EXCURSION IN THE INTERIOR
Having hired a Swiss servant, who acted as guide, and taken with me a stock of necessary provisions, a gun, &c., I left Praya Grande, in a boat manned by six negroes, on Tuesday, September 23, 1821; and, after a pleasant passage of about three hours, reached the mouth of the Macacou, the largest of the eleven small rivers which discharge their waters into the Bay at its northern extremity, fourteen miles distant, in a straight line, from the town of Rio.
In coming to this place, we passed by Governor‘s Island, (Ilha du Gouvernador,) by far the largest of the many islands of the Bay. It extends along the Eastern bank, and is about six miles in length, and two and a half broad. On it are two large sugar plantations. The soil is said to be extremely fertile. It was formerly a royal preserve, abundantly stocked with game; but the right of sporting is now thrown open to the public, the exclusive privileges of the Crown having been given up since the proclamation of the late Portuguese Constitution.
The river Macacou, at its mouth, is about the breadth of the Thames at Windsor. The navigation extends to a distance of thirty miles for large market-boats, of which we passed several on their way to Rio, laden with the produce of the interior. This consists chiefly of coffee, sugar, rum, maize, tobacco, and charcoal, and furnishes employment to the inhabitants of three villages^ namely, Macacou, Porto das Caxas, and Villa Nova, situate on the banks of the river. The last-named village, where we stopped, is about ten miles distant from the embouchure.
We arrived there at about four o’clock. An Englishman, who keeps a small retail shop, and a wharf, for the accommodation of muleteers and negroes, furnished me with the best lodging his house could offer; but bad was the best, for such heat and filth, and annoyance from the mosquitoes, I had never before experienced. In the evening my landlord and I walked together through the village to his own dwelling-house, which was more comfortable, and returned at night. He went about armed with a dirk, and pocket-pistols; and he said, that the revengeful feelings entertained by many persons whom he had disobliged in the course of business, rendered every possible precaution necessary. Private assassinations, it seems, are not uncommon, and are seldom punished, unless the friends of the deceased are able and willing to bring the offending party to justice, for Government alone does not prosecute such offences. At this place I hired two mules, at the rate of three patacas or 4s. 6d. a-day each, and started on my journey the following morning.
September 4. – We travelled slowly, and reached Porto das Caxas, a village six miles distant, before three o‘clock. Here the embarkation of country produce for the capital is conducted upon a far more extended scale. We observed numbers of mules, with their attendant muleteers, passing and repassing continually, many parties of them travelling together for the sake of mutual protection. Each mule carried two paniers, made of cowhides, and fastened over the back upon a kind of saddle made of the same materials. The subordinate drivers are commonly negroes, or Brazilian Creoles of the lowest class; but the master muleteers are persons of some consequence, particularly in their own estimation, which they show by riding together, in a separate group, at a suitable distance from the cavalcade. They are often part-owners, and very rich, trading on their own account, or conveying large sums of money entrusted to their charge.
The prevailing costume of these people deserves a separate description. They wear broad-brimmed black hats, with low crowns, and tied by a riband under the chin; velveteen jackets and waistcoats, of different colours – blue, purple or red, and metal buttons; cloth and linen trowsers, and high black gaiters, buttoning above the knee: a blue cloth cloak or mantle, similar to those used in Portugal, and sometimes lined with red, is thrown negligently yet gracefully over the shoulders, and renders the tout-ensemble really picturesque. Let a figure, thus equipped, be supposed mounted on a mule, with a high-peaked Portuguese saddle, and stirrups, and a formidable brace of horse-pistols and holsters. Let a long pointed knife also be supposed half concealed about some part of the person or saddle, (for without such a weapon always at hand no man would feel easy or secure), and the picture of a Brazilian master muleteer will then be complete.
When I afterwards happened on the road, and at inns, to mix familiarly with these people, the vast importance which they arrogated to themselves was quite ridiculous; though it must be confessed, that a traveller has to put up with many mortifications from their repulsive manners, and the conscious air of superiority with which they treat his attempts to enter into conversation with them for the purpose of gaining useful information. They appear very suspicious of strangers, and always answer questions by questions in return. Being themselves deceitful, they suppose others to be equally so, and would never believe that I travelled from motives of mere curiosity. Professions to that effect, when made, were laughed at by them; and they often inquired what sort of merchandize I came to sell. I soon discovered that it was imprudent to intrude upon large bodies of these people, for fear of positive insult; but with one or two I felt less awkward, and the offer of a dram had a wonderful effect in managing their churlish and incommunicative dispositions. To sum up their character in a few words, – I should say that they are close, cunning, and revengeful, covetous of money, and passionately addicted to gambling; but honest to their employers, tenacious of their word, sober, strong-headed, and active in mind and body.
