A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11
by Robert Kerr
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


Of our Employment at Tinian, till the final Departure of the Centurion, and of the Voyage to Macao.[1]

The commodore resolved to stay no longer at the island than was absolutely necessary to complete our stock of water, a work which we immediately set ourselves about. But the loss of our long-boat, which was staved against our poop when we were driven out to sea, put us to great inconveniences in getting our water on board: For we were obliged to raft off all our cask, and the tide ran so strong, that, besides the frequent delays and difficulties it occasioned, we more than once lost the whole raft. Nor was this our only misfortune; for, on the third day after our arrival, a sudden gust of wind brought home our anchor, forced us off the bank, and drove the ship out to sea a second time. The commodore, it is true, and the principal officers, were now on board; but we had near seventy men on shore, who had been employed in filling our water, and procuring provisions: These had with them our two cutters; but as they were too many for the cutters to bring off at once, we sent the eighteen-oared barge to assist them; and at the same time made a signal for all that could to embark. The two cutters soon came off to us full of men; but forty of the company, who were employed in killing cattle in the wood, and in bringing them down to the landing-place, were left behind; and though the eighteen-oared barge was left for their conveyance, yet, as the ship soon drove to a considerable distance, it was not in their power to join us. However, as the weather was favourable, and our crew was now stronger than when we were first driven out, we, in about five days time, returned again to an anchor at Tinian, and relieved those we had left behind us from their second fears of being deserted by their ship.

[Footnote 1: The original contains also a description of the Ladrones (or Marian Islands, as they are now usually called,) which, for a reason before mentioned, is omitted.]

On our arrival, we found that the Spanish bark, the old object of their hopes, had undergone a new metamorphosis: For those we had left onshore began to despair of our return, and conceiving that the lengthening the bark, as formerly proposed, was both a toilsome and unnecessary measure, considering the small number they consisted of, they had resolved to join her again, and to restore her to her first state; and in this scheme they had made some progress; for they had brought the two parts together, and would have soon completed her, had not our coming back put a period to their labours and disquietudes.

These people we had left behind informed us, that, just before we were seen in the offing, two proas had stood in very near the shore, and had continued there for some time; but, on the appearance of our ship, they crowded away, and were presently out of sight. And, on this occasion, I must mention an incident, which, though it happened during the first absence of the ship, was then omitted, to avoid interrupting the course of the narration.

It hath been already observed, that a part of the detachment, sent to this island under the command of the Spanish Serjeant, lay concealed in the woods; and we were the less solicitous to find them out, as our prisoners all assured us, that it was impossible for them to get off, and consequently that it was impossible for them to send any intelligence about us to Guam. But when the Centurion drove out to sea, and left the commodore on shore, he one day, attended by some of his officers, endeavoured to make the tour of the island: In this expedition, being on a rising ground, they perceived in the valley beneath them the appearance of a small thicket, which, by observing more nicely, they found had a progressive motion: This at first surprised them; but they soon discovered, that it was no more than several large cocoa bushes, which were dragged along the ground, by persons concealed beneath them. They immediately concluded that these were some of the Serjeant's party (which, was indeed true); and therefore the commodore and his people made after them, in hopes of finding out their retreat. The Indians soon perceived they were discovered, and hurried away with precipitation; but Mr Anson was so near them, that he did not lose sight of them till they arrived at their cell, which he and his officers entering found to be abandoned, there being a passage from it down a precipice contrived for the conveniency of flight. They found here an old firelock or two, but no other arms. However, there was a great quantity of provisions, particularly salted spare-ribs of pork, which were excellent; and from what our people saw here, they concluded, that the extraordinary appetite, which they had found at this island, was not confined to themselves; for, it being about noon, the Indians had laid out a very plentiful repast considering their numbers, and had their bread-fruit and cocoa-nuts prepared ready for eating, and in a manner which plainly evinced, that, with them too, a good meal was neither an uncommon nor an unheeded article. The commodore having in vain endeavoured to discover the path by which the Indians had escaped, he and his officers contented themselves with sitting down to the dinner, which was thus luckily filled to their present appetites; after which, they returned back to their old habitation, displeased at missing the Indians, as they hoped to have engaged them in our service, if they could have had any conference with them. But, notwithstanding what our prisoners had asserted, we were afterwards assured, that these Indians were carried off to Guam long before we left the place.

On our coming to an anchor again; after our second driving off to sea; we laboured indefatigably in getting in our water; and having, by the 20th of October, completed it to fifty tun, which we supposed would be sufficient for our passage to Macao, we, on the next day, sent one of each mess on shore, to gather as large a quantity of oranges, lemons, cocoa-nuts, and other fruits of the island, as they possibly could, for the use of themselves and mess-mates, when at sea. And, these purveyors returning on board us on the evening of the same day, we then set fire to the bark and proa, hoisted in our boats, and got under sail, steering away for the south-end of the island of Formosa, and taking our leaves, for the third and last time, of the island of Tinian: An island, which, whether we consider the excellence of its productions, the beauty of its appearance, the elegance of its woods and lawns, the healthiness of its air or the adventures it gave rise to, may in all these views be truly styled romantic.

[After the description, certainly a very imperfect one, of the Ladrones, which now follows, the author gives a curious account of the proas or prows so much used among them. This is extracted, as likely to interest the reader, and as more satisfactory, than the brief notice already given in the history of Magellan's voyage. This account is more deserving of regard, as being drawn up from very particular examination of one of the vessels taken, as has been mentioned, at Tinian.]

The Indians that inhabit the Ladrones, of which Tinian (formerly well peopled) is one, are a bold, well-limbed people; and it should seem from some of their practices, that they are no ways defective in understanding; for their flying proa in particular, which has been for ages the only vessel used by them, is so singular and extraordinary an invention, that it would do honour to any nation, however dexterous and acute. Whether we consider its aptitude to the particular navigation of these islands, or the uncommon simplicity and ingenuity of its fabric and contrivance, or the extraordinary velocity with which it moves, we shall find it worthy of our admiration, and meriting a place amongst the mechanical productions of the most civilized nations, where arts and sciences have most eminently flourished.

The name of flying proa given to these vessels, is owing to the swiftness with which they sail. Of this the Spaniards assert such stories, as appear altogether incredible to those who have never seen these vessels move; nor are the Spaniards the only people who relate these extraordinary tales of their celerity. For those who shall have the curiosity to enquire at the dock at Portsmouth, about a trial made there some years since, with a very imperfect one built at that place, will meet with accounts not less wonderful than any the Spaniards have given. However, from some rude estimations made, by our people, of the velocity with which they crossed the horizon at a distance, whilst we lay at Tinian, I cannot help believing that with a brisk trade-wind they will run near twenty miles an hour: Which, though greatly short of what the Spaniards report of them, is yet a prodigious degree of swiftness.

The construction of this proa is a direct contradiction to the practice of the rest of mankind. For as the rest of the world make the head of their vessels different from the stern, but the two sides alike, the proa, on the contrary, has her head and stern exactly alike, but her two sides very different; the side, intended to be always the lee-side, being flat; and the windward-side made rounding, in the manner of other vessels: And, to prevent her oversetting, which from her small breadth, and the straight run of her leeward-side, would, without this precaution, infallibly happen, there is a frame laid out from her to windward, to the end of which is fastened a log, fashioned into the shape of a small boat, and made hollow: The weight of the frame is intended to balance the proa, and the small boat is by its buoyancy (as it is always in the water) to prevent her oversetting to windward; and this frame is usually called an outrigger. The body of the proa (at least of that we took) is made of two pieces joined end-ways, and sowed together with bark, for there is no iron used about her: She is about two inches thick at the bottom, which at the gunwale is reduced to less than one.[2]

[Footnote 2: The author refers to a plate for a minute description, which is necessarily omitted.—E.]

The proa generally carries six or seven Indians; two of which are placed in the head and stem, who steer the vessel alternately with a paddle, according to the tack she goes on, be in the stern being the steersman; the other Indians are employed either in baling out the water which she accidentally ships, or in setting and trimming the sail. From the description of these vessels it is sufficiently obvious, how dexterously they are fitted for ranging this collection of islands called the Ladrones: For as these islands lie nearly N. and S. of each other, and are all within the limits of the trade-wind, the proas, by sailing most excellently on a wind, and with either end foremost, can ran from one of these islands to the other and back again, only by shifting the sail, without ever putting about; and, by the flatness of their lee-side, and their small breadth, they are capable of lying much nearer the wind than any other vessel hitherto known.

