William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

. (page 38 of 59)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 38 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The soul ethereal, and the flights sublime !
Thy loss, my Mary, chased them from my breast,

Thy sweetness cheers, thy judgment aids no more ;
The Muse deserts a heart with grief opprest,

And lost is every joy that charmed before."

How far the deaf may be made to acquire an idea of sounds,
has been a subject of much conjecture. In comparatively few
cases is the auditory nerve entirely destroyed, and it is often only
in a state of dormancy or secluded by superficial disease from the
action of sounds. We have seen how the unfortunate boy Mit-
chell delighted in tingling a key or tuning-fork on his teeth.
The greater number of those who are ordinarily considered deaf
are keenly alive to sensations produced by music, when the in-
strument is brought in contact with their persons. We are told
of a lady in Paris who tried an experiment upon a young woman
who was both deaf and dumb. She fastened a silk thread about
the girl's mouth, and rested the other end upon her pianoforte,
upon which she played a pathetic air ; her visitor soon appeared
much affected, and at length burst into tears. When she recovered,
she wrote down upon a piece of paper that she had experienced a
delight which she could not express, and that it had forced hep



io weep. Another anecdote of the power of music over a pupil
at the institution for deaf-mutes in Paris has been mentioned to
us. The hand of a g-irl was placed on the liarmonica — a musical
instrument Avhich is said to have a powerful influence over the
jierves — whilst it was playing; she was then asked if she felt
any sensation ; she answered that she felt a new sensation enter
the ends of her fing-ers, pass up her arms, and penetrate her

It is mentioned in a German journal, that, in 1750, a merchant
of Cleves, named Jorrisen, who had become almost totally deaf,
sitting" one day near a harpsichord where some persons were
playing", and having- a tobacco-pipe in his mouth, the bowl of
which rested against the body of the instrument, he was agree-
ably surprised to hear all the notes in the most distinct manner.
By a little reflection and practice he again obtained the use of
this valuable sense ; for he soon learned by means of a piece of
hard wood, one end of which he placed against his teeth, to keep
up a conversation, and to be able to understand the least whisper.
He soon afterwards made his beneficial discovery the subject of
an inaug'urate dissertation, published at Halle in 1754. The
€ti^ect is the same if the person who speaks rests the stick against
his throat or his breast, or when one rests the stick Avhich he holds
in his teeth against some vessel into which the other speaks.

Various devices have been adopted to teach the blind to read,
the most successful being* that in which raised letters are em-
ployed ; the touch of the fingers answering the purpose of sight.
To perfect this species of printing- for the blind, several kinds of
letters, all more or less arbitrary in form, have been tried, in
each case with some degree of success. In our opinion, however,
no kind of letter is so suitable as the ordinary Roman capitals ;
because they have the advantage of being intelligible to the see-
ing without any special instruction, and can be at once adopted
by persons who have lost their sight after having been taught
t^ read. Under the fostering care of a benevolent gentleman
(Mr Alston), a number of books in Roman capitals" has been
printed for the use of the asylum for the blind in Glasgow, as
well as for general sale ; and we believe they have been very
generally acceptable. In this literature for the blind is the entire
Bible, several works of piety, and some volumes of elementary
science and general knowledge. On this plan of raised figures
susceptible to the touch, maps and globes for teaching geography
have been formed for the use of the blind, and are now intro-
duced into all well-conducted asjdums. It need scarcely be
added, that by means of the literature and other apparatus Ave
mention, the blind are now in most instances instructed in the
more familiar branches of learning; and with the industrial
exercises which they acquire, they enjoy a position in society
and scale of intelligence very different from that which was
occupied by their less fortunate predecessors.