The village of Porto das Caxas itself offers nothing remarkable. It consists almost entirely of vendas, or small taverns, for the accommodation of muleteers; together with a few shops, containing such articles of foreign manufacture as the muleteers might be tempted to purchase on their return home. British cotton goods and hardware, cloths and hats, appeared to constitute the bulk of their stock in trade.
The country around is flat, and partially interspersed with plantations of sugar, mandioca, and maize. In the evening, about six o‘clock, we reached a place called Ponte da Rosa, distant one league and a half, or six miles, from Porto das Caxas. No better accommodation could be procured than was afforded by a small mud hut, kept by a negro for the use of muleteers travelling that road. No bribes, nor remonstrances, nor soft speeches, could induce the mistress of a neighbouring venda, or shop, to open it in the absence of her husband: – she reconnoitred us from the window, without even exposing her face; and, except through the interference of our negro host, we should have been unable to procure the few necessaries we wanted. This apparent inhospitality is merely the effect of the extreme jealousy which is every where prevalent among the Brazilian Creoles. – Having found pasturage for our mules, we managed to sleep upon benches extended on two stools in the negro hut, with that comfort which nothing but fatigue could have rendered tolerable.
September 5. – This morning, soon after daybreak, we again started on our journey, Fahrenheit‘s thermometer being at 70°. We immediately entered a fine open plain, bounded by the Organ Mountains, and pursued our journey to a small village, prettily situate on the banks of the river Macacou, where we stopped to breakfast; and about noon came to the Fazenda do Collegio, a large sugar plantation. A spacious edifice, with projecting wings, formed one side of a quadrangle, comprising the dwelling-house of the proprietor, the chapel, the apartments of the negroes, and the engenho or boiling-house, with suitable store-rooms. The number of slaves employed here was stated at 100. We saw several rudely constructed carts, drawn by oxen, the wheels and axle-trees of which turned round together with a very discordant noise. Upon inquiring why this clumsy mode of construction was not improved, I was gravely assured that the noise was necessary to stimulate the labour of the animals, and that without it they would not work.
As we travelled onwards, magnificent plains opened upon the view in constant succession, surrounded by vast amphitheatres of evergreen woods. At two o‘clock we arrived at Santa Anna, having travelled a distance of four leagues, or sixteen miles.
Santa Anna is a cheerful straggling village, containing some hundreds of inhabitants, and is considered the chief place of this part of the country: yet we found no decent inn for the accommodation of travellers, and but one house that had two stories. The master of this house, a good-natured old man, immediately requested that I would be his guest, in case it suited me to remain a night; but wishing to make a longer day‘s journey, I declined his kind offer. We here lost three hours in shoeing the mules: and, having proceeded another league on the journey, the approach of night forced us to stop at a small venda on the road-side. Here, for the first and almost last time, the females of the family made their appearance, and ventured to enter into a little conversation. I could not, however, make them comprehend my motives for travelling in that manner, and they were much disappointed when my paniers discharged a supply of wine and provisions, instead of shawls or other goods for which they might have made a bargain. I laughed heartily at their eagerness to dub me trader; but they laughed as heartily at me in return, and still believed that I was a Swiss pedlar in disguise, bound upon some secret trading expedition.
The Brazilian venda, of which mention has been so often made, corresponds to the petty shops in English villages, for the sale of tea, coffee, tobacco, and snuff. Here common Portuguese wines, and cachaça, or rum, together with bananas, (a fruit on which the negroes almost entirely subsist), are added to those articles. No neat parlour nor kitchen, with well-burnished pewter dishes, and other domestic utensils, ever attracts notice; no officious landlady comes out to welcome you, and offer the best her house affords; – here the shop is, on the contrary, both comfortless and filthy, and the worst accommodation is, after a long delay, carelessly and ungraciously afforded: some rude and stupid boy generally stands behind the counter, who deals out the articles required, with habitual slowness and bad humour. They seem, indeed, to consider the mere act of selling you their goods, at any price, as a prodigious favour; and all expostulations, or threats of leaving the house for want of better accommodation, are either listened to with the most contemptuous indifference, or bring forth the quick retort of “Pois va!” – “Well, go then!”
