Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][ocr errors]

whence they come by turns to their talk, which they


December are obliged to perform for a small pay. The guardboat was conitantly rowed by these people, who are of a light copper colour, and have long black hair.

The military establishment here consists of twelve regiments of regular troops, fix of which are Portuguese and fix Creoles; and twelve other regiments of provincial militia. To the regulars the inhabitants behave with the utmost humility and submiflion; and I was iold, that if any of them should neglect to take off his hat upon meeting an officer, he would immediately be knocked down. These haughty severities render the people extremely civil to any stranger who has the appearance of a gentleman. But the subordination of the officers themselves to the Viceroy is enforced with circumstances equally mortifying, for they are obliged to attend in his hall three times every day to alk his commands; the answer constantly is, “ There is nothing new.” I have been told, that this servile attendance is exacted to prevent their going into the country, and if so, it effectually answers the purpose.

It is, I believe, universally allowed, that the women, both of the Spanish and Portuguese settlements in South America, make less difficulty of granting personal favours, than those of any other civilized country in the world. Of the ladies of this town some have formed so unfavourable an opinion as to declare, that they did not believe there was a modest one among them. This censure is certainly too general; but what Dr. Solander faw of them when he was on shore, gave him no very exalted idea of their chastity: he told me, that as soon

it was dark, one or more of them appeared in every window, and distinguished those whom they liked, among the gentlemen that walked past them, by giving them nosegays; that he, and two gentlemen who were with him, received so many of these favours, that, at the end of their walk, which was not a long one, they threw whole hatfuls of them away. Great allowance must certainly be made for local customs; that which in one country would be an indecent familiarity, is a mere act of general courtesy in another; of the fad, therefore, which I have related, I shall say nothing, but that I am confident it is true,



1768. December.

Neither will I take upon me to affirm, that murders are frequently committed here; but the churches afford an afylum to the criminal; and as our cockswain was one day looking at two men, who appeared to be talking together in a friendly manner, one of them suddenly drew a knife and ftabbed the other ; who not instantly falling, the murderer withdrew the weapon, and stabbed him a second time. He then ran away, and was pursued by some Negroes who were also witnesses of the fact; but whether he escaped or was taken I never heard.

The country at a small distance round the town, which is all that any of us saw, is beautiful in the highest degree: the wildest spots being varied with a greater luxuriance of flowers, both as to number and beauty, than the best gardens in England.

Upon the trees and bushes sat an almost endless variety of birds, especially small ones, many of them covered with the moft elegant plumage, among which were the humming-bird. Of inseats too there was a great variety, and some of them very beautiful; but they were much more nimble than thofe of Europe, especially the butterfljes, most of which flew near the tops of the trees, and were therefore


difficult to be caught, except when the sea breeze blew fresh, which kept them nearer to the ground.

The banks of the sea, and of the small brooks which water this part of the country, are almost covered with the small crabs called Cancer vocans ; some of these 'had one of the claws, called by naturalists the hand, very large; others had them both remarkably small, and of equal size, a difference which is said to distinguish the sexes, that with the large claw being the male.

There is the appearance of but little cultivation ; the greater part of the land is wholly uncultivated, and very little care and labour seem to have been beftowed upon the rest; there are indeed little patches or gardens, in which many kinds of European garden stuff are produced, particularly cabbages, peas, beans, kidney-beans, turnips, and white radishes, but all much inferior to our own: water melons and pine ap- December. ples are also produced in these spots, and they are the only fruits that we saw cultivated, though the country produces mulk melons, pranges, limes, lemons, sweet lemons, citrons, plantains, bananas, mangos, mainane apples, acajou or cashou apples and nuts; jamboira of two kinds, one of which bears a small black fruit; cocoa nuts, mangos, palm nuts of two kinds, one long, the other round; and palm berries, all which were in feason while we were there.


