At a time when public attention is so deeply interested in the twin subjects of colonization and conversion, some useful lessons may be derived from the miserable state of the celebrated Portuguese settlement: even though our present and their past positions be by no means parallel in all points, and though a variety of fortuitous cases, such as the pestilence and warfare which led to theidecadence, cannot or may not affect our more extended Indian empire.
The Portuguese, it must be recollected, generally speaking, contented themselves with seizing the different lines of sea-coast, holding them by means of forts, stations, and armed vessels, and using them for the purpose of monopolising the export and import trade of the interior. In the rare cases when they ventured up the country they made a point of colonising it. We, on the contrary, have hitherto acted upon the principle of subjugating whole provinces to our sway, and such has been our success, that not only the Christian, but even the heathen, sees the finger of Providence directing our onward course of conquest.
Of late years, climates supposed to be favourable to European constitution, such as Neilgherry hills and the lower slopes of the Himalayas, have been discovered, tested, and approved of. Determined to make use of them, our legislators have taken the wise step of establishing barracks for the British soldiery in places where they may live in comparative health and comfort during peaceful times, and yet be available for immediate active service, whenever and wherever their presence may be required.
But we are not willing to stop here, we argue that such salubrious and fertile tracts of country would form excellent permanent settlements for half-pay officers, pensioners, worn-out soldiers, and others, who prefer spending the remainder of their days in the land of their adoption. Here, then, we have the proposed beginning of a colony.
To the probability of extensive success, or public utility in such a scheme, there are two important objections.
In the first place, supposing the offspring of the colonists to be of pure European blood, we must expect them to degenerate after the second generation. All who have sojourned long in the southern parts of Europe, such as Italy or Spain, must have remarked the deleterious effects of a hot and dry climate upon a race that thrives only in a cold and damp one. An English child brought up in Italy is, generally speaking, more sickly, more liable to nervous and hepatic complaints, and, consequently, more weakened in mind as well as body, than even the natives of the country. If this remark hold true in the South of Europe, it is not likely to prove false in tropical latitudes.
But, secondly, if acting upon Albuquerque's fatal theory, we encourage intermarriage with the natives of the country, such colony would be worse than useless to us. We cannot but think that the Hindoos are the lowest branch of the Caucasian or Iranian family; and, moreover, that, contrary to what might be expected, any intermixture of blood with the higher classes of that same race produces a still inferior development. Some have accounted for the mental inferiority of the mixed breed by a supposed softness or malformation of the brain, others argue that the premature depravity and excess to which they are prone, enervate their bodies, and, consequently, affect their minds. Whatever may be the cause of the phenomenon its existence is, we humbly opine, undeniable. Neither British nor Portuguese India ever produced a half-caste at all deserving of being ranked in the typical order of man.
Our empire in the East has justly be described as one of opinion, that is to say, it is founded upon the good opinion entertained of us by the natives, and their bad opinion of themselves. In the old times of the Honourable East India Company, when no Englishman or Englishwoman was permitted to reside in India, without formal permission, the people respected us more than they do now. Admitting this assertion, it is not difficult to account for the reason why, of late years, a well-appointed British force has more than once found it difficult to defeat a rudely-drilled Indian army. We are the same men we were in the days of Clive and Cornwallis; the people of India are not; formerly they fought expecting to be defeated, now they enter the field flushed with hopes of success. We cannot but suspect that the lower estimate they have formed of their antagonists has more to do with their increased formidableness than any other of the minor causes to which it is usually attributed. But if not contented with exposing individuals to their contempt, we offer them whole colonies, we may expect to incur even greater disasters. Everyone knows that if the people of India could be unanimous for a day they might sweep us from their country as dust before a whirlwind. There is little danger of their combining so long as they dread us. Such fear leads to distrust; every man knows himself, and, consequently, suspects his neighbour, to be false. Like the Italians in their late war of independence the cry of tradimento (treachery) is sufficient to paralyse every arm, however critical be the hour in which it is raised. So it is in India. But their distrust of each other, as well as their respect for us, is founded entirely upon their fear of our bayonets.
In whatever way, then, we propose to populate our settlement, we place ourselves in a position of equal difficulty and danger. Such colonies would, like Goa, be born with the germs of sure and speedy decline, and well for our Indian empire in general, if the contagious effects of their decay did not extend far and wide though the land.