HE continent of Asia, as
may be observed on look-
ing at a map, terminates
on the south in three pen-
insulee projected into the
Indian Ocean — one being'
Arabia, the second Hin-
dostan or India, and the
third Siam ; this last being
longer and narrower than
the others, and ending in
a projection called Malaya,
near the extremity of which
is the settlement of Ma-
lacca. Carrying our eye
across the Indian Ocean,
we observe that off the
southern point of Malaya
there are numerous islands
of larg'er and smaller dimen-
sions ; the sea for hundreds


of miles is studded with them, and group after group stretches

across the ocean almost to the northern shores of Australia. As

these islands lie in an easterly direction from India, they are

No. 53. 1


sometimes styled tlie Eastern ArcJiijMlago, and at other times
the Spice Islands, because their chief produce, or at least articles
of export, are pepper, cloves, nutmegs, ginger, and other spices.
The principal of these fine islands are Sumatra, Java, Borneo,
Celebes, Timor, and the Moluccas — the latter being more strictly
called the Spice Islands by geographers ; but all are equally
entitled to be classed under this distinctive appellation. To the
north of Borneo, in the Chinese Sea, lies an additional group of
islands, the Philippines ; but of these it is here unnecessary to

Travellers who have visited the Spice Islands describe some of
them as a kind of earthly paradise. Lying under the equinoctial
line, their climate is excessively hot, but they are daily fanned
by sea breezes, which temper their heated atmosjjhere ; from their
mountains flow streams of pure water ; their valleys are green
and picturesque ; and the luxuriance of their vegetation is beyond
anything' that the natives of northern Europe can imag-ine. In
their thick groves swarm parrots and other birds of the gayest
plumage; monkeys of various species are seen skipping from
rock to rock, or darting in and out among- the bushes ; and wild
beasts and snakes live in their thickets and jungles. The native
inhabitants, whose wants are easily supplied, spend the greater
part of their time in the open air, cultivating their fields, or
reclining mider awnings, or beneath the more delicious shade of
the nutmeg' trees.

Inhabited chiefly by an aboriginal Malay race, some of the
islands are still under the government of native chiefs or sultans ;
but most of them have been, in whole or part, appropriated by
European powers. The Portuguese, being the first navigators who
reached this part of the world by sailing round the Cape of Good
Hope, acquired large possessions not only in India but in the East-
ern Archipelago ; but towards the end of the sixteenth century, the
Dutch, animated by a vigorous spirit of commercial enterprise,
dispossessed the Portuguese, and gained the ascendency in Java
and other islands, finally reducing them to the condition of
Dutch colonies — a change of masters which we shall immediately
see brought no advantage to the unfortunate natives. The
object of the Dutch in getting possession of these remote Asiatic
islands was to procure spices, wherewith to supply the general
market of Europe ; and as this was long aii exceedingly profit-
able trade, no pains were spared to keep the Spice Islands as a
kind of preserve for the special benefit of Holland.

We have two reasons for introducing these islands and their
history to our readers — the first is, to show how selfishness in
trade, like selfishness in everything else, is weakness and loss,
and how benevolence is power and gain ; the second is, to point
out, by way of example, how much may be done to remedy the
greatest grievances, and produce national happiness, by the
efforts of one enlightened and generously-disposed mind. In the


performance of this task, we shall have occasion to notice bio-
g-raphically one of the few great statesmen whom Engiand has
within the last half century had the good fortune to produce —
Thomas Stamford Raffles.


For convenience we begin with an account of Java, one of the
largest and finest of the Spice Islands. Java is separated from
Borneo on the north by a channel called the Java Sea, and on
the north-west from Sumatra by the Straits of Sunda. The
island is upwards of 650 miles long, and from 60 to 130 miles
broad ; its whole area being about equal to that of England. Its
surface is beautifully diversified with hill and valley ; its soil is
of the richest possible nature, and yields in abundance coffee,
sugar, rice, pepper, nutmegs, and g-inger.

Java appears to have been peopled by a branch of the Malay
race about the commencement of the Christian era. From that
period to the fifteenth century, the Javanese increased in conse-
quence and opulence, and acquired a civilisation scarcely inferior
to that of the Hindoos or the Chinese ; evidences of which exist in
the traditions of the natives, in their literature, and in numerous
architectural remains scattered over the island. Mahommedan-
ism latterly found its way into Java, and became mingled with
the doctrines and ceremonies of Buddhism and Hindooism, which
had hitherto been the religions of the people. The Portuguese
settled in the island in 1511 ; the English also established them-
selves in it in 1602 ; but ultimately the Dutch dispossessed both,
and became the only European power. They continued to
enjoy this sway undisturbed till the year 1811, a period of two
hundred years.

