Volume 11, Chapter 13, Section 10 -- Some Account of the Governments of Amboina, Banda, Macasser, the Moluccas, Mallacca, and the Cape of Good Hope.
The third government under the East India Company is that of Amboina, one of the Molucca islands, which was formerly the seat of the governor-general till the building of Batavia, when it was transferred there on account of its advantageous situation, in the centre of the company's trade and settlements, while Amboina lay too far to the east. The island of Java also is vastly more fertile than Amboina, producing all the necessaries of life in abundance, so that it has no dependence for provisions on any other country, while they had provisions to search for in all other places, at the time when the government was established at Amboina.
This island is one of the largest of the Moluccas, being situated in the Archipelago of St. Lazarus, in lat. 3 40' S. and long. 128° 30' E. 21° 30'. or 430 marine leagues east from Batavia. It was conquered in 1519 by the Portuguese, who built a fort there to keep the inhabitants under subjection, and to facilitate the conquest of all the adjacent islands. This fort was taken by the Dutch in 1605, but they did not entirely reduce the whole island of Amboina and the neighbouring islands till 1627, by which conquest they acquired entire possession of the clove trade, whence these islands are termed the gold-mine of the company, owing to the vast profit they draw from them, and it is so far superior to other gold-mines, that there is no fear of these islands being ever exhausted of that commodity.
A pound weight of cloves or nutmegs, for the company has the entire monopoly of both, does not in fact cost the company much more than a half-penny, and everyone knows at what rate the spices are sold in Europe. Amboina is the centre of all this rich commerce; and to keep it more effectually in the hands of the company, all the clove-trees in the other islands are grubbed up and destroyed; and sometimes, when the harvest is very large at Amboina, a part even of its superfluous produce is burnt.
This valuable spice grows only in Amboina and the other five Molucca islands, and in the islands of Meao, Cinomo, Cabel, and Marigoran. The Indians call cloves calafoor, while the inhabitants of the Moluccas call them chinke. The clove-tree is much like the laurel, but its leaves are narrower, resembling those of the almond and willow. Even the wood and leaves taste almost as strong as the cloves themselves. These trees bear a great quantity of branches and flowers, and each flower produces a single clove.
The flowers are at first white, then green, and at last grow red and pretty hard, and are properly the cloves. While green, their smell is sweet and comfortable, beyond all other flowers. When ripe, the cloves are of a yellow colour, but after being gathered and dried, they assume a smoky and black hue. In gathering, they tie a rope round each bough, and strip off the whole of its produce by force, which violence injures the tree for the next year, but it bears more than ever in the following season. Others beat the trees with long poles, as we do walnut-trees, when the cloves fall down on cloths spread on the ground to receive them.
The trees bear more fruit than leaves, the fruit hanging from the trees like cherries. Such cloves as are sold in the Indies are delivered just as procured from the trees, mixed with their stalks, and with dust and dirt; but such as are to be transported to Holland are carefully cleaned and freed from the stalks. If left ungathered on the tree, they grow large and thick, and are then termed mother-cloves, which the Javanese value more than the others, but the Dutch prefer the ordinary cloves.
No care is ever taken in propagating or planting clove-trees, as the cloves which fall to the ground produce them in abundance, and the rains make them grow so fast that they give fruit in eight years, continuing to bear for more than an hundred years after. Some are of opinion that the clove-tree does not thrive close to the sea, nor when too far removed; but seamen who have been on the island assert that they are found everywhere, on the mountains, in the vallies, and quite near the sea.
They ripen from the latter end of August to the beginning of January. Nothing whatever grows below or near these trees, neither grass, herb, or weed, as their heat draws all the moisture and nourishment of the soil to themselves. Such is the hot nature of cloves, that when a sackful of them is laid over a vessel of water, some of the water is very soon wasted, but the cloves are no way injured. When a pitcher of water is left in a room in which cloves are cleaned, all the water is consumed in two days, although even the cloves have been removed.
Cloves are preserved in sugar, forming an extraordinary good confection. They are also pickled. Many Indian women chew cloves to give them a sweet breath. A very sweet-smelling water is distilled from green cloves, which is excellent for strengthening the eyes, by putting a drop or two into the eyes. Powder of cloves laid upon the head cures the headache; and used inwardly, increases urine, helps digestion, and is good against a diarrhoea; and drunk in milk, procures sleep.
