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appearance of the two frigates excited no curiosity in the people on board, nor in those of the numerous craft that were seen passing and repassing on every side: a certain proof of their near approach to some European settlement. On , the 5th September they accordingly arrived at Amboyna. A whole chapter employed in describing the government, the productions, commerce, religion, and population of a Dutch settlement established two centuries ago, being in our opinion, totally out of its place, in a voyage of discovery, we shall make no ceremony in passing it over without farther notice. Having remained at this place a Iittle more than a month to refit the frigates and refresh the crews, M. Dentrecasteaux, on the 18th October, again set sail; and keeping along the west coast of New Holland and doubling Cape Leween, or S. W. Cape, anchored on the 9th December, in a bay to which he gave the name of Esherance, after one of the frigates. This bay is within a cluster of islands to which Vancouver, two years before had given the name of Termination islands. Standing off at this point to the southward, Dentrecasteaux continued along the coast about nine degrees farther to the eastward than Vancouver had done. Had he stood on a little farther, he would have effected the important discovery of Bass's Strait, which separates New Holland from Van Diemen’s land; the merit of which was reserved for a landsman whose name it properly bears. This young man, the surgeon of the Reliance, solicited a boat at Port Jackson from the governour, to run down the coast and make observations.
“I fitted out,” says captain Hunter, “a good whale boat for him, victualled and manned to his wish. On finding, when he had got the length of Cape Howe, that the shore inclined westward, he continued to trace it along till he came to a steep and high pronu ontory, in lat. 39° S. From this
cape, the land lay along W. N. W. He continued to steer in that direction for about sixty miles beyond this headland, where he found an extensive harbour, but his provision becoming short and his boat leaky, he was compelled to return.”
This discovery was made in 1798, near six years after Dentrecasteaux conceived there might be such a passage, but had not the resolution to stand on and determine so important an object, not only for his own views at that time, but for the benefit of navigation in general, for the future.
The whole line of coast on this part of New Holland, usually called Nuyt's land, from a Dutch navigator of that name, is the most dreary that can well be imagined, consisting of drifts of sand, salt lakes, and swampy marshes. M. Riche, one of the naturalists, lost his way among the sandhills, and was absent two days from the ship. Worn by fatigue and famished with hunger, he became at length completely exhausted. In this state, when hope had nearly abandoned him, he discovered a small spring of fresh water, which caused him to exclaim: “Even an atheist, on a blessing so unlooked for, would bring back his thoughts to the benevolence of a deity.” M. Riche is not the first man whom misfortunes have recalled to a sense of religion. The only discovery made by him of any interest, was a valley among the sand hills, covered with the remains of a subverted forest; the trees broken off at a few feet from the ground, and the whole converted into calcareous stone.
On the 21st January, 1793, they again visited the Bay of Storms, and anchored in Port du Sud. They had now much intercourse with the natives, whom they found to be a mild, inoffensive, and goodhumoured people, without suspicion or distrust. Each family appeared to live and eat apart, and the men were observed to show a remarkable degree of affection and tenderness for their children. Their food consisted of shell fish, lobsters, sea slugs, and other marine productions. They refused to taste of any kind of victuals, and even of wine, or spiritous liquors, which were offered to them by the seamen. They showed not the least inclination for trinkets or other articles, and consequently no disposition towards theft. Some of the tallest and stoutest men had two wives each. The conjecture made by the vice admiral on their former visit, that they ate human flesh, he is now anxious to do away, and exclaims: “Oh! que l’on dàt rougir de les avoir soupçonnés, l'année dernière, de se nourrin de chair humaine !” In fact he describes them to be the most harmless and unoffending of mortals. The frigates again came to anchor in Adventure Bay. Here they searched for the fruit trees which had been planted by captain Cook, and discovered some of them still in existence, but so weak and languishing as to hold out no hope of their ever bearing fruit. No traces were found of the hogs left there by our celebrated navigator. They now steered a direct course for the Friendly islands, where they arrived on the 23d March, and brought the ships to anchor at Tongataboo. Here we are, as it were, on classick ground, and feel ourselves perfectly at home; and we have no hesitation in avowing our predilection in favour of captain Cook’s account of those islanders, where the description differs from that of M. Dentrecasteaux. Indeed, to the injudicious conduct of the vice admiral, and to that excessive vanity which seems to be inherent in the breast of a Frenchman, may be attributed all the disputes, squabbles, and actual hostilities in which they were engaged with the natives. Conceiving some of the armed people to be more turbulent than the rest, while carrying on their traffick on shore, the officers deemed it neces
sary to take precautions against a surprise. Let us hear what these precautions were:
“On the same evening it was thought advisable to inspire them with awe by making them acquainted with the use of our firearms. Two birds were suspended from the branch of a tree at a little distance, and one of our best marksmen presented himself, in full confidence of bringing them down at the first shot, but he missed them twice; a second marksman renewed the attempt—his musket missed fire. Peals of laughter now burst forth on every side, and particularly from that quarter where the armed people were assembled. One of these drew his bow, and pierced one of the birds; his expertness was rewarded with the greatest applause, and contrasted, in a manner sufficiently mortifying, with the little success which had attended our first efforts. A third marksman now presented himself and brought down the second bird. But the first impression was made; and it was remarked that the confidence of these people in their own strength was augmented, and the fear of our firearms weakened in proportion. The insulting air now perceptible among them, made me conclude, that our means of defence were too weak, and that it would be necessary for one of the frigates without loss of time to approach the island of Panghaimadoo, in order to overawe them by the appearance of our cannon.” p. 279.
