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An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]

Chap. XIV

Chap. XIV.

Some Account of the Inhabitants of Batavia, and the adjacent Country, their Manners, Customs, and Manner of Life.

The town of Batavia, although, as I have already observed, it is the capital of the Dutch dominions in India, is so far from being peopled with Dutchmen, that not one fifth part, even of the European inhabitants of the town, and its environs, are natives of Holland, or of Dutch extraction, the greater part are Portuguese: and, besides Europeans, there are Indians of various nations, and Chinese, besides a great number of negro slaves. In the troops there are natives of almost every country in Europe, but the Germans are more than all the rest put together: there are some English and French, but the Dutch, though other Europeans are permitted to get money here, keep all the power in their own hands, and consequently possess all public employments. No man, of whatever nation, can come hither to settle in any other character than that of a soldier in the company's service, in page 500 which, before they are accepted, they must covenant to remain five years. As soon, however, as this form has been complied with, they are allowed, upon application to the council, to absent themselves from their corps, and enter immediately into any branch of trade, which their money or credit will enable them to carry on; and by this means it is that all the white inhabitants of the place are soldiers.

Women, however, of all nations, are permitted to settle here, without coming under any restrictions; yet we were told that there were not, when we were at Batavia, twenty women in the place that were born in Europe, but that the white women, who were by no means scarce, were descendants from European parents, of the third or fourth generation, the gleanings of many families who had successively come hither, and in the male line become extinct; for it is certain that, whatever be the cause, this climate is not so fatal to the ladies as to the other sex.

These women imitate the Indians in every particular; their dress is made of the same materials, their hair is worn in the same manner, and they are equally enslaved by the habit of chewing beetle.

The merchants carry on their business here with less trouble, perhaps, than in any other part of the world: every manufacture is managed by the Chinese, who sell the produce of their labour to the merchants resident here, for they are permitted to sell it to no one else; so that when a ship comes in, and bespeaks perhaps an hundred leagers of arrack, or any quantity of other commodities, the merchant has nothing to do but to send orders to his Chinese to see them delivered on board; he obeys the command, brings a receipt signed by the master of the ship for the goods to his employer, who receives the money, and, having deducted his profit, pays the Chinese his demand. With goods that are imported, however, the merchant has a little more trouble; for these he must examine, receive, and lay up in his warehouse, according to the practice of other countries.

The Portuguese are called by the natives Oranserane, or Nazareen men, (Oran being Man in the language of the country) to distinguish them from other Europeans; page 501 yet they are included in the general appellation of Caper, or Cafir, an opprobrious term, applied by Mahometans to all who do not profess their faith. These people, however, are Portuguese only in name; they have renounced the religion of Rome, and become Lutherans; neither have they the least communication with the country of their forefathers, or even knowledge of it: they speak, indeed, a corrupt dialect of the Portuguese language, but much more frequently use the Malay. They are never suffered to employ themselves in any but mean occupations; many of them live by hunting, many by washing linen, and some are handicraftsmen and artificers. They have adopted all the custoras of the Indians, from whom they are distinguished chiefly by their features and complexion, their skin being considerably darker, and their noses more sharp; their dress is exactly the same, except in the manner of wearing their hair.

The Indians, who are mixed with the Dutch and Portuguese in the town of Batavia, and the country adjacent, are not, as might be supposed, Javanese, the original natives of the island, but natives of the various islands from which the Dutch import slaves, and are either such as have themselves been manumized, or the descendants of those who formerly received manumission; and they are all comprehended under the general name of Oranslam, or Isalem, signifying, Believers of the true Faith. The natives of every country, however, in other respects keep themselves distinct from the rest, and are not less strongly marked than the slaves, by the vices or virtues of their respective nations. Many of these employ themselves in the cultivation of gardens, and in selling fruit and flowers. The beetle and areca, which are here called Siri and Pinang, and chewed by both sexes and every rank in amazing quantities, are all grown by these Indians: lime is also mixed with these roots here as it is in Savu, but it is less pernicious to the teeth, because it is first slaked, and, besides the lime, a substance called gambir, which is brought from the continent of India; the better sort of women also add cardamum, and many other aromatics, to give the breath an agreeable smell. Some of the Indians, however, are employed in fishing, and page 502 as lightermen, to carry goods from place to place by water; and some are rich, and live with much of the splendor of their country, which chiefly consists in the number of their slaves.

