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Madagascar, Madeira, Tahiti..
Art. VI.-1. Madagascar, Past and Present. With considera
tions as to the political and commercial interests of Great Britain and France; and as to the progress of Christian
Civilization. By a Resident. London, 1847. 2. A Narrative of the Persecutions of the Christians in Mada
gascar. By J.J. FREEMAN and D. JOHNs, formerly Mission
aries in the Island. 6th Thousand. London, 1840. 3. Madeira; or, the Spirit of Anti-Christ in 1846, as exhibited
in a series of outrages perpetrated in August last, on British subjects and Portuguese Protestant Christians. By J. RODDAM
TATE, Royal Navy. London, 1847. 4. Tahiti. A Review of the Origin, Character and Progress of
French Roman Catholic Efforts for the Destruction of English Protestant Missions in the South Seas. Translated from the
French of Mark Wilkes. London, 1844. 5. Brief Statement of the Aggression of the French in the Island
of Tahiti, gc. By the Directors of the London Missionary Society. London, 1843. Madagascar, Madeira, and Tahiti! Why group together islands so remote from one another, so different in climate, productions, race, institutions, and history? What connexion is there between them? Recent events have invested them with a common interest. Persecution has made their names familiar words at our firesides. The Christian Missionary has appeared in their valleys and mountains, publishing salvation ; and in each he has been encountered by fierce opposition. In each the Gospel has its faithful witnesses, its all-enduring confessors, its bleeding martyrs. Comparatively insignificant in themselves, suffering Truth has imparted to them an immortal interest. They have been consecrated by the blood of martyrdom. The Spirit of God has made them holy ground.
But there is one consideration of peculiar interest which has induced us to draw the attention of our readers to these islands, as exhibited in the same light and regarded from the same point of view. Here Barbarism and Civilization are brought into juxta-position. Each acts its part according to its own nature. Both are confronted with a free and pure Christianity, engaged in its mission of mercy, its beneficent work of deliverance and renovation for enslaved and brutified humanity. How do they treat this heavenly power? Are we called upon to admire the
transcendency of civilization in respecting the rights of man, in sustaining truth and justice and freedom, or at least in recognising and blessing its own favourite work of industrial and intellectual education-of social amelioration, and the planting of those institutions and habits without which society, if it exist at all, can make no progress ? Or, if the spirituality of the Gospel excite its antagonism, will it not, at least, subject that antagonism to the control of truth, equity, honour, and refinementcontrasting beautifully with the cunning, the rapacity, and destructive brutality of savages ? Surely there will be all that is dignified and polished in its opposition, all that is chivalrous in its war, all that is benign and magnanimous in the exercise of its victorious power. It will defend property and protect life; it will shield the sanctity of home where that word is fraught with new and hallowed meaning, and surrounded with virtuous associations : and it will shelter the still feeble plants of civilization.
Madagascar, " the Great Britain of Africa,” has been represented as larger than the United Kingdom, containing 150,000,000 acres of land and a population of between four and five millions. The people are “industrious, intelligent, and semi-civilized. They are all of a dark complexion, some races being much more swarthy than others. They are evidently of varied origin. Some possess Malay features; others resemble Arabs; and a few approximate to the negro type, but without the woolly hair. The land is everywhere low in the neighbourhood of the sea, and the interior is mountainous. The highest elevation in the country probably does not exeeed 8000 feet. Iron, slate, and limestone are abundant. It is said that coal and silver exist in the island. Sugar, cotton, hemp, silk, indigo, tobacco, gum-elastic, gum-copal, ebony, wax, &c. are already produced, some on a large scale, and capable of an indefinite in
But the principal articles of exportation at present are cattle and rice, which are taken to Mauritius and Bourbon. The Malagasy have no shipping whatever of their own. In marine architecture they have not advanced a step beyond the rudest and simplest canoe. They have nothing in boat-building to compete with the New Zealander and South Sea Islander.”*
This may be accounted for, perhaps, from the fact that the negro race chiefly occupy the coast, while the reverse is the fact in the other islands of the Indian Archipelago. These
“ Bask in the glare or stem the tepid wave,
* FREEMAN and Johns, pp. 8, 9.
The Hovas-Form of Government.
139 And this is all they do. The sea yields not up its treasures, and the land is not cultivated. In the interior the Malays, who are the ruling race, have fixed the seat of their power at a place called Tananararivo, distant from Tamatane, the principal port, about 300 miles. These people are called the Hovas. They occupy the most salubrious part of the island, and possess over the other tribes the same sort of pre-eminence enjoyed by the Athenians and Spartans in ancient Greece. For their superior energy they are indebted partly to the bracing properties of the air in the elevated region they inhabit, which is free from brushwood and entirely exempt from the jungle fever. This malady fatally infects the low, wooded, marshy, and maritime districts. At a place about 50 miles north of the capital the atmosphere is so laden with death, that few survive who are doomed to breathe it even for a short time.
hort time. This insalubrity of the climate, however, can be greatly abated, if not wholly removed, by clearing, draining, and cultivation.