The slow rate of travelling on mules in this country may be judged of by the extent of this day‘s journey, which was not more than twenty miles.
September 6. – I slept as well as could be expected, on the counter of the shop above described, and started again this morning at half past six o‘clock, – the thermometer then being at 67°. We soon reached the Fazenda of Colonel Ferrara, a large sugar and coffee estate. Here we made a rural breakfast, under the shade of a luxuriant grove of orange-trees, on the banks of the river Macacou, which had now dwindled into a small but picturesque mountain-stream. Thence, bidding adieu to the plain, we began to ascend the mountains.
Our route first lay through a thick forest, the singular features of which could not fail to strike a novice in American scenery: no man, no beast, no bird, nor trace of any living animal, was visible for several miles; and nothing disturbed the profound silence which every where reigned, except the occasional cry of the toucans perched on the topmost boughs of trees, and the hollow sound of the woodpecker, or carpenter-bird, as it is termed in Brazil. The road was in parts so bad, that our mules had extreme difficulty in making their way over it; and the day was already far advanced, when we reached a place consisting of a few miserable cottages, and known by the name of the First Register. Here were stationed four soldiers, with a sergeant, who examined and countersigned my passport, and after the performance of that ceremony allowed me to proceed. This precaution is taken at all the principal passes which lead to the mine districts, to prevent the illicit removal of gold or diamonds without authority from Government.
The road onwards continued through the same thick and dismal forest, by the side of an impetuous torrent, which had been swelled beyond its usual size by recent rains, and which forms one of the principal sources of the river Macacou. Sometimes it became necessary to dismount from the mules, owing to the steep and rugged nature of the ascent. At length the character of the scenery underwent a change: we broke out from the wood, and found ourselves surrounded by rocky cliffs, interspersed with trees of stunted growth. Upon the brow of a steep declivity, overlooking the narrow defile through which our course now lay, we beheld a low long mud hut, apparently ill adapted to protect its wretched inmates from the inclemencies of the weather. Presently two human beings appeared; and when we had approached still nearer, we heard the rough cry of “Quem vive?” once or twice repeated by a sentinel in the usual imperious tone. We gladly made answer “Amigo” “Friend;” and soon discovered that the said mud hut was in fact a guard-house, tenanted by two Portuguese soldiers, whose tattered blue uniforms and squalid features assorted very well with the miserable appearance of the habitation. The interior of the hut was equally bad; a table sufficiently large to accommodate several persons, with mats spread over it to sleep upon, and a wooden chest, were the only articles of furniture; on the walls hung some skins of wild cats and other spoils of the chace, a fowling-piece, four muskets, and cartridge-boxes. A fire was lighted in the centre of the hut on the ground, (for flooring is here an unknown luxury,) and over it was suspended the carcase of a half-roasted monkey. The soldiers did their best to entertain us, but we passed a comfortless night, and at daybreak the following morning a violent storm completed the terrific wildness of the scene.
September 7. – We were at the Second Register in the Serra or pass of the Organ Mountains, whose stupendous form had at a distance often excited admiration, and the height of which is computed at from four to five thousand feet above the level of the sea. At this place we were not far from the summit. On a fine clear day, the view over the rich valleys below, as far as the Bay and harbour of Rio Janeiro, sixty miles distant, is striking and magnificent. The torrents of rain now pouring down obscured every object; but from the door of the hut I could at intervals distinguish two rocky peaks towering on each side of us, as if they were the “native guardians of the pass,” and whose bases were covered by dwarf trees and masses of rock. Notwithstanding the great altitude the climate was mild, and at half past six o‘clock A.M. the thermometer stood at 62o. We waited patiently till ten, in hopes that the weather would clear up; but being assured that such storms often lasted for many days, and even weeks together, we determined at once to brave its violence and proceed. Our friendly hosts, the soldiers, refused in a proud manner my proffered remuneration, yet gladly accepted in its stead some gunpowder and shot, which in such a situation was of more service to them.