The eastern monsoon was now, we reckoned, fairly settled; and we had a constant gale blowing right upon our stern: So that we generally ran from forty to fifty leagues a-day. But we had a large hollow sea pursuing us, which occasioned the ship to labour much; whence we received great damage in our rigging, which was grown very rotten, and our leak was augmented: But, happily for us, our people were now in full health; so that there were no complaints of fatigue, but all went through their attendance on the pumps, and every other duty of the ship, with ease and cheerfulness.

Having no other but our sheet-anchor left, except our prize-anchors, which were stowed in the hold, and were too light to be depended on, we were under great concern how we should manage on, the coast of China, where we were all entire strangers, and where we should doubtless be frequently under the necessity of coming to an anchor. Our sheet-anchor being much too heavy for a coasting anchor, it was at length resolved to fix two of our largest prize-anchors into one stock, and to place between their shanks two guns, four pounders, which was accordingly executed, and it was to serve as a best bower: And a third prize-anchor being ill like manner joined with our stream-anchor, with guns between them, we thereby made a small bower; so that, besides our sheet-anchor, we had again two others at our bows, one of which weighed 3900, and the other 2900 pounds.

The 3d of November, about three in the afternoon, we saw an island, which at first we imagined to be the island of Botel Tobago Xima: But on nearer approach we found it to be much smaller than that is usually represented; and about an hour after we saw another island, five or six miles farther to the westward. As no chart, nor any journal we had seen, took notice of any other island to the eastward of Formosa, than Botel Tobago Xima, and as we had no observation of our latitude at noon, we were in some perplexity, being apprehensive that an extraordinary current had driven us into the neighbourhood of the Bashee islands; and therefore, when night came on, we brought to, and continued in this posture till the next morning, which proving dark and cloudy, for some time prolonged our uncertainty; but it cleared up about nine o'clock, when we again discerned the two islands above-mentioned; we then prest forwards to the westward, and by eleven got a sight of the southern part of the island of Formosa. This satisfied us that the second island we saw was Botel Tobago Xima, and the first a small island or rock, lying five or six miles due east from it, which, not being mentioned by any of our books or charts, was the occasion of our fears.[3]

[Footnote 3: These two islands are marked in Arrowsmith's map of Asia, under the names of Bottle Tobago and Little Bottle Tobago.—E.]

When we got sight of the island of Formosa, we steered W. by S. in order to double its extremity, and kept a good look-out for the rocks of Vele Rete, which we did not see till two in the afternoon. They then bore from us W.N.W. three miles distant, the south end of Formosa at the same time bearing N. by W. 1/2 W. about five leagues distant. To give these rocks a good birth, we immediately haled up S. by W. and so left them between us and the land. Indeed we had reason to be careful of them; for though they appeared as high out of the water as a ship's hull, yet they are environed with breakers on all sides, and there is a shoal stretching from them at least a mile and a half to the southward, whence they may be truly called dangerous. The course from Botel Tobago Xima to these rocks is S.W. by W. and the distance about twelve or thirteen leagues: And the south end of Formosa, off which they lie, is in the latitude of 21 deg. 50' north, and in 23 deg. 50' west longitude from Tinian, according to our most approved reckonings, though by some of our accounts above a degree more.

While we were passing by these rocks of Vele Rete, there was an outcry of fire on the fore-castle; this occasioned a general alarm, and the whole crew instantly flocked together in the utmost confusion, so that the officers found it difficult for some time to appease the uproar: But having at last reduced the people to order, it was perceived that the fire proceeded from the furnace; and, pulling down the brick-work, it was extinguished with great facility, for it had taken its rise from the bricks, which, being over-heated, had begun to communicate the fire to the adjacent wood-work. In the evening we were surprised with a view of what we at first sight conceived to have been breakers, but, on a stricter examination, we found them to be only a great number of fires on the island of Formosa. These, we imagined, were, intended by the inhabitants of that island as signals for us to touch there, but that suited not our views, we being impatient to reach the port of Macao as soon as possible. From Formosa we steered W.N.W. and sometimes still more northerly, proposing to fall in with, the coast of China, to the eastward of Pedro Blanco; for the rock so called is usually esteemed an excellent direction for ships bound to Macao. We continued this course till the following night, and then frequently brought to, to try if we were in soundings: But it was the 5th of November, at nine in the morning, before we struck ground, and then, we had forty-two fathom, and a bottom of grey sand mixed with shells. When we had got about twenty miles farther W.N.W. we had thirty-five fathom; and the same bottom, from whence our sounding gradually decreased from thirty-five to twenty-five fathom; but soon after, to our great surprise, they jumped back again to thirty fathom: This was an alteration we could not very well account for,[4] since all the charts laid down regular soundings every-where to the northward of Pedro Blanco; and for this reason we kept a very careful look-out, and altered our course to N.N.W. and having run thirty-five miles in this direction, our soundings again gradually diminished to twenty-two fathom, and we at last, about mid-night, got sight of the main land of China, bearing N. by W. four leagues distant: We then brought the ship to, with her head to the sea, proposing to wait for the morning; and before sun-rise we were surprised to find ourselves in the midst of an incredible number of fishing-boats, which seemed to cover the surface of the sea as far as the eye could reach. I may well style their number incredible, since I cannot believe, upon the lowest estimate, that there were fewer than six thousand, most of them manned with five hands, and none with less than three. Nor was this swarm of fishing-vessels peculiar to this spot; for, as we ran on to the westward, we found them as abundant on every part of the coast. We at first doubted not but we should procure a pilot from them to carry us to Macao; but though many of them came close to the ship, and we endeavoured to tempt them by showing them a number of dollars, a most alluring bait for Chinese of all ranks and professions, yet we could not entice them on board us, nor procure any directions from them; though, I presume, the only difficulty was their not comprehending what we wanted them to do, for we could have no communication with them, but by signs: Indeed we often pronounced the word Macao; but this we had reason to suppose they understood in a different sense; for in return they sometimes held up fish to us, and we afterwards learnt, that the Chinese name for fish is of a somewhat similar sound. But what surprised us most, was the inattention and want of curiosity, which we observed in this herd of fishermen: A ship like ours had doubtless never been in those seas before; perhaps, there might not be one, amongst all the Chinese employed in this fishery, who had ever seen any European vessel; so that we might reasonably have expected to have been considered by them as a very uncommon and extraordinary object; but though many of their vessels came close to the ship, yet they did not appear to be at all interested about us, nor did they deviate in the least from their course to regard us; which insensibility, especially in maritime persons, about a matter in their own profession, is scarcely to be credited, did not the general behaviour of the Chinese, in other instances, furnish us with continual proofs of a similar turn of mind: It may perhaps be doubted, whether this cast of temper be the effect of nature or education; but, in either case, it is an incontestable symptom of a mean and contemptible disposition, and is alone a sufficient confutation of the extravagant panegyrics, which many hypothetical writers have bestowed on the ingenuity and capacity of this nation.[5]

[Footnote 4: It was probably occasioned by their being over a sand bank, which is laid down by Arrowsmith in this part of the Centurion's course.—E.]

[Footnote 5: Neither the ingenuity nor the capacity of the Chinese is at all implicated by the circumstances recorded, the source of which may be probably enough conjectured, viz. their contempt of every thing foreign, which, it is well known, they never scruple to avow. Besides, as is very soon mentioned, their fishermen were under authority, and had received no orders or permission to the effect desired.—E.]

Not being able to procure any information from the Chinese fishermen about our proper course to Macao, it was necessary for us to rely entirety on our own judgment; and concluding from our latitude, which was 22 deg. 42' north, and from our soundings, which were only seventeen or eighteen fathoms, that we were yet to the eastward of Pedro Blanco, we stood to the westward: And, for the assistance of future navigators, who may hereafter doubt about the parts of the coast they are upon, I must observe, that, besides the latitude of Pedro Blanco, which is 22 deg. 18', and the depth of water, which to the westward of that rock is almost every where twenty fathoms, there is another circumstance which will give great assistance in judging of the position of the ship: This is, the kind of ground; for, till we came within thirty miles of Pedro Blanco, we had constantly a sandy bottom; but there the bottom changed to soft and muddy, and continued so quite to the island of Macao; only while we were in sight of Pedro Blanco, and very near it, we had for a short space a bottom of greenish mud, intermixed with sand.