Any one who visited the island in 1811, would have found it
generally in a more barbarous condition than it was five hundred
years before. It was divided into three sections : — 1 . The Dutch
possessions, properly so called, meaning that part in which the
Dutch power was absolute ; 2. The kingdom of the Susuhunan,
or hereditary Javanese emperor; and, 3. The territories of the
Sultan, another native prince. The last two sections, however,
were not really independent — they were subordinate or tributary
to the Dutch. At this period the entire population amounted to
about five millions, consisting of Dutch, Javanese, foreigners,
and slaves.

The Dutch inhabited principally the provinces of Jacatra
and Bantam in the west, and the northern line of coast as far
as the small island of Madura. Here they had built nume-
rous towns and villages, the two largest being' the city of
Batavia, the population of which at one time exceeded 160,000,
and the city of Surabaya, with a population of about 80,000.
Firmly fixed in their possessions, and supported by a military and
naval force, the Dutch seem to have had but one object in view,


and that was to monopolise the whole trade, internal and exter-
nal, of Java and that of the adjacent islands owning- their autho-
rity. In Europe, no people had strugg'led so heroically for civil
and religious liberty as the Dutch; in India, no people acted
with g-reater selfishness and tyranny. Their whole policy was a
violation of justice and decency. Determined to monopolise the
whole East India trade, they were g'uilty of an immense amount
of bloodshed in their efforts to eradicate every semblance of a
colony in their neighbourhood belonging* to any other nation,
and likely therefore to deprive them of a share of the spice-trade.
Not only so, but in order to derive a greater profit from the sale
of the nutmeg's and cloves which they exported from the Moluccas,
they hired the natives to extirpate the plants in all the islands of
the group except Banda and Amboyna, the two of whose per-
manent possession they were most secure. The same miserable
and blighting spirit of monopoly 23resided over their government
of Java. In a part of the Dutch section of the island, the province
of Jacatra, in which the city of Batavia is situated, the Dutch
authorities governed the population directly and immediately' ;
in the rest of the section, namely, the province of Bantam and
the line of territory along" the northerri coast to the Straits of
Madura, they employed native Javanese chiefs as their subordi-
nate governors, with various titles. In both, the system of
government was nearly alike. In the Dutch portion, the people
were compelled to sell the whole produce of their lands to
government at a fixed price ; in the other, the native regents of
the various districts, besides paying a larg'e tribute on their own
account, were obliged to collect the whole produce of their dis-
tricts, and hand it over as before to the authorities at a fixed
price. Thus, over all the Dutch possessions in Java, the govern-
ment had a monopoly of the produce, including the food of the
population. Receiving the grain, the coffee, and the pepper from
the growers at very low prices, they stored them up, and then
sold them back again to the people themselves at an exceedingly
high charge, reserving the surplus quantity for exportation.
Thus, a person was obliged to sell to the government the pepper
which he had produced at twopence a pound, and then to pur-
chase back part of it for his own use at a shilling* a pound.
These arrangements were felt as a sore grievance by the poor
cultivators of the soil, especially in those portions of the island
which were nominally under a native regent ; for there, in addi-
tion to the demands of the Dutch government, they had to sub-
mit to the exactions of a subordinate. The king of Bantam, for
example, handed over every year to the Dutch government the
produce of his province, amounting- to nearly six millions of
pounds of pepper, at twopence a pound ; but instead of paying his
subjects so much as twopence a pound for it, he paid them say
only three-halfpence a pound, reserving the additional halfpenny
to pay the cost of collection, and to constitute a revenue for


SIR sta:-iford raffles axd the spice islands.

himself. A system of finance more confused, wasteful, and un-
enlig-htened, cannot be conceived ; and a similar spirit of tyranny
and monopoly characterised all the other branches of govern-
ment procedure.