In descending the mountain, the sagacity and sure-footedness of our mules, as they picked their way along a precipitous road, more nearly resembling the bed of a torrent, were truly astonishing. To them alone we necessarily trusted for guidance and safety, and, with one trifling exception, not the slightest accident occurred. We travelled on with great difficulty for several miles, and during as many hours, while the storm of wind and rain which appeared to follow us added greatly to the labour both of beasts and riders. At length the descent ceased altogether, and with it the storm; so that when we reached the valley of Môrro Quemado, distant eight miles from the summit of the Serra, the beams of the mid-day sun shone full upon the landscape.
Even here, however, the appearance of the country was wild and desolate, and unlike the usual rich fertility of the valleys of Brazil. The bases alone of the adjacent hills were wooded, the higher regions being for the most part rocky, and destitute of all vegetation. The climate is too cold for sugar, coffee, and the other valuable productions of the Tropics; but this very circumstance recommended it to the Government as a fit place for establishing a Swiss settlement, notwithstanding the barrenness and unfitness of the land in other respects.
It was supposed that land unsuitable for Tropical produce must necessarily be well adapted for that of Europe; and that from the introduction of a body of industrious peasants, accustomed to a cold mountainous country, and practically acquainted with the various branches of European agriculture, the most beneficial results were to be expected. As we approached nearer and nearer to the Swiss village, more extensive signs of intended cultivation than we had yet seen in any part of our travels became apparent. At a distance, the woods for miles around were burning in all directions, fire being tlie great agent for clearing land in this country. On the road-side, two or three neat wooden huts, with gardens and fences, all different in appearance and construction from those common in Brazil, instantly carried the imagination back into Europe. A well-built saw-mill, worked by the waters of a mountain-stream, and potatoe-fields adjoining, caught our attention; whilst a troop of fine children, with ruddy complexions and light flaxen hair, who ran out to open the gate at our approach, exhibited in their countenances, dress, manners, and language, still more striking marks of foreign origin.
At half past four o‘clock we arrived at Novo Friburgo, (by which name the Swiss settlement in the valley of Môrro Quemado is now distinguished,) distant about seventy English miles from Rio Janeiro. Its appearance was at first sight pleasing; the houses are neatly built of stone, roofed with tiles, one story high, and are laid out in three large squares, at a little distance from each other. There are, besides, several rows of houses, half a mile distant from the principal part of the village; and a few detached buildings of a superior elevation and class, belonging to magistrates and other officers of the Crown who hold appointments in this colony. The plain upon which the village stands is not more than three or four miles in extent, and is flanked by hills on every side. Through it runs a small river, that is seen winding its way among the enclosures, at some little distance from the village. Gardens, prettily laid out, are attached to most of the houses, and help to make the scenery very agreeable. Our arrival could not escape notice in so small a place; and we were soon surrounded by a gaping crowd of villagers, who either came to greet my servant, who had once belonged to this settlement, or to satisfy their curiosity concerning his travelling-companion. The appearance of so many neat well-dressed people, with their European complexions and dress, and German pipes, strongly attracted my attention; and the many pleasing associations connected with the Swiss peasantry now gained additional interest, from the circumstance of their being isolated in these foreign and distant regions of South America. The transition from a country chiefly populated by demi-civilized African slaves, to a community of free white peasants, was also very striking, and no less agreeable to the eye than to the heart and feelings.
As we proceeded through^ the village, it was evident that the inhabitants bore a very small proportion to the number of the houses. Many of the latter were shut up; grass was growing in the squares; no shops, no houses of entertainment were to be seen, – but an air of silence and solitude reigned throughout, which soon gave us to understand that we were in the midst of a half-deserted village. We at first supposed that the people were at work on their plantations; but, upon inquiry, we found that the melancholy aspect of the place proceeded from the total failure of the King‘s plan, as far at least as respected the establishment of a distinct Swiss settlement at Môrro Quemado.