A few days after the cloves are gathered, they are collected together and dried before the fire in bundles, by which operation they lose their natural beautiful red colour, changing into a deep purple or black. This is perhaps partly owing to their being sprinkled with water, which is said to be necessary for preventing worms from getting into them. Those persons who are sent for this commodity in the company's ships, practise a fraud of this nature, in order to conceal their thefts:
For, having abstracted a certain quantity or proportion from the cloves received on board, they place two or three hogsheads of sea-water among those remaining, which is all sucked up in a few days by the cloves, which that recover their former weight. By this contrivance, the captain and merchant or supercargo agreeing together, find a way to cheat the company out of part of this valuable commodity. Yet this fraud, though easy and expeditious, is extremely dangerous, as when detected it is invariably punished with death, and the company never want [[=lack]] spies. Owing to this, cloves are commonly enough called galgen kruid, or gallows-spice, as frequently bringing men to an ill end.
The king of Amboina has a pension from the company, and a guard of European soldiers, maintained at its expense. The inhabitants of the island are of middle stature, and of black complexions, being all extremely lazy and given to thieving; yet some of them are very ingenious, and have a singular art of working up the cloves while green into a variety of curious toys, as small ships or houses, crowns, and such like, which are annually sent to Europe as presents, and are much esteemed.
Those of the Amboinese who acknowledge the authority of the king are Mahomedans, but there are many idolaters who live in the mountains, and maintain their independence, considering themselves as free men; but the king and the Hollanders reckon them savages; and as they are guilty of frequent robberies and murders, they are always reduced to slavery when caught, and are treated with the utmost rigour, and employed in the hardest labour. On this account a most excessive hatred subsists between them and the other inhabitants of the island, with whom they are perpetually at war, and to whom they hardly ever give quarter. Their arms are bucklers; swords, and javelins or pikes.
The garrison kept in the fort of Amboina is numerous, and constantly maintained in excellent order, being composed of the best troops in the company's service. The fort is so strong, both by nature and art, as to be reckoned impregnable, and so effectually commands the harbour that no vessel can possibly go in or out without being sunk by its cannon. Although the rich commerce in cloves might make a sufficient return to the company for the charges of this island, yet of late years coffee has been ordered to be cultivated here, and is likely to turn out to advantage.
While this island was under the government of Mr. Barnard, it was discovered that considerable quantities of gold-dust were washed down by the torrents in some parts of the mountains, and by tracing up the auriferous streams to their sources, the mine has at last been found. Amboina also produces a red kind of wood which is both beautiful and durable, and is naturally embellished in its grain with abundance of curious figures. Of this wood they make tables, cabinets, writing-desks, and other beautiful pieces of furniture, which are sent as presents to the principal persons in the government, the rest being sold at extravagant prices all over India.
The fourth government under the company is Banda, an island about fifty leagues from Amboina towards the east, and to the southward of the Moluccas. The governor, who is generally an eminent merchant, resides at Nera, the capital of the country, and has several other neighbouring islands under his jurisdiction, in the government of all which he is assisted by a council, as at Amboina. In some representations sent home, and published by the company, this island is set forth as being very expensive to the company, and so thinly inhabited as to take off very little goods, while it is so barren as to require large supplies of provisions.
All this is pure artifice; for though Banda is a very small island in
comparison with Amboina, being only about twelve leagues in circumference,
it certainly affords as great profits, which arise from the important commerce
in nutmegs, which grow here in such prodigious quantities as to enable
the Dutch company to supply all the markets in Europe.
This admirable and much-valued fruit grows in no other part of the world except Banda and a few other small islands in its neighbourhood, named Orattan, Guimanasa, Wayer, Pulo-wai, and Pulo-rion. The nutmeg-tree is much like a peach-tree, but the leaves are shorter and rounder. The fruit is at first covered by two skins or shells, the outer one being tough and as thick as one's finger, which falls off when the fruit ripens.
This outer rind when candied has a fine taste and flavour. When this falls off, the next is a fine smooth skin or peel, which is the mace, or flower of the nutmeg; and below this is a harder and blackish shell, much like that of a walnut; and on opening this shell, the nutmeg is found within, being the kernel. The mace is at first of a fine scarlet colour; but when ripe, it falls off the shell, and is then of an orange colour, as it comes to Europe.
They preserve whole nutmegs in sugar, which make the best sweetmeat in India. The Bandanese call nutmegs palla, and mace buaa-palla. There are two sorts of nutmegs; the one being of a long shape, called males, and the other round and reddish, called females, which latter have better taste and flavour than the other. When gathered and the mace carefully preserved, the shells are removed and the nutmegs dried, being first thrown among quicklime, as otherwise worms would breed in and destroy them.