The form of government, if such it may be called, which is established in Madagascar, arose in much the same way as in other infant societies similarly circumstanced. Small communities or tribes seem to have yielded a sort of servitude to the individual most prominent among them for the combination of experience, talent, energy, decision of character, and physical strength. It is the nature of power, when once acquired, to fortify itself on every side, to extend its dominion and generate the ambition of conquest. Among the arts used for these purposes are imposing ceremonies and high-sounding titles. The “headsman” becomes a chief, a ruler, a king. He is the judicial referee, the fountain of justice, and honour, and favour. It is the inte rest of all to conciliate his good-will
, by servility and bribery. By these means the throne of despotism is established. Custom begets prestige ;-and thence by degrees grows “ a divine right;" to sport at will with the rights and liberties of the tyrant's “subjects.” The “ Malagasy," (so foreigners designate the people,) do not call their country Madagascar. Indeed, their idea of country does not extend so far. The nationality and patriotism of the tribes is confined to their respective districts. They are scarcely sufficiently civilized to comprehend centralization, though their recent history has been such as to make them understand it. The present sovereign and her two predecessors have been conquerors, after the ancient classical fashion. They have slaughtered in order to civilize, and copiously watered their newly planted institutions with blood.
The natives of Madagascar are not in a state of barbarism, in the gross sense of that word.
“ They appear to have acquired from time immemorial, by their intercourse with Arabs and Malays, and subsequently with Europeans, many of the arts and habits of civilized life. They possess large flocks of cattle, cultivate and artificially irrigate extensive tracts of soil
, are familiar with the value of property, and live in large communities, with considerable regularity of municipal government. They have no native coin. The only native metal worked is iron. The people have long known the manufacture of various articles in that metal, as well as in horn, wood, silk, and cotton. They excel also in the manufacture of silver chain from dollars, imported in the sale of their produce. Many of their houses are large and substantially built of wood, and their towns, which usually occupy the summits of hills, are well defended by large moats. The people are industrious in their habits and peaceable in their dispositions; they are hospitable to strangers, and respectful and courteous in their demeanour to each other. Under a government less oppressive and rapacious, the country would soon assume an appearance of great fertility and comfort, and by the fostering care of liberal and enlightened rulers, the people would rapidly rise in the scale of intelligence, wealth, and power. There are materials to render the Malagasy a noble and powerful nation, whose friendship and resources would be well worthy of commercial relations with Europe and India, and whose mind and energy would qualify them to act as benefactors on the eastern coast of Africa."*
The people of Madagascar, however, are sunk in the most malignant idolatry. The island may be said to be consecrated to sanguinary superstition, whose customs lead to horrid cruelty, doing as much to depopulate the land as war itself. According to Ellis, (whose excellent History of Madagascar is the best authority on all subjects connected with it, all of the clans hold some one day in the week as more sacred, favoured of the gods, or more lucky than the rest ;-some, however, regard Friday as that day, others Saturday, and others Sunday. Every child which is boru on an unlucky day or hour, (and the number of these is quite at the will of the astrologer,) is destroyed upon the spot; whilst the same fate awaits others, who may be ordered to be sacrificed, merely in consequence of a single malignant symptom frowning upon their birth-day. All practise trial by ordeal, but the ordeal itself
, and the mode of its administration, differ. All employ the sikidy,' or divination, but have different modes of working it. The passion for infanticide, so strangely overcoming the parental instinct in heathen nations, is very remarkable. Those who have read Williams' Missionary Enterprize, will recollect the affecting instances he gives of it in the South Sea Islands. Dr. M‘William, in his recent account of the Government expedition
* FREEMAN and Johns, pp. 4, 5.
Modes of Infanticide.
141 up the Niger, informs us that at Ilen, a settlement within the delta of that river, human beings are occasionally offered up in sacrifice; whilst twins are, in all cases, put to death, and the children who cut their upper jaw teeth first are instantly destroyed !
“The contrivances resorted to for the destruction of infants (in Madagascar) when once doomed by the astrologers, are not the least atrocious features distinguishing this dark page in the history of the people under our notice. Thus, a common modus operandi for attaining this end, is that of exposing the unconscious babe in a narrow passage, through which a herd of cattle is furiously driven, and by the feet of which it is scarcely possible to avoid being mangled and tortured by a gradual death. At other times it is suspended by the heels, while its face is held in
pan of water till suffocation ensues; or, still more horrible to relate, it is sometimes buried alive with its head downwards in a pit. And this atrocious murder is in regular order, commanded under the queen's authority, to be perpetrated by the father, or nearest relative of the infant !"
An incident very characteristic of the taste of the Malagasy for cruelty, is mentioned by Ellis in the second volume of his History.“ One of King Radama's sisters being ill, her four female attendants were subjected to trial by ordeal, for the purpose
of ascertaining to what extent the poor helpless wretches had been accessory to her sickness. Three were adjudged to instant death. The supposed criminals were taken to a rock on the south side of the capital, and having their fingers, toes, arms, legs, noses, and ears cut off, were precipitated from the rock, thé children from the surrounding crowd amusing themselves for nearly an hour, with throwing stones upon their mangled bodies ! Not one anxious or sympathizing countenance was seen among the spectators, many of whom were females !"
How terribly true is it that the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty! The present sovereign of Madagascar, a drunken woman of brutal propensities, is entirely in the hands of the astrologers. Through their assistance she managed to mount the throne at the death of her husband, Radama, the gods having pronounced decidedly in her favour, to the prejudice and destruction of the rightful heir. During the public meeting (“ Rabary,") which the usurper convened to ratify her accession, and proclaim it to the nation, the proper officers declared that “the idols had named Ranavolona as successor to Radama.” Four individuals protested that they could not, whatever might be the consequence, conceal the fact, that the king had named his own daughter as the party to succeed him. They had scarcely spoken when twenty or thirty spears were