In the article of food these Isalems are remarkably temperate; it consists chiefly of boiled rice, with a small proportion of buffalo, fish, or fowl, and sometimes of dried fish, and dried shrimps, which are brought here from China; every dish, however, is highly seasoned with Cayan pepper, and they have many kinds of pastry made of rice flour, and other things to which I am a stranger; they eat also a great deal of fruit, particularly plantains.

But, notwithstanding their general temperance, their feasts are plentiful, and, according to their manner, magnificent. As they are Mahometans, wine and strong liquors professedly make no part of their entertainment; neither do they often indulge with them privately, contenting themselves with their beetle and opium.

The principal solemnity among them is a wedding, upon which occasion both the families borrow as many ornaments of gold and silver as they can, to adorn the bride and bridegroom, so that their dresses are very shewy and magnificent. The feasts that are given upon these occasions among the rich last sometimes a fortnight, and sometimes longer; and during this time the man, although married on the first day, is by the women kept from his wife.

The language that is spoken among all these people, from what place soever they originally came, is the Malay, at least it is a language so called, and probably it is a very corrupt dialect of that spoken at Malacca. Every little island, indeed, has a language of its own, and Java has two or three; but this Lingua Franca is the only language that is now spoken here, and, as I am told, it prevails over a great part of the East Indies. A dictionary of Malay and English was published in London by Thomas Bowrey, in the year 1701.

Their women wear as much hair as can grow upon the head, and to increase the quantity they use oils, and other preparations of various kinds. Of this ornament page 503 Nature has been very liberal; it is universally black, and is formed into a kind of circular wreath upon the top of the head, where it is fastened with a bodkin, in a taste which we thought inexpressibly elegant: the wreath of hair is surrounded by another of flowers, in which the Arabian jessamine is beautifully intermixed with the golden stars of Bonger Tanjong.

Both sexes constantly bathe themselves in the river, at least once a day; a practice which, in this hot country, is equally necessary both to personal delicacy and health. The teeth of these people also, whatever they may suffer in their colour by chewing beetle, are an object of great attention; the ends of them, both in the upper and under jaw, are rubbed with a kind of whet-stone, by a very troublesome and painful operation, till they are perfectly even and flat, so that they cannot lose less than half a line in their length. A deep groove is then made cross the teeth of the upper jaw, parallel with the gums, and in the middle between them and the extremity of the teeth; the depth of this groove is at least equal to one-fourth of the thickness of the teeth, so that it penetrates far beyond what is called the enamel, the least injury to which, according to the dentists of Europe, is fatal; yet among these people, where the practice of thus wounding the enamel is universal, we never saw a rotten tooth; nor is the blackness a stain, but a covering, which may be washed off at pleasure, and the teeth then appear as white as ivory, which, however, is not an excellence in the estimation of the belles and beaus of these nations.

These are the people among whom the practice that is called a mock, or running a muck, has prevailed for time immemorial. It is well known that to run a muck, in the original sense of the word, is to get intoxicated with opium, and then rush into the street with a drawn weapon, and kill whoever comes in the way, till the party is himself either killed or taken prisoner. Of this several instances happened while we were at Batavia; and one of the officers, whose business it is, among other things, to apprehend such people, told us, that there was scarcely a week in which he, or some of his brethren, were not called page 504 upon to take one of them in custody. In one of the instances that came to our knowledge, the party had been severely injured by the perfidy of women, and was mad with jealousy before he made himself drunk with opium; and we are told, that the Indian who runs a muck is always first driven to desperation by some outrage, and always first revenges himself upon those who have done him wrong. We were also told, that though these unhappy wretches afterwards run into the street with a weapon in their hand, frantic and foaming at the mouth, yet they never kill any but those who attempt to apprehend them, or those whom they suspect of such an intention, and that whoever gives them way is safe. They are generally slaves, who indeed are more subject to insults, and least able to obtain legal redress. Freemen, however, are sometimes provoked into this extravagance, and one of the persons who run a muck, while we were at Batavia, was free and in easy circumstances. He was jealous of his own brother, whom he first killed, and afterwards two others, who attempted to oppose him; he did not, however, come out of his house, but endeavoured to defend himself in it, though the opium had so far deprived him of his senses, that of three muskets, which he attempted to use against the officers of justice, not one was either loaded or primed. If the officer takes one of these amocks, or mohawks, as they have been called by an easy corruption, alive, his reward is very considerable; but if he kills them, nothing is added to his usual pay; yet such is the fury of their desperation, that three out of four are of necessity destroyed in the attempt to secure them, though the officers are provided with instruments, like large tongs or pincers, to lay hold of them, without coming within the reach of their weapon. Those who happen to be taken alive are generally wounded, but they are always broken alive upon the wheel; and if the physician who is appointed to examine their wounds, think them likely to be mortal, the punishment is inflicted immediately, and the place of execution is generally the spot where the first murder was committed.