On the fifth of November, at midnight, we made the coast of China; and the next day, about two o'clock, as we were standing to the westward within two leagues of the coast, and still surrounded by fishing vessels in as great numbers as at first, we perceived that a boat a-head of us waved a red flag, and blew a horn; This we considered as a signal made to us, either to warn us of some shoal, or to inform us that they would supply us with a pilot, and in this belief we immediately sent our cutter to the boat, to know their intentions; but we were soon made sensible of our mistake, and found that this boat was the commodore of the whole fishery, and that the signal she had made, was to order them all to leave off fishing, and to return in shore, which we saw them instantly obey. On this disappointment we kept on our course, and soon after passed by two very small rocks, which lay four or five miles distant from the shore; but night came on before we got sight of Pedro Blanco, and we therefore brought-to till the morning, when we had the satisfaction to discover it. It is a rock of a small circumference, but of a moderate height, and, both in shape and colour, resembles a sugar-loaf, and is about seven or eight miles from the shore. We passed within a mile and a half of it, and left it between us and the land, still keeping on to the westward; and the next day, being the 7th, we were a-breast of a chain of islands, which stretched from east to west. These, as we afterwards found, were called the islands of Lema;[6] they are rocky and barren, and are in all, small and great, fifteen or sixteen; and there are, besides, a great number of other islands between them and the main land of China. These islands we left on the star-board side, passing within four miles of them, where we had twenty-four fathom water. We were still surrounded by fishing-boats; and we once more sent the cutter on board one of them, to endeavour to procure a pilot, but could not prevail; however, one of the Chinese directed us by signs to sail round the westermost of the islands, or rocks of Lema, and then to hale up. We followed this direction; and in the evening came to an anchor in eighteen fathom.

[Footnote 6: Called Grand Lema in Arrowsmith's map, and touched at by the Lion in 1793.—E.]

On the 9th at four in the morning, we sent our cutter to sound the channel, where we proposed to pass; but before the return of the cutter, a Chinese pilot put on board us, and told us, in broken Portuguese, he would carry us to Macao for thirty dollars: These were immediately paid him, and we then weighed and made sail; and soon after, several other pilots came on board us, who, to recommend themselves, produced certificates from the captains of several ships they had piloted in, but we continued the ship under the management of the Chinese who came first on board. By this time we learnt, that we were not far distant from Macao, and that there were in the river of Canton, at the mouth of which Macao lies, eleven European ships, of which four were English. Our pilot carried us between the islands of Bamboo and Cabouce, but the winds hanging in the northern board, and the tides often setting strongly against us, we were obliged to come frequently to an anchor, so that we did not get through between the two islands till the 12th of November, at two in the morning. In passing through, our depth of water was from twelve to fourteen fathom; and as we still steered on N.W. 1/2 W. between a number of other islands, our soundings underwent little or no variation till towards the evening, when they increased to seventeen fathom; in which depth (the wind dying away) we anchored not far from the island of Lantoon, which is the largest of all this range of islands. At seven in the morning we weighed again, and steering W.S.W. and S.W. by W., we at ten o'clock happily anchored in Macao road, in five fathom water, the city of Macao bearing W. by N., three leagues distant; the peak of Lantoon E. by N., and the grand Ladrone S. by E. each of them about five leagues distant. Thus, after a fatiguing cruise of above two years continuance, we once more arrived in an amicable port, in a civilized country; where the conveniences of life were in great plenty; where the naval stores, which we now extremely wanted, could be in some degree procured; where we expected the inexpressible satisfaction of receiving letters from our relations and friends; and where our countrymen, who were lately arrived from England, would be capable of answering the numerous enquiries we were prepared to make, both about public and private occurrences, and to relate to us many particulars, which, whether of importance or not, would be listened to by us with the utmost attention, after the long suspension of our correspondence with our country, to which the nature of our undertaking had hitherto subjected us.


Proceedings at Macao.

The city of Macao, in the road of which we came to an anchor on the 12th of November, is a Portuguese settlement, situated in an island at the mouth of the river of Canton. It was formerly a very rich and populous city, and capable of defending itself against the power of the adjacent Chinese governors: But at present it is much fallen from its ancient splendour, for though it is inhabited by Portuguese, and has a governor nominated by the king of Portugal, yet it subsists merely by the sufferance of the Chinese, who can starve the place, and dispossess the Portuguese whenever they please: This obliges the governor of Macao to behave with great circumspection, and carefully to avoid every circumstance that may give offence to the Chinese.[7] The river of Canton, at the mouth of which this city lies, is the only Chinese port, frequented by European ships; and this river is indeed a more commodious harbour, on many accounts, than Macao: But the peculiar customs of the Chinese, only adapted to the entertainment of trading ships, and the apprehensions of the commodore, lest he should embroil the East-India company with the regency of Canton, if he should insist on being treated upon a different footing than the merchantmen, made him resolve to go first to Macao, before he ventured into the port of Canton. Indeed, had not this reason prevailed with him, he himself had nothing to fear: For it is certain that he might have entered the port of Canton, and might have continued there as long as he pleased, and afterwards have left it again, although the whole power of the Chinese empire had been brought together to oppose him.

[Footnote 7: This circumspection has never availed much. The Portuguese obtained this port and the adjoining territory of about 8 miles in circuit, as a reward for assistance given in extirpating a pirate who took refuge here. But the ingratitude of the Chinese always grudged, and often violated, the immunities thus won from their fears. The city, built after the European model, and originally possessed of both military strength and commercial consequence, has, through the carelessness of the Portuguese, and the exactions and insolence of their neighbours, dwindled into comparative insignificance. According to Sir George Staunton's account, the population does not now exceed 12000, and more than half is Chinese. In short, Macao is virtually a Chinese town, where the Portuguese are merely tolerated. The Chinese, it is certain, require almost any other treatment than condescension and good manners. The reader will soon see in the narrative how practicable it is to reduce them to common sense—one of the ingredients of it they have in a high degree, the desire of self-preservation. The following quotation from a work recently published, may amuse him in the mean time, and serves besides to confirm the statement of the text. "The situation of the Portuguese in Macao is particularly restrained, and that of their governor extremely unpleasant to him. Although the latter invariably conducts himself with the greatest circumspection, cases still arise in which he cannot give way without entirely sacrificing the honour of his country, already greatly diminished in the eyes of the Chinese. A few months only before our arrival (November 1805,) a circumstance happened fully illustrative of this; an account of which may tend to prove that, if the Portuguese possessed greater power at Macao, the cowardly Chinese would not dare to treat them with so little consideration, or, to speak more correctly, with so much contempt. If Macao were in the hands of the English, or even of the Spaniards, the shameful dependence of this possession on the Chinese would soon fall to the ground; and, with the assistance of their important possessions in the vicinity of China, either of these nations established in Macao might bid defiance to the whole empire. A Portuguese resident at Macao stabbed a Chinese, but being rich, he offered the family of the deceased a sum of money to suffer the affair to drop. This was agreed to, and he paid 4000 piastres; scarcely, however, had he given the money, when the affair was represented to the Chinese magistracy, who exacted from the governor that the criminal should be instantly given up. The latter refused, alleging, that, as the deed was committed in Macao, he was liable to the Portuguese law, according to which he would be punished if they found him guilty. The Chinese, who wished to inflict punishment on the Portuguese, immediately on the receipt of this answer shut up all their booths, and forbade the importation of provisions into Macao; but the governor, who had two years stock of provisions for his garrison, (we shall find it was otherwise with the governor in Anson's time) troubled himself very little with this threat, and still refused to give up the criminal; in the mean time his trial went on; he was found guilty of the murder, and immediately hanged. The Chinese assembled with the intention of endeavouring to seize the perpetrator of the murder whilst on his way to the scaffold: The governor collected his troops, loaded the artillery on the batteries, and awaited the attack; and, alarmed at his decisive measures, the Chinese withdrew, under the pretence of being perfectly satisfied with the execution of the murderer, and order was immediately restored." The work from which this is extracted is Captain Krusenstern's account of his voyage round the world, in 1803-4-5 and 6; being the first circumnavigation the Russians have made, and that too under the patronage and by the command of the most magnanimous and beneficient Alexander, a monarch whom every friend of humanity must admire and love from the heart, as surpassing even his liberality in the promotion of useful science and discovery amongst his own subjects, by the splendour and substantial value of his services in the best interests of Europe, and the world:

Non possidentem multa vocaveris Recte beatum: rectius occupat Nomen beati, qui deorum Muneribus sapienter uti, Duramque callet pauperiem pati, Pejusque leto flagitium timet; Non ille pro caris amicis Aut patria timidus perire.