A letter of introduction having been given me to one Senhor Assis, a Portuguese settler, I took up my abode in his house, and found him an active young man, both able and willing to show me every requisite attention. He kept a shop for the sale of hardware, cotton, and other goods, and was likewise owner of a small farm, on which he reared horses and cattle. His house was one story high, and built of stone: it contained four or five apartments scantily furnished, with plastered walls, and no ceiling, being open to the rafters. A bed was prepared for my accommodation, being the first that I had slept in since my departure from Rio, and the evening passed away very agreeably in conversation with Senhor Assis, who gave me much interesting information respecting the Swiss colony, its past and present state, and prospects for the future. He spoke of the people in a kind and impartial manner, yet seemed to attribute the ill success of the establishment to the bad conduct of the settlers more than to any other cause. Out of twelve hundred only about three hundred now remained, the rest having either gone to Rio, or settled in distant parts of the country: and of those who remained many families were preparing to depart; so that the place seemed likely to be soon entirely abandoned.
September 9. – This day the thermometer at 7 A. M. stood at 58°, at noon 61°, and at 7 P. M. 52°. Being Sunday, mass was performed in the Government House, situated on an eminence about a mile from the village. A Swiss minister officiated, and the congregation, though small, made a very respectable appearance. Some few Brazilian farmers, who reside in the neighbourhood, were present; and among them was Senhor Assis, decorated with the insignia of the Ordem do Christo, worn over a smart sky-blue coat of British manufacture. After Divine service he mounted me on an excellent horse, and escorted me round the environs; visiting several cottages, and cultivated enclosures. One of them exhibited a strong proof of the beneficial effects of care and good management: every thing was on a small scale, but arranged with the most exact nicety and order. The stable, the piggory, the cow-house, and the dairy, all detached, and kept in the cleanliest manner. The garden, from two to three acres in extent, planted with potatoes, beans, cabbages, tobacco, and other vegetables; and flower-beds so tastefully laid out, that they carried an English man‘s thoughts naturally back to his own country. A fine piece of meadow-land, bounded by the river, which was here between twenty and thirty yards wide, gave pasturage to two cows and a mule; and the cottage itself, white-washed and neatly furnished, had an appearance of genuine comfort that could probably be no where else discovered in Brazil. This my Portuguese friend readily acknowledged; but seemed to think the example too rare among the Swiss themselves, to make any general imitation of it likely to take place among the natives.
The good people of the house declared themselves to be happy and contented. The ground originally allotted to them had proved fertile, their stock throve, and the produce of their little farm afforded a comfortable maintenance. They eagerly offered me some of their excellent fresh butter and cheese, which in this part of the world is indeed an unusual luxury; and I went away, no less gratified by their simple hospitable manners, than by the cheerful aspect of the whole scene.
We next visited an Italian chasseur, who was also one of the original settlers, but preferred living by the produce of his gun to any regular system of industry. He undertook to supply me with any number of stuffed birds, at the rate of eighteen-pence each, and to escort me on a shooting expedition the following day. We passed the site of an intended hospital, the building of which had been delayed until the dispersion of the colonists rendered it almost unnecessary, and now it will probably be never finished. Our last visit was paid to the judge, or chief magistrate of the place, a quiet elderly Swiss gentleman, who complained bitterly of the litigious and quarrelsome disposition of his countrymen. He examined my passport, and inquired into the motives of my journey. His wife, a bustling talkative lady, overwhelmed me with questions, and recounted the history of all her own disasters, from the day of her ill-omened departure from Switzerland to the period of settlement in this barbarous country. She had been led away, she said, like many others, by exaggerated accounts of the supposed riches of Brazil, and never expected again to be happy until she could return to her native land. In the evening we had the pleasure of witnessing a village-dance, which was sustained with gi-eat spirit by most of the young people of both sexes. They at least appeared to drown every care and disappointment in present cheerfulness and festivity, and exhibited a very delightful contrast to the life of total seclusion from society, to which the Brazilian women are doomed by the jealous and absurd restraints imposed upon them by the other sex. With the exception of this one point, my host showed me every attention that could be desired; but no hints would prevail upon him to introduce me to his sister, a young woman who lived in the same house. Once, indeed, I caught a glimpse of her at the window, and again upon entering rather suddenly into the sitting-room; but she immediately hung down her head and concealed her face from view, without returning my salute, and ran away half-scared, as if it had been a crime to find herself in the same apartment with her brother‘s guest. For this her brother took the trouble to apologize, by saying that every country had its own usages, and Brazilians, without meaning disrespect to either party individually, thought it best to keep on the safe side, by not trusting their young female relations in the society of strangers. From this plan no danger could be apprehended – from the other it might; and the spirit of intrigue common among the Portuguese was so notorious, that proportionate caution was necessary to be observed by the guardians of female honour.