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Among these people there are many absurd practices and opinions which they derive from their Pagan ancestors: they believe that the devil, whom they call Satan, is the cause of all sickness and adversity; and for this reason, when they are sick, or in distress, they consecrate meat, money, and other things to him as a propitiation. If any one among them is restless, and dreams for two or three nights successively, he concludes that Satan has taken that method of laying his commands upon him, which, if he neglects to fulfil, he will certainly suffer sickness or death, though they are not revealed with sufficient perspicuity to ascertain their meaning: to interpret his dream, therefore, he taxes his wits to the uttermost, and if, by taking it literally or figuratively, directly or by contraries, he can put no explication upon it that perfectly satisfies him, he has recourse to the cawin or priest, who assists him with a comment and illustrations, and perfectly reveals the mysterious suggestions of the night. It generally appears that the devil wants victuals or money, which are always allotted him, and being placed on a little plate of cocoa-nut leaves, are hung upon the branch of a tree near the river; so that it seems not to be the opinion of these people, that in prowling the earth the devil “walketh through dry places.” Mr. Banks once asked, whether they thought Satan spent the money, or eat the victuals? He was answered, that as to the money, it was considered rather as a mulct upon an offender, than a gift to him who had enjoined it; and that therefore, if it was devoted by the dreamer, it mattered not into whose hands it came, and they supposed that it was generally the prize of some stranger who wandered that way; but as to the meat, they were clearly of opinion that, although the devil did not eat the gross parts, yet, by bringing his mouth near it, he sucked out all its savour without changing its position, so that afterwards it was as tasteless as water.

But they have another superstitious opinion, that is still more unaccountable. They believe that women, when they are delivered of children, are frequently at the same time delivered of a young crocodile, as a twin to the infant: they believe that these creatures are received page 506 most carefully by the midwife, and immediately carried down to the river, and put into the water. The family in which such a birth is supposed to have happened, constantly put victuals into the river for their amphibious relation, and especially the twin, who, as long as he lives, goes down to the river at stated seasons, to fulfil this fraternal duty, for the neglect of which, it is the universal opinion, that he will be visited with sickness or death. What could at first produce a notion so extravagant and absurd, it is not easy to guess, especially as it seems to be totally unconnected with any religious mystery; and how a fact which never happened, should be pretended to happen every day, by those who cannot be deceived into a belief of it by appearances, nor have any apparent interest in the fraud, is a problem still more difficult to solve. Nothing, however, can be more certain, than the firm belief of this strange absurdity among them; for we had the concurrent testimony of every Indian who was questioned about it, in its favour. It seems to have taken its rise in the islands of Celebes and Bouton, where many of the inhabitants keep crocodiles in their families; but however that be, the opinion has spread over all the eastern islands, even to Timor and Ceram, and westward as far as Java and Sumatra, where, however, young crocodiles are, I believe, never kept.

These crocodile twins are called Sudaras; and I shall relate one of the innumerable stories that were told us, in proof of their existence, from ocular demonstration.