The native Javanese were spread all over the island, part of
them, as has been said, inhabiting" the Dutch territory, and
living under the Dutch government, the rest inhabiting the
comparatively independent territories ruled over by the two
native sovereigns, the susuhunan or emperor, and the sultan.
These two sovereigns were not, like the king of Bantam, or the
reg'ents of other districts in the Dutch possessions, mere revenue
officers of the Dutch ; on the contrary, they enjoyed a des-
potic dig'nity within their own kingdoms, and the only forma,l
token of their connexion with the Dutch was their consenting
annually to sell to them a certain quantity of their produce at
a fixed price. This distinction, however, did not produce any
g'reat difference in habits or character between the Javanese
of the interior and the Javanese of the Dutch provinces, so
that the same description will suit both. The Javanese are
described as a people generally shorter in stature than the Euro-
peans, but robust and well made, with a round face, high fore-
head, small dark eyes like those of the Tartars, promineiit cheek-
bones, scarcely any beard, and lank black hair. The general
expression of the countenance is placid and thoughtful; the com-
plexion is rather of a yellow than of a copper hue, the standard
of beauty in this respect being a gold colour. The Javanese are
sagacious and docile, generally listless in their appearance, but
susceptible of all kinds of impressions, and capable of being
roused to the wildest displays of passion. They possess a lite-
rature consisting principally of native songs and romances, and
tran.-lations from the Sanscrit and Arabic. The language is
exceedingly simple in its structure, and remarkably ric-li in
synonymous words ; and the Javanese written character is said
to be one of the m^ost beautiful known. The natives have also
a rude kind of drama ; and they delight in games of chance.
The only kind of manufacture for which the people are cele-
brated is working in gold. They show, however, considerable
skill in ship -building, and in agriculture they are eminently
proficient, every Javanese regarding- the soil as the grand source
of prosperity and wealth, not only to the province as a whole,
but to himself individually.

Of foreign settlers in the island, there were, and continue to
be, about 200,000, consisting of Hindoos, Arabs, and Chinese.
The Chinese, forming the larger proportion, are an active money-
making class, carrying on various profitable branches of trade,
and often contriving to enrich themselves by renting and sub-
letting land at greatly increased rates. They, however, do not
settle permanently ; after a residence of a few j'ears, they return
to their own country with the small fortunes they have acquired.


The remaining" class of the population of Java is that of slaves,
of whom, in 1811, there were about 30,000, the importation of
these unfortunate being-s having" been at the ra,te of a few thou-
sands annually. These slaves were broug-ht from various islands in
the g-reat East Indian Archipelago, the g-reater number, however,
from the small island of Poulo Nvas, on the coast of Sumatra,
and the larg'e island of Celebes, adjacent to Borneo. The slaves
consist partly of debtors and criminals, surrendered by the laws of
their respective islands, but in a far greater degree of persons who
have been kidnapped and carried away. The Nyas slaves are
hig'hly valued throug-hout the East; and as many as 1500 used to
he exported from that small island every year, a large proportion
of whom were carried to Batavia. In this short voyage, it was
calculated that one-fourth generally died ; and in such dread do
the natives of Nyas hold slavery, that instances are known in
which, when a party of kidnappers had surrounded a house, the
father, rather than surrender, has killed himself and his children.
The most ingenious and industrious of the slaves in Java, how-
ever, are those from the island of Celebes, known by the name
of Bugghese or Macassars. These Macassars are a brave and
civilised race, the wreck of a people once nearly as powerful in
the Archipelago as the Javanese. They have a literature of
their own, and one of the amusements of the Batavian ladies is
to hear their Macassar slaves recite their native ballads and
romances. One of the occupations in which the Chinese employ
their Macassar slaves, is in the collection of those Chinese dain-
ties, the edible birds' nests, which are more abundant in Java
than anywhere else.

We have thus presented a general sketch of Java and its con-
dition previous to the year 1811, much, however, being applicable
to the island in the present day : a new turn took place in its
affairs in the above year ; but before describing the changes
which were effected, it will be necessary to say a few words
respecting the person by whom they were suggested and carried
into execution.