September 10. – At 7 A. M. the thermometer was down as low as 41°, and the cold had been very severe during the night. The Italian chasseur took me a long ramble, for five hours, among almost impervious woods; yet no deer nor game of any sort was to be found, and we contented ourselves with shooting some toucans, parrots, woodpeckers, and other birds, for the purpose of stuffing them. As we descended again into the plain, we tracked the course of a small stream, the bed of which is known to contain gold. Some specimens of very fine quality have been collected: but as no regular washings can be established without a license from the Government, and heavy attendant expenses, together with a duty to the Crown of one-fifth, the apparent degree of richness of the mine does not justify the working it at this place.
From what has been said in the preceding pages of this Narrative, the actual state of the Swiss settlement will be sufficiently evident. A short account is now subjoined of the measures which were pursued by the King‘s command in furtherance of his views, together with the main operating causes that induced a result so contrary to expectation.
The steps originally taken to procure settlers were mentioned in another place; as were the reasons for choosing Môrro Quemado to be their place of establishment, – namely, its proximity to Rio Janeiro, its mountainous situation, and cold climate. Hither, accordingly, they were transported shortly after their arrival, at the expense and under the direction of the Government: houses were prepared for their reception, one being allotted to each family, with a piece of garden-ground and land proportioned to the number of individuals who would cultivate it. The hills and valleys in the neighbourhood, as well as the whole plain of Môrro Quemado, were thus partitioned out in a regular manner. Paths were cut through the woods for the accommodation of the settlers; and in one instance a dyke was made at a considerable expense, to convey the waters of a neighbouring rivulet to turn a corn-mill: cattle, mules, sheep, pigs, and poultry, were also given at different times; and every individual above three years of age received during the first year an allowance of half a pataca or nine-pence a-day, in money.
These settlers were of course subject to the laws of Brazil, but exempted from the payment of any tax or contribution for the first ten years of their residence in the country. Suitable officers were appointed, partly Portuguese, partly Swiss, to superintend the distribution of lands, &c., to administer justice, and enforce whatever regulations might be deemed expedient or necessary. The immediate superintendance of the whole settlement was confided by the King to a dignitary of the Church, and a person of some importance in Rio, commonly called Mon Senhor Miranda.
Thus far every thing, at first sight, appears to have been placed on a good footing, and liberally conducted, in a way suitable to the wants of the colonists, conducive to their permanent prosperity, and highly honourable to the King their munificent patron.
Several untoward circumstances, however, occurred to frustrate his beneficent intentions; some of which doubtless might have been foreseen, while others could only be brought to light by the actual execution of the project. In the first place, although many of them came under the designation of artisans and regular-bred farmers, the majority were of a very different, description, and had been indiscriminately collected together. Some were notoriously bad characters, and many had been soldiers, bred up in the military school of Bonaparte, whose real profession was that of the sword, not the plough. It could not be expected that the minds and habits of life of these people should be so entirely altered by a voyage across the Atlantic, as to render them at once respectable and industrious settlers. They brought with them, in fact, guns, sabres, and pistols, instead of agricultural implements; and naturally preferred the chace to hard labour, in a district where game was abundant, and the cultivation of the soil attended with much labour and but little profit. The barrenness of many of the allotments was such as to disgust the proprietors, who, after all the trouble and expense of burning down the wood and cultivating their land, found it impossible to get a remunerating return for their labour. This disappointment in the hopes of those who were really industrious, gave them just grounds of discontent, and their more idle companions made use of it as a pretext for abandoning their farms altogether. For a time, the King‘s bounty money, aided by the produce of the chase, enabled them to live in tolerable comfort; but, when that resource failed, numbers of them were reduced to extreme indigence and misery.