A young female slave, who was born and bred up among the English at Bencoolen, and had learned a little of the language, told Mr. Banks that her father, when he was dying, acquainted her that he had a crocodile for his Sudara, and solemnly charged her to give him meat when he should be dead; telling her in what part of the river he was to be found, and by what name he was to be called up. That in pursuance of her father's instructions and command, she went to the river, and standing upon the bank, called out Radja Pouti, white king; upon which a crocodile came to her out of the water, and eat from her hand the provisions that she had brought him. When she was desired to describe this paternal uncle, who in so strange a shape page 507 had taken up his dwelling in the water, she said that he was not like other crocodiles, but much handsomer; that his body was spotted and his nose red; that he had bracelets of gold upon his feet, and ear-rings of the same metal in his ears. Mr. Banks heard this tale of ridiculous falsehood patiently to the end; and then dismissed the girl, without reminding her, that a crocodile with ears was as strange a monster as a dog with a cloven foot. Some time after this, a servant whom Mr. Banks had hired at Batavia, and who was the son of a Dutchman by a Javanese woman, thought fit to acquaint his master that he had seen a crocodile of the same kind, which had also been seen by many others, both Dutchmen and Malays: and being very young, it was but two feet long, and had bracelets of gold upon its feet. There is no giving credit to these stories, said Mr. Banks, for I was told the other day that a crocodile had ear-rings; and you know that could not be true, because crocodiles have no ears. Ah! Sir, said the man, these Sudara Oran are not like other crocodiles; they have five toes upon each foot, a large tongue that fills their mouth, and ears also, although they are indeed very small.

How much of what these people related they believed, cannot be known; for there are no bounds to the credulity of ignorance and folly. In the girl's relation, however, there are some things in which she could not be deceived; and therefore must have been guilty of wilful falsehood. Her father might perhaps give her a charge to feed a crocodile, in consequence of his believing that it was his Sudara; but its coming to her out of the river, when she called it by the name of White King, and taking the food she had brought it, must have been a fable of her own invention; for this being false, it was impossible that she should believe it to be true. The girl's story, however, as well as that of the man, is a strong proof that they both firmly believed the existence of crocodiles that are Sudaras to men; and the girl's fiction will be easily accounted for if we recollect, that the earnest desire which every one feels to make others believe what he believes himself, is a strong temptation to support it by unjustifiable evidence. And the averring what is known to be false, page 508 in order to produce in others the belief of what is thought to be true, must, upon the most charitable principles, be imputed to many, otherwise venerable characters, through whose hands the doctrines of Christianity passed for many ages in their way to us, as the source of all the silly fables related of the Romish saints, many of them not less extravagant and absurd than this story of the White King, and all of them the invention of the first relater.

The Bougis, Macassars, and Boetons, are so firmly persuaded that they have relations of the crocodile species in the rivers of their own country, that they perform a periodical ceremony in remembrance of them. Large parties of them go out in a boat, furnished with great plenty of provisions, and all kinds of music, and row backwards and forwards in places where crocodiles and allegators are most common, singing and weeping by turns, each invoking his kindred, till a crocodile appears; when the music instantly stops, and provisions, beetle and tobacco, are thrown into the water. By this civility to the species, they hope to recommend themselves to their relations at home; and that it will be accepted instead of offerings immediately to themselves which it is not in their power to pay.

In the next rank to the Indians stand the Chinese, who in this place are numerous, but possess very little property; many of them live within the walls, and keep shops. The fruit-sellers of Passar Pissang have been mentioned already; but others have a rich show of European and Chinese goods: the far greater part, however, live in a quarter by themselves, without the walls, called Campang China. Many of them are carpenters, joiners, smiths, taylors, slip-makers, dyers of cotton, and embroiderers; maintaining the character of industry that is universally given of them: and some are scattered about the country, where they cultivate gardens, sow rice and sugar, or keep cattle and buffaloes, whose milk they daily bring to town.

There is nothing clean or dirty, honest or dishonest, provided there is not too much danger of a halter, that the Chinese will not readily do for money. But though they work with great diligence, and patiently undergo any degree of labour, yet no sooner have they laid page 509 down their tools than they begin to game, either at cards or dice, or some other play among the multitude that they have invented, which are altogether unknown in Europe: to this they apply with such eagerness, as scarcely to allow time for the necessary refreshments of food and sleep; so that it is as rare to see a Chinese idle, as it is to see a Dutchman or an Indian employed.

