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THE QUARTERLY REVIEW:
Art. I. 1. An Account of the Island of Ceylon, containing its
History, Geography, Natural History, with the Manners and Customs of its various Inhabitants, 8c. By Captain Robert Perceval, of his Majesty's 18th or Royal Irish Regiment. 4to.
London. 2. A Description of Ceylon, containing an Account of the Country,
Inhabitants, and Natural Productions; with Narratives of a Tour round the Island in 1800, the Campaign in Candy in 1803, and a Journey to Ramissoram in 1804. By the Rev. James Cordiner, A. M. late Chaplain to the Garrison of Co
Jumbo. 2 vols. 4to. London. 3. A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the
Island of Ceylon. Written by a Gentleman on the spot. 8vo. London. 1815.
THE first two of these performances were published before the
1 commencement of our journal; and both; we believe, have long ere this been consigned to the common grave of departed works, a bookseller's garret; nor should we now have disturbed their ashes, had not recent events added a considerable degree of interest as well as importance to the island of which they treat, by its transfer to the sole and undivided sovereignty of the British crown. The third article,! by a Gentleman on the spot,' is a paltry compilation from the London Gazette and the daily papers. *
of the intrinsic merit of either of the larger works we have little to offer in the way of praise. They contain, it is true, the substance of what preceding writers have said on Ceylon; and they are the latest which have been professedly written on the subject; these are our only reasons as well as our only apology for placing their titles at the head of this article. Considered as literary productions, they hold but an inferior rank among works of the same class; in their comparative merits, however, there is a considerable difference. Captain Perceval's volume is a mere compilation, and rather a clumsy one, from those • abstract chronicles of the times' -collections of voyages and travels, encyclopedias, geographical grammars and gazetteers—without the aid of which, and Dr. Thunberg's account of the Natural History, with Robert Knox's deYOL. XIV. NO. XXVII.
scription of the Candian dominions, there would scarcely be matter in it for what would have been a sixpenny pamphlet thirty years ago. Indeed, the last mentioned honest and intelligent writer, whose excellent book is now one hundred and thirty-five years old, has supplied all the information we are yet in possession of, as far as regards the interior parts of this interesting island. Of those parts, Captain Perceval knows nothing from personal observation; and his descriptions of what he did see are so overcharged as to become caricatures--always confused, generally inaccurate, and often absurd.
Mr. Cordiner had better opportunities, and appears to be somewhat better qualified than Captain Perceval for giving a just account of a portion of Ceylon. He made the tour of the whole sea-coast of the island, a journey of nearly 800 miles, in company with the governor; of course he saw much, and more of what he did see is put down than was necessary. We could have spared, for instance, the details of the dinners, dances and levees of Mr. North; the lascoreens, the tom toms, and that eternal bungaloe which figures in italics through almost every page. Mr. Cordiner states, however, many valuable facts; he had, besides, the great advantage of deriving authentic information from the seat of government; so that his two volumes, though somewhat heavy, tedious, and ill arranged, contain, on the whole, a great deal of curious matter. Of this we shall select such parts only as may serve to convey a very general and concise outline of this new jewel added to the British crown, from which some estimate may be formed as to its real value and importance to the mother-country, as well as of the benefits that are likely to result to its numerous inhabitants.
Any partition of an island not quite equal in extent to Ireland, between two sovereign powers, would necessarily produce a clashing of interests; but the way in which we found Ceylon divided between their High Mightinesses the States-General and the King of Candy, could not fail to be the source of perpetual hostility. The former possessed a belt of sea-coast round the whole island, broad in some parts and narrow in others, within which the latter was cooped up, as within an enchanted circle, which he could not pass. The King of Candy had areca nuts and ivory and honey, and a few other articles which were saleable among the various merchants and traders who lived under the protection of the Dutch, but none of the first necessity; while the latter had under their complete controul two articles that were almost indispensable to the subjects of the King of Candy-fish and salt. The Candians were therefore naturally desirous of obtaining an establishment on the sea-coast. The policy of the British, as well as of the Dutch government, was to exclude them from all approach to the
salt salt waters. The seeds of war thus sown were easily brought into a state of activity, and this disposition towards hostility was not a little quickened by the unsettled state of the Candian government; it was such, in fact, as to make the campaign of 1803 inevitable. This war, it will be recollected, was reprobated at home as unjust, impolitic, and wholly unnecessary on our part-it was called, in derision, the areca-nut war; and its unfortunate issue was not calculated to remove the unmerited stigma. The more recent expedition, we rather think, had also been disapproved at home before the happy result of it was known. We are persuaded, however, that both the one and the other were not only unavoidable, but that it was highly expedient for the happiness of the whole population of the island, as well as the interests of Great Britain, that the Candian dominion should be dissolved.
