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all the country between Diamond point and Siack inclusive, for the purpose,' as Mr. Anderson expresses himself, of anticipating the Netherlands, and keeping the chiefs of that coast faithful to their relations with the island of Pinang,'-in fact, to open a communication with the several petty states on that coast and in the interior, and so to establish, if possible, a friendly and commercial intercourse with a country, rich in the choicest productions of nature, and abounding with a numerous and highly interesting population, with whose character, pursuits and habits, we had but little acquaintance.'
In the east, however, we have now nothing to apprehend from the exclusive and oppressive policy pursued by the Dutch; that has at length incited the natives to rebel against their authority, and to assert their rights. The consequence will probably be, that their oriental possessions will speedily be wrested from their grasp; whilst a more liberal system is rapidly drawing the whole trade of the ultra-Gangetic nations and the Archipelago to our few remaining ports in that quarter, more especially to Singapore. A very general view of the result of Mr. Anderson's Mission' is what we now propose to take, not altogether from any great interest or importance we attach to the work, but because we would not wish at this time to omit noticing any authentic information, however scanty, that may be gathered from any of the numerous nooks and corners of the eastern world.
Mr. Anderson, among other necessaries, took care to be wellprovided with interpreters; for we find in his train a motley group of twenty distinct kindreds and tongues, unknown, and, for the most part unintelligible to each other; Siamese, Burmahs, Aboynese, Malays, Buggese, Chooliahs, Chinese, Chittagong, Hindoo, Portugueze, Manilla, Caffree, Malabar, Javanese, Padang, Batta, West India Creole, Danes and Germans. The Company's brig Jessy conveyed him to the mouths of the several rivers and as far up them as they were safely navigable. To follow him up these rivers, and to the several residences of the petty sultans and rajahs, would be an endless and useless task. Their names and genealogies-their quarrels with each other-their traffic and manufactures, may all be very proper objects of study for the government of Pinang, but could hardly be considered as matters of much interest by the European reader; and on that account our description must be as brief and general as possible.
It appears that this eastern coast of Sumatra, which forms the western side of the strait of Malacca, and extends upwards of 600 geographical miles from Pedro point in latitude 5° 35′ N. to Lucepara point in latitude 3° 15′ S. is in general low, swampy,
and fringed with a continuous line of mangrove trees, growing so close to the water's edge as to throw their roots into the sea. This almost level country stretches from 50 miles in some places to 140 in others into the interior, till it meets with the great range of primitive mountains, which runs down the middle of the island almost the whole of its length. From these mountains issue innumerable streams, which, after intersecting in all directions the flat country, are poured into the Strait of Malacca through various channels, some of which, as the Reccan and the Siack, are of very considerable magnitude. Immense quantities of sand and mud, the debris of the mountains, are brought down by these rivers and deposited along the coast, where they are constantly forming sandbanks and shoals, which in some places extend as far as ten miles into the strait, rendering the navigation of it extremely dangerous, even to vessels of a small size. It is stated indeed that the land, in certain places, has gained upon the sea from 15 to 30 miles, within the last two hundred years. If this be so, what with the immense quantity of alluvion carried down, and the incessant labours of the coral-making insects, the strait of Malacca stands a chance of becoming unnavigable in an assignable number of years.
It may easily be imagined, that a country situated immediately under the equinoctial line, and covered with a deep alluvial soil, must be luxuriously fertile; but the enormous size to which many of its productions arrive is almost incredible to us who inhabit a more temperate climate. Some of our ancient oaks and yews might, it is true, compete with the grandest trees of a Sumatran forest; but we should look in vain in extra-tropical climates for any single flower measuring three feet in diameter, like that of the parasitical Rafflesia; or for a tuberous edible root weighing four hundred pounds; or for melons, pumpkins, and other species or varieties of the cucurbitaceous family, equal to half that weight; or for a shell fish equal to the Dutchman's cockle (chama gigas), on one of which four-and-twenty men make a hearty supper; or for one of the sponge species (Alcyonium?) as large and regular, and nearly as elegant, in shape, as the Barbarini vase.
Man alone seems here to degenerate, while other animals obtain the largest size. The elephants are equal in magnitude to those of Ceylon; the tiger, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, are superior to those of the continent. These animals infest the plantations and commit great ravages, more especially the herds of elephants, who are particularly fond of bananas and sugar-canes. The natives seem not to know the method of taking them by pit-falls, nor do they venture to make a direct attack upon them with their
matchlocks, or spears; but occasionally they strike one in the neck from a high tree; and sometimes, Mr. Marsden says, the planter destroys the assailants by splitting a number of the sugar-canes and putting yellow arsenic into the clefts. The tiger is sometimes taken in strong traps, and more frequently destroyed by means of water impregnated with arsenic placed near the object of his prey, or by the side of an animal which he has killed, but not devoured. The bears are so fond of cocoa nuts, that they destroy the tree to get at them. The buffalos are fatter,' says Mr. Anderson, and in better keeping than any bullocks I ever saw in Smithfield market.' To descend in the scale of being, the common domestic fowl grows so large that, standing on the ground, it can pick crumbs from an eating table; and among the numerous species of ants, there is one as big as a bee.
It seems to be a disputed point, whether the huge hippopotamus exists in the rivers of Sumatra. Mr. Marsden seems to have no doubt that the river-horse is well known to the Malay inhabitants, but M. Cuvier supposes, that by this name is meant the dugong, a sort of sea-cow, though, as Mr. Marsden justly observes, a four-legged animal could scarcely be mistaken for a two-finned one. It is possible, however, that the Malay name, kūda ayer, i. e. river-horse, may be applied to some other animal, and that without impropriety: at all events the hippopotamus himself is just as like a whale as a horse, and more like an overgrown sow than either. Mr. Anderson does not include this amphibious animal among the inhabitants of the rivers: but alligators of an immense size are numerous, and particularly bold and ferocious. Nothing is more common than for these creatures to raise their heads a couple of feet above the water, and pull out people from their canoes. Mr. Anderson mentions an instance of a boat, with three horses and six goats, being regularly attacked by a whole swarm of them, which, surrounding it on all sides, so alarmed the horses, that the boat upset, when the whole of the animals were seized and devoured in an instantthe three or four Malays only escaping by jumping into another boat. Yet this savage reptile, it would appear, is not incapable of being tamed.