In manners they are always civil, or rather obsequious; and in dress they are remarkably neat and clean, to whatever rank of life they belong. I shall not attempt a description either of their persons or habits; for the better kind of China paper, which is now common in England, exhibits a perfect representation of both, though perhaps with some slight exaggerations approaching towards the caricatura.

In eating they are easily satisfied, though the few that are rich have many savory dishes. Rice, with a small proportion of flesh or fish, is the food of the poor; and they have greatly the advantage of the Mahometan Indians, whose religion forbids them to eat of many things which they could most easily procure. The Chinese, on the contrary, being under no restraint, eat, besides pork, dogs, cats, frogs, lizards, serpents of many kinds, and a great variety of sea animals, which the other inhabitants of this country do not consider as food: they eat also many vegetables, which an European, except he was perishing with hunger, would never touch.

The Chinese have a singular superstition with regard to the burial of their dead; for they will, upon no occasion, open the ground a second time, where a body has been interred. Their burying grounds, therefore, in the neighbourhood of Batavia, cover many hundred acres; and the Dutch, grudging the waste of so much land, will not sell any for this purpose but at the most exorbitant price. The Chinese, however, contrive to raise the purchase money, and afford another instance of the folly and weakness of human nature, in transferring a regard for the living to the dead, and making that the object of solicitude and expence, which cannot receive the least benefit from either. Under the influence of this universal prejudice, they take an uncommon page 510 method to preserve the body intire, and prevent the remains of it from being mixed with the earth that surrounds it. They inclose it in a large thick coffin of wood, not made of planks joined together, but hollowed out of the solid timber like a canoe; this being covered, and let down into the grave, is surrounded with a coat of their mortar, called Chinam, about eight or ten inches thick, which in a short time becomes as hard as a stone. The relations of the deceased attend the funeral ceremony, with a considerable number of women that are hired to weep: it might reasonably be supposed that the hired appearance of sorrow could no more flatter the living than benefit the dead; yet the appearance of sorrow is known to be hired among people much more reflective and enlightened than the Chinese. In Batavia the law requires that every man should be buried according to his rank, which is in no case dispensed with; so that if the deceased has not left sufficient to pay his debts, an officer takes an inventory of what he has in his possession when he died, and out of the produce buries him in the manner prescribed, leaving only the overplus to his creditors. Thus in many instances are the living sacrificed to the dead; and money that should discharge a debt, or feed an orphan, lavished in idle processions, or materials that are deposited in the earth to rot.

Another numerous class among the inhabitants of this country is the slaves; for by slaves the Dutch, Portuguese, and Indians, however different in their rank or situation, are constantly attended: they are purchased from Sumatra, Malacca, and almost all the eastern islands. The natives of Java, very few of whom, as I have before observed, live in the neighbourhood of Batavia, have an exemption from slavery under the sanction of very severe penal laws, which I believe are seldom violated. The price of these slaves is from ten to twenty pounds sterling; but girls, if they have beauty, sometimes fetch a hundred. They are a very lazy set of people; but as they will do but little work, they are content with a little victuals, subsisting altogether upon boiled rice, and a small quantity of the cheapest fish. As they are natives of different countries, they differ page 511 from each other extremely, both in person and disposition. The African negroes, called here Papua, are the worst, and consequently may be purchased for the least money: they are all thieves, and all incorrigible. Next to these are the Bougis and Macassars, both from the island of Celebes; these are lazy in the highest degree, and though not so much addicted to theft as the negroes, have a cruel and vindictive spirit, which renders them extremely dangerous; especially as, to gratify their resentment, they will make no scruple of sacrificing life. The best slaves, and consequently the dearest, are procured from the island of Bali: the most beautiful women from Nias, a small island on the coast of Sumatra; but they are of a tender and delicate constitution, and soon fall a sacrifice to the unwholesome air of Batavia. Besides these, there are Malays, and slaves of several other denominations, whose particular characteristics I do not remember.