To return to Macao: Captain K. strongly expresses his wish that some European power of sufficient energy and consequence would take possession of it, before the Portuguese themselves abandon it to the Chinese. It is evident he alludes to the English. An agreement, it is very probable, might be readily entered into with the Portuguese for the possession of that place, which could not fail to prove most convenient for our eastern commerce. An equivalent may be found among the West Indian islands; but it is perhaps equally vain and invidious to speculate on such very distant concerns, when the wonderful events now occurring in a kingdom so long the torment and the teacher of nations, arrest the imagination from every trivial selfish pursuit, and fix the mind undividedly on the operations of the great source of power, justice, and truth. A new aera commences in the world—May it be remarkable to all succeeding generations for liberal policy, disinterestedness, and general benevolence!—E.

12th April, 1814.]

The commodore, not to depart from his usual prudence, no sooner came to an anchor in Macao road, than he dispatched an officer with his compliments to the Portuguese governor of Macao, requesting his excellency, by the same officer, to advise him in what manner it would be proper to act, to avoid offending the Chinese, which, as there were then four of our ships in their power at Canton, was a matter worthy of attention. The difficulty, which the commodore principally apprehended, related to the duty usually paid by all ships in the river of Canton, according to their tunnage. For as men of war are exempted in every foreign harbour from all manner of port charges, the commodore thought it would be derogatory to the honour of his country to submit to this duty in China: And therefore he desired the advice of the governor of Macao, who, being an European, could not be ignorant of the privileges claimed by a British man of war, and consequently might be expected to give us the best lights for avoiding this perplexity. Our boat returned in the evening with two officers sent by the governor, who informed the commodore, that it was the governor's opinion, that if the Centurion ventured into the river of Canton, the duty would certainly be demanded; and therefore, if the commodore approved of it, he would send him a pilot, who should conduct us into another safe harbour, called the Typa, which was every way commodious for careening the ship, (an operation we were resolved to begin upon as soon as possible) and where the above-mentioned duty would, in all probability, be never asked for.

This proposal the commodore agreed to, and in the morning we weighed anchor, and, under the direction of the Portuguese pilot, steered for the intended harbour. As we entered two islands, which form the eastern passage to it, we found our soundings decreased to three fathom and a half: But the pilot assuring us that this was the least depth we should meet with, we continued our course, till at length the ship stuck fast in the mud, with only eighteen feet water abaft; and, the tide of ebb making, the water sewed to sixteen feet, but the ship remained perfectly upright; we then sounded all round us, and finding the water deepened to the northward, we carried out our small bower with two hawsers an end, and at the return of the tide of flood, hove the ship afloat, and a small breeze springing up at the same instant, we set the fore top-sail, and, slipping the hawser, ran into the harbour, where we moored in about five fathom water. This harbour of the Typa is formed by a number of islands, and is about six miles distant from Macao. Here we saluted the castle of Macao with eleven guns, which were returned by an equal number.

The next day the commodore paid a visit in person to the governor, and was saluted at his landing by eleven guns, which were returned by the Centurion. Mr Anson's business in this visit was to solicit the governor to grant us a supply of provisions, and to furnish us with such stores as were necessary to refit the ship The governor seemed really inclined to do us all the service he could, and assured the commodore, in a friendly manner, that he would privately give us all the assistance in his power; but, at the same time, frankly owned that he dared not openly furnish us with any thing we demanded, unless we first procured an order for it from the viceroy of Canton, for that he neither received provisions for his garrison, nor any other necessaries, but by permission from the Chinese government; and as they took care only to furnish him from day to day, he was indeed no other than their vassal, whom they could at all times compel to submit to their own terms, only by laying an embargo on his provisions.

On this declaration of the governor, Mr Anson resolved himself to go to Canton to procure a license from the viceroy; and accordingly hired a Chinese boat for himself and his attendants; but just as he was ready to embark, the Hoppo, or Chinese custom-house officer at Macao, refused to grant a permit to the boat, and ordered the watermen not to proceed at their peril. The commodore at first endeavoured to prevail with the hoppo to withdraw his injunction, and to grant a permit; and the governor of Macao employed his interest with the hoppo to the same purpose. Mr Anson, finding the officer inflexible, told him the next day, that if he longer refused to grant the permit, he would man and arm his own boats to carry him thither; asking the hoppo, at the same time, who he imagined would dare to oppose him. This threat immediately brought about what his entreaties had laboured for in vain: The permit was granted, and Mr Anson went to Canton. On his arrival there he consulted with the supercargoes and officers of the English ships, how to procure an order from the viceroy for the necessaries he wanted; but in this he had reason to suppose, that the advice they gave him, though doubtless well intended, was yet not the most prudent; for as it is the custom with these gentlemen never to apply to the supreme magistrate himself, whatever difficulties they labour under, but to transact all matters relating to the government by the mediation of the principal Chinese merchants, Mr Anson was advised to follow the same method upon this occasion, the English promising (in which they were doubtless sincere) to exert all their interest to engage the merchants in his favour. And when the Chinese merchants were applied to, they readily undertook the management of it, and promised to answer for its success; but after near a month's delay, and reiterated excuses, during which interval they pretended to be often upon the point of completing the business, they at last (being pressed, and measures being taken for delivering a letter to the viceroy) threw off the mask, and declared they neither had applied to the viceroy nor could they; for he was too great a man, they said, for them to approach on any occasion. And, not contented with having themselves thus grossly deceived the commodore, they now used all their persuasion with the English at Canton, to prevent them from intermeddling with any thing that regarded him, representing to them; that it would in all probability embroil them with the government, and occasion them a great deal of unnecessary trouble; which groundless insinuations had indeed but too much weight with those they were applied to.

It may be difficult to assign a reason for this perfidious conduct of the Chinese merchants: Interest indeed is known to exert a boundless influence over the inhabitants of that empire; but how their interest could be affected in the present case is not easy to discover, unless they apprehended that the presence of a ship of force might damp their Manilla trade, and therefore acted in this manner with a view of forcing the commodore to Batavia: But it might be as natural in this light to suppose, that they would have been eager to have got him dispatched. I, therefore, rather impute their behaviour to the unparalleled pusillanimity of the nation, and to the awe they are under of the government; for as such a ship as the Centurion, fitted for war only, had never been seen in those parts before, she was the horror of these dastards, and the merchants were in some degree terrified even with the idea of her, and could not think of applying to the viceroy (who is doubtless fond of all opportunities of fleecing them) without representing to themselves the pretences which a hungry and tyrannical magistrate night possibly find, for censuring their intermeddling in so unusual a transaction, in which he might pretend the interest of the state was immediately concerned. However, be this as it may, the commodore was satisfied that nothing was to be done by the interposition of the merchants, as it was on his pressing them to deliver a letter to the viceroy that they had declared they durst not intermeddle, and had confessed, that, notwithstanding all their pretences of serving him, they had not yet taken one step towards it. Mr Anson therefore told them, that he would proceed to Batavia and refit his ship there; but informed them, at the same time, that this was impossible to be done, unless he was supplied with a stock of provisions sufficient for his passage. The merchants on this undertook to procure him provisions, but assured him that it was what they durst not engage in openly, but proposed to manage it in a clandestine manner, by putting a quantity of bread, flour, and other provision, on board the English ships, which were now ready to sail, and these were to stop at the mouth of the Typa, where the Centurion's boats were to receive it. This article, which the merchants represented as a matter of great favour, being settled, the commodore, on the 16th of December, returned from Canton to the ship, seemingly resolved to proceed to Batavia to refit, as soon as he should get his supplies of provision on board.

But Mr Anson (who never intended going to Batavia) found, on his return to the Centurion, that her main-mast was sprung in two places, and that the leak was considerably increased; so that, upon the whole, he was fully satisfied, that though he should lay in a sufficient stock of provisions, yet it would be impossible for him to put to sea without refitting: For, if he left the port with his ship in her present condition, she would be in the utmost danger of foundering, and therefore, notwithstanding the difficulties he had met with, he resolved at all events to have her hove down before he left Macao. He was fully convinced, by what he had observed at Canton, that his great caution not to injure the East India Company's affairs, and the regard he had shown to the advice of their officers, had occasioned all his embarrassments. For he now saw clearly, that if he had at first carried his ship into the river of Canton, and had immediately applied himself to the mandarines, who are the chief officers of state, instead of employing the merchants to apply for him, he would, in all probability, have had all his requests granted, and would have been soon dispatched. He had already lost a month by the wrong measures he had been put upon, but he resolved to lose as little more time as possible; and, therefore, the 17th of December, being the next day after his return from Canton, he wrote a letter to the viceroy of that place, acquainting him that he was commander-in-chief of a squadron of his Britannic majesty's ships of war which had been cruising for two years past in the South Seas against the Spaniards, who were at war with the king his master; that, in his way back to England, he had put into the port of Macao, having a considerable leak in his ship, and being in great want of provisions, so that it was impossible for him to proceed on his voyage till his ship was repaired, and he was supplied with the necessaries he wanted; that he had been at Canton, in hopes of being admitted to a personal audience of his excellency, but being a stranger to the customs of the country, he had not been able to inform himself what steps were necessary to be taken to procure such an audience, and therefore was obliged to apply to him in this manner, to desire his excellency to give orders for his being permitted to employ carpenters and proper workmen to refit his ship, and to furnish himself with provisions and stores, thereby to enable him to pursue his voyage to Great Britain with this monsoon, hoping, at the same time, that these orders would be issued with as little delay as possible, lest it might occasion his loss of the season, and he might be prevented, from departing till the next winter.