There are several islands in the neighbourhood of Banda in which the nutmeg-trees grow, but these are carefully destroyed every year, which at first sight may seem extraordinary, as, if once destroyed, one would imagine they would never grow again. But they are annually carried by birds to these islands. Some persons allege that the birds disgorge them undigested, while others assert that they pass through in the ordinary manner, still retaining their vegetative power. This bird resembles a cuckoo, and is called the nutmeg-gardener by the Dutch, who prohibit their subjects from killing any of them on pain of death.
The nutmeg is a sovereign remedy for strengthening the brain and memory, for warming the stomach, sweetening the breath, and promoting urine; it is also good against flatulence, diarrhoea, head-ache, pain of the stomach, heat of the liver, and amenorrhoea. Oil of nutmegs is a powerful cordial. Mace is an effectual remedy for weakness of the stomach, helps digestion, expels bad humours, and cures flatulence. A plaster of mace and nutmegs in powder, and diluted with rose-water, greatly strengthens the stomach.
Being peculiar to Banda, merchants from Java, Malucca, China, and all parts of the Indies, come to Nera and the other towns of Banda to purchase mace and nutmegs; and immediately on their arrival, they all purchase wives to keep house for them and dress their victuals during their stay, which is usually two or three months, and when they go away again, they give liberty to these temporary wives to go where they please.
The island of Banda is very hilly, yet fertile, the government among the natives being a kind of commonwealth, administered by the Mahomedan priests, who are very strict and severe. The population of the whole island may be about 12,000 persons of all ages, of whom about 4000 are fighting men. It is so well fortified as to be deemed impregnable, yet there is always a numerous squadron of small vessels on the coast for farther security. The garrison is numerous, but in a worse condition than those of any other garrison belonging to the company, owing to the scarcity of victuals, as the island is of a barren sandy soil, wherefore the soldiers eat dogs, cats, and any other animal they can find.
For six months of the year they have tolerable abundance of turtle or sea-tortoises, and after this they are glad to get a little sorry fish, now and then. Their bread is made from the juice of a tree, which resembles the grounds of beer when first drawn, but grows as hard as a stone when dried: Yet when put into water, it swells and ferments, and so becomes fit to eat, at least in this country, where nothing else is to be had.[2[
Butter, rice, dried fish, and other provisions, are all imported from Batavia, and are much too dear to be purchased by the soldiers, at least in any great plenty. Thus the inhabitants are none of the happiest; but to do them justice, they live fully as well as they deserve, as there is not an honest man on the island.
According to the Dutch, the original natives of this island were so cruel, perfidious and intractable, that they were forced to root them out in a great measure for their own security, and to send a Dutch colony to occupy the island: But such a colony as has not much mended the matter, being entirely composed of a rascally good-for-nothing people, who were either content to come, or were sentenced to be sent here, almost to starve, not being able to live elsewhere.
Their misery at this place does not continue long, as they are usually soon carried off by the dry gripes or twisting of the guts, which is the endemic, or peculiar, disease of the country. Hence, and because wild young fellows are sometimes sent here by their relations, the Dutch at Batavia usually call this Verbeetering Island, or the Island of Correction.
Macasser, or the island of Celebes, is considered as the fourth best government after Batavia. This island lies between Borneo and the Moluccas, 260 leagues or 13° E. from Batavia. It is a singularly irregular island, consisting in a manner of four long peninsular processes, two projecting eastwards, and two towards the south, reaching from lat. 1° 30' N. to 5° 45' S. and from long. 119° to 125° 20', both E. It is called, and with great reason, the key of the spice islands, and the form of its government is much the same as in the other islands, consisting of a governor and council.
Since the Dutch conquered these islands from the Portuguese, they have carefully fortified the sea-coast, and have always a very numerous garrison in the fort of Macasser, where the governor resides; which is particularly necessary, as the island is very populous, and the natives are beyond comparison the bravest and best soldiers in India. This nation long gave inexpressible trouble to the Dutch, but was at length subdued, and stands now in as much awe of the company as any other nation: But till very lately, the expenses of the troops at this place were so large, that the company derived very little gain from the conquest, although the slave-trade here is very profitable.
Before the last Macasser war, which ended in the entire subjugation of the prince of this country, he was able to procure great quantities of mace, nutmegs, and cloves, which he sold to the English and other nations, at much more reasonable rates than they could procure them from the Dutch. For which reason the Dutch were at great pains and expense to reduce this island to entire subjection, that it might become the bulwark of the Moluccas, and secure their monopoly of the spice-trade: But, for similar reasons, the other European powers ought to have supported the king of Macasser in his independence.