In the same night one of their sentinels was knocked down on his
post, and his musket carried off; and
those who had vainly endeavoured to strike terrour into the savages, became now alarmed in their turn. All was confusion, and all flew to arms. The natives kept their ground, and the party of warriours refused to. withdraw. The Espérance hauled close in shore, the tents were struck, and every thing was speedily reembarked. All intercourse was declared at an end, till the person should be delivered up who had committed the outrage on the sentry. Soon after this, several of the chiefs came on board, bringing with them the supposed culprit, whom they proposed to put to immediate death; but the admiral was satisfied with
giving him a severe flogging. Harmony was once more restored; but, on account of the daring robberies that were committed, quarrels and bloodshed speedily ensued. The inhabitants of Tongataboo had a perfect recollection of the visits of captain Cook. His memory was held dear by many of them, especially by the family of Fatafé. Others, however, are said to have taxed him with cruelty. One person only, according to captain Cook’s journal, is said to have been wounded; but M. Dentrecasteaux observes that more than one were seen by them with musket balls through different parts of the body. After much inquiry, they found that the horses and cows which had been left by captain Cook were all dead; but their hogs were most abundant, and had greatly improved by the cross with those of Europe, many of them weighing not less than two hundred pounds. Not the least vestige could be traced of any thing that had belonged to La Pérouse; no medals which he carried out with him, and of which they had exact copics; no trinkets, no French clothes, nor any thing belonging to their nation. They proceeded, therefore, to the northwestward, and on the 17th April, came to anchor in the harbour of Balade, on the northeast extremity of New Caledonia, having passed the islands of Tanna, Annatom and Erronun, three of the New Hebrides, without discovering any trace of the objects of their search. Here the vice admiral found the natives to resemble, in their persons, those of Van Diemen’s land, differing from them, however, in every other respect; ferocious in the extreme, and the greatest thieves he had yet met with. He is perfectly astonished that Forster should have described then as so amiable and mild a people, when he pronounces them, from what he saw, to be the worst of can. nibals.
“This people, who are said to have ex
hibited such marks of horrour, on seeing the sailors eating animal food, because they imagined it to be human flesh, are themselves anthropophagi, are ravenous after human flesh, and use no pains to disguise their avidity for it. This very day,” continues he, “one of these ferocious savages gave a human bone, with pieces of broiled flesh upon it, to M. Piron, which was the cup bone of the knee of a youth of 14 or 15 years of age. To prevent mistake, the savage was asked what it was, and he pointed to the place to which it belonged. This same bone being brought on board and presented to two natives, they finished the remains of the flesh attached to it. Another native was seen devouring a slice of flesh, which, by the skin, was ascertained to be human.” p. 333.
With all these proofs of the vice admiral, and with all the skulls and skeletons of human beings which he saw piled up in different places, we yet doubt, exceedingly, if there exists upon the face of the earth, a race of beings who delight in devouring human flesh; and we are persuaded that, if the practice exists at all, it must either arise from a mere ceremonial of tasting the flesh and blood of some powerful and detested enemy, or from being driven to it, as the last resource, by famine. This might have been the deplorable state of the New Caledonians at that time; for he describes them as meagre, miserable looking beings, and tells us that they were observed to eat calcareous earth. They had lost the breed of hogs left them by captain Cook; which causes the admiral to observe, that “it is not likely people who spare not one another, should afford time enough for animals to multiply their species.” With the favourable testimony of captain Cook and Mr. Forster, before the visit of M. Dentrecasteaux, and of captain Kent, subsequent to that period, M. Rossel must excuse us if we place more reliance on the justness of the character of the New Caledonians as we have received it from our own countrymen, than on that which he has given us from M. Dentrecasteaux’s journal. In the propriety of many of the vice admiral’s observations on the condition of the Pacifick islanders, we most cordially agree; as when he observes, that their disposition to thieving, for instance, and their mutual animosities are, in a great degree, owing to the articles which we carry among them. Could iron be made to produce iron, then indeed, this metal would be the greatest of all benefits that could be conferred on them; but what must be the situation of that savage, who is unfortunate enough to possess the last nail, or the last knife : He must either fall a sacrifice to the man who is stronger than himself, or it must become the apple of general discord, and the cause of civil war and desolation. With regard to thieving, it may be observed, that, among a tribe of savages, whose precarious subsistence depends chiefly, if not altogether, on chance, cunning and strength are the only laws by which property can be acquired and secured. Among such a people, stealing can