The conversion of the natives of India to Christianity has of late years become a species of excitement in our native country, and consequently, many incorrect, prejudiced and garbled statements of the progress and success of the good work have gone forth to the world. Not a few old Indians returned home, have been very much surprised by hearing authentic accounts and long details of effectual missionary labour which they certainly never witnessed. Our candour may not be appreciated--it is so difficult for the enthusiastic to avoid running down an opinion contrary to their own--we cannot, however, but confess that some years spent in Western India have convinced us that the results hitherto obtained are utterly disproportionate to the means employed for converting the people. Moreover, study of the native character forces us to doubt whether anything like success upon a grand scale can ever reasonably be anticipated. We have often heard it remarked by those most conversant with the deep-rooted prejudices and the fanatic credulity of the Hindoos that with half the money and trouble we have lavished upon them they could have made double the number of converts to their heathenism in Europe.
The splendid success of the Portuguese in converting the Hindoos, was owing to two main causes, the first their persecution, (55) which compelled many natives to assume European names, adopt the dress, manners, and customs of the West, and gradually to lapse, if we may use the expression, into Christianity. After once entering a church, the proselytes were under the strict surveillance of the Inquisition, who never allowed a "new Christian" to apostatize without making a signal example of him. In the second place, the Portuguese sent out in all directions crowds of missionaries, who, as Tavernier informs us, assumed the native dress, and taught under the disguise of Jogees and other Hindoo religious characters, a strange, and yet artful mixture of the two faiths. That these individuals sacrificed the most vital points of their religion to forward the end they proposed to themselves, we have ample proof; at the same time that they were eminently successful, is equally well known. The virulent animosity that existed between the Jesuits and the Jansenists disclosed to astonished Europe the system of adaptation adopted by the former, and Benedict XIV, by a violent bull, put an end at once to their unjustifiable means, and their consequent successfulness of conversion. (56)
We by no means mean to insinuate that our holy faith is unfavourable to the development or progression of the human species. Still it cannot be concealed that, generally speaking, throughout the East the Christian is inferior, as regards strength, courage, and principle to the average of the tribes which populate that part of the world. His deficiency of personal vigour may be accounted for by the use of impure meats, and the spirituous liquors in which he indulges. The want of ceremonial ablutions, also, undoubtedly tends to deteriorate the race. It may be observed that from Zoroaster and Moses downwards, no founder of an Eastern faith has ever omitted to represent his dietetic or ablusive directions as inspired decrees, descending from Heaven. Care applied to public health, ensures the prosperity of a people, especially amongst semi-barbarous races, where health engenders bodily vigour, strength begets courage, and bravery a rude principle of honour.
What Goa has done may serve as a lesson to us. She compelled or induced good Hindoos and Moslems to become bad Christians. The consequence has been the utter degeneracy of the breed, who have been justly characterized by our House of Commons as "a race the least respected and respectable, and the least fitted for soldiers of all the tribes that diversify the populous country of India.
In conclusion, we have only to inform our reader that the opinions thus boldly proposed to him are, we believe, those entertained by many of the acutest judges of native character and native history. It is easy to understand why they are not more often offered to public attention.
After addressing a note to the Secretary for permission to leave Goa, we set out in quest of a conveyance; and deeply we had to regret that we did not retain our old pattimar. The owners of vessels, knowing that we must pay the price they asked, and seeing that we were determined to migrate southwards, became extortionate beyond all bounds. At last we thought ourselves happy to secure a wretched little boat for at least double the usual hire. After duly taking leave of our small circle of acquaintances, we transferred ourselves and luggage on board the San Ignacio awaiting the pleasure of the Tindal--a hard-featured black Portuguese--to quit the land of ruins and cocoa trees. Before preparing for rest we went through the usual ceremony of mustering our crew, and ascertaining the probable hour of our departure: we presently found, as we might have guessed, that they were all on shore except a man and a diminutive boy, and that consequently we were not likely to weigh anchor before 2 A.M., at least five hours later than was absolutely necessary. As we felt no desire to encounter the various Egyptian plagues of the cabin, we ordered a table to be placed under the awning, and seated ourselves upon the same with the firm determination of being as patient and long-suffering as possible.