This letter was translated into the Chinese language, and the commodore delivered it himself to the hoppo, or chief officer of the emperor's customs at Macao, desiring him to forward it to the viceroy of Canton with as much expedition as he could. The officer at first seemed unwilling to take charge of it, and raised many difficulties about it, so that Mr Anson suspected him of being in league with the merchants of Canton, who had always shown a great apprehension of the commodore's having any immediate intercourse with the viceroy or mandarines; and, therefore, the commodore, with some resentment, took back his letter from the hoppo, and told him he would immediately send, an officer with it to Canton in his own boat, and would give him positive orders not to return without an answer from the viceroy. The hoppo, perceiving the commodore to be in earnest, and fearing to be called to an account for his refusal, begged to be entrusted with the letter, and promised to deliver it, and to procure an answer as soon as possible. And now it was soon seen how justly Mr Anson had at last judged of the proper manner of dealing with the Chinese; for this letter was written but the 17th of December, as hath been already observed, and on the 19th in the morning, a mandarine of the first rank, who was governor of the city of Janson, together with two mandarines of an inferior class, and a great retinue of officers and servants, having with them eighteen half gallies, decorated with a great number of streamers, and furnished with music, and full of men, came to grapnel a-head of the Centurion; whence the mandarine sent a message to the commodore, telling him that he (the mandarine) was ordered by the viceroy of Canton to examine the condition of the ship, and desiring the ship's boat might be sent to fetch him on board. The Centurion's boat was immediately dispatched, and preparations were made for receiving him; for a hundred of the most sightly of the crew were uniformly drest in the regimentals of the marines, and were drawn up under arms on the main-deck on his arrival. When he entered the ship he was saluted by the drums, and what other military music there was on board; and, passing by the new-formed guard, he was met by the commodore on the quarter-deck, who conducted him to the great cabin. Here the mandarine explained his commission, declaring, that his business was to examine all the particulars mentioned in the commodore's letter to the viceroy, and to confront them with the representation that had been given of them; that he was particularly instructed to inspect the leak, and had for that purpose brought with him two Chinese carpenters; and that, for the greater regularity and dispatch or his business, he had every head of enquiry separately wrote down on a sheet of paper, with a void space opposite to it, where he was to insert such information and remarks thereon as he could procure by his own observation.

This mandarine appeared to be a person of very considerable parts, and endowed with more frankness and honesty than is to be found in the generality of the Chinese. After the proper enquiries had been made, particularly about the leak, which the Chinese carpenters reported to be as dangerous as it had been represented, and consequently that it was impossible for the Centurion to proceed to sea without being refitted, the mandarine expressed himself satisfied with the account given in the commodore's letter. And this magistrate, as he was more intelligent than any other person of his nation that came to our knowledge, so likewise was he more curious and inquisitive, viewing each part of the ship with particular attention, and appearing greatly surprised at the largeness of the lower-deck guns, and at the weight and size of the shot. The commodore, observing his astonishment, thought this a proper opportunity to convince the Chinese of the prudence of granting him a speedy and ample supply of all he wanted: With this view he told the mandarine, and those who were with him, that, besides the demands he made for a general supply, he had a particular complaint against the proceedings of the custom-house of Macao; that at his first arrival the Chinese boats had brought on board plenty of greens, and variety of fresh provisions for daily use, for which they had always been paid to their full satisfaction, but that the custom-house officers at Macao had soon forbid them, by which means he was deprived of those refreshments which were of the utmost consequence to the health of his men after their long and sickly voyage; that as they, the mandarines, had informed themselves of his wants, and were eye-witnesses of the force and strength of his ship, they might be satisfied it was not for want of power to supply himself, that he desired the permission of the government to purchase what provisions he stood in need of; that they must be convinced that the Centurion alone was capable of destroying the whole navigation of the port of Canton, or of any other port in China, without running the least risk from all the force the Chinese could collect; that it was true this was not the manner of proceeding between nations in friendship with each other, but it was likewise true that it was not customary for any nation to permit the ships of their friends to starve and sink in their ports, when those friends had money to supply their wants, and only desired liberty to lay it out; that they must confess he and his people had hitherto behaved with great modesty and reserve, but that, as his wants were each day increasing, hunger would at last prove too strong for any restraint, and necessity was acknowledged in all countries to be superior to every other law, and therefore it could not be expected that his crew would long continue to starve in the midst of that plenty to which their eyes were every day witnesses. To this the commodore added, (though perhaps with a less serious air,) that if by the delay of supplying him with fresh provisions his men should be reduced to the necessity of turning cannibals, and preying upon their own species, it was easy to be foreseen, that, independent of their friendship to their comrades, they would, in point of luxury, prefer the plump well-fed Chinese to their own emaciated shipmates. The first mandarine acquiesced in the justness of this reasoning, and told the commodore that he should that night proceed for Canton; that on his arrival a counsel of mandarines would be summoned, of which he himself was a member, and that by being employed in the present commission, he was of course the commodore's advocate; that, as he was fully convinced of the urgency of Mr Anson's necessity, he did not doubt but on his representation the counsel would be of the same opinion; and that all that was demanded would be amply and speedily granted. And with regard to the commodore's complaint of the custom-house of Macao, he undertook to rectify that immediately by his own authority; for, desiring a list to be given him of the quantity of provision necessary for the expense of the ship for a day, he wrote a permit under it, and delivered it to one of his attendants, directing him to see that quantity sent on board early every morning; and this order, from that time forwards, was punctually complied with.[8]

[Footnote 8: Captain Krusenstern, in his very interesting work already referred to, relates an anecdote, which it may amuse the reader to compare with the reasoning of Commodore Anson's now given:

"An English brig (The Harrier) of eighteen guns, sent by Captain Wood, commanding a squadron on that station, to demand indemnification for a Spanish prize stranded on the coast of China, and plundered by the natives, had the audacity, in defiance of the laws of China, which prohibit ships of war going up the Tigris, to force her way as high as Whampoa. Two mandarines, as usual, went aboard the brig at the mouth of the river, to enquire what her cargo was. The captain shewed them a cannon-ball, on which they instantly retired.

"The brig," says K. "had found her way to Whampoa without a pilot; and the captain, with a guard of twelve men, proceeded to Canton to demand the payment of the sum (L30,000.) This daring conduct threw the viceroy into astonishment, and perhaps occasioned him some terror; for nothing but the excessive cowardice of the Chinese could have deterred him from noticing the affront. They, indeed, shewed a disposition after the captain had quitted Canton of avenging themselves, but this altogether in their customary manner; and I was assured, that the viceroy, as indemnification for this insult of the English captain, had imposed a heavy fine upon the Kohong (a company of merchants possessing the monopoly of the European trade,) although the members of this body could have no concern in the transaction." Capt. K. is decidedly of opinion, that nothing but resolute conduct will overcome the fickleness and knavery of the Chinese. He pays a high compliment to our countrymen, especially Mr Drummond, president of the factory, who interfered in his behalf when at Whampoa, and with effect, when they could easily have thwarted his plan, and embroiled his government with that of China. "That they pursued a very different line of conduct," says he, "will appear by the above account of their proceedings; nor can I sufficiently rejoice at the zeal and eagerness manifested by them in this business. Had we been detained only twenty-four-hours longer (he had applied for leave to depart, which was granted with much difficulty, and actually revoked a day after he had gone,) we must have fallen into the absolute power of these savages, who have been emboldened by an useless moderation, not only to call the polite nations of Europe barbarians, but also to treat them as such."—E.]