The island of Celebes is very fertile, and produces abundance of rice, and articles of great value in the Indies. The inhabitants are of middle stature, and have yellow complexions, with good features, and are of brisk and active dispositions: But are naturally thieves, traitors, and murderers to such a degree that it is not safe for an European to venture beyond the walls of the fort after dark, or to travel at any time far into the country, lest he be robbed and murdered.
Yet many of the natives live under the protection of the Dutch forts, being free burgesses, who carry on considerable trade. There are also a considerable number of Chinese residents, who sail from hence in vessels of their own to all parts of the company's dominions, and who acquire immense wealth by means of extensive commerce.
The inland country is under the dominion of three different princes, who, fortunately for the Dutch, are in continual opposition to each other; for if united, they might easily drive the Dutch from the island. One of these princes is styled the Company's King, as he lives in good correspondence with the Dutch, and promotes their interest as far as he can. On this account the Dutch make him presents of considerable value from time to time, such as gold chains, golden coronets set with precious stones, and the like, in order to keep him steady in his allegiance, and to prevent him from uniting with the other two princes of the island.
Some little time before the arrival of Roggewein at Batavia, a rich gold-mine was discovered in Celebes, to which a director and a great number of workmen were sent from Batavia; but how far this has been attended with success, our author was unable to say.
Ternate is the fifth government at the disposal of the company, and the farthest east of all belonging to the Dutch dominions in India, so that it is a kind of frontier. The governor is always a merchant, and has a council, like all the others already mentioned. This is one of the largest of the Molucca islands, and the king of Ternate is the most valuable of all the allies of the company; as although his island would abound in cloves, he causes them to be rooted out annually, for which the company allows him a pension of eighteen or twenty thousand rix dollars yearly. He has likewise a numerous life-guard, with a very strong fort well garrisoned, all at the expence of the company. The kings of Tidore and Bachian are his tributaries.
Ternate is very fertile, and abounds in all sorts of provisions, and in everything that can contribute to the ease and happiness of life; yet its commerce is of no great importance, hardly amounting to as much as is necessary to defray the charges of the government. It was at this time, however, expected to turn out to better account, as a rich gold-mine had been recently discovered. The natives are a middle-sized people, strong and active, more faithful than their neighbours, and better affected towards the Europeans. In religion they are mostly Mahometans or Pagans; but of late many of them had become Christians, chiefly occasioned by their king having declared himself of that religion, a point of great consequence towards the conversion of the people.
The inhabitants of Ternate make a species of palm wine, called Seggeweer, which is excessively strong. There are here many most beautiful birds, having feathers of all sorts of colours, charmingly diversified, which are sent to Batavia, where they are sold at high prices on account of their beauty and docility, as they may be taught to sing finely, and to imitate the human voice. Many Birds-of-Paradise are also brought from this island. There are several sorts of these birds. The most common kind is yellow, having small bodies, about eight inches long exclusive of the tail, which is half a yard long, and sometimes more. The second kind is red, the third blue, and the fourth black. These last are the most beautiful and most in request, being called the King of the Birds-of-Paradise. This kind has a crown or tuft of feathers on the top of its head, which lies flat or is raised up at pleasure. In this they resemble the cadocus or cockatoo, a bird entirely white, with a yellow crown on its head.
The sixth government is Malacca, which city is the capital of a small kingdom of the same name, inhabited by Malayans or Malays. The governor here is a merchant, and is assisted by a council like all the others. This kingdom of Malacca is the south part of the peninsula of India beyond the Ganges, being divided from the island of Sumatra by a strait named the strait of Malacca. This city is of considerable size, and carries on an extensive commerce, for which it is admirably situated, and is the storehouse or emporium of all that part of India.
It is also the rendezvous of all the homeward-bound ships from Japan, which make at this place a distribution of their merchandise into various assortments, which are sent from hence to all the settlements of the company in India. It is however subject to the great inconvenience of scarcity of provisions, having nothing of that kind except various sorts of fish. The princes of the adjacent countries and their subjects are all notorious pirates, and give much disturbance to the trade of India; but are particularly inimical to the Dutch company, and omit no opportunity of doing all the evil in their power to its subjects.
These people suffered formerly some severe reverses from the Portuguese, who were formerly established here, and since from their successors the Dutch, which has gradually reduced their power, so that they are now much less able to carry on their depredations. The natives of Malacca are of a very dark complexion, but brisk and active, and greatly addicted to thieving. Some are idolaters, but they are mostly Mahometans.