The night was a lovely one--fair and cool as ever made amends for a broiling and glaring April day in these detestable latitudes. A more beautiful sight, perhaps, was never seen than the moon rising like a ball of burnished silver through the deep azure of the clear sky, and shedding her soft radiance down the whole length of the Rio. The little villages almost hidden from view by the groves of impending trees, whose heads glistened as if hoar-frost had encrusted them; the solemn forms of the towering churches, the ruins of Old Goa dimly perceptible in the far distance, and nearer, Panjim, lying in darkness under the shadow of the hills, all looked delightfully tranquil and peaceful. Besides, we were about to bid adieu to the scenes in which we had spent a pleasant hour or two, and they are epochs in the traveller's life, these farewells to places or faces we admire. Will then the reader wonder if we confess that, under the circumstances of the case, we really had no resource but to feel poetically disposed? And, as happens in such cases, the Demon of Doggrel emboldened by the presence of those two kindred spirits, the naughty Herba Nicotiana and the immodest "Naiad of the Phlegethontic Rill Cogniac," tempted us so long and sorely, that he at last succeeded in causing us to perpetrate the following
LINES.Adieu, fair land, deep silence reigns
Aye, what tongue indeed? In an instant the demon fled, as our crew, in the last stage of roaring intoxication, sealed the side of what we were about to poetically designate our "bark." A few minutes' consideration convinced us that energetic measures must be adopted if we wished to restore order or quiet. In vain were the efforts of our eloquence: equally useless some slight preliminary exertions of to and talon. At last, exasperated by the failure, and perhaps irritated by thinking of the beautiful lines we might have indited but for the inopportune interruption, we ventured to administer a rapid succession of small double raps to the Tindal's shaven and cocoanut-like pericranium. The wretch ceased his roaring, rose from off his hams, and after regarding us for a minute with a look of intense drunken ferocity, precipitated himself into the water. Finding the tide too strong for him he began to shriek like a dying pig; his crew shouted because he shouted, sympathetically yelled the sailors in the neighbouring boats, and the sentinels on shore began to give alarm. Never, perhaps, has there been such confusion at Goa since the Maharatta rode round her walls. Up rushed the harbour master, the collector of customs, the military, and the police--even his Excellency the Governor General of all the Indies, did not deem it beneath his dignity to quit the palace for the purpose of ascertaining what had caused the turmoil. The half-drowned wretch, when hurried into the high presence, declared, in extenuation of his conduct, that he had imprudently shipped on board the San Ignacio, an Inglez, or Englishman, who had deliberately commenced murdering the crew the moment they came on board. The Governor, however, seeing the truth of things, ordered him immediately to be placed in the nearest quarter guard till midnight, at which time it was calculated that, by virtue of the ducking, he might be sober enough to set sail.
As we rapidly glided by the Castle of Agoada, all our crew stood up, and with hands reverentially upraised, said their prayers. They did not, however, pay much respect to the patron saint of the boat, whose image, a little painted doll, in a wooden box, occupied a conspicuous position in the "cuddy." A pot of oil with a lighted wick was, it is true, regularly placed before him every night to warn the vermin against molesting so holy a personage: the measure, however, failed in success, as the very first evening we came on board, a huge rat took his station upon the saint's back and glared at us, stretching his long sharp shout over the unconscious San Ignacio's head. One evening, as the weather appeared likely to be squally, we observed that the usual compliment was not offered to the patron, and had the curiosity to inquire why.
"Why?" vociferated the Tindal indignantly, "if that chap can't keep the sky clear, he shall have neither oil nor wick from me, d--n him!"
"But I should have supposed that in the hour of danger you would have paid him ore than usual attention?"
"The fact is, Sahib, I have found out that the fellow is not worth his salt: the last time we had an infernal squall with him on board, and if he doesn't keep this one off, I'll just throw him overboard, and take to Santa Caterina: hang me if I don't--the brother-in-law!" (57)
And so saying the Tindal looked ferocious things at the placid features of San Ignacio.
The peculiar conformation of our captain's mind recalled to memory a somewhat similar phenomenon which we noticed in our younger days. We were toiling up a steep and muddy mountain-road over the Apennines, on foot, to relieve our panting steeds, whom the vetturnino was fustigating, con amore, at the same time venting fearful imprecations upon the soul of Sant' Antonino Piccino, or the younger.
At length, tired of hearing the cadet so defamed, we suggested that our friend should address a few similar wards to the other Sant' Antonino--the elder.
"The elder!" cried the vetturino, aghast with horror. "Oh, per Bacco che bestemmia--what a blasphemy! No, I daren't abuse His Sanctity; but as for this little rufiano of a younger, I've worn his portrait these ten years, and know by this time that nothing is to be got out of him without hard words."
On the fourth day after our departure from Panjim, a swarm of canoes full of fishermen, probably descendants of the ancient Malabar pirates, gave us happy tidings of speedy arrival. They were a peculiar-looking race dressed in headgear made of twisted palm leaves, and looking exactly as if an umbrella, composed of matting, had been sewn on to the top of a crownless hat of the same material.
And now we are in the Malabar seas.