When this weighty affair was thus in some degree regulated, the commodore invited him and his two attendant mandarines to dinner, telling them at the same time, that if his provisions, either in kind or quantity, were not what they might expect, they must thank themselves for having confined him to so hard an allowance. One of his dishes was beef, which the Chinese all dislike, though Mr Anson was not apprized of it; this seems to be derived from the India superstition, which for some ages past has made a great progress in China. However, his guests did not entirely fast; for the three mandarines completely finished the white part of four large fowls. But they were extremely embarrassed with their knives and forks, and were quite incapable of making use of them: So that, after some fruitless attempts to help themselves, which were sufficiently awkward, one of the attendants was obliged to cut their meat in small pieces for them. But whatever difficulty they might have in complying with the European manner of eating, they seemed not to be novices in drinking. The commodore excused himself in this part of the entertainment, under the pretence of illness; but there being another gentleman present, of a florid and jovial complexion, the chief mandarine clapped him on the shoulder, and told him by the interpreter, that certainly he could not plead sickness, and therefore insisted on his bearing him company; and that gentleman perceiving, that after they had dispatched four or five bottles of Frontiniac, the mandarine still continued unruffled, he ordered a bottle of citron-water to be brought up, which the Chinese seemed much to relish; and this being near finished, they arose from table in appearance cool and uninfluenced by what they had drank, and the commodore having, according to custom, made the mandarine a present, they all departed in the same vessels that brought them.

After their departure, the commodore with great impatience expected the resolution of the council, and the necessary licences for his refitment. For it must be observed, as hath already appeared from the preceding narration, that he could neither purchase stores nor necessaries with his money, nor did any kind of workmen dare to engage themselves to work for him, without the permission of the government first obtained. And in the execution of these particular injunctions, the magistrates never fail of exercising great severity, they, notwithstanding the fustian eulogiums bestowed on them by the catholic missionaries and their European copiers, being composed of the same fragile materials with the rest of mankind, and often making use of the authority of the law, not to suppress crimes, but to enrich themselves by the pillage of those who commit them; for capital punishments are rare in China, the effeminate genius of the nation, and their strong attachment to lucre, disposing them rather to make use of fines; and hence arises no inconsiderable profit to those who compose their tribunals: Consequently prohibitions of all kinds, particularly such as the alluring prospect of great profit may often tempt the subject to infringe, cannot but be favourite institutions in such a government. But to return:

Some time before this, Captain Saunders took his passage to England on board a Swedish ship, and was charged with dispatches from the commodore; and soon after, in the month of December, Captain Mitchel, Colonel Cracherode, and Mr Tassel, one of the agent-victuallers, with his nephew Mr Charles Harriot, embarked on board some of our company's ships; and I, having obtained, the commodore's leave to return home, embarked with them.

Whilst we lay here at Macao, we were informed by some of the officers of our Indiamen, that the Severn and Pearl, the two ships of our squadron, which had separated from us off Cape Noir, were safely arrived at Rio Janeiro on the coast of Brazil. I have formerly taken notice, that at the time of their separation, we apprehended them to be lost. And there were many reasons which greatly favoured this suspicion: For we knew that the Severn in particular was extremely sickly; and this was the more obvious to the rest of the ships, as, in the preceding part of the voyage, her commander, Captain Legg, had been remarkable for his exemplary punctuality in keeping his station, till, for the last ten days before his separation, his crew was so diminished and enfeebled, that with his utmost efforts it was not possible for him to maintain it. Whatever was the cause of it, the Severn was by much the most sickly of the squadron: For before her departure from St Catharines, she buried more men than any of them, insomuch that the commodore was obliged to recruit her with a number of fresh hands; and the mortality still continuing, she was supplied with men a second time at sea, after our setting sail from St Julians; and, notwithstanding these different reinforcements, she was at last reduced to the distressed condition I have already mentioned.

Notwithstanding the favourable disposition of the mandarine governor of Janson, at his leaving Mr Anson, several days were elapsed before he had any advice from him; and Mr Anson was privately informed there were great debates in council upon his affair; partly perhaps owing to its being so unusual a case, and in part to the influence, as I suppose, of the French at Canton: For they had a countryman and fast friend residing on the spot, who spoke the language very well, and was not unacquainted with the venality of the government, nor with the persons of several of the magistrates, and consequently could not be at a loss for means of traversing the assistance desired by Mr Anson. And this opposition of the French was not merely the effect of national prejudice or contrariety of political interests, but was in good measure owing to their vanity, a motive of much more weight with the generality of mankind, than any attachment to the public service of their community: For, the French pretending their Indiamen to be men of war, their officers were apprehensive that any distinction granted to Mr Anson, on account of his bearing the king's commission, would render them less considerable in the eyes of the Chinese, and would establish a prepossession at Canton in favour of ships of war, by which they, as trading vessels, would suffer in their importance: And I wish the affectation of endeavouring to pass for men of war, and the fear of sinking in the estimation of the Chinese, if the Centurion was treated in a different manner from themselves, had been confined to the officers of the French ships only.[9] However, notwithstanding all these obstacles, it should seem that the representation of the commodore to the mandarines of the facility with which he could right himself, if justice were denied him, had at last its effect: For, on the 6th of January, in the morning, the governor of Janson, the commodore's advocate, sent down the viceroy of Canton's warrant for the refitment of the Centurion, and for supplying her people with all they wanted; and the next day a number of Chinese smiths and carpenters went on board to agree for the work. They demanded at first to the amount of a thousand pounds sterling for the necessary repairs of the ship, the boats, and the masts: This the commodore seemed to think an unreasonable sum, and endeavoured to persuade them to work by the day; but that proposal they would not hearken to; so it was at last agreed, that the carpenters should have to the amount of about six hundred pounds; and that the smiths should be paid for their iron-work by weight, allowing them at the rate of three pounds a hundred nearly for the small work, and forty-six shillings for the large.

[Footnote 9: This sly insinuation, it is pretty evident from the preceding narrative, is directed against some of the English merchants.—E.]

This being regulated, the commodore exerted himself to get this most important business completed; I mean the heaving down the Centurion, and examining the state of her bottom: For this purpose the first lieutenant was dispatched to Canton to hire two country vessels, called in their language junks, one of them being intended to heave down by, and the other to serve as a magazine for the powder and ammunition: At the same time the ground was smoothed on one of the neighbouring islands, and a large tent was pitched for lodging the lumber and provisions, and near a hundred Chinese caulkers were soon set to work on the decks and sides of the ship. But all these preparations, and the getting ready the careening gear, took up a great deal of time; for the Chinese caulkers, though they worked very well, were far from being expeditions; and it was the 26th of January before the junks arrived; and the necessary materials, which were to be purchased at Canton, came down very slowly, partly from the distance of the place, and partly from the delays and backwardness of the Chinese merchants. And in this interval Mr Anson had the additional perplexity to discover that his fore-mast was broken asunder above the upper deck partners, and was only kept together by the fishes which had been formerly clapt upon it.

However, the Centurion's people made the most of their time, and exerted themselves the best they could; and as, by clearing the ship, the carpenters were enabled to come at the leak, they took care to secure that effectually, whilst the other preparations were going forwards. The leak was found to be below the fifteen-foot mark, and was principally occasioned by one of the bolts being wore away and loose in the joining of the stem where it was scarfed.

At last all things being prepared, they, on the 22d of February, in the morning, hove out the first course of the Centurion's starboard side, and had the satisfaction to find that her bottom appeared sound and good; and, the next day (having by that time completed the new sheathing of the first course) they righted her again, to set up anew the careening rigging which stretched much. Thus they continued heaving down, and often righting the ship from a suspicion of their careening tackle, till the 3d of March; when, having completed the paying and sheathing the bottom, which proved to be every where very sound, they for the last time righted the ship to their great joy, for not only the fatigue of careening had been considerable, but they had been apprehensive of being attacked by the Spaniards, whilst the ship was thus incapacitated for defence. Nor were their fears altogether groundless; for they learnt afterwards by a Portuguese vessel, that the Spaniards at Manilla had been informed that the Centurion was in the Typa, and intended to careen there; and that thereupon the governor had summoned his council, and had proposed to them to endeavour to burn her whilst she was careening, which was an enterprise, which, if properly conducted, might have put them in great danger: They were farther told that this scheme was not only proposed, but resolved on; and that a captain of a vessel had actually undertaken to perform the business for forty thousand dollars, which he was not to receive unless he succeeded; but the governor pretending that there was no treasure in the royal chest, and insisting that the merchants should advance the money, and they refusing to comply with the demand, the affair was dropped: Perhaps the merchants suspected that the whole was only a pretext to get forty thousand dollars from them; and indeed this was affirmed by some who bore the governor no good will, but with what truth it is difficult to ascertain.