scarcely be considered as a crime, and may be accounted a virtue. It is stated in a recent publication, that a savage was deliberately shot while stealing a bit of red rag from a staff, because it interrupted the person from completing the observation of an angle. It must be confessed that the conduct of the thief was innocence itself when compared with that of the murderer. The truth is, the conduct of voyagers has generally been incompatible with the characters of the people with whom they held communication; and it is painful to reflect that the intercourse of Europeans with the South sea and Pacifick islanders, has done them no good. On the contrary, it has tainted their bodies with new diseases, and corrupted their minds with new vices; it has created new wants, and furnished new incitements to hostility, without conferring on them any one benefit to compensate the multitude of evils
arising from this calamitous traffick. —Finding no trace of La Pérouse among this “effroyable peuple,” who had even forgotten captain Cook, and gave no indications that Europeans had ever visited their coast, except by their avidity for iron, M. Dentrecasteaux took his leave; and on the 21st May, the frigates came to anchor off the Isle of Santa Cruz. Here the French quarrelled with the natives, and shot one of them in an affray. On passing Solomon’s islands, their frigates were attacked by a number of light, well constructed, and gayly decorated proas. The men in them were naked, but ornamented with plumes, bracelets and necklaces of shells and mother of pearl. From hence, stretching along the northern coast of Louisiade, and the southeastern side of New Guinea, they passed the straits of Dampier, along the north coast of New Britain. The natives of Louisiade appeared to be more civilized than those of the islands which they had recently passed. They wore a covering round their loins, and used shields, as weapons of defence. They had large proas with masts; they were anxious to procure pieces of red cloth, but perfectly indifferent as to iron, whence the admiral concludes that he was the first European who had visited that part of the coast. M. Dentrecasteaux’s health had for some time been on the decline, and the scurvy had found its way into the ships. M. Huon, the commander of the Espérance, died before they left New Caledonia. Their provisions, especially their bread and water, were becoming short; their wine was turning sour; every thing, therefore, considered, it was deemed advisable to make the best of their way to the island of Java. On the 8th July, they made the coast of New Britain, and on the 20th of the same month M. Dentrecasteaux departed this life. The command now devolved upon M. D’Auribeau, who determined to exccute the intentions of the vice admiral, and make the best of his way to Java. Passing the Admiralty islands a second time, and coasting New Guinea, they anchored, for a few days, at Boni, in the island of Waigiou. Hence they stood for Cayeli, in the island of Bouro, where they continued several days; but this being a Dutch settlement, and inhabited by half cast Portuguese, Chinese and Malays, afforded nothing worthy of particular notice. Directing their course through the strait of Boutoun, they arrived at Sourabaya, in the island of Java, on the 27th October, 1793; where, as we have already observed, the voyage was declared to be at an end, “ the ulteriour events being cqually foreign to the voyage of vice admiral Dentrecasteaux, and to the end which government proposed by it.” M. Rossel, after paying many handsome compliments, descrvedly, we have no doubt, to the character of his deceased friend, thus concludes his encomium:—
not mean to say that M. Dentrecasteaux’s piety stood in the way of his duty; but we have no hesitation in asserting that his own journal furnishes incontestible proofs of inactivity, and a total want of curiosity. Satisfied with vain and idle conjectures grounded on the reports of his officers, he seldom gave himself the trouble of setting his foot on shore. We have seen his want of resolution and apparent want of skill, on leaving the cape of Good Hope; his vague speculations, and total want of curiosity at the island of St. Paul; his want of perseverance on the south coast of New Holland, which lost him the merit of discovering Bass's Strait; and his mistaken conjectures at Van Diemen's land “injurieuses à la nature humaine:” the dread indeed of cannibals seems to have haunted him through the voyage. With simple, uneducated, and uncivilized nature, he appears to have been wholly unacquainted. But the most serious charge against him is the extraordinary delay in vi
siting the Friendly islands, to which
La Porouse had distinctly stated his determination of proceeding from Botany Bay. He did not arrive at them till the 23d March, 1793, though they are within a month's sail of Van Diemen's land, which he left on the 28th May, 1792. This is not all. On the 16th June, when at New Caledonia, he fiassed the Friendly islands within eight or ten days sail, when the wind was at S. W. and consequently as favourable as it could blow. To have taken them in his way to the Admiralty islands, could not, therefore, have delayed him three weeks; probably, not a fortnight. Thus nearly twelve months may be said to be lost, in arriving at that point to which he was directed, by his instructions, to proceed without delay, and where intelligence was most likely to be received. La Perouse and his companions might, for aught he knew to the contrary, be fallen into the hands of savages, and