Thus circumstanced, they gradually left the settlement at Môrro Quemado, in search of a milder climate and more productive lands. Some went higher up the country, and, following the example of the Brazilian farmers, attempted to establish coffee plantations; others found their way to Rio, and gained a livelihood by various trades, or engaged themselves as servants. Many young persons of both sexes, who by the death of parents had been left unprotected and unprovided for, adopted the latter expedient; and the fate of such girls as had any pretensions to beauty, may, under all the circumstances of the case, be easily imagined. The state of morality, indeed, was unfavourable from the beginning, and the evil seems to have been encouraged rather than checked by persons in authority. Thus it happened that this ill-fated settlement, which ought to have presented a scene of virtuous industry and enterprise, soon became converted into an abode of idleness and profligacy.
Through some strange oversight, not usual among the Portuguese, very little attention was paid to the religious part of the establishment. Mass, indeed, was said on Sundays and grand fete-days at the Government House, but no regular church was erected, and no means for the stated performance of Church ceremonies provided. The Roman Catholic religion, when thus stripped of its imposing ceremonial, together with all those parts which by appealing to the senses are said to assist devotion, must consequently be expected to lose a large proportion of its ordinary influence. Such actually proved to be the case: and in few parts of the Portuguese dominions were the public ordinances, and private injunctions of religion, less considered or observed. Orders had originally been given by the King to admit none but Catholics into the settlement, and no religion but the Roman Catholic was afterwards allowed. A great number of Protestants, however, contrived to introduce themselves into it, notwithstanding those orders; yet, being too honest to make a formal profession of what they disbelieved, and at the same time unable to worship God in their own way, they necessarily lived without the ordinances of religion altogether. Their children even were not baptized, except by themselves, and grew up in deplorable ignorance of their faith; whilst such persons as refused to receive the extreme unction of a Roman Catholic priest, died, as they had lived, without the benefit of religious assistance.
Another great omission was that of the establishment of schools by the Government. The German Swiss did, indeed, keep up a school at their own expense; but the French Swiss children were absolutely unprovided with any place of education.
The last cause of ruin to the already tottering settlement, was the departure of the King for Portugal. Being entirely a child of his own creation, it shared the usual fate of favourites during the absence of their patron, and was either forgotten or purposely neglected by the young Regent, Don Pedro, and his Government. Mon Senhor Miranda removed to Rio; and, as some of the poor people themselves observed, “seemed no longer to take any interest in their welfare and happiness.” The chief part, therefore, dispersed themselves throughout the country in all directions – some singly, some collectively, according as their interests and inclinations prompted. Others, at the time of my arrival, were preparing to follow their example; and a few sober-minded industrious people only remained, intent upon the accomplishment of the plan originally laid down, namely, that of the cultivation of European productions, particularly of potatoes and maize, for which there is a constant and great demand at Rio. The prospects of those who remain, and are fortunate enough to possess an allotment of good land, may be considered as sufficiently encouraging. In support of this opinion, my host told me of a Portuguese farmer in the neighbourhood, who in one year had realised, by the sale of potatoes alone, no less than two contos of reis, or upwards of £560.
From the whole account here given, the reader may draw his own inferences, and judge whether, if more ably managed, more advantageously situated, and composed of better-conditioned settlers, the colony could ever have been permanently and successfully established. Be this as it may, it is earnestly to be hoped, that whatever changes may take place in the Government of Brazil, the people of England will not allow themselves to be tempted, by delusive promises and expectations, to abandon their own comfortable homes in search of advantages, uncertain at best, amidst the woods and wildernesses of South America. This remark does not apply solely to the sort of establishment here described; there are projectors and speculating egotists in various ways, – and woe to those who, in ignorance of the real state of things, give credit to the pictures too often drawn in this speculative age, of an imaginary El Dorado, and find not out how egregiously they have been duped until their error becomes fatal and irretrievable! The much-vaunted precious stones and metals they will find equally difficult of attainment, if not more so, than in England; and, supposing their labours as farmers to be ultimately successful, years of toil, danger, and discomfort, must first be surmounted. Innumerable crosses, which the inexperienced cannot anticipate, but which are inseparable from a new country, will thwart them at every step; and not among the least of these may be mentioned the hostility of a rude native Creole population, jealous of foreigners, and bigotted enemies to innovation and improvement.
- Mathison, Gilbert Farquhar. Narrativa de uma visita ao Brasil, Chile, Peru e as Ilhas Sanduíche: Com diversas observações sobre o estado passado e presente, e as perspectivas políticas desses países. Londres: C. Knight, 1825. 478 p. (Library of Congress F2223.M43, Open Library OL14029928M).