'Near the mouth of the river, where there is a fishing-house, there is an alligator of a most prodigious size, his back, when a little out of the water, resembling a large rock. He remains constantly there, and is regularly fed upon the head and entrails of the large pari, or skate fish, which are caught there. I saw him, and the Malays called him to his meal. He appeared full twenty feet long. Being in rather a small boat at the time, I wished to make all haste away; but the Malays assured me he was quite harmless, so much so, that his feeders pat his head with their hands; a dangerous amusement certainly, but showing the won
derful tameness and sagacity of the creature, naturally so ferocious. He will not allow any other alligator to approach the place; and on that account the Malays almost worship him.'-p. 126.
Nature, however, has amply compensated the inhabitants of Sumatra for the various destructive animals with which they are surrounded. The choicest trees, herbs, and fruits are every where found, many of them demanding no labour of cultivation whatever. Their villages are situated in the midst of the most luxurious groves and plantations of the cocoa nut, the betel nut, banana, jacks, dorians, mangosteens, guavas, mangoes, pomegranates, pine-apples, cashew-apples, tamarinds, the bread fruit, several varieties of the orange, the lemon, the lime, and the pisang, or plaintain-of which last Mr. Anderson enumerates not less than fourteen varieties.
With some or other of these fruit trees constantly in view, and in the midst of a profusion of the most delightful flowers, breathing the most exquisite fragrance, the Sumatran traveller finds himself so highly gratified, as to lose the sense of many inconveniences which beset him. The air,' says Mr. Anderson, 'is scented with the sweetest perfumes, from the innumerable flowers planted in the villages, and even growing spontaneously in the woods.' The traveller, however, through a country in which there are no turnpike roads, must lay his account in meeting with numerous impediments and disagreeable annoyances. Our author says,
'We passed through several small patches of paddy, growing most luxuriantly. I never saw any paddy equal to it, the stalks being six and eight feet in length, and the ears richly stored. We travelled through extensive groves of fruit trees, viz. cocoa nut, betel nut, dorian, champada, mangosteen, jambu, lanseh, rusip, machang, guava, plantains, and various other descriptions, interspersed in some places with the jungle. In travelling through the woods, we experienced great inconvenience from the immense number of small leeches or pachats which fall from the boughs of trees. They penetrate through the clothes imperceptibly; and our legs were absolutely covered with gore, from the bites of these little creatures. The woods were full also of a shrub called the jellatang, which grows abundantly along the pathways, and requires the greatest caution to avoid touching it. The leaf somewhat resembles the tobacco leaf; and if it touches the skin, produces a most painful itchy sensation, followed by an eruption, which continues upwards of a month, causing the greatest uneasiness and pain.'-pp. 17, 18.
We are told, moreover, that a large red ant, which bites most vehemently, drops from the leaves of trees upon the passing traveller, and that these insects, with the mosquitos and the small blood-suckers above mentioned, contribute to render a journey through the woods particularly painful and disagreeable, and not the less so by being under the influence of a vertical sun. Of
this last inconvenience, however, Mr. Anderson does not much complain. The mornings and evenings, he tells us, are generally cool and pleasant, the thermometer, at sunrise, not being higher than from 70° to 75°, and seldom reaching 87° at the hottest part of the day; the island has also the advantage of a regular land and sea-breeze. The natives generally enjoy good health, and were not subject to any particular epidemic before the recent wide-spreading cholera morbus reached them. The prevalent diseases are fevers and agues.
We said that the human species alone degenerates on this island that they are small in stature may be owing to the race from which they sprung; but their enervated bodies, their excessive indolence and total want of exertion, are evidently not owing to any debilitating effects of climate. Men, it is true, who can gain a subsistence, and supply every want with little trouble, in a country where the heat is great, if not oppressive, and where there is little or no stability to property, will almost necessarily devote the greater part of their time to sleep and idleness; and it is this natural instinct of man to avoid labour, where the necessaries of life can be supplied without it, and where heat of climate powerfully disposes to indolence, that makes all we hear uttered about the free labour of the negroes in our West Indian colonies so perfectly nonsensical and ridiculous.
The Malays of Sumatra, who are in possession of every article of necessity, and many of luxury, cannot therefore be expected to employ much labour in the accumulation of property; and, indeed, the small share of work, that must be done, falls upon the women, mostly slave girls, who are employed in beating paddy, spinning, weaving, and dying cloth, while the men may generally be found lounging in their verandas, or under the shade of trees, indulging in that most pernicious of all drugs, opium, which stupifies their senses, enervates their bodies, and enfeebles their minds. It would seem that one of the earliest fruits of the forbidden tree was the science of extracting from plants, that are innocent in their natural state, their pernicious juices. It is chiefly to the poison of the poppy, that Mr. Anderson attributes the scanty population of an island, in which, according to the theory of Mr. Malthus, it ought to be excessive. Perpetual wars-polygamy-debauchery-selling children into slavery all these are in Sumatra powerful positive checks; but the most efficient by far is opium-smoking. I remarked,' says our traveller, that where the consumption of that inebriating and enervating substance was greatest, there were fewer children than at other places, where the inhabitants were more sober and abstemious in their habits; and he adds, that at Sirdang, where the inhabitants are