VOYAGES AND TRAVELS,
Viet to the Portuguese Possessions In South-western Africa. By G. Tams. M.D. Translated from the German, with an Introduction and Annotations, by H. Evans Lloyd, Esq. Dedicated by permission to Sir Edward North Buxton, Bart. In two
volumes. NewSy. BIOGRAPHY,
The Life of Louis Prince of Conde, surnamed the Great. By Lord Mahon. [The Colonial Library.] Murray. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, Explanations : a Sequel to " Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation " By the
Author of that Work ChenvAiii.
The Young Baronet ; a Novel. By the Author of " The Scottish Heiress," " The
Young Widow," &c. In three volumes. Newby. Part.oLoor,
A Comparative Grammar of the Sanscrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Gothic, German, and Sciavonic Languages. By Professor F. Bopp. Translated from the German, principally by Lieutenant Eastwick, M.R.A.S. Conducted through the Press by 11.H. Wilson, M.A., F.A.S., Boden Professot of Sanscrit in the University
of Oxford Madden and Malcolm- DR. TAMS'S VISIT TO THE PORTUGUESE POSSESSIONS IN WESTERN AFRICA.
MR. DOS SANTOS, the Portuguese Consul at Altona, having previously felt his way by means of an agent, fitted out a commercial expedition to the coast of Angola in the spring of 1841, and in a style which calls to mind the early adventures to the New World. " Six ships laden with European goods of all kinds" formed the fleet; Ribeira dos Santos him- self heading the expedition, in the Vasco de Gama. The appointment of physician to the fleet was offered to Dr. Tams ; and, notwithstanding the dangers of the climate, accepted, on account of the " interesting nature of the enterprise." Two young volunteer naturalists accompanied the expe- dition ; a select library was provided for the mind of the voyagers ; the ear was gratified by a band of musicians ; provisions of the choicest kind, when necessary under hermetical seal, were ready to sustain the material part ; and, last not least, an artiste in the shape of an Italian cook embarked in the Vasco de Gama. An expedition of such an extent, as Dr. Tams says, " naturally attracted the attention of a great part of Europe, and afforded the ignorant and the envious occasion for the most odious conjec- tures." Mr. dos Santos was set down as a slave-dealer, especially by some English journals ; though in Africa lie rejected proposals on the subject with the " most profound contempt," and Dr. Tanis himself is Slave-trade Abolitionist. But whatever its objects, the expedition was unfortunate. Dos Santos, the two naturalists, and several of the crew, sank under the climate; and on the death of the leader, the Portuguese officials of Loando detained such vessels as were in the harbour, and, under one pretence or another, robbed them of their money and most available goods, leaving the plundered survivors to return to Europe in sorry plight.
The parts of Africa actually visited by Dr. Tams lie between the pa- rallels of Ascension and St. Helena. The only four places at which he landed to remain, were the towns of New Benguela and Novo Redondo, the fortified city of Loando, and a village in the independent Negro state of Ambriz ; where a few European settlers have located themselves, pro- bably to avoid the regulations and chicanery of the Portuguese. On the outward voyage, however, they touched at the Cape de Verde Islands; and on their return, at the islet of Annabon, (which Dr. Tams errone- ously thinks has been ceded by Spain to England,) and at the Azores. The whole period that the Visiter remained on the coast was rather more than four months (October 1841—March 1842) ; but he was not so long on shore, time having been occupied in moving backwards and forwards from one settlement to another. The heat of the climate, his medical duties, and the alleged dangers of the vicinity of the towns from wild men and wild beasts, seem to have confined him to the settlements, except a hunting excursion at Loando, and a hurried visit to the King of Ambriz. He consequently had not much of time or opportunity; but the truth seems to be, that in these kind of settlements there is not a great deal to be seen. In the exploration of an unknown country there is the sense of acquisition and of novelty ; there is also a continuous narrative, mostly adventure and variety of character. Confined to a settlement in a burning and unhealthy climate, Dr. Tams could have little of story or ad- venture to tell ; but what there is of character does not appear to have escaped him. His eye, however, is more attracted to outward forms than inward qualities : the character of the scenery and productions, the ap- pearance of the Negroes, the behaviour of the Portuguese, and points of an obvious or material shape, are more noticed by him than the subtiler traits of manners and mind. Those whose imaginations are excited by the " omne ignotum pro magnifico" of this deadly coast, who call to mind the former celebrity of these Portuguese possessions, and the scanty notices of them we have had of late years, may feel somewhat disapr pointed in Dr. Tarns's Visit. But there are no real grounds for this feel- ing. Dr. Tams is not a philosophical traveller, or a literary artist ; but he has written a plain, unpretending, and agreeable narrative of what he saw during his " Visit to the Portuguese Possessions on the Western Coast of Africa; " and if he occasionally dwells upon matters that seem common enough to English readers, it must be remembered he wrote for an inland German people. There is nothing of undue expansion in the work ; and the narrative itself might have been contained in a single volume, but for additional matter in the shape of prefixes and affixes to the original text.