Thomas Stamford Raffles was horn at sea, off the coast of
Jamaica, on the 5th of July 1781. His father was a captain in
the West India trade. Returning with his mother to England,
he was placed in a boarding-school at Hammersmith, where he
remained till he was fourteen years of age ; and this was all the
formal education he ever received. At the age of fourteen, this
comparatively friendless youth entered the East India House in
the capacity of an extra clerk ; and shortly afterwards, by his
zeal and good behaviour, obtained a permanent situation in this
great establishment, so celebrated for having reared and employed
in its service a vast number of men eminent for their abilities.
While employed in the India House, Mr Raffles zealously devoted
himself to the acquisition of various kinds of knowledge, which
he afterwards turned to good account : in particular, it was at



this time that he first gave proofs of the facility with which he
could learn different languag-es. In 1805 the court of directors
resolved to found a new settlement at Penang", or Prince of
Wales Island, off the coast of Malacca, conceiving* that it would
be an advantageous trading post ; and at this time Mr Raffles's
qualifications were so well known, that he was appointed assistant
secretary to the establishment. During the voyage out, he
acquired the IMalay language so perfectly, as to be able to enter
at once on the important duties of his office ; and the chief secre-
tary, Mr Pearson, falling ill, the entire labour of arranging the
forms of the new government, as well as of compiling all public
documents, devolved on him. Such an accumulation of work
was too severe for his constitution ; and in 1808 he was obliged
to pay a visit to the Malacca mainland, for the purpose of
recruiting his shattered health. It was during this visit to
Malacca that Mr Raffles first enjoyed the opportunity of ob-
serving* and joining with the varied population congregated from
all parts of the Archipelago, and from the distant countries of
Asia ; from Java, Amboyna, Celebes, the Moluccas, Borneo,
Papua, Cochin China, China Proper, &c. With many he con-
versed personally, with others through the medium of inter-
preters. To this early habit, which he always retained, of
associating with the natives, and admitting them to intimate
and social intercourse, may be attributed the extraordinary in-
fluence which he obtained over them, and the respect with which
they always received his advice and opinions. It was at this
period also that Mr Raffles formed an acquaintanceship with
Mr Marsden and the enthusiastic and lamented Leyden; and
in company with these two Orientalists, commenced his elabo-
rate researches into the history, the laws, and the literature
of the Hindoo and Malay races. We find him also displaying
that zeal for the advancement of the natural sciences, especially
zoology, for which he was all his life distinguished, and which
has earned him a high rank among naturahsts, as well as among
statesmen and Oriental scholars.

Lord Minto, at the time governor-general of India, had con-
ceived so favourable an opinion of Mr Raffles, that he became
^anxious to discover a field worthy of his abilities. On the occa-
sion of a visit he made to Calcutta in 1809, his lordship spoke
of the advantag'es to be derived from taking possession of the
Moluccas, or smaller Spice Islands, whereupon Mr Raffles at
once drew his attention to Java, as much preferable. The idea
was instantly caught at by his lordship, and plans for its captm'e
were forthwith devised.

The scheme hinted at by Mr Raffles marked the comprehen-
siveness of his character. It was to capture Java, and render it
a British possession. Nor was such a project considered any
violation of justice. In 1806 the French had overrun Holland,
and in 1810 added it, as weU as its chief foreign possessions, to the



empire of France. Java, therefore, was now no long-er a Dutcli
but a French colony. As England was at war with France, it
was considered by Lord Minto and Mr Raffles that there could
not be a more splendid achievement than to wrest so fine an
island from Napoleon, and add it to the British crown. Indeed
the conquest of Java seemed a matter of necessity ; for its posses-
sion would give the French almost the sovereignty of the Malayan
Archipelago, and enable them materially to affect the prosperity
of our eastern trade, and the stability of our eastern possessions.
In short, the invasion of Java was resolved upon. But the enter-
prise was one not to be attempted rashly ; in the meantime,
therefore, the design was kept a profound secret, and Mr Raffles,
was despatched to prepare the way for the expedition, taking
up his residence at Malacca with the title of " agent to the
governor-general, with the Malay states."

Having, after much careful investigation, learned which would
form the safest and most practicable route to Java, Mr Raffles
communicated all proper information to Lord Minto, who imme-

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 38 of 59)