The best fish found on the coast are the pomfret, sole and sea mullet; oysters are also abundant. The mangoe-fish are inferior to those of the Hooghly.
Of the temperature of the provinces I can say but little. The S. W. monsoon sets in about the middle of May. The rain is heavy and almost incessant. The air is then cool but the confinement to the house is tedious. Notwithstanding the excessive dampness of the atmosphere, the climate is very healthy as is shewn by the few patients in the European hospital, when compared with that of any station in Bengal or the Upper Provinces. During the months of August and September I found at Maulamyne, that while rain continued constant, the thermometer ranged between the hours of 8 A. M. and 4 P. M. from 73° to 78°. If the weather chanced to clear for a day or two, it would rise to 85° or 86°: but this was not often. During October when the rain moderated, the thermometer generally stood at 8 a. M. 76° and at 4 P. M. 80°. In November, when there was a little rain during the early part of the month, the average at 8 A. M. was 74° and 84° at 4 P. M. In Tavoy during January the range of the thermometer was generally from 58° or 60° at sunrise to 84° or 85° during the warmest part of the day. Hot nights are not known on the coast, and a blanket is sometimes necessary during the rainy season. There is said to be very warm weather throughout the provinces during
March, April, and the beginning of May; but I was not on the coast during those months. A. P.