Some Anti-Slavery objects seem to have been Mr. Lloyd's motive in translating the work ; but, beyond a few particulars of the treatment of the slaves on shore, it throws no additional light upon the subject, unless the opinion of Dr. Tams that the slave-trade destroys all chance of extend.. ing more legitimate commerce be held valuable as additional evidence. The most striking features of the visit, to our minds, are the pictures it presents of the native Negroes, and of the character of the Portuguese residents. Except frankness and a free hospitality, this character is about
as degraded as can be. The Governor of Loando, and a few other persons there, appear to have been tolerably respectable for a Portuguese colony; but the rest are mere adventurers, sprung from the lowest ranks of nautical life, or absolute convicts. The principal person at Novo Redondo is one Nicolao Tabana, a Neapolitan by birth; who was transported thither some twenty-seven years ago, and is now supposed to be worth 20,000,000 piastres. The other residents are to match, except in the
article of money. "There are only nine or ten European residents in Novo Redondo; of whom six are natives of Italy, and most of these are Neapolitans. They have all been here since the year 1818, when twenty-three or twenty-four Italians were sent as con- victs to the coast of Angola, some of whom died at Novo Redondo. I was told on the spot, that one of the men now living here was compelled to flee from his own country, branded as a parricide: had I been informed that others likewise bad been guilty of a similar crime, I should not have had the least hesitation in believing it, for their physiognomy bears the strong impress of crime.
" Had they been banished merely for political offences, they would long since have obtained permission to return to their own country, especially as most of them have acquired sufficient property to live very comfortably in Europe. Their personal appearance and intellectual acquirements plainly indicated their mean origin: only one of them was able to write his native language, and whenever Mr. Nicolao had any letter to write, the pen of this learned man was put in requisi- tion. No such a thing as a book was to be seen among them, unless indeed that appellation may be given to a collection of medical prescriptions, with short in- structions in Portuguese, in the possession of Mr. Nicolao, wno, after many years study, had learnt these few pages by heart. As he prescribes gratuitously for his friends and acquaintances, he secures their gratitude; and has become thoroughly convinced that he is not only an able physician, but the first in the world!"
The "Governor " and his palace at Benguela do not appear in a much more striking light. "Immediately on landing, we hastened to pay our respects to the Governor; and were conducted to his palace, as it is called, by a good-tempered Negro. In the front of this Government building was a solitary Mulatto on guard; who was dressed in a white linen jacket and trousers, and wore a shabby military cap with- out a front. He was a consequential-looking fellow, and strutted proudly up and down upon the burning sand, holding a clumsy musket in his left arm, in a very ansoldier-like style."
" The Government Palace is so excessively mean, both within and without, that it seems better adapted to shelter horses or cattle than serve as the residence of the representative of a crowned head. My. sensations on entering it were not unlike those which are experienced on going into the dungeon of an ancient knight's castle. An involuntary shudder came over me, and 1 looked around in perfect astonishment. The walls were very thick, and bore traces of having been once plastered, but were now dingy and defaced; the floor consisted of the bare earth; and the doors were so wretchedly hung that they would only half close, or not at all: everything was disgustingly dirty; while the furniture, which was partly old-fashioned and partly modern, looked as if it had been collected at auc- tions from every quarter of the globe. " We were duly announced by the orderly, and immediately admitted to an au- dience. The Governor, who had formerly served in the Portuguese Army, had been sent to this country for some misdemeanour, and was still separated from his wife and children, who lived in Loando. His residence in Benguela, especially in the official situation which he held, afforded him more favourable opportunities for speedily acquiring great wealth than any other place on the coast of Angola; and he was not slow in availing himself of every advantage. He received us in a very frank manner, and gave full permission to Grosbendner, Wrede, [the naturalist,] and myself, to hunt wherever and whenever we liked."