When the Portuguese were masters of Malacca, they had no less than three churches and a chapel within the fortress, and one on the outside. That which is now used for worship by the Dutch stands conspicuously on the top of a hill, and may be seen for a great distance up or down the straits. It has a flag-staff on the top of its steeple, where a flag is always displayed on seeing a ship. The fort is large and strong. A third part of its walls is washed by the sea: A deep, narrow, and rapid river covers its western side; and all the rest is secured by a broad, deep ditch.
The governor's house is both beautiful and convenient, and there are several other good houses, both in the fort and the town. But owing to the shallowness of the sea at this place, ships are obliged to ride above a league off, which is a great inconvenience, as the fort is of no use to defend the roads. The straits here are not above four leagues broad; and though the opposite coast of Sumatra is very low, it may easily be seen in a clear day: Hence the sea here is always quite smooth, except in squalls of wind, which are generally accompanied with thunder, lightning, and rain. These squalls, though violent, seldom last more than an hour.
The country of Malacca produces nothing for exportation, except a little tin and elephants' teeth; but has several excellent fruits and roots for the use of its inhabitants, and the refreshment of strangers who navigate this way. The pine-apples of Malacca are esteemed the best in the world, as they never offend the stomach; while those of other places, if eaten in the smallest excess, are apt to occasion surfeits.
The mangostein is a delicious fruit, almost in the shape of an apple. Its skin is thick and red, and when dried is an excellent astringent. The kernels, if they may be so called, are like cloves of garlic, of a most agreeable taste, but very cold. The rambostan is a fruit about the size of a walnut, with a tough skin beset with capillaments, and the pulp within is very savoury.
There is a high mountain to the N.E. of Malacca, whence several rivers descend, that of Malacca being one of them, and all these have small quantities of gold in their channels. The inland inhabitants, called Monacaboes, are a barbarous and savage people, whose chief delight is in doing injury to their neighbours. On this account, the peasantry about Malacca sow no grain, except in inclosures defended by thickset prickly hedges or deep ditches: For when the grain is ripe in the open plains, the Monacaboes never fail to set it on fire. These inland natives are much whiter than the Malays of the lower country; and the king of Johor, whose subjects they are or ought to be, has never been able to civilize them.
When the Dutch finally attempted to conquer Malacca from the Portuguese, in alliance with the king of Johor, and besieged it both by sea and land, they found it too strong to be reduced by force, and thought it would be tedious to reduce it by famine. Hearing that the Portuguese governor was a sordid, avaricious wretch, much hated by the garrison, they tampered with him by letters, offering him mountains of gold to betray his trust, and at length struck a bargain with him for 80,000 dollars, and to convey him to Batavia. Having in consequence of his treachery got into the fort, where they gave no quarter to any one found in arms, they dispatched the governor himself, to save payment of the promised bribe.
The seventh government bestowed by the company is that of the Cape of Good Hope. The governor here is always one of the counsellors of the Indies, and has a council to assist him. This colony was taken from the Portuguese by the Dutch in 1653, and is justly esteemed one of the most important places in the hands of the company, though the profits derived from it are not comparable to what they derive from some of the islands in the East Indies. Formerly things were still worse, as the revenues of this settlement fell short of its expenses.
Yet the company could hardly carry on the trade to India, were it not in possession of this place, as here only the ships can meet with water and other refreshments on the outward and homeward-bound voyages; and these are indispensably necessary, especially for such ships as are distressed with the scurvy. This place so abounds in all sorts of provisions, that there never is any scarcity, notwithstanding the vast yearly demand, and all ships putting in here are supplied at moderate rates.
These refreshments consist of beef, mutton, fowls, fruit, vegetables, wine, and everything, in short, that is necessary, either for recovering the sick on shore, or recruiting the sea-stores for the continuance of the voyage out or home. In the space of a year, at least forty outward-bound ships touch here from Holland alone, and in these there cannot be less than eight or nine thousand people. The homeward-bound Dutch ships are not less than thirty-six yearly, in which there are about three thousand persons; not to mention foreign vessels, which likewise put in here, and have all kinds of refreshments furnished to them at reasonable rates. There are almost always some ships in this road, except in the months of May, June, and July, when the wind usually blows with great violence at N.W. and then the road is very dangerous.
[Footnote 1: This is contradictory, having been before described as hilly, yet fertile. --E.]
[Footnote 2: This account of the matter is not easily understood, and seems to want confirmation. Perhaps it is an ignorant or perverted report of sago: Yet there may possibly be some tree or plant affording a considerable quantity of fecula or starch by expression. --E.]
[Footnote 3: This uncommon word is explained by Johnson, as "small threads or hairs growing in the middle of flowers, adorned with little knobs." Here it may be supposed to mean that the fruit is hairy. --E.]
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