As soon as the Centurion was righted, they took in her powder and gunner's stores, and proceeded in getting in their guns as fast as possible, and then used their utmost; expedition in repairing the fore-mast, and in completing the other articles of her refitment. And being thus employed, they were alarmed on the 10th of March, by a Chinese fisherman, who brought them intelligence that he had been on board a large Spanish ship off the grand Ladrone, and that there were two more in company with her: He added several particulars to his relation, as that he had brought one of their officers to Macao; and that, on this, boats went off early in the morning from Macao to them: And the better to establish the belief of his veracity, he said he desired no money if his information should not prove true. This was presently believed to be the fore-mentioned expedition from Manilla, and the commodore immediately fitted his cannon and small arms in the best manner he could for defence; and having; then his pinnace and cutter in the offing, who had been ordered to examine a Portuguese vessel which was getting under sail, he sent them the advice he had received, and directed them to look out strictly: But no such ships ever appeared, and they were soon satisfied the whole of the story was a fiction; though it was difficult to conceive what reason could induce the fellow to be at such extraordinary pains to impose on them.

It was the beginning of April before they had new-rigged the ship, stowed their provisions and water on board, and had fitted her for the sea; and before this time the Chinese grew very uneasy, and extremely desirous that she should be gone; either not knowing, or pretending not to believe, that this was a point the commodore was as eagerly set on as they could be. On the 3d of April, two mandarine boats came on board from Macao to urge his departure; and this having been often done before, though there had been no pretence to suspect Mr Anson of any affected delays, he at this last message answered them in a determined tone, desiring them to give him no further trouble, for he would go when he thought proper, and not before. On this rebuke the Chinese (though it was not in their power to compel him to be gone) immediately prohibited all provisions from being carried on board him, and took such care that their injunctions should be complied with, that from that time forwards nothing could be purchased at any rate whatever.

On the 6th of April, the Centurion weighed from the Typa, and warped to the southward; and by the 15th, she was got into Macao road, completing her water as she passed along, so that there remained now very few articles more to attend to, and her whole business being finished by the 19th, she, at three in the afternoon of that day, weighed and made sail, and stood to sea.


From Macao to Cape Espiritu Santo; the taking of the Manilla Galleon, and returning back again.

The commodore was now got to sea, with his ship very well refitted, his stores replenished, and an additional stock of provisions on board: His crew too was somewhat reinforced; for he had entered twenty-three men during his stay at Macao, the greatest part of which were Lascars or Indian sailors, and some few Dutch. He gave out at Macao that he was bound to Batavia, and thence to England; and though the westerly monsoon was now set in, when that passage is considered as impracticable, yet, by the confidence he had expressed in the strength of his ship, and the dexterity of his people, he had persuaded not only his own crew, but the people at Macao likewise, that he proposed to try this unusual experiment; so that there were many letters put on board him by the inhabitants of Canton and Macao for their friends at Batavia.

But his real design was of a very different nature: For he knew, that instead of one annual ship from Acapulco to Manilla, there would be this year in all probability two; since, by being before Acapulco, he had prevented one of them from putting to sea the preceding season. He therefore resolved to cruise for these returning vessels off Cape Espiritu Santo, on the island of Samal, which is the first land they always make in the Philippine Islands. And as June is generally the month in which they arrive there, he doubted not but he should get to his intended station time enough to intercept them. It is true, they were said to be stout vessels, mounting forty-four guns a-piece, and carrying above five hundred hands, and might be expected to return in company; and he himself had but two hundred and twenty-seven hands on board, of which near thirty were boys: But this disproportion of strength did not deter him, as he knew his ship to be much better fitted for a sea-engagement than theirs, and as he had reason to expect that his men would exert themselves in the most extraordinary manner, when they had in view the immense wealth of these Manilla galleons.

This project the commodore had resolved on in his own thoughts, ever since his leaving the coast of Mexico. And the greatest mortification which he received, from the various delays he had met with in China, was his apprehension, lest he might be thereby so long retarded as to let the galleons escape him. Indeed, at Macao it was incumbent on him to keep these views extremely secret; for there being a great intercourse and a mutual connection of interests between that port and Manilla, he had reason to fear, that if his designs were discovered, intelligence would be immediately sent to Manilla, and measures taken to prevent the galleons from falling into his hands: But being now at sea, and entirely clear of the coast, he summoned all his people on the quarter-deck, and informed them of his resolution to cruise for the two Manilla ships, of whose wealth they were not ignorant. He told them he should chuse a station, where he could not fail of meeting with them; and though they were stout ships, and full manned, yet, if his own people behaved with their accustomed spirit, he was certain he should prove too hard for them both, and that one of them at least could not fail of becoming his prize: He further added, that many ridiculous tales had been propagated about the strength of the sides of these ships, and their being impenetrable to cannon-shot; that these fictions had been principally invented to palliate the cowardice of those who had formerly engaged them; but he hoped there were none of those present weak enough to give credit to so absurd a story: For his own part, he did assure them upon his word, that, whenever he met with them, he would fight them so near, that they should find, his bullets, instead of being stopped by one of their sides, should go through them both.

This speech of the commodore's was received by his people with great joy: For no sooner had he ended, than they expressed their approbation, according to naval custom, by three strenuous cheers, and all declared their determination to succeed or perish, whenever the opportunity presented itself. And now their hopes, which, since their departure from the coast of Mexico, had entirely subsided, were again revived; and they all persuaded themselves, that, notwithstanding the various casualties and disappointments they had hitherto met with, they should yet be repaid the price of their fatigues, and should at last return home enriched with the spoils of the enemy: For, firmly relying on the assurances of the commodore, that they should certainly meet with the vessels, they were all of them too sanguine to doubt a moment of mastering them; so that they considered themselves as having them already in their possession. And this confidence was so universally spread through the whole ship's company, that, the commodore having taken some Chinese sheep to sea with him for his own provision, and one day enquiring of his butcher, why, for some time past, he had seen no mutton at his table, asking him if all the sheep were killed, the butcher very seriously replied, that there were indeed two sheep left, but that, if his honour would give him leave, he proposed to keep those for the entertainment of the general of the galleons.

When the Centurion left the port of Macao, she stood for some days to the westward; and, on the first of May, they saw part of the island of Formosa; and, standing thence to the southward, they, on the 4th of May, were in the latitude of the Bashee islands, as laid down by Dampier; but they suspected his account of inaccuracy, as they found that he had been considerably mistaken in the latitude of the south end of Formosa: For this reason they kept a good look-out, and about seven in the evening discovered from the mast-head five small islands, which were judged to be the Bashees, and they had afterwards a sight of Bottle Tobago Xima. By this means they had an opportunity of correcting the position of the Bashee islands, which had been hitherto laid down twenty-five leagues too far to the westward: For, by their observations, they esteemed the middle of these islands to be in 21 deg. 4' north, and to bear from Botel Tobago Xima S.S.E. twenty leagues distant, that island itself being in 21 deg. 57' north.[1]

[Footnote 1: The Bashee Islands were so called by Dampier from the name of a liquor used by the natives. Four of them are inhabited, and are tolerably fertile, producing sugar canes, pine apples, plantaines, potatoes, &c. and having some hogs and goats. The inhabitants, who are reckoned a harmless and peaceable race, are said to resemble the Japanese, and probably are derived from them. The unfortunate Peyreuse visited one of the most northerly of these islands, and found its latitude to be 21 deg. 9' 13" N. Arrowsmith's map lays them down very particularly. The passage betwixt Formosa and these islands is held very dangerous on account of the rock called Vele Rete, the precise situation of which is matter of discord among the navigators. Captain Krusenstern went through this passage during the night, and that a stormy one too, with perfect safety, keeping the middle of the channel, and having men continually on the look-out. He seems to prefer the position of Vele Rete and its reef of rocks, (of about two miles circuit,) as given by Broughton, according to whose observations the latitude is 21 deg. 43' 24", and the longitude 239 deg. 15'.—E.]

After getting a sight of the Bashee islands, they stood between the S. and S.W. for Cape Espiritu Santo; and, the 20th of May at noon, they first discovered that cape, which about four o'clock they brought to bear S.S.W. about eleven leagues distant. It appeared to be of a moderate height, with several round hummocks on it. As it was known that there were centinels placed upon this cape to make signals to the Acapulco ship, when she first falls in with the land, the commodore immediately tacked, and ordered the top-gallant sails to be taken in, to prevent being discovered; and, this being the station in which it was resolved to cruise for the galleons, they kept the cape between the south and the west, and endeavoured to confine themselves between the latitude of 12 deg. 50', and 13 deg. 5', the cape itself lying, by their observations, in 12 deg. 40' north, and 4 deg. of east longitude from Botel Tobago Xima.