These slaves are wholly in the power of their masters with respect to any punishment that does not take away life; but if a slave dies in consequence of punishment, though his death should not appear to have been intended, the master is called to a severe account, and he is generally condemned to suffer capitally. For this reason the master seldom inflicts punishment upon the slave himself, but applies to an officer called a Marineu, one of whom is stationed in every district. The duty of the Marineu is to quell riots, and take offenders into custody; but more particularly to apprehend runaway slaves, and punish them for such crimes as the master, supported by proper evidence, lays to their charge: the punishment however is not inflicted by the Marineu in person, but by slaves who are bred up to the business. Men are punished publicly, before the door of their master's house; but women within it. The punishment is by stripes, the number being proportioned to the offence; and they are given with rods made of rattans; which are split into slender twigs for the purpose, and fetch blood at every stroke. A common punishment costs the master a rix-dollar, and a severe one a ducatoon, about six shillings and eight pence. The master is also obliged to allow the slave three dubbelcheys, equal to about seven pence half-penny a week, page 512 as an encouragement, and to prevent his being under temptations to steal too strong to be resisted.

Concerning the government of this place I can say but little. We observed however a remarkable subordination among the people. Every man who is able to keep house, has a certain specific rank, acquired by the length of his services to the company; the different ranks which are thus acquired are distinguished by the ornaments of the coaches and the dresses of coachmen: some are obliged to ride in plain coaches, some are allowed to paint them in different manners and degrees, and some to gild them. The coachman also appears in clothes that are quite plain, or more or less adorned with lace.

The officer who presides here has the title of Governor General of the Indies; and the Dutch Governors of all the other settlements are subordinate to him, and obliged to repair to Batavia that he may pass their accounts. If they appear to have been criminal, or even negligent, he punishes them by delay, and detains them during pleasure, sometimes one year, sometimes two years, and sometimes three; for they cannot quit the place till he gives them a dismission. Next to the Governor are the members of the council, called here Edele Heeren, and by the corruption of the English, Idoleers. These Idoleers take upon them so much state, that whoever meets them in a carriage, is expected to rise up and bow, then to drive on one side of the road, and there stop till they are past; the same homage is required also to their wives, and even to their children; and it is commonly paid them by the inhabitants. But some of our captains have thought so slavish a mark of respect beneath the dignity which they derived from the service of his Britannic Majesty, and have refused to pay it; yet, if they were in a hired carriage, nothing could deter the coachman from honouring the Dutch Grandee at their expence, but the most peremptory menace of immediate death.

Justice is administered here by a body of lawyers, who have ranks of distinction among themselves. Concerning their proceedings in questions of property, I know nothing; but their decisions in criminal cases seem to be severe with respect to the natives, and lenient page 513 with respect to their own people, in a criminal degree. A Christian always is indulged with an opportunity of escaping before he is brought to a trial, whatever may have been his offence; and if he is brought to a trial and convicted, he is seldom punished with death: while the poor Indians, on the contrary, are hanged, and broken upon the wheel, and even impaled alive without mercy.

The Malays and Chinese have judicial officers of their own, under the denominations of Captains and Lieutenants, who determine in civil cases, subject to an appeal to the Dutch court.

The taxes paid by these people to the Company are very considerable; and that which is exacted of them for liberty to wear their hair, is by no means the least. They are paid monthly; and to save the trouble and charge of collecting them, a flag is hoisted upon the top of a house in the middle of the town when a payment is due; and the Chinese have experienced that it is their interest to repair thither with their money without delay.

The money current here consists of ducats, worth a hundred and thirty two stivers; ducatoons, eighty stivers; imperial rix-dollars, sixty; rupees of Batavia, thirty; schellings, six; double cheys, two stivers and a half; and doits, one fourth of a stiver. Spanish dollars, when we were here, were at five shillings and five pence; and we were told, that they were never lower than five shillings and four pence, even at the Company's warehouse. For English guineas we could never get more than nineteen shillings upon an average; for though the Chinese would give twenty shillings for some of the brightest, they would give no more than seventeen shillings for those that were much worn.

It may perhaps be of some advantage to strangers to be told that there are two kinds of coin here, of the same denomination, milled and unmilled, and that the milled is of most value. A milled ducatoon is worth eighty stivers; but an unmilled ducatoon is worth no more than seventy-two. All accounts are kept in rix-dollars and stivers, which, here at least, are mere nominal coins, like our pound sterling. The rix-dollar is equal to forty-eight stivers, about four shillings and six pence English currency.