Of these fruits the water melons and oranges are the best in their kind; the pine apples are much inferior to those that I have eaten in England; they are indeed more juicy and sweet, but have no flavour; I believe them to be natives of this country, though we heard of none that at this time grow wild; they have, however, very little care bestowed upon them, the plants being set between beds of any kind of garden stuff, and suffered to take the chance of the season. The melons are {till worse, at least those that we tafted, which were mealy and infipid; but the water melons are excellent; they have a flavour, at least a degree of acidity, which ours have not. We saw also several species of the prickle pear, and fome European fruits, particularly the apple and peach, both which were very mealy and infipid. In these gardens also grow yams, and mandihoca, which in the West Indies is called Caslada sor Caslava, and to the flour of which the people here, as I have before observed, give the name of Farinba de Paa, which may not improperly be tranflated, Powder of post. The foil, though it produces tobacco and sugar, will not produce bread.corn; fo that the people here have no wheat-flour, but what is brought from Portugal, and fold at the rate of a fhilling a pound, though it is generally fpoiled by being heated in its passage. Mr. Banks is of opinion, that all the products of our WestIndian islands would grow here; notwithstanding which, the inhabitarus import their coffee and chocolate from Lifbon.

Most of the land, as far as we saw of the country, is laid down in grass, upon which cattle are pastured in great plenty, but they are fo lean, that an English


1768. December.

man will scarcely eat of their flesh: the herbage of these pastures consists principally of cresses, and consequently is so short, that though it may afford a bite for horses and sheep, it can scarcely be grazed by horned cattle in a sufficient quantity to keep them alive.

This country may possibly produce many valuable drugs; but we could not find any in the apothecaries shops, except pareira brava, and balsam capivi; both of which are excellent in their kind, and sold at a very low price. The drug trade is probably carried on to the northward, as well as that of the dying woods, for we could get no intelligence of either of them here.

As to manufa&ures, we neither saw nor heard of any, except that of cotton hammocks, in which people are carried about here, as they are with us in fedan chairs; and these are principally, if not wholly, fabricated by the Indians.

The riches of the place consist chiefly in the mines, which we supposed to lie far up the country, though we could never learn where, or at what distance; for the situation is concealed as much as possible, and troops are ccotinually employed in guarding the roads that lead to them: it is almost impossible for any man to get a sight of them, except those who are employed there; and indeed the strongest curiosity would scarcely induce any man to attempt it; for whoever is found upon the road to them, if he cannot give undeniable evidence of his having business there, is immediately hanged up upon the next tree.

Much gold is certainly brought from these mines, but at an expence of life, that must strike every man, to whom custom has not made it familiar, with horror. No less than forty thousand Negroes are annually imported, on the King's account, to dig the mines; and we were credibly informed, that the last year but one before we arrived here, this number fell so short, probably from some epidemic disease, that twenty thousand more were draughted from the town of Rio.

Precious stones are also found here in such plenty, that a certain quantity only is allowed to be collected in a year; to collect this quantity, a number of people are sent into the country where they are found, and when it is got together, which sometimes happens in a month, fometimes in less, and sometimes in more, 1768.

a month,

December. they return; and after that, whoever is found in these precious districts, on any pretence, before the next year, is immediately put to death.

The jewels found here, are diamonds, topazes of several kinds, and amethysts. We did not see any of the diamonds, but were informed that the Viceroy had a large quantity by him, which he would sell on the King of Portugal's account, but not for a less price than they are sold for in Europe. Mr. Banks bought a few topazes and amethysts as specimens : of the topazes there are three sorts, of very different value, which are distinguished here by the names of Pinga d'agua qualidade primeiro, Pinga d'agua qualidade fecundo, and Chrystallos armerillos: they are sold, large and small, good and bad together, by octavos, or the eighth part of an ounce; the best at 45. gd. All dealing, however, in these stones is prohibited to the subject, under the severest penalties : there were jewellers here formerly, who purchased and worked them on their own account; but about fourteen months before our arrival, orders came from the court of Portugal, that no more stones should be wrought here, except on the King's account: the jewellers were ordered to bring all their tools to the Viceroy, and left without any means of subsistence. The persons employed here to work stones for the King are slaves.

The coin that is current here, is either that of Portugal, consisting chiefly of thirty-fix thilling pieces, or pieces, both of gold and silver, which are struck at this place : the pieces of silver, which are very much debased, are called Petacks, and are of different value, and easily distinguished by the number of rees that is marked on the outside. Here is also a copper coin, like that in Portugal, of five and ten ree pieces. A ree is a nominal coin of Portugal, ten of which are equal in value to about three farthings sterling.

The harbour of Rio de Janeiro is situated W. by N. 18 leagues from Cape Trio, and may be known by a remarkable hill, in the form of a sugar-loaf, at the west point of the bay; but as all the coast is very high, and rises in many peaks, the entrance of this harbour may be more certainly distinguished by the islands that lie


« ZurückWeiter »