We are aware that there are others who will profess to think differently; in fact, there is no monster in human shape, however atrocious, that will not find his advocates; and we doubt not that the Ex-emperor of Candy will bave his defenders, as well as the Ex-emperor of Elba. It may not therefore be uninteresting, at this moment, to take a brief retrospect of the cause and conduct of the war of 1803, of which, in fact, the war of 1814 was but a continuation and conclusion. .
On the death of the legitimate King of Candy, in the year 1798, Pelemé Talavé, the chief adigar or prime minister, contrived to raise to the throne, in prejudice of the nearest relatives of the deceased king, a young Malabar of inferior extraction and of no talents. The queen and all the relations of the former king were thrown into prison; but the queen's brother, Mootoo Sawmy, escaped from Candy, and sought the protection of the British government. The second adigar, who was a man of integrity, was beheaded; and as the upstart king had been raised to the throne as a mere puppet. to dazzle the eyes of the vulgar, Pelemé Talavé ruled with absolute sway. Six months had scarcely elapsed of the new reign, when this consummate villain made certain mysterious overtures to Mr. North, the whole scope of which he did not, at that time, clearly comprehend; but on a second interview, he had the audacity to submit a direct proposal for assistance to take away the life of the king, whom he had recently created, and to place himself on the throne : as the price of these infamous conditions, he offered to make the English masters of the country. It is unnecessary to add, that Mr. North received with horror and spurned with honest indignation a proposal so atrocious.
This man was not, however, deterred from renewing his infamous offer, the following year, to Mr. Boyd, the public secretary, making at the same time a declaration, that his sole motive in rais
ing ing an ignorant and obscure youth to the throne had been that of rendering him detestable in the eyes of his people, and to bring about a revolution which should end in the extermination of this foreign family, and allow the Candians to be governed by the legitimate chiefs of the island.
The real intention, however, of this miscreant appeared to be that of drawing the British into a war with the Candians; of enticing their troops into the interior of the country; where, from the impassable defiles, mountain-torrents, thick forests, the total want of roads for carriages or even beasts of burthen, but, above all, from the extreme unhealthiness of the climate, added to the hostility of the natives, they would be doomed to an almost certain destruction.
His infamous overtures not succeeding, the next step was to shew that the Candians were niaking preparations for immediate war against the British; they assembled in force on the frontiers; they detained thirty or forty British subjects, who had repaired, as usual, to Candy, in the way of trade, and treated them in the most barba. rous manner; they robbed some Moormen, also subjects of the British government, who had for time immemorial carried on a commerce with the Candians, of their cattle and areca nuts; an explanation was asked; but the first adigar refused to give any, and rejected every conciliatory proposition for the accommodation of subsisting differences. It was evident, indeed, that he courted war, as best suited to his own nefarious purposes. He calculated upon obtaining credit, if the English were vanquished and expelled from the island; or that, in the struggle, he might find an opportunity of dispatching his puppet-king, and then secure his own power by offering advantageous terms to the English.
In this state of treacherous plotting and open preparation for war, the governor felt it his duty to put the British troops in motion. The adigar made no secret of his opinion that the Eng. lish would succeed in taking Candy; he seemed indeed to wish it; but he made himself sure that he could contrive either to starve or drown them afterwards. In fact, our troops, almost without firing a shot, found themselves in the middle of the capital of the Candian dominions; where, however, not a living creature was to be seen, excepting a few pariah dogs. One division of the army, from Columbo, had performed the march of one hundred and three miles, and the other division, from the opposite point of Trincomalee, a march of one hundred and forty-two miles, through one of the most difficult countries in the world; and both arrived nearly at the same time at the central city—but they found it a desert; it had been evacuated, and set fire to in many places; and the treasure and all the most valuable articles had been removed. The king had fled to Hangeramketty, a royal palace, in a strong