The principal part of the soldiery at Loando are Blacks ; who have " orders " of their own, more rational than ours, as they must be won before they are worn.
"The only ornament worn by the Empacaleiro consists of a kind of diadem, made of a strip of the skin of some wild beast. This is fastened round his head in such a manner that the ends, which are tied together, project horizontally for Some inches from the back of the head. This skin is always the trophy of his 'victory over his four-footed enemy; and consequently confers a peculiar dignity,
which is so nicely marked that the wearer of a lion's tail is more highly honoured than he who has only the skin of a tiger-cat, a Lyman, or an ounce."
Although the death of Senhor dos Santos was doubtless caused by ex- posure to the sun and rain in an open boat on the' hunting excursion at Loando, he seems to have been too timid a subject for a pestiferous coast; as witness this example of the Doctor's temperance and the leader's abstinence.
"Early writers affirm that all the productions of this country are absolutely poisonous, and hence fatal to foreigners: the truth of this assertion is, however, amply contradicted, not only by the White settlers, but also by my own ex- penence. Being highly interested in the inhabitants and the productions of their beautiful country, and free from all apprehension of climatic fever, I ventured fearlessly, yet cautiously, to expose myself to these supposed dangers; and at the very commencement of my visit, daily partook of the fruit and vegetables indi- genous to the climate. I tasted every kind of fruit without exception, though I always observed moderation and a certain degree of discrimination; and never experienced the slightest ill consequences. I found the powerful astringent quali- ties of the mangoes most efficacious in counteracting the usual deleterious effects of the other Tropical fruits; though they were pointed out to me by the inhabi- tants as peculiarly dangerous.
" Mr. dos Santos, on the contrary, was so fearful, particularly in the early part of our stay, that he scarcely ever ventured to partake of refreshment on shore: indeed, at a grand dinner given by a wealthy Mulatto, where every produce of the country was served in profusion, be bad such a dread of the consequences of touching any of the dishes, that he dined off some rice imported from Brazil."
The 'Vasco da Gama, soon after she was permitted to leave Loando, was boarded by one of our men-of-war's boats ; of whose habitual doings Dr. Tams gives a strange, but we trust an exaggerated account.
"Shortly before casting anchor, we descried a boat with brown sails in the dis- tance, steering its course directly towards us, and soon saw with the naked eye that she carried the English flag. It was one of the large war-boats which had been despatched by the Waterwitch, and which was to rejoin that vessel off Loando, after a four weeks' cruise. The crew consisted of fourteen men; who must brave all the dangers of the climate for a whole month, without a deck, and with scarcely any protection against the rain and the cold nights. They had an
o fficer and a physician on board; and only four of the sailors were Blacks, though very frequently half of the crew consists of Negroes.
"They came proudly on board for the purpose of searching us; conscious that, -although their boat was so small, they had the advantage of ns in point of .strength. A large gun is always fixed to the foremost seat; and from the facility with which the vessel can be steered and its small elevation above the surface of the water, this single gun can master even the well-armed slavers.
" These beats are yet more dreaded along the coast than the principal ship itself;
n ot only because of the greater risk which the slave-merchant runs in encounter- ing them, but because they frequently surprise the scattered' inhabitants'of the coast, and carry off any provision which they may require, either by fair means, or, if that will not avail, by force. In some cases they even go beyond this: shortly before our visit, for instance, they set on fire several Negro huts; some of the slaves which were lodged in them made their escape, but the ivory that was there fell into the hands of the assailants. Gin [rum ?] being the soonest exhausted of all the ship's stores, is perhaps the most frequent inducement to such surprisals; and they find an excursion of this kind the most convenient mode of supplying themselves afresh.
"Some days before our arrival, several men belonging to this very boat came to our store at Ambriz to obtain a stock of gin; but as our agent and his slaves were the strongest party, they gave them a good thrashing instead, and so, got ridof them."