It was the last of May, when they arrived off this cape; and the month of June being that in which the Manilla ships are usually expected, the Centurion's people were now waiting each hour with the utmost impatience for the happy crisis which was to balance the account of all their past calamities. As from this time there was but small employment for the crew, the commodore ordered them almost every day to be exercised in the management of the great guns, and in the use of their small arms. This had been his practice, more or less, at all convenient seasons, during the whole course of his voyage; and the advantages which he received from it, in his engagement with the galleon, were an ample recompence for all his care and attention.[2]

[Footnote 2: The original has here some reflections on the importance and advantages of exercising the seamen in firing, &c. which, however good, are too common and obvious to merit insertion. The art of destroying men's lives has been abundantly improved since our author's day.—E.]

The galleons being now expected, the commodore made all necessary preparations for receiving them, having hoisted out his long-boat, and lashed her alongside, that the ship might be ready for engaging, if they fell in with the galleons in the night. All this time too he was very solicitous to keep at such a distance from the cape, as not to be discovered: But it hath been since learnt, that notwithstanding his care, he was seen from the land; and advice of him was sent to Manilla, where it was at first disbelieved, but on reiterated intelligence (for it seems he was seen more than once) their merchants were alarmed, and the governor was applied to, who undertook (the commerce supplying the necessary sums) to fit out a force consisting of two ships of thirty-two guns, one of twenty guns, and two sloops of ten guns each, to attack the Centurion on her station: And some of these vessels did actually weigh with this view; but the principal ship not being ready, and the monsoon being against then, the commerce and the governor disagreed, and the enterprize was laid aside. This frequent discovery of the Centurion from the shore was somewhat extraordinary; for the pitch of the cape is not high, and she usually kept from ten to fifteen leagues distant; though once indeed, by an indraught of the tide, as was supposed, they found themselves in the morning within seven leagues of the land.

As the month of June advanced, the expectancy and impatience of the commodore's people each day increased. And I think no better idea can be given of their great eagerness on this occasion, than by copying a few paragraphs from the journal of an officer, who was then on board, as it will, I presume, be a more natural picture of the full attachment of their thoughts to the business of their cruise, than can be given by any other means. The paragraphs I have selected, as they occur in order of time, are as follow:

"May 31. Exercising our men at their quarters, in great expectation of meeting with the galleons very soon; this being the eleventh of June their stile."

"June 3. Keeping in our stations, and looking out for the galleons."

"June 5. Begin now to be in great expectation, this being the middle of June their stile."

"June 11. Begin to grow impatient at not seeing the galleons."

"June 13. The wind having blown fresh easterly for the forty-eight hours past, gives us great expectations of seeing the galleons soon."

"June 15. Cruising on and off, and looking out strictly."

"June 19. This being the last day of June, N.S. the galleons, if they arrive at all, must appear soon."

From these samples it is sufficiently evident, how completely the treasure of the galleons had engrossed their imagination, and how anxiously they passed the latter part of their cruise, when the certainty of the arrival of these vessels was dwindled down to probability only, and that probability became each hour more and more doubtful. However, on the 20th of June, O.S. being just a month from their arrival on their station, they were relieved from this state of uncertainty; when, at sun-rise, they discovered a sail from the mast-head, in the S.E. quarter. On this, a general joy spread through the whole ship; for they had no doubt but this was one of the galleons, and they expected soon to see the other. The commodore instantly stood towards her, and at half an hour after seven they were near enough to see her from the Centurion's deck; at which time the galleon fired a gun, and took in her top-gallant sails, which was supposed to be a signal to her consort, to hasten her up; and therefore the Centurion fired a gun to leeward, to amuse her. The commodore was surprised to find, that in all this time the galleon did not change her course, but continued to bear down upon him; for he hardly believed, what afterwards appeared to be the case, that she knew his ship to be the Centurion, and resolved to fight him.

About noon the commodore was little more than a league distant from the galleon, and could fetch her wake, so that she could not now escape; and, no second ship appearing, it was concluded that she had been separated from her consort. Soon after, the galleon haled up her fore-sail, and brought-to under top-sails, with her head to the northward, hoisting Spanish colours, and having the standard of Spain flying at the top-gallant-mast-head. Mr Anson, in the mean time, had prepared all things for an engagement on board the Centurion, and had taken all possible care, both for the most effectual exertion of his small strength, and for the avoiding the confusion and tumult too frequent in actions of this kind. He picked out about thirty of his choicest hands and best marksmen, whom he distributed into his tops, and who fully answered his expectation, by the signal services they performed. As he had not hands enough remaining to quarter a sufficient number to each great gun, in the customary manner, he therefore, on his lower tire, fixed only two men to each gun, who were to be solely employed in loading it, whilst the rest of his people were divided into different gangs of ten or twelve men each, who were constantly moving about the decks, to ran out and fire such guns as were loaded. By this management he was enabled to make use of all his guns; and, instead of firing broad-sides with intervals between them, he kept up a constant fire without intermission, whence he doubted not to procure very signal advantages; for it is common with the Spaniards to fall down upon the decks when they see a broadside preparing, and to continue in that posture till it is given; after which they rise again, and, presuming the danger to be for some time over, work their guns, and fire with great briskness, till another broad-side is ready: But the firing gun by gun, in the manner directed by the commodore, rendered this practice of theirs impossible.

The Centurion being thus prepared, and nearing the galleon apace, there happened, a little after noon, several squalls of wind and rain, which often obscured the galleon from their sight; but whenever it cleared up, they observed her resolutely lying-to; and, towards one o'clock, the Centurion hoisted her broad pendant and colours, she being then within gun-shot of the enemy. And the commodore observing the Spaniards to have neglected clearing their ship till that time, as he then saw them throwing overboard cattle and lumber, he gave orders to fire upon them with the chace-guns, to embarrass them in their work, and prevent them from completing it, though his general directions had been not to engage till they were within pistol-shot. The galleon returned the fire with two of her stern-chacers; and, the Centurion getting her sprit-sail-yard fore and aft, that if necessary she might be ready for boarding, the Spaniards in a bravado rigged their sprit-sail-yard fore and aft likewise. Soon after, the Centurion came a-breast of the enemy within pistol-shot, keeping to the leeward with a view of preventing them from putting before the wind, and gaining the port of Jalapay, from which they were about seven leagues distant. And now the engagement began in earnest, and, for the first half hour, Mr Anson over-reached the galleon, and lay on her bow; where, by the great wideness of his ports, he could traverse almost all his guns upon the enemy, whilst the galleon could only bring a part of hers to bear. Immediately on the commencement of the action, the mats, with which the galleon had stuffed her netting, took fire, and burnt violently, blazing up half as high as the mizen-top. This accident (supposed to be caused by the Centurion's wads) threw the enemy into great confusion, and at the same time alarmed the commodore, for he feared least the galleon should be burnt, and least he himself too might suffer by her driving on board him: But the Spaniards at last freed themselves from the fire, by cutting away the netting, and tumbling the whole mass, which was in flames, into the sea. But still the Centurion kept her first advantageous position, firing her cannon with great regularity and briskness, whilst at the same time the galleon's decks lay open to her top-men, who, having at their first volley driven the Spaniards from their tops, made prodigious havock with their small-arms, killing or wounding every officer but one that ever appeared on the quarter-deck, and wounding in particular the general of the galleon himself. And though the Centurion, after the first half hour, lost her original situation, and was close alongside the galleon, and the enemy continued to fire briskly for near an hour longer, yet at last the commodore's grape-shot swept their decks so effectually, and the number of their slain and wounded was so considerable, that they began to fall into great disorder, especially as the general, who was the life of the action, was no longer capable of exerting himself. Their embarrassment was visible from on board the commodore. For the ships were so near, that some of the Spanish officers were seen running about with great assiduity, to prevent the desertion of their men from their quarters: But all their endeavours were in vain; for after having, as a last effort, fired five or six guns with more judgment than usual, they gave up the contest; and, the galleon's colours being singed off the ensign-staff in the beginning of the engagement, she struck the standard at her main-top-gallant-mast-head, the person who was employed to do it, having been in imminent peril of being killed, had not the commodore, who perceived what he was about, given express orders to his people to desist from firing.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse