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Title: Burmah and the Burmese
Author: Mackenzie, Kenneth R. H. (Kenneth Robert Henderson)
Language: English
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BURMAH AND THE BURMESE


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BURMAH AND THE BURMESE.

In Two Books.

by

KENNETH R. H. MACKENZIE,

Editor of “Lepsius’s Discoveries in Egypt and Ethiopia.”



London:
George Routledge and Co., Farringdon Street.
1853.



PREFACE.


In offering the following historical and social account of Burmese policy
and importance, it may be permitted me to make a few remarks on the
subject of the war now proceeding in that country.

Unfortunate as any war always is, and must be, yet in contending with
an unprincipled and tyrannical government like that of Burmah, there is
a grain of satisfaction in knowing that we thereby shake the despotic
thrones of the East, and thus add something to the cause of liberty and
peace. Such, too, is the only advantage of a contention with the king of
Ava. If we cannot humanize by fair means,—of course, under fair means I
do not intend to comprehend many of the so-called missionary labours,
which cause more harm in a short while than all diplomatic fiddling will
do in the course of years,—we must, _vi et armis_, carry civilisation
into the country, and openly defy the custom-house of tyranny. The two
courses to be adopted with respect to Burmah seem to be these;—the one
is to erect the Pegu province into a kingdom; the other, to annex the
country ourselves, placing it under Anglo-Indian rule; and I cannot
help believing that any fair investigation of the subject will produce
the above conviction; but time and the diplomatists must decide on the
precise course.

For the cause of religious truth and civil liberty, it is to be hoped
that the missionary system at present pursued may be altered; for the
sake of peace, it is to be hoped that the utmost caution will be pursued
in framing laws for these countries, which must at last, in some way,
become allies or tributaries of the imperial crown of Great Britain.

It will be seen in the following pages, where I have endeavoured to
indicate rather than enlarge upon the social condition of the Burmese,
that they have many admirable customs; that they are industrious;
that their moral propensities are as yet undefiled; and that their
country presents a fine field for the development both of commercial
and agricultural interests. Now, when even the colonies in the south
are overstocked, or rather crowded with persons not capable, as a
general rule, of occupying a responsible condition in life, there is a
necessity for a new and yet old place. In Burmah we have it. Under the
rule of an independent sovereign, Pegu would form a fine place, where
our vessels could lie; and the teak of the country would make Bassein
and Rangoon of great importance to our shipping interests. If Burmah
should be incorporated with our own dominions, why, then at least the
same degree of elevation in the intellectual world would be obtained,
as in Hindustan, or in Siam, where, as Neale informs us, the king reads
“Pickwick” in English, and enjoys it.

In some respects the following character of the English, drawn by
the Burmese themselves, is so just, that I shall hardly be wrong in
submitting it to the reader:—

“The English are the inhabitants of a small and remote island: what
business have they to come in ships from so great a distance to dethrone
kings, and take possession of countries they have no right to? They
contrive to conquer and govern the black foreigners, the people of
castes, who have puny frames and no courage: they have never yet
fought with so strong and brave a people as the Burmas, skilled in the
use of the sword and spear. If they once fight with us, and we have an
opportunity of manifesting our bravery, it will be an example to the
black nations, which are now slaves to the English, and will encourage
them to throw off the yoke.”[1]

The fact is, that the English never had any business in India, and their
only title to it now consists in their long possession and occupation of
the territory. The world has forgotten that, or overlooked it from the
first. The nation is brave and intelligent, but hasty and inconsiderate,
and so blind is it when excited, that, at such time, like Captain
Absolute, it could _cut its own throat_, “or any other person’s, with the
greatest pleasure in the world.”

I trust this little work may serve as a guide to the many valuable
and interesting volumes to which I have been indebted, and that the
reader may not count the hours spent in its perusal lost. My literary
engagements have somewhat hurried the close, but nothing of importance
has been omitted; indeed, by the kindness of several friends, I have been
able, here and there, to add new illustrations and comments.

                                                 KENNETH R. H. MACKENZIE.



CONTENTS.


                                 BOOK I.

                          BURMAN CIVILISATION.

                               CHAPTER I.

    Geographical sketch—Character of the country—Climate—The
    river Irawadi—The Petroleum Wells—The Saluen,
    &c.—Forests—Plants—Minerals—Animals—Races of Burmah—Character
    of the Burmese nation                                                1

                               CHAPTER II.

    The King absolute—Instances of despotism—Titles—Forms
    of government—Offices—The Law Courts—Their
    iniquity—Instances—The Book of the Oath epitomized—The
    oath—Laws—Police—Revenues—Petroleum—Family-tax—Imports
    and exports—Exactions—Army—Equipments—Cowardice—March—The
    Invulnerables—Discipline—Military character—White
    elephants—Description of an early traveller—Its high
    estimation—Treatment—Funeral                                        16

                              CHAPTER III.

    Cosmography—The Burman hells—Definition of a
    Nat, by Hesiod—Buddha—Gaudama—His probable
    history—Buddhism—Priests—Temples—Curious cave near
    Prome—Monasteries—Ceremonies—Funeral—Concluding remarks             45

                               CHAPTER IV.

    Language—Literature—Manuscripts—The
    Aporazabon—Superstitions—Divination—The
    Deitton—Astronomy—Division of time                                  66

                               CHAPTER V.

    Currency—Weights—Commerce—Ports—Teak-wood—Houses—Tanks—Dress—
    Food—Marriages—Childbirth—Funerals—Arts—Slavery—The
    Drama—Chess—Games—Music—Fireworks                                   81

                               CHAPTER VI.

    Ancient history—Pegu—Character of the Burmese—Concluding
    reflections                                                         99

                                BOOK II.

                             BURMAN HISTORY.

                               CHAPTER I.

                               1687-1760.

    Alompra, the liberator of Burmah                                   108

                               CHAPTER II.

                               1760-1819.

    Anaundopra—Zempiuscien—Chenguza—Paongoza—Men-ta-ra-gyee            135

                              CHAPTER III.

                               1760-1824.

    British intercourse with Ava—Alves’s mission—Symes’s
    mission—Canning—King Nun-Sun—Rise of the Burman war—Its origin
    in official aggression—Evacuation of Cachar                        145

                               CHAPTER IV.

                                  1824.

    Bundoola—Retreat of Captain Noton—Defeat at Ramoo—Repulse
    of the Burmans—Burmese account of the war—Rangoon
    expedition—Description of Rangoon                                  156

                               CHAPTER V.

                                  1824.

    Arrival at Rangoon—Taking of that town—Position of the
    troops—State of the neighbourhood—Confidence of the
    king of Ava—Attack of Joazong—Burmese embassy—Capture
    of Kemendine—Reinforcements from Madras—Sickness of the
    army—Endurance of the British soldier                              169

                               CHAPTER VI.

                                  1824.

    Encounters with the Burmese—Capture of Kummeroot—Taking of
    Syriam—Storming of Dalla—Conquest of Tenasserim province—The
    Invulnerables                                                      181

                              CHAPTER VII.

                               1824-1825.

    Battle of Kykloo—Thantabain—Maha Bundoola—Successes of the
    British—Discomfiture of Maha Bundoola—Campbell marches into the
    interior—Arrival at Donabew—Repulse—Death of Bundoola—Capture
    of Donabew                                                         189

                              CHAPTER VIII.

                               1825-1826.

    Arrival at Prome—Prome under English rule—Re-assembly
    of the Burmese army—Negotiations for peace—Battle of
    Meaday—Melloon—Yandabo—Treaty of peace                             197



BURMAH; AN HISTORICO-SOCIAL SKETCH.



BOOK I.

BURMAN CIVILISATION.



CHAPTER I.

    Geographical sketch—Character of the country—Climate—The
    river Irawadi—The Petroleum wells—The Saluen,
    &c.—Forests—Plants—Minerals—Animals—Races of Burmah—Character
    of the Burmese nation.


Before the war in 1824, 1825, and 1826, the empire of Burmah was the
most considerable among those of the Indo-Chinese nations inhabiting
the farther peninsula of India. Previous to the events of that campaign
it comprehended the whole of the extensive region lying between the
latitudes 9° and 27° N. At present, however, its limits are lat. 16°
and 27° or 28° N., and long. 93° and 99° E. Its northern boundary is,
even at the present day, imperfectly known; and we are in still greater
uncertainty concerning the frontier to the east, in Upper Laos, partly
subject to the king of Ava or Burmah. Berghaus is probably the most
correct in following Sir Francis Hamilton,[2] who has done far more for
the geography of these countries than any one else, and extending it to
100° E. long., about the parallel of 22° N. It is bounded on the west by
the British provinces of Arakhan, Cassay, and Chittagong; to the north,
by a portion of Assam and Thibet; to the north-east it has the Chinese
province of Yunan; to the east, the independent Laos country and the
British territory of Martaban; and to the south it has the kingdom of
Siam and the Indian Ocean.

Taken in its most extensive sense, that is, including all the countries
subject to Burman influence, its area may contain 194,000 square miles.
The population is probably about 4,000,000. The climate of a country
comprehending such a vast extent of territory, cannot fail to exhibit
much variety, and topographical circumstances cannot fail to produce a
still greater difference. But notwithstanding that the southern levels
at the mouth of the Irawadi are swampy, yet the climate is not, even
there, insalubrious, while farther north it is very similar to that of
Hindostan. Col. Symes, to whose excellent, though somewhat overcharged
narrative, we shall have ample occasion to refer, insists upon the
salubrity of the climate in very strong terms indeed. The aspect of the
country is low and champaign up to the full latitude of 17½°N.; but from
thence to the 22° it assumes a hilly aspect, and beyond that it rises
into mountains. Burmah is inclosed on the east and west by two branch
ranges of the Himalaya; other ranges run down, in general, from north to
south, gradually decreasing in height toward the south.

The upper portion of Burmah is mountainous. The scenery is among the
most beautiful in the world. Plains and mountains, lovely valleys and
gaping chasms, present themselves to the wondering eye of the traveller.
Now there is a space of level ground, covered with straggling underwood;
plants trail along the earth, the high disorderly grass of the jungle
waves, and the wild stunted trees stretch their deformed limbs toward
heaven, as if to pray that the hand of civilised man might at length
relieve them. The waving grass is gone, and we are again amid the
mountains, clothed with majestic trees, arching gloriously over the weary
traveller’s head, and concealing from his view the wild animals that
house there. Such is the greater part of Burmah, thus uninhabited and
neglected; such the condition of a region belonging to an unenergetic
people; and such it will remain, until the nations can recognise the vast
wealth that the gorges and abysses of the mountains contain. Rich and
unexhausted is the land; but the race that shall gather its treasures,
and turn its wild wastes into populous cities, is not, and will never be,
that of the Burman!

The coasts and rivers are well studded with towns and villages, and the
busy hum of the healthy labourers is heard everywhere. Yet there is a
blank place in the maps for many portions still. No European voice has
listened in the wildernesses of the Naga tribes, or in those of the
Murroos. The land whence the human race first came is now left silent.

In the maritime portions of the country the year has two seasons,—the
dry and the wet. The latter always begins about the tenth of May, with
showers gradually growing more frequent, for several weeks. It afterwards
rains almost daily until about the middle of September, when it as
gradually goes off, and in the course of a month entirely ceases. During
this time from one hundred and fifty to two hundred inches of water fall.
This is the only time when the country is unhealthy for foreigners, and
even then, there are many places where persons may reside with impunity.
In other parts of the country there are three seasons. In the highest and
wildest provinces there are severe winters.

Amidst these mountain-passes rises the great and sacred river Irawadi,
named from the elephant of Indra, which, like the stream of history,
flows down from amidst obscurity and uncertainty. The sources of the
Irawadi are yet undiscovered; but Lieutenant Wilcox, who explored a
considerable portion of Burmah, was informed, that they were not far
distant from that of the Burampooter, or Brahmapootra. It has a course of
more than twelve hundred miles to the sea; and passing through the whole
of the empire, it falls into the Gulf of Martaban, by a great number of
mouths, in the kingdom of Pegu. Its breadth varies from one to three, and
even five miles in various parts of its course. How different from its
narrowest width of eighty yards, at about forty miles from its supposed
source.

The river issues from the mountains, and enters an extensive valley,
occupied by the tribes of the Khunoongs. At this early point of its
course, the country is perfectly level, and is partly cultivated, while
the remainder is studded with small woods of bamboo. The Irawadi is
little more than eighty yards broad at the town of Manchee, and is quite
fordable. The plain of Manchee is 1,855 feet above the level of the sea.
After passing through this plain, it runs through countries very little
blown to Europeans, for about 120 miles. Rugged mountain-chains here form
the banks of the river, sometimes diversified by a plain of some extent.

Bamoo is the first place of consequence on the river after Manchee, and
is about 350 miles distant from the latter town. The level of the river
falls 1,300 feet between the two places. At some distance from Bamoo,
near a village called Kauntoun, the river suddenly turns westwards but
soon runs south-west again. A little above Hentha it takes a direction
due south, so continuing to Amarapura. From Bamoo to Amarapura the
country is only navigable for small boats.

“With the change of the river the face of the country is changed. Issuing
from the narrow valley, it enters a very wide one, or rather a plain.
Along its banks, and especially on the southern side, the level country
extends for many miles, in some places even to thirty, and even then is
not bounded by high mountains, but by moderate hills, which increase
in height as they recede farther from the river. Considerable portions
of these plains are covered by the inundations of the river in the wet
season. On the north side of the river the hills are at no great distance
from the banks, and here the ground is impregnated with muriate of soda,
and with nitre, of which great quantities are extracted.”[3]

The Irawadi now rolls its majestic floods towards the ocean, and receives
an accession in the confluence of the Kyan Duayn, a river which first
receives that name near the Danghii hills; it then continues its course,
and arrives at the former boundary of the kingdoms of Ava and Pegu, the
promontory of Kyaok-ta-rau.

“The valley of the Irawadi, south of its confluence with the Kyan Duayn,
to the town of Melloon (south of 20° N. lat.), is, in its general aspect,
hilly and very uneven; but the hills rise to no great height, at least
not near the river, and are in many places separated by tracts of flat
country, which in some places are extensive and well cultivated. South
of Melloon the hills approach nearer the river, and often form its
banks. They are in most places covered with forest trees of considerable
size; among which teak-trees are frequent. Cultivation is confined to
the narrow flat tracts which here and there separate the hills from the
river.”[4]

In this neighbourhood are situated the famous Petroleum wells, at a
village called Re-nau-khaung, from three to four miles from the river.
Colonel Symes did not visit the interesting spot at that time, but he has
given us an excellent idea of the locality, by his brief but vigorous
sketch:—

“The country,” he tells us,[5] “now displayed an aspect different from
any we had yet seen; the surface was broken into small separate hills,
entirely barren and destitute of vegetation, except some stunted bushes
that grew on the declivities, and in the dells, and a few unhealthy
trees immediately in the neighbourhood of the villages: the clay was
discoloured, and had the appearance of red ochre. We were informed,
that the celebrated wells of petroleum, which supply the whole empire,
and many parts of India, with that useful product, were five miles to
the east of this place. The Seree brought me a piece of stone, which
he assured me was petrified wood, and which certainly had much the
appearance of it. In walking about, I picked up several lumps of the
same, in which the grain of the wood was plainly discernible; it was
hard, siliceous, and seemed composed of different lamina. The Birmans
said it was the nature of the soil that caused this transmutation; and
added, that the petrifying quality of the earth at this place was such,
that leaves of trees shaken off by the wind were not unfrequently changed
into stone before they could be decayed by time. The face of the country
was altered and the banks of the river were totally barren; the ground
was superficially covered with quartz gravel, and concreted masses of
the same material were thickly scattered. The mouth of the creek was
crowded with large boats, waiting to receive a lading of oil; and immense
pyramids of earthen jars were raised within and around the village,
disposed in the same manner as shot and shells are piled in an arsenal.
This place is inhabited only by potters, who carry on an extensive
manufactory, and find full employment. The smell of the oil was extremely
offensive; we saw several thousand jars filled with it ranged along the
bank; some of these were continually breaking, and the contents, mingling
with the sand, formed a very filthy consistence.”

On the colonel’s return, however, he and Dr. Buchanan rode over to the
wells; and their account of their visit is too interesting to be omitted
here:[6]—

“The face of the country was cheerless and sterile; the road, which wound
among rocky eminences, was barely wide enough to admit the passage of
a single cart; and in many places the track in which the wheels must
run was a foot and a half lower on one side than the other: there were
several of these lanes, some more circuitous than others, according to
the situation of the small hills among which they led. Vehicles, going
and returning, were thus enabled to pursue different routes, except
at particular places where the nature of the ground would only admit
of one road: when a cart came to the entrance of such a defile, the
driver hallooed out, to stop any that might interfere with him from the
opposite side, no part being sufficiently wide for two carts to pass.
The hills, or rather hillocks, were covered with gravel, and yielded no
other vegetation than a few stunted bushes. The wheels had worn ruts deep
into the rock, which seemed to be rather a mass of concreted gravel than
hard stone, and many pieces of petrified wood lay strewed about. It is
remarkable, that wherever these petrifactions were found the soil was
unproductive, and the ground destitute of verdure. The evening being far
advanced, we met but few carts; those which we did observe, were drawn
each by a pair of oxen, of a length disproportionate to the breadth,
to allow space for the earthen pots that contained the oil. It was a
matter of surprise to us how they could convey such brittle ware, with
any degree of safely, over so rugged a road: each pot was packed in a
separate basket and laid on straw; notwithstanding which precaution,
the ground all the way was strewed with the fragments of the vessels,
and wet with oil; for no care can prevent the fracture of some in every
journey. As we approached the pits, which were more distant than we had
imagined, the country became less uneven, and the soil produced herbage:
it was nearly dark when we reached them, and the labourers had retired
from work. There seemed to be a great many pits within a small compass:
walking to the nearest, we found the aperture about four feet square,
and the sides, as far as we could see down, were lined with timber; the
oil is drawn up in an iron pot, fastened to a rope passed over a wooden
cylinder which revolves on an axis supported by two upright posts. When
the pot is filled, two men take the rope by the end, and run down a
declivity, which is cut in the ground to a distance equivalent to the
depth of the well: thus, when they reach the end of the track the pot is
raised to its proper elevation; the contents, water and oil together, are
then discharged into a cistern, and the water is afterwards drawn off
through a hole in the bottom.”

It is impossible to read this, without stopping to smile at the
backwardness of the people, who, having invented all the machinery for a
well, should still remain at that distance from the application of this
discovery, as to resort to such a complicated and cumbersome arrangement,
as cutting a trackway equal in length to the depth of the well! How easy
to have applied the winch and coiled the rope, as other nations as far
back in civilisation have done, in the way with which we are acquainted!
But it is such little hitches that impede a nation’s progress![7] But to
continue the narrative of the envoy.

“Our guide, an active, intelligent man, went to a neighbouring house and
procured a well-rope, by means of which we were enabled to measure the
depth, and ascertained it to be thirty-seven fathoms; but of the quantify
of oil at the bottom we could not judge. The owner of the rope, who
followed our guide, affirmed, that when a pit yielded as much as came up
to the waist of a man, it was deemed tolerably productive; if it reached
to his neck, it was abundant; but that which rose no higher than the knee
was accounted indifferent. When a well is exhausted, they restore the
spring by cutting deeper into the rock, which is extremely hard in those
places where the oil is produced. Government farms out the ground that
supplies this useful commodity; and it is again let to adventurers, who
dig wells at their own hazard, by which they sometimes gain and often
lose, as the labour and expense of digging are considerable. The oil is
sold on the spot for a mere trifle; I think two or three hundred pots
for a tackal, or half a crown. The principal charge is incurred by the
transportation and purchase of vessels. We had but half gratified our
curiosity, when it grew dark, and our guide urged us not to remain any
longer, as the road was said to be infested by tigers, that prowled at
night among the rocky uninhabited ways through which we had to pass.
We followed his advice, and returned, with greater risk, as I thought,
of breaking our necks from the badness of the road than of being
devoured by wild beasts. At ten o’clock we reached our boats without any
misadventure.”

Captain Hiram Cox, the British resident at Rangoon in 1796-7, describes
the town of Re-nau-khyaung, or as he spells it, Ramanghong, meaning _the
town through which flows a river of earth-oil_, as “of mean appearance;
and several of its temples, of which there are great numbers, falling to
ruins; the inhabitants, however,” he continues, “are well dressed, many
of them with golden spiral ear ornaments.”[8] Altogether the town or
village, and its environs, are as bleak as bleak can be, if we may trust
the description. We shall hereafter return to the consideration of the
Petroleum trade as a source of revenue to the government.

The most important place about this portion of the course of the Irawadi
is Prome, a city which we shall hereafter have to mention as one of those
celebrated in the ancient history of the country; we will therefore
omit further notice of it here. Exclusive of the Delta of the Irawadi,
to which we must now turn our attention, there is very little low land
in the Burman territory. Like the Delta of the Nile it is exceedingly
fruitful, and it produces abundant crops of rice. It is, too, the
commercial highway of the land.

Malcom, who travelled in the country, expresses his astonishment at the
number of boats ever passing up and down the river. It would seem that
the navigation is very tedious; for, according to the same traveller, the
boats are generally from three to four months ascending from the Delta to
the city of Ava.[9]

The Irawadi finally embouches into the Bay of Bengal by several mouths,
of which the chief are, the Bassein river, the Dallah, the Chinabuckeer,
and the Rangoon or Syriam river.

The Saluen or Martaban river rises in the same range of mountain whence
the Burampooter, the Irawadi, and the great Kamboja rivers originate.
In the early part of its course, it is named Nou-Kiang by the Chinese,
through whose territory it at first flows. It disembogues into the Gulf
of Poolooghoon opposite the island of that name.

The Kyan Duayn is a river which, rising near the sources of the Irawadi,
traverses the Kubo valley, and falls into that river in lat. 21° 35´ N.,
long. 95° 10´ E.; forming several islands at the junction. The principal
of these is Alakyun.

The river Setang makes a grand appearance, as Malcom says, upon the
map, still it is of little use, as its depth is only four feet, though
at different places it has a depth of from ten to fifteen feet. It must
at one time have been deeper and navigable, for the ancient capital of
Tongho, in the kingdom of that name, is built upon it. There is a bore
of three feet on the Setang. The other rivers of Burmah are of little
consequence. There are but few lakes, and the most considerable will be
noticed hereafter.

The fruits of Burmah are very varied in their character, and though they
surpass their neighbours in the article of timber, yet the fruit-trees
are far inferior. A very complete list is given in Malcom’s comprehensive
work, to which I must refer the reader.[10] The teak forests, whose
produce forms no inconsiderable article in Burmese commerce, are situated
in the province of Sarawadi, in the hilly mountainous district east and
north-east of Rangoon. The forests in this part of Asia, like the woody
and uncultivated parts of Hindostan, are extremely pestiferous, and
even though the wood-cutters be a hardy and active race of men, on whom
climate and suffering would seem to have little effect, yet they never
attain to any considerable age, and are very short-lived.

Dr. Wallich, on his visit to Burmah in 1826, collected specimens of
upwards of sixteen thousand different sorts of trees and plants. I
need only refer the reader to his learned and magnificent work for a
description and classification of them.

The mineral riches of the land, which are considerable, are not
sufficiently attended to. The head-waters of the various rivers contain
gold-dust, and from Bamoo, on the frontier of China, much gold has been
obtained. Malcom suggests that want of enterprise and capital has alone
prevented these sources of prosperity from being worked. Yes, it has been
that curse! From the earliest ages they have laboured under it, and time
seems not to have taught them the important lesson that all the world
beside are learning and repeating every day,—the necessity of progress.
Much of their gold is drawn from China, and their love for using it in
gilding edifices resembles the taste of the Incas, who, richer in the
metal, plated their temples with gold.[11] What is not used for this
purpose is employed in the setting of the jewels of the great, and as
in Peru, remains in the hands of the Inca lords. It is rarely used as
currency, and then in ingots.

Notwithstanding that there is much silver elsewhere, the only mines
worked are in Laos, and there even the mines are not wrought by the
Burmese, but by natives of China and Laos, to the number of about a
thousand. The estimated produce does not seem large, amounting annually
to only one hundred thousand pounds, on which the contractors pay a tax
of five thousand pounds.

The diamonds are all small, and emeralds are wanting. Rubies are found
in great quantities, however, at about five days’ journey from Ava, near
the villages of Mo-gout and Kyat-pyen. Malcom saw one for which the owner
asked no less than four pounds of pure gold. The king is reported to have
some which weigh from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty
grains. Sapphires, too, abound. “Some have been obtained,” Malcom assures
us, “weighing from three thousand to nearly four thousand grains.”[12]
Many other precious stones are to be found in this wealthy country. Much
amber is found round the Hu-kong valley, on the Assam frontier. Iron,
tin, lead, and many of those staples of commerce which form the real
wealth and resources of every country, abound, and coal is to be found
in the inland provinces.[13] Marble, and of the finest, also exists in
the land; better than which there would seem to be none in the world.
What might such a country be in the hands of an energetic and intelligent
people!

I subjoin a translation of a description of the mines of precious stones
in Kyat-pyen, from the original of Père Giuseppe d’Amato.[14] It gives a
clearer and conciser account of the mines than I can meet with elsewhere,
and I therefore offer it to the reader in an abridged form.

“The territory of Kyat-pyen [written Chia-ppièn by d’Amato] is situated
to the east, and a little to the south of the town of Mon-thá (lat. 22°
16´ N.), distant about seventy miles. It is surrounded by nine mountains.
The soil is uneven and full of marshes, forming seventeen small lakes,
each having a particular name. It is this soil which is so rich in
mineral treasures. It should be noticed, however, that the dry ground
alone is mined. The miners dig square wells, supporting the sides with
piles and cross-pieces. These wells are sunk to the depth of fifteen
or twenty cubits. When it is secure, the miner descends with a basket,
which he fills with loose earth, the basket is drawn up, and the jewels
are picked out and washed in the brooks in the neighbouring hills. They
continue working the wells laterally till two meet, when the place is
abandoned. There are very few accidents. The precious stones that are
found there consist of rubies, sapphires, topazes, and other crystals.
Many fabulous stories are related concerning the origin of the mines
at Kyat-pyen.” An anecdote was told Amato, as he says, “by a person of
the highest credit,” of two masses (_amas_) of rubies at Kyat-pyen. One
weighed eighty _viss_.[15] When the people were taking them to Ava to
the king, a party of robbers attacked the convoy, and made off with the
smaller one; the other, injured by fire, was brought to Ava.

The animals of the country are very numerous. The domestic quadrupeds
of the Burmans are the ox, the buffalo, the horse, and the elephant.
The two first are very much used throughout the country. They are both
of a very good species, and generally well kept. The ox is to them an
expensive animal, as their religion forbids its use as food, and they
have, therefore, no profitable manner of disposing of the disabled
cattle. This, probably, led to the taming of the buffalo, an animal which
has been in use among them from time immemorial. It is less expensive to
rear, and is contented with coarser food. But it is not so valuable in
some respects, for though stronger, it is not so hardy, and cannot endure
long-continued exertion. The horse is never full-sized in Burmah, as in
every Asiatic tropical country east of Bengal, and it somewhat resembles
the Canadian pony. The animal is expensive, and rarely used except for
the saddle. In some parts of the country it is almost unknown.

The elephant, well named the Apis of the Buddhists by M. Dubois de
Jancigny,[16] is now much more the object of royal luxury and ostentation
than anything else, and I shall, when speaking of the religious
ceremonies of the Burmans, again refer to the place it occupies in their
estimation. It is only used in Laos as a beast of burden.

Hogs, dogs, cats, besides asses, sheep, and goats, which last are but
little known, are little cared for, and they are allowed to pursue their
own paths unmolested. The camel, an animal, which as Mr. Crawfurd says,
is “sufficiently well suited to the upper portions of the country,” is
unknown to the Burmese.[17]

Wild animals of many descriptions abound in Burmah, still it is a
remarkable fact, noticed by Crawfurd, that neither wolves, jackals,
foxes, nor hyenas, are to be found in the country. Many species of winged
game abound, as also hares.

The Indo-Chinese nations are considered by Prichard[18] to consist of
various races, while Pickering[19] seems to be able to detect but two,
the Malay, and, in an isolated position, the Telingan. It is therefore
difficult with such contradictory evidence to arrive at the probable
result. But as, without a slight sketch of this important subject, my
work would fall under the just imputation of incompleteness, I shall
venture to give some account of the races of Burmah, and I the rather
take Prichard as my chief guide, as his research is the completer of
the two, notwithstanding that Pickering has shown himself well able
through his work to distinguish the Malay race from every other, in the
most difficult and delicate cases. I shall not trouble the reader with
any account of the adjacent races, but occupy myself solely with the
principal nations under the Burman dominion. And first of the people
of Pegu:[20] they inhabit the Delta of the Irawadi, and the low coast
which terminates in the hilly country of the Burmans or Maramas. They
are called by the Burmans, Talain; but their own name for themselves is
Mân or Môn. The Pegu race, we shall see in the course of its history,
was once very powerful, and its ascendancy remained for many years, and
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the empire of Pegu is
often spoken of in the Portuguese chronicles as powerful and magnificent.
Their language is entirely different from that of the Burmese and
Siamese, as Leyden judged,[21] and Low has since amply proved.[22] In
Low’s opinion, the Mân is the most original of the Indo-Chinese language.
They use the Pali alphabet, and probably had it before the Burmans.

The Karian race inhabits the borders and low plains in Bassein province,
but do not present any salient points for consideration.

The Maramas or Burmans inhabit the high lands above Pegu, where they
created a powerful empire for themselves in very ancient times. They are
some of that valiant Malay stock who subsequently colonized so large a
portion of the globe, and passed by way of Polynesia to the American
continent. They, like the Incas of Peru, boast a celestial origin;
and the similarity of some of their institutions lead to no unfair
presumption of their being of the same original family.[23] They are the
most extended race in the Burman empires, reaching from the frontiers of
Laos and Siam westward to Arakhan.

The country of Arakhan, which next claims our attention, and concludes
our consideration of the races of Burmah, stretches along the eastern
shore of the Gulf of Bengal, from about 21° to 18° of north latitude.
Having in ancient times formed a portion of the empire of Magad’ha, they
were for centuries connected with India. The Burmans themselves derive
their origin from them; but this is only indirectly true. The solution of
the problem remains yet to be told. The opinion of the Burmans regarding
the antiquity of the Rúkheng, or Arakhan dialect, is fully borne out by
Dr. Leyden. The chief modifications it has undergone are traceable to the
Pali.[24]

The ethnology of the Burman empire is neither so intricate or so
unsatisfactory as some others. There does not seem to have been a similar
extent of change of race, and probably to that very circumstance do they
owe the feebleness of character, which, however willingly we would omit
seeing, does not fail to make itself conspicuous in a consideration of
their prowess, social institutions, and advancement. The very fact of
their quiescent state has debarred from progress, as the most mixed race
is ever the most energetic. Witness our own, where so many various bloods
have commingled, and formed a nation, which, emphatically speaking, is a
progressive one, and now more than ever.

The Burmans have not made the advancement they might have made. There
has been sluggish, age-lasting improvement in their empire, and it has
been the want of a stimulating and decisive energy alone that has kept
them back. Simplicity forms, too, no inconsiderable part of the national
character, and this, by leading them to accept various doctrines without
examination—a quality usually observable in semi-civilised races—has not
given them any reason to think and to look around. Like the American
races, they proceeded to a certain point, and then improved but little.

Colonel Symes, who was inclined to magnify the importance of the nation
in every way, applied some remarks to them, which, however applicable
now, were certainly not then. With those remarks I shall terminate this
chapter, leaving their truth or falsehood to be discovered in the course
of the work.

“The Birmans,” observes he,[25] “are certainly rising fast in the scale
of Oriental nations; and it is to be hoped that a long respite from
foreign wars will give them leisure to improve their natural advantages.
Knowledge increases with commerce; and as they are not shackled by
any prejudices of castes restricted to hereditary occupations, or
forbidden from participating with strangers in every social bond,
their advancement will, in all probability, be rapid. At present, so
far from being in a state of intellectual darkness, although they
have not explored the depths of science, nor reached to excellence in
the finer arts, they yet have an undeniable claim to the character
of a civilised and well-instructed people. Their laws are wise, and
pregnant with sound morality; their police is better regulated than in
most European countries; their natural disposition is friendly, and
hospitable to strangers; and their manners rather expressive of manly
candour than courteous dissimulation: the gradations of rank, and the
respect due to station, are maintained with a scrupulosity which never
relaxes. A knowledge of letters is so widely diffused that there are no
mechanics, few of the peasantry, or even the common watermen (usually
the most illiterate class), who cannot read and write in the vulgar
tongue. Few, however, are versed in the more erudite volumes of science,
which, containing many Shanscrit terms, and often written in the Pali
text, are (like the Hindoo Shasters) above the comprehension of the
multitude; but the feudal system, which cherishes ignorance, and renders
man the property of man, still operates as a check to civilisation and
improvement. This is a bar which gradually weakens as their acquaintance
with the customs and manners of other nations extends; and unless the
rage of civil discord be again excited, or some foreign power impose
an alien yoke, the Birmans bid fair to be a prosperous, wealthy, and
enlightened people.”



CHAPTER II.

    The king absolute—Instances of despotism—Titles—Form
    of government—Offices—The law courts—Their
    iniquity—Instances—The Book of the Oath epitomized—The
    oath—Laws—Police—Revenues—Petroleum—Family tax—Imports
    and exports—Exactions—Army—Equipments—Cowardice—March—The
    Invulnerables—Discipline—Military character—The white
    elephant—Description of an early traveller—Its high
    estimation—Treatment—Funeral.


All writers are unanimous in the cry that there is no potentate upon
earth equally despotic with the lord of Burmah. There is no disguise
about the fact, and he openly asserts, in his titles, that he is lord,
ruler, and sole possessor of the lives, persons, and property of his
subjects. He advances and degrades; his word alone can promote a
beggar to the highest rank, and his word can also utterly displace the
proudest officer of his court. His people is a capacious storehouse,
whence he obtains tools to work his will. As soon as any person becomes
distinguished by his wealth or influence, then does he pay the penalty
with his life. He is apprehended on some supposed crime, and is never
heard of more. Every Burman is born the king’s slave, and it is an honour
to the subject to be so called by his sovereign.

Sangermano mentions that, in approaching the royal person, the petitioner
or officer is to prostrate himself before him, clasping his hands
together above his head.[26] The fact is curious, and I mention it here,
as it presents a striking similarity to the act of homage to which the
Inca race themselves were subjected in approaching the sacred person of
the Child of the Sun.[27] They clasped their hands over their heads, and
bore a burthen upon their backs. Now the usage is such here, for the
manner of clasping the hands in the Burman court is typical of bearing a
burthen, the actual presence of which is dispensed with.

It is, however, an honour both to the institutor of the Burman law and
the sovereign, who, though absolute, obeyed it, to mention that no
married woman can be seized on by the emissaries of the king. This,
of course, leads the Burmese to contract marriages very early, either
actually or fictitiously.

The property of persons who die without heirs is swept into the coffers
of the state, and by law the property of unmarried foreigners is subject
to the same regulation upon their death. Jetsome and flotsome belong to
the king. These last provisions have not, however, been much enforced,
in consequence of the urgent representations of the foreigners residing
at Rangoon, Bassein, and other places. The king alone decides upon peace
and war, and his call brings the whole population to the rescue. All
serve, all are conscripts. “The only effectual restraint,” as Crawfurd
remarks, “on the excesses of maladministration is the apprehension of
insurrection.”

However, notwithstanding his being acknowledged as absolute, he, like a
present president in Europe, has two nominal councils,—a public one and
a cabinet. But he is neither bound to abide by their advice, nor does
he. His measures are predetermined, and should they prove unwilling to
give an immediate and unconditional assent, he has been known to chase
his ministers from his presence, with a drawn sword. Two instances are
related of his rigour, which will suffice to show the capriciousness of
the unrestrained Oriental.

The first is related by Crawfurd.[28] “The workman who built the present
palace committed some professional mistake in the construction of the
spire. The king remonstrated with him, saying that it would not stand.
The architect pertinaciously insisted upon its stability and sufficiency,
and was committed to prison for contumacy. Shortly afterwards the spire
fell in a thunderstorm, and about the same time accounts were received at
court of the arrival of the British expedition; upon which the architect
was sent for from prison, taken to the place of execution, and forthwith
decapitated. This,” concludes the envoy, “although upon a small scale,
is a fair example both of the despotism and superstition by which this
people are borne down.”

The second instance, for the truth of which I would scarcely vouch,
was reported to Malcom,[29] whence I quote it. “On a late occasion,
for a very slight offence, he had forty of his highest officers laid
on their faces in the public street, before the palace wall; kept for
hours in a broiling sun, with a beam extended across their bodies.”
This is scarcely credible, and I think Malcom’s informer must have been
a Burmese Chartist, an Oriental Cuffey. However that traveller pithily
observes, that he is “seldom allowed to know much of passing events, and
particularly of the delinquencies of particular officers, who are ever
ready to hush up accusations by a bribe to their immediate superior.”

Many circumstances lead me to suspect, however, that the king has little
real power, and that the officers reap the benefits of the acts of
enormity which he commits at their instigation, or which they commit
under the shadow of his responsibility. It has often been the case in the
world’s varied history, and why not here? Facts will show.

As a specimen of the pride of the Burmese government, I shall append the
form of address, which an English envoy received with the recommendation
that he should pronounce it before the king.[30]

“Placing above our heads the golden majesty of the Mighty Lord, the
Possessor of the mines of rubies, amber, gold, silver, and all kinds
of metal; of the Lord, under whose command are innumerable soldiers,
generals, and captains; of the Lord, who is King of many countries and
provinces, and Emperor over many Rulers and Princes, _who wait round the
throne with the badges of his authority_; of the Lord, _who is adorned
with the greatest power, wisdom, knowledge, prudence, foresight, &c._;
of the Lord, who is rich in the possession of elephants, and horses, and
in particular is the Lord of many White Elephants; of the Lord, who is
the greatest of kings, _the most just and the most religious_, the master
of life and death; _we his slaves_ the Governor of Bengal, the officers
and administrators of the Company, bowing and lowering our heads under
the sole of his royal golden foot, do present to him with the greatest
veneration, this our humble petition.”

I have, by my italics, pointed out the “richest” parts of this grandiose
address, which, I think, requires no further comment. It may be as well
to add, however, that the presence and attributes of the sovereign are
always represented as golden.

The form of the Burman administration may be thus briefly described.
There is not here, as in other countries of the East, any official
answering to the post of Vizier or Prime Minister. The place of such an
officer is supplied by the councils mentioned above. The first or public
council is the higher in rank, and it has received the name of Lut-d’hau
or Lwat-d’hau. Its officers are four in number, and Sangermano adds four
assistants as a staff,[31] which Crawfurd omits to mention.[32] The
ministers bear the official name of Wun-kri (Burthen-bearers great). It
is now understood to signify figuratively any one who is responsible; but
in the days when the future colonists of Peru left the land, there is not
a doubt that it was literally applied to the officers. For in the first
place the designation would be applied to them as constantly bearing
burthens, being continually in the presence of the king; and then, far
from being a term of contempt, it would be a designation of honour and
consideration. Thus they were literally, and are figuratively, Bearers
of the Great Burthens.[33] The questions of state are discussed by this
body, and the decision is by a majority of voices. Its sittings are held
within the precincts of the palace in a spacious hall. All the royal
edicts and grants pass through this council, and require its sanction;
in fact, though they are the king’s acts, yet his name never appears
in them. The custom is somewhat similar to our own of never mentioning
the sovereign directly by name in the houses of parliament. The king is
occasionally himself present at their deliberations. The edicts of the
council are written upon palm-leaves, and a style of extreme brevity is
adopted. Indeed, Sangermano assures us that “the more concise it is, the
more forcible and efficacious the sentence is considered.” Would that our
legislators and lawyers with their lengthy documents thought so! They
may yet learn a lesson from barbarians.

The proclamations and writings of the council all bear the device of a
sabre, to intimate the strength and swiftness of the punishment awaiting
the transgressors of its decrees. The assistants or deputies are called
Wun-tauk (Burthen-proppers). The literal signification was equally in
force in ages gone by. Beside the Wun-tauks there are from eight to ten
secretaries, called Saré-d’haukri (Scribes-royal great).

The second council, like the first, has deliberations with the king.
But those of the Atwen-wun (Interior burthen-bearers) are private and
preliminary to those of the Wunkri. They are considered to be inferior
to the Wunkri, and yet they have a great deal of by-influence, from
their position in the royal palace. The subjects of their deliberations
are precisely similar to those of the Lut-d’hau, and they exercise the
same judicial functions; and even now it is a question of some doubt as
to which of the assemblies is in reality the higher. There are various
officers attached to the Atwen-wun, as to the Wun-kri.

The number four is retained in the next rank of officers. They are
the four general commanders and surveyors of the northern, southern,
eastern, and western parts of the empire respectively. Then follow
many subordinate officers attached in various capacities to the
administration. None of this numerous staff of officers receive any
regular salary, but their payment somewhat resembles the system of
_repartimientos_ established in the Spanish colonies of America, being
assignments of the lands and labour of certain numbers of the people.
These are granted to officers of the executive governments, in the
same way as the king of Persia assigned various cities and lands to
Themistocles in more ancient times.[34] Towns and lands are also granted
to the ladies of the king’s harem, and to the other numerous members of
the royal family. The whole country is looked upon as crown property;
and the waste and uncultivated parts are at the disposition of any one
who will settle in them. The only duty incumbent on the settler is that
he must inclose and cultivate it. If he do not improve the land within a
certain period, it reverts to the Crown, and may be settled by another.
Strangely enough, this does not prevent the sale, inheritance, or leasing
of land, which goes on just as in Europe, although, of course, contrary
to law. The conditions of mortgage are simpler than with us; for the
lender takes possession of the mortgaged estate, and he becomes the owner
of it, if the borrowed amount be not returned before the expiration of
three years.[35]

In civil disputes the parties have the right to select their own judges,
while criminal causes are tried before the chief governor of the town
or village.[36] At first this system of administering justice would
appear to be a fair and equitable plan, being apparently merely an
agreement to refer the matter to the consideration of umpires. This
is, however, not the case. The orders of government forbid this, but
nevertheless the prohibition is not observed; the utmost corruption
prevails, for any complainant goes to a sufficiently influential person
in the neighbourhood, and for a bribe obtains a decision in his favour.
Sangermano sarcastically remarks, “It may be easily conceived to what
injustice and inconvenience this practice must necessarily lead.” The
severest calamity that can befall any person is “to be put into justice.”
There is no small degree of wit in this Burman phrase.

Crawfurd mentions an instance of the strange proceeding of the Burman
courts, which may be interesting.[37]

“In 1817, an old Burmese woman, in the service of a European gentleman,
was cited before the Rung-d’hau, or court of justice, of Rangoon.
Her master appeared on her behalf, and was informed that her offence
consisted in having neglected to report a theft committed upon herself
three years before, _by which the government officers were defrauded of
the fees and profits which ought to have accrued from the investigation
or trial_. On receiving this information, he was about to retire, in
order to make arrangements to exonerate her, when he was seized by two
messengers of the court, and informed, that by appearing in the business
he had rendered himself responsible, and could not be released unless
some other individual were left in pledge for him, until the old woman’s
person were produced. A Burman lad, his servant, who accompanied him, was
accordingly left in the room. In an hour he returned with the accused,
and found, that in the interval, the lad left in pledge had been put into
the stocks, his ankles squeezed in them, and by this means, a little
money which he had about his person, and a new handkerchief, extorted
from him. The old woman was now put into the stocks in her turn, and
detained there until all were paid, when she was discharged _without any
investigation whatever into the theft_.”

One would imagine that this circumstance was much more likely to have
happened in our High Court of Chancery, under the “sharp practice” of a
Dodson and Fogg. It seems to be a mutilated Burman version of one of our
“great” institutions made into a matter of physical force by Malcom’s
Oriental Chartist. I may here mention an affecting incident related by
Sangermano,[38] and doubtlessly too true.

A poor widow, who was hard pinched to pay the tax demanded of her, was
obliged to sell her only daughter to obtain the sum. The money was
received, and heavy at heart she returned home, and put it in a box in
her house, intending to lament that night, and carry the money to her
inexorable creditor in the morning. But the measure of her sorrows was
not yet full. Some thieves broke into the house and stole the money. In
the morning she discovered her loss, and this additional circumstance
caused the bounds of her grief to flow even beyond that of silence, and
sitting before her door she gave herself up to loud lamentations. As she
was weeping, an emissary of the city magistrate passed by, and inquired
into the cause of her sorrow. He, upon hearing the sad story, related
the matter to his master. The poor creature was then summoned to the
_court of justice_, and commanded to deliver up the thief. Of course this
was impossible. She was detained in the stocks until she could scrape
together money enough to satisfy the rapacity of the judge.

Sometimes these affairs are very comical. The same author relates
another, the circumstances of which are as follows:—

A woman employed in cooking fish for dinner was called away for an
instant. The cat, watching her opportunity, seized a half-roasted fish,
and ran out of the house. The woman immediately ran after the cat,
exclaiming, “The cat has stolen my fish!” A few days afterwards she was
summoned before the magistrate, who demanded the thief at her hands. It
was of no use that she explained that the thief was a cat. The magistrate
has nothing to do with that. His time was valuable, and the expenses of
the court must be paid.

The report of Captain Alves, cited in Crawfurd,[39] contains ample
accounts of the court charges.

How very similar the Burman law courts are to our own! The following
extract from the good father’s work will show it:[40]—“In civil causes,
lawsuits are terminated much more expeditiously than is generally the
case in our part of the world, provided always that the litigants are
not rich, for then the affair is extremely long, and _sometimes never
concluded at all_. I was myself acquainted with two rich European
merchants and ship-masters, who ruined themselves so completely by a
lawsuit, that they became destitute of the common necessaries of life,
and the lawsuit withal was not decided, nor will ever be.” Just like
Jarndyce and Jarndyce,—the same costly affair everywhere!

Witnesses, both in the civil and criminal causes, are sometimes examined
upon oath, though not always. The oath is written in a small book of
palm-leaves, and is held over the head of the witness. Foreigners,
however, take their own oaths. The substance of the Book of Imprecations,
or, as the Burmese call it, the Book of the Oath, is as follows:[41]—

False witnesses, who assert anything from passion, and not from love of
truth,—witnesses who affirm that they have heard and seen what they have
not heard or seen, may all such false witnesses be severely punished with
death, by that God who, through the duration of 400,100,000 worlds, has
performed every species of good work, and exercised every virtue. I say,
may God, who, after having acquired all knowledge and justice, obtained
divinity, leaning upon the tree of Godama, may this God, with the Nat who
guards him day and night, that is, the Assurâ Nat, and the giants, slay
these false witnesses.

[Here follows the invocation of many different Nats.]

May all those who, in consequence of bribery from either party, do not
speak the truth, incur the eight dangers and the ten punishments. May
they be infected with all sorts of diseases.

Moreover, may they be destroyed by elephants, bitten and slain by
serpents, killed and devoured by the devils and giants, the tigers, and
other ferocious animals of the forest. May whoever asserts a falsehood be
swallowed by the earth, may he perish by sudden death, may a thunderbolt
from heaven slay him,—the thunderbolt which is one of the arms of the Nat
Devà.

May false witnesses die of bad diseases, be bitten by crocodiles,
be drowned. May they become poor, hated of the king. May they have
calumniating enemies, may they be driven away, may they become utterly
wretched, may every one ill-treat them, and _raise lawsuits against
them_.[42] May they be killed with swords, lances, and every sort of
weapon. May they be precipitated into the eight great hells and the 120
smaller ones. May they be tormented. May they be changed into dogs.
And, if finally they become men, may they be slaves a thousand and ten
thousand times. May all their undertakings, thoughts, and desires, ever
remain as worthless as a heap of cotton burnt by the fire.

Such is the fearful anathema held over the head of the witness. The oath
that the witness himself pronounced is very curious, and being unique in
its way, I shall insert it here.[43] The book of the oath is held over
the deponent’s head, and he says:—

“I will speak the truth. If I speak not the truth, may it be through the
influence of the laws of demerit, viz., passion, anger, folly, pride,
false opinion, immodesty, hard heartedness, and scepticism, so that when
I and my relations are on land, land animals, as tigers, elephants,
buffaloes, poisonous serpents, scorpions, &c., shall seize, crush, and
bite us, so that we shall certainly die. Let the calamities occasioned by
fire, water, rulers, thieves, and enemies oppress and destroy us, till
we perish and come to utter destruction. Let us be subject to all the
calamities that are within the body, and all that are without the body.
May we be seized with madness, dumbness, blindness, deafness, leprosy,
and hydrophobia. May we be struck with thunderbolts and lightning, and
come to sudden death. In the midst of not speaking truth may I be taken
with vomiting clotted black blood, and suddenly die before the assembled
people. When I am going by water, may the water Nats assault me, the
boat be upset, and the property lost; and may alligators, porpoises,
sharks, or other sea monsters, seize and crush me to death; and when I
change worlds, may I not arrive among men or Nats, but suffer unmixed
punishment and regret, in the utmost wretchedness, among the four states
of punishment, Hell, Prita, Beasts, and Athurakai.

“If I speak the truth, may I and my relations, through the influence of
the ten laws of merit, and on account of the efficacy of truth, be freed
from all calamities within and without the body; and may evils which have
not yet come, be warded far away. May the ten calamities and five enemies
also be kept far away. May the thunderbolts and lightning, the Nat of
the waters, and all sea animals, love me, that I may be safe from them.
May my prosperity increase like the rising sun and the waxing moon; and
may the seven possessions, the seven laws, and the seven merits of the
virtuous, be permanent in my person; and when I change worlds, may I not
go to the four states of punishment, but attain the happiness of men and
Nats, and realize merit, reward, and perfect calm.”

The last term requires explanation. It is the Buddhistic state of extreme
delight, called _nib’han_, or _nieban_. A Burman rarely takes the oath,
for it is not only terrible but expensive, as the report of Captain Alves
will show:[44]—

    Administration of the oath        ten ticals.
    Messenger for holding the book    one tical.
    Two other messengers’ fees        two ticals.
    Recorders                         two ticals.
    Pickled tea used in the ceremony  half a tical.

The pickled tea, as it is called, is a rough, coarse tea, chewed at the
conclusion of the ceremony, and without it no oath is binding.

There is another way in which causes are decided on very rare and special
occasions,—the trial by ordeal. This is either by water or melted lead.
In the first instance, the plaintiff and defendant are made to walk
into the water, and whichever can hold out longest under its surface is
declared the winner. The other mode consists in putting the finger in
boiling water or melted lead, and trying who can keep it in the longest.
The stocks are a great torture in this country, for they are made to
slide up and down, so that the head and shoulders touch the floor. Of
the prisons, sad and disagreeable accounts are given, but they are very
insecure.

I may here remark, that it is an accepted truth, that the only use to
be derived from the examination of the institutions of other countries,
is that they may be compared by us with our own, and that they may
serve as a standard whereby to measure the enlightenment to which we
have attained. I hope, therefore, that I shall find some one willing to
excuse me for having mentioned our “noble institution,” that “bulwark of
our liberties,” the most High Court of Chancery, in the same page with
the law courts of Burmah, where so much equity and moderation prevail.
Because, of course, it is only the “rabble,” the “herd,” the “great
unwashed,” that suffer, and these are of no account whatever in either
nation, British or Burman, especially in the eyes of Secretaries at War.

Having now ended my account of the Burmese law courts, I shall pass on to
a totally different subject,—the Burmese law.

The various codes of laws which are considered of authority are,
according to Crawfurd,[45] the Shwe-men, or Golden Prince, the Wan-da-na,
and the Damawilátha, to which may be added the Damasat or Damathat, a
Burmese translation of the Institutes of Manu. In these law courts,
however, all codes whatever are dead letters, for to none does any judge
ever refer. Malcom observes:[46]—“As a great part of their income is
derived from lawsuits, they [the rulers] generally encourage litigation.”

The flight of a debtor does not relieve his family of the liability;
but no wife can be obliged to pay the debts he has contracted during a
former marriage. When a loan is entered upon, each of the securities
is responsible for the whole amount, and the lender can force the first
person to pay that he can catch. The property of insolvents must be
equally shared among the creditors without preference. The eldest son
inherits the arms, wardrobe, bed, and jewellery of his father; the rest
of his property is divided into four equal shares, of which the widow has
three, and the family, exclusive of the eldest son, take the remaining
fourth.

The different punishments for offences are these, increasing with the
enormity of the crime:—Fines, the stocks, imprisonment, labour in chains,
flogging, branding, maiming, pagoda slavery, and death. The last, which
seldom occurs but for murder and treason, is inflicted by decapitation,
drowning, or crucifixion. But killing slaves is not criminal, and is
atoned by fines. A libel is punished by the infliction of the punishment
corresponding to the crime unjustly charged upon the plaintiff by the
libeller: however, if the truth of the charge be proven, it is not a
libel. In our country, it is a well-known fact that the truth alone is
a libel, a falsehood needing no refutation. Judgments, as in England,
go by default of appearance, though that is no rule in Burman practice,
whatever it maybe in theory.

The husband has power to chastise his wife for misbehaviour, after
repeated admonitions and remonstrances in the presence of witnesses. In
the event of continued offences, he has the power to divorce her, without
appeal. A woman whose husband has gone away with the army is at liberty
to marry at the expiration of six years; if his object were business, she
must wait seven years; and if he was sent on any religious mission, she
must wait ten years. The slave-laws are very strict, yet favourable on
the whole; but I should imagine that judge’s opinion settled the matter.

Changing a landmark is heavily punished. Betting debts are recoverable
from the loser, but not from any person in any way otherwise responsible.
A person hurt in wrestling, or any other athletic exercise, cannot
recover damages: but if he be mortally hurt, the other must pay the price
of his body. An empty vehicle must give place before a full one; and when
two loaded men meet, he that has the sun at his back must give way. The
following value is set upon men, women, and children:—

                                          £. s.  d.
    A new-born male infant  4 ticals   =  0  10  0
    A female infant         3   ”      =  0   7  6
    A boy                  10   ”      =  1   5  0
    A girl                  7   ”      =  0  17  6
    A young man            30   ”      =  3  15  0
    A young woman          35   ”      =  4   2  6

Rich persons pay in proportion to their wealth and importance. Of course
the high officers of the administration thus become very valuable men, in
one respect at least.

The Burmese code, in its various aspects, seems most strangely inapposite
for the land in which it is placed; or, it might be more correct to
say, for the officers by whom it is dispensed. The police magistrate’s
position is in Europe a responsible and disagreeable one; but the case
is far otherwise in Burmah, and indeed in all Oriental governments
having native ministers. For, though there may be amongst them some few
scrupulous men, yet, as a whole, we cannot look upon the magisterial
office as otherwise than an engine of extortion, and as a means whereby
to turn the weaknesses of the human disposition to the best advantage. It
is, however, not very remarkable that a country should exist with good
laws and bad administrations, as it is not impossible for a nation to
continue under the rule of obsolete ordinances and quibbling sinecurists.
Many of the grievances are, however, chargeable on the inactive and
unenergetic disposition of the people. I am not, however, prepared, with
all this, to go the length of Crawfurd, who thus speaks:[47]—

“The police is as bad as possible; and it is notorious that in all times
of which we can speak with certainly, the country has been overrun
with pirates and robbers. Responsibility is shifted from one person to
another, and a general ignorance and want of intelligence pervades every
department.[48] It is a matter well known, however contrary to theory,
that in consequence of this state of things even a royal order will often
fail of commanding respect or attention at the distance of five short
miles from the seat of government.”

These are but broad, sweeping assertions, like those exactly
contradictory remarks of Symes, quoted at the close of the last chapter;
and such broad assertions must ever be received _cum grano salis_. A
middle path between these two must be taken. The condition of the country
is probably no worse, and no better, than in the neighbouring empire
of China, where the same iniquitous system of bribery prevails amongst
the magistracy, and where the actual amount of crime is not great in
proportion to the population and extent of the country. The envoy of a
government is not likely in the quick progress of his passage through
the country, to be able to examine into the condition of the people
impartially, and, as they are prepared to make the best or the worst show
they can to the foreign ambassador, so, too, will the foreign ambassador
take the best or the worst view of their character.

That there is much crime is undeniable; but they are not monsters of
iniquity, neither, on the other hand, are they angels of heaven. We must
ever, in our judgment of uncivilised or semi-civilised races, be careful
and lenient to a degree. They have not always the same advantages, and
they are kept back by their rulers, ever ignorant and bigoted. Example,
experience, and interest cause a nation to progress, not violence nor
fanaticism. Witness the Turkish nation, formerly wild and brutish, now to
be considered in every way as a civilised and generous nation. And this
was brought about by the force of example and the energy of the ruler.
We shall, in the history of Burmah, meet with a somewhat similar case in
Alompra.[49]

Let us now turn to the revenues accruing to the government, and first of
the earth-oil.

The petroleum wells, once already described, are of immense value to the
government as a source of revenue. The annual produce of the wells is,
according to Crawfurd,[50] twenty-two millions of viss, each of 3⁶⁵⁄₁₀₀
pounds avoirdupois. The wells altogether occupy a space of about six
square miles. Cox, who visited them early in 1797, says, that at the
place where he stayed to examine the wells, there were about one hundred
and eighty of them, and at the distance of four or five miles there were,
he was told, three hundred and forty more.[51] I cannot do better than
subjoin some few of Crawfurd’s excellent remarks, in connection with his
visit. He was put in possession of more correct data on which to found
his calculation than his intelligent predecessor Captain Cox, and his
observations are consequently of more authority.

“The country here,” he says,[52] “is a series of sand-hills and
ravines—the latter, torrents after a fall of rain, as we now experienced,
and the former either covered with a very thin soil, or altogether bare.
The trees, which were rather more numerous than we looked for, did not
rise beyond twenty feet in height. The surface gave no indication that
we could detect of the existence of the petroleum. On the spot which we
reached, there were eight or ten wells, and we examined one of the best.
The shaft was of a square form, and its dimensions about four feet to
a side. It was formed by sinking a frame of wood, composed of beams of
the _Mimosa catechu_, which affords a durable timber. Our conductor,
the son of the Myosugi[53] of the village, informed us that the wells
were commonly from one hundred and forty to one hundred and sixty cubits
deep, and that their greatest depth in any case was two hundred. He
informed us that the one we were examining was the private property of
his father—that it was considered very productive, and that its exact
depth was one hundred and forty cubits. We measured it with a good
lead-line, and ascertained its depth to be two hundred and ten feet, thus
corresponding exactly with the report of our conductor—a matter which
we did not look for, considering the extraordinary carelessness of the
Burmans in all matters of this description. A pot of this oil was taken
up, and a good thermometer being immediately plunged into it, indicated
a temperature of ninety degrees. That of the air, when we left the ship
an hour before, was eighty-two degrees. To make the experiment perfectly
accurate, we ought to have brought a second thermometer along with us;
but this was neglected. We looked into one or two of the wells, and could
discern the bottom. The liquid seemed as if boiling; but whether from
the emission of gaseous fluids, or simply from the escape of the oil
itself from the ground, we had no means of determining. The formation
where the wells are sunk consisted of sand, loose sandstone, and blue
clay. When a well is dug to a considerable extent, the labourers informed
us that brown earth was occasionally found.... The petroleum itself,
when first taken out of the well, is of a thin watery consistence, but
thickens by keeping, and in the cold weather it coagulates. Its colour
at all times is a dirty green, not much unlike that of stagnant water.
It has a pungent aromatic odour, offensive to most people.... The
contents of the pot are deposited for a time in a cistern. Two persons
are employed in raising the oil, making the whole number of persons
engaged on each well only four. The oil is carried to the village or port
in carts drawn by a pair of bullocks, each cart conveying from ten to
fourteen pots, of ten viss each, or from 265 to 371 pounds avoirdupois of
the commodity.... The price, according to the demand, varies from four
ticals of flowered silver to six ticals per 1,000 viss; which is from
fivepence to sevenpence halfpenny per cwt.... Sesamum oil will cost at
the same place not less than three hundred ticals for an equal weight;
but it lasts longer, gives a better light, and is more agreeable than the
petroleum, which in burning emits an immense quantity of black smoke,
which soils every object near it.”

The oil is much used, notwithstanding this last inconvenience, by the
Burmans in their lamps; and besides this there is another important
service which it renders them,—that of preserving their timber from
destruction by insects, who detest it. How great must be such a blessing
in a land where the detestable white ant commits its dreadful ravages!

It is chiefly consumed in the country itself, where two-thirds of it
is used for burning, thirty viss per annum being considered a moderate
consumption for a family of about five or six persons. Mr. Crawfurd,
during his short stay, collected some interesting statistical information
on the subject of these mines, which I abridge from his work.[54]

The number of boats waiting for cargoes of oil was correctly taken, and
found to amount to one hundred and eighty-three, of various sizes, some
carrying only 1,000 viss, and others 1,400. The average burthen of the
vessels employed in this trade is about 4,000 viss. They complete their
cargoes in fifteen days; they are, therefore, renewed twenty-four times
in the year; the exportation of oil, according to this estimate, will,
therefore, be 17,568,000 viss. Deducting a third from this, used for
other purposes than burning, and we have, at the annual consumption of
thirty viss for a family of five and a half individuals, a population of
2,147,200.

The actual daily produce of the wells is rather uncertain. It was stated
to vary from thirty to five hundred, the average giving about 235 viss;
the number of wells was sometimes given as low as fifty, and sometimes as
high as four hundred.[55] The average made about 200, and, considering
the extent of ground covered by the wells, about sixteen square miles,
Mr. Crawfurd does not think this an exaggeration. This estimate would
reduce the amount of the population somewhat, causing it to consist only
of 2,066,721 persons.

On Mr. Crawfurd’s return in December, he again visited the wells. His
investigations did not materially affect his previous calculations,
which, on the whole, we can but consider as the most satisfactory that,
under circumstances, have yet been attainable. I close this rather
extended account of the petroleum wells, by an extract from Crawfurd’s
work, which I fancy is the best _finale_ that can be imagined, viz., the
duty levied on it by the Government:[56]—

“The celebrated petroleum wells afford, as I ascertained at Ava, a
revenue to the king or his officers. The wells are private property, and
belong hereditarily to about thirty-two individuals. A duty of five parts
in a hundred is levied on the petroleum as it comes from the wells, and
the amount realized upon it is said to be twenty-five thousand ticals
per annum. No less than twenty thousand of this goes to contractors,
collectors, or public officers; and the share of the state, or five
thousand, was assigned during our visits as a pension of one of the
queens.”

Truly, this does not look like rapacity on the part of the king! Who can
tell what portion is legitimately the share of the officers of the Crown?

The revenue of the Burman empire is a duty of ten per cent. upon all
merchandise coming from abroad; of the produce of some of the mines in
the Burman dominions; export duties; a family tax, and an excise on salt,
fisheries, fruit-trees, rice, and, as before seen, on petroleum. Besides
this, there is a supply of money continually coming in by the presents
which the officers receive for the attainment of various favours. The
latter, though of course wavering, forms a by no means inconsiderable
portion of the royal income. The taxes are principally taken in kind,
with the exception of the tax on families, which is usually demanded in
specie.

But even these form a very inconsiderable portion of the income of the
Crown. Sangermano tells us very quaintly, “as he considers the property
of his subjects as in reality belonging to himself, he therefore exacts
from them anything he pleases; so that it may be said with truth, that
the unfortunate Burmese labour in acquiring riches, not for themselves
or their children, but merely to gratify the avarice of the emperor; as
their possessions almost invariably find their way, sooner or later, into
the royal treasury.”[57] We shall in the course of a few pages see in
what manner this took place.

It is, however, somewhat remarkable, as Crawfurd observes,[58] that “a
direct tax on the land, according either to its extent or fertility,
is not known to the Burmese.” This, though forming a source of much
emolument in other Oriental countries, appears to be wholly unknown
here. Its place is supplied by the family tax, above mentioned. This
family, or more correctly property-tax, is confined to the Burmese,
Talains (Peguers), and a few naturalized foreigners. An extract from
Alves’s Report will show its operation.[59] “The arbitrary assessments
for various purposes, which were levied upon the Burmese and Talains,
amounted annually, I am informed, to about 50,000 _ticals_[60] on
ordinary occasions, for the two townships of Bassein and Pantano.
Bassein, the chief town of the province, was exempt from regular
assessment, being subject to calls for the support of messengers or other
public authorities from the capital, and for their travelling expenses.
Pantano, and another district of the province, were exempt, as being
assignments for the maintenance of their respective Myo-thugyis.[61] I
might probably have obtained information regarding the amount of these
arbitrary cesses in the other townships; but the subject of inquiry
was rather a delicate one, and might have led to the belief that its
continuance was contemplated under British sway. Besides, the tax was an
ever-fluctuating one; information regarding it not very readily given;
and the purpose for which the money was often required, I was told,
was too ludicrous to bear repetition to an Englishman. The amount for
the other township may be inferred from the above, and was probably
about 127,000 _ticals_. On extraordinary occasions there was no limit
to exactions of both men and money. It does not appear that assessments
could have been properly ordered for other than public purposes, or under
instructions from court; although the amount might not always find its
way into the treasury of the State, it ought to have been expended in
the service of the State. The principle of this tax seems to be that of
a property-tax. A town or village having to pay a certain sum, the heads
of wards, or principal people of the village, were called together by
the Myo-thu-gyi or Thu-gyi, and informed of their quota in men and money
to be furnished, and they assessed the householders agreeably to their
means, or supposed means,—some having to pay, say fifty _ticals_, others
one, or even less. I have been informed that there are tolerably correct
accounts of the means of each householder; but on such occasions poverty
is often pleaded, and it too frequently happens that confinement and
torture are resorted to before the collection is completed. The system
is obviously open to the greatest abuses, and although it is not against
these abuses that the people generally exclaim, it is evident this is
the most vexatious of all parts of the Burmese administration; and its
abolition or modification would have been most desirable, had the country
been retained. All persons in public employ were exempt from this
tax—also artificers, as they had to work without pay, when required for
public purposes, or for the business of the local officers.[62] Also the
Mussulman and Chinese inhabitants at Bassein: the former, when required,
being made to work as tailors; the latter, to manufacture gunpowder and
fireworks. Both these classes, however, were compelled to make gunpowder,
from the breaking out of the war until the arrival of the British
armament at Bassein. There ought to have been no expense of collection,
although it appears to have been perfectly understood, that the overplus
exacted by the Thu-gyis on such occasions was their chief source of
emolument.”

The amount charged upon each family is in English money about twenty
shillings and tenpence; and a family consisting of six persons, the
taxation per head is about three shillings and fivepence. Besides this,
however, there is much to be paid, which varies very considerably, and is
applied to extraordinary uses.

In some portions of Burmah a tax is levied upon fruit-trees, and a
fixed price is set upon each species of tree. The tax, as usual,
was exorbitant, though, as the envoy remarks, “it may be stated
generally that the unsettled habits of the people, and the ignorance
and unskilfulness of the tax-gatherer, contribute in practice to
counterbalance, in some degree, the arbitrary and oppressive character
of the government in theory.”[63] In Lower Pegu, a mango, a jack,[64]
a cocoa-nut, and a mariam tree (a small kind of mango), paid each
one-eighth of a tical (threepence three farthings) per annum. An areca
and Palmyra palm paid a quarter of a tical, and a betel-vine one
sixteenth. A tithe was levied in other places. Mr. Crawfurd was unable to
ascertain what the total produce of the tax was. Indeed it is difficult
to arrive at any determination in any of these cases, for they are all
equally wanting in point of data.

The import duties, as already stated, are one-tenth of the value of the
articles imported, but the custom-house has the option of levying them in
money or in kind. An instance of the vexation attending the latter system
was related to Mr. Crawfurd. It seems that on board some European vessel
there was a small cable or hawser which was imported. The inspector was,
I suppose, “entirely bothered;” for he knew not how to manage the matter.
At last he settled it by cutting off a tithe, remarking, at the same
time, that if it were not long enough for any other purpose, it would
do to light the king’s cigar! The import duties on the land frontier of
China amounted to 40,000 _ticals_ (about £5,000).

The whole amount of royal revenue, from various sources, owing probably
to the cheating system of the officers, is not more than £25,000 per
annum, “an income,” as Crawfurd concludes, “far exceeded by that of many
native subjects of the British possessions in India.”[65]

But the inhabitants of the land are subjected to many other grievances
in the way of extortion, and, taking Sangermano for a guide, I shall
enumerate some of these. The funds for building the public edifices and
palaces, bridges, convents, and pagodas, are raised by extraordinary
levies. Even if that were all, it might be sufferable; but when anything
of this nature is required, the government officers extort three or four
times as much as would suffice for the purpose. And just as the king
acts in Ava, so do the governors of the other towns. The whole system
of practical government in Ava is one gigantic mass of corruption and
iniquity, and nothing but the total overthrow of the present government,
and establishment of British supremacy, can rescue the unhappy people of
Burmah. In Rangoon, however, as it is at the greatest distance from the
government, these exactions are carried to the greatest excess. It is at
that place that those enormities are committed, of which I have already
mentioned a few instances. However, the dignitaries meet their reward;
“for,” says the good Father Sangermano,[66] “sooner or later the news of
their conduct reaches the court, they are stripped of their dignity, and
sometimes, if their crimes be great, are put to death, and their property
is confiscated for the use of the emperor. Generally, however, they save
themselves at the expense of their riches, which are entirely consumed
in presents to the wives, sons, and chief ministers of the emperor;
and then they are frequently sent back to the same governments where
they had practised their extortions, to heap up new treasures for new
confiscations. Hence it may justly be inferred, that the rapacity of the
emperor is not less than that of his mandarins; and that he does not care
for the spoliation of his subjects, but rather encourages it, that he may
thus always have means in his power to replenish his treasury.”

In short we may conclude these “Sketches of Government” with the remark
of the reviewer:[67] “The government is a despotism upon the model of
that of China; the fiction of paternity in the person of the ruler
being in both countries upheld. The emperor is the father of the state;
each mandarin is the father of the province which he governs; and each
magistrate, of whatever gradation, father of the subordinate department
in which he presides.” We have seen how fatherly is the whole behaviour
of the Burman rulers, and we may well agree with the reviewer, in
pronouncing the fiction invented for the benefit of the _despot_, and not
for the benefit of the _people_.

There is no regular Burmese army.[68] When the king requires one, he
fixes the number of soldiers necessary for the enterprise, and nominates
the general who is to command them. The Lut-d’hau in the capital, and the
Ion or Rondai of the provincial town, then send for a certain number more
than absolutely mentioned by the king. These are brought together by a
forced conscription, and the conduct of the officers who levy them not a
little resembles that of the renowned and valiant Falstaff. Such persons
as are unable to serve, or are rich enough to buy themselves off, do so,
and the consequence is, that a rabble is assembled, without subordination
or discipline, and consequently formidable only to the barbarian tribes
on the frontiers, but totally unable to cope with the civilised forces of
the Company. The money obtained from the Burmans who buy off is applied
to the equipment of the army; “for the emperor,” Sangermano observes,
“does not furnish anything but the arms, which must be well taken care
of; and woe to the soldier who loses them.”[69] The whole male population
between the ages of seventeen and sixty serve, and those with wives and
families are ever preferred, as these last serve as hostages for their
good behaviour. This forcible conscription partly induces unwillingness,
and partly the natural cowardice of the peasantry. Crawfurd was informed
by several Europeans, who were present at Rangoon when the troops were
embarking for Junk Ceylon, and other parts of the Siamese coast, that
they were often carried on board tied hands and feet, and this not in
a few cases, but repeatedly, and in great numbers. What soldiers for
our disciplined army to contend with, and what an insight into their
military character this gives us, _if it be not an exaggeration_! And yet
these cowards, forced into the service in this valiant way, caused the
retreat of the British force at Ramoo in 1824! Perhaps their conduct is
somewhat like that of our own sailors. There is, however, little doubt
of their being an utterly despicable foe, though they will undergo the
severest privations without a word. In time, however, and under judicious
generalship, they might become very passable soldiers.

“As soon as the order for marching arrives,” says Sangermano,[70] “the
soldiers, leaving their sowing and reaping, and whatever occupation they
may be engaged in, assemble instantly in different corps, and prepare
themselves; and throwing their weapon over their shoulders like a lever,
they hang from one end of it a mat or blanket to cover them at night, a
provision of powder, and a little vessel for cooking; and from the other
end, a provision of rice, of salt, and of Napè, a species of half-putrid,
half-dried fish, pickled with salt. In this guise they travel to their
place of destination, without transport-waggons, without tents, in their
ordinary dress, merely carrying on their heads a piece of red cloth,
the only distinctive badge of a Burmese soldier.[71] About nine o’clock
in the morning they begin to march, after having taken a short sleep,
and cooked and eaten their rice, and Carè, a sort of stew eaten with
the rice, of which that kind which is used by soldiers and travellers
is generally made of herbs or leaves of trees, cooked in plain water,
with a little Napè. He might then bivouac on the bare ground, without
any protection from the night air, the dew, or even the rain; merely
constructing a palisade of branches of trees or thorns. Sometimes it
happens that the expedition is deferred till the following year, and then
the soldiers being arrived on the enemy’s confines are made to work in
the rice-grounds, thus to furnish a store of that commodity for their
provision.”

This is the picturesque description left us by the missionary, and it
is of the more value as we know it to come from an eye-witness. But in
the Burmese army, as in the ancient Persian, there is a corps of several
thousand men, known by the name of the Invulnerables. Major Snodgrass has
given us an interesting sketch of this body of military; and it being
short, finds a fitting place here.[72]

“They are distinguished by the short cut of their hair, and the peculiar
manner in which they are tattooed, having the figures of elephants,
tigers, and a great variety of ferocious animals, indelibly and even
beautifully marked upon their arms and legs; but to the soldiers they
were best known by having bits of gold, silver, and sometimes precious
stones in their arms, probably introduced under the skin at an early age.

“These men are considered by their countrymen as invulnerable; and
from their foolish and absurd exposure of their persons to the fire of
an enemy, they are either impressed with the same opinion, or find it
necessary to show a marked contempt for danger, in support of their
pretensions. In all the stockades and defences of the enemy, one or two
of these heroes were generally found, whose duty it was to exhibit the
war-dance of defiance upon the most exposed part of their defences,
infusing courage and enthusiasm into the minds of their comrades, and
affording much amusement to their enemies. The infatuated wretches,
under the excitement of opium, too frequently continued the ludicrous
exhibition, till they afforded convincing proof of the value of their
claims to the title they assume.”

The arms in use among the Burmese are clumsy two-handed sabres, named
dàs, lances, bows, and matchlocks. A few cannon are managed by a corps
of Christians in the service of the country. These Christians, in the
time of Anaundoprà, amounted, with their wives and families, to about
two thousand, being the descendants of the Portuguese transported from
Syriam more than a century before. Their gunpowder they manufacture
themselves, and Crawfurd pronounces it to be as bad as any prepared
in the Orient.[73] Snodgrass,[74] Crawfurd, Wilson, and others, are
unanimous in pronouncing the chief military talents of the Burmese to lie
in field-works; yet, though their position was well selected and quickly
occupied, the execution of their stockades, with a few exceptions, seems
to be very inferior.

After their conquest of Munipur they enrolled a small body of cavalry,
which, however, has rarely proved effective, for the horses are of very
inferior quality.

The troops are subject to a rigorous discipline. The power of capital
punishment is not vested only in the general, but the officer of any
corps that happens to be somewhat distant from the main body, has the
same liberty of punishing with death, and this without appeal, any
soldier that he judges worthy of it. “The sword,” observes Sangermano,
“is always hanging over the head of the soldier, and the slightest
disposition to flight, or reluctance to advance, will infallibly bring
it down upon him. But what above all,” continues the Father, “tends to
hold the Burmese soldiery to their duty, is the dreadful execution that
is done on the wives and children of those who desert. The arms and legs
of these miserable victims are bound together with no more feeling than
if they were brute beasts, and in this state they are shut up in cabins
made of bamboo, and filled with combustible material, which are then set
on fire by means of a train of gunpowder.”[75] The power of the king,
however, is as great over his officers, as that of his officers over
the common soldiers. “Woe to the commander,” exclaims the quaint old
missionary, “woe to the commander who suffers himself to be worsted! The
least he can expect is the loss of all his honours and dignities; but if
there has been the slightest negligence on his part, his possessions and
life must also be sacrificed to the anger of the emperor.”

The iron rule of the king has caused a vast falling off in his subjects,
who have withdrawn to Siam and to the British possessions in Bengal and
Arakhan. The maxim of the government has been the saying of its king:—“We
must hold down the Burmese by oppression, so that they may never dare to
meditate rebellion.” Another anecdote is related[76] of the same king,
Men-ta-ra-gyee; and though it may be apocryphal, yet it shows the spirit
of the age. Some one of his court represented to him that the incessant
wars were materially reducing the number of his subjects; but the only
reply vouchsafed by the inexorable monarch was, “It matters but little;
for if all the men are killed, then we can enrol and arm the women.”

The military character of the Burmese is well summed up by Snodgrass
in the following terms:[77]—“When engaged in offensive warfare, which
in their native quarrels has generally been the case, the Burmese is
arrogant, bold, and daring; possessed of strength and activity superior
to all his neighbours, and capable of enduring great fatigue, his
movements are rapid, and his perseverance in overcoming obstacles almost
irresistible: possessed, too, of superior science and ability in their
peculiar system of fighting, he had seldom met his equal in the field, or
even experienced serious resistance in the numerous conquests which of
late years had been added to the empire, until the increasing arrogance
and aggressions of his government brought him at last in contact with an
enemy of a very different description from any he had yet contended with,
and presented his military character in a different light, divested of
the glare which victory and success had long shed around it.” Arrogant
and daring, indeed, when the Burman name alone was sufficient to cause
the wild tribes of the frontier to lay down their arms, and humbly beg
for peace on any terms.

Before closing this chapter, it were well to give some account of that
celebrated appendage to Burman state, the white elephant. I shall here
take occasion to introduce a description of them by an old traveller, the
first Englishmen indeed who ever visited Burmah. It is given in Hakluyt’s
collection of “Nauigations, Traffiques, and Discoueries.”[78]

“And among the rest he hath foure white elephants, which are very strange
and rare, for there is none other king that hath them but he; if any
other king hath one, hee will send vnto him for it. When any of these
white elephants is brought vnto the king, all the merchants in the city
are commanded to see them, and to giue him a present of halfe a ducat,
which doth come to a great summe, for that there are many merchants in
the city. After that you have given your present, you may come and see
them at your pleasure, although they stand in the king’s house. This
king, in his title, is called, the king of the white elephants.[79] If
any other king haue one, and will not send it him, he will make warre
with him for it, for he had rather lose a great part of his kingdome
than not to conquere him. They do very great seruice vnto these white
elephants; euery one of them standeth in a house gilded with golde, and
they doe feede in vessels of siluer and gilt. One of them, when he doth
go to the riuer to be washed, as euery day they do, goeth under a canopy
of clothe, of golde or of silke, carried ouer him by sixe or eight men,
and eight or ten men goe before him, playing on drummes, shawmes, or
other instruments: and when he is washed and commeth out of the riuer,
there is a gentleman which doth wash his feet in a siluer basin, which is
his office giuen him by the king. There is no such account made of any
blacke elephant, be he neuer so great. And surely there be woonderfull
faire and great, and some be nine cubites in height.”[80]

Since the institution of the Burmese monarchy, its kings have ever been
most desirous of having one of these white elephants in their possession,
as they conceived it added additional strength to their arms, and good
fortune to their administration. At the accession of Men-ta-ra-gyee there
was no such animal in the royal stables, and he directed all his efforts
to the satisfying of a natural desire to have one. His endeavours were
crowned with success, for, in 1805, a female was caught at Lain, in the
forests of Pegu. Sangermano gives the following account of its treatment
and transportation to Amarapura.[81]

“Immediately upon its being captured, it was bound with cords covered
with scarlet,[82] and the most considerable of the mandarins were deputed
to attend it. A house, such as is occupied by the greatest ministers,
was built for its reception; and numerous servants were appointed to
watch over its cleanliness, to carry to it every day the freshest herbs,
which had first been washed with water, and to provide it with everything
else that could contribute to its comfort. As the place where it was
taken was infested with mosquitoes, a beautiful net of silk was made to
protect it from them;[83] and to preserve it from all harm, mandarins and
guards watched by it both day and night. No sooner was the news spread
abroad that a white elephant had been taken, than immense multitudes
of every age, sex, and condition flocked to behold it, not only from
the neighbouring parts, but even from the most remote provinces.... At
length the king gave orders for its transportation to Amarapura, and
immediately two boats of teak wood were fastened together, and upon
them was erected a superb pavilion, with a roof similar to that which
covers the royal palaces. It was made perfectly impervious to the sun
or rain, and draperies of silk embroidered in gold adorned it on every
side. This splendid pavilion was towed up the river by three large and
beautiful gilded vessels full of rowers.... The king and royal family
frequently sent messengers, to bring tidings of its health, and make it
rich presents in their name.... To honour its arrival in the city, a most
splendid festival was ordered, which continued for three days, and was
celebrated with music, dancing, and fireworks. The most costly presents
continued daily to be brought to it by all the mandarins of the kingdom,
and one is said to have offered a vase of gold weighing 480 ounces. But
it is well known that these presents and the eagerness shown in bestowing
them, were owing more to the avaricious policy of the king than to the
veneration of his subjects towards the elephant, for all these golden
utensils and ornaments found their way at last into the royal treasury.”

A fit conclusion to so tremendous a piece of superstition and absurdity!
Crawfurd, however, denies that the veneration paid to it was so great as
reported; there is at any rate no question that the fortunate discoverer
is well rewarded. The one now in the possession of the king of Ava
was discovered by four villagers, who, in addition to rank, offices,
title, and estates, each received the sum of two thousand five hundred
ticals,—about £312 sterling.[84]

“At the death of the elephant,” continues Sangermano,[85] “as at that
of an emperor, it is publicly forbidden, under heavy penalties, to
assert that he is dead; it must only be said that he is departed, or has
disappeared. As the one of which we have spoken was a female, its funeral
was conducted in the form practised on the demise of a principal queen.
The body was accordingly placed upon a funeral pile of sassafras, sandal,
and other aromatic woods, then covered over with similar materials; and
the pyre was set on fire with the aid of four immense gilt bellows placed
at its angles. After three days, the principal mandarins came to gather
the ashes and remnants of the bones, which they enshrined in a gilt and
well-closed urn, and buried in the royal cemetery. Over the tomb was
subsequently raised a superb mausoleum of a pyramidal shape, built of
brick, but richly painted and gilt. Had the elephant been a male, it
would have been interred with the ceremonial used for the sovereign.”

The loss of the elephant was, however, soon supplied; for another was
caught in 1806 near a place called Nibban, in Pegu, and the day that
Sangermano quitted Rangoon for Europe, the first of October, it was
expected at that place. It was the same one that Crawfurd saw in October,
1826.



CHAPTER III.

    Cosmography—The Burman hells—Definition of
    a Nat by Hesiod—Buddha—Gaudama—His probable
    history—Buddhism—Priests—Temples—Curious cave near
    Prome—Monasteries—Ceremonies—Funeral—Concluding remarks.


The origin of the Burmese nation, like that of every other, is lost in
the mists of antiquity. We know not whence we proceed, and the beginning
and end of our being on this earth are alike wrapt in obscurity. But in
addition to the unavoidable gloom that envelops the beginning of every
nation, we have, amongst the Indian races, the additional uncertainty
caused by a wild and incoherent cosmography, which, pervading the early
portions of their national annals, renders it almost impossible to elicit
any sort of narrative that would be satisfactory to the reader in an
historical point of view. But, as everything connected with a nation
and its belief, is interesting to the curious observer of mankind, it
will be as well to listen to the wild and wondrous strain, the sounds
of which still thrill and tremble upon the threshold of time. Here,
then, is a short view of the Burmese cosmography, as a prelude to the
ancient history of that country. We will listen to it from the mouth of
Sangermano, one of the best and most modest of the exponents of Burmese
antiquities.[86]

According to the Burmese sacred books, there are five species of atoms.
The first is an invisible permeating fluid, distinguishable only by the
superior order of genii called Nat. The second species is that which may
be seen dancing in the gleam of a streak of sunlight. The third species
consists of the dust raised by the motion of animals, and vehicles from
the earth. The fourth comprises the gross particles which form the soil
on which men live. And the fifth consists of those little grains which
fall when writing with an iron pen upon a palm-leaf.

These atoms are exactly proportioned to each other in the following
way. Thirty-six atoms of the first make one of the second; thirty-six
of the second make one of the third, and so on. Upon these proportions
depends a strange system of measurement, which, carried on like the
world-renowned calculation of the horse’s shoes and nails, astonishes us
by its simplicity, and amuses us by its uselessness. It is as follows:
“Seven atoms of the fifth and last species are equal in size to the head
of a louse; seven such heads equal a grain of rice; seven grains of rice
make an inch; twelve inches a palm, and two palms a cubit; seven cubits
give one _ta_; twenty _ta_ one _ussabà_; eighty _ussabà_ one _gaut_; and
four _gaut_ a _juzenà_. Finally, a _juzenà_ contains about six Burmese
leagues, or 28,000 cubits.”[87] The measure of time into homœopathical
infinitesimals is equally absurd.

The world, called Logha, which signifies alternate destruction and
reproduction, is divided into three parts. It is not conceived by the
Burmese to be spherical, but is imagined to be a circular plain somewhat
elevated in the centre. The three parts into which the earth is divided
are called the superior, where the Nat live; the middle, the residence of
man; and the inferior, the place of subsequent retribution. The middle
part is bounded on all sides by an impenetrable barrier of mountains,
called Zacchiavalà, which rise 82,000 _juzenà_ above the surface of the
sea, and have an equal depth in the sea itself.[88] “The diameter of
this middle part is 1,203,400 _juzenà_, and its circumference is three
times the diameter, its depth is 240,000 _juzenà_. The half of this
depth entirely consists of dust, the other half, or the lower part, is a
hard compact stone, called sibapatavi. This enormous volume of dust and
stone is supported by a double volume of water, under which is placed a
double volume of air; and beyond this there is nothing but vacuity.”[89]
Buchanan supplies some particulars here, omitted by Sangermano:—“Besides
this earth of ours, it is imagined, that there are of the same form
10,100,000 others, which mutually touch in three points, forming between
them a number of equilateral spaces, which, on account of the sun’s not
reaching them, are filled with water intensely cold. The depth of these
10,100,000 triangular spaces is 84,000 _juzenà_, and each of their sides
is 3,000 _juzenà_, in length.”[90]

In the centre of the middle system of the world, above the level of the
sea, is a mountain called Miemmo or Mienmò, said to be the highest in
the world, rising to the height of 84,000 _juzenà_, and having a similar
depth in the sea. Buchanan-Hamilton tells us that the word signifies
Mountain of Vision in Burmese.[91] The plateau at the extreme height of
Mienmò is 48,000 _juzenà_ in diameter, with a circumference of three
times that extent. Three enormous rubies support the whole mass, being
themselves based on the great stone Silapatavi. The four sides of the
mountain are respectively of silver, glass, gold, and ruby. Miemmo is
surrounded by seven chains of hills, and seven rivers, called Sida, whose
waters are so clear and limpid that the lightest piece of down stripped
from a feather would sink to the bottom. These various rivers are of
different heights and widths. Buchanan considers the word ‘sea’ as much
more applicable to these waters; Sida, in the Arakhan dialect, having
that signification.

At the four cardinal points of Miemmo, in the midst of an immense sea,
lie the four great islands which form the habitations of mankind. They
are respectively in the forms of a half-moon, a full moon, a square, and
a lozenge or trapezium. In the last of these, lying towards the south,
opposite the ruby side of Miemmo, are situated the kingdom of Burmah,
Siam, China, Ceylon, and the other places with which the Burmans are
acquainted, together with many more with which nobody is acquainted.[92]
Besides these four great islands, there are two thousand small ones,
whence, according to the Burman idea, the Europeans come. The seas are
filled with horrible monsters and terrible whirlpools; however, this
is not the case in the small straits between the little islands and
Zabudiba. With the other islands, on account of the horrors of the deep,
it is impossible to hold any communication. At present, however, the
Burmans are beginning to lose faith in their geography; and Buchanan
always heard Britain spoken of in Amarapura as _Pyee-gye_, or the Great
Kingdom.[93]

We have next to consider the nature of the living beings which, according
to the Burmese, live in this world.[94] They are divided into three
classes: Chama, or generating beings; Rupa, or corporeal, but ungenerated
and ungenerating beings; and Arupa, or spirits. These three classes are
again subdivided into thirty-one species. The Chama contains eleven
species, seven happy and four unhappy. One of the happy states is man,
and the remaining six are of the Nats, corporeal beings in every respect
superior to men. The four unhappy states are infernal states, into which
the sinful are sent to expiate their crimes in torment for a season.
These are called Apè. The Rupa contains sixteen _bon_, or states, as they
are called, and the Arupa four.

The doctrine of metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, is admitted
by the Burmans, but is not precisely of the same character with that
of the Hindoos, or the improved system promulgated by Pythagoras. They
maintain that the soul and body perish together, and that then a new body
and soul are formed from the fragments, and that its nature agrees with
the deservings of the individual. Thus every one gradually attains higher
excellence, becoming successively a Nat, a Rupa, an Arupa, &c., till at
length the individual attains that high state of eternal calm known by
the name of Nieban.

This state of existence has been generally translated annihilation, and,
as Crawfurd observes,[95] this misconception has thrown “an unmerited
share of obloquy on the worship of Budd’ha.” Dr. Buchanan remarks, that
the term is very inaccurately translated;[96] and Colebrooke was the
first to give a correct definition of it, in an essay on the Philosophy
of Indian Sectaries.[97] Sangermano’s definition I subjoin:—“This
consists in an almost perpetual ecstasy, in which those who attain it
are not only free from the troubles and miseries of life, from death,
illness, and old age, but are abstracted from all sensation; they have no
longer a thought or desire.”[98]

Human life is continually on the decrease or the increase. At first men
attained to an age which can only be conceived by this calculation. “It
is said, that if it should rain continually for the space of three years
over the whole world, which is 1,203,430 juzenà in diameter, the number
of drops of rain fallen in this time would express the number of years
that compose an assenchiè,”[99] the term implying the whole period. But
the wickedness of man caused his life to be more and more limited, and
it reached at length to ten years only. From that time it increased,
on their becoming more virtuous, and again they lived an assenchiè.
This increase and decrease is to be fulfilled sixty-four times before
the destruction of the world. This variation is however limited to the
inhabitants of Zabudiba. Space will not permit me to give the description
I would of the northern island, where the Burman Utopia is placed. The
philosophical inquirer will find it in Sangermano and Buchanan.

The Nats, or genii, have their various seats in the intermediate space
between Mienmò and the confines of the world, and live in different
degrees of happiness and power. These abodes of the Nats are represented
as very delightful, and it is thither that the devout Buddhist hopes to
come. The four conditions of punishment are, degradation into beasts;
Preitta, a state of sorrow resembling the Tartarus of the Hellenes; the
Assurichè, almost identical with Preitta; and Niria, the actual hell of
the Burmese.

The transformation into beasts is reserved for those who do not keep
a sufficient restraint over themselves, and who speak in a heedless
and evil manner. Those who neglect to give alms, too, pass into this
condition. An elephant lives sixty years, a horse thirty, an ox and a
dog, ten, and upon this they base their calculations.[100]

In the second state of punishment, Preitta, the condemned are obliged
to live upon disgusting filth, and inhabit sewers, cisterns, and tombs.
Some wander naked through gloomy forests, making them re-echo with their
lamentations, exposed to storms, and fainting with hunger and thirst.
Some plough the ground with a plough of fire; others feed on their own
flesh and blood, and tear themselves with hooks; and some are tormented
by fire. Misers, uncharitable persons, persons who give alms to the wrong
Rahaans or priests, are condemned to Preitta.

Assurichè is very like Preitta in its punishments, only every torment
is here more acute and frightful. Quarrelsome persons, strikers with
weapons, advancers and abettors of bad men, are sent thither.

In the fourth hell, Niria, the sufferings are by fire and cold. It is
situated in the midst of the great stone Silapatavi, and is divided
into many hells. Here the worst of mankind are punished, and here sit
the judges, selected from the dead, upon their peculiar expiation. The
time of confinement in all these places is undecided, and very few, if
any, are sentenced to eternal punishment. By good behaviour in all these
places the sufferers may attain to the position of insects, and gradually
rise through all gradations, and finally attain Nieban.[101] The crimes
and their punishments are very whimsical, and some very horrid. They are
given at length in Sangermano. However, a spirit of mercy runs through
all their dogmas, and, as already observed, every one may regain his lost
position, though it is this southern island that is the most favoured;
for here only can the believer attain Nieban. The infidels only are
condemned to eternal torment.

I may conclude this account of the Burman cosmography with a few lines
of the oldest writer on Hellenic philosophy, in which a very tolerable
description of the nature of the Nat is given.

    When in the dark and dread abodes of earth,
    The men of earliest golden age were laid,
    Their bones remained, but, soaring to the sky,
    Their life-enduring souls fled far on high;
    Still hov’ring there above the realms of earth,
    Still loving much the land that gave them birth,
    They kindly watch o’er the affairs of men.
    Spirits beneficent, clad in the filmy air,
    They take their rapid flight, and with a lib’ral hand,
    Like kings, they scatter wealth and justice in their fatherland.[102]

It may easily be conceived, from what I have had occasion to mention,
that the Burman chronology is as wild as any of the other Indian
chronologies.[103] According to them, in every period (the age which
intervenes between one time, when the life of man amounts to an
assenchiè, and the next) there appears a royal being, who lives to an
incalculable age, and assumes the title of Sumada. There have been
eleven of these. The whole number of kings who have reigned since the
last of these Sumadas to the age of Gaudama, is estimated at 334,569!
The earliest date in Burmese to which we can give any credence, is the
beginning of the epoch in which the period of Gaudama, or Gautama, falls,
corresponding with B.C. 661. The date of the birth of Gaudama is said to
be B.C. 626. He was the son of Thoke-daw-da-reh, king of Ma-ge-deh, the
present province of Behar, in Hindustan. His mother’s name was Máhà-Maï,
or the Great Maia, a coincidence which has led to his identification
with the Hermes of the Hellenes, and the Thoth of the Egyptians. The
new-born child was nursed and baptized by two incarnate deities called
Esrur-Téngri and Hurmusta-Téngri, and received the name of Artashidi
(Artasidd’hi); his divine origin and perfections were made known by the
bowing of the idol, before which he was presented, according to the
custom of his father’s family.[104] He had lived in four hundred millions
of worlds before his present appearance, and, like any other inhabitant
of the world, had gradually worked his way up through the state of
beasts, and had been in every condition of human life. He exclaimed,
immediately upon his birth, “Now I am the noblest of men! This is the
last time I shall ever be born!” When ten years of age he was placed
under the care of a wise man, named Bahburemihbacshi, who instructed him
in every kind of knowledge: however, he soon seems to have outstripped
his teacher, for we learn that shortly afterwards he retaliated and
taught the wise man fifty or sixty languages. At twenty he married,
but either from the shrewishness of his wife, or some other cause, he
expressed a desire to turn anchorite, assumed the name of Gaudama, and
gave himself up to the contemplation of the Deity. But for some reason
or other he had great difficulty in following up his wishes, and it
was not until some strenuous attempts that he finally combated all
the arguments of his antagonists. This is not the place to go into the
numerous disputes concerning this person, and I shall content myself with
presenting the reader with the remarks of a writer in the Encyclopædia
Metropolitana.[105]

“The Indian fable, therefore, may be assumed as the basis of the rest;
and the truth, concealed under this mass of fiction, seems to be simply
this: that a son of the king of Mágad’ha, whose rank and austerities had
secured the veneration of his countrymen, had sense enough to perceive
the absurdity of the Bráhmanical system, and ability enough to persuade
his countrymen to adopt his. The success of his new doctrine was such,
that at one period it had nearly suppressed the ancient faith of the
Hindùs; but when events, which we cannot now trace, had re-established
the authority of the Bráhmans, they showed that they were not behindhand
in retaliation; the followers of Budd’ha were persecuted without mercy,
and scarcely an individual of that faith can now be found in Hindustan.
Some of the fugitives appear to have taken refuge in Ceylon, while
others fled into the mountains of Tibet. From Ceylon they conveyed their
doctrine to the eastern peninsula of India. From Tibet it travelled over
Tátáry to the north and west, into China on the east, and from thence
into Cochin-China and the other regions on the south, where it is only
divided by a lofty chain of mountains from its kindred faith, imported
from the south and west into the kingdoms of Ava and Siam.”

He obtained Nieban, or died, B.C. 543.[106] At his death he advised that
his relics and image should be worshipped and his law obeyed, until the
appearance of the next Boodh or Budd’ha. This event is to take place
in five or six thousand years. The ordinances of Gaudama are still in
existence, although all the sayings of his three predecessors are lost.
Gaudama’s laws were handed down by tradition until four hundred and
fifty years after his obtaining Nieban, when they were written down in
A.D. 94. The work, which is divided into three sections, having similar
subdivisions, is called the Bedagat, and is written in Pali. The book
in an entire state is rare, though parts are not very scarce. The
cosmography, of which I have given a specimen, is contained in them.

The following hymns, translated by Csoma de Korös, will give a good idea
of the Buddhistic ritual.[107]

_Priest._ “There has arisen the Illuminator of the world! the world’s
Protector! the Maker of light! who gives eyes to the world, that is
blind,—to cast away the burden of sin.”

_Congregation._ “Thou hast been victorious in the fight: thy aim is
accomplished by thy moral excellence: thy virtues are perfect: Thou shalt
satisfy men with good things.”

_P._ “Gotama (Sakhya) is without sin: He is out of the miry pit. He
stands on dry ground.”

_C._ “Yes, He is out of the mire; and he will save other animate beings,
that are carried off by the mighty stream.”

_P._ “The living world has long suffered the disease of corruption. The
Prince of physicians is come to cure men from all diseases.”

_C._ “Protector of the world! by thy appearance all the mansions of
distress shall be made empty. Henceforth, angels and men shall enjoy
happiness,” &c. &c.

_P._ “To Thee, whose virtue is immaculate, whose understanding is pure
and brilliant, who hast the thirty-two characteristic signs complete, and
who hast memory of all things, with discernments and foreknowledge.”

_C._ “Reverence be to Thee: we adore Thee; bending our heads to our feet.”

_P._ “To Thee, who art clean and pure from all taint of sin; who art
immaculate, and celebrated in the three worlds; who being possessed of
the three kinds of science, givest to animated beings the eye to discern
the three degrees of emancipation from sin.”

_C._ “Reverence be to Thee!”

_P._ “To Thee, who with tranquil mind clearest the troubles of evil
times: who, with loving kindness, teachest all living things to walk in
the path designed for them.”

_C._ “Reverence be to Thee!”

_P._ “Muni! (Sage!) whose heart is at rest, and who delightest to explain
the doubts and perplexities of men: who hast suffered much for the good
of living beings: Thy intention is pure! Thy practices are perfect!”

_C._ “Reverence be to Thee!”

_P._ “Teacher of the four truths; rejoice in salvation! who, being
thyself free from sin, desirest to free the world from sin.”

_C._ “Reverence be to Thee!”

Such is the strain in which the believers in Gaudama address their
Saviour; and its similarity to the Roman Catholic services, noticed by so
many writers, is extreme. Prinsep well assigns the origin of the legend
of Prester John to the accounts which the early missionaries heard of the
Dalai Lama of Tibet.[108]

The reformation which led to the establishment of Buddhism in the place
of the ancient Hindū creed, was important in many respects, but in none
so much as in the grand principle which it instilled into the minds of
its votaries; the unity and indivisibility of the object of adoration,
substituted for the gross polytheism of Hindūstan. But it has this fault,
if it be a fault, that no clear conception of the object of adoration is
presented in the place of the numerous divinities the creed displaces.
Gaudama, like Confucius in China, is to be venerated, and not adored. The
perfect Buddha whence Gaudama and his predecessors proceeded can alone be
confided in. Even this, however, admits of some palliation. The vulgar,
perhaps, could not understand, and certainly not appreciate, the mystery
which the ministers of religion cherish and preserve. Consequently a
scale has been instituted, like that in Tibet, for the capacity of the
several classes of believers.

The general principles of the practical creed have been thus summed up by
Csoma de Korös:[109]—

1. To take refuge only with Buddha. 2. To be steadfast in the
determination of aiming at the highest pitch of excellence, in order thus
to arrive at the proper state of Nieban. 3. To be obedient and reverent
toward Buddha. 4. To make pleasing offerings. 5. To glorify and exalt
Buddha by music and singing, and constant praise. 6. To confess sin truly
and humbly, with a fixed resolution to repent. 7. To wish well toward
all. 8. To encourage the ministers of the faith in their mission.

Teong-kha-pa, an eminent Buddhist reformer of the fourteenth century,
defined the duty of the different classes of Buddhists in the following
manner.[110]

“Men of the lowest order of mind must believe that there is a God; and
that there is a future life, in which they will receive the reward or
punishment of their actions and conduct in this life.

“Men of the middle degree of mental capacity must add to the above, the
knowledge that all things in this world are perishable; that imperfection
is a pain and degradation; and that deliverance from existence is a
deliverance from pain, and, consequently, a final beatitude.

“Men of the third, or highest order, must believe in further addition:
that nothing exists, or will continue always, or cease absolutely, except
through dependence on a causal connection, or concatenation. So will they
arrive at the true knowledge of God.”

“What is this,” exclaims Prinsep, enthusiastically, “but Christianity,
wanting only the name of Christ as its preacher, and the Mosaic faith for
its antecedent? It is these that the missionary must seek to add.”

The foundation of Buddhism is certainty rotten, and yet we cannot deny
that in its recognised principles, the religion is far from being
so debasing as many others. Prejudice, that great foe to toleration
and peace, has prevented the perception of this fact. Of course, the
lamentable truth of the generally lax administration of every faith, is
no less false with regard to Buddhism; and by the carelessness of its
ministers, and indifference of the laymen, it is in as bad odour as any
other faith. Thus much for Buddhism in general; now I shall proceed to
give a short account of Burman Buddhism.

Gaudama[111] declares himself God and Lord for 5,000 years, during which
time his ordinances must be kept. Gaudama declares himself the only true
God, and states that there were many false gods of all descriptions. The
doctrines of the false gods are called the laws of the six Deittì. Upon
the appearance of Gaudama some renounced their errors, and others were
conquered. The laws and ordinances of the Burmans are precisely similar
to those which I mentioned in another place,[112] and therefore need not
be repeated here. The observer of these commandments will finally become
a great Nat or spirit. Besides the observation of these laws, there is
merit in the deeds called Danà, and Bavanà. The first is charity to the
priests, the second, the meditation of the three words Aneizz’a, Doechà,
Anattà. The transgressors of the laws will be condemned to Niria, or
one of the other places of punishment. In the course of 2,000 years the
ordinances of Gaudama, 3,000 years having already elapsed, will no longer
be binding, but another god will appear to give laws to the world.

The images of Buddha or Gaudama are generally represented with a pleasant
countenance; and, on the whole, his religion cannot be considered a
severe one. “It unites,” as Dr. Buchanan Hamilton has remarked,[113] “the
temporal promises of the Jewish, with the future rewards of the Christian
dispensation; all its states of beatitude are represented in the glowing
and attractive colouring of the Mohammedan paradise; and its various
gradations of future punishment have the plausibility of purgatory; but
its priests are not like those of the Roman Church, intrusted with the
dangerous power of curtailing their duration.”[114]

At Pegu, the deserted capital of the kingdom of that name, there is
a celebrated temple, which Symes has well described in the Asiatic
Researches, in an elaborate article on the city of Pegu, and it will not
be inappropriate to transfer the account to my own pages:[115]—

“The object in Pegu that most attracts and most merits notice is the
temple of Shoe-ma-doo, or the _Golden Supreme_. This extraordinary
edifice is built on a double terrace, one raised above another; the
lower and greater terrace is above ten feet above the natural level of
the ground; it is quadrangular. The upper and lesser terrace is of a
like shape, raised about twenty feet above the lower terrace, or thirty
above the level of the country. I judged a side of the lower terrace to
be 1,391 feet, of the upper, 684; the walls that sustained the sides of
the terraces, both upper and lower, are in a state of ruin; they were
formerly covered with plaster, wrought into various figures; the area of
the lower is strewed with the fragments of small decayed buildings, but
the upper is kept free from filth, and in tolerably good order.... These
terraces are ascended by flights of stone steps, broken and neglected;
on each side are dwellings of the Rahaans or priests, raised on timbers
four or five feet from the ground; their houses consist only of a single
hall—the wooden pillars that support them are turned with neatness, the
roof is of tile, and the sides of sheathing-boards: there are a number of
bare benches in every house, on which the Rahaans sleep—we saw no other
furniture.

“Shoemadoo is a pyramid, composed of brick, and plastered with fine
shell-mortar, without excavation or aperture of any sort, octagonal at
the base and spiral at top—each side of the base measures 162 feet; this
immense breadth diminishes abruptly, and a similar building has not
inaptly been compared to a large speaking-trumpet.

“Six feet from the ground there is a wide ledge, which surrounds the
base of the building, on the plane of which are fifty-seven small spires
of equal size and equidistant; one of them measured twenty-seven feet
in height, and forty in circumference at the bottom; on a higher ledge
there is another row, consisting of fifty-three spires, of similar shape
and measurement. A great variety of mouldings encircle the building, and
ornaments, somewhat resembling the fleur-de-lys, surround what may be
called the base of the spire; circular mouldings likewise gird this part
to a considerable height, above which there are ornaments in stucco,
not unlike the leaves of a Corinthian capital, and the whole is crowned
by a _tee_, or umbrella of open iron-work, from which rises an iron rod
with a gilded pennant. The _tee_, or umbrella, is to be seen on every
sacred building in repair, that is of a spiral form. The raising and
consecration of this last and indispensable appendage is an act of high
religious solemnity, and a season of festivity and relaxation.... The
circumference of the _tee_ is fifty-six feet; it rests on an iron axis
fixed in the building, and is further secured by large chains strongly
riveted to the spire. Round the lower rim of the umbrella are appended a
number of bells, of different sizes, which, agitated by the wind, make a
continual jingling. The _tee_ is gilt, and it is said to be the intention
of the king to gild the whole of the spire; all the lesser pagodas
are ornamented with proportionable umbrellas, of similar workmanship,
which are likewise encircled by small bells. The extreme height of
the building from the level of the country is 361 feet, and above the
interior terrace 331 feet.”

I have been thus particular in quoting this curious account, as I wish to
impress upon my readers the necessity of comparing this place of worship
with those described by myself in another place.[116]

Crawfurd, the intelligent ambassador, who unfortunately looked with too
sinister an eye upon the institutions of the Burmese, has given us an
interesting description of the appurtenances of a temple, together with
a few remarks upon their endowment, of which I present the reader with a
condensed abstract, epitomizing but little:—

“Close to our dwelling,” says the judicious observer,[117] “there was the
neatest temple which I had yet seen in the country. It was quite unique,
being entirely built of hewn sandstone. The workmanship was neat, but
the polished stone was most absurdly disfigured by being daubed over
with whitewash. The temple itself is a solid structure, at the base
of a square form, each face measuring about eighty-eight feet. It is
surrounded by a court, paved with large sandstone flags, and inclosed by
a brick wall. At each corner of the area there is a large and handsome
bell with an inscription. To the eastern face of the temple there are two
open wooden sheds, each supported by thirty-eight pillars. These were
among the richest things of the kind that I had seen in the country. The
pillars, the carved work, the ceiling, the eaves, and a great part of the
outer roof, were one blaze of gilding. In one of them only there was a
good marble image of Gautama. Buildings of this description are called by
the Burmans, Za-yat, or, in more correct orthography,[118] Ja-rat.... On
the west side of the temple there is a long, rudely-constructed wooden
shed, where are deposited the offerings made by the king and his family
to the temple. These consist of two objects only, state palanquins and
figures of elephants.... The palanquins now alluded to are litters of
immense size and weight, with two poles, and each requiring forty men
to bear them. They are all richly gilt and carved, with a high wooden
canopy over them. In each of those in the temple there was placed one or
more large figures of Gautama or his disciples. The figures of elephants
are about a foot and a half high, standing upon wooden pedestals.... Why
the gifts to this temple in particular consist of elephants, I was not
able to learn.... On the river face of this temple there are two large
houses of brick and mortar, of one story, with flat stone roofs, called
Taik, by the Burmans, and purporting to be in imitation of European
dwellings. These are also considered Za-yats, or caravanseras. They are
comfortless places as can be, the interior being so occupied with stone
pillars that there is hardly room to move about.... The guardian Nat of
the temple now described, is Tha-kya-men, or, more correctly, Sa-kya-men,
or the lord Sakya. He is, according to the Burmans, the second in power
of the two kings of the Nats. Of this personage there is, in a small
temple, a standing figure, in white marble, not however of a very good
description, measuring not less than nine feet eleven inches high. The
statue seems to be of one entire block.”

This temple is named Aong-mre-lo-ka, a title signifying the “place of
victory.”—It was built by King Men-ta-ra-gyi, in the year 1144 of the
Burman era, or A.D. 1782, in the second year of his reign. He was the
fourth son of the energetic Alompra, the founder of the dynasty which
still occupies the throne. Alompra was succeeded by his first and second
brother, and by his nephew, Senku-sa, son of the latter. His uncle,
however, conspired against him, raised the son of the elder brother,
Maong-maong, to the regal dignity, who had been excluded from the throne,
partly by reason of the law of succession, and partly by the ambition
of his uncle. In a few days, however, he, after drowning Senku-sa,
and probably disposing in a like manner of Maong-maong, assumed the
government, and, in thanks to heaven for the success of his ambitious
schemes, he built this temple on the spot whence he had commenced his
successful agitation.[119]

I shall have occasion hereafter to return to the subject of the Burmese
temples, in connection with the Golden Dagon temple at Rangoon; I shall,
therefore, say no more of them in this place. Two curious monuments,
however, deserve mentioning, as they have evidently some connection
with the ancient religion of Burmah. I shall again use the words of an
eye-witness:[120]—

“On the summit of a steep tongue of land I found a large circular
opening, about fifty feet deep, caused by the earth having given way;
there being no apparent reason for this, unless an excavation existed,
I immediately descended into the valley, in hopes of finding an opening
at the side of the hill. After a short search, I discovered three small
brick arches, about four feet high, leading into the hill; having crept
into one of these, I perceived, by a ray of light issuing from the
aperture above, that there were several more passages branching off from
the spot where I remained; and I therefore determined on returning at
some future period with a lantern, to examine the cavern. On subsequently
renewing my search, I found that after creeping along the passage from
the arch for about five yards, the communication entered a small chamber,
sufficiently high to enable me to stand erect, whence four other passages
led off in different directions; and it was from one of these having
given way that the chasm had been formed in the hill. As the quantity of
earth requisite to fill up the passage could not have caused such a large
hollow above, it may be concluded that a room of considerable dimensions
must have existed there. Notwithstanding the annoyance I experienced from
many bats, which were constantly flying about my face and lantern, and
from the heat, which was very oppressive, I proceeded on my hands and
knees down the other passages; but, after going a very short distance,
was obliged to return, the earth having fallen and filled up the
gallery so very much, that it did not seem prudent to proceed further,
particularly as, from the closeness of the air, I might have been rather
unpleasantly situated.”

This same officer saw another such structure on the plain of Pagahm,
among the ruins; but finding that it was used as a robber’s cavern, he
did not explore it. From what he could see, it was larger, and in better
repair.

The priests of Burmah[121] are named Pongyees, meaning “great example,”
or “great glory.” The Pali name, “Rahan,” or “holy man,” once so much in
use among them, is now almost obsolete. The office is not hereditary, for
the Burmans are unshackled by castes; and, indeed, a priest may become a
layman again, though after re-entering society he may not again assume
the sacerdotal position. Thus the convents of Burmah serve as a place
where an education superior to that usually obtained in the schools may
be received, and the young man, not being bound by any vow, may return
to the active scenes of life, and take military or political rank. If
the youth find the peaceful pursuits of the convent more to his taste,
he can remain, and become a priest. The system of the priesthood is not
badly managed. The Burmans have no church-rates, and pluralism, not being
worth anything, is, of course, unknown. The priests have no political
influence, and are only consulted on ecclesiastical and literary matters;
they live on the charity of their parishioners, and, on the whole, they
do not appear to be badly off.

The ritual, for which I must refer the reader to my frequently quoted
authority Sangermano,[122] is very strict in regard to priests; that,
however, is of no consequence, for in the foul and corrupted Burmese
empire all these institutions have fallen into disrepute. The priests
live as those of the convents of the middle ages did; and the similarity
between the Roman Catholic and Buddhist ceremonies, so amply proved by
MM. Huc and Gabet,[123] extends equally to the men.

Their dress is of a yellow colour, and is formed by two cloths, which are
so wrapped around them as to completely envelop them from the shoulders
to the heels. Their heads are shaved, and to shade the bare poll from the
burning sun, they carry a talipot or palmyra-leaf in their hands. In M.
Dubois de Jancigny’s Indo-Chine, and in Malcom, there are plates of the
dress, which convey a very tolerable idea of the look of a priest out
walking.

The priesthood of Burmah is divided into regular grades, like those
of Europe. I shall quote the summary of Malcom in preference to any
other.[124] “The highest functionary is the ‘_Tha-thena-byng_’, or
archbishop. He resides at Ava, has jurisdiction over all the priests,
and appoints the president of every monastery. He stands high at
court, and is considered one of the great men of the kingdom. Next to
him are the _Ponghees_, strictly so called, one of whom presides in
each monastery. Next are the _Oo-pe-zíns_, comprising those who have
passed the noviciate, sustained a regular examination, and chosen the
priesthood for life. Of this class are the teachers or professors in the
monasteries. One of them is generally vice-president, and is most likely
to succeed to the headship on the demise of the _Pongyee_. Both these
orders are sometimes called _Rahans_, or _Yahans_. They are considered to
understand religion so well as to think for themselves, and expound the
law out of their own hearts, without being obliged to follow what they
have read in books. Next are the _Ko-yen-ga-láy_, who have retired from
the world, and wear the yellow cloth, but are not all seeking to pass the
examination, and become _Oo-pe-zíns_. They have entered for an education,
or a livelihood, or to gain a divorce, or for various objects; and many
of such return annually to secular life. Many of this class remain for
life without rising a grade. Those who remain five years honourably are
called _Tay_, _i.e._ simply, _priests_; and those who remain twenty, are
_Maha Tay_, _great_ or _aged priests_. They might have become Ponghees at
any stage of this period if their talents and acquirements had amounted
to the required standard. By courtesy, all who wear the yellow cloth are
called Ponghees.”

In some parts of Burmah there are also nunneries, though the Bedagat
neither authorizes nor requires them; indeed, manifestoes have been
issued by several of the kings of Ava to prevent women under a certain
age from entering these institutions.[125] On the subject of the khyoums,
however, I cannot do better than refer to the works of MM. Huc and Gabet,
Mr. Prinsep, and others.

The most interesting and most characteristic ceremony of these Burmese
is the funeral of a priest, as it contains a mixture of solemnity and
absurdity rarely to be met with anywhere. I shall proceed, therefore, to
describe it.

When a Burman priest dies, his body is embalmed. The process of embalming
is conducted in the following manner. The body is opened, the intestines
taken out, and the spaces filled with various descriptions of spices, the
orifice being closed up again, and sewed together. After this the whole
body is covered by a layer of wax, to prevent the air from injuring it;
over the wax is placed a layer of lac, together with some bituminous
compound, and the whole is covered with leaf gold. The ceremony somewhat
reminds one of the description given by Herodotus of ancient Egyptian
embalming.[126] The arms are laid across the breast of the body. The
preparation of the body takes place at the house.[127]

About a year afterward the body is removed to a house built expressly for
such purposes, where it is kept until the other priests order it to be
burnt. In this house the body is disposed upon a raised stage of bamboo
and wood, and the house itself is ornamented with paper and leaf gold.
By the stage, the coffin, overlaid with gold and painted with figures
of death in various ways, was placed. In the courtyard of the house two
four-wheel carriages await the time fixed for the burning, one being
intended for the coffin, the other for the stage, with its apparatus. The
carriage on which the corpse is placed has another stage built upon it,
similar to the one in the house, with the difference of its being larger,
and fixed upon an elephant in a kneeling posture.

The people of the place have to prepare rockets and other fireworks, as
well as images of animals to which the rockets are fixed. The images are
then drawn through the streets and round the town; all the citizens,
when the ceremonies are strictly observed, being compelled to assist.
The procession opens with some flags; then a number of dancing girls and
boys follow; after this the carriages with the figures, drawn by boys and
bullocks; and on the occasion which Mr. Carey describes, there followed,
by the express command of the governor, a quantity of young women
“dancing and singing, with an older woman between each row to keep them
in order.” Then came the principal persons of the place under umbrellas,
a sign of rank, as in ancient Nineveh, and all modern Asiatic countries.
Lastly, the procession was closed by men, dancing and singing in like
manner.

The images on the carriages are usually very large, much larger than
life, and represented buffaloes, elephants, horses, and men. Each street
attends its own carriage in the procession.

The following day the townspeople are divided into two parties, and
strange indeed must be the sight of the multitude. The carriage
containing the corpse has four large cables attached to it, and the
two parties of the townspeople pull against one another, and strive to
draw away the carriage and its contents. This contest is continued till
superior strength puts an end to it, or till the cable breaks, and the
losing party tumble head over heels.

The third day is spent in discharging the rockets. The figures were
fixed on carriages, and the rocks were fastened to strong ropes by
rattan loops, in such a manner that being passed between the legs of the
animals, “so that when discharged, they, sliding on the ropes, ran along
the ground.” In the evening there is another grand display of fireworks.

The next day the corpse is burnt in a temporary house by small rockets,
which, sliding down on to the coffins along ropes in rings of rattan, set
the coffin on fire. Sometimes, as we are informed by Crawfurd,[128] the
body is blown from a cannon to convey it more quickly to heaven!

What can be said of such puerility and solemnity joined together? How
melancholy is the aspect of such things, and what can we think of the
moral or religious condition of a nation who made such seeming fun
(for under what other term can a large portion of the ceremony be
comprehended?) of the solemnest moment of existence, and that, too, in
the burial of a minister of that God to whom, in humility and reverence,
they lifted up their hearts in prayer. Very often, however, the most
solemn and the most trivial are mingled in very remarkable proportions.
We have one example of that, at least, in religion, nearer home.

The Buddhist religion is remarkable in many points, but decidedly the
most curious circumstance connected with it, is the vast numbers of
believers which own its influence. That the religion is ancient, perhaps
more ancient than any other form of eastern worship, except Brahmanism,
can scarcely be doubted; but that it extended so far over the earth as
some would have us believe, is scarcely credible. Reuben Burrow, a long
time ago, called Stonehenge a Buddhist temple; and since then the notion
has been revived by Higgins in his Celtic Druids, as well as in another
work.[129]

Mr. Pococke, too, the author of India in Greece, would persuade us that
the early Greeks were Buddhists, and that Pythagoras, correctly written
(according to him) Buddha-gooroos (Buddha’s spiritual teacher), was a
Buddhist missionary!

However, let the religion be ancient or modern, in principle it is
one of the best that man ever made for man. Mr. Malcom, from whom
as a missionary one would of course expect rabid intolerance, bears
testimony to this:—“There is scarcely a principle, or precept, in the
Bedagat, which is not found in the Bible. Did the people but act up
to its principles of peace and love, oppression and injury would be
known no more within their borders. Its deeds of merit are in all cases
either really beneficial to mankind, or harmless. It has no mythology of
obscene and ferocious deities; no sanguinary or impure observances; no
self-inflicted tortures; no tyrannizing priesthood; no confounding of
right and wrong, by making certain iniquities laudable in worship. In its
moral code, its descriptions of the purity and peace of the first ages,
of the shortening of man’s life because of its sins, &c., it seems to
have followed genuine traditions. In almost every respect it seems to be
the best religion which man has ever invented.”[130]

It is true there is another side to the picture; but why should we turn
the face to the wall, and expose the tattered back? Let us leave it as
it is, but let us recollect that the ill side is there, and make the
recollection atone for many faults in the character of the worshippers of
Buddha.



CHAPTER IV.

    Language—Literature—Manuscripts—The
    Aporazabon—Superstitions—Divination—The
    Deitton—Astronomy—Division of time.


Of a literature and language so little known as that of Burmah, a notice,
of course, can but be brief. The few particulars with which we are
acquainted, I will, however, offer to the reader.

The sacred books are in a language usually called Pali, which
denomination, Mr. Wilson contends, should only be applied to the
character. He proposes that the name of the language should be Magadeh or
Puncrit, corresponding to the terms Magari and Sanscrit. He informs us,
also, that the language differs from Sanscrit in enunciation only, being
softer, and liquifying all the harsh sounds.[131] With this language we
have but little to do, as it is only the language of the priests, and not
that of the whole population. A grammar of the Pali has been published at
Colombo, with a vocabulary attached.[132]

The Burman language is very different from the other Oriental languages.
The character is very simple, and easily written. The vowels are eleven,
and the consonants thirty-three, but the combinations are excessively
numerous. All pure Burman words are monosyllabic, so pointing to a
similar fountain-head as the Chinese; in process of time, however,
polysyllables, derived from the Pali, have crept in, and given a somewhat
different complexion to the language. Like some other languages, the
number, person, mood, and tense, are formed by suffixes, a system of
grammar much simpler than the difficult inflected languages. But the
great difficulty is in the number of verbs, signifying the same thing
with a very slight difference. Malcom well instances the verb _to wash_:
“One is used for washing the face, another for washing the hands,
another for washing linen in mere water, another for washing it with
soap, another for washing dishes, &c.”[133] The national Mavor is the
“Them-bong-gyee,” a very ancient and complete work. The books published
by Europeans on the subject are, a Dictionary of the Burman Language,
with explanations in English; compiled from the MSS. of A. Judson, &c.
8vo. Calcutta, 1826. Carey’s Burman Grammar; Serampore, 1815. Laner’s
Burmese Dictionary; Calcutta, 1841. Latter’s Burman Grammar.

“The rudiments of education,” observes Malcom,[134] “are widely diffused;
and most men, even common labourers, learn to write and read a little.
But few go beyond these attainments.” What a different picture does
this present to the assertions of Lieutenant-Colonel Symes, who exalts
the Burmans to such a pitch of mental cultivation. This is, however,
in no slight degree owing to the character of their literature, which,
however interesting to the observer of the rise of human civilisation,
has nothing in it of permanent value to the people, as the account which
I shall give of the Museum collection will amply show. I do not mean to
say that they have not treatises on many subjects of science, and many
interesting histories; but their books, for the most part, consist of
ballads, legends of Gaudama, astrology, and cosmography; an idea of the
value of which has already been given.

The MSS. in the British Museum of which I shall first give an account,
form the Tytler Collection, as it may be called, running from No. 10,548
to No. 10,572 of the Additional MSS., and was presented to the library
by John Tytler, Esq., on the 9th July, 1836. Unfortunately, the Museum
authorities are not acquainted with the contents of them; for which
reasons the reader must be contented with the meagre account I can offer.
The MSS., of which we have a magnificent collection in the British
Museum, are written upon palm-leaves of fifteen to eighteen inches in
length. The writing upon them looks more like a series of scratches with
a fine-pointed instrument than anything else. They are written upon both
sides, and two spaces are left, in order to admit of strings being passed
through the volume to keep the leaves together. These strings fasten
with wooden tags. Occasionally a large space is left unwritten upon, and
a third of the leaf is only used. The book, when closed and fastened with
tags, presents a singular appearance. It is outwardly divided into three
divisions, of which the two outside are gilt, and the middle painted
with a glistening, flary red. A pattern runs along the edge of the red
portion. No. 10,548 contains, as nearly as I can judge, three hundred and
twelve such leaves, forming a volume of about ten inches in thickness.
The Museum carefully preserve these MSS. in a cardboard case, which
prevents their being spoiled by dust and dirt. No. 10,550, a very thin
MS., consisting of but eleven leaves, appears to contain astrological
calculations. It is not nearly in such good preservation as the large one.

The instrument used in writing upon these MSS. is sometimes (as one of
those in the British Museum, presented by John Barlow Hay, Esq., in 1839)
of brass, and is eighteen inches in length; it has a decorated top, and a
very sharp point. The ink-pot used would appear to be somewhat deep, as
the _stylus_ is covered with ink for two or three inches.

In one of the cases there are several gorgeous MSS., one written on five
palm-leaves of about the usual length, in the Burmese character (which
differs somewhat from the Pali). It is written on a gold ground, and
is adorned(?) with figures of Gaudama. The covers are of wood, and are
ornamented. This MS. contains the first book of the Kammavâcâ.

The second is on a silver ground, in the Burmese character, on
palm-leaves, and was presented in 1771 by Mrs. Mead. There is another
MS., in the same case, of the Kammavâcâ, the first and the fourth books.
It is profusely gilded. The character is the square Pali. The Kammavâcâ
is one of the most esteemed rituals of the Buddhist priesthood.

The other manuscripts are not so fine as those I have mentioned, and
present similar characteristics to the inferior sort that I have
described above. It is much to be regretted that we have scarcely an
Orientalist in England who can unfold to us the meaning of these MSS.
Never, in any institution, was a richer bait held out to the scholar
than at the Museum at the present time, and yet there are but one or two
gentlemen capable of instructing us upon this interesting and important
point. The Museum authorities themselves regret, with the rest of
scholardom, that so large a portion of their Oriental collection is still
a dead letter to them. If the present war be productive of no better
result, let us hope that it will cause some one able to translate and
comment on these MSS. to turn his attention to this subject, and give his
researches to an expectant world.[135]

It may not be uninteresting to append a portion of a list, kindly placed
at my disposal by Sir Frederick Madden, of some of the ascertained
Burmese Buddhistic MSS., among the Additional MSS. in the British Museum.
No. 18,753: A Burmese MS. containing the Sut Sîlakkham, a part of the
second division, or Sutrapituka, of the Buddhistic Scriptures, translated
from the Pali. No. 15,240. Burmese translation of a portion of the
Kammavâcâ, or Kammavâchâ. This was presented by the earl of Enniskillen
on the 10th July, 1844, and is written in dark brown letters, on an ivory
plate about fifteen inches in length. No. 17,945: The Tîkâ Kavisâra
Nissaza, a Burmese translation of a Pali commentary on a Buddhistic work
called Kavi-Sara, or the Essence of the Poets. No. 17,700: Part of a
Burmese translation of a Buddhistic legend. This MS. is bound in wood,
profusely gilt. No. 17,699: A religious treatise in Burmese, on the
different sorts of punishment in this life.

“The original,” observes Buchanan,[136] “of most of the Burma books on
law and religion is in the Pali, or Pale language, which, undoubtedly,
is radically the same with the Sanscrit. I was assured at Amarapura that
the Pali of Siam and Pegu differed considerably from that of the Burmas;
and an intelligent native of Tavay, who had been at Cingala, or Candy,
the present capital of Ceylon, and at the ruins of Anuradapura, the
former capital, assured me that the Pali of that island was considerably
different from that of Ava.

“In many inscriptions, and in books of ceremony, such as the Kammua, the
Pali language is written in a square character, somewhat resembling the
Bengal Sanscrit, and called Magata. Of this a specimen may be seen in the
description of the Borgian Museum by Paulinus.[137] But in general it
is written in a round character, nearly resembling the Burmah letters.
Of this kind is the specimen given by the accurate M. De la Loubère,
and which some persons have rashly conceived to be the Burmah. There is
no doubt, however, that all the different characters of India, both on
the west and on the east of the Ganges, have been derived from a common
source; and the Burmah writing on the whole appears to be the most
distinct and beautiful.

“In their more elegant books the Burmas write on sheets of ivory, or
on very fine white palmira leaves. The ivory is stained black, and the
margins are ornamented with gilding, while the characters are enamelled
or gilded. On the palmira leaves the characters are in general of black
enamel, and the ends of the leaves and margins are painted with flowers
in various bright colours. In their more common books, the Burmas, with
an iron style, engrave their writings on palmira leaves. A hole through
both ends of each leaf, serves to connect the whole into a volume by
means of two strings, which also pass through the two wooden boards that
serve for binding. In the finer binding of these kind of books the boards
are lacquered, the edges of the leaves cut smooth and gilded, and the
title is written on the upper board; the two cords are, by a knot or
jewel, secured at a little distance from the boards, so as to prevent the
book from falling to pieces, but sufficiently distant to admit of the
upper leaves being turned back, while the lower ones are read. The more
elegant books are in general wrapped up in silk cloth, and bound round
by a garter, in which the Burmas have the art to weave the title of the
book.”

Like the ancients, almost every Burman “carries with him a
_parawaik_,[138] in which he keeps his accounts, copies songs till he can
repeat them from memory, and takes memorandums of anything curious. It is
on these _parawaiks_ that the zares or writers, in all courts and public
offices, take down the proceedings and orders of the superior officers,
from thence copying such parts as are necessary into books of a more
durable and elegant nature. The _parawaik_ is made of one sheet of thick
and strong paper blackened over. A good one may be about eight feet long
and eighteen inches wide. It is folded up somewhat like a fan, each fold
or page being about six inches, and in length the whole breadth of the
sheets. Thence, wherever the book is opened, whichever side is uppermost,
no part of it can be rubbed but the two outer pages, and it only occupies
a table one foot in width by eighteen inches long. The Burmas write on
the _parawaik_ with a pencil of steatites.... When that which has been
written on a _parawaik_ becomes no longer useful, the pages are rubbed
over with charcoal and the leaves of a species of dolichos; they are then
clean as if new, and equally fit for the pencil.”[139]

It will not be amiss to pursue the usual plan that I have proposed to
myself, and in every practicable case to illustrate the literature of a
nation by extracts from some one of its approved works. Fortunately, the
missionary Sangermano has supplied me with the means of doing so, which
would otherwise have failed. I cannot do better, therefore, than quote
from that writer his account and extracts from one of their volumes. It
will, I suppose, furnish as fair a specimen of their literature as any
which can be offered.

“Among these books,” says Sangermano, “the one called Aporazabon deserves
to be placed the first; it is a species of romance, in which the
principal character is Aporazà, an old minister, to whom the emperor,
and several mandarins, put a number of questions on the science of
government. To give my readers some idea of this work, I will here
translate some extracts.[140]

“One day the emperor asked Aporazà what he meant to do to render his
kingdom flourishing and populous; the old minister replied, that,
in the first place, he must have the success of all his subjects in
their affairs at heart, as much as if they were his own. 2. He should
diminish the taxes and ciochi. 3. In putting on imposts he should have
regard to the means of his subjects. 4. He must be liberal. 5. He must
frequently inquire into the affairs of his kingdom, and make himself
fully acquainted with them. 6. He must love and esteem his good and
faithful servants. 7. Finally, he should show courtesy and affability,
both in his manners and words, to all persons. He ought, moreover, to
take measures that the population of his kingdom is augmented, and that
his government acquire honour and respect among foreign nations; he
should not molest the rich, but, on the contrary, should encourage their
industry and promote their interests; he should show a proper regard to
his generals and ministers, who govern in the name of the emperor, for it
is not seemly that they should be publicly disregarded and ill-treated;
he should not despise prudent and careful men; and, finally, he should be
just and moderate in exacting tributes, and should always proportion them
to the products of agriculture and commerce. As a confirmation of this
precept, he refers to the fruits of the earth, when eaten before they are
ripe. ‘You see,’ he says, ‘that the fruits which are gathered ripe from
the tree, are well-flavoured and pleasant to the taste; but when they are
plucked before they have ripened, they are insipid, and sour, and bitter.
Rice that is taken at its proper season is excellent food, but if it is
collected before its time, it is devoid of substance and nutriment.’ He
then advises the emperor not to shut up his kingdom; that is to say, that
he ought to allow all foreign merchants a free entrance, to encourage
their commerce, and make it flourish.... Another time, when two petty
kings had declared war against each other, they both had recourse to the
Burmese monarch for assistance. According to his custom, the emperor sent
for Aporazà, who spoke thus on the occasion:—‘It once happened that two
cocks of equal strength began fighting in the presence of a countryman;
after continuing their combat for some time, they were so overcome by
their exertions, that they were unable to do anything more, when the
countryman sprang upon them, and made himself master of them both. Thus
ought you, O king! to do at present. Let these two princes fight with
each other till you see that their resources are exhausted, and then,
pouncing upon them, seize upon their territories for yourself.’

“A man of mean extraction was raised by the efforts of an old mandarin
to the throne. But the mandarin afterwards became overbearing, and even
tried to be in some measure the master of the emperor. The latter bore
all this for some time, but at length, growing weary of this insolence,
he determined to rid himself of his importunate minister. Wherefore, one
day that he was surrounded by a number of his mandarins, among whom was
the one who had raised him to the throne, he directed his discourse to
him, and asked him what they do with the zen, which are erected round the
pagodas, after the gilding and painting are finished, for which they were
raised; for the zen is a scaffolding of bamboo, or thick cane, serving to
support the gilders and painters of the pagodas. ‘They are taken down and
carried away,’ replied the old mandarin, ‘that they may not obstruct the
view of the pagoda, or spoil its beauty.’

“‘Just so,’ replied the monarch, ‘I have made use of you to ascend the
throne, as the gilders and painters make use of the zen; but now that I
am firmly seated in it, and am obeyed as emperor by all, and respected by
all, you are become useless to me, or rather your presence only disturbs
my peace.’ He then drove him from his palace, and sent him in banishment
to a village. One day, while this mandarin was yet in banishment, a
dreadful tempest arose; in the course of which, looking out into the
country, he observed that the great trees, which resisted the force
of the wind, were not bent, but broken or torn up by its fury; while
the grass and the canes, yielding before the blast, returned to their
original position the moment it was gone by. ‘Oh,’ said the mandarin,
within himself, ‘if I had followed the example of these canes and this
grass, I should not now be in so miserable a condition.’”

Among a semi-civilised people (and look on them as we may, the Burmans
are no more), superstition ever has a powerful, almost unassailable
hold upon the public mind. The vague dread of future existence, the
indefinable curiosity which tempts man to search, by his own endeavours,
for the ultimate end of all his strivings on earth, is to be found more
closely allied to a feeling of scientific appreciation among such a
people than anywhere else. The imperfect comprehension of what is passing
around, leads the untutored mind ever to trench on the supernatural
world, of the existence of which he has an innate perception. But having
no clear knowledge, unable perhaps to express his forebodings in a
distinct and comprehensible manner, he runs to the priest, or the learned
man, and, expecting a knowledge of futurity to be part of his learning,
asks what the fate may be to which he is destined. The wise man, anxious
to keep up a reputation for superior knowledge, invents something
from the circumstances in which he knows the person to be placed.
Subsequently he systematizes and arranges these notions, connecting them
with the stars, those high and wonderful lights that unceasingly pass on
in an ever-determined cycle above our heads. Such would seem to have been
the origin of astrology.

Divination is universally credited by the Burmese, and Dr. Buchanan’s
picture, so melancholy as showing to what extent priestcraft obtained
among them in his time (and it is probably not much decreased in their
estimation now), is too interesting to be omitted in this place:—

“No person will commence the building of a house, a journey, or the most
trifling undertaking, without consulting some man of skill to find a
fortunate day or hour. Friday is a most unlucky day, on which no business
must be commenced. I saw several men of some rank, who had got from the
king small boxes of _theriac_, or something like it, and which they
pretended would render them invulnerable. I was often asked for medicines
that would render the body impenetrable to a sword or musket-ball, and
on answering that I knew of none such, my medical skill was held in very
low estimation. Indeed, every Burman doctor has at the end of his book
some charms, and what are called magical squares of figures, which he
copies, and gives to be worn by his patients. And although these squares
are all of uneven numbers, and consequently of the easiest construction,
yet the ignorant multitude repose great confidence in their virtue. Some
men, whom we saw, had small bits of gold or jewels introduced under the
skin of their arms, in order to render themselves invulnerable; and the
tattooing on the legs and thighs of the Burma men they not only think
ornamental, but a preservative against the bite of snakes.”[141]

Cheiromancy and oneiromancy are in as great estimation as divination or
amulets. With all their skill in astrology, which they practise to a
great extent, they are very ignorant of astronomy, and Dr. Buchanan tells
us, “Although they sometimes attempt to calculate eclipses, yet they
pretend not to ascertain either the hour of their commencement or the
extent of the obscuration.... It would indeed appear, from a treatise of
Mr. Samuel Davis,[142] that the time of the full moon, and the duration
of the eclipse, found by the rules given in the Surya Siddhanta, differ
considerably from the truth; and that, although the rules given in the
Siddhantá Rahasya, and other modern books, make a near approach, yet
they are far from being correct; so that even the Brahmens of Hindustan
are not much further advanced than those of Amarapura, notwithstanding
the improvements they have introduced from time to time, perhaps as they
were able gradually to procure a little better information from their
conquerors, Mohammedans and Christians.”[143]

Sangermano has a few remarks on the subject of the superstitions of
the Burmese, that it would not be inappropriate to transfer to these
pages.[144]

“The Burmese possess a large volume containing a full account of all
their superstitious observances, and of the different omens of good or
evil fortune to be drawn from an immense number of objects,—as from the
wood with which their houses are built, from their boats and carriages,
from the aspects of the sun, moon, and planets, from the howling of dogs,
and the singing of birds, &c., and also from the involuntary movements of
the members of one’s own body. We will here translate some portions of
this book, as specimens of the superstitions which paganism conducts to.

“This book, which is called Deitton, in the treatise on the woods used in
building, distinguishes various kinds. Such beams as are equally large at
the top as at the bottom are called males; those which are thicker at the
bottom than above are females; the neuters are those in which the middle
is thickest; and when the greatest thickness is at the top, they are
called giants; finally, when a piece of wood, on being cut, and falling
to the ground, rebounds from its place, it is called monkey-wood. Whoever
lives in a house made of male wood, will be happy in all places, and at
all times, and in all circumstances; but if the wood of any person’s
house be neuter, continual misery will be his lot; and if it be of the
gigantic species, he will die. By dividing the two pieces of wood which
form the stairs into ten compartments, and observing in which the knots
occur, we may also learn a man’s fortune. If a knot be found in the first
compartment, it is a sign that the master of the house will be honoured
by princes; if in the second, that he will abound in rice, and all kinds
of provisions; but if there be one in the fourth division, then a son,
or a nephew, or a slave, or an ox of the master will die; a knot in the
sixth division is a sign of riches in oxen and buffaloes; but one in the
eighth portends the death of his wife; and finally, one in the tenth,
is an augury of great possessions in gold and silver, and such other
valuables.

“From the wood used in the construction of the houses, the Deitton passes
to the holes in which the poles that support them are fixed; for if
these be square, it is a sign of sickness; and divers other prognostics
are drawn from the manner in which they are dug, and from the different
substances that are met with in making them. Hence various rules are
given for choosing a spot of ground for the foundation of houses.

“The next sources of superstition are the boats and carriages; for from
the knots that are in them, good or bad success is assigned to the
possessors; as also from the different objects they meet with on their
progresses on different days of the week.

“All involuntary movements of the eyes, the head, or the forehead, are
considered as indications of the lot of those in whom they are observed,
as their happiness, or of the honours they will receive, or of a
litigious disposition,” &c.

And again, a little after, our missionary continues:—

“In the time of war, or during a law suit, there is a curious way of
finding out the success to be expected. Three figures are made of cooked
rice, one representing a lion, another an ox, and a third an elephant.
These are exposed to the crows, and the augury is taken according to
which is eaten. If they fall on the figure of the lion, it is a sign
of victory; if they eat that of the ox, things will be made up by
accommodation; but if they eat the elephant, then bad success is to be
looked for.

“When a dog carries any unclean thing to the top of a house, it is
supposed that the master will become rich. If a hen lay her egg upon
cotton, its master will become poor. If a person, who is going to
conclude a law suit, meet on the road another carrying brooms or spades,
the suit will be long, and in the end he will be deceived. If the wind
should carry away any of the leaves of the betel, when, according to
custom, it is being carried to the house of a newly-married woman, it is
a sign that the marriage will be unhappy, and that separation will ensue.

“If in going to war, or to prosecute a law suit, a person meet with a
fish, there will be no war, and the lawsuit will cease; if he see another
catching a gnat, the mandarins will exact many presents, the client will
be deceived, and the law suit a long one; if he meet any one carrying
packages, then everything will succeed to his wishes; if he meet a
serpent, the affair will be long; if a dog, or a female elephant, or a
person playing on the instrument called zaun, a species of cymbal, all
things will go well.”

The good father mentions some more instances of a similar kind, and thus
concludes:[145]—“But we should never finish, were we to extract all the
follies of this book, for they are so numerous, and at the same time so
inconsistent with common comfort, that, as one of our oldest missionaries
has observed, if a man were to be entirely guided by it, he would not
have a house to live in, nor a road to walk on, nor clothes to cover
him, nor even rice for his food; and yet the blind and ignorant Burmese
place the greatest faith in it, and endeavour to regulate their actions
according to its directions.” I have not space to speak of all the
various superstitious weaknesses which rule this people, or I would tell
of the cheiromancy of the Burmans, their amulets and their love-philtres;
for these, however, I must refer the reader to Sangermano.

Burman astronomy is similar in most points to that of the Hindoos; but a
short account of it, after Buchanan[146] and Sangermano,[147] will not be
out of place here.

They recognise eight planets, viz., the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and another named Rahu, which is invisible.
Buchanan tells us that some one discovered in it the Georgium Sidus; but
if its invisibility be taken into consideration, it is much more likely
to be the recently discovered and lost planet Neptune. A description of
it from the treatise of Buchanan, will, however, settle any doubts as to
this star:[148]—

“The form of Rahu is thus described. His stature is 48,000 juzana; the
breadth of his breast 12,000; of his head, 900; of his forehead, his
nostrils, and mouth, 300; the thickness of his fingers, 50 juzana; of his
feet and hands, 200. When this monstrous and foul planet, who, like the
others, is a Nat,[149] is inflamed with envy, at the brightness of the
sun or moon, he descends into their path and devours, or rather takes
them into his mouth; but he is soon obliged to spit them out, for if he
retained them long, they would burst his head by the constant tendency
which they have to pursue their course. At other times he covers them
with his chin, or licks them with his immense tongue. In this manner the
Burmah writings explain eclipses of the sun and moon, both total and
partial, making the duration of the eclipse depend on the time that Rahu
retains the planet in his mouth or under his chin. The Raháns say, that
every three years Rahu attacks the sun, and every half-year the moon.
The eclipses, however, are not always visible to the inhabitants of this
southern island; but although they may be invisible here, they are not so
to the inhabitants of the other islands, according as the sun and moon
may be opposite to them at the time of the eclipse.”

This will serve as a tolerably fair specimen of Burmese abstract
astronomy; and as my limits preclude further remark, it will be well to
go on to their division of time.

“The Burmas,” remarks Dr. Buchanan,[150] “in whatever manner they
may have obtained it, have the knowledge of a solar year, consisting
of 365 days, and commencing on the 18th of April. Like most nations,
they all use a week of seven days, named after the planets. Sunday,
Ta-nayn-ga-nue; Monday, Ta-nayn-la; Tuesday, Ayn-ga; Wednesday,
Boud-dha-hu; Thursday, Kia-sa-ba-da; Friday, Thouk-kia; Saturday, Tha-na.

“The common year, however, of the Burmas, is lunar; and by this year are
regulated their holidays and festivals. It is composed of twelve months,
which alternately consist of thirty and twenty-nine days, as follows:—

_Of Thirty Days._

    1. Ta-goo.
    3. Na-miaung.
    5. Wag-goun.
    7. Sa-deen-giut.
    9. Na-to.
    11. Ta-bu-dua.

_Of Twenty-nine Days._

    2. Kas-soon.
    4. Wa-goo.
    6. Ta-da-lay.
    8. Ta-zaung-mo.
    10. Pya-zo.
    12. Ta-boun.

“This being eleven days shorter than their solar year, in order to make
the beginning of Ta-goo coincide with our 18th of April, the first day of
their solar year, the Burmas every third year add an intercalary moon.
This seems to have been the extent of chronological science in Hindustan,
during the prevalence of the doctrine of Bouddha, as the Rahans will
go no further. But it was soon discovered by the Brahmens, that this
contrivance would not make the commencements of the lunar and solar years
coincide. They, therefore, wish from time to time to introduce other
intercalary moons, in order to make the festivals occur at the proper
season. The present king, who is said to be a studious and intelligent
prince, was convinced of the propriety of the Brahmens’ advice, and
persuaded the Rahans of the capital to add an intercalary moon during
the year we were there. He had not, however, the same success in the
more distant provinces; for, although very strong measures were taken
at Rangoun, such as ordering the people for some days not to supply the
Rahans with provisions, yet, in the end, the obstinacy of the clergy
prevailed, and they celebrated a great festival a month earlier at
Rangoun than was done at Amarapura. To this obstinacy the Rahans were,
probably, in a great measure, instigated by a jealousy, which they,
not without reason, entertain against such dangerous intruders as the
Brahmens; and they were encouraged to persist by the ignorance of those
about the king. Of this ignorance his majesty was very sensible, and was
extremely desirous of procuring from Bengal some learned Brahmens, and
proper books. None of those I saw in the empire could read Sanscrit, and
all their books were in the common dialect of Bengal.

“The 1st of October, 1795, was at Amarapura, Kiasabada, the 19th of
Sadeengiut, in the year of the Burma æra 1157, so that the reckoning,
at that place at least, agreed very well with the solar year; but I
observed, that the Burmas in general, if not always, antedated by one
day the four phases of the moon, which are their common holidays. I did
not, however, learn, whether this proceeded from their being unable to
ascertain the true time of the change of the moon, or if it was only an
occasional circumstance, arising from some further contrivance used to
bring the solar and lunar years to coincide. In the common reckoning
of time the Burmas divide the moon into two parts, the light and the
dark moon; the first contained the days, during which the moon is on the
increase; and the second, those in which she is in the wane. Thus, for
instance, the 14th of Sadeengiut is called the 14th of the light moon
Sadeengiut; but the 16th is called the 1st of the dark moon Sadeengiut.

“Whence the Burmans date their æra I could not from them learn. Joannes
Moses, Akunwun or collector of the land-tax for the province of Pegu,
the most intelligent man with whom we conversed, did not seem to know.
He said that whenever the king thought the years of the æra too many, he
changed it. The fact, however, I believe is, that this æra, commencing in
our year 638, is that used by the astronomers of Siam, and from them, as
a more polished nation, it has passed to the Burmas, whose pride hindered
them from acknowledging the truth.”[151]

The common lunar year consists, however, only of twelve months;
consequently they are obliged to add an intercalary month every three
years, as the year is only three hundred and fifty-four days in length.
Even this, however, does not supply all deficiencies, and the further
rectifications are made by public proclamation. Their worship days are
four every month, viz., at the new and the full moon, and half-way
between these; so that sometimes the interval is seven days, and
sometimes eight. Day and night are divided into four equal parts. At
Rangoon, however, the European mode of reckoning the hours is much in
use, and timepieces are not wholly unknown.[152]



CHAPTER V.

    Currency—Weights—Commerce—Ports—Teak-wood—Houses—Tanks—Dress—
    Food—Marriages—Childbirth—Funerals—Arts—Slavery—The
    drama—Chess—Games—Music—Fireworks.


The Burmese have no coined money. At every payment the money is assayed
and weighed, to ascertain its value. When a bargain is to be concluded,
very often the seller asks to see the money the purchaser has to offer
him. The circulating medium is lead, for small payments. Silver, however,
is the standard, although gold is also in use; it is considered seventeen
times as valuable as silver. The frequent assaying process that the money
undergoes has given rise to a business; the persons following it are
named Poë-za, and for a commission of two and a half per cent. they will
assay the money. One per cent. is lost in the operation, so that if “that
operation be repeated forty times, it follows that the original amount is
wholly absorbed,—a fact which shows the enormous waste of the precious
metals which attends this rude substitute for a currency.”[153]

Of course, the value of money is continually fluctuating, and Crawfurd
informs us, that the alloy in silver varies from two to twenty-five per
cent.! “The finest gold,” he says, “in circulation is, according to this
scale, of nine and three-quarters touch, or twenty-three and a quarter
carats fine. Between this and that which is only twelve carats, or
contains one-half alloy, is to be found in use almost every intermediate
degree of fineness.”

Malcom gives us the following scale of weights, which answers both for
goods and money:[154]—

    2 small ruays = 1 large ruay  = 1 pice.
    4 large ruays = 1 bai or ruay = 1 anna.
    2 bais        = 1 moo         = 2 annas.
    2 moos        = 1 mat         = 4 annas (62½ gr. troy).
    4 mats        = 1 kyat        = 1 tical.
    100 kyats     = 1 piakthah or vis (3⁶⁵⁄₁₀₀ lbs. avoird.).

The head-waters of most of the rivers, as before remarked,[155] yield
gold; but gold washings are to be found in the Irawadi above Prome, and
also near Rangoon.[156] “But the little gold,” says the missionary, “that
is thus collected is far from being sufficient for the Burmese, who use
great quantities of this metal, not only in their bracelets, earrings,
and other ornaments, which persons of both sexes are accustomed to wear,
but much more for gilding the convents of the Talapoins, the public
porticoes, and particularly the pagodas, which, being exposed to the rain
and the action of the air, soon lose their gilding, and are, therefore,
continually requiring fresh gold to repair them. To supply this demand,
gold is imported from the Malay coast, from China, and other places.”

The silver is principally procured from the Chinese provinces of Yunnan,
and the mines in Burmah are worked by natives of China. The only place
in Burmah where silver-mines are worked is at Bor-twang, twelve days’
journey from Bamoo.

Burmah has considerable foreign trade. The natives carry on a
communication for this purpose with Mergui and Chittagong, and
occasionally with Calcutta, Penang, and Madras. Burmah has at present but
two good harbours remaining, namely, Rangoon and Bassein. Both of these
are good, but foreign vessels never go to the latter, notwithstanding the
fact that it is the better of the two.[157] The port of Rangoon is the
only one, therefore, of any consideration.

The exports of Burmah are teak-wood, cotton, wax, cutch, sticklac, and
ivory; also lead, copper, arsenic, tin, birds’ nests, amber, indigo,
tobacco, honey, tamarinds, gnapee, or napé, gems, orpiment, &c. The most
considerable article of commerce, however, is the teak-wood. “Indeed,”
says Sangermano, “it is for this wood, more than for anything else, that
vessels of every nation come to Pegu from all parts of India. It is found
also in Bombay, but in small quantities, and is excessively dear; whereas
in Pegu and Ava there are such immense forests of it that it can be sold
to as many ships as arrive, at a moderate price. This wood, while it
does not quickly decay, is very easily wrought, and very light. Cases
have occurred of ships made of it, and laden with it, which have been
filled with water, but yet did not sink. Hence, all the ships that come
to Pegu return with cargoes of this wood, which is employed in common
houses, but particularly in shipbuilding. Most of the ships that arrive
in these ports are here careened and refitted; and there are, besides,
two or three English and French shipbuilders established at Rangoon. One
reason of this is the prohibition that exists of carrying the specie out
of the empire. For, as merchants, after selling their cargo, and taking
in another of teak-wood, generally have some money remaining in their
hands, they are obliged to employ it in building a new ship. Though,
perhaps, this is not the only motive for building vessels in Rangoon; but
the quantity of teak and other kinds of wood with which the neighbouring
forests abound, may also have a great influence in this way. If the port
of Rangoon entices strangers to build ships there, it also obliges them
to sail as soon as possible. For there is a species of worm bred in the
waters of the river which penetrates into the interior of the wood, and
eats it away in such a manner that the vessel is exposed to the greatest
danger, since the holes formed by these worms being hidden, cannot
easily be stopped up. They attack every species of wood except ebony and
tamarind, which are so hard that they are used to make the mallets with
which carpenters drive their chisels.”

These facts, together with the difficulty of entering into the
harbour, should be carefully considered by the rulers of the Company’s
territories, and they must weigh the importance of the position against
the fatal effects of the climate, and when they have the upper fertile
territory of Ava almost within their grasp, they should not content
themselves with the low flats of Pegu, as some of the public press have
advised.

Bassein, however, which has been lately captured, should be the principal
port. That it is the better, is plainly to be seen from the fact of its
having been so considered at an earlier period of the history of the
country; and that the Company thought so, is plain from their first
factories having been in that district.

Burman domestic architecture presents many similarities with that of
Polynesia, except in the temples, already described in a former chapter,
where the difference is, however, very slight.[158] The houses are
constructed of timbers, and bamboos fastened with lighter pieces placed
transversely. If strong posts are used, they are placed at distances
of about seven feet, of coarse bamboo, and lighter ones are placed at
closer intervals. Pillars made of brick or stone supporting a frame are
never seen. The sides are usually covered with mats; but sometimes with
thatch fastened by split canes. In the best houses even, the roofs are
almost invariably of thatch wrought most skilfully, and forming a perfect
security against both wind and rain, but sometimes they are made of
thin tiles, turned up at one end.[159] The best kind of thatch is made
of attap or denvice leaves, bent over canes, and attached by the same
material; a cheaper kind is made of strong grass six or seven feet long.
These overlap each other from twelve to eighteen inches, much in the same
manner as our tiles: they cost very little and require renewing about
every three years.

The floors are elevated a few feet from the earth, which makes them
more comfortable than the houses of Bengal, and to render them clean,
and secure ventilation, they are made of split cane. Unfortunately, the
crevices between the cane often invite carelessness, and dirty liquids
are allowed to run through, and not unfrequently the space becomes filled
with mud and vermin, particularly among the poorer classes. The doors and
windows are merely of matting in bamboo frames; when not closed, they are
propped up so as to form a shade. There are of course no chimneys. They
cook in a sort of square box of earth. A house does not cost more than
from sixty to a hundred rupees; many not nearly so much, and they may
be put up in about three days. The houses have only one story. In some
of the large towns the houses of the rich are built of wood with plank
floors, and panelled doors and shutters, but neither lath, plaster, nor
glass. The houses are infested with insects of various descriptions, also
with lizards, but they are useful in destroying the former.

The buildings not being of brick, the utmost precaution is taken against
fire. The roofs of the houses are loosely thatched, and a long pile of
bamboo, with a hook at the end, is provided in every dwelling to pull
down the thatch, while another pole is placed ready with a grating at the
end of it to put out the flame by means of pressure.

But it is not only in houses and pagodas that the architectural skill
of the Burmans displays itself. The nation, like the ancient Peruvians,
also constructs tanks, which are of immense utility in fertilizing the
country. One of these, at Montzoboo, the birthplace of Alompra, is a
very handsome work. They have also a few bridges, one of which, at Ava,
is very long, and which Malcom emphatically says, “I have not seen
surpassed in India, and scarcely in Europe.”[160] The arrangement of the
palace at Ava, it may not be inapposite to remark, is not unlike that of
the ancient palaces of Nineveh, as brought to light by Mr. Layard, and
restored by Mr. Ferguson.

The Burmese dress is very simple. That of the men consists of a long
piece of striped cotton or silk, folded round the middle, and flowing
down to the feet. When they are not at work, this is loosed, and is
thrown partly over the shoulder, covering the body in no ungraceful
manner. It very closely resembles the modern Nubian dress. The higher
classes add to this a jacket with sleeves, called _ingee_, of white
muslin, or, occasionally, broadcloth or velvet, buttoning at the neck.
The turban or _gounboung_, of muslin, is worn by every one. Their shoes
or sandals are of wood, or cowhide covered with cloth and strapped on.
These are only worn abroad.

The women wear a _te-mine_, or petticoat, of cotton or silk. It is
open in front; so that in walking the legs and a part of the thigh are
exposed. But in the street, they wear a jacket like that of the men, and
a mantle over it.

Both sexes wear cylinders of gold, silver, horn-wood, marble, or paper
in their ears. The fashionable diameter of the ear-hole is one inch.
At the boring of a boy’s ears, a great festival is generally held, as
it is considered equal to the assumption of the _toga virilis_ among
the ancient Romans; yet, the period of youth and dandyism gone by, they
care no more for such a decoration, and usually use the ear-hole as a
cigar-rack, or flower-stand. The hair is always well taken care of, and
is anointed every day with sessamum oil. The men gather it in a bunch on
the top of the head, like the North American Indians, while the women
tie it into a knot behind. The use of betel, which at one time was very
general, is now no longer so much consumed, and the practice of staining
the teeth is not so universal.

“The men of this nation,” says a good authority,[161] “have a singular
custom of tattooing their thighs, which is done by wounding the skin, and
then filling the wound with the juice of certain plants, which has the
property of producing a black stain. Some, besides both their thighs,
will also stain their legs of the same colours, and others paint them all
over with representations of tigers, cats, and other animals. The origin
of this custom, as well as of the immodest dress of the women, is said
to have been the policy of a certain queen; who, observing that the men
were deserting their wives, and giving themselves up to abominable vices,
persuaded her husband to establish these customs by a royal order; that
thus by disfiguring the men, and setting off the beauty of the women, the
latter might regain the affections of their husbands.”

In speaking of the military institutions of the Burmese, I quoted
from Sangermano a passage in which the food of the soldiers was
mentioned.[162] To the account then given, I have little to add here. The
food of the people is mean and bad indeed; in fact, as they eat all kinds
of reptiles and insects, we may very well agree with Malcom,[163] and
call them omnivorous. They make two meals in a day, one at about nine in
the morning, and the other at sunset. The rice, or whatever the dish may
be, is placed on a wooden plate, raised upon a foot, and the eaters squat
round it on the bare ground, or perchance on a few mats, using their
fingers in the feast. Their usual beverage is water.

The bed consists of a simple mat spread on the ground, and a small
pillow, or piece of wood, precisely in the manner of the Polynesians. The
rich occasionally have a low wooden bedstead and mattresses.

Their mode of kissing is again like that of the Polynesians. Instead of
touching the lips, they apply the mouth and nose to the cheek, and draw
in the breath, and instead of saying, “Give me a kiss,” they say, “Give
me a smell.” Children are carried astride the hips as in some other parts
of India.

When a young man has made his choice of a wife, he first sends some old
persons to the father to propose the marriage. If the family and the girl
are agreed to the match, the bridegroom immediately goes to the house of
the father-in-law, and resides there for three years. At the expiration
of that period, he may, if he choose, take his wife and reside somewhere
else. The first night of the marriage is one of considerable hazard, for
a large number of persons will collect together and throw stones and logs
on to the roof of the house. Sangermano, on whose authority I mention the
custom, could obtain no reason for it.[164]

A strange practice attends the birth of a Burmese infant. “No sooner
is the infant come to light, than an immense fire is lighted in the
apartment, so large that a person can hardly approach it without
experiencing considerable hurt. Yet the woman is stretched out before
it; and obliged to support its action on her naked skin, which is often
blistered from its effects as badly as if the fire had been actually made
for this purpose. This treatment is persevered in for ten or fifteen days
without intermission, at the end of which time, as it will be easily
supposed, the poor woman is quite scorched or blackened.”[165]

In their treatment of the sick, they are very absurd and unskilful, but
at the same time, some of their remedies are good. Space will not permit
me to speak of this subject, and I must refer to the copious accounts of
Malcom, Sangermano, Crawfurd, and others.

At the death of any one, the following ceremonies are observed.[166]
The body is immediately washed and laid in a white cloth, and visits of
condolence are paid by the connections and friends. While the family
give themselves up to lamentation, these friends perform the office
of preparing the coffin, assembling the musicians, getting betel and
lapech, the pickled tea, which is given to every one on the occasion.
Then a great store of fruit, cotton cloths, and money is prepared for
distribution among the priests and the poor. This is effected by means
of a burial club, which, strangely enough, is one of the institutions
of this singular country. The body is then kept a day or two, after
which the procession is formed in the following manner. First, the alms
destined for the priests and poor are carried along; next, come the
baskets of betel and lapech, borne by female priests dressed in white.
These are followed by a procession of priests, walking two and two. When
there is music, it usually comes next. Then the bier is carried along,
borne by friends of the deceased. Immediately behind the bier comes
the wives, children, and nearest relations, all dressed in white. The
procession is closed by a concourse of people more or less connected
with the departed person. Arrived at the place where the body is burnt,
the senior priest delivers a sermon, consisting of reflections on the
five secular commandments and the ten good works. At the conclusion of
the sermon, the coffin is delivered to the burners of the dead, who set
fire to it, while others distribute the alms to the priests and people.
The burning, however, does not always take place. Persons that have been
drowned, or have died of infectious diseases, are immediately interred.

On the third day after the burning, the relations go to the place and
collect the ashes, which are placed in an urn and buried, and a cenotaph
is erected over the remains. All this time a festival is kept up at the
house of the deceased. Readers are engaged, who read out poetry and
history. Much feasting and drinking goes on, and this is all done to keep
off the thoughts of their loss from the minds of the relations. On the
ninth day the concluding feast to the priests is given, and all is over.

The arts of the Burmese are very simple, as may be expected.[167] Their
progress in them has been very small, chiefly on account “of the great
simplicity of their dress and houses.” Every one builds his own house,
and the females of the family can manufacture all the apparel that is
required by the family. The silkworm is kept in Ava, and the products
of the looms of that province, though susceptible of improvement, yet
deserve high commendation for the strength of the material and brilliancy
of the colours. Carving in wood, an art at which a semi-civilised nation
generally soon arrives, has been brought to some degree of perfection;
but painting, the kindred art, is here, as among all Oriental nations, in
a very languishing condition. Lately, at a meeting of the Asiatic Society
of Bengal, a very interesting picture by a Burmese artist was exhibited.
Dr. A. Thomas, who presented it to the society, thus describes it:—“On
one side of the picture is represented the royal palace and the royal
monastery; the priests in their sacerdotal garb, the white elephant,
&c. &c. are all shown. On the other side is a grand procession showing
that a lad is about to enter into the order of priesthood.” In painting
flowers the Burmese are not so bad, but, like the Chinese, they have very
imperfect notions of drawing and perspective.

The betel boxes and drinking-cups are exceedingly curious. They are
formed of very fine basket-work of bamboo, covered with varnish, which
is brought from China in very great quantities. An interesting account
of their manufacture is given by Colonel Burney in the Journal of the
Asiatic Society of Bengal; but the exact volume has escaped me. Working
in gold, as among their kindred in America, the Incas and the Mexicans,
has been perfected in no slight degree. In casting bells, too, no
Oriental nations can compete with them.

“Such are the principal arts,” concludes Sangermano,[168] “of the
Burmese; and if they are in a low state, this must be attributed more to
the destructive despotism of their government than to the want of genius
or inclination of the people, for they have in reality a great talent in
this way. It is the emperor, with his mandarins, who is the obstacle in
the way of the industry of his subjects; for no sooner has any artist
distinguished himself for his skill, than he is constrained to work for
the emperor or his ministers, and this without any profit, farther than
an uncertain patronage.”

Can there be the least doubt in the mind of any unprejudiced person,
that the British ought to annex the whole of Burmah, and so rescue the
flocks that are bleeding under the ruffian claws of the official tigers?
Remember Prome under British justice in the last war; and though, in
every way, the Indian government is _de facto_ a mild despotism, yet is
not that better than the present state of things? Besides, it is our
interest. If we do not get this country, some other nation will, and we
want no European neighbours in the East.

And this is a fitting place for an account of the treatment of slaves
among the Burmese, a subject of no little importance to its future
interests.

Slavery is very general in Ava and the subdued provinces, and it has not
yet been abolished in the territory ceded to the British in 1826.[169] It
may be as well to mention this fact, as otherwise the British will get
a character for inconsistency, and some one will plead, in extenuation
of the African slave-trade, that though such efforts are made in the
Atlantic, yet that in the tangible property of Britain, the provinces
of Arakhan, Chittagong, Assam, and Tenasserim, the practice is not
suppressed, notwithstanding that it might be effected with much more
ease than in Africa, or on the Brazilian coast. Naturally, in so recent
a possession, the measure cannot be immediately introduced; yet it would
be well for the Company to think and act, as it is necessary to be
consistent throughout, even if that were the only consideration.

A slight slave-trade appears to be carried on upon the frontiers; and
though the Burmans, with somewhat of a Jesuitical spirit, do not actually
engage in it themselves, yet they do not hesitate to recognise and
support it by purchasing the slaves thus kidnapped from home.

Debtor slaves, Malcom tells us, are very numerous. When persons borrow,
they mortgage themselves to their creditors till they can repay the
money. In Burmah this is not done by any remuneration for the service
thus rendered, but in our possessions it diminishes four pice per day.
Their master can sell and chastise them, though he is restrained from
ill-using them. However, when they can obtain the money, and tender it to
their creditor, he is not at liberty to refuse the payment.

The children of slaves are free; though this is more by usage than by
the law. Under that, there would be some redemption-money to be paid.
However, custom has ordained that both mother and child are free.
Husbands have the power of selling their wives, or rather borrowing
money upon them; and of course, unless the person so sold, or pawned,
can obtain a sum equal to the amount borrowed, they are condemned to
life-servitude.

The condition of slaves, however, is little different from that of a free
person. The estimation, too, in which they are held, is high, for they
are, in a popular superstition, ranked with “a son, a nephew, and an ox;”
and though the last of these appears somewhat ludicrous to the ear of an
European, yet we must recollect that the religious value of an ox was
high in the land, probably from the tinge of Brahminism with which the
Burmans are dashed.

It is interesting to compare the state of the slaves of Burmah with
the condition of the same class among the Visigoths, who may, in some
respects, be looked upon as the Burmans of Europe. Prescott has given an
able sketch in his “Ferdinand and Isabella:”[170]—

“The lot of the Visigothic slave was sufficiently hard. The oppressions
which this unhappy race endured, were such as to lead Mr. Southey, in
his excellent introduction to the ‘Chronicle of the Cid,’ to impute to
their co-operation, in part, the easy conquest of the country by the
Arabs. But, although the laws in relation to them seem to be taken up
with determining their incapacities, rather than their privileges, it
is probable that they secured to them, on the whole, quite as great a
degree of civil consequence as was enjoyed by similar classes in the
rest of Europe. By the Fuer Juzoo, the slave was allowed to acquire
property for himself, and with it to purchase his own redemption.[171]
A certain proportion of every man’s slaves were also required to bear
arms, and to accompany their master to the field.[172] But their relative
rank is better ascertained by the amount of composition (that accurate
measurement of civil rights with all the barbarians of the north)
prescribed for any personal violence inflicted on them. Thus, by the
Salic law, the life of a free Roman was estimated at only one-fifth of
that of a Frank,[173] while, by the law of the Visigoths, the life of
a slave was valued at half of that of a free man.[174] In the latter
code, moreover, the master was prohibited, under the severe penalties
of banishment and sequestration of property, from either maiming or
murdering his own slave,[175] while, in other codes of the barbarians,
the penalty was confined to similar trespasses on the slaves of another;
and by the Salic law, no higher mulct was imposed for killing than for
kidnapping a slave.[176] The legislation of the Visigoths, in those
particulars, seems to have regarded this unhappy race as not merely a
distinct species of property; it provided for their personal security,
instead of limiting itself to the indemnification of their masters.”

It is a curious circumstance that the malefactors, whose punishment has
been commuted from death to slavery in the pagodas, are better off than
the generality of the slave population; so that, in fact, there is not
such indignity and misery in it as some authors have represented. The
Mexicans, who formed some portions of their polity on a higher model,
esteemed it an honour to serve in the temples of the gods. Let us now
turn to a livelier theme—the Burman amusements.

Symes, the energetic envoy, to whose work I have so often referred,
gives the following curious description of a dramatic entertainment in
Burmah:[177]—

“The solar year of the Birmans was now drawing to a close, and the three
last days are usually spent by them in merriment and feasting. We were
invited by the Maywoon to be present on the evening of the 10th of April,
at the exhibition of a dramatic representation.

“At a little before eight o’clock, the hour when the play was to
commence, we proceeded to the house of the Maywoon, accompanied by
Baba-Sheen, who, on all occasions, acted as master of the ceremonies. The
theatre was the open court, splendidly illuminated by lamps and torches;
the Maywoon and his lady sat in a projecting balcony of his house; we
occupied seats below him, raised about two feet from the ground, and
covered with carpets; a crowd of spectators were seated in a circle
round the stage. The performance began immediately on our arrival, and
far excelled any Indian drama that I had ever seen. The dialogue was
spirited without rant, and the action animated without being extravagant;
the dresses of the principal performers were showy and becoming. I was
told that the best actors were natives of Siam, a nation which, though
unable to contend with the Birmans and Peguers in war, have cultivated
with more success the refined arts of peace. By way of interlude between
the acts, a clownish buffoon entertained the audience with a recital of
different passages; and by grimace, and frequent alterations of tone and
countenance, extorted loud peals of laughter from the spectators. The
Birmans seem to delight in mimickry, and are very expert in the practice,
possessing uncommon versatility of countenance. An eminent practitioner
of this art amused us with a specimen of his skill, at our own house,
and, to our no small astonishment, exhibited a masterly display of the
passions in pantomimic looks and gestures; the transitions he made,
from pain to pleasure; from joy to despair; from rage to madness; from
laughter to tears: his expression of terror, and, above all, his look of
idiotism, were performances of first-rate merit in their line; and we
agreed in opinion, that had his fates decreed him to have been a native
of Great Britain, his genius would have rivalled that of any modern
comedian of the English stage.

“The plot of the drama performed this evening, I understood, was taken
from the sacred text of the Ramayam of Balmiec, a work of high authority
amongst the Hindoos.[178] It represented the battles of the holy Ram and
the impious Rahwaan, chief of the Ralkuss, or demons, to revenge the rape
of Seeta, the wife of Ram, who was forcibly carried away by Rahwaan, and
bound under the spells of enchantment. Vicissitudes of fortune took place
during the performance, that seemed highly interesting to the audience.
Ram was at length wounded by a poisoned arrow; the sages skilled in
medicine consulted on his cure; they discovered, that on the mountain
Indragurry grew a certain tree that produced a gum, which was a sovereign
antidote against the deleterious effects of poison; but the distance was
so great that none could be found to undertake the journey: at length,
Honymaan,[179] leader of the army of apes, offered to go in quest of it.
When he arrived at the place, being uncertain which was the tree, he took
up half the mountain, and transported it with ease: thus was the cure of
Ram happily effected, the enchantment was broken, and the piece ended
with a dance and songs of triumph.”

Dr. Buchanan gives us some farther particulars on this curious subject,
which I subjoin:[180]

“Although these entertainments, like the Italian opera, consist of music,
dancing, and action, with a dialogue in recitative; yet we understood,
that no part but the songs was previously composed. The subject is
generally taken from some of the legends of their heroes, especially of
Rama; and the several parts, songs, and actions, being assigned to the
different performers, the recitative part or dialogue is left to each
actor’s ingenuity. If, from the effects on the audience, we might judge
of the merit of the performance, it must be very considerable, as some of
the performers had the art of keeping the multitude in a roar. I often,
however, suspected, that the audience were not difficult to please; for
I frequently observed the Myoowun of Haynthawade (the man of high rank
whom we most frequently saw), thrown into immoderate laughter by the most
childish contrivances. These easterns are indeed a lively, merry people;
and, like the former French, dance, laugh, and sing, in the midst of
oppression and misfortune.”

But by far the most lucid account that we have of the Burmese drama, is
in one of the dramas themselves, which Mr. Smith has translated in the
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal; and he has added much to the
value of the work by a few judicious observations, from which I present
an extract to the reader:—

“The Ramadzat (Ramahyana), and other ancient fabulous histories, form
the groundwork of nearly all the favourite plays, the outline of the
story being merely preserved, while the language of the play depends as
much upon the fancy of the performer as the taste of the audience. Each
company is presided over by a teacher or manager, who drills the actors
in their tasks from rough notes, which contain only the songs and the
substance of the parts assigned to each performer. In every play, without
perhaps a single exception, the following characters are represented,—a
king, a queen, a princess, a minister of state, a huntsman, and some kind
of monster.[181] The female characters are usually personated by men, it
being considered indecorous in a woman to appear as an actress. I have
to plead as an apology for the unpolished style of this translation, the
acknowledged difficulty of turning the dialogue of a play into a foreign
dress; moreover, the original, which was written from the mouth of an
actor, was imperfect and ill written. I believe there are books in the
palace at Umeraporee, containing the proper reading of all the approved
plays, and the costumes of the characters, which are placed near the
members of the royal family whenever they call their companies before
them; but I have not been able to discover any work of this description
here.”[182]

Of the play given by Smith, I shall here offer an epitome:—The nine
princesses of the silver mountain, which is separated from the abode
of mortals by a triple barrier (the first, a belt of prickly cane; the
second, a stream of liquid copper; and the third, a Beloo, or devil),
gird on their enchanted zones, which give them the power of flying
like birds, and visit a pleasant forest of the earth. While bathing,
a huntsman snares the youngest with a magic noose, and carries her to
the young prince of Pyentsa, who, on account of her beauty, makes her
his chief queen, notwithstanding his recent marriage with the daughter
of the head astrologer of the palace. During the princess’s absence,
the astrologer takes the opportunity to misinterpret a dream, which the
king calls upon him to explain, and declares that the evil spirit, who
is exerting himself against the king’s power, is only to be appeased
by the sacrifice of the beautiful Manauhurree. The princess’s mother,
hearing of this, visits the lovely Manauhurree, and restores to her the
enchanted zone, which had been picked up, and given to the old queen, by
the huntsman. The princess immediately returns to the silver mountain,
but on her way stops at the hermitage of a recluse, who lives on the
borders of the forest, and gives him a ring and some drugs, by which the
possessor of them can pass unharmed through the dangers of the barrier.
The young prince having put an end to the war, returns, and finding his
favourite queen gone, he instantly sets off to seek her. Being arrived
at the forest, he dismisses his followers, visits the recluse, who gives
him the ring and drugs; he then enters the frightful barrier, and, after
many adventures, arrives at the city of the silver mountain, and makes
known his presence to his beautiful bride, by dropping the ring into a
vessel of water, which a damsel is conveying to the bath of the princess.
The princess, on finding the ring, inquires of one of the damsels what
has happened at the lake, who tells her, that they found a young spirit
resting himself, and that he assisted one of the maids to place the
vessel of water on her head. The princess cries out, “Oh my husband,
come and take me.” The king, her father, is angry that any mortal should
presume to enter his country and claim his daughter, he makes him go
through trials of riding elephants and horses, and shooting arrows, in
which the prince acquits himself surprisingly, but the king insists on
his selecting the little finger of Manauhurree from among those of her
sisters, thrust through a screen; this he does by the assistance of the
king of the Nats. Then, as in a European play, every one is made happy
and comfortable.

Perhaps, indeed, the game of chess does not methodically fall in
immediately after the consideration of the drama, yet I cannot allow the
Burman game, their chief sedentary amusement, to pass without notice.
As their principal in-door game, indeed, it may not seem inopportune
to place it here. The form of the chess-board, and the manner of
arrangement, will be readily understood by the accompanying diagram:[183]—

[Illustration:

    -----------------
    |3| | | | | | |3|
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    | |1|4|5|5| | |3|
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    | |4|2|6|6|6|6|6|
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    |6|6|6|\|/| | | |
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    |3| | |/|\|6|6|6|
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    |6|6|6|6|6|2|4| |
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    | | | |5|5|4|1| |
    |-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|
    |3| | | | | | |3|
    -----------------

REFERENCES.

                  1 Meng    The king.
                  2 Chekoy  Lieut.-General.
                3,3 Rutha   War chariot.
                4,4 Chein   Elephants.
                5,5 Mhee    Cavalry.
    6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6 Yein    Foot soldiers.]

The Burman name for chess is Chit-tha-reen, a name applied by them to the
chief ruler, or leader of an army, or to war itself.

The king has the same powers and moves as in our own game, except that
there is no castling, and no stalemate. The _Chekoy_, or general, moves
diagonally either way, in advance or retrograde, but only one move at a
time. The _Rutha_, or war-chariot, has exactly the same moves and powers
as our castle. The _Chein_, or elephants, have five distinct moves;
diagonal in advance, both in fact diagonal retrograde; also, both ways,
and direct forward; but in every case they are limited to one check or
step at a move. The move direct in advance being only intended to alter
the line of their operations, which gives them somewhat of the power of
our queen. The _Mhee_, or cavalry, have exactly the same powers as our
knights. The _Yein_, or foot-soldiers, have the same moves and powers as
in the English game; they are, however, limited to one check or move at
a time, and the right-hand pieces alone are susceptible of promotion to
the rank of general, in the event of that piece being taken. It is not
necessary, however, that they should have advanced to the last row of
the adversary’s squares, but to that square which is in a diagonal line
with the left-hand square in the last row of the adversary’s section;
consequently, the right-hand pawn will have to advance four steps to
ransom the Chekoy; the next, three; and so on to the fifth pawn, who has
to make but one step.

But notwithstanding this manner of disposing the forces, which is
generally followed, the arrangement is quite arbitrary; and the player
strengthens or exposes his wing according to his own judgment, and the
proficiency of his adversary.

“This liberty,” as Cox well observes, “added to the names and powers
of the pieces, gives the Burmha game more the appearance of a real
battle than any other game I know of. The powers of the Chein are well
calculated for the defence of each other and the king, where most
vulnerable; and the Rutha, or war-chariots, are certainly more analogous
to an active state of warfare, than rooks or castles.”[184]

There is a game played amongst them, called cognento.[185] It resembles
very much the popular English game of knock’emdowns. They have also a
kind of game of goose and cards of ivory, introduced from Siam. Football
is very usual, and is played with much skill. The ball is hollow, and
formed of split rattan, from six to ten inches in diameter. It is not
struck alone with the instep, but with the head, shoulder, knee, elbow,
heel, or sole of the foot. Malcom[186] thinks it has been introduced from
China.

Boxing and fighting-cocks are well known; and the latter is a favourite
amusement with the youth of Burmah, as it used to be in England.

The Burmese never dance themselves, but hire dancers, who make
extraordinary efforts in their dancing. No figures are attempted, nor do
women and men dance together; indeed, very few females dance at all; the
men generally assuming the dress of women, and tying their hair in the
manner of women. They cannot understand what the English dance for; they,
in common with all Indians, wonder at it.

The musical instruments are the _moung_ or _gong_, struck with a mallet
covered with leather; the _panma-gyee_, or large drum; the _tseing_ or
_boundaw_, is a collection of small drums, disposed within a frame in a
circle. The size varies in every case. The player sits in the middle, and
strikes them with his fingers. The _me-goum_ or _me-kyong_, is a kind of
guitar, played with the fingers. The _sonng_ is a kind of harp. They have
also a kind of violin, called _te-yau_, very disagreeable, with only two
strings. The _kyay-wyng_ is formed by a number of gongs, of different
sizes, struck with small sticks, very pleasant of sound. There are also
two or three kinds of wind-instruments, but very inferior in tone.

Malcom[187] remarks it as a curious fact, that the Burmese are totally
ignorant of whistling.

In making fireworks, the Burmese display great ingenuity, and their
delight is immense at a well-made rocket. Sangermano tells us,[188] that
“when the great rockets are let off, if these fireworks ascend straight
up into the air without bursting or running obliquely, the makers of them
burst out into the wildest shouts and songs, and dance about with the
most extravagant contortions, like real madmen.”

We will leave them shouting, and turn to the ancient history of the
country.



CHAPTER VI.

    Ancient history—Pegue—Character of the Burmese—Concluding
    reflections.


The ancient history of Burmah differs in one remarkable particular from
that of almost every other Oriental nation. The historiographers, except
where they have been led into speaking of Gaudama and his wondrous
career, in effect, present a more coherent chronology than is offered
by any other Eastern historians. The simple, almost ungarnished tale
of their doings in the country, present self-evident proofs of its
truthfulness. The reigns of the kings none of them exceed the limits of
probability, and what is more, they are shorter than usual, which shows
in every way that there was no desire to magnify the doings of their
sovereigns. We find the kings of this early period doing just what the
kings of the present dynasty have been doing, and there is no undue
disguise of facts; though now and then (as in the narrative of the two
blind princes of Sagaing) there is a dash of the marvellous; yet one
cannot help wondering at the extraordinary simplicity that pervades the
whole narrative given by the Burmese historians.

All that the Burmese know of their emigration from India, and of the
founding and history of the ancient city of Tagoung, is to be found
in the third volume of the Chronicles of the Kings of Ava. Here is an
abstract of the tale.[189]

Many years before the appearance of Gaudama, a king of Kanthalatt
(Oude) and Pínjalarít (a kingdom in the Punjab), being desirous of a
connection by marriage with the king of Kauliya, sent to him to demand
a daughter; but receiving a refusal on the grounds of inferiority of
caste, he declared war, and destroyed several cities governed by the
Tháki family. These cities were afterwards rebuilt, and the Tháki line
re-established; but one of the Tháki race of kings, Abhírájá, the king of
Kappilawot, emigrated with his troops and followers from Central India,
and came and built Tagoung, which was then also styled Thengat-the-ratha,
and Thengat-the-nago. The place had been inhabited before, during the
period of the three preceding Buddhas. In the time of Kekkuthan it was
called Thanthaya-púra; in that of Gounágoun, Ratha-púra; and in that
of Katthaba, Thendwé. On the death of King Abhírájá, his two sons, Kan
Yázágyee and Kan Yázangay, disputed the throne, but agreed by the advice
of their respective officers to let the question be decided in this way;
that each should construct a large building on the same night, and he
whose building should be found completed by the morning, should take the
throne. The younger brother used planks and bamboos only, and covered
the whole with cloth, to which, by a coat of whitewash, he gave the
appearance of a finished building. At dawn of day, Kan Yázágyee, the
elder brother, seeing the other’s being completed, collected his troops
and followers, and came down the Irawadi. He then ascended the Khyendwen,
and established himself for six months at Kule[190] Toungnyo, calling it
Yázágyo, and sent his son, Moodootseitta, to be king over the Thoonaparan
Pyoos, Kanyan, and Thet, who then occupied the territory between Pegu,
Arakhan, and Pagan, and had applied to him for a prince. Kan Yázágyee
then built the city Kyoukpadoung to the east of the Guttshapanadee,
and resided there for twenty-four years. From thence he went and took
possession of the city of Diniawadee, or Arakhan, which had originally
been founded by a King Mayayoo, and having constructed fortifications, a
palace, &c., took up his residence there.

The younger brother, Kan Yázangay, took possession of his father’s throne
at Tagoung, and was followed successively by thirty-three kings, the last
of whom was Bheinnaka Yázá. During this monarch’s reign, the Chinese
and Tartars, from the country of Tsein, in the empire of Gandalareet,
attacked and burnt Tagoung. The king and his followers retired up
the Malí river, and shortly afterwards died. His people then divided
themselves into three portions, one of which established the nineteen
Shan states. A second portion allied themselves with the Thunaparanta
kingdom, composed of the people of Ranyan and Thet, who were governed by
Múdutseitta and other kings of the Tháki race. The last remained near the
Malí river, under the command of Nága Zein, the last king’s principal
wife.

About this time Gaudama appeared in Central India. In that part of
Hindustan, also, a dispute arose between King Pethanadí Kauthala of
Thawotta[191] and Maha Nansa of Kappílawot. The dispute originated in a
matter of marriage again. Pathanadí had sent an embassy to Maha Nama for
one of his daughters. Nama, however, sent him the daughter of a slave
girl instead. She was received, and had a son, Prince Wit’hat’hoopa.
When he had grown, he went to see his relations in Kappílawot, and then
first learned the indignity which had been put upon his father. Gaudama
stopped his army three times in its passage to Kappílawot, but let him
do as he pleased the fourth time, when he took ample vengeance on the
perfidious Maha Nama, and he destroyed Kappílawot and two other cities in
the country of Thekka, which, not improbably, is the present Dekkan.

This caused another dispersion of the Tháki race, and we find that Daza
Yázá[192] established himself at Tagoung, carrying with him the name of
his city, Pínjalárit; he assumed the title of Thado Zaboodipa Daza Yázá,
which may be translated Emperor Daza, king of Zaboodipa, the name, as
we have seen,[193] of the southern island in the Burmese cosmography.
Thus he aspired to the government of the world, for Zaboodipa was to the
Burmese the whole world. He founded, also, the city of Pagan. Seventeen
kings of his race reigned over Tagoung. “None of these kings,” says
Colonel Burney, “reigned long, the country having been much molested
by evil spirits, monsters, and serpents.... In the fortieth year after
Gaudama’s death, whilst Thado Maha Yázá, the seventeenth king of Tagoung,
was reigning, an immense wild boar appeared, and committed great
destruction in his country. The crown prince went forth against the
animal, and pursued it for several days, until he overtook and killed it
near Prome, and then finding himself so far from home, he determined on
remaining where he was as a hermit.... Through the recommendation of the
hermit prince of Tagoung, the Queen Nan Khan married one of his nephews,
Maha Thavibawa, who became king of the Pyús, and established the Prome or
Thare Khettara empire, sixty years after Gaudama’s death, 484 B.C.”

A curious account of the origin of the name Thare Khettara is given by
Symes,[194] in whose words I shall relate the legend. “It is related,
that a favourite female slave of Tutebongmangee, or the Mighty Sovereign
with three eyes, importuned her lord for a gift of some ground; and
being asked of what extent, replied in similar terms with the crafty
and amorous Elisa, when she projected the site of ancient Carthage. Her
request was granted, and she used the same artifice. The resemblance of
the stories is curious.” It is, however, met with in many parts of the
world. Thare Khettara signifies single skin. Symes is mistaken, however,
in the town; it is Issay Mew, six leagues from Prome.

Upon the fall of the empire of Prome, Thamauddarit transferred the
government to Pagahm, then an inconsiderable place. A young man named
Tsaudí destroyed the wild animals of the neighbourhood, and in recompense
for this important service he was offered the succession by the king.
This, however, he refused, making his former instructor king in his
stead; but on the old man’s decease he assumed the sovereignty, in the
year 89 of the Pagan æra, A.D. 167. This youth, however, was of the royal
race of Tagoung.

In the sixth volume of the Chronicles of Ava, further mention is made
of Tagoung. We there find it granted to Yahula by Theehapade, _alias_
Menbyouk. Yahula assumed the title of Thado-Men-bya; he was afterwards
driven from his government by the invading Shan tribes, in the Burmese
year 725, A.D. 1363. However, he subsequently retrieved his fortunes, and
in 726 (A.D. 1364), he founded the city of Ava, and established the line
of the kings of Ava which has lasted to our times.

“The great point,” concludes Burney,[195] “with the Burmese historians
is to show that their sovereigns are lineally descended from the Thakí
race of kings, and are ‘Children of the Sun;’[196] and for this purpose
the genealogy of even Alompra, the founder of the present dynasty, is
ingeniously traced up to the king of Pagan, Prome, and Tagoung.”

The internal history of Burmah, up to the sixteenth century, is not
illustrated by any other documents than the native;[197] but about this
time Fitch visited the country, and his descriptions show that the state
was on much the same footing as at present. At this period the Burmans
first conquered the Peguans, and had almost subdued Siam. But at the
close of the seventeenth century the Peguans rose, and in A.D. 1753
carried the Burman king captive to Pegu. But, like the Persians under the
Mede governments, the proud Burmans rose, and Alompra, whose adventures
will be discussed in the next chapter, beat the Peguans, and restored the
Burmans to their ancient supremacy.

Of modern Pegu, or Pegue, the following account by Symes may be
interesting:—

“The extent of ancient Pegue may still be accurately traced by the ruins
of the ditch and walls that surrounded it; from these it appears to have
been a quadrangle, each side measuring nearly a mile and a half; in
several places the ditch is choked up by rubbish that has been cast into
it, and the falling of its own banks; sufficient, however, still remains
to show that it was once no contemptible defence; the breadth I judged to
be about sixty yards, and the depth ten or twelve feet; in some parts of
it there is water, but in no considerable quantity. I was informed, that
when the ditch was in repair, the water seldom, in the hottest season,
sunk below the depth of four feet. An injudicious _fausse-braie_, thirty
feet wide, did not add to the security of the fortress.

“The fragments of the wall likewise evince that this was a work of
magnitude and labour; it is not easy to ascertain precisely what was its
height, but we conjectured it at least thirty feet, and in breadth, at
the base, not less than forty. It is composed of brick, badly cemented
with clay mortar. Small equidistant bastions, about three hundred yards
asunder, are still discoverable; and there had been a parapet of
masonry; but the whole is in a state so ruinous, and so covered with
weeds and briars, as to leave very imperfect vestiges of its former
strength.

“In the centre of each face of the fort there is a gateway about thirty
feet wide, and these gateways were the principal entrances. The passage
across the ditch is over a causeway raised on a mound of earth, that
serves as a bridge, and was formerly defended by a retrenchment, of which
there are now no traces.

“It is impossible to conceive a more striking picture of fallen
grandeur and the desolating hand of war, than the inside of these walls
displays.... The temples, or praws, which are very numerous, were the
only buildings that escaped the fury of the conqueror; and of these
the great pyramid of Shoemadoo has alone been reverenced and kept in
repair.”[198]

About the time when Symes visited Pegu, active exertions were being made
to conciliate the Peguers, or Taliens, as the Burmans always called
them; and we may well agree with the energetic traveller, that “no act
of the Burman government is more likely to reconcile the Peguers to the
Burman yoke than the restoration of their ancient place of abode, and
the preservation and embellishment of the temple of Shoemadoo.”[199]
The government were fully sensible of this, and the commands of his
Burman majesty went forth, that the governor of Rangoon should transfer
the provincial seat of government to the imperial city of Pegu.
Notwithstanding these commands, the superior position of Rangoon will
ever cause it to remain the more considerable of the two. Even to this
day, as it was at the period of Symes’s visit in 1795, the city of Pegu
is chiefly inhabited by Râhwans, or priests, _attachés_ of the provincial
government, and poor Peguese families, who greedily availed themselves of
the king’s permission to colonise their deserted, though once magnificent
metropolis. Symes estimates the population as not exceeding seven
thousand. Melancholy fate of the once proud and glorious capital!

Modern Pegu is built on the ruins of the ancient city, and occupies about
half its area. “It is fenced round by a stockade from ten to twelve feet
high; on the north and east side it borders on the old wall. The plane
of the town is not yet filled with houses, but a number of new ones are
building. There is one main street running east and west, crossed at
right angles by two smaller streets not yet finished. At each extremity
of the principal street there is a gate in the stockade, which is shut
early in the evening; and after that time, entrance during the night is
confined to a wicket. Each of these gates is defended by a wretched piece
of ordnance, and a few musketeers, who never post sentinels, and are
usually asleep in an adjoining shed. There are two inferior gates on the
north and south sides of the stockade.”[200]

The character of the Burmese, on which we must here say a few words,
has its good points as well as its bad. “It differs,” according to the
testimony of one who knew them well,[201] “in many points from that of
the Hindus and other East-Indians. They are more lively, active, and
industrious, and though fond of repose, are seldom idle when there is an
inducement for exertion. When such inducement offers, they exhibit not
only great strength, but courage and perseverance, and often accomplish
what we should think scarcely possible. But these valuable traits are
rendered nearly useless by the want of a higher grade of civilisation.
The poorest classes, furnished by a happy climate with all necessaries,
at the price of only occasional labour, and the few who are above that
necessity, find no proper pursuits to fill up their leisure. Books
are too scarce to enable them to improve by reading, and games grow
wearisome.... Folly and sensuality find gratification almost without
effort, and without expenditure. Sloth, then, must be the repose of
the poor, and the business of the rich.... Thus, life is wasted in the
profitless alternation of sensual ease, rude drudgery, and native sport.
No elements exist for the improvement of posterity, and successive
generations pass like the crops upon their fields. Were there but a
disposition to improve the mind, and distribute benefits, what majesty
of piety might we not hope to see in a country so favoured with the
means of subsistence, and so cheap in its modes of living! Instead of
the many objects of an American’s ambition, and the unceasing anxiety to
amass property, the Burman sets a limit to his desires, and when that
is reached, gives himself to repose and enjoyment. Instead of wearing
himself out in endeavours to equal or surpass his neighbour in dress,
food, furniture, or house, he easily attains the customary standard,
beyond which he seldom desires to go.”

One hardly knows whether to call this “incorrigible idleness”[202] or no.
It is certainly the same fatal constitution of character, or force of
circumstances, which has ever conspired to prevent the Irish from rising
in the scale of nations. But these are not the only similarities between
the dispositions of the two nations. It is perfectly fair to call the
Burmese the Irish of the East.

Yet they go beyond that nation in many of its worst characteristics.
Servility, the inevitable consequence of despotism, prevails amongst
them to a frightful extent, overcoming, in many instances, the sense
of right implanted in their bosoms as men. “Indeed,” says an excellent
authority,[203] “every Burman considers himself a slave, not merely
before the emperor and the mandarins, but before any one who is his
superior, either in age or possessions. Hence he never speaks of himself
to them in the first person, but always makes use of the word Chiundò,
that is, your slave. While asking for a favour from the emperor, the
mandarins, or any respectable person, he will go through so many
humiliations and adorations, that one would imagine he was in the
presence of a god. Even if he is desirous of obtaining something from
one who is his equal, he will bow, and go on his knees, and adore him,
and raise up his hands, &c.” Yet gratitude is a virtue of great rarity.
There is no such phrase in the language as, “I thank you.” The statements
of Sangermano contrast strangely with those, I think, of Crawfurd, whose
remarks tend to the conclusion, that they never ask a favour. They
consider that it is a favour to you to be allowed to gain merit by giving
them something. This is not improbable. We learn, however, from others,
that they will occasionally acknowledge an obligation by observing, “It
is a favour.”

Slavishness naturally leads to the remainder of the catalogue of mean
vices. One of their principal precepts forbids lying; but there is no
ordinance so universally disregarded. A person who tells the truth is
considered a good sort of person, but a fool, and incapable of managing
his own affairs.[204] Inseparable from untruthfulness is dissimulation
and deceit. They practise these, also, to perfection.

“But, as every rule will have its exceptions,” says the Jesuit, “it is
not to be supposed that the Burmese have not some good qualities, and
that estimable persons may not be found amongst them. Indeed, there are
some persons, whose affability, courtesy and benevolence, gratitude, and
other virtues, contrast strongly with the vices of their countrymen.
There are instances on record of shipwrecks on their coasts, when the
sufferers have been relieved in the villages, and treated with a generous
hospitality, which they would probably not have experienced in many
Christian countries.”[205]

Yes, let the faults of the Burmese be as they will! let them be bad in
every respect! we cannot, will not, imagine these faults to be so deeply
rooted, that a moderate and equitable government could not tear them
up and destroy them. It is the corrupt administration, the merciless
never-ending chancery-like avarice of the officials, that turns their
hearts to stone, and makes them callous, and servile, and tyrannical.
When the British army were at Prome, in 1825, when the Burmese tasted
the blessings of Anglo-Indian justice, they showed as kindly a spirit as
any could have done. It was shameful that the kindly Peguers should have
been so deserted at the critical time, and that they should have borne
what the English army could not be made to feel. We _must_ liberate these
people, we must wrest the sceptre from the palsied grasp of the cruel
Burman kings, even though we retain it ourselves. Then will the blessings
of civilisation, and the peaceful arts that elevate man, extend a gentle
sway over this misguided and persecuted nation.



BOOK II.

BURMAN HISTORY.



CHAPTER I.

1687-1760.

    Alompra, the liberator of Burmah.


We may safely say with Symes, even at the present time, that “there are
no countries on the habitable globe, where the arts of civilised life are
understood, of which we have so limited a knowledge, as of those that lie
between the British possessions in India and the empire of China.”[206]
And though of late years this knowledge has been materially increased,
yet much remains to be told, much valuable information to be collected,
ere we can boast of a full and true acquaintance with the country of
Burmah and its capabilities. In the preceding pages, an attempt has been
made (I am myself aware, how imperfectly and unsatisfactorily), to give
a short account of what we actually know of the state of civilisation
in which they live: in the following chapters, it will be attempted to
present the reader with an account of the historical events that have
passed in the Burman peninsula, from the rise of Alompra, the first
king of any consequence, and the founder of the reigning dynasty, to
the present time. I must here impress the fact of the meagreness of our
knowledge of Burman history upon the reader, in order that he may not be
disappointed.

The geography of Ptolemy indicates the position of Burmah only by Aurea
Regio, Argentea Regio, and Aurea Chersonesus. The only inference to be
drawn from these facts, together with that of Ptolemy distinguishing
several places as _Emporia_, is, that which Symes draws, that there was
trade to those parts of Burmah and the Peninsula of Malacca at an early
period.

Our knowledge of the commercial relations of the ancients with India has
lately been extended by an interesting discovery made on the coast of
Malabar, of Roman gold coins from Augustus downward.[207]

Early in the sixteenth century we find the Portuguese masters of Malacca,
and it is from them only that we can learn anything concerning the habits
of the nations then, as now, inhabiting that region. But so meagre and
so overlaid with fiction are their accounts, that it would be useless to
take up time and space in recounting their marvellous histories.

The Burmans, though formerly subject to the king of Pegu, became
afterward masters of Ava, and caused a revolution in Pegu about the
middle of the sixteenth century.... The Portuguese assisted the Burmans
against the Peguers, and if we may believe Pinto, performed prodigies of
valour. But their influence rapidly declined in Burmah and Arakhan; and
on the ascendancy of the Dutch being established, they rapidly sunk into
insignificance and contempt. The English and Dutch appear both to have
had settlements in Burmah in the beginning of the seventeenth century;
but on the misconduct of the settlers, they were banished from Ava, and
no European of any nation was permitted to enter the country. In 1687,
however, we find the English at Syriam and Negrais, trading rather as
private adventurers, than as on the part of the India Company. On the
latter island, however, the government of Fort St. George had established
a settlement. But men and money were wanting, and the colony seemed to
have languished on, just keeping, as it were, above high-water mark.

About the year 1740, the Peguers in the provinces of Dalla, Martaban,
Tongo, and Prome, raised the standard of revolt, and the nation being
split into factions, a civil war ensued. In 1744, the British factory in
Syriam was destroyed, and thus an almost fatal blow was given to the
commercial interests at stake in the country. The war lasted long, and
was doubtful enough in its character, till the Peguers, by obtaining
some indifferent arms from a few Europeans still in the country, gained
some advantages over the Burmans, and pursuing their victorious career,
they invested the city of Ava in 1752. It soon surrendered, for the
Burmese were sick at heart, and utterly discouraged. The king, whose
name, according to Sangermano,[208] was Chioekmen, though Symes states
it to have been Dweepdee,[209] was seized, and, together with the whole
court, carried to Pegu, where, after receiving kind treatment for some
time, he was barbarously murdered, after witnessing the slaughter of all
his wives. Two of his sons, however, escaped into Siam, where they were
kindly received.

Bonna Della, or Beinga Della, king of Pegu, assured of the tranquillity
of the country under his administration, returned to Pegu, leaving
Apporaza in the government of the capital of Burmah. For some time
everything seemed at peace, and all seemed to submit to the new
government with a good grace; but the lull was only the temporary calm
that precedes a furious tempest. The avenger of Burman independence was
about to arise, and tumble the now victorious king of Pegu from his
triumphal chariot!

The chieftain of Moutzoboo, a small place about twelve miles from the
river, had given his allegiance, but he brooded over the wrongs of this
race.[210] He felt that the Peguers were as dirt under the feet of the
Burmans; and it is not to be doubted, that he foresaw in a rebellion some
advantage to himself. He was ambitious, and resolved to set all on the
cast of a die. His name, Aoingzaya (jaya), was a good omen to him;[211]
and we may well conceive that the resolute chief counted on the aid of
the divinity, since we find him assuming the style or regal name of
Alaong-B’hura, or “The Vowed to Buddha.”[212] Like Charles Edward Stuart,
he seemed to resolve on victory or a death, devoted to the God of his
country.

When Beinga Della reached Pegu, he caused a proclamation to be made
throughout his territories, in which he set forth in grandiloquent, and
insolent expressions, the results of his campaigns. The proclamation,
couched in the most odious and contemptuous words, increased the hatred
of the Burmans, and caused them to long the more for the hour of
vengeance.

Alompra, or Alaong-B’hura, had at this time about a hundred followers on
whom he could depend body and soul. Upon hearing of the proclamation, he
judged that it was a favourable juncture for operation; he, therefore,
in his capacity of governor of Moutzoboo, strengthened the stockade
surrounding the town, and conducted everything so well, that he never
caused any suspicion in the minds of the Peguers. Indeed, their attention
and force was concentrated on the Burmese frontier, in order to oppose
and destroy any force collected by the sons of Chioekmen. It may readily
be understood, therefore, that the fifty Peguers at Moutzoboo, were
easily overpowered and despatched by Alompra and his adherents. Probably
he availed himself of some act of oppression or licentiousness on the
part of the careless soldiery, and attacked them when least expected. Not
a man escaped.

Alompra now showed himself to be as dexterous a politician, as he was
prompt in action. Immediately after this event, he wrote to Apporaza
in the most humble terms, expressing the greatest sorrow for the
unhappy occurrences that had taken place at Moutzoboo, representing
it as a provoked affair wholly unlooked for, and as transitory as it
was violent in its effects. It is even probable that he urged upon the
governor of Ava to investigate the matter, in order that his attachment
to the government of Pegu might be made more apparent. In conclusion,
he expressed himself individually obliged to the governor for his
forbearance, and professed himself an adherent of Beinga Della. This
epistle had the desired effect. Alompra’s only object had been to gain
time, and in this he perfectly succeeded. Apporaza, deceived by his
humility, took no immediate measures against him, and even quitted Ava,
leaving the government in the hands of his nephew, Dotachew, with orders
to keep Alompra in strict confinement, when, in fact, the Peguers should
be able to secure his person.

The troop which had been detached for the arrest of Alompra was
considerably astonished at finding their entrance into Moutzoboo
disputed. The gates of the stockade were closed, and on their demanding
an entry, they were only laughed at and defied. What could they do? They
were ill-armed, and ill-provisioned; their discipline was lax; their
cause rotten. If they opposed the Burmans, there was little hope of
success; and if they ran away, the dreadful fate which their wives and
children would suffer stared them in the face.[213]

Under these circumstances it was plain to them that they could only try
the issue of a battle. These thoughts may have passed in quick succession
through their minds; and while they were yet uncertain, Alompra and his
gallant band burst into the midst, and attacked them furiously with
missiles, swords, and spears. The affrighted Peguers, scarcely acquainted
with the power of the clumsy muskets they had with them, though most
probably they had none or but few of these, feeling that now, indeed, the
Devoted to Buddha and his desperate irresistible band were upon them,
threw away their arms and fled; Alompra and the rest pursuing them on
their way for two miles and more. The number of the Peguers thus routed
are estimated at about one thousand. How fearful must the contest have
appeared to the victory-drunken soldiers! The Burmese host seeming
tenfold the number in the gray dawn of the morning, came down like an
avalanche upon them, and swept all away whom it did not destroy.

After an irregular pursuit for some distance, Alompra returned to
his fortress, aware of the danger of trusting himself too near to a
less panic-struck population. Arrived at that place, he addressed a
few words to his comrades, telling them that they had now cast their
fortunes together, and that he and they were in as great danger; he
called upon them all for assistance, and he invited the Burman towns
in the neighbourhood to assist him in the glorious work he had begun
so auspiciously. The Burmans were scarcely disposed to lend a willing
ear to his exhortations, yet some places gave in their adhesion to his
government.

Such was the first decisive combat that was to change the fortunes of
Burmah.

Dotachew, with the characteristic irresolution of a deputy, seems to
have procrastinated frightfully. Probably he was a young man, utterly
unacquainted with the art of war, and placed in the responsible position
he occupied by his uncle, merely that the important office should not
go out of the family; possibly, his very inefficiency, by the strange
contradiction that always pervades a court, led to his promotion; at all
events he was utterly unfit for his business, and at this time, when a
few energetic measures would have crushed the rebellion at once, he was
peculiarly unfitted by his disposition for this important duty. He was
uncertain whether it would be more advisable to march against Alompra
with the forces at his command, not exceeding three thousand, or to
wait for reinforcements from Prome; the third course was to retreat,
or rather, in this case, to run away. I have not space to enter into a
discussion of which the most advisable measure would have been; yet had
he set lustily forward, and cheered his men by a good example, he would
have led them on to a certain, though perhaps not easy, victory. However,
he neither marched forward, or waited at Ava; but discretion seeming to
be the better portion of his valour, he ran away, and, terrified at the
reports, no doubt exaggerated in every way, of the growing power of the
enemy, he never stopped till he reached Pegu, toward the latter end of
the autumn in the year 1753. Alompra meanwhile advanced on Ava, and,
assisted by the enslaved Burmans in the capital, took the city, and put
the few Peguers who had not pursued the valiant fortunes of Dotachew, to
death. Alompra, however, hearing that the Peguese governor had fled, did
not personally conduct the operations at Ava, but deputed this to his
second son, Shembuan, himself remaining, or returning to Moutzoboo.

Thus matters remained until Beinga Della, the king of Pegu, afraid of
losing the frontier provinces of Prome, Keounzeik and Tambouterra,
assembled a large army at Syriam under the generalship of Apporaza. This
force departed up the Irawadi, in the month of January, 1754. Both France
and England had established factories at Syriam again, at this time; and,
as the English leaned toward the Burman side, that was sufficient reason
for the French to espouse the cause of Beinga Della. However, all their
aid was secret, and until their neighbourhood became the seat of war,
they did not proceed to active measures.

Apporaza, over whom a species of fatality seemed to hang, had again
chosen a most improper and unfortunate season for commencing operations.
He proceeded with extreme difficulty up the river, and, while his troops
were exhausting their strength amid the marshes of the Irawadi, the
Burmans were preparing for the worst, and, having possession of a fine
country, felt little uneasiness at the approach of the jaded Peguers. No
opposition was made to Apporaza, until he arrived near Ava itself, where
straggling parties of the Burmans began to harass his army. When near
enough to the fort, he sent a message to Shembuan, calling upon him to
surrender, in which case his life would be spared; but vengeance of the
most frightful kind was in store for him if he resisted. Shembuan, well
knowing what value was to be attached to the professions of Apporaza,
merely replied, “that he would defend his post to the last extremity.”

Apporaza, not willing to waste time in a fruitless siege, determined
to throw some cold water on the Burman cause, and particularly on the
garrison of Ava, by accomplishing something elsewhere. He thus hoped to
restore the drooping spirits of his men, among whom sickness and labour
had spread a sad confusion. Therefore he quitted his position at Ava, to
oppose Alompra, who had collected a tremendous force at Keoum-meouin,
both soldiers and war-boats. Here again, though this was decidedly the
most obstinately-contested battle, the Peguers gave way, and a report
spreading that Shembuan was coming to attack their rear, they fled
hastily. Shembuan presently did come, and the two armies pursued the
luckless Peguers for many miles, thus gaining another great and important
victory.

Yet the Peguers were not discouraged. Preparations were made to send
forth another army to meet the fate of that which Apporaza had led to
death, not victory. Furthermore, the Peguers showed themselves devoid
of all political sagacity, in taking a measure at this critical time
which could not fail to seal the doom of his party. I said before, that
the old king of Burmah was among the Peguers, and had received kind
treatment; now, they completely changed their tactics, charged him with
a conspiracy, a charge probably not without foundation; implicated
numbers of the Burman nobility in the neighbourhood, and agreed upon a
simultaneous slaughter of the obnoxious persons. Accordingly, on the
13th of October, the Peguers rose, and first torturing and slaughtering
the court of Chioekmen, drowned him in a sack, and proceeded to the
slaughter of the principal Burmans. The measure was not without its
effects. The Burmans of Prome, Donabew, and the remaining border
provinces, retaliated, and deserted to Alompra.

But events were passing in his court of no little significance. The
eldest son of the deposed king had joined Alompra with a large force of
the Quois or Yoos tribe inhabiting the country of Muddora, east of Ava.
But the prince, not having brains enough to see that Alompra was fighting
for himself, and not for any prince, as arrogantly as imprudently assumed
the style and title of king. However Alompra would not brook two kings in
Burmah, and the prince, soon seeing his mistake, fled to Siam. Alompra,
enraged that the pseudo-king had escaped, slaughtered above a thousand of
the Quois tribe, under pretence of a conspiracy.

Beinga Della, in the beginning of 1755, marched from Pegu upon the city
of Prome, then occupied by a garrison of Burmans. Here, however, he met
with no degree of success, and when Meinlaw Tzezo, the commander sent by
Alompra to relieve the town, approached, they had not the sense to engage
him in open fight. After a little skirmishing, therefore, he eluded them,
and threw himself into the place.

Forty days passed without the Peguers gaining any advantage, yet they
prolonged the siege of Prome with no little obstinacy. But Alompra, with
one of those tremendous marches for which he was so celebrated, soon
came rushing down upon them, sweeping away men, stockades, war-boats,
and everything else. Yet considerable bravery was exhibited in the naval
portion of the battle. “Instead of his ineffectual fire from ill-directed
musketry,” says Symes,[214] “the boats closed, and the highest personal
prowess was evinced on both sides; knives, spears, and swords, were
their weapons; after a long and bloody contest, victory declared for the
Burmans, whilst the vanquished Peguers sought safety in a precipitate
flight.”

This defeat spread consternation and horror throughout the Peguese part
of the population, and while the Burmans hailed the approaching change,
the others fled in all directions. It was not any transitory panic, like
many of those which had taken place before, but an enduring terror, which
relaxed both their mental and bodily strength, and drove them from their
homes, and they wandered, Orestes-like, through the land, not daring to
lay their heads anywhere, for they knew not when the enemy would be upon
them.

No wonder, then, if a reconnoitring party of the Burmese discovered, on
the 17th of February, 1756, that Bassein was utterly deserted by the
Peguese population. The Burmese that were in the place joined Alompra’s
standard, and the populous emporium of Bassein was left to the English,
who still remained under Captain Baker in their factory. On the 23rd,
the Burman force returned, and marched up to the British post. Captain
Baker received them peacefully, and claimed protection for the servants
and property of the India Company, which was granted him. After remaining
a short while, and burning the remainder of the town, they retired to
Kioukioungee, a town on the opposite side of the river Bassein.

From this time to the 13th March, nothing of much consequence occurred;
but on that day Alompra, seeing the advantages likely to result from an
alliance with England, sent a deputation to Captain Baker with a letter
for Mr. Brooke, the head of the factories, then resident at Negrais. On
the return of the captain with an order from Mr. Brooke that the deputies
should accompany him to Negrais, the Burmans went to that place to
transact the business. The objects of the embassy were not settled until
the 26th, when the deputies and Captain Baker went back to Bassein. But
what was their astonishment to find it in the hands of the Peguers, who
had occupied the place three thousand strong. The captain was therefore
obliged to send back the deputies to Negrais. By the 23rd of April,
however, the district was again in the hands of the Burmans, as Alompra
had again engaged and defeated Apporaza, at Synyangong.

The deputies now returned to Bassein, at which place they arrived on the
3rd of June, leaving it again on the 5th for Dagon, as Rangoon was then
called, where Alompra was then staying.

“The French and English factories at Syriam were at this time in a state
of rivalry, such as might be expected from the spirit of national
emulation, and the avidity of traders on a narrow scale; the situation
of both became at this juncture highly critical; danger approached,
from which they could not hope to be entirely exempt. It was not to be
expected that they would be suffered to remain in neutral tranquillity,
indifferent spectators of so serious a contest: it therefore became
necessary to adopt some decided line of conduct, in order to avoid being
considered as a common enemy, whilst the contending powers seemed equally
anxious to attack them. In this difficult situation, neither the French
nor the English seem to have acted with policy or candour; and the
imprudence of certain individuals finally involved others, as well as
themselves, in fatal consequences.

“Monsieur Bourno, the chief of the French factory, in the interest of the
Peguers, but apprehensive of the power, and dreading the success of the
Birmans,[215] had recourse to dissimulation, and endeavoured to steer a
middle course. Under pretence of occupying a station where he could more
effectually aid the Peguers, he embarked on board a French ship, and with
two other vessels belonging to his nation, dropped down from Syriam,
and moored in the stream of the Rangoon river. Finding, soon after,
that Alompra was likely to be victorious, he determined, if possible,
to secure an interest in that quarter. With this intent he quitted his
ship, accompanied by two of his countrymen, and proceeded in a boat to
Dagon, where Alompra received him with marks of distinction and kindness;
but on the second day after the departure of M. Bourno, the officer whom
he left in charge of the ship during his absence, in concert with a
missionary who had long resided at the factory, either impelled by fear,
or prevailed upon by some secret influence, weighed anchor suddenly, and
returned to the Peguers at Syriam, without permission from his commander,
or even advising him of his intention.

“So extraordinary a step surprised Alompra exceedingly; he taxed Bourno
with deceit; the Frenchman protested his own innocence, and argued the
improbability of his assenting to any such measure whilst he remained in
the Birman camp. He sent an order to his officers to return immediately;
an injunction that was disregarded by them, under plea of their
commander being a prisoner. He then requested leave from Alompra to go in
person, and bring back the ship; to this the king consented, on condition
of leaving one of his attendants (Savine, a youth) as a hostage for his
certain return.

“From the procedure of Mr. Brooke, resident at Negrais, in his reception
of the Birman deputies, and the aid of military stores sent by him to
the Birmans, the English, when it became necessary to avow the side they
meant to espouse, seem to have declared explicitly for the Birmans; and
this principle was adopted not only by the resident at Negrais, but also
by the factory at Syriam. The _Hunter_ schooner, belonging to the India
Company; the _Elizabeth_, a country ship, commanded by Captain Swain;
and two other vessels, left Syriam in the month of May, and joined the
Birmans at Dagon. In the beginning of June the Company’s snow _Arcot_,
bound to Negrais, commanded by a Captain Jackson, and having on board
Mr. Whitehill, a gentleman in the service of the East-India Company,
proceeding to Negrais in an official capacity, put into the Rangoon river
through stress of weather. A boat that had been sent in to fetch a pilot
returned with an account of the state of affairs; and brought a letter
and an invitation from Alompra to Captain Jackson, to carry his vessel
up to Dagon, promising him every aid that the place afforded. On the 6th
of June the _Arcot_ reached Dagon, and Mr. Whitehill went on shore to
pay his respects to the Birman king, by whom he was received in a manner
that gave no apparent cause for complaint.... Until the arrival of the
_Arcot_, with Mr. Jackson and Mr. Whitehill, no subject of offence seems
to have been given to the English by the Birmans.”[216]

Apporaza had about this time returned to Syriam, and assumed the command
of the Peguese army. He saw, with sorrow and disgust, that the English
were turning to the side of the usurper, and he attempted a diversion
in favour of his master by a negotiation with Captain Jackson. This
gentleman listened readily to the representations of the general, and he
attempted in every way to cause a breach between Alompra and the British.
That his endeavours met with some success may be judged by the fact, that
when, a short time after, the Peguers made an attack upon Dagon, the
English ships maintained a strict neutrality, though they allowed the
Peguers to be beaten back. The Burmans became somewhat suspicious, still
the assurances of friendship, and the promises of assistance, lulled them
to rest again. Alompra quitted the district,—a sufficient guarantee for
his trust in the English; and after quelling the insurrection raised by
the prince on the Siamese frontier, he does not appear to have returned
to Dagon. Meinla-Meingoun was appointed commander of the army.

About this time the English commenced a correspondence with the Peguers,
and concerted an attack with them in which they would assist them. Thus
were the Peguers to be assisted by both the European fleets! “Confiding
in their new allies, and assured of victory, the war-boats of the Peguers
during the night dropped down the Pegue river, and, with the French
ships, moored in the stream of the Irawadi, waiting the return of tide
to carry them to Rangoon. Dawn of day discovered them to the Birmans,
whose general immediately sent for the English gentlemen, to consult
on the best means of defence. At this interview the Birmans candidly
acquainted Mr. Whitehill how ill satisfied they were with the conduct of
the English commanders during the late action, and desired a promise of
more effective assistance on the present occasion. Mr. Whitehill replied,
that without the Company’s orders he was not authorized to commence
hostilities on any nation; but if the Peguers fired on the English ships,
it would be considered as an act of aggression, and resented accordingly.
How much it is to be lamented,” exclaims Symes, “that such prudent and
equitable principles were not better observed! the departure from them
affixed a stain on the national honour, which the lapse of more than
forty years has not been able to expunge.”[217]

The forces of the Peguers were two large French ships, an armed snow,
and two hundred teilee, or war-boats. In the afternoon, when within
cannon-shot, the French ships came to anchor, and commenced cannonading
the Burmese fleet, which, to shelter itself from the fire and the galling
musketry from the Peguese boats, had pulled into a creek, under a grove
of mango-trees, whence the fire was returned. They had here, too, raised
a kind of fortification, with a battery of a few ship cannon, which,
from the awkwardness of the gunners, were of little use. “At this
juncture,” continues Symes,[218] “the English ships _Hunter_, _Arcot_,
and _Elizabeth_ commenced a fire on the Birman fleet. Thus assailed
by unexpected foes, the Birmans were obliged to abandon their boats,
and take shelter in the grove. Had the Peguers improved the critical
opportunity, and pursued their advantage with resolution, this action
might have retrieved their declining interests, and restored them to
the possession of the lower provinces. In vain the Europeans persuaded
them to attempt the capture of the Birman fleet; too timid to expose
themselves to a close discharge of musketry from the grove, they were
contented with the _éclat_ of having compelled the enemy to retreat
from their boats, and the rest of the day was spent in distant random
firing. During the night the English ships removed out of the reach of
small-arms, two men being killed on board the _Arcot_. The Peguers kept
their situation for some days, during which much irregular skirmishing
passed; when, having exhausted their ammunition without advancing their
cause, the Peguers thought fit to return to Syriam, accompanied by the
English and French ships, leaving the Birmans in possession of the
fortified grove, and the lines of the newly-projected town.”

On the arrival of the English, Apporaza, who seems to have been well
aware of the utility of such allies, received them with every mark of
kindness, and wrote to Mr. Brooke at Negrais, offering him various
advantages if he would enter into a compact with them. Mr. Brooke,
disguising the feelings of vexation that he must have felt at the conduct
of his officers, returned a courteous and friendly answer, but required
the presence of Mr. Whitehill and the English vessels. Accordingly, that
gentleman, escorted by twenty war-boats, quitted Syriam, and arrived at
Negrais on the 26th of August. He was followed by the _Hunter_ schooner,
and the _Arcot_ only remained behind, as it had to undergo some repairs
before being seaworthy. All this time Mr. Brooke was continuing his
negotiations with Alompra, and he despatched Captain Baker and Lieutenant
North to the king. These gentlemen proceeded up the river but slowly, the
torrent being swollen and rapid. Above Prome they met a detachment of
Burman troops proceeding to Dagon and the newly-founded city of Rangoon.
Captain Baker had an interview with the chief, who was sanguine as to the
result of the war. The meeting was embarrassing on both sides; on the
part of Captain Baker, because he had the strange occurrences connected
with the English vessels to account for; and on the part of the Burman
general, as he was certain of the power and influence of the English,
and totally ignorant of their intentions. Captain Baker had the farther
misfortune to lose his colleague, Lieutenant North, who died of dysentery
a day or two after continuing his journey. On the 8th of September,
however, he reached Ava, the former metropolis, where he was civilly
received by the governor. On the 16th he was summoned to Moutzoboo, to
attend on the Golden Foot, for Alompra had now assumed the titles of the
empire, as well as the emoluments.

The interview was a characteristic one on both sides. The king, with
all the pride of an Eastern potentate elevated to the throne by his own
endeavours, swelled with arrogance and vaunted of his successes. He
justly censured the duplicity, real or apparent, of the English at Dagon,
reminding the envoy that he had treated them kindly during his stay; he
said that it was far from grateful thus to break all the promises that
had been made.

Captain Baker replied with expressions of regret; he solemnly declared
that Mr. Brooke knew nothing of the affair, had been very angry at its
occurrence, and that the hostile movement was utterly unauthorized
by the English resident. Alompra listened with attention and seeming
satisfaction. So ended the first audience.

At a subsequent meeting, permission was granted by the king for the
erection of factories at Dagon and Bassein; but the English never are
satisfied, and therefore Captain Baker pressed his majesty to cede the
island of Negrais. Strange it is, that, when, but a few days previously,
the Burman cause had been totally deserted by the English, yet, upon the
strength of a few paltry professions, the Burmese were supposed to have
had sufficient confidence in them, as to lead to the surrender of an
island of some little extent, commanding the finest port in the dominions
of Alompra. However, the king showed policy, too; for he neither granted
nor denied their request, but left it for future decision. Baker was
then dismissed, and re-embarked for Negrais on the 29th of September.

During this time, the Peguers had attempted the capture of the Burman
post at Dagon, with the assistance of the _Arcot_, and two other English
ships. Ten thousand Peguers marched round by land, and three hundred
war-boats, together with a French vessel, accompanied the English ships.
They were again repulsed by the Burmans, who, probably under European
direction, constructed fire-rafts, by which the French ship was placed in
great peril. The land-forces, weakened by their own numbers, and deprived
of the co-operation of the fleet, retreated, and “never dared to hazard
another enterprise.”[219]

But the Peguers were to suffer more. The Devoted to Buddha was coming,
and who could stand against his bands? He attacked the fort of Syriam by
land and water, and choosing the time of ebb-tide, when the French ship
was aground, he attacked it with gun-boats. Upon this, Bourno desired to
change sides again, and sent a letter to Alompra, offering fresh terms of
accommodation. But the Peguers suspected him of treachery, and removed
him and his adherents into the fort of Syriam, leaving the factory and
vessel deserted. These Alompra immediately seized, and he now let famine
and disease do its work in the over-crowded place, and never quitted
his position until the month of July, 1756. The Peguers were gradually
lulled into security, and Alompra seized a favourable opportunity, made
a vigorous assault upon the place, and, though most of the garrison
escaped, he made all the Europeans prisoners.

“It has already appeared to have been the determined policy of the French
to espouse the cause of the Peguers; and had succours from Pondicherry
arrived before the state of things became too desperate, affairs would
probably have worn a different aspect, and the Peguers obtained such an
addition to their strength, as would have enabled them to conclude a
peace on advantageous terms. But assistance in war, to be effectual, must
be timely; unless applied while the scales hang nearly even, it often
comes too late, and is found not only to be useless, but even productive
of deeper disappointment. In the present case, the French brought those
supplies of which the Peguers had long buoyed themselves with hopes,
at the unfortunate moment when the communication was cut off, when no
relief could be conveyed to them, and all prospect of retrieving their
disastrous fortunes had completely vanished.

“Mons. Dupleix, governor of Pondicherry, a man whose comprehensive mind
perceived with clearness whatever could benefit his nation at this
juncture, deeply engaged in the important contest that was ultimately to
determine the sovereignty of the East, being aware of the consequence
of maintaining an influence in Pegu,[220] had, notwithstanding the
exigencies of his own situation, equipped two ships, the _Galathié_ and
_Diligent_, vessels of force, well manned and armed, and sent them, with
a supply of military stores, to the assistance of the Peguers.”[221]

The _Galathié_ speedily arrived off the Burmese coast, but in
consequence of mistaking the mouth of the Setang for that of the Rangoon
embouchement, it did not get there in time. Alompra’s spies, however, had
already informed him of the approach of the inimical vessel, and when
the captain sent up a boat for a pilot, it was seized. Alompra, then,
after forcing Bourno to write a letter, encouraging the _Galathié_ to
come up the river, sent it with a pilot. Unfortunately for the French
commander, he fell into the trap, and on arriving at Rangoon, he first
learned in what position he was placed, and how fatal the matter had been
to him. The _Galathié_ was then seized, the arms and ammunition brought
on shore, and the papers proved that these supplies were intended for
the Peguers.[222] Alompra, upon being assured of this treachery, ordered
the instant execution of Bourno, Martine, and the rest of the French
prisoners. “This sanguinary mandate,” concludes Symes,[223] “was obeyed
with unrelenting promptitude; a few seamen and Lascars alone escaped, and
these were preserved for no other purpose than to be rendered of use in
the further prosecution of the war, and survived but to experience all
the miseries of hopeless bondage.”

The _Diligent_ was more fortunate. A storm had compelled her to take
shelter at the Nicobar islands, where she was obliged to remain some
time. Adverse reports spread quickly, and the captain soon heard the
sad fate of his countrymen, and he returned to Pondicherry with the
evil tidings. The time had now passed, and Peguese supremacy and French
ascendancy in Burmah might be numbered among the past events of history.

It is strange, with the savage character that the man ever bore, that the
French were the only victims on this occasion; and it certainly argues
more in favour of his justice than almost any action of his life. Policy,
too, prevented him from offending the English at the time, though it is
useless to disguise the fact, that they deserved quite as much, and even
more than the French. The measures of Bourno had been infinitely more
decided than those of the English, and an open enemy is ever more of a
friend than a treacherous, creeping friend. But the tragedy was not at an
end.

Though the fall of Syriam “had determined the fate of the Peguers,” yet
they did not wholly give up hope. I have already in a former chapter
given a description of the capital of Pegu,[224] which I need not
therefore repeat; but still the following passage from Symes will prove
of use in comprehending the details of the siege:[225]—

“Situated on an extensive plain, Pegue was surrounded with a high and
solid wall, flanked by small towers, and strengthened on each face by
demi-bastions, equidistant; a broad ditch contained about three feet
depth of water; wells or reservoirs supplied the town; the stupendous
pagoda of Shoemadoo,[226] nearly centrical, built on an artificial
eminence, and inclosed by a substantial wall of brick, served as a
citadel, and afforded an enlarged view of the adjacent country. The
extent, however, of the works, the troops necessary to defend them, and
the number of inhabitants within the walls, operated to the disadvantage
of the besieged, and aggravated the distresses they were shortly to
endure.”

For Alompra, evidently perceiving the excellence of the plan pursued at
Syriam in reducing his foes, again determined to await the natural course
of events, and let starvation do its work in the ranks of the enemy.
The siege of Pegu by Alompra is not dissimilar to the siege of Mexico
by Cortés, and indeed, the whole progress of the movements of Alompra
are worthy of comparison with the acts of the conqueror of Mexico. Alike
indomitable in character, energetic and swift in action, and fitfully
cruel, though not insensible to the gentler voice of remonstrance, they
stand as nearly side by side, as the semi-civilised, impulsive, and
naturally politic Oriental, and the sternly educated, calculating, though
rapidly acting European can. This is not the place for such a discussion,
or many interesting coincidences might doubtless be elicited from a
comparison of both their lives.

As the Mexicans could look down from their _teocalli_, and behold the
relentless band of Spain around their walls, so could the Peguers look
from the pagoda of Shoemadoo, and behold the natural foes of their race
waiting without, like sheriff’s officers, until the beleaguered were too
weak to hold the door against the besiegers. Meinla-Mein-goung was sent
with a powerful detachment to commence the circumvallation of the town,
and in a few days the Devoted to Buddha followed with the remainder of
the army, and “sat down before the city,” in the month of January, 1757.

For two months the Burmans persevered in this plan, and, ever vigilant,
allowed none to escape. The immense multitude of Peguers, though but a
small remnant of the nation, caused want to be soon felt; discontent and
mutiny were the consequence of the scarcity of provision, and it seemed
as if the nation would fly to arms against itself. The danger of open
revolt became every day more imminent. The royal family and officers
looked wistfully and anxiously from the pagodas, watching for the first
intimation of any movement among their relentless besiegers. But it was
all in vain. At this juncture, Beinga Della summoned an assembly of all
the family and chiefs of any consequence. Apporaza, the king’s brother;
Chouparea, his son-in-law and nephew; and a general named Talabaan, were
among the principal persons in the assembly. The king, after laying
before them the utter hopelessness of resistance; after reminding them
of the differences existing between parties in the streets of Pegu
itself; after calling upon them to avoid, by the best means in their
power, the dreadful consequences of still stubbornly prolonging their
own sufferings, and feeding the rage of their enemies, advised a timely
submission, and offered to present his unmarried daughter to Alompra as a
means of deprecating his anger. Such an act of homage, he concluded, was
the only way he perceived of turning away the resentment of the Burman
conqueror.

All heard this proposition with sorrow; but there was nothing for it but
to acquiesce. One chief present, however, ventured to remonstrate, and
this was the valiant general Talabaan. He rose, and inveighing bitterly
against such a course, reprobated the idea of submission; he concluded a
short but comprehensive speech, “with an offer to sally forth at the head
of six hundred chosen followers, and either raise the siege, and procure
an honourable peace, or perish in the attempt; provided, in the event
of success, the king would promise to bestow on him his daughter as the
reward of valour”[227]—for Talabaan secretly loved the maiden.

The king assented to these terms, believing that Talabaan would also
perform what he had so well planned, and the council was dismissed.
Apporaza, however, always indirectly or directly the cause of misfortune,
having grown envious of the growing influence of Talabaan, worked upon
the king’s mind, representing that an alliance with Alompra was far more
glorious than an alliance with such a pitiful, low-born personage as
Talabaan. Overcome by the artful representations of Apporaza, seconded
by the other chiefs, the king rescinded his assent. At this, Talabaan,
disgusted with the ingratitude of Beinga Della, assembled a few faithful
attendants, sallied forth from the city, and forced his way through the
midst of the Burmans. He then escaped to the Setang river, which he
crossed, and then marched to his family estate of Mondimaa or Martaban.

After the secession of Talabaan, the former measure proposed by the
king of Pegu was carried out. Arrangements were made between the rival
monarchs, and Beinga Della was reinstated in his position as king of
Pegu, being, however, subject to the king of Ava.

“Some days elapsed in festive ceremonies, during which both the besiegers
and the besieged had frequent and almost uninterrupted intercourse; the
guards on both sides relaxed in their vigilance, and small parties of
Birmans found their way into the city, whilst the Peguers visited the
Birman camp without molestation or inquiry. Alompra, who, it appears, had
little intention of adhering to the recent compact, privately introduced
bodies of armed men, with directions to secrete themselves within the
city, until their services should be required; arms and ammunition were
also conveyed and lodged in places of concealment. Matters, however, were
not managed with such circumspection as to prevent discovery; Chouparea,
the king’s nephew, received intimation of the meditated treachery; he
instantly ordered the gates of the city to be closed, and having found
out the repositories where the weapons were lodged, and detected many
Birmans in disguise, he gave directions to put to death every man of that
nation who should be found within the walls, and opened a fire upon such
part of the Birman camp as was most exposed to the artillery of the fort.

“Hostilities now recommenced with exasperated fury; Apporaza with his
royal niece were detained in the Birman camp; the uncle under close
confinement, whilst the lady was consigned to the guardians of the
female apartments. The Peguers having gained no accession to their
strength, and added little to their stores, during the short interval of
tranquillity, were not in a better condition than before to resist the
enemy. The Birmans observed the system of warfare which they at first
adopted; so that in six weeks, famine had again reduced the garrison
to a deplorable state of wretchedness and want; the most loathsome
reptiles were eagerly sought after and devoured, and the clamours of the
soldiers could no longer be appeased. A few secret hoards of grain were
by chance discovered, and many more were suspected to exist; the crowd
thronged tumultuously round the quarters of Chouparea, on whom, after
the secession of Talabaan, and the imprisonment of Apporaza, the care
of defending the fortress entirely devolved. In order to silence and
satisfy those whom he could not restrain, he ordered a general search for
grain, and granted permission to the soldiers forcibly to enter whatever
houses fell under suspicion. This license was diligently improved, and
the house of a near relation of the king was discovered to contain more
grain than either the present situation of affairs or his own wants could
justify. The deposit was demanded, and as resolutely refused. The crowd,
authorized by the permission of Chouparea, proceeded to take by violence
what was not to be obtained by entreaty; a riot ensued, in which some
lives were lost, and the prince was at length obliged to abandon his
house. Repairing to the royal residence, he uttered violent invectives
against Chouparea, whom he accused to the king of harbouring an intention
to deprive his sovereign of life, and seize upon the imperial throne;
and advised his majesty rather to throw himself on the generosity of
the besiegers, and obtain the best terms practicable, than hazard the
danger to which his person and kingdom were exposed from the perfidy
of a faithless and powerful subject. The king, whose imbecility seems
to have equalled his ill fortune, lent an ear to the complaints of a
man stimulated by sudden rage and personal jealousy: the unhappy and
distracted monarch resolved to pursue his counsel; but being too timid
openly to avow his weakness and suspicion, he sent secret proposals to
Alompra to surrender the city to him, stipulating for life alone, and
leaving the rest to the discretion of the conqueror. According to the
plan agreed on, the Birmans advanced to the gates, which were immediately
deserted; the Peguers fled in the utmost panic; many escaped in the
confusion; the Pegue king was made prisoner and the city given up to
indiscriminate plunder.”[228]

An affecting episode in the fate of the Peguese monarchy was, however,
yet to come. Talabaan, it will be recollected, had fled to Martaban,
where his family resided. This chief was as obnoxious to Alompra as
any one of the Peguese party. His influence was too great to admit of
his being spared or forgotten. Therefore, after the reduction of Pegu,
and the submission of all the country around, he marched to Martaban
with a considerable force. With the few adherents which still clung to
the Peguese general, resistance was absurd; he therefore fled to the
woods, thinking that against him alone would the resentment of Alompra
be directed. Those that remained were seized by the king, and the
unfortunate Talabaan heard in his retreat, that if he himself did not
surrender, the innocent members of his family would be sacrificed to
the fury of the conqueror. All personal feelings of fear now faded from
his bosom; he thought no longer of the vengeance that awaited him, but
surrendering himself a voluntary prisoner, he thus preserved the dear
relations “whom he loved more than life.” Alompra was so much struck
with the unexpected heroism of the outcast, that he pardoned him, and
subsequently raised him to a high position in his court.

At this time the settlement of Negrais was in a critical position. The
actors there had changed, and a Mr. Newton had succeeded Captain Howe,
resident of the East-India Company, upon Mr. Brooke’s retirement. To
this gentleman Alompra sent a message, requiring his presence at Prome.
Mr. Newton deputed Ensign Lyster thither. The envoy left Negrais on the
27th of June, 1757, and proceeded to Bassein, where he had to await the
arrival of Antonio, a native interpreter descended from a Portuguese
family. On the 13th of July, he was again _en route_, and on the 23rd he
met Alompra on the Irawadi. He immediately had an audience, which led,
as all first audiences do, to nothing. On the 29th, the king halted at
Myan-aong, where a second audience took place. Alompra again adverted
to the English treachery of Dagon, and, presenting some gifts of little
value, in return for the presents from Negrais, he left the remainder to
be settled between Lyster, Antonio, and the Acka-woon, or governor of
the port of Bassein. After some boggling on both sides, the island of
Negrais was ceded to the India Company in perpetuity, together with a
piece of ground opposite Bassein, for a factory. The Company were to give
arms and military stores in return, and aid against the king of Tavoy.
This treaty, the result of bribery, according to Symes,[229] received the
sanction of the king. On the 22nd of August, 1757, formal possession was
taken by Ensign Lyster.

After these events had taken place, Alompra returned to Moutzoboo,
the capital of the kingdom, and commenced an expedition against the
inhabitants of Cassay; but he soon returned to the south, on learning
that the Peguers had again revolted.

Many of that nation had fled across the frontier of Siam, whence they
now returned in great force, defeated Namdeoda, the Burmese general, and
recaptured Rangoon, Dalla, and Syriam. But upon Alompra’s dread approach,
the fortune of war changed. Namdeoda returned, retook the towns, and
after a severe engagement, again overthrew the Peguese force.

At this time, Whitehill, who supposed his treacherous deeds forgotten,
went to Rangoon with a small vessel, laden with such things as were
fitted for the trade to that port. But Alompra had not forgotten him. His
vessel was seized, and he himself was sent to Prome, where he met the
king returning from Moutzoboo. Alompra, probably to allay all suspicions
on the part of the English as to the desperate game he was about to play,
spared Mr. Whitehill’s life, though he made him pay a heavy ransom, and
confiscated his vessel. He was afterwards allowed to return to Negrais
in a Dutch ship. At this time, unhappily for Negrais, Captain Newton
returned to Bengal, taking with him all the available force. He arrived
in Calcutta on the 14th of May, 1759.

The Armenians, the Jews of the East, ever envious and suspicious of the
progress of the colonies under European administration, looked with an
evil eye upon the settlement of Negrais. Among those at that port, Coja
Pochas and Coja Gregory, were particularly hostile to the English. In
Laveene, the French youth left by Bourno as a hostage, and who had found
favour in Alompra’s eyes, Coja Gregory found a fitting instrument to
execute the plot that he had contrived for the ruin of English prosperity
in Burmah. Whether Alompra knew of the affair long before, is uncertain;
but it is to be inferred from the tenor of his actions, that he did not,
when it came to his knowledge, condemn it.

Mr. Southby, to whom the government of Bengal had committed the care of
the colony, disembarked from the _Victoria_ snow, on the 4th of October,
1759. The _Shaftesbury_ East-Indiaman was also in harbour, having put
in for water. Antonio, the Portuguese-Burman interpreter, came down to
receive Southby, and was treated well by Mr. Hope, at that time in charge
of Negrais, as well as by the new resident. Antonio’s errand was, of
course, to superintend the conspiracy that was about to burst on the
heads of the devoted Englishmen; but the pretext was to deliver a letter
from Alompra.

“The address and secrecy with which the intended massacre was concerted,
gave no room for taking any precaution. Antonio, who had paid a visit to
Mr. Southby on the morning of the 6th, was invited by him to dinner on
the same day, at a temporary building belonging to the English. Whilst
the entertainment was serving up, the treacherous guest withdrew. At
that instant a number of armed Birmans rushed into the room, and put
Messrs. Southby and Hope to death. This transaction took place in an
upper apartment. Messrs. Robertson and Briggs happened to be below with
eight Europeans of inferior note; a separate attack was made on these
by another set of assassins, in which five Europeans were slain; the
rest, with Mr. Robertson and Mr. Briggs, shut themselves in a godown, or
storeroom, where they continued on the defensive until the afternoon,
when, receiving a solemn assurance that their lives should be spared,
they surrendered, and experienced the utmost brutality of treatment
from the murderers. Mr. Briggs being wounded, and unable to move with
the alertness required of him, was knocked down, and a period put to
his sufferings, by having a spear run through his body; the rest were
escorted to the water-side, where Antonio, who had retired when the
massacre commenced, was waiting with a boat to receive them. This fellow
had the humanity to unchain the prisoners, and pursued his journey with
them to Dagon or Rangoon, where he expected to find the king, and,
doubtless, to receive a reward for the meritorious part he had acted.

“A midshipman, of the crew of the _Shaftesbury_, was about to enter the
house when the slaughter commenced; but on hearing the cries of his
countrymen, and perceiving the danger, he fled to the water-side, wounded
by a spear that was cast at him in his retreat. The _Shaftesbury’s_
pinnace brought away the midshipman, with several black people belonging
to the settlement; the fury of the murderers being indiscriminately
levelled against Europeans and their Indian attendants. The long-boat
also, that had brought on shore some of Mr. Southby’s baggage, was
fortunate enough to push off before the Birmans could get possession
of her, and letting the ensign fly with the union downwards, gave
intimation to the ship, by that token, of some unexpected mischance.”[230]

In the whole of this diabolical affair, Laveene, the young Frenchman, was
actively engaged. The battery being seized, was turned by him against the
_Shaftesbury_, and the action continued the whole day. Next morning the
Burmese renewed their fire, but the _Shaftesbury_ had hauled beyond the
range of shot, and the _Victoria_ followed her example.

“That Gregory, the Armenian, was the principal instigator, is a fact of
which no native of the country, who remembers the transaction, entertains
the smallest doubts, as well as that Laveene was the principal agent
and instrument of execution. It is said that the former accused Mr.
Hope, who commanded after the departure of Lieutenant Newton, of having
supplied the Peguers with provisions, and sold to them four or five
hundred muskets; that he had taken pains to instil into his majesty’s
mind a persuasion, that the English were a designing and dangerous
people; who, having acquired Indian territory, first by fraud, and
afterwards by violence, meditated the practice of similar treachery upon
them; and only waited a fit opportunity to wrest from him his empire,
and enslave his subjects, as they had recently done in the instance of
the unsuspecting and abused Mogul. He also added, that the governor of
Negrais prevented vessels from going up to Bassein, by which the royal
revenue was defrauded. These arguments, whether groundless or founded,
were sufficiently plausible to produce the desired effect; and there
is but too much reason to think that some provocation had been given,
though, perhaps, of a trivial nature, and certainly not sufficient to
warrant a step unjustifiable by every law, human and divine.”[231] That
Alompra had some share in the matter, can hardly be doubted. He had
received too many crosses from the English during his conquest of Burmah,
to forget. Besides, the heart of the Oriental despot always rankles with
envy and pride. He looked for an opportunity to make the English feel his
vengeance, and he seized it. Undoubtedly, the Portuguese and Frenchman
had not forgotten the massacre of their own nations; and the latter,
invested with a little brief authority, did the most that his spiteful
heart could do.

This event forms the last one of any consequence in the life of Alompra,
the liberator and conqueror of Burmah and Pegu. The conquest of Tavoy
shed a brief light upon this portion of his career, and feeling certain
of success, he determined to let the Siamese feel his strength; and he
thought to have vengeance for the assistance that country had given to
the Peguese, during his reduction of their power. He therefore sent an
expedition against Mergui, and on the taking of that place, the army
proceeded against Tenasserim, which soon yielded to the victorious
Burmese.

He now determined to march against Bangkok, the capital of Siam, and
thus complete the conquest of the peninsula. However, disease overtook
him; the Devoted to Buddha, who had been a victor in a hundred battles,
now succumbed to a single arm; but it was the arm of death, the strong
force that assails every conqueror. Alompra, though he perceived that his
end was drawing near, did not lose his presence of mind, but ordered a
countermarch to his own country, that his arms might not be sullied by a
defeat. But he expired about the 15th of May, 1760, when within two days’
march of Martaban.

The following sketch of his character, by Symes, will form a fitting
conclusion to this chapter:—

“Considering the limited progress that the Birmans had yet made in arts
that refine, and science that tends to expand the human mind, Alompra,
whether viewed in the light of a politician or a soldier, is undoubtedly
entitled to respect. The wisdom of his councils secured what his valour
had acquired; he was not more eager for conquest, than attentive to
the improvement of his territories and the prosperity of his people;
he issued a severe edict against gambling, and prohibited the use of
spirituous liquors throughout his dominions; he reformed the rhooms or
courts of justice; he abridged the power of magistrates, and forbade them
to decide at their private houses on criminal causes, or on property
where the amount exceeded a specified sum; every process of importance
was decided in public, and every decree registered. His reign was short,
but vigorous; and had his life been prolonged, it is probable that
his country would at this day have been farther advanced in national
refinement and the liberal arts.

“Alompra did not live to complete his fiftieth year: his person, strong
and well proportioned, exceeded the middle size; his features were
coarse, his complexion dark, and his countenance saturnine; and there
was a dignity in his deportment that became his high station. In his
temper, he is said to have been prone to anger; in revenge, implacable;
and in punishing faults, remorseless and severe. The latter part of his
character may, perhaps, have arisen as much from the necessities of his
situation as from a disposition by nature cruel. He who acquires a throne
by an act of individual boldness, is commonly obliged to maintain it
by terror: the right of assumption is guarded with more jealousy than
that of prescription. If we except the last act of severity towards the
English settlers, his conduct, on most occasions, seemed to be marked by
moderation and forbearance; even in that one disgraceful instance, he
appeared to have been instigated by the persuasions of others, rather
than by the dictates of a vindictive mind; and it is manifest, from the
expressions of his successor on a public occasion, that it never was his
intention to consign the innocent, with the supposed guilty, to the same
indiscriminate and sanguinary fate.

“Be the private character of Alompra what it may, his heroic actions give
him an indisputable claim to no mean rank among the most distinguished
personages in the page of history. His firmness emancipated a whole
nation from servitude, and, inspired by his bravery, the oppressed, in
their turn, subdued their oppressors. Like the deliverer of Sweden, with
his gallant band of Dalecarlians, he fought for that which experience
tells us rouses the human breast above every other stimulant to deeds
of daring valour. Private injuries, personal animosities, commercial
emulation, wars of regal policy, are petty provocations compared to that
which animates the resentment of a people whose liberties are assailed,
whose right to govern themselves is wrested from them, and who are forced
to bend beneath the tyranny of a foreign yoke.”[232]



CHAPTER II.

1760-1819.

    Anaundopra—Zempiuscien—Chengaza—Paongoza—Men-ta-ra-gyee.


When the political history of a country commences with one bright and
shining event, it is hardly possible to make the continuation of its
career otherwise than “stale, flat, and unprofitable.” How true this is,
was amply proved by Prescott, in the case of Mexico and Peru, when with
all the magical charm of his eloquent pen, he failed to give the History
of Peru the same attractive feature that he had presented in Mexico.
If it were impossible then for a master-hand like his, to invest the
fluctuating events of the civil wars of Peru with the graces of romance,
how difficult will it be for me to do the same by those of Burmah!

The great event of Burman history, the elevation of Alompra to the
regal or imperial dignity, overshadows all the subsequent occurrences
in that history, although, considered by themselves, they form not the
least interesting episodes of Oriental story. I shall endeavour, in the
following pages, to present them, as they are, to the reader, begging him
to bear in mind the first sentence of this chapter.

Alompra, on his death-bed, left the succession unsettled, though,
according to Sangermano,[233] he had stipulated for the successive
administration of his seven sons. Whether this was really the case, is
impossible to say; but the eldest brother seems to have ascended the
throne without dispute. His name was Anaundopra; but, as Symes observes,
“neither the mandates of law, nor the claims of equity, can curb the
career of restless ambition;”[234] and as it had proved insufficient to
restrain the father, it was insufficient to restrain the son. Thembuan,
or Zempiuscien, whom we have seen in the government of Ava, raised a
revolt against his brother’s administration. But he had not the solid
talent of his father, and his claims were scarcely recognised by his
immediate followers; consequently it is not very extraordinary that his
rebellion fell to the ground. He hastened to give in his submission,
and his brother appears to have been forgiving enough, for he was soon
restored to favour.

But the flame of rebellion and revolution was kindled. It wanted but
little to fan it into a formidable sheet of fire. During the absence of
Zempiuscien at Moutzoboo, the general Meinla Nuttoon, marching through
the lower country, raised the standard of revolt, and seizing upon
Tongho, marched upon Ava, which, intimidated by the force attached to
his interests, immediately surrendered. It were foreign to my purpose to
give a detailed account of this insurrection. I will only say, that it
required all the strength of the king to quell it. The siege of Ava was
protracted for seven months, as Nuttoon expected assistance from Siam.

“These expectations were not realized. Supplies from the country failed,
and want began to make ravages within the walls, although the magazines,
which at the commencement of the siege were full, had been husbanded with
the utmost economy. Discontent is ever the concomitant of distress. The
governor of Mayah Oun, who had embraced Nuttoon’s fortune, deserted from
the fort. Flying to Mayah Oun, he collected his adherents; but not being
able to resist the royal forces, they set fire to the town, and betook
themselves to the woods and jungles, whence they afterwards withdrew to
the eastern provinces, where the authority of the Birman monarch was
yet scarcely recognised. The rebels had likewise evacuated the fort of
Tongho. Towards the end of the year, the garrison in Ava was reduced to
the greatest extremity, and their numbers diminished above one-half by
sickness, famine, and desertion. In this helpless state, without any
chance of relief, Nuttoon made his escape from the fort in disguise;
but had proceeded only the distance of two days’ journey, when he was
discovered by some peasants, and brought back in fetters. The fort of
Ava fell shortly afterwards by the flight of its commandant. Such of
their unfortunate adherents as could not effect their escape, were
without mercy put to death. Nuttoon, likewise, suffered the doom of a
traitor.”[235]

This was, however, not all. Another revolt was raised by the viceroy of
Tongho, an uncle of the king’s. However, Anaundopra marched to Tongho,
and took the place after a siege of three months, and, according to
Sangermano,[236] put him to death. Symes, however, informs us, that he
was kept a close prisoner in the fort of Ava till his death.[237]

Talabaan, too, raised a rebellion, which was, however, very soon ended
by the seizure and execution of that general. “So long as that monarch
[Alompra] lived, he conducted himself like a dutiful servant: the death
of his sovereign, however, cancelled in Talabaan’s breast the bonds of
duty and gratitude, and, though faithful to the father, he took the
earliest opportunity to revolt against the son.”[238] In March, 1764,
the king breathed his last, of the same scrofulous complaint that killed
his father, leaving behind an infant son named Momien. The numerous
rebellions against his government would lead us to expect immense
strictness in his character; but he is represented as only severe in
matters of religion; except in this particular, his administration was
forbearing and moderate. The insurrections were more probably induced by
the double reason of ambition on the part of the revolution, and by the
necessary restraint which follows the unlicensed liberties of war. The
people were accustomed to feel themselves masters of all, and now, the
turbulent and unsettled reign of Alompra having closed, they chafed and
bit at the cord like irascible dogs.

Zempiuscien, as the nearest relation to the infant monarch, became
regent of Burmah, though the authority of the child was probably never
recognised, either by regent or people. After some time, indeed, he
openly assumed the crown, and, at the petition of a sister of Alompra,
sent Momien to the priests, instead of murdering him, as he intended.
His reign was warlike, and marked with many rebellions and revolutions,
which, though raging for the moment, had no effect beyond the fury of the
moment. The principal event and shame of his life, cannot be better told
than in the words of Symes.[239]

“Whatever respect the glory of conquest, and the wisdom of a
well-regulated government, might attach to the reign of Shembuan, it
must be wholly obscured by the cruelty exercised on the present occasion
[the taking of Rangoon from the Peguers, who had again rebelled] towards
his royal prisoner, the unhappy king of Pegue; and this, too, like a
more recent and equally inhuman regicide,[240] in a nation professing
Christianity and enlightened by science, was perpetrated under the
mockery of justice. Shembuan, not content with exhibiting to the humbled
Peguers their venerable, and yet venerated monarch, bound in fetters, and
bowed down with years and anguish, resolved to take away his life, and
render the disgrace still deeper, by exposing him as a public malefactor,
to suffer under the stroke of the public executioner.... The process of
law in Birman courts of justice, is conducted with as much formality as
in any country on earth. Beinga Della was brought before the judges of
the Rhoom, among whom the Maywoon of Pegue presided. The late king of
Pegue was there accused of having been privy to, and instrumental in
exciting the late rebellion. Depositions of several witnesses, supposed
to be suborned, were taken; the prisoner denied the charge; but his
fate being determined on, his plea availed him nothing. He was found
guilty; and the proceedings, according to custom, were laid before the
king, who passed sentence of death, and accompanied it by an order for
speedy execution. In conformity with this cruel mandate, on the 7th of
the increasing moon, in the month of Taboung,[241] the aged victim was
led in public procession through an insulting population, to a place
called Awabock, three miles without the city, where he met his doom with
fortitude, and had no distinction paid him above the meanest criminal,
except that all the municipal officers attended in their robes of
ceremony to witness his last moments.”

The death of Beinga Della preceded his own by but a short space of time,
for Zempiuscien, or Shembuan, died in the spring of 1776.

His son and successor, Zinguza or Chenguza, presented very different
traits of character to those of any of Alompra’s dynasty. He plunged
into the wildest excesses of debauchery, and left the government to
the maladministration of a corrupt court. This proved fatal to him.
The excesses of king and ministers did not pass by unheeded. Momien,
his cousin, had not forgotten that he had an equal right to the
throne, and the disgusting murder committed on the queen, afforded a
pretext for revolt. A conspiracy had been formed by one of Alompra’s
brothers, Men-ta-ra-gyee, the queen’s father, and one of the ministers
whom Chenguza had insulted; Momien was used as a tool to elevate
Men-ta-ra-gyee to the throne. This young man,[242] “taking advantage of
his [Chenguza’s] absence, advanced by night to Ava, in company with about
forty inhabitants of a village called Pongà, and without experiencing any
resistance, made himself master of the palace. Upon which the youth of
Ava, and the neighbouring places, came eagerly to be enrolled, and take
up arms in favour of the new king; who, in the space of five days, was in
possession of the person and kingdom of Zinguzà. But the usurper, whose
name was Paongozà, from the long abode he had made in Paongà, by these
rapid and successful advances, only served as a means to Badonsachen
[the former name of Men-ta-ra-gyee], the reigning sovereign, to mount
upon the throne. For scarcely had he taken possession of the palace,
than he called together all his uncles and made them an offer of the
kingdom; saying, that according to the dispositions of Alompra, to them
it belonged. But they suspected this ingenuous declaration of Paongozà
to be nothing more than a malicious contrivance to pry into their secret
thoughts, and upon their accepting his offers, to give him a pretence for
their destruction; and therefore not only declined to receive it, but
declared themselves, by drinking the water of the oath, his subjects and
vassals.... Paongozà then raised them to their former state, and restored
all the honours whereof they had been deprived by Zinguzà. But they,
a few days later, took that by force, which, when peacefully offered,
they had not dared to accept. For on the 10th of February, 1782, they
suddenly entered the palace, seized Paongozà, and placed on the throne
Badonsachen, third[243] son of Alompra. He, according to custom, caused
the deposed monarch to be thrown into the river, calling him in scorn the
king of seven days.[244] Paongozà at the time of his death, had only
reached his twentieth year. On the following day the unfortunate Zinguzà
underwent the same fate, in his twenty-sixth year; and all his queens and
concubines, holding their babes in their arms, were burnt alive.”

The particulars of the taking of Zinguzà by Momien, or Moung-Moung, are
as follows:[245]—

Chenguza had gone to Keoptaloum, a place on the banks of the Irawadi,
about thirty miles from Ava, to celebrate a festival. As he was never
regular in his time of going in or out, no one could tell when he would
return; indeed, he was often late. Having obtained a royal dress, Momien
presented himself at the portal shoedogaa, and demanded admission.
But the haste of the conspirators betrayed them to the sentinel, who,
opening the wicket, and then attempting to close, called out, “Treason!”
However, it was too late, the guards were cut down, and the gate thrown
open to the assailants. These, together with a body of men placed in
ambuscade, occupied all the approaches to the palace, and kept it in a
complete state of blockade. The various court officials, on the approach
of the rebels, shut themselves up within the inclosures of the palace.
Consternation and fright prevailed through the city all the night; the
assailants were expected to attack them, but, in conformity with the
Eastern and American custom, they did not attack the place till the
morning, when they then blew open one of the palace-gates. They were
gallantly met, however, by the guard, commanded by an Armenian, named
Gabriel, who caused no small havoc among them, by three discharges of
artillery from the guns on the top of the gate. However, the conspirators
were too strong, or the defenders too uncertain as to whom they might be
contending with, to withstand them long. Gabriel was killed by the thrust
of a spear, and then his party fled. Thus Momien obtained a speedy and
decisive victory, little dreaming of the speedy fate that awaited him!

Chenguza was now proclaimed an outlaw, and an armed force was detached
to arrest him. But he had received timely notice of the fall of his
administration, and, leaving all his court behind, escaped to Chagaing,
were he was immediately besieged. Chenguza at first thought of defending
himself; but finding that he was deserted by those on whom he placed his
chief reliance, after a resistance of four days the resolution failed,
and he determined on flying to the Cassay country, there to throw himself
on the protection of the Munnipoora Raja. This intention he privately
communicated to his mother, the widow of Shembuan Praw, who resided
in his palace in the city of Ava. Instead of encouraging her son to
persevere in so pusillanimous a resolve, she earnestly dissuaded him
from flight; urging that it was far more glorious to die even by ignoble
hands, within the precincts of his own palace, than to preserve life
under the ignominious character of a mendicant fed by strangers, and
indebted for a precarious asylum to a petty potentate. Chenguza yielded
to his mother’s counsel, and preferring death to a disgraceful exile,
caused a small boat to be privately prepared, and kept in readiness at
the gaut or landing-place; disguising himself in the habit of a private
gentleman, and attended only by two menials, he left Chagaing by break
of day and embarking, rowed towards Ava, on the opposite shore. When
the boat approached the principal gaut, at the foot of the walls,
he was challenged by the sentinels on duty; no longer desirous of
concealing himself, he called out in a loud voice, that he was “Chenguza
Namdogy-yeng Praw;—Chenguza, lawful lord of the palace.” A conduct at
once so unexpected and so resolute, struck the guards with astonishment,
who, either overawed by his presence, or at a loss how to act for want
of instructions, suffered him to proceed unmolested; the crowd, also,
that so extraordinary a circumstance had by this time brought together,
respectfully made way for him to pass. Scarcely had he reached the gate
of the outer court of the palace, when he was met by the Attawoon, father
of the princess whom he had so inhumanly slain; Chenguza, on perceiving
him, exclaimed, “Traitor, I am come to take possession of my right,
and wreak vengeance on mine enemies!” The Attawoon instantly snatched
a sabre from an attendant officer, and at one stroke cut the unhappy
Chenguza through the bowels, and laid him breathless at his feet. No
person was found to prevent or avenge his death; he fell unlamented, as
he had lived despised.[246] Such was the end of a monarch, accelerated,
probably, by his own daring, which we cannot call heroism, but desperate
madness.

Men-ta-ra-gyee, in the forty-fourth year of his age, at a period of
life at which men have generally acquired stability of character and
estimation, ascended the throne of his father, the Devoted to Buddha,
whose spirit seems to have lived on in the bosoms of some of his
families. But this king, under the fatal curse that seems to give
the race of Alompra no rest, had no quieter reign than any of his
predecessors. “Kings,” observes the ingenious writer Symes, “have other
enemies to guard against, than avowed foes or rival competitors; the wild
maniac or fanatical enthusiast, often under the influence of frenzy,
directs the poignard to the breasts of monarchs. The Birman king had but
a short time enjoyed the crown, when he had nearly been deprived of his
life and diadem by a person of this description. Magoung, a low-born
man, unconnected with, and it is said, without the privacy of any person
of condition, who had always been remarkable for the regularity of his
actions, and a gloomy cast of thought, had influence enough to form a
confederacy of one hundred men as visionary and desperate as himself.
This troop bound themselves in secrecy and fidelity to each other by
an oath; their object was to take away the life of the king; but to
answer what end, or whom they designed to elevate, is not ascertained.
These desperadoes, headed by Magoung, at daybreak in the morning, made
an attack on the palace. The customary guard over the king’s dwelling
consists of seven hundred, who are well appointed and kept about on duty.
Notwithstanding that, the attempt had nearly succeeded: bearing down
the sentinels, they penetrated into the interior court, and the king
escaped, from the casual circumstance of being in the range of apartments
belonging to the women, which he was least accustomed to frequent. His
guards, who at first shrunk from the fury of the onset, quickly rallied;
their courage and numbers overpowered the assassins; and Magoung was
slain, with all his associates, within the precincts of the palace.”[247]

Another insurrection speedily followed. A fisherman of the name of
Natchien, a Peguer of Rangoon, proclaimed himself the deliverer of the
Peguers, and called upon that nation to rise against the Burmans. He
succeeded in raising a tumult, in which some of the officials of the
Rhoom were slain; however, the matter was soon put down by the Peter
Laurie of the town, and an examination implicated some five hundred of
the inhabitants of Rangoon, who were executed. This was the last attempt
made by the Peguers to throw off the Burman yoke. From this time forward
his actions seem to have been offensive rather than defensive. In 1783
he commenced a war with the independent kingdom of Arakhan, which he
subdued, and added to his dominions. In 1786 he made an incursion into
Siam, and secured himself in the possession of Tavoy and Mergui. In 1810
he fitted out an enterprise against Junk Ceylon, an island belonging to
the Siamese, and to which they were all so unwilling to go.[248] But
from this place he was subsequently expelled by the enemy, and many of
the Burmans were sent to Bangkok as slaves. This king, after a long,
glorious, and cruel reign, of which a considerable part was directed
against the priests, expired in his eighty-first year, at the beginning
of 1819.

It may here be not uninteresting to give some account of the city of
Ava, the capital of Burmah, whence the kingdom has sometimes been so
called.[249] It lies in lat. 21° 50’N., long. 96° E., and was made the
capital of the country for the third time in 1822. The original name of
the place is Augwa, corrupted in Awa and Ava; but in public writings it
is always named Ratnapura, the City of Gems. Montmorency has given a
description of the place, which I epitomize.

The city of Ava is surrounded by a brick wall fifteen and a half feet
high, and ten feet thick; there are innumerable embrasures at about the
distance of five feet from each other. The south and west faces of the
town are defended by a deep and rapid torrent, called the Myit-tha,
leading from the Myit-ngé, which is not fordable. On the east the
Myit-ngé forms a considerable part of the defence. The Irawadi, opposite
Sagaing and Ava, is 1,094 yards broad. The circumference of Ava is
about five and a half miles, excluding the suburbs. “In general,” says
Crawfurd, “the houses are mere huts, thatched with grass. Some of
the dwellings of the chiefs are constructed of planks, and tiled, and
there are probably in all not half a dozen houses constructed of brick
and mortar. Poor as the houses are, they are thinly scattered over the
extensive area of the place, and some large quarters are, indeed, wholly
destitute of habitations, and mere neglected commons. Including one large
one in the suburb, lying between the town and the little river, there
are eleven markets or bazaars, composed as usual of thatched huts or
sheds: the three largest are called Je-kyo, Sara-wadi, and Shan-ze.”[250]
The temples are very numerous, and present a gorgeous appearance from
a distance, “far from being realized,” according to Crawfurd, “on a
closer examination. Some of the principal of these may be enumerated: the
largest of all is called Lo-ga-thar-bu, and consists of two portions,
or rather two distinct temples; one in the ancient, and the other in
the modern form. In the former there is an image of Gautama, in the
common sitting posture, of enormous magnitude. Colonel Symes imagined
this statue to be a block of marble; but this is a mistake, for it is
composed of sandstone. A second very large temple is called Angava
Sé-kong; and a third, Ph’ra-l’ha, or ‘the beautiful.’ A fourth temple,
of great celebrity, is named Maong-Ratna. This is the one in which the
public officers of the government take, with great formality, the oath
of allegiance. A fifth temple is named Maha-mrat-muni; I inspected an
addition which was made to this temple a short time before our arrival.
It was merely a Zayat or chapel, and chiefly constructed of wood: it,
however, exceeded in splendour everything we had seen without the palace.
The roof was supported by a vast number of pillars: these, as well as
the ceilings, were richly gilt throughout. The person, at whose expense
all this was done, was a Burman merchant, or rather broker, from whom we
learnt that the cost was forty thousand ticals, about £5,000 sterling.
When the building was completed, he respectfully presented it to his
majesty, not _daring_ to take to himself the whole merit of so pious an
undertaking.”[251] The reader may bear in mind the similarity between
these temples and those of the Peruvians.



CHAPTER III.

1760-1824.

    British intercourse with Ava—Alves’s mission—Symes’s
    mission—Canning—King Nun-Sun—Rise of the Burman war—Its origin
    in official aggression—Evacuation of Cachar.


We must now return somewhat upon our steps, to observe the changes which
had taken place in European relations with the native kings. We have
to look back to the time of the decease of Alompra. Doubtless, had the
English force in Burmah been adequate to the execution of such a measure,
ample revenge would have been taken, or rather, ample satisfaction would
have been enforced, for the brutal massacre of the English at Negrais:
but their means were not up to the mark. “Perhaps, also,” as Symes
remarks, “they were not ignorant that a discussion of the causes might
only produce useless explanations: a conjecture that is, in some degree,
corroborated by there being no steps taken at any subsequent period when
the British superiority in Asia had crushed all rivalry, to vindicate
the national honour, and chastise the perpetrators of the cruelty.”[252]
Most probably, however, the English government was sensible that the
part their countrymen had acted had been a treacherous one, and that
it would not do to have it thrown in their faces, as it undoubtedly
would have been. In this case the French would have succeeded in their
darling scheme of shaking the importance of the English in the country,
for the accomplishment of which they have never in any way omitted any
opportunity, supporting their plans also by that form of assertion, which
admits of contradiction, but can never be disproved: and a like system of
falsehood had been pursued by the English.

It was, however, necessary to make some appeal in behalf of the
remaining Europeans, and Captain Alves, who had brought the sad news to
Bengal, was the man selected for the negotiation. He was charged with
letters, which, while they show little desire to uphold the dignity
of England, yet manifest a praiseworthy and heartfelt interest in the
fate of the British. They were signed by Mr. Holwell, the governor of
Bengal, and Mr. Pigot, the governor of Madras. The letter of the latter
gentleman, indeed, was of a more independent character, “and intimated
expectation that the murderers of the English settlers should be brought
to punishment; a requisition that was little attended to, and which
the British government of India never manifested any inclination to
enforce.”[253]

Captain Alves sailed from Madras with these letters on the 10th of May,
1760. He did not steer direct for Negrais, but addressed a letter to
Gregory the Armenian, then Ackawoon of Rangoon, whom it was desirable to
conciliate, and after exaggerating his influence at court, he entreated
his good offices in behalf of the captives. With these letters a present
of some value was sent. On the 5th of June, he arrived at Diamond Island,
near Negrais, when he reconnoitred the disposition of the natives.
However, his fears were removed, and he landed. Upon this, Antony came
down, and was received with hypocritical cordiality by Alves, and the
interpreter tried all he could to prevent his being considered guilty. In
a short time he received a letter from Mungai Narrataw, one of the royal
family, inviting him to Rangoon; he thought it politic to go thither, and
arrived on the 5th of August. There seemed to be little objection to the
release of the prisoners, and Mr. Robertson was permitted to accompany
Captain Alves to Bassein. Meanwhile, Gregory the Armenian returned,
bearing a letter from Anaundopra, or Namdogee-Praw. “In the translation,
which Gregory, as interpreter, delivered to Captain Alves, the crafty
Armenian introduced passages favourable to himself, attributing the
obtainment of any attention to his intercession; these interpolations
were fabricated, as the imperial mandate did not even mention the name
of Gregory.”[254] Accordingly, on the 22nd of August, Alves took his
departure from Bassein, and, though much annoyed by the officials, he
arrived at Chagaing, the then capital, on the 22nd of September, without
any important event occurring in the interim.

On the 23rd, Alves had an audience with the king. His majesty seemed
surprised that the English should desire any satisfaction for the
punishment which had been dealt out against the Company’s servants in
consequence of their own ill behaviour. At the same time he regretted
the accident which had involved Mr. Southby in their fate, yet it was
unavoidable; “for,” said the king, “I suppose you have seen that in
this country, in the wet season, there grows so much useless grass and
weeds in the fields, that in dry weather we are forced to burn them to
clear the ground: it sometimes happens that there are salubrious herbs
amongst these noxious weeds and grass, which, as they cannot easily
be distinguished, are indiscriminately consumed with the others; thus
it happened to be the new governor’s lot.”[255] To the other demands,
regarding restitution of property, a decided refusal was returned, except
as regarded the Company’s goods; but the release of the British prisoners
was acceded to. “Having given an order for the release of all English
subjects that were prisoners in his dominions, he desired that two of
the most prudent should remain to take care of the timbers, and reside
at Persaim,[256] where he consented to give the Company a grant of as
much ground as they might have occasion to occupy, under the stipulation
that their chief settlement should be at Persaim, and not at Negrais.
He assigned as a reason, that at Negrais they would be exposed to the
depredations of the French, or any other nation with whom the English
might be at war, without a possibility of his _extending that protection
to them that he wished_: but of which they could always have _the full
benefit_ at Persaim.”[257] But at the same time he stipulated for an
equivalent in arms and other goods, which were _conditionally_ promised
him.

Falsehood and treachery rarely go unrewarded. And be it ever so well
disguised, some hook _will_ tear a hole in the garment and show the
nakedness beneath. Suddenly, the interpreter Gregory was discovered in
his plans, and his punishment was quick, just, and severe; indeed, he
nearly lost his life.

The transactions concluded, Captain Alves at length left Chagaing
for Persaim; and leaving Messrs. Robertson and Helass at that place,
he proceeded to Rangoon, whence he returned by the 14th of November.
Having completed his mission, he then sailed for Bengal, which he
reached before the end of the year. From this time down to 1795, under
the administration of Men-ta-ra-gyee, nothing of importance occurred in
the colony. And here I cannot do better than offer a few remarks of Mr.
Macfarlane, the historian of British India, already referred to:—

“Ava and the Burmese empire either held a direct sovereignty or exercised
control over nearly one-half of the vast regions described in maps as
India beyond the Ganges.... By a series of conquests they had overthrown
all the adjacent nations, and had advanced their frontier to the
shores of the Bay of Bengal, and close to the limits of the Company’s
territories. They proved but troublesome and encroaching neighbours.
During Lord Wellesley’s administration, in 1799, when the mass of the
Anglo-Indian army was engaged in the last war against Tippoo Sultaun, the
Burmese made frequent attacks, and were very troublesome on our then weak
eastern frontier.[258] As exclusive and anti-social as the Chinese, and
quite as proud and insolent in their bearing towards foreign envoys, and
foreigners of all classes, it was difficult to establish any intercourse
with them, or to obtain, by pacific representations, any redress of
grievances. Their government, too, was subject to frequent and sanguinary
revolutions, insurrections, and rebellions; one tyrant being murdered,
and succeeded by another.”[259]

In 1795, Symes was deputed to the arrogant Men-ta-ra-gyee, to remonstrate
against the incursions of the Burmese troops. “In 1795,” says Macfarlane,
“a Burmese army of five thousand men pursued three rebellious chiefs,
or, as they termed them (and as they might be), robbers, right into
the English district of Chittagong. A strong detachment was sent from
Calcutta to oppose these Burmese; but the officer in command had orders
to negotiate—not to fight. After some tedious negotiations, which ought
not to have been allowed to occupy a single hour, the violators of our
frontier condescended to agree to retire; and they retired, accordingly,
into their own country. Nor was this all. These three men, who had taken
refuge in our territories, were subsequently given up to the Burmese, and
two out of the three were put to death with atrocious tortures.”[260]
Little, however, came of the colonel’s embassy, “except,” as our
historian goes on to remark,[261] “a very interesting book of travels.”
In the year 1809, a French ship attacked a small island belonging to
the Burmese, and the Golden Foot, not understanding the difference
between French and English,[262] sent a sort of mission to Calcutta
to expostulate against the proceeding, and to demand satisfaction. As
this seemed to open the door of the jealously-guarded court of Ava to
some diplomatic intercourse, Lord Minto despatched Lieutenant Canning
on an embassy. This officer reached Rangoon; and the king of Ava, from
the midst of his white elephants, decreed that the Englishman should be
allowed to proceed to the capital, in all safety and honour; but the
incursions into the Company’s territory at Chittagong of a predatory
tribe of Burmese, called the Mughs, and other untoward events, broke off
an intercourse which never could have promised any very satisfactory
result. Both our embassies to Ava appear to have been capital mistakes,
for they exhibited to a semi-barbarous and vain-glorious people a number
of Englishmen in a very humiliating condition, and in the attitude of
supplicants.

“Lieutenant Canning returned to Calcutta, and disputes continued to occur
on the frontiers of Chittagong and Tippera. As they were not met by
bayonets, the Burmese grew more and more audacious; and at the time when
Lord Minto gave up his authority in India to the earl of Moira, the King
of the World and the Lord of the White Elephants was threatening to march
with forty thousand soldier-pilgrims, from Ava to Benares.”

We will now return to the history of the Burmese monarchy. At the death
of Men-ta-ra-gyee, his grandson, Nun-Sun, “The Enjoyer of the Palace,”
ascended the throne. His father, the heir-apparent, was the idol of the
people, but an early death had deprived him of the crown to which he was
so justly entitled. Out of policy, Men-ta-ra-gyee, some of whose acts
had contributed to render unpopular, adopted Nun-Sun, his son, to the
exclusion of the rest of the family. The history of this prince is thus
given by Malcom:[263]—

“He was married in early life to a daughter of his uncle, the Mekaru
prince; but one of his inferior wives, daughter of a comparatively humble
officer, early acquired great ascendancy over his mind, and on his coming
to the throne, was publicly crowned by his side. On the same day the
proper queen was sent out of the palace, and now lives in obscurity.
His plan for securing the succession shows that he was aware that even
the late king’s will would not secure him from powerful opposition. The
king’s death was kept secret for some days, and the interval employed
to station a multitude of adherents in different parts of the city,
to prevent any gatherings. On announcing the demise, the ceremony of
burning was forthwith performed in the palace-yard, at which he appeared
as king, with the queen by his side, under the white umbrella, and at
once took upon himself all the functions of royalty. Several suspected
princes were soon after executed, and many others deprived of all their
estates.... Two years after his accession, the king resolved to restore
the seat of government to Ava. To this he was induced, partly from the
great superiority of the latter location; partly from the devastation of
a fire which burnt a great part of Umerapoora, with the principal public
buildings; partly from a desire to create a more splendid palace; and
partly (perhaps, not least) from the ill omen of a vulture lighting on
the royal spire.[264] The greater part of his time, for two years, was
spent at Ava, in temporary buildings, and superintending in person the
erection of a palace, twice the size of the old one, and other important
buildings. During this period, many citizens, especially those who had
been burnt out, and numbers of the court, settled in the new city, and
the place became populous. On completing the palace (February, 1824), the
king returned to Umerapoora, and, after brilliant parting festivities,
came from thence with great pomp and ceremony, attended by the various
governors, Chobwant, and highest officers. The procession, in which the
white elephant, decorated with gold and gems, was conspicuous, displayed
the glories of the kingdom, and great rejoicings pervaded all ranks.”

It was at this time that the portentous omens that had menaced the Burman
monarchy found a corroboration in truth; the glow of enmity, never to be
extinguished even in the hearts of civilised men, fanned by the breath of
presumption, had burnt into a flame that scorched and scared the weaker
party. We must stay awhile to consider the causes, and which led to the
appeal to arms in 1824.

It may be imagined that an outbreak of some kind was far from being
unexpected on the part of the Anglo-Indian government. There were two
interests striving against each other and the world—or rather the
Indian world—within the territories of Burmah. The first of these,
creating more apparent commotion and less real damage, was the struggle
between the dog-like royal family for the bone-like tiara; the second,
more dangerous and more concealed, was the envious and avaricious
passions of the nobles, or more properly, the officials employed by the
Burmese government to defeat its wishes and objects; a task which the
officials of every administration seldom fail to perform to the complete
dissatisfaction of all parties. This has been the true cause of many
disturbances in Burmah; and I am compelled to dissent in some degree
from that feeling which causes Professor Wilson to say, that, “animated
by the reaction, which suddenly elevated the Burmans from a subjugated
and humiliated people, into conquerors and sovereigns, the era of their
ambition may be dated from the recovery of their political independence;
and their liberation from the temporary yoke of the Peguers was the
prelude to their conquest of all the surrounding realms.”[265] This might
be very true of the immediate successors of the great Alompra; but the
power of the dignitaries had, by the time or which we now speak, risen to
a very great pitch, which insensibly overawed and restrained the holder
of the diadem, whoever he might be; and though, indeed, the “vigorous
despotism” of Men-ta-ra-gyee might temporarily set at defiance this
incomprehensible power, yet under the government of Nun-sun, the distant
viceroys first, and gradually the less remote officers, resumed their
former powerful position. And though they acted in subordination to the
crown, and showed a species of heroism in defending its interests, yet
they had raised the storm; and it was for them, they knew, to battle with
it, and uphold that single bond, the destruction of which would have been
totally ruinous to them.

The organized forays into our territory of Chittagong hardly assumed
any definite form until the end of 1823. “The Burmans,” says Professor
Wilson, “claimed the right of levying a toll upon all boats entering the
mouth of the river, although upon the British side; and on one occasion,
in January, 1823, a boat laden with rice, having entered the river on the
west or British side of the channel, was challenged by an armed Burman
boat, which demanded duty. As the demand was unprecedented, the Mugs, who
were British subjects, demurred payment; on which the Burmans fired upon
them, killed the manjhee, or steersman, and then retired. This outrage
was followed by reports of the assemblage of armed men on the Burman side
of the river, for the purpose of destroying the villages on the British
territory; and in order to provide against such a contingency, as well as
to prevent the repetition of any aggression upon the boats trafficking
on the Company’s side of the river, the military guard at Tek-naf, or
the mouth of the Naf, was strengthened from twenty to fifty men, of whom
a few were posted on the adjoining island of Shapurí; a small islet
or sandbank at the mouth of the river on the British side, and only
separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, which was fordable at
low water.”[266]

This act attracted the attention of the Arakhan viceroy, who thereupon
demanded its unconditional surrender, claiming it as the property of
the Burmese government. This was certainly untrue; and the existence of
many documents and facts, favourable to the British claims, caused the
resident to propose a friendly discussion of the matter. The fruitless
negotiation met an almost decisive blow on the 24th of September, when
one thousand Burmans landed and overpowered the British force, “killing
three and wounding four of the sipahees stationed there.”

“In order, however,” observes Wilson, “to avoid till the last possible
moment the necessity of hostilities, the government of Bengal, although
determined to assert their just pretensions, resolved to afford to
the court of Ava an opportunity of avoiding any collision. With this
intent, they resolved to consider the forcible occupation of Shapurí
as the act of the local authorities alone [as, in the first case, it
probably was], and addressed a declaration to the Burman government,
recapitulating the past occurrences, and calling upon the court of Ava
to disavow its officers in Arakan. The declaration was forwarded by ship
to Rangoon, with a letter addressed to the viceroy of Pegu. The tone
of this despatch was that of firmness, though of moderation; but when
rendered into the Burmese language, it may, probably, have failed to
convey the resolved and conciliatory spirit by which it was dictated,
as subsequent information, of the most authentic character, established
the fact of its having been misunderstood as a pusillanimous attempt
to deprecate the resentment of the Burmese; and it was triumphantly
appealed to at the court of Ava as a proof that the British government of
India was reluctant to enter upon the contest, because it was conscious
of possessing neither courage nor resources to engage in it with any
prospect of success; it had no other effect, therefore, than that of
confirming the court of Ava in their confident expectation of reannexing
the eastern provinces of Bengal to the empire, if not of expelling the
English from India altogether.”[267] However, the British reoccupied
Shapurí, and stockaded themselves in that post, while, in retaliation,
the Burmese seized upon the master and officers of the Company’s vessel
_Sophia_, and sent them up the country.

To continue the story in the words of Macfarlane, who has here ably
epitomized the history of Wilson:—“More and more confirmed in their
idea that we were afraid, from four thousand to five thousand Burmese
and Asamese advanced from Asam into the province of Cachar, and began
to stockade themselves at a post within five miles of the town of
Sylhet, and only two hundred and twenty-six miles from Calcutta. Major
Newton, the officer commanding on the Sylhet frontier, concentrated his
detachment and marched against the invaders. It was at daybreak on the
17th of January, 1824, that he came in sight of their stockade and of
a village adjoining, of which they had taken possession. The Burmese
in the village presently gave way, but those in the stockades made a
resolute resistance, and were not driven out until they had lost about
one hundred men, and had killed six of our sepoys. They then fled to the
hills. Shortly after this action, Mr. Scott, our commissioner, arrived
at Sylhet, and from that point he advanced to Bhadrapoor, in order to
maintain a more ready communication with the Burmese authorities. On the
31st of January, Mr. Scott received a message from the Burmese general,
who justified his advance into Cachar, and declared that he had orders to
follow and apprehend certain persons wherever they might take refuge. In
reply, this Burmese general, who held the chief command in Asam, was told
that he must not disturb the frontiers of the Company, nor interfere in
the affairs of its allies; and that the Burmese invaders must evacuate
Cachar, or the forces of the British government would be compelled to
advance both into Cachar and Asam. To this communication no answer was
received.

“It was clearly the object of the Burmese to procrastinate the
negotiations until they had strengthened themselves in the advanced
positions they had occupied. The rajah of Synteea, who had been
imperiously summoned to the Burmese camp, and commanded to prostrate
himself before the shadow of the Golden Foot, threw himself upon the
British government for protection; and various native chiefs, whose
territories lay between the frontiers of the Burmese empire and the
frontiers of the British dominions, called loudly for English aid. Thus,
the south-east frontier of Bengal had in fact been kept in constant dread
and danger of invasion for more than a year, while the adjoining and
friendly territories had been exposed to the destructive inroads and the
overbearing insolence of the Burmese and Asamese, for many years.

“Major Newton did not follow the Burmese he had routed, but, after
driving them from their stockade, he returned to Sylhet, and withdrew
the whole of his force from Cachar. Almost as soon as the major was
within his own frontier, the Burmese advanced again into the country from
which he had driven them, and stockaded some stronger positions. They
were joined by another considerable force, while another detachment,
2,000 strong, collected in their rear, as a reserve, or column of
support. Still advancing, and stockading as they advanced, the main
body of the Burmese pushed their stockades on the north bank of the
river Surma, to within 1,000 yards of the British post at Bhadrapoor.
Captain Johnstone, who commanded at that post, had but a very small
force with him, yet he succeeded in dislodging the invaders from their
unfinished works at the point of the bayonet, and in driving them
beyond the Surma. This was on the 13th of February. On the following
day, Lieutenant-Colonel Bowen joined, and took the command over Captain
Johnstone, and instantly marched in pursuit of the retreating enemy. They
were found stockading themselves in a strong position on the opposite
bank of the Jelingha. As soon as our troops were over, and had fixed
their bayonets, the Burmese cleared out of their stockade, and fled to
the hills. But there was another division of the army of the Lord of
the White Elephant, which had stockaded a much stronger position at
Doodpatlee, where their front was covered by the Surma river, and their
rear rested on steep hills. The exposed face of this intrenchment was
defended by a deep ditch, about fourteen feet wide; a strong fence of
bamboo spikes ran along the outer edge of the ditch, and the approach
on the land side was through jungle and high grass. Lieutenant-Colonel
Bowen, however, marched against this formidable stockade, and attacked
it. The Burmese remained passive till our troops advanced to the bamboo
spikes, when they poured upon them a destructive and well-maintained
fire, which completely checked their advance, although they kept their
ground. When Lieutenant Armstrong had been killed, and four other
officers wounded, and about 150 of our sepoys killed or wounded, Bowen
called off the attacking party, and retired to Jatrapoor, at a short
distance. On the 27th of February, Colonel Innes joined the force at
Jatrapoor, with four guns and a battalion of fresh troops, and assumed
the command. But, in the mean while, the Burmese had retreated from
their formidable position, and retired into their own country, evacuating
the whole of Cachar.”[268]

Such was the origin and early progress of a war fated to be most
disastrous to all parties concerned in it. We must not introduce so great
a man as the Maha Bundoola at the close of a chapter; so we end it here.



CHAPTER IV.

1824.

    Bundoola—Retreat of Captain Noton—Defeat at Ramoo—Repulse
    of the Burmans—Burmese account of the War—Rangoon
    expedition—Description of Rangoon.


Maha Men-gyee Bundoola, the Burman general, was one of the best of the
subjects of the monarch of Ava. He owed his proud position, not to the
empty promoting system of a European court, but, like an adventurer in
a brave and warlike country, he rose from the ranks, and, pioneer-like,
cut away the overhanging branches between himself and his honourable
goal. Such a change of fortune is not uncommon in Oriental countries;
but it is uncommon to find little court favour at work in his elevation.
He had fought and received honour and solid pudding, yet he had an end
to expect, and the culminating point of his fame had now arrived, and
cab-like, he would have to take care of the post at the corner. That post
was the Anglo-Indian army, and he hazarded himself upon the chance of
overthrowing it, with what success will afterwards be seen.

“It has been already noticed,” says Wilson,[269] “that a large Burman
force had been assembled in Arakan, under the command of the chief
military officer of the state of Ava, Maha Men-gyee Bundoola, an officer
who enjoyed a high reputation, and the entire confidence of the court,
and who had been one of the most strenuous advisers of the war; in
the full confidence that it would add a vast accession of power to
his country, and glory to himself. His head-quarters were established
at Arakan, where, probably, from ten to twelve thousand Burmans were
assembled. Early in May, a division of this force crossed the Naf, and
advanced to Rutnapullung, about fourteen miles south from Ramoo, where
they took up their position, and gradually concentrated their force to
the extent of about eight thousand men, under the command of the four
rajas of Arakan, Ramree, Sandaway, and Cheduba, assisted by four of the
inferior members of the royal council, or atwenwoons, and acting under
the orders of Bundoola, who remained at Arakan.

“Upon information being received of the Burmans having appeared,
advancing upon Rutnapullung, Captain Noton moved from Ramoo with the
whole of his disposable force, to ascertain the strength and objects of
the enemy. On arriving near their position, upon some hills on the left
of the road, in which the Burmans had stockaded themselves, they opened
a smart fire upon the detachment, which, however, cleared the hills,
and formed upon a plain beyond them. In consequence, however, of the
mismanagement of the elephant-drivers, and the want of artillery details,
the guns accompanying the division could not be brought into action;
and as without them it was not possible to make any impression on the
enemy, Captain Noton judged it prudent to return to his station at Ramoo,
where he was joined by three companies of the 40th native infantry,
making his whole force about one thousand strong, of whom less than half
were regulars. With these, Captain Noton determined to await at Ramoo
the approach of the Burmans, until the arrival of reinforcements from
Chittagong.”

In this the captain was most decidedly wrong. It was not only injudicious
to retreat before the barbarian Burmans, but it was reprehensible on his
part to give them so much encouragement and breathing-time. The Burmans
always looked upon the English as “wild foreigners,” and despised them
on account of their creeping, sneaking policy. The first impression made
on their minds by the unresented massacre of Negrais was not forgotten;
and the mission of Alves, Symes, Cox, and Canning, with their undecided,
un-English measures, had added to form the contempt with which they had
learnt to regard the Anglo-Indian government into a tangible shape. These
considerations, joined with the natural arrogance of a semi-civilised
race, with the advantage of a victorious general, with the indecision
of a British officer, all tended to prepare the Burmese for the victory
which was soon to grace their arms. But, in recounting the events at
Ramoo, it must ever be remembered, that the day was lost rather by
British indecision, than gained by Burman valour. Indeed, up to this
time, it is remarkable to what extent snail policy had obtained among the
Indian authorities; and how, partly from want of accurate information,
partly from this mean and truckling spirit, the Anglo-Indian government
had lost consequence in the eyes of the king of Ava. Undoubtedly, the
overcharged work of Colonel Symes had led to an incorrect estimate of
the resources of the country; it is well, however, that I shall hardly
have occasion to return to this, for soon I shall have to record—welcome
task!—the daring scheme of Lord Amherst’s administration, and its
successful, though less fortunate, accomplishment, by Sir Archibald
Campbell. To continue the narrative in the words of the Professor:[270]—

“On the morning of the 13th of May, the enemy advanced from the south,
and occupied, as they arrived, the hills east of Ramoo, being separated
from the British force by the Ramoo river. On the evening of the 14th,
they made a demonstration of crossing the river, but were prevented by
the fire from the two six-pounders with the detachment. On the morning
of the 15th, however, they effected their purpose, and crossed the river
upon the left of the detachment, when they advanced, and took possession
of a tank; surrounded, as usual, with tanks in this situation, by a high
embankment, which protected them from the fire of their opponents.”
However, the captain, who saw the necessity of action, soon took up a
favourable position, and “a sharp fire was kept up on the Burmans as
they crossed the plain to the tank; but they availed themselves with
such dexterity of every kind of cover, and so expeditiously entrenched
themselves, that it was much less effective than was to have been
expected.” Honour is certainly due to the officers and men so perilously
situated; and it gives us satisfactory proof that Captain Noton’s
previous retreat was not caused by want of courage, but by an indecision,
as unaccountable as it was finally disastrous.

The Professor proceeds:—“On the morning of the 17th, the enemy’s trenches
were advanced within twelve paces of the picquets, and a heavy and
destructive fire was kept up by them. At about nine A.M., the provincials
and Muglevy abandoned the tank entrusted to their defence, and it was
immediately occupied by the enemy. The position being now untenable,
a retreat was ordered, and effected with some regularity for a short
distance. The increasing numbers and audacity of the pursuers, and the
activity of a small body of horse attached to their force, by whom the
men that fell off from the main body were instantly cut to pieces, filled
the troops with an ungovernable panic, which rendered the exertions of
their officers to preserve order unavailing. These efforts, however,
were persisted in until the arrival of the party at a rivulet, when the
detachment dispersed; and the siphahis, throwing away their arms and
accoutrements, plunged promiscuously into the water. In the retreat,
Captains Noton, Trueman, and Pringle, Lieutenant Grigg, Ensign Bennet,
and Assistant-surgeon Maysmore, were killed. The other officers engaged,
Lieutenants Scott, Campbell, and Codrington, made their escape; but the
two former were wounded: the loss in men was not ascertained, as many
of them found their way, after some interval and in small numbers, to
Chittagong: according to official returns, between six hundred and eight
hundred had reached Chittagong by the 23rd of May; so that the whole
loss, in killed and taken, did not exceed, probably, two hundred and
fifty.”[271] This was, however, enough to arouse the slumbering ire in
British hearts. Colonels Shapland and James speedily revenged the death
of the captain, whose imprudence had cost him so much, and whose courage
and endurance had availed him so little; soon the Burmese lost their
temporary advantage, and never were they to regain it. At the end of July
the enemy fled from all their positions on the Naf.

The campaign was also speedily terminated in the provinces of Cachar,
and the Burmese were much weakened in all their attempts upon the
Anglo-Indian army.

“We have thus terminated the first period of the system of defensive
operations,” observes the Professor, “and shall now proceed to the more
important enterprises of an offensive war, to which those we have noticed
were wholly subordinate. The results of the operations described were of
a mixed description, but such as to leave no question of the issue of
the contest. In Asam a considerable advance had been made. In Kachar,
also, a forward position had been maintained; although the nature of
the country, the state of the weather, and the insufficiency of the
force, prevented the campaign from closing with the success with which it
had begun. The disaster at Ramoo, although it might have been avoided,
perhaps, by a more decided conduct on the part of the officer commanding,
and would certainly have been prevented by greater promptitude than
was shown on the despatch of the expected reinforcements, reflected no
imputation upon the courage of the regular troops, and, except in the
serious loss of life, was wholly destitute of any important consequences.
In all these situations the Burmas had displayed neither personal
intrepidity nor military skill. Their whole system of warfare resolved
itself into a series of intrenchments, which they threw up with great
readiness and ingenuity. Behind these defences, they sometimes displayed
considerable steadiness and courage; but as they studiously avoided
individual exposure, they were but little formidable in the field as
soldiers. Neither was much to be apprehended from the generalship that
suffered the victory of Ramoo to pass away, without making the slightest
demonstration of a purpose to improve a crisis of such splendid promises,
and which restricted the fruits of a battle gained to the construction of
a stockade.”[272]

There is certainly nothing which better shows the little real
self-reliance possessed by the Burmese than the idle manner in which
they neglected to pursue an advantage. One thing must, however, be
always borne in mind, that up to this time they had always been engaged
with energies whose fate might be decided by a single skirmish, or one
complete rout. They had yet to learn how persevering the efforts of
a civilised state are in war. They had now indeed met their masters,
and were about to feel their inferiority; for the Indian government at
Calcutta were already carrying out an excellent and well-conceived idea,
the history of the progress of which it is now my office to relate. But
first, it were not inapposite to listen to the following account of the
Burmese war by the Burmese themselves; it will afford some amusement,
though its strict truth cannot fail to be somewhat doubted. “In the years
1186 and 1187,” according to the Royal Historiographer, “the Kula-pyee,
or white strangers of the West, fastened a quarrel upon the Lord of the
Golden Palace. They landed at Rangoon, took that place at Prome, and
were permitted to advance as far as Yandabo; for the king, from motives
of piety and regard to life, made no effort whatever to oppose them. The
strangers had spent vast sums of money in their enterprise; and by the
time they reached Yandabo, their resources were exhausted, and they were
in great distress. They petitioned the king, who, in his clemency and
generosity, sent them large sums of money to pay their expenses back, and
ordered them out of the country.”[273]

Ere I proceed to give the English account, I think it right to let the
Burmans speak for themselves; and therefore I have placed this before
the serious history, just as, at Richardson’s, a comic song, by way of
a _bonne bouche_, is placed before the deep tragedy, “Just a-goin’ to
begin.”

Some little time before the operations in Cachar were brought to a
temporary close, Lord Amherst conceived the idea of diverting the
attention of the Burmese from our possessions to their own, and of
turning what had hitherto been a defensive war, on the part of the
English, into an offensive one. Accordingly, after a formal declaration
of war, and the promulgation of an address containing the details of the
origin of the quarrel, the court commenced active preparations for an
expedition into the enemy’s territory. The idea was a good one, and it
was nobly pursued; yet, though it was successful in its ultimate object,
it unfortunately cost the government more than its proceeds in land can
possibly repay for many years. The military resources of the Burmese
were infinitely over-estimated, while the facilities for obtaining food
and proper housing for the troops were also totally unknown, except from
the work of Symes, who evidently caused the whole mischief, as far as
the inadequate outfit was concerned. The consequences of his hasty views
ought to be a warning to all travellers in countries so little known as
Burmah was then, and, indeed, in many points is now. Symes sacrificed
truth for the sake of making an agreeable and amusing book, which it is
to be hoped no one else will do.

“The British government was driven into that war by the insolence and
aggressions of the court of Ava, intoxicated with the uninterrupted
success which had attended all its schemes of aggrandisement from
the days of Alompra. The most ambitious of our governors-general had
entertained no views of conquest in that quarter. Lord Hastings had
anxiously staved off the contest, at the close of his administration, by
a political artifice. But Lord Amherst, the most moderate and pacific,
was compelled to add vast provinces, covered for the most part with
trackless forests, miserably under-peopled, unhealthy, and far beyond
our natural boundaries, to our already enormous empire. In this case
there was everything to dissuade from appropriation. It was known that
the climate of one of the provinces was equally deadly to our European
and our native troops; it was known that many years must elapse before
any of them could support their own indispensable establishments; but
there was no escape. It was absolutely necessary to interpose sufficient
barriers between our peaceable subjects, on a frontier where it was
impossible to maintain large military establishments, and their barbarous
neighbours; to provide places of refuge for the reluctant tributaries,
or half-conquered subjects of the Burmese, from whom we had received
cordial assistance during the war; and, not less, to inflict upon
Ava a chastisement, the smart of which might protect us from future
encroachment and annoyance.”[274]

The plan to be pursued in this campaign was to be as follows:—Rangoon,
the great trading city, was to be the point assailed in the first
instance. This place had its advantages as being the principal maritime
(if it may so be called) place in the Burmese dominions; it was also
remote from the scene of war, that is, not remote enough to admit of
the army remaining where it was in Arakhan, and a fresh levy being made
for the defence of the coast: the harbour was likewise good; and there
the advantages ceased. These manifest good qualities, in the eyes of
the attacking army, were counterbalanced by the extreme unhealthiness
of the place, the difficulty of obtaining food there; a disadvantage,
however, with which the Indian authorities were not acquainted; and the
additional nuisance of the Irawadi not being navigable at the time of
the year selected for the expedition. Upon the acquirement of Rangoon,
the movements of the army were to depend very much upon circumstances,
but an advance was to be attempted in any case. The soldiers for the
enterprise were to be levied both in the presidency of Bengal and in
that of Madras; and the forces were to unite in the harbour of Port
Cornwallis, at the Great Andaman Island, whence the whole squadron was to
proceed to Rangoon, under the general command of Sir Archibald Campbell.

The observations of an able historian will prove of no little
interest:—“The difficulty of collecting a sufficient force for a maritime
expedition from Bengal, owing to the repugnance which the saphahis
entertain to embarking on board vessels, where their prejudices expose
them to many real privations, had early led to a communication with the
presidency of Fort Saint George, where there existed no domestic call
for a large force, and where the native troops were ready to undertake
the voyage without reluctance. The views of the Supreme Government
were promptly met by Sir Thomas Munro, the governor of Madras, and a
considerable force was speedily equipped. The like activity pervaded the
measures of the Bengal authorities, and by the beginning of April the
whole was ready for sea.

“The period of the year at which this expedition was fitted out was
recommended by various considerations of local or political weight.
Agreeably to the information of all nautical men, a more favourable
season for navigating the coast to the eastward could not be selected;
and from the account given by those who had visited Ava, it appeared that
the expedition, upon arriving at Rangoon, would be able to proceed into
the interior without delay; the rising of the river, and the prevalence
of a southeasterly wind, rendering June or July the most eligible months
for an enterprise, which could only be effected by water conveyance,
by which it was asserted that a sufficient force might be conveyed to
Amarapura, the capital, in the course of a month or five weeks. That no
time should be lost in compelling the Burmas to act upon the defensive
was also apparent; as, by the extent of their preparations in Arakan,
Asam, and Kachar, they were evidently manifesting a design, to invade the
frontier with a force that would require the concentration of a large
body of troops for the protection of the British provinces, in situations
where mountains, streams, and forests, could not fail to exercise a
destructive influence upon the physical energies of the officers and
men, and would necessarily prevent the full development of the military
resources of the state. To have remained throughout the rains, therefore,
wholly on the defensive, would have been attended, it was thought, with
a greater expense, and, under ordinary circumstances, with a greater
sacrifice of lives than an aggressive movement, as well as with some
compromise of national reputation. The armament, therefore, was equipped
at once, and was not slow in realizing some of the chief advantages
expected from its operations.”[275]

The Bengal contingent amounted in all to 2,175 men, consisting of two
regiments, the second battalion of the 20th (now 40th) native infantry,
and two companies of artillery; that of Madras was much greater, and
amounted to 9,300 men, making together the somewhat formidable number
of 11,475 men, of whom nearly 5,000 were Europeans. In addition to
the transports, there was a Bengal flotilla of twenty gun-brigs and
rowing-boats, each carrying an eighteen-pounder. The ships in attendance
were H.M.’s sloops _Larne_, Captain Marryatt, and _Sophia_, Captain
Reeves; some Company’s cruisers, and the _Diana_ steam-boat. In the
Madras division were comprised H.M.’s ship _Liffey_, Commodore Grant;
the _Slaney_ sloop of war, and a number of transports and other vessels.
Most of these arrived at Port Cornwallis about the 4th of May, and the
next day the whole fleet set sail for Rangoon, and arrived off the mouth
of that river on the 9th, and anchored within the bar on the following
morning; the vessels then proceeded with the flood to the town of
Rangoon, situated at about twenty-eight miles from the sea, and thus ably
described by a visitor.

“Built on the left bank of the river, by the great Alompra, in
commemoration of his victories, Yangoon, or Rangoon, offers but a very
poor sample of Burman opulence. Its shape is oval, and round the town
is a wooden stockade, formed of teak piles, driven a few feet into the
ground, and in some places twenty feet high. The tops of these are joined
by beams transversely placed, and at every four feet is an embrasure on
the summit of the walls, which gives it a good deal the appearance of an
ancient fortification. A wet ditch protects the town on three sides, the
other is on the bank of the river.

“The interior consists of four principal streets, intersecting each at
right angles, on the sides of which are ranged, with a tolerable degree
of regularity, the huts of the inhabitants. These are solely built with
mats and bamboos, not a nail being employed in their formation: they are
raised invariably two or three feet from the ground, or rather swamp, in
which Rangoon is situated, thereby allowing a free passage for the water
with which the town is inundated after a shower, and at the same time
affording shelter to fowls, ducks, pigs, and pariah dogs, an assemblage
which, added to the inmates of the house, place it on a par with an Irish
hovel. The few brick houses to be seen are the property of foreigners,
who are not restricted in the choice of materials for building, whereas
the Burmans are, on the supposition that were they to build brick
houses, they might become points of resistance against the government.
But even these buildings are erected so very badly, that they have more
the appearance of prisons than habitations. Strong iron bars usurp the
place of windows, and the only communication between the upper and lower
stories is by means of wooden steps placed outside. Only two wooden
houses existed much superior to the rest, and these were the palace of
the Maywoon, and the Rondaye, or Hall of Justice. The former of these,
an old dilapidated building, would have been discreditable as a barn in
England, and the latter was as bad.... Two miles north of Rangoon, on
the highest point of a low range of hills, stands the stupendous pagoda,
called the Shoe Dagon Prah, or Golden Dagon.... It is encircled by two
brick terraces, one above the other; and on the summit rises the splendid
pagoda, covered with gilding, and dazzling the eyes by the reflection of
the rays of the sun. The ascent to the upper terrace is by a flight of
stone steps, protected from the weather by an ornamented roof. The sides
are defended by a balustrade, representing a huge crocodile, the jaws of
which are supported by two colossal figures of a male and female Pulloo,
or evil genius, who, with clubs in their hands, are emblematically
supposed to be guarding the entrance of the temple. On the steps the
Burmans had placed two guns, to enfilade the road; and, when I first
saw this spot, two British soldiers were mounting guard over them, and
gave an indescribable interest to the scene: it seemed so extraordinary
to view our arms thus domineering amidst all the emblems and idols of
idolatry, that, by a stretch of fancy, I could almost suppose I saw the
green monsters viewing with anger and humiliation the profanation of
their sanctuaries.

“After ascending the steps, which are very dark, you suddenly pass
through a small gate, and emerge into the upper terrace, where the great
pagoda, at about fifty yards’ distance, rears its lofty head in perfect
splendour. This immense octagonal gilt-based monument is surrounded by
a vast number of smaller pagodas, griffins, sphinxes, and images of the
Burman deities. The height of the tee,[276] three hundred and thirty-six
feet from the terrace, and the elegance with which this enormous mass is
built, combine to render it one of the grandest and most curious sights a
stranger can notice. From the base it assumes the form of a ball or dome,
and then gracefully tapers to a point of considerable height, the summit
of which is surmounted by a tee, or umbrella, of open iron-work, from
whence are suspended a number of small bells, which are set in motion
by the slightest breeze, and produce a confused though not unpleasant
sound. The pagoda is quite solid, and has been increased to its present
bulk by repeated coverings of brick, the work of different kings, who,
in pursuance of the national superstitions, imagined that, by so doing,
they were performing meritorious acts of devotion.... Facing each of the
cardinal points, and united with the pagoda, are small temples of carved
wood, filled with colossal images of Gaudma. The eastern temple—or, as
we call it, the golden—is a very pretty edifice. The style of building
a good deal resembles the Chinese; it is three stories high, and is
surmounted by a small spire, bearing a tee; the cornices are covered in
the most beautiful manner, and with a variety and neatness of conception
scarcely to be surpassed; and the whole is supported by a number of gilt
pillars.... Round the foot of the pagoda are ranged innumerable small
stone pillars, intended to support lamps on days of rejoicing; and in
their vicinity are large stone and wooden vases, meant for the purpose of
receiving the rice and other offerings made by the pious.”[277]

Such is Rangoon and its great temple, and the reader will feel, as
Major Snodgrass says, that after “we had been so much accustomed
to hear Rangoon spoken of as a place of great trade and commercial
importance, that we could not fail to feel disappointed at its mean and
poor appearance. We had talked,” continues the gallant author, “of its
custom-house, its dock-yards, and its harbour, until our imaginations
led us to anticipate, if not splendour, at least some visible signs
of a flourishing commercial city; but however humble our expectations
might have been, they must still have fallen short of the miserable and
desolate picture which the place presented when first occupied by the
British troops.”[278]

An unpardonable piece of Vandalism was attempted by the English, during
their stay at this place. In the temple there was and is a great bell,
famous for its inscription, and this bell the English endeavoured to ship
for Calcutta; however, they were frustrated by the heeling over of the
boat in which it was being conveyed to the ship; the bell sunk to the
bottom, but was subsequently raised and replaced. There is no extenuation
for such a wanton violation of any place of worship; and though it may
be excusable, and indeed proper, to preserve works of ancient art in
museums, yet it was grossly wrong to take advantage of a victory, to
shock the religious feelings of a people, however far from the truth they
may be according to Christian ideas. The action was as reprehensible
as the stealing system of that most miserable of all mean pretenders,
Napoleon; indeed, it was more so, for the bell was not even an ornament.



CHAPTER V.

1824.

    Arrival at Rangoon—Taking of that town—Position of the
    troops—State of the neighbourhood—Confidence of the
    king of Ava—Attack of Joazong—Burmese embassy—Capture
    of Kemendine—Reinforcements from Madras—Sickness of the
    army—Endurance of the British soldier.


The country on the way to Rangoon is very flat, and consequently the
vessels were easily seen coming up the river; and they did not escape
the rayhoon of the city. So unusual a number of vessels (they were
forty-five in all) could not fail to arouse some dormant ideas of harm in
the minds of the treacherous officials. At the time of their descrial,
the principal European inhabitants were assembled at the house of Mr.
Sarkies, an Armenian merchant, where they were going to dine. The rayhoon
immediately sent for them, and demanded what the ships were. The reply
was, that there were some expected, and that these were probably them.
As the number of vessels was, however, continually increasing, the
governor was not satisfied, and he seized the equally ignorant Europeans,
and threatened their immediate execution. He also sent notice of his
intention to Sir Archibald Campbell, who declared his determination
of destroying the town altogether if the governor carried his menace
into effect.[279] Upon this the captives were chained and confined in
different places.

The _Liffey_ was the first to arrive opposite the king’s quay, where a
weak battery was planted, and it anchored at that place about twelve
o’clock in the forenoon; the other ships took their places in different
ways, so as to command the whole neighbourhood. I shall continue in the
words of an eye-witness:—

“Having furled sails and beat to quarters, a pause of some minutes
ensued, during which not a shot was fired; on our side, humanity forbade
that we should be the first aggressors upon an almost defenceless town,
containing, as we supposed, a large population of unarmed and inoffensive
people; besides, the proclamations and assurances of protection which
had been sent on shore the preceding day led us to hope that an offer of
capitulation would still be made.”[280] However, all the Burmans did was
to pour a feeble, ill-sustained fire into the _Liffey_, which, returning
it with tremendous force, forced away the natives.

Upon landing, after the second broadside, the author of Two Years in Ava
informs us that “three men lying dead, and the broken gun-carriages,
were the only vestiges of the injury done by the fire from the frigate.
The town was completely deserted. It seemed indeed incredible whither
the inhabitants could have fled to within such a short space of time;
and, as night was coming on, we could not proceed in search of them; the
troops, therefore, remained in and about the town, and the next morning
were placed in positions, in two lines, resting on the Great Pagoda and
the town. On entering the terrace of the Great Pagoda, the advanced guard
discovered in a miserable dark cell four of the European residents at
Rangoon, who were ironed, and had been otherwise maltreated; the others
had been released by us the evening before; so that we had now the
satisfaction of knowing that none of our countrymen were subjected to the
cruelty of the Burman chieftains.”[281]

After taking possession of the place, proclamations were immediately
sent out among the inhabitants through a few stragglers, assuring the
townspeople of protection, in the hope of inducing them to return. “The
strictest orders were issued to prevent plunder, and a Burman having
claimed several head of cattle which had been seized for the use of the
army, they were immediately restored, in order to prove the sincerity of
our protestations; but none of the inhabitants availed themselves of our
offers, and we understood that the officers of government were driving
the women and children into the interior, as hostages for the good
conduct of the men.”[282]

The soldiers while at Rangoon were billeted in a long street which leads
from the Dagon Pagoda to Rangoon, and in this exposed situation, without
fresh supplies, they had to await the arrival of information regarding
the position assumed by the Burmese government. Space will not permit me
to refer to the many anxieties which had to be considered in regard to
the present position of our troops, but the reader will find them amply
discussed in Snodgrass;[283] however, I shall lay before the reader a few
remarks of that gentleman, which will amply show the many difficulties
which beset the army.

“The enemy’s troops and new-raised levies were gradually collecting in
our front from all parts of the kingdom; a cordon was speedily formed
around our cantonments, capable, indeed, of being forced at every point,
but possessing, in a remarkable degree, all the qualities requisite
for harassing and wearing out in fruitless exertions the strength and
energies of European or Indian troops. Hid from our crew on every side
in the darkness of a deep, and, to regular bodies, impenetrable forest,
far beyond which the inhabitants and all the cattle of the Rangoon
district had been driven, the Burmese chiefs carried on their operation
and matured their future schemes with vigilance, secrecy, and activity.
Neither rumour nor intelligence of what was passing within his posts ever
reached us. Beyond the invisible line which circumscribed our position,
all was mystery or vague conjecture.[284].... To form a correct idea of
the difficulties which opposed the progress of the invading army, even
had it been provided with land-carriage and landed at the fine season of
the year, it is necessary to make some allusion to the natural obstacles
which the country presented, and to the mode of warfare generally
practised by the Burmese. Henzawaddy, or the province of Rangoon, is a
delta, formed by the mouths of the Irrawaddy, and, with the exception
of some considerable plains of rice-grounds, is covered by a thick and
tenacious jungle, interspersed by numerous creeks and rivers, from whose
wooded banks an enemy may, unseen and unexposed, render their passage
difficult and destructive.

“Roads, or anything deserving that name, are wholly unknown in the lower
provinces. Footpaths, indeed, lead through the woods in every direction,
but requiring great toil and labour to render them applicable to
military purposes: they are impassable during the rains, and are only
known and frequented by the Carian tribes, who cultivate the lands,
are exempt from military service, and may be considered as the slaves
of the soil, living in wretched hamlets by themselves, heavily taxed
and oppressed by the Burmese authorities, by whom they are treated as
altogether an inferior race of beings from their countrymen of Pegu....
The Burmese, in their usual mode of warfare, rarely meet their enemy in
the open field. Instructed and trained from their youth in the formation
and defence of stockades, in which they display great skill and judgment,
their wars have been for many years a series of conquests: every late
attempt of the neighbouring nations to check their victorious career
had failed, and the Burmese government, at the time of our landing at
Rangoon, had subdued and incorporated into their overgrown empire all the
petty states by which it was surrounded, and stood confessedly feared
and respected even by the Chinese, as a powerful and warlike nation.
When opposed to our small but disciplined body of men, it may easily be
conceived with how much more care and caution the system to which they
owed their fame and reputation as soldiers was pursued—constructing their
defences in the most difficult and inaccessible recesses of the jungle,
from which, by constant predatory inroads and nightly attacks, they
vainly imagined they would ultimately drive us from their country.”[285]

The confidence which the king of Ava had in his own military resources
is amply shown in a speech reported by Snodgrass.[286] “As to Rangoon,”
said the king, “I will take such measures as will prevent the English
from even disturbing the women of the town in cooking their rice.”
This speech, however, only lends additional force to the remark of the
Edinburgh Reviewer, that “the Burmese are much too arrogant even to
attempt to improve themselves; and such as their rabble of soldiery is
now, such it will be found fifty years hence—utterly unable to stand for
a moment against British troops, even when protected by stockades.”[287]
The events at present passing in the kingdom of Ava are but a practical
demonstration of the truth of this assertion. However, such preparations
as could be made were completed. Armies were stockaded in all directions
near Rangoon, nor was the river at all neglected. The boatmen, an
enterprising and brave part of the community, all attached to the royal
interests, were soon in readiness, and a respectable kind of fleet
covered the waters of the Irawadi.

Nothing of consequence occurred for some days. Some boats, sent up by
Sir A. Campbell to gather intelligence as to the force and resources
of the Burmese, were fired upon on the 15th May, near the village of
Kemendine, and to prevent the recurrence of such an event, a body of men
were embarked in order to drive the enemy from that place. Accordingly,
after some little skirmishing and the loss of some men and officers, the
detachment succeeded in their endeavours. Afterward, however, the Burmese
returned, and annoyed the Anglo-Indian army very much by attempting
to set the fleet on fire. “Our shipping,” says an eye-witness, “were
now daily and nightly exposed to a great deal of danger and annoyance
from an engine of destruction much confided in by our invisible enemy,
and which, if properly managed, might have caused us much injury. This
was a large raft formed of pieces of wood and beams tied together, but
loosely, so that if it came athwart a ship’s bows, it would swing round
and encircle her. On this were placed every sort of firewood, and other
combustibles, such as jars of petroleum or earth oil, which, rising in a
flame, created a tremendous blaze, and as this raft extended across the
river, it often threatened to burn a great portion of our fleet. Rafts of
this description were chiefly launched from Kemendine, where the greater
number of them were constructed; but fortunately the river made a bend
a little above the anchorage, and the current running strong towards
the opposite shore, the rafts were not unfrequently grounded, and thus
rendered useless; whilst, on the other hand, the precautions adopted
by our naval officers of anchoring a number of beams across the river,
in most instances effectually arrested those unwieldy masses in their
descent towards Rangoon.”[288]

During this time the confidence of the Burmese had increased, and on
the 27th they actually advanced within sight of the picquets, and sat
down. This was observed by Major Snodgrass, who, desirous of knowing
whether they were merely stragglers, or part of any considerable body,
immediately pursued them. He and his men found their way, however,
stopped by a small stockade stretching right across the road. After a
few shots, the British party, only twenty-two in number, charged the
work, and carried it. The natives, sixty in number, immediately fled.
The success which had attended this movement determined Sir Archibald
Campbell in his resolution to attempt a reconnoissance in person; a
measure that was put into execution the next morning. On arriving at the
stockade just mentioned, it was found reoccupied by the Burmese, who were
repairing it with great rapidity. However, on perceiving the troops,
they immediately fled. The same thing took place at a bridge beyond the
village of Kokein, “and,” observes Snodgrass, “at every turn of the road,
breastworks and half-finished stockades, hastily abandoned, proved that
so early a visit was neither anticipated nor provided for.”[289]

“Our troops,” says the author of Two Years in Ava,[290] “continued
advancing in echellon, the light company of the thirty-eighth on the left
skirting the jungle; the grenadiers in the centre, on the plain; and
the thirteenth on the right: when, at a sudden turn, the light company
observed a stockade about a hundred yards distant, having a ravine full
of water in front of it. A dead silence pervaded the work; and Captain
Piper, instantly forming his men in line, charged up to the stockade,
and through the ravine without firing a shot. When we were within about
thirty yards, the Burmans gave a most terrific yell, accompanied by
beating of drums, tom-toms, and other instruments, and opened a sharp
and well-directed fire, by which we suffered severely. As the enemy was
covered by a thick palisade, with loopholes, we saw not a man; and even
if we had, our fire could not have proved serviceable, as not a single
musket would go off, in consequence of the wet; whereas the Burmans
were protected from the weather by sheds, and consequently their arms
were uninjured. On arriving at the foot of the work, after forcing the
way through a capital abatis, the entrance was found barred up; and the
height of the work, and the want of ladders, preventing escalading,
the men were for some time, therefore, exposed to the assaults of the
enemy, who threw out spears, and tried every effort to drive us off.
They were unavailing: the passage was forced, and the troops rushed on
with the bayonet. Finding this face of the work carried, a number of
Burmans rushed with their spears to the opposite side, and there awaited
the approach of the assailants; but a section dashing at them with the
bayonets, annihilated almost the whole.... Evening was now coming on
fast, we were encumbered with between thirty and forty wounded, without
any means of carrying them, except the officers’ horses, and three
or four doolies;[291] and Sir A. Campbell, therefore, determined on
returning without attacking a small stockade a little farther on, having
first made a forward movement with his troops to see whether the Burman
line, which was still drawn up, would await our approach. It fell back
as we advanced, and we then, after burning the two stockades of Joazong,
recommenced the march home.” In this action several officers were
severely, some mortally, wounded. On the Burmese side the loss was about
four hundred. The commander on the native side was the former Rayhoon of
Rangoon, a man of talent and experience. The enemy retired from the field
during the night, after digging up and horribly mutilating the bodies of
two soldiers who had fallen there the day before!

The unexpected results of the skirmish opened the eyes of the Burmese
commanders to the inefficacy of their system of warfare. Feeling their
inferiority, and wishing to gain time for altering and strengthening
their defences, the Burmese sent two ambassadors to the English camp.
This was on the 9th June. Major Snodgrass thus describes the whole
interview:[292]—

“The principal personage of the two, who had formerly been governor of
Bassein, was a stout, elderly man, dressed in a long scarlet robe, with
a red handkerchief tied round his head, in the usual Burman style. His
companion, although dressed more plainly, had much more intelligence
in his countenance; and notwithstanding his assumed indifference and
humble demeanour, it soon became evident that to him the management of
the interview was intrusted, though his colleague treated him in every
respect as an inferior.

“The two chiefs, having entered the house, sat down with all the ease
and familiarity of old friends; neither constraint nor any symptom of
fear appeared about either; they paid their compliments to the British
officers, and made their remarks on what they saw with the utmost
freedom and good-humour. The elder chief then opened the subject of
their mission, with the question, ‘Why are you come here with ships
and soldiers?’ accompanied with many professions of the good faith,
sincerity, and friendly disposition of the Burmese government. The
causes of the war and the redress that was demanded were again fully
explained to them. The consequences of the line of conduct pursued by
their generals, in preventing all communication with the court, was
also pointed out, and they were brought to acknowledge that a free and
unreserved discussion of the points at issue could alone avert the evils
and calamities with which their country was threatened. Still they would
neither confess that the former remonstrances of the Indian government
had reached their king, nor enter into any arrangement for removing the
barrier they had placed in the way of negotiation, but urged, with every
argument they could think of, that a few days’ delay might be granted, to
enable them to confer with an officer of high rank then at some distance
up the river: they were, however, given to understand, that delay and
procrastination formed no part of our system, and that the war would
be vigorously prosecuted, until the king of Ava thought proper to send
officers with full authority to enter upon a treaty with the British
commissioners.

“The elder chief, who had loudly proclaimed his love of peace, continued
chewing his betel-nut with much composure, receiving the intimation
of a continuance of hostilities with more of the air and coolness of
a soldier who considered war as his trade, than became the pacific
character he assumed; while his more shrewd companion vainly endeavoured
to conceal his vexation at the unpleasant termination of their mission,
and unexpected failure of their arts and protestations. But although
the visit had evidently been planned for no other purpose than that of
gaining time, the chiefs did not object to carry with them to their camp
a declaration of the terms upon which peace would still be restored; and
that they might take their departure with a better grace, expressed their
intention of repeating their visit in the course of a few days, for the
purpose of opening a direct communication between the British general
and the Burmese ministers. The elder chief, again alluding to his being
no warrior, hoped that the ships had strict orders not to fire upon him;
but while he said so, in stepping into his boat, there was a contemptuous
smile upon his own face and the countenances of his men, that had more of
defiance than entreaty in it.”

The next morning (June 10th) the British intentions regarding Kemendine
were put into execution. A breach was soon made in the teak-wood stockade
by the cannon, and a column of English and Indian troops stormed the
place. Major Sale, with his detachment, had some hot work, for the
place at which he entered was full of men, who defended themselves with
the bravery of despair. Thirty of the Anglo-Indians fell, though for
them one hundred and sixty Burmese perished. Even when this place was
taken, little had been accomplished, as the principal stockade, about
half a mile distant, had yet to be besieged. “We lost no time,” says an
eye-witness, and actor in the affair, “in advancing to it; and in order
completely to hem the Burmahs in, the flotilla was sent up the river,
beyond the works, so as to prevent their escaping by water; whilst the
land force proceeded through the jungle. The left of our line rested on
the river, and the right was moving round the north of the stockade; thus
completing a semicircle; when it was discovered that, in addition to the
main work, two smaller ones existed further up, which it was impossible
for us with our force to surround; a space of two hundred yards was
therefore unavoidably left between our right and the river, it being
exposed to the fire of both stockades. Night had already approached; the
rain began to pour without intermission, and neither men nor officers
were sheltered from it, or had any cover, not even of great coats. The
night we passed in this situation was such as may easily be imagined....
The shouts of the Burmahs had a curious effect, much heightened by the
wild scenery of the dark, gloomy forest which surrounded us; first,
a low murmur might be heard, rising as it were gradually in tone, and
followed by the wild and loud huzza of thousands of voices; then, again,
all was silence, save now and then a straggling shot or challenge from
our own sentries; and soon after, another peal of voices would resound
through the trees. This they continued all night; but towards morning
the yells became fainter and fainter, and at daybreak they totally
ceased.”[293]

In the morning, operations were resumed; and on the storming parties
advancing to the capture, they found, to their astonishment, that the
enemy had decamped! Possession was immediately taken, and a regiment left
in garrison, while the rest returned to cantonments, very much irritated
by the loss of their opponents. Five pieces of cannon were found in the
inclosure, and numbers of jinjals. Outside the upper gate lay a gilt
chattah or umbrella of rank, and some distance beyond, the body of the
elder chief, who had visited the English camp.

Major Wahab and Brigadier McCreagh returned from Cheduba and Negrais
about this time, having accomplished the purpose for which they were
detached. The capture of these places had not been completed without some
loss and considerable slaughter. Cheduba was expected to have proved of
some use, but it was found that, with the exception of a few buffaloes,
the supplies were not of any utility. About this time also, the force was
augmented by the 89th British regiment from Madras.

The effects of heavy work in the swamps now began to be seen in the fatal
form of disease among the Anglo-Indian troops. “Constantly exposed to
the vicissitudes of a tropical climate, and exhausted by the necessity
of unintermitted exertion, it need not be a matter of surprise that
sickness now began to thin the ranks and impair the energies of the
invaders. No rank was exempt from the operation of these causes; and many
officers, amongst whom were the senior naval officer, Captain Marryat;
the political commissioner, Major Canning; and the Commander-in-Chief
himself, were attacked with fever, during the month of June. Amongst the
privates, the Europeans especially, the sickness incident to fatigue
and exposure was aggravated by the defective quantity and quality of
the provisions which had been supplied for their use. Relying upon the
reported facility of obtaining cattle and vegetables at Rangoon, it had
not been thought necessary to embark stores for protracted consumption
on board the transports from Calcutta, and the Madras troops landed with
a still more limited stock. As soon as the deficiency was ascertained,
arrangements were made to remedy it; but in the mean time, before
supplies could reach Rangoon, the troops were dependent for food upon
salt meat, much of which was in a state of putrescence, and biscuit, in
an equally repulsive condition, under the decomposing influence of heat
and moisture. The want of sufficient and wholesome food enhanced the evil
effects of the damp soil and atmosphere, and of the malaria from the
decaying vegetable matter of the surrounding forests, and the hospitals
were rapidly filled with sick, beyond the means available of medical
treatment. Fever and dysentery were the principal maladies, and were no
more than the ordinary consequences of local causes; but the scurvy and
hospital gangrene, which also made their appearance, were ascribable as
much to depraved habits and inadequate nourishment as to fatigue and
exposure. They were also latterly, in some degree, the consequences of
extreme exhaustion, forming a peculiar feature of the prevailing fever,
which bore an epidemic type, and which had been felt with equal severity
in Bengal. The fatal operation of these causes was enhanced by their
continuance; and towards the end of the rainy season, scarcely three
thousand men were fit for active duty. The arrival of adequate supplies,
and more especially the change in the monsoon, restored the troops to a
more healthy condition.”[294]

It is, however, worthy of especial notice, that though the army wanted
provisions, health, and strength, their natural energy did not fail. In
the midst of a crowd of foes, whose numerous force and equipments were
alike unknown to the English soldier, his constitutional dominance of
will flagged not at all, but seemed rather to become stronger, the more
great the odds grew against it. Indeed, one of the authorities I have
quoted tells us, that there went a feeling abroad among the Burmese, that
it was of no use to contend with an English soldier; for, if the arm
he had grasped the top of the stockade with were chopped, he never was
disconcerted, but immediately applied the other; even then they were at
disadvantage, for the skill of the British doctors was so great, that
they could replace the severed limbs upon the trunk; and for this reason
diligent search was always made on the field after the battle, for these
legs and arms!



CHAPTER VI.

1824.

    Encounters with the Burmese—Capture of Kumeroot—Taking of
    Syriam—Storming of Dalla—Conquest of Tenasserim province—The
    Invulnerables.


From the time of the taking of the stockades at Kemendine, little of
moment occurred up to the 1st of July. About noon on that day the Burmans
came out in great force upon the regiments under Majors Dennie and
Frith, which were deputed to explore the jungle in front of the Great
Pagoda. Then, just as ants flock out of their holes on being disturbed,
the Burmese burst forth in every direction, shouting wildly at the same
time. They were gallantly opposed by Major Frith’s troops. “A column of
three thousand of the enemy now advanced from the jungle into the plain,
directing their march on Puzendoon, where we had a post; another body
moved towards our lines, and began skirmishing with a sepoy picket; and a
large force was also seen moving to the right. This was evidently meant
as an attack on our position; but it would seem that their courage failed
them at the moment for action, as they contented themselves with burning
a few houses at Puzendoon.”[295] Upon their being driven back, they
entered Dalla opposite Rangoon, whence, however, they were driven, though
Lieutenant Isaack, 8th Madras N.I., the commanding officer, was shot.
Vengeance was, however, more than sufficiently taken in the destruction
of the place. Thekia Woongyee, the originator of this plan of attack,
met with a sad disgrace in his recall, while Thamba Woongyee was deputed
to the command of the army in his place. The ex-general, fearful of a
still more dreadful fate should he return to the court, retired to the
neighbourhood of Pegu.

The new general showed himself an able tactician, by seizing upon one
of the most impracticable and difficult positions in the vicinage, at a
place called Kummeroot, five miles from the Shoe-Dagon Pagoda. This place
it was highly necessary should be captured, and accordingly, on the 8th
of July, the enterprise was determined upon. The following account, by an
eye-witness, is the best that has been given us:[296]—

“There were two roads leading from the Pagoda in the direction we
wished to pursue, one a mere footpath, the other passable for guns.
General Macbean preferred the former, and left his artillery behind.
The enemy not expecting us by this path, we marched through the jungle
for three miles without seeing a soul, although in the wood to our left
voices could be distinctly heard, and also the sound of the axe falling
on trees, which they were felling to erect their fortifications; but
after marching this distance, two stockades were descried a few yards
in advance. The general instantly halted, to enable the troops, which
were marching in single file (and consequently occupied a great length
of ground), to form column, during which time we could observe small
parties of Burmahs, armed with muskets, coming from the opposite wood
to reinforce the stockades. Firing, also, was heard to the left, which
indicated that Sir Archibald Campbell was engaged; and General Macbean,
therefore, made his dispositions for an attack. Brigadier McCreagh, with
five hundred men from his Majesty’s 13th and 38th regiments, commanded
by Majors Sale and Frith, were formed in a column of subdivisions, and
with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets directed to advance on the
work. This movement was effected with so much rapidity, order, and
regularity, that to be in possession of this stockade, and moving on to
attack the next, was the affair of a moment. The second was abandoned
on the approach of the column, and we then discovered, in a large plain
backed by the jungle, a succession of stockades, amounting in all to
seven. This did not deter the troops from escalading and capturing a
third stockade, and then rushing on to the largest: there the column
experienced some loss, in consequence of the delay in bringing up the
scaling-ladders through the muddy paddy-fields; but when they arrived,
the work was assaulted at all points.... The panic that now took place
among the Burmahs can scarcely be described; rushing in crowds towards
the only gate through which they might escape, they completely choked it
up: others then attempted to climb over the walls, but were mowed down by
our shot, and those at the gate were falling by dozens. Some became quite
desperate, and with their long, dishevelled black hair streaming over
their shoulders, and giving them the most ferocious appearance, seized
their swords with both hands, and dashed on the bayonets of the soldiers,
where they met with that death which they seemed alternately to fear and
despise; whilst others hid themselves in the trenches, full of water, and
there lay motionless, feigning to be dead. The carnage was very great,
at least five hundred men being slain in the main stockade, and amongst
them was Thumba Woonghee.” He, contrary to the usual system of the Burman
chiefs, had endeavoured to instil courage into the hearts of his men by
his own example. However, nothing could avail before the iron soldiers of
the British general.

On the part of Sir Archibald Campbell, too, the movement had been
singularly successful. He took the other water path, and proceeded, with
a division of about eight hundred men, to ascend the river to the place
where the Lyne river and the Rangoon embouchment flow together. At this
point they found the Burmese had strongly intrenched themselves. The
main stockade was on the tongue of land at the confluence of the waters,
while the two others, evidently constructed with an eye to position,
were situated on the two banks of the Rangoon river, about eight hundred
yards from the principal fortification. But cannon, and good cannon
particularly, can make a breach in any fortification so exposed to fire
from the river, and the day was lost for the Burmese. The broadside of
the _Larne_ frigate, supported by the boats and some other vessels under
the command of Captain Marryat, covered the landing of the troops, who
immediately took the first stockade; this was followed by the immediate
capture of the second, and the principal one was abandoned! So much for
Burmese self-reliance!

The only force now remaining near Rangoon was that under the former
rayhoon of that place, who hovered about in the neighbourhood of Kykloo.
All the other Burmese detachments had fled to the general rendezvous
of the enemy at Donabew, a place some distance up the river Irawadi.
But as it was necessary that peace should be restored everywhere in the
vicinity of the British army, in order that the poor villagers should not
be afraid of returning, Sir A. Campbell determined to scatter them, and
send them to swell the panic-stricken force at Donabew. Accordingly, on
the 19th of July he despatched twelve hundred men by land to that place,
whilst, with another division of half that number, he himself went up
thither by the Puzendoon creek. However, little came of it; the land
army found it impossible to proceed, and so returned, while the only
result at which the other party arrived was the liberation of some of
the unoffending families of the forced conscripts in the Burmese army. A
feeling of confidence, however, seems to have sprung up in the bosoms of
the peasantry, who now gradually returned home, and even, we are told,
saluted the military as they passed.

The first act which is worthy of mention in August is the dislodgment of
the Burmese force in Syriam. The matter was rendered necessary, it would
appear, for the same reason that had caused the assault and capture of
Kemendine, viz., the annoyance to which our vessels were exposed from the
fire-rafts that the natives placed such great reliance in, but which,
in reality, were rather annoying than dangerous. It was enough that men
were obliged to be on duty to arrest their progress, and strand them. The
object of Sir Archibald was to spare these men, who, though enfeebled by
disease, yet were bravely bearing up against it. Accordingly, six hundred
men, drafted from the 41st, the Madras European, and the 12th Madras
N.I., under the command of Brigadier Smelt, were embarked for Syriam, Sir
Archibald, it must not be forgotten, accompanying them.

The old Portuguese factory, of which mention has been made in a previous
chapter, was found to have been converted into a Burmese fortification;
the breaches made in former times by the united efforts of Burmese,
Peguers, Portuguese, and English, were repaired by teak-wood palisades,
and the old guns, rusty and ill cast, were remounted upon the ramparts.

The Anglo-Indian army was received with a brisk fire, but, as usual,
the Burmese stayed not to await the results of their exertions, but
fled to a pagoda some distance off, whither they were followed by a
detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Kelly. Here, again, although the
place was fortified and turned into a battery, the Burmese fled away,
after discharging the contents of the guns somewhere in the direction
of the British. Enough had been done in previous encounters to show the
perseverance of the English, and so, as every one does, they supposed
that they were invincible, because they had at first conquered.

It seemed, however, that even the preliminary campaign of the British
army was never to come to an end, and that, although the enemy was ever
being beaten, the Burmese did not even now despair of wearying out the
British, and by keeping them engaged at the threshold of their land,
they hoped to have time to secure the key, and lock the door in their
faces. Therefore, no sooner had operations been satisfactory concluded at
Syriam, than Sir A. Campbell heard of disturbances at Dalla, caused by
the orders of the court for a general conscription. Lieutenant-Colonel
Kelly, with a detachment of four hundred men, was sent thither to quiet
the province. Upon coming near to Dalla creek, they found two stockades,
one on either bank, which it was necessary to storm. The mud clogged the
movements of the troops to some extent, and entailed, by the delay, some
loss upon the British. However, as was ever the case, the intrenchments
were in possession of the troops immediately; for the Burmese fled before
the English again. Their policy seems all to have been thrown overboard,
and it is only on the assumption of each body of the enemy encountering
us only once, that I can reconcile the idea of this continual fear to my
mind.[297]

“In the impossibility,” says Professor Wilson, “that existed of engaging
in any active operations in the direction of Ava, it was judged advisable
to employ part of the force in reducing some of the maritime provinces of
the Burman kingdom. The district of Tenasserim, comprising the divisions
of Tavoy and Mergui, was that selected for attack, as containing a
valuable tract of sea-coast, as well as being likely to afford supplies
of cattle and grain. Accordingly, an expedition was detached against
those places, consisting of details of his Majesty’s 89th and the 7th
Madras native infantry, with several cruisers and gun-brigs, under
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Miles. They sailed from Rangoon on the
20th of August, and reached the mouth of the river leading to Tavoy on
the 1st of September: some difficulty occurred in working up the river,
in consequence of which the vessels arrived off the town only on the
eighth. A conspiracy amongst the garrison facilitated the capture of the
place; the second in command making the Maiwoon and his family prisoners,
delivered them to the British officer, and the town was occupied without
opposition. At Mergui, whither the armament next proceeded, and where it
arrived on the 6th of October, a more effective resistance was offered: a
heavy fire was opened from the batteries of the town, which was returned
by the cruisers with such effect as to silence it in about an hour. The
troops then landed, and after wading through miry ground, between the
river and a strong stockade which defended the town, and being exposed
to a brisk fire from the enemy, they advanced to the stockade, and
escaladed it in the most gallant style. The enemy fled. The town, when
first occupied, was deserted; but the people soon returned, and both here
and at Tavoy showed themselves perfectly indifferent to the change of
authorities. After leaving a sufficient garrison of the native troops,
and part of the flotilla, Colonel Miles returned with the European
portion of his division to Rangoon, in November, in time to take a part
in the more important operations about to recur.”[298]

We, too, must now go back to Rangoon, or we shall miss the sight of
some wondrous strange animals, which the Golden Foot sent down from
his capital far away, to oppose and strike terror into the unabashed
invaders. These were the far-famed Invulnerables, to which corps I
have already alluded;[299] and I cannot now do better than introduce
themselves and their deeds to the readers, in the spirited narrative of
Mr. Macfarlane.[300]

“The Lord of the White Elephant now sent his two brothers, the prince of
Tonghoo and the prince of Sarrawaddy, with a whole host of astrologers,
and a corps of ‘Invulnerables,’ to join the army, and to direct the
future operations of the war. The astrologers were to fix the lucky
moments for attacking: the Invulnerables had some points of resemblance
to the Turkish Delhis; they were the desperadoes or madmen of the army,
and their madness was kept up by enormous doses of opium. The corps of
Invulnerables consisted of several thousand men, divided into classes;
the most select band of all being called the King’s Invulnerables. The
prince of Tonghoo established his head-quarters at Pegu, and the prince
of Sarrawaddy took post at Donoopeu, upon the great river, about sixty
miles from Rangoon.

“In the beginning of August, the prince of Sarrawaddy sent down a force
to occupy a strong post at the mouth of the Pegu river, a few miles below
Rangoon, giving his people strict orders to block the channel of the
river in our rear, that not one of the ‘wild foreigners,’ or ‘captive
strangers,’ might escape the punishment that was about to overtake them.
Sir Archibald Campbell presently detached a small corps, under Brigadier
Smelt, to dislodge Sarrawaddy’s warriors. Our land-troops were brought
to a stand-still, when within musket-shot of the place, by a deep and
impassable creek; but a party of sailors from his Majesty’s ship _Larne_,
under Captain Marryat, threw a bridge over the creek; and soon as the
column of attack pushed forward, the enemy began to fly, leaving eight
guns and a quantity of ammunition in their stockade. A strong pagoda,
with a numerous garrison, and with cannons pointing down every approach,
was next carried with equal facility. Other ports on the rivers and
creeks were successively and successfully attacked. Such of the enemy as
had had any experience of our way of fighting seldom stopped to fight in
their stockades, but a new set of people from the interior made a good
stand in a succession of stockades on one of the rivers, and cost us the
loss of a good many brave men. These affairs of posts were very numerous.

“At last the astrologers told the prince of Sarrawaddy that the stars
had told them that the moment was come for a decisive action; and on the
night of the 30th of August, a body of the King’s Invulnerables promised
to attack and carry the Great or Golden Dagon Pagoda, in order that the
princes, and the sages and pious men in their train, might celebrate
the usual annual festival in the sacred place—a place now crowded, not
with Bouges, but with English grenadiers. And, true so far to their
promise, the Invulnerables, at the hour of midnight, rushed in a compact
body from the jungle under the pagoda, armed with swords and muskets.
A small picquet, thrown out in our front, retired in slow and steady
order, skirmishing with the Invulnerables until they reached the flight
of steps leading from the road up to the pagoda. The moon was gone down,
and the night was so dark that the Burmese could be distinguished only
by a few glimmering lanterns in the front; but their noise and clamour,
their threats and imprecations upon the impious strangers, if they did
not immediately evacuate the sacred temple, proved their number to be
very great. In a dense column, they rolled along the narrow pathway
leading to the northern gate of the pagoda, wherein all seemed as silent
as the grave. But, hark! the muskets crash, the cannons roar along the
ramparts of the British posts, drowning the tumult of the advancing
column; and see—see by the flash of our guns, the column reels back, the
Invulnerables fall mortally wounded, and the rest turn their backs on the
holy place, and run with frantic speed for the recovery of the jungle.
Invulnerables ventured no more near any of our posts. But the dysentery
broke out among our troops, killing many of them, and reducing more to a
most emaciated and enfeebled state. Scarcely three thousand duty soldiers
were left to guard our line. Floating hospitals were established at the
mouth of the river; bread was now furnished in sufficient quantities,
but nothing, except change of season or of climate, could restore the
sufferers to health. Mergui and Tavoy, portions of our recent conquests
on the sea-coast, were represented by the medical officers who visited
them as admirable convalescent stations; and thither a number of the
people were sent, and with the most beneficial result.”

Thus will the personification of plain, blunt valour ever overcome
such as have no real courage, and are upheld only by superstition and
credulity.



CHAPTER VII.

1824-1825.

    Battle of Kykloo—Thantabain—Maha Bundoola—Successes of the
    British—Discomfiture of Maha Bundoola—Campbell marches into the
    interior—Arrival at Donabew—Repulse—Death of Bundoola—Capture
    of Donabew.


October began very inauspiciously. Colonel Smith, with about eight
hundred men, was detached against Kykloo on the 5th, and at Tadaghee he
was successful against a stockade. It was not until he had reached this
place that he found the enemy was much stronger than was suspected. The
colonel immediately applied for reinforcements, but he obtained only
native troops and two Europeans. Two howitzers were sent with the Madras
troop, which increased the number of cannon to four. With this force,
inadequate enough to anything effectual, Smith arrived before the Burmese
stockades at Kykloo on the 7th of October.

The breastworks, which impeded the attack of the principal
fortifications, were soon in the hands of the British. The principal
stronghold was an intrenchment, with a fortified pagoda. Major Wahab
was placed in charge of the storming party. Captain Wilson was directed
to assault the stockades in flank; and a division of the 28th native
infantry was to carry the pagoda; and Colonel Smith took charge of a
reserve parity, to act wherever it was most needed.

On the advance of Major Wahab, a volley was fired from the pagoda; but
the stockaded Burmese, who seemed to have been superhumanly cunning
_for Burmese_, waited until certain destruction might be dealt from
their position, when they commenced firing with the greatest precision.
Major Wahab and his men were obliged to lie flat on the ground to avoid
the peppering. Like ill-fortune attended the efforts of all the other
divisions, and on a retreat being sounded, the men took to flight. The
loss on this occasion was twenty-one killed, and seventy-four wounded.
However, this reverse was counterbalanced by the success of Major Evans,
at Thantabain, where the first minister of state, the Kyee Woongyee, was
posted. After skirmishing with the war-boats on the river, the detachment
arrived opposite the village, which, after a brisk fire, soon surrendered
on the 8th of October. Next morning the principal stockade was attacked,
and carried without any opposition. The Burmese having always carried off
their dead, it was impossible to find out how many were killed in the
encounter; but the place was riddled with shot, and a bungalow in the
centre almost destroyed. The detachment returned home without the loss of
a man.

Brigadier M’Creagh, too, speedily returned to the charge at Kykloo, and
finding the place, he went on, and after doing much damage, he returned
to Kykloo and Rangoon. “On their advance,” we are told, “they [the
soldiers] had an opportunity of witnessing the barbarous character of the
enemy, many of the bodies of the sipahis and pioneers, who fell in the
former attack, having been fastened to the trunks of trees, and mutilated
by imbecile and savage exasperation.”[301]

In such operations as these, many months passed away. Every successive
encounter with the British troops gave the Burmese an additional hint
that they must tax their energies to the utmost in order to bring about
a tolerable issue. It might now be seen that the choicest troops of the
empire must be opposed to the British invaders who had so coolly taken up
their quarters among them; and in the secrecy with which they summoned
Bundoola, the great general of the age, in their estimation, from
Arakhan, they showed much diplomatic genius; for ere Sir A. Campbell knew
he was coming, he was at Donabew, and actively employed in concentrating
all the available force of Burmah and Laos. It was about the end of
August when he left Arakhan, and in November everything was prepared
for a vigorous effort. “No pains nor expense were spared to equip this
favourite general for the field, and by the approach of the season for
active exertions, it was estimated that fifty thousand men were collected
for the advance upon Rangoon, who were to exterminate the invaders,
or carry them captives to the capital, where the chiefs were already
calculating on the number of slaves who were, from their source of
supply, to swell their train. Reports of the return of the Arakhan army
soon reached Rangoon, but some period elapsed before any certainty of its
movements was obtained. By the end of November, an intercepted despatch
from Bundoola, to the governor of Martaban,[302] removed all doubt,
and announced the departure of the former from Prome, at the head of a
formidable host. His advance was hailed with delight, and preparations
were made immediately for his reception.”[303] Gradually and slowly the
Burmese posts were stretched close to Rangoon, Dalla, Kemendine, the
Shoo Dagon to Puzendown creek, and no opposition was offered to their
operations. By the end of December their careful and costly preparations
were completed. On our part there was little fear. Determination was the
ruling sentiment in every bosom, and extraneously there was also no want
of protection by fortifications and shipping.

The enemy commenced by attacking Kemendine on the 1st of December, but
were repulsed by Major Yates, and Captain Ryers, of H.M.S. _Sophia_; and
though throughout an aggressive skirmishing was carried on, fatiguing our
troops considerably, yet the advantage remained on our side. Fire-rafts,
sent down in great numbers, had no effect, as our seamen were on the
look-out.

From the 1st to the 5th constant sallies were made under able commanders,
and many of the posts regained from the enemy. The Burmese showed no
want of activity, yet, as a recent writer observes, “little harm was
effected by this show of activity; but as the Burman force could no
longer be permitted to harass the troops with impunity, and it was not
impossible for them to escape from the consequences of a defeat, the
commander-in-chief resolved to become the assailant, and terminate the
expectations in which they had hitherto been permitted to indulge.”[304]
Now, at length, had the time arrived when the primary intentions of the
general might be carried out,—now, indeed, was that grand, resistless
march to begin which finds no parallel in the history of any nation of
modern times save our own. Sallies were continually made,—the men spared
no nerve,—the officers no thought,—all was bent upon the grand idea of
driving the enemy’s vast army back into me heart of the land whence it
had come. First, the Burmese posts at Puzendown were taken _au point de
l’épée_ by Majors Sale and Walker, the latter of whom fell during the
contest,—then the division at Dalla was routed by Lieut.-Colonel Farrier
and Lieut.-Colonel Parlby. Maha Bundoola himself began to be afraid of
the redoubtable “foreigners,” and retired from the active direction
of the battle-field, giving up the executive command to Maha Thilwa,
formerly governor of Asam, who stockaded his troops four miles to the
north at Kokein. Emissaries were now set at work to destroy Rangoon by
fire, and half of it was burnt, including the official quarter of the
Madras commissariat. It became necessary to dislodge this body, and it
was accordingly done under the direction of General Campbell. In fifteen
minutes the strong stockades were in the possession of the British, and
thus fifteen hundred determined men put to the rout twenty thousand—for
such, it appeared, was the enemy’s force—with only the loss of eighteen
killed, though many were wounded. During these engagements the greatest
terror was excited by the _Diana_ steam-packet, by the aid of which many
war-boats were captured. “The Burmans,” concludes Wilson, “no longer
dared attempt offensive operations, but restricted themselves to the
defence of their positions along the river; and the road was now open to
the British army, which, agreeably to the policy that had been enjoined
by the events of the war, prepared to dictate the terms of peace, if
necessary, within the walls of the capital.”[305]

Maha Bundoola was so dispirited by the events of the last few days,
that he retreated to Donabew again, and concentrated his forces at that
place. His proud heart was broken, however, and he began to treat with
the British residents at Rangoon; however, he would not make any direct
advance to the officials, with whom alone a formal peace could be
concluded. It was intimated to him that he should pursue such a course,
but he returned no answer to the letter, probably feeling reassured by
an accession of forces. The country being now clear, it appeared to Sir
A. Campbell that an immediate advance should be made into the interior;
and the arrival of H. M.’s 47th and some other reinforcements placed him
in a position of being able to do so without fear of losing anything
behind him. On the 11th of February, after the dispersion of the Burmese
garrison in the fort of Syriam, the army was at liberty to move. All fear
of insurrection on the part of the conquered provinces was at an end, as
the Peguers, the principal inhabitants of the district, had deserted to
the side of the British.

The preliminary movement of the army was the dislodgment of the advanced
guard of the native army at Thantabain, which was effectually done by
Colonel Godwin. This done, the army began its march in three divisions;
one, under General Campbell himself, was to proceed by land, and left
Rangoon on the 13th of February, 1825; the next went by water up the
Irawadi, on the 16th; and the third, under the command of Major Sale,
set out for Bassein, which it was proposed first to occupy, on the 17th.
Brigadier M’Creagh stayed in garrison with the reserve of feeble or
invalid men.

The water-column, after having taken and destroyed several stockades in
its way, arrived before Donabew on the 6th of March; Brigadier-General
Cotton immediately summoned the garrison to surrender, a summons which
was of course useless. A party was then sent to reconnoitre; and though
the Burmese poured a heavy fire upon our men, a complete knowledge of the
neighbourhood was gained.

“The fortified post of Donabew was of considerable extent and breadth,
situated on the right bank of the Irawadi, and commanding its whole
channel. The main-work was a stockade parallelogram of one thousand by
seven hundred yards, which was a little withdrawn from the bed of the
river, on a bank rising above its level. The river face mounted fifty
pieces of ordnance, of various sizes. The approach to the main structure
from the south was defended by two outworks, one about four hundred yards
lower down the river, and another about three hundred yards below it.
Each was constructed of square beams of timber, provided with platforms,
and pierced for cannon, and was strengthened by an exterior fosse, the
outer edge of which was guarded with sharp-pointed timbers, planted
obliquely, and a thick abatis of felled trees and brushwood. The lowest
outwork was a square of about two hundred yards, with a pagoda in the
centre; the highest, of an irregular shape, running along the bank of
a rivulet flowing into the main stream; both works were occupied with
strong parties of the enemy.”[306] The first stockade was attacked by
the six hundred men yet at General Cotton’s disposal (the rest being in
garrison, or with the flotilla), and was gained by the loss of twenty of
our men. The faithless Burmese fled, leaving two hundred and eighty of
their comrades in the hands of the enemy. But at the second stockade,
a determined resistance met the fatigued troops, already clogged and
weakened by the care of the numerous prisoners. A destructive fire
was opened on them, and the only safe course was in flight, or, as it
is named to “ears polite,” in a retreat. General Cotton, therefore,
receded to Yoong-yoon, where he awaited the answer to his account of the
proceedings from General Campbell, who, in the mean time, had arrived at
Yuadit, twenty-six miles above Tharawa. That answer was delivered by the
general himself, who joined Cotton before Donabew by the 27th of March,
after much vexation and toil.[307] Operations were immediately commenced;
and notwithstanding numerous sorties (on one occasion, Bundoola himself
headed his seventeen elephants and infantry), they advanced their works,
and fatal were the effects of the mortars and bombs that were thrown
into the thickly-peopled inclosure. The feeling of fear grew strong with
the Burmese; and on the evening of the 31st, a soldier brought a laconic
letter from Bundoola, couched in these terms:—“In war we find each
other’s force; the two countries are at war for nothing, and we know not
each other’s minds!”[308] It seemed from what the soldier knew of the
matter, which was very little, that the Burmese general desired peace.
Very doubtful is the authenticity of this letter, when compared with the
spirited reply seat to General Willoughby Cotton’s summons of surrender.
“We are each fighting for our country, and you will find me as steady in
defending mine, as you in maintaining the honour of yours. If you wish
to see Donabew, come as friends, and I will show it you. If you come as
enemies, LAND!”[309]

On the 1st of April the batteries opened, and by the 2nd the enemy had
decamped. It was discovered that Bundoola had met his death on the
preceding day, by the bursting of a shell. All the courage of the Burmese
warriors had fled with his departing spirit. The greatest general,
since the golden days of Alompra, the devoted to Buddha; he had won his
way to the most responsible position in the king’s service, only to be
singled out, as it were, by some supernatural power, as the victim of
the fireballs of the persevering islanders of the far-off ocean. No
wonder, then, that the superstitious Burmese, on beholding the fate of
their commander, gave themselves up for lost. What a mysterious power
the English seemed to have of singling out the head of their army,
and destroying him! So they fled, and the British became masters of
Donabew, where they found much welcome supply of corn and military
stores. Notwithstanding the momentary panic of the Avan government, it
soon regained its customary arrogance. The _Edinburgh Review_ has some
remarks, which, though rather premature for our progress in the history,
I shall here introduce.

“But blood and treasure might be still more unprofitably expended. The
ignorance and arrogance of the court of Ava are almost beyond occidental
credence. When its favourite general, Bundoola, invaded Chittagong, our
southernmost district, at the commencement of the last war, he brought
with him golden fetters to bind Lord Amherst withal; and had orders,
after he had taken Calcutta, to march on to take London! Defeat after
defeat seemed to produce little sobering effect upon the drunkenness of
Indo-Chinese pride; the officers who were flying before our army in its
advance upon the capital, and who must have felt the utter hopelessness
of the contest, were obliged, as their intercepted letters vouched,
to account in the most absurd manner for their inability to stop us;
and the unfortunate wretch who commanded the troops that made the last
stand against us, at a place called Pagahm Mew, was trampled to death by
elephants on his return with the news of his defeat. It was not until our
army arrived within three days’ march of the capital that the king’s eyes
appeared to be opened to any rational sense of his perilous situation;
and there was evidence enough, before we evacuated the country, that
the effect even of such severe discipline as the exaction of a million
sterling towards the expenses of the war, and the cession of some of his
most valued provinces, was not likely to be permanent.”[310]



CHAPTER VIII.

1825-1826.

    Arrival at Prome—Prome under English rule—Re-assembly
    of the Burmese armies—Negotiations for peace—Battle of
    Meaday—Melloon—Yandabo—Treaty of peace.


The general did not tarry long at Donabew, but pushed forward toward
Prome, where the rainy season was to be passed. On his way to that place,
he was joined at Tharawa by McCreagh’s reserve column from Rangoon, and
the united forces pushed forward for Prome. The charm was now broken, and
as the British lines advanced, the prince of Tharawadi, at the head of
the opposing army, fell back, and, though strong in numbers, offered no
resistance to the progress of the Anglo-Indian army. Prome was reached by
the 25th of April, and taken without one round of firing. The indecisive
conduct of the prince seems to have arisen partly from a wish to
negotiate a peace, which was attempted at Turriss Miu, a few miles below
Prome. A native soldier came to the camp with a letter from two of the
Atwenwoons, proposing an accommodation; but Sir A. Campbell replied, that
at all events he should advance to Prome: and though another letter was
received from the Atwenwoons, he continued in his resolve. Luckily for
him, he arrived in time to save the place from being stripped of all the
necessaries of life, in the same manner as the towns he had before passed
had been served. On hearing of the arrival of Campbell, Prince Tharawadi
left for Ava, to insist upon a peace being concluded.

The British had only just arrived in time to stand the change of the
seasons in this place,—a more favourable spot than the lower country
for that purpose. Previous to the setting in of the rainy season,
the thermometer had risen in the shade to 110°, but the nights were
still cool, and the climate was not unhealthy. The monsoon brought its
ordinary effects upon the condition of the European troops, who, though
suffering much less severely than at Rangoon, lost almost one-seventh
of their number between June and October; the native troops were much
more exempt, although not wholly free, from disease. Although the level
of the country was higher than in the coast districts, yet the site of
the town was so low as to be under water at the rise of the river, and
to the east extended for many miles a plain laid out principally in
rice-cultivation; south of the town was a range of low hills, crowned by
the principal pagodas, and thither some of the troops were removed, when
the suburbs in which they had been quartered were found liable to sudden
inundations; supplies were in some abundance, and there was comparatively
little demand for the active services of the force; it seems probable,
therefore, that much of the disease that still prevailed was the
consequence of previous exposure and exhaustion, although ascribable in
some measure to the effects of climate and of ill-selected quarters for
the troops.[311]

It were almost beyond the limits of this volume to enlarge upon the
prosperous state of Prome under British rule, and Mr. Mac Farlane’s able
sketch will compensate in every way for my own shortcomings. In speaking
of an excursion made by Colonel Graham, partly for forage, and partly
to calm the fears of the natives themselves, the historian of India
continues:[312]—“Almost immediately after their return, the persecuted
and dislodged inhabitants of the town poured in from every quarter, some
from the woods, bringing their families, their cattle, their waggons, and
other property; and some escaped from the military escorts and disjointed
corps of the king’s fugitive army. Food and covering were given to the
starving and naked; and those who had houses and property were secured in
the possession of them. Our British soldiers assisted them in rebuilding
their wooden houses and their bamboo huts, and in a very short time Prome
had risen from its ashes, a greater town than it had been before the war.
As the people were punctually paid for whatever they brought, plentiful
bazaars were soon established, and our soldiers lived in comfort and
abundance, and unmolested ease; while the ill-conducted armies of the
king of Ava, unpaid, unsupplied, and driven up the country, were left to
the alternative of starvation or dispersion. The towns and districts
in our rear followed the example of the provincial capital, and the
banks of the Irawadi below Prome were soon enlivened by the presence of
a contented people. An excellent depôt was soon formed at Prome, with
supplies sufficient not only for the rainy season, but for the long
campaign which possibly might follow. The plains which our soldiers
had traversed on their advance up the country without seeing a single
bullock were again covered with numerous herds; from every pathway of
the deep and extensive forests, which cover far more than half of the
country, droves of the finest oxen—the oxen of Pegu —now issued daily.
The menthagoes, or hereditary headmen of the districts and chief towns,
tendered their allegiance, and were restored to their municipal functions
by the British generals. A state of desolation and anarchy once more
gave way to order and plenty; and from Rangoon to Prome, from Bassein
to Martaban, all classes of natives not only contributed their aid in
collecting such supplies as the country afforded, but readily lent
their services in facilitating the equipment and movement of military
detachments.[313] The only anxiety which the people seemed to find was,
that the English would leave them, and give them back to their old
masters.”

It was now the rainy season, and the operations of both parties were,
to a certain extent, suspended. Little was done by the British, and
the Burmese made no preparations against any hostile aggression on
our part. The only event that at all did away with the tedium of the
period was the discomfiture of the Thekia Wungyee at Old Pegu, where the
Taliens, who trusted (a sad reliance, as it afterwards was found) in the
British assistance towards the hoped-for object of the recovery of their
independence, rose, and seized as many of the officers of his detachment
as they could secure; one chief of importance was amongst them,—the
Thekia Wungyee himself escaping. Their prize they brought to Rangoon, and
delivered to Brigadier Smith.

The successes of the British naturally created the utmost dismay at the
metropolis; but the native arrogance of the people, so common in a
semi-civilised race, soon caused the usual lofty tone to be assumed, and
generals stepped forward, willing to risk a combat with the British army,
or pay the hard penalty that awaited an unsuccessful commander. This man
was the Pagahm Wungyee, a chief of no little consequence and considerable
vanity. A leader found, it was necessary to get an army,—a far more
difficult task. It may easily be conceived, that the forces levied in a
hasty manner, and without any attention as to their courage, could not be
very formidable; and so, indeed, it proved on _reconnoissance_.

But war costs money, as Sir A. Campbell found, and he was now fully
sensible of the fact, that little was to be regained from the enemy.
Therefore, he gave the Burmese government another opportunity of coming
to a peaceful conclusion, by means of a letter addressed to the prince
of Tharawadi, and borne by a servant of that person, who had come under
English protection to Prome. However, it was totally unavailing; no
answer was received, and therefore the hostile preparations of the king
of Ava were continued; and to facilitate these, the commander-in-chief
went down to Rangoon in the _Diana_, and did not return till the 2nd of
August. It was satisfactory to find that, in the lower provinces, “a
state of desolation and anarchy once more gave way to order and plenty;
and from Bassein to Martaban, and Rangoon to Prome, every class of
natives not only contributed their aid to collect such supplies as the
country could afford, but readily lent their services to the equipment
and march of military detachments.”[314]

Soon after, intelligence was received of the approach of the mighty
armament of Burmah, amounting to 40,000 men (so it was said), under the
command of Memia-Bo, a brother of the king himself. There were also
12,000 at Tongho, under the prince of Tongho. General Cotton was sent to
reconnoitre their force, which he discovered at Meaday, on the 15th, on
the west bank of the river. Our forces, it may be observed, amounted to
but 3,000 men, though 2,000 more were daily expected. The preparations at
Meaday were very energetic, and the force amounted to 16,000 men, at the
lowest estimate.

At this juncture, a letter of Sir A. Campbell took effect on the
Burmese, and on the 6th September, a boat arrived at Prome, with a flag
of truce, and two commissioners presented a reply from the general of the
Burmese army. Accounts differ as to the terms of the letter, but Wilson
is decidedly the best authority; and according to him, the letter was
proud and unconciliating, yet a wish was expressed in it for a lasting
peace. “Sir Archibald Campbell lost no time in sending two British
officers to Meaday, to offer an armistice, and to propose a meeting of
commissioners from the two armies. The Burmese prime minister tried hard
to delay the meeting. It was found necessary to allow a delay of nearly
two weeks, the Wongees protesting that they must wait until full powers
arrived from their court. The Keewongee, or prime minister, agreed to be
one of the commissioners, and it was finally settled that the meeting
should take place at a spot midway between the two armies, and that each
party should be accompanied by 600 men, the rank of the Keewongee not
permitting him to move with a smaller escort.”[315]

It seemed, however, impossible to come to any determination with this
uncivilised, changeable race. On discussing matters, on our demanding
compensation, there was much hesitation, and, at last, when the armistice
was on the point of expiring, the Wungyee sent these words to Sir A.
Campbell:—

“If you wish for peace, you may go away; but if you ask either for money
or territory, no friendship can exist between us. This is Burmese custom.”

It is, indeed, Burmese custom! Nothing is to be obtained from them
without force; not that they do not feel the demand just, but because
they will hold doggedly to what they can get, though it benefit them not,
nay, even if it be hurtful.

“The court of Ava,” observes Wilson, “indignant at the idea of conceding
an inch of territory, or submitting to what, in oriental politics,
is held a mark of excessive humiliation, payment of any pecuniary
indemnification, breathed nothing but defiance, and determined instantly
to prosecute the war.”[316] It was then that, on the numerous incursions
of the Burmese, the definite reply was returned to the British
commander-in-chief, proving that, after all, the advances made by the
Burmese were only made to gain time.

The gallant general now determined to advance boldly on the enemy. His
forces now amounted to 5,000 men, of whom 3,000 were British. Up to the
1st of December, operations were rather unfavourable than otherwise; on
that day, however, fickle fortune again turned over to the English side.
I shall give the events of the day in the words of Wilson:[317]

“Leaving four regiments of native infantry for the defence of Prome,
General Campbell marched, early on the morning of the 1st of December,
against the enemy’s left, while the flotilla, under Sir James Brisbane,
and the 26th Madras native infantry, acting in co-operation, by a
cannonade of the works upon the river, diverted the attention of the
centre from the real attack.

“Upon reaching the Nawine river, at the village of Zeonke, the force was
divided into two columns. The right, under Brigadier-General Cotton,
formed of his Majesty’s 41st and 89th regiments, and the 18th and 28th
native infantry, proceeding along the left bank of the river, came in
front of the enemy’s intrenchments, consisting of a series of stockades,
covered on either flank by thick jungle, and by the river in the rear,
and defended by a considerable force, of whom 8,000 were Shans, or people
of Laos, under their native chiefs. The post was immediately stormed.
The attack was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Godwin, with the advanced guard
of the right column, and the stockades were carried in less than ten
minutes. The enemy left three hundred dead, including their general, Maha
Nemyo, and all their stores and ammunition, and a considerable quantify
of arms were taken. The left column, under the commander-in-chief,
composed of his Majesty’s 13th, 38th, 47th, and 87th regiments, and 38th
Madras infantry, which had crossed the Nawine river lower down, came
up as the fugitives were crossing, and completed the dispersion of the
Burman army.

“Following up the advantage thus gained, General Campbell determined
to attack the Kyee Woongyee in his position, without delay. His force
accordingly marched back to Zeonke, where they bivouacked for the night,
and resumed their march on the following morning at daybreak. The nature
of the country admitted of no approach to the enemy’s defences upon the
hills, except in front, and that by a narrow pathway, accessible to but a
limited number of men in line. Their posts at the foot of the hills were
more readily assailable, and from these they were speedily driven; but
the attack of the heights was a more formidable task, as the narrow road
by which they were approached was commanded by the enemy’s artillery and
breastworks, numerously manned. After some impression had been apparently
made by the artillery and rockets, the first Bengal brigade, consisting
of H.M.’s 13th and 38th regiments, advanced to the storm, supported on
the right by six companies of H.M.’s 87th. They made good their ascent,
in spite of the heavy fire they encountered, and to which scarcely a shot
was returned; and when they had gained the summit, they drove the enemy
from hill to hill, until they had cleared the whole of the formidable
and extensive intrenchments. These brilliant advantages were not gained
without loss; and in the affair of the 1st, Lieutenants Sutherland and
Gossip, of H.M.’s 41st, and Ensign Campbell, of the royal regiment, were
killed; and Lieutenant Proctor, of H.M.’s 38th; Lieutenant Baylee, of
the 87th; and Captain Dawson, of H.M.’s ship _Arachne_, in that of the
second. The division under General Cotton, which had made a circuitous
march to take the enemy in flank, was unable to make its way through the
jungle to bear part in the engagement. On the 5th a detachment from it
proceeded across the river, and drove the right wing of the enemy, not
only from their post upon the river, but from a strong stockade about
half a mile in the interior, completely manned and mounting guns. The
enemy were dispersed with severe loss in killed and prisoners, and their
defences were set on fire.”

No time was now lost in advancing upon the retreating army. On the 9th of
December the march of the British columns began, and their path lay along
“dismal swamps,” and jungles, which, overrun with every kind of reeds and
elephant-grass, presented a dreary and dispiriting aspect to the troops.
Indeed, the effect of the marshy country was soon felt on the army, for
on the 12th the cholera broke out among the troops, and, according to
Lieutenant-Colonel Tulloch,[318] nearly two regiments were placed in an
unfit condition for action. At Meaday the sight was sad enough. “Within
and among the stockades,” says Mac Farlane,[319] “the ground was strewed
with dead and dying Burmese lying promiscuously together, the victims of
wounds, of disease, or of want. Several large gibbets stood about the
stockade, each bearing the mouldering remains of three or four crucified
Burmese, who had been thus barbarously put to death for having wandered
from their posts in search of food, or for having followed the example of
their chiefs in flying from the enemy.”[320]

I must pass briefly over subsequent events. Conferences for the purpose
of settling a peace were sought and obtained by the Burmese; but the
negotiations came to nothing. It seemed that all feelings of any kind
had left them. They neither sought to conclude a peace, nor, on the
other hand, did they prepare for contesting the advance of the army on
the capital. At last, after much deliberation and little determination,
a treaty of peace was concluded by commissioners appointed for that
purpose, through the intervention of a priest. However, after all, it
never reached the king for his ratification. “During the conferences,”
however, “the Burman commissioners repeatedly declared their being
furnished with full powers, and their firm persuasion, that whatever
they agreed to, the king would ratify; they expressed their entire
satisfaction with the spirit in which the negotiations had been conducted
by the British commissioners, and their gratification at the prospect
of a speedy renewal of friendly relations; they made no secret of their
motives, and frankly and unreservedly admitted that the king had been
ruined by the war, that the resources of the country were exhausted, and
that the road to Ava was open to the British army. There appears every
reason to credit their assertions, and all who had an opportunity of
exercising personal observation were impressed with this conviction, that
the negotiators were honest.”[321] I cannot, however, but point out to
the reader that there appears to be a singular dash of cunning in their
confessions. The king was ruined, at least so they said; thus it was
useless ever to require money for expenses. Otherwise, there seems to be
simplicity enough.

Still the war was not at an end. The treaty was not ratified; nor
destined to be. Time was asked, and repeatedly granted; but treachery was
found to be at work again in the Burman hearts. They felt no peace with
the wild foreigners. At last they were told, that on their withdrawing
from Melloon by the morning of the 20th, and their passage to Ava,
hostilities would not be recommenced. But they refused; therefore they
received intimation of an attack on the 18th. “Batteries were accordingly
erected with such expedition,” says Wilson, “that by ten the next
morning, eight and twenty pieces of ordnance were in position on points
presenting more than a mile on the eastern bank of the Irawadi, which
corresponded with the enemy’s line of defence on the opposite shore; nor
had the Burmas been idle, having, in the course of the night, thrown up
additional defences of considerable strength and extent, and well adapted
to the purposes for which they were constructed.”[322]

The heavy cannonade which ensued, soon drove away the fickle Burmese, and
crowned the British armies with success. It is to be observed, that the
rapidity and precision of the English movements insured our success. Here
was it discovered that the treaty had not been sent to Ava at all, and
when a note was sent by the British to the chief commissioner, informing
him that the treaty had been left behind and would be restored, that
official replied, that a large sum of money had also been left behind,
which he likewise hoped would be refunded. The whole show of negotiation
was a blind for hostile preparations of no avail, as it was afterwards
found.

“By this time,” says Mr. Mac Farlane,[323] “the Golden Face was
completely clouded with despair. Every hope and every promise had failed;
every day fixed upon by his star-gazers as a lucky day had turned out
an unlucky day; and all his astrologers and soothsayers had proved
themselves to be but cheats and liars. Sir Archibald assured the two
envoys that he was desirous of peace, and that his terms would vary very
little from those which had been offered and accepted by the Wongees at
Melloon. He furnished them with a statement of his terms, and promised
not to pass Pagahm-mew for twelve days. On the following morning, the 1st
of February, 1826, the two delegates quitted the English camp to return
to Ava, the American missionary being sanguine in his expectations of
returning in a few days with cash, and a treaty of peace, duly signed by
the king. Yet, in truth, his Burmese majesty was still undecided, and, in
the course of two or three days, it became known in the British camp that
he was displaying a determination to try the fortune of war once more ere
he submitted. He was probably encouraged herein by a knowledge of the
smallness of the force with which Sir Archibald Campbell was advancing
upon his capital, and by the intelligence received of the defeat of a
weak British detachment, before the strong stockade of Zitoung, in Pegu,
where the commanding officer, Colonel Conroy, and another officer, were
killed, and several wounded, and where the loss in men was very heavy for
so small a force.

“Sir Archibald Campbell continued his advance. On approaching Pagahm-mew,
a town about a hundred miles above Melloon, he obtained positive
information that a levy of 40,000 men had been ordered; that the Golden
Foot had bestowed upon his new army the flattering appellation of
‘Retrievers of the King’s Glory,’ and that this army had been placed
under the command of a savage warrior, styled Nee Woon-Breen, which has
been, variously translated as ‘Prince of Darkness,’ ‘King of Hell,’ and
‘Prince of the setting Sun.’

“Upon the 8th of February, when within a few days’ march of Pagahm-mew,
Sir Archibald ascertained that the Retrievers of the King’s Glory and the
Prince of Darkness were prepared to meet him under the walls of that city.

“On the 9th, the British column moved forward in order of attack, being
much reduced by the absence of two brigades, and considerably under
2,000 fighting men. The advanced guard was met in the jungle by strong
bodies of skirmishers; and, after maintaining a running fight for several
miles, the column debouched in the open country, and there discovered
the Burmese army, from 16,000 to 20,000 strong, drawn up in an inverted
crescent, the wings of which threatened the little body of assailants
on both their flanks. But Sir Archibald pushed boldly forward upon the
point for their centre, threw the whole weight of his column, broke and
shattered it in the twinkling of an eye, and left the unconnected wings
severed from each other. The Retrievers of the King’s Glory did not fight
so well as those who had been accused of forfeiting his majesty’s glory:
they all fled, as fast as their legs could carry them, to a second line
of redoubts and stockades, close under the walls of Pagahm-mew; but the
British column followed them so closely, that they had little time for
rallying in those works; and as soon as a few English bayonets got within
the stockades, all the Burmese went off screaming like a scared flock of
wild geese. Hundreds jumped into the river to escape their assailants,
and perished in the water; and, with the exception of 2,000 or 3,000 men,
the whole army dispersed upon the spot:” and from this time no opposition
was offered to the British. The Burmese were now wearied out; their
resources, as it has been observed, were exhausted, their spirit broken,
and while the court felt that resistance was impossible, the nobles
individually saw that the Company was a better ally than the sovereign
of Ava; yet it was still attempted to gain some advantage, and inactive
despair, succeeded by active flight, showed the English what the general
sentiment of the Burmese nation was. As a means, however, of gaining some
little advantage, the European prisoners were retained in custody by the
nation; but at Yandabo it chanced that our troops caught sight of several
of the captives, and their misery caused the troops to be more anxious
than ever for vengeance upon the Burmese government. The two or three
prisoners held out as a bait by the Burmese monarch, were not of much
avail. The same sum of twenty-five lacs of rupees was demanded, and the
Burmans had to pay; shuffling was of no use.

“After halting two or three days at Pagahm,” says Wilson,[324] “General
Campbell resumed his march, which now seemed likely to conduct him to the
capital of Ava. There, one feeling alone prevailed, and although various
reports were thrown out, at one time of the intention of the king to
defend the city to the last extremity, and at another to protract the war
by flying to the mountains, these purposes, if ever conceived, originated
in the anxiety of the moment, and were never seriously entertained. The
king and his ministers felt that they were in the power of the British;
and their only anxiety was that the personal dignity and security of the
sovereign should not be violated. It was with as much satisfaction as
astonishment, therefore, that they learned from Mr. Price, on his return
from Ava, that the British commissioners sought to impose no severer
terms than those which had been stipulated in the treaty of Melloon. To
these there was now no hesitation to accede, although a lurking suspicion
was still entertained that the invaders would not rest satisfied with the
conditions they professed to impose. With a mixture of fear and trust,
Mr. Price was again despatched to the British camp to signify the consent
of the Burman court to the terms of peace; and Mr. Sandford was now set
wholly at liberty, and allowed to accompany the negotiator to rejoin his
countrymen. These gentlemen returned to camp on the 13th of February; but
as the envoy had brought no official ratification of the treaty, Sir A.
Campbell declined suspending his march until it should be received.”

Thus, at Yandabo the British were met by the returning envoy bearing the
money, and the rest of the required despatches. On the 26th of February,
the memorable treaty of Yandabo was drawn out, and by it British
ascendancy in the farther peninsula of India fully established.

In order that the reader may be fully acquainted with the bearings of our
negotiations at Yandabo, I shall here give the treaty _in extenso_, from
a late official document.[325]

“TREATY OF PEACE between the Honourable East-India Company on the
one part, and his Majesty the king of Ava on the other, settled by
Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell, K.C.B. and K.C.T.S., commanding
the expedition, and senior commissioner in Pegu and Ava; Thomas Campbell
Robertson, Esquire, civil commissioner in Pegu and Ava; and Henry Ducie
Chads, Esquire (captain), commanding his Britannic Majesty’s and the
Honourable Company’s naval force on the Irrawaddy river, on the part of
the Honourable Company; and by Mengyee-Maha-Men-Klah-Kyan-Ten Woongyee,
Lord of Lay-Kaeng, on the part of the king of Ava; who have each
communicated to the other their full powers; agreed to and executed at
Yandaboo, in the kingdom of Ava, on the 24th day of February, in the year
of our Lord 1826, corresponding with the fourth day of the decrease of
the moon Taboung, in the year 1187, Mandina era:—

“ARTICLE I.—There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the
Honourable Company, on the one part, and His Majesty the King of Ava on
the other.

“ARTICLE II.—His Majesty the King of Ava renounces all claims upon, and
will abstain from all future interference with, the Principality of
Assam and its dependencies, and also with the contiguous petty states of
Cachar and Jyntia. With regard to Munipore, it is stipulated, that should
Ghumbheer Singh desire to return to that country, he shall be recognised
by the King of Ava as rajah thereof.

“ARTICLE III.—To prevent all future disputes respecting the boundary-line
between the two great nations, the British Government will retain the
conquered provinces of Arracan, including the four divisions of Arracan,
Ramree, Cheduba, and Sandowey, and His Majesty the King of Ava cedes
all rights thereto. The Annonpeeteetonmien, or Arracan Mountains (known
in Arracan by the name of Yeornabourg or Pokhengloung range), will
henceforth form the boundary between the two great nations on that side.
Any doubts regarding the said line of demarcation will be settled by
Commissioners appointed by the respective Governments for that purpose,
such Commissioners from both powers to be of suitable and corresponding
rank.

“ARTICLE IV.—His Majesty the King of Ava cedes to the British Government
the conquered Provinces of Yeh, Tavoy, Mergui, and Tenasserim, with the
islands and dependencies thereunto appertaining, taking the Saluen River
as the line of demarcation on the frontier. Any doubts regarding their
boundaries will be settled as specified in the concluding part of Article
III.

“ARTICLE V.—In proof of the sincere disposition of the Burmese Government
to maintain the relations of peace and amity between the nations, and as
part indemnification to the British Government for the expenses of the
war, His Majesty the King of Ava agrees to pay the sum of one crore of
rupees.

“ARTICLE VI.—No person whatever, whether native or foreign, is hereafter
to be molested by either party, on account of the part which he may have
taken, or have been compelled to take, in the present war.

“ARTICLE VII.—In order to cultivate and improve the relations of amity
and peace hereby established between the two Governments, it is agreed
that accredited Ministers, retaining an escort or safeguard of fifty
men, from each, shall reside at the Durbar of the other, who shall
be permitted to purchase, or to build a suitable place of residence,
of permanent materials, and a Commercial Treaty, upon principles of
reciprocal advantage, will be entered into by the two High Contracting
powers.

“ARTICLE VIII.—All public and private debts contracted by either
Government, or by the subjects of either Government, with the other
previous to the war, to be recognised and liquidated upon the same
principles of honour and good faith as if hostilities had not taken place
between the two nations; and no advantage shall be taken by either party
of the period that may have elapsed since the debts were incurred, or in
consequence of the war; and, according to the universal Law of Nations,
it is further stipulated, that the property of all British subjects who
may die in the dominions of his Majesty the King of Ava shall, in the
absence of legal heirs, be placed in the hands of the British Resident
or Consul in the said dominions, who will dispose of the same according
to the tenour of the British law. In like manner, the property of
Burmese subjects, dying under the same circumstances in any part of the
British dominions, shall be made over to the Minister or other authority
delegated by his Burmese Majesty to the Supreme Government of India.

“ARTICLE IX.—The King of Ava will abolish all exactions upon British
ships or vessels in Burman ports, that are not required from Burman ships
or vessels in British ports: nor shall ships or vessels, the property of
British subjects, whether European or Indian, entering the Rangoon river,
or other Burman ports, be required to land their guns or unship their
rudders, or do any other act not required of Burmese ships or vessels in
British ports.

“ARTICLE X.—The good and faithful ally of the British Government, his
Majesty the King of Siam, having taken a part in the present war, will,
to the fullest extent, as far as regards his Majesty and his subjects, be
included in the above treaty.

“ARTICLE XI.—This treaty to be ratified by the Burmese authorities
competent in the like cases, and the ratification to be accompanied by
all British, whether European or native (American), and other prisoners,
who will be delivered over to the British Commissioners; the British
Commissioners, on their part, engaging that the said treaty shall be
ratified by the Right Honourable the Governor-General in Council, and the
ratification shall be delivered to his Majesty the King of Ava in four
months, or sooner if possible; and all the Burmese prisoners shall, in
like manner, be delivered over to their own Government as soon as they
arrive from Bengal.”

Subsequently, the following article was added:—

“The British Commissioners being most anxiously desirous to manifest the
sincerity of their wish for peace, and to make the immediate execution
of the fifth article of this treaty as little irksome or inconvenient
as possible to His Majesty the King of Ava, consent to the following
arrangements, with respect to the division of the sum total, as specified
in the article before referred to, into instalments; viz., upon the
payment of twenty-five lacs of rupees, or one-fourth of the sum total
(the other articles of the treaty being executed), the army will retire
to Rangoon; upon the further payment of a similar sum at that place,
within one hundred days from this date, with the proviso as above, the
army will evacuate the dominions of His Majesty the King of Ava, with the
least possible delay; leaving the remaining moiety of the sum total to
be paid by equal annual instalments in two years, from this 24th day of
February, 1826, A.D., through the Consul, or Resident in Ava, or Pegu, on
the part of the Honourable the East-India Company.”

Since the conclusion of this treaty, little has occurred in the kingdom
of general interest, as far as we are concerned, until the recent war.
From the year 1826 to our own day, revolution has overthrown revolution,
and the same spirit is at work at present as in the days of the creator
of Burmese importance, Alompra, with this difference, that while at that
period the turbulent elements disturbing the peace of the peninsula could
in some measure be controlled, as there was a man of consummate talent
and great power capable of so doing, there is now no one; and further,
that if we do not annex the country, there is not a doubt, but that we
shall find a disadvantage in not having done so. In the first place,
the trade with the country will be destroyed by the hardness of the
officials; and, secondly, it has not been forgotten by the Peguese, that
we foully betrayed them in 1827. They are now giving us another trial:
let us show that we are worthy of confidence.

I shall now close this sketch of the fortunes of the Burmese nation with
a few remarks made during a former crisis by an Edinburgh reviewer,
as they will, no doubt, be found somewhat applicable to the present
time:[326]—

“The difficulty of dealing with inflated barbarians, and of resisting
the constant provocation to chastise them, not merely into civility, but
into the due observance of their federal obligations, and the necessary
restraint of the plundering propensities of their subjects upon our
borders, is extreme.

“Yet the dire necessity of entering upon another war with such enemies
must be contemplated with unmixed dislike. There is nothing, either of
honour or profit, to be gained; and the process, from the nature of the
country, and the remoteness of its vital parts from the stations of our
troops, must always be tedious and expensive. The seat and strength
of the government is fixed almost at the upper extremity of the long
valley of the Irrawaddy. The capital is six or seven hundred miles from
the sea. The lower part of the valley is a pestilential swamp during
a considerable portion of the year. Though the shorter route to the
capital, over the Arracan mountains, would unquestionably be taken by our
main army, the expense of transporting a considerable body of troops,
with an adequate supply, not only of military appurtenances, but of
provisions (for the Burmese proved, to our cost, in the last war, that
they could effectually sweep the country of all resources), through such
wildernesses, and by such mere footpaths, would necessarily be great.
These were the circumstances which, joined with much ignorance and
carelessness, rendered the last war so tedious and costly.”



FOOTNOTES


[1] Judson, in Documents, pp. 223, 229.

[2] Or Dr. Buchanan. See his paper in the Edinburgh Philosophical
Journal, vol. ii. p. 99 sqq.

[3] Penny Cyclopædia, vol. iv, p. 435 sq.

[4] Penny Cyclopædia, vol. iv. p. 437.

[5] Embassy to Ava, vol. ii. p. 227 sq.

[6] Embassy to Ava, vol. iii. p. 233 sq.

[7] Near Amarapura, however, Symes observed a man in a plantation using a
wheel to a well. See his Ava, vol. ii. p. 87, small edition.

[8] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. p. 127 sq.

[9] Malcom, Travels in South-Eastern Asia, vol. i. p. 96 sq.

[10] Malcom, vol. i. p. 173 sqq.; and Wallich, _Plantæ Rariores_, &c.

[11] Prescott’s Conquest of Peru, vol. ii. p. 101-3.

[12] Malcom, vol. i. p. 167.

[13] See Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. iv. p. 704. On
the Further Discovery of Coalbeds in Assam, by Capt. F. Jenkins; also
vol. viii. p. 385. The existence of coal has, however, been disputed.

[14] Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. ii. p. 75 sq.

[15] The _viss_ is equal to 3½ pounds. The Burmese word is _peik-tha_.

[16] Japon, Indo-Chine, et Ceylan, par M. Dubois de Jancigny, p. 236.

[17] Crawfurd’s Ava, vol. ii. p. 222, to whom I am mainly indebted.

[18] Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, vol. iv. p. 499.

[19] Races of Man, p. 137. See his Ethnological map.

[20] Prichard, vol. iv. p. 506.

[21] Asiat. Res. vol. x. p. 240.

[22] Low’s Grammar of the T’hay.

[23] See my remarks in Buckley’s Great Cities of the Ancient World, p.
369.

[24] In concluding this subject, allow me to refer the reader to some
useful observations on Ethnology by Dr. Prichard, in the Admiralty Manual
of Scientific Inquiry, edited by Sir John Herschel, p. 423-444.

[25] Embassy to Ava, vol. i. p. 286 sq.; later edition, vol. i. p. 148.

[26] Sangermano’s Description of the Burmese Empire, p. 58.

[27] Prescott, Conquest of Peru, vol. ii. p. 80.

[28] Ava, vol. ii. p. 137 and note.

[29] Malcom, Travels, vol. i. p. 249.

[30] My immediate authority is Sangermano, p. 60. This most lucid and
interesting account of the Burmese empire, containing more than its title
imports, deserves the most earnest attention of the historian. Compiled
from Burmese documents, it bears the highest worth in itself.

[31] Sangermano, p. 64.

[32] Ava, vol. ii. p. 137.

[33] In accordance with my suggestions at p. 16 of this work.

[34] Thucydides, lib. i. c. 138.

[35] Malcom, vol. i. p. 262.

[36] Sangermano, p. 66.

[37] Ava, vol. ii. p. 149 sq.

[38] Page 74.

[39] Ava, vol. ii. pp. 152-156.

[40] Sangermano, p. 67.

[41] My authority is, as usual, the excellent Sangermano, p. 68.

[42] This shows how the Burmans fear _justice_. How deeply seated is this
disorder, and who can unseat and drive it away?

[43] I am indebted to Malcom, vol. i. p. 256, and others.

[44] Report on Bassein.

[45] Ava, vol. ii. p. 156.

[46] Travels, vol. i. p. 256.

[47] Ava, vol. ii. p. 157.

[48] This is remarkably applicable to a certain European nation.

[49] I should not have ventured to say as much as this, had I not
found myself corroborated by Dr. Buchanan Hamilton. His remark is as
follows:—“I should certainly have been silent, had I thought that Captain
Symes or Mr. Wood’s inquiries on these subjects had prepared them to
give their opinions with advantage. But I imagine that this has not
been the case; and I hope the information I here give may be of use to
professional men.”—MS. in the British Museum, Additional MS. No. 13,872.
In the same collection of papers on Ava are a number of communications
from Symes to the Marquis of Wellesley, in the course of his second
embassy. It is but fair to add, that these letters appear written under
more just impressions than his printed journal was.

[50] Ava, vol. ii. p. 206.

[51] Residence in Ava, p. 134.

[52] Embassy to Ava, vol. i. p. 93 sq.

[53] Governor or chief man.

[54] Ava, vol. i. p. 98 sq. See also Cox, Residence in Ava, pp. 37-45.

[55] Cox, on the contrary, was informed that there were five hundred and
twenty wells: this, however, is ably shown to be impossible by Crawfurd,
not by snappish contradiction, but by calculation. The captain was,
evidently, misinformed.

[56] Ava, vol. ii. p. 178.

[57] Sangermano, p. 171.

[58] Ava, vol. ii. p. 162.

[59] Alves, quoted in Ava, vol. ii. pp. 167-9.

[60] A tical is worth about two shillings and sixpence. This would be
£6,250.

[61] See Wilson’s Documents of the Burmese War, Appendix, p. xliv.

[62] But, after all, this cannot be considered as other than the
substitution of a light or heavy, as the case might be, personal service
for a tax in kind or specie. The tax was taken in labour; that is all the
difference.

[63] Crawfurd, vol. ii. p. 175.

[64] See Malcom, vol. i. p. 174.

[65] Ava, vol. ii. p. 186.

[66] Page 75.

[67] Edinburgh Review, No. xliv. p. 354, Jan. 1814.

[68] I am chiefly indebted to Sangermano, pp. 76-9; and Crawfurd, vol.
ii. pp. 157-9.

[69] Page 77.

[70] Description, p. 77.

[71] Now, however, the soldiers have attempted to get into uniform, and
wear belts and conical cases of tin, to resemble the English cap.

[72] Snodgrass, Narrative of the Burmese War, pp. 64 and 65. We shall
hereafter return to these excellent “soldiers and gentlemen.”

[73] Ava, vol. ii. p. 160.

[74] Burmese War, p. 21.

[75] Description, p. 78.

[76] Sangermano, p. 79.

[77] Burmese War, p. 205.

[78] Ralph Fitch, in Hakluyt, vol. ii. p. 259. London, 1599.

[79] See p. 18.

[80] I have preferred to give the spelling of the black-letter folio, as
it is not very corrupt, and lends additional quaintness to the writer’s
remarks.

[81] Page 61.

[82] This intimated that the elephant was the divine ruler of the other
animals, and the scarlet borla of the Peruvian Inca was bound upon its
temples.—Prescott, Conquest of Peru, vol. ii. p. 44.

[83] Herodotus has recorded the fact of the fishermen of Egypt hanging
their nets around them to keep off the mosquitoes.—Herod. ii. c. 95.

The following remarks, for which I am indebted to my friend the Rev. J.
G. Wood, M.A., will, I am sure, interest the reader:—

“The same precautions are taken now. The fisherman plants a pole, usually
his fishing-pole, upright in the ground, and disposes his net over it so
as to form a kind of tent. Under this he sleeps securely, as no flies
dare pass through the meshes of a net, even were they an inch wide.
This may be proved by stretching a series of crossed threads across an
open window. No flies will venture to pass through the spaces, as they
evidently take the net for the toils of some overgrown spider. Should,
however, a gauze curtain be drawn across the window, and a small hole
made in it, plenty of flies will creep through. By thus stretching a net,
it is possible, even in the heat of summer, to enjoy the full benefit
of the fresh air, and yet to have the satisfaction of knowing that your
winged foes are buzzing outside in useless anxiety. There must be no
cross light, or the flies do not appear to see the net.”

[84] Crawfurd, vol. i. p. 247.

[85] Description, p. 63.

[86] Description of the Burmese Empire. Compiled from native documents,
by the Rev. Father Sangermano. Translated from his MS. by W. Tandy.
Published at Rome in 1833, in the invaluable series of the Oriental
Translation Committee. I have abridged the lengthy details in the work of
the father.

[87] Sangermano, Description, p. 2. See Buchanan, Asiatic Researches,
vol. vi. p. 168. The latter tells us that these measures are not used in
Burmah. Who can wonder at it?

[88] Strange this is; but at the same time it displays a species of
physical and mechanical knowledge which we should hardly have expected in
these legends.

[89] Sangermano, p. 3.

[90] Buchanan, Asiat. Res. vol. vi. p. 175.

[91] As. Res. vol. vi. p. 175 n. He adds that it would seem to be
identical with the Meru Paravada of the Brahmins.

[92] The eastern island is named Pioppavideha; the western, Amaragoga;
the northern, Unchegru; and the southern, Zabudiba. The tree of Godama
(mentioned in a former chapter, p. 23) is the _Ficus religiosa_, the
Bŏdhĕ-bayn.

[93] As. Res. vol. vi. p. 178.

[94] Sangermano, p. 6.

[95] Ava, vol. ii. Appendix, No. xi. p. 140.

[96] As. Res. vol. vi. p. 180.

[97] Trans. R. A. S. vol. i. p. 566.

[98] Description, p. 6.

[99] Page 7.

[100] Sangermano, p. 20.

[101] See Sangermano and Malcom, vol. i. pp. 289-294.

[102] Hesiod, Op. et Dies, lib. i. vv. 120-125. The above must rather be
called a paraphrase than a strict version.

[103] I have partly availed myself of the able summary of Crawfurd, vol.
ii. p. 274 sq.; as well as Malcom, vol. i. p. 287 sq.; and Sangermano, p.
80 sq.

[104] Encyclopædia Metropolitana, vol. iii. Miscellaneous, p. 55.

[105] Vol. iii. p. 56.

[106] Prinsep’s Tibet, Tartary, and Mongolia, p. 136 and 162 n.

[107] My immediate authority is Prinsep, in Tibet, &c. pp. 142-144.

[108] Tibet, Tartary, and Mongolia, p. 145.

[109] Prinsep, p. 167.

[110] I quote Prinsep’s summary, p. 168.

[111] Sangermano, pp. 80 et sqq.

[112] See my remarks on Buddhism in Peking; Great Cities of the Ancient
World, p. 177. It may be interesting to compare the oath of the witness
at p. 24, with the Buddhist treatise, translated from the Chinese by
myself, in the same work, pp. 181-184.

[113] As. Res. vol. vi. p. 255.

[114] Encyclopædia Metropolitana, art. Buddhism, p. 60.

[115] As. Res. vol. v. p. 115 sq.

[116] See my essay on the “Ruins of American Civilisation,” pp. 252-259,
in Great Cities of the Ancient World, by my friend the Rev. T. A.
Buckley, B.A.; also Prescott’s Mexico, vol. i. p. 60; and Peru, vol. i.
pp. 91-94.

[117] Ava, vol. i. p. 392 sq.

[118] Will no one observe that “correct orthography” is tautology, and
“false orthography” a contradiction? How can our language be pure under
such circumstances?

[119] I am indebted to Crawfurd, vol. i. p. 397.

[120] Two Years in Ava, pp. 262 sqq. This most interesting work seems
freer from prejudice than many of its more assuming brethren.

[121] I am chiefly indebted to Malcom, vol. i. p. 308 sq.

[122] Pages 89-94; but see also Malcom, _l.c._

[123] Travels in Tartary.

[124] Malcom, vol. i. p. 315 sq.

[125] Encyclopædia Metropolitana, _s.v._ Buddhism, p. 61.

[126] Lib. ii. cc. 86-90.

[127] I am indebted to an account by Mr. Carey in Asiatic Researches,
vol. xvi. p. 186 sq.

[128] Ava, vol. ii. p. 127.

[129] The Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 93. I may here take occasion to remark,
that the author of India in Greece, Mr. Pococke, to whose enthusiastic
labours I would do all the justice in my power, has not, in any part of
that work, acknowledged the manifold obligations under which he lies to
the author of the Anacalypsis. I make this remark more in self-defence
than otherwise, for, upon my attention having been lately turned to
Godfrey Higgins’s work, I there found my own theory of the population
of America anticipated, though not worked out in the manner it might
be done. I must own this, as I am anxious to avoid the imputation of
plagiarism. However, I find myself amply corroborated in some of my own
researches; but the writer’s whole feelings merge into a love of every
kind of mystical foolery that man has ever imagined.

[130] Malcom, vol. i. p. 321 sq.

[131] My immediate authority is Malcom, vol. i. p. 278.

[132] Pali Grammar, with a copious vocabulary in the same language. By
the Rev. B. Clough, 8vo. Colombo. 1824.

[133] Malcom, vol. i. p. 277.

[134] Vol. i. p. 277.

[135] I must not in this place forget to thank the gentlemen at the
Museum for the aid they so courteously and willingly gave me in my
examination of their Burmese MSS.

[136] Asiatic Researches, vol. vii. p. 305 sq.

[137] Page 15.

[138] I do not know but that this ought to be written paruæk.—Buchanan.

[139] Buchanan, in Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. p. 307.

[140] Description, p. 141 et sqq.

[141] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. p. 172.

[142] Asiat. Res. vol. ii. p. 285.

[143] Asiat. Res. vol. vi. p. 174.

[144] Burmese Empire, p. 111 sq.

[145] Burmese Empire, p. 113.

[146] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. pp. 188-205.

[147] Description, pp. 11-14.

[148] Buchanan, _ubi supra_, p. 191; and Sangermano, p. 13.

[149] See book i. chap. iii. p. 50.

[150] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. p. 169 sq.

[151] Loubère, du Royaume de Siam, vol. ii. p. 102.

[152] Malcom, vol. i. p. 275.

[153] Crawfurd, vol. ii. p. 188.

[154] Malcom, vol. i. p. 275.

[155] Book i, chap. i. p. 9.

[156] Sangermano, p. 167.

[157] Sangermano, p. 167.

[158] Book i. chap. iii. p. 56.

[159] Sangermano, p. 126.

[160] Malcom, vol. i. p. 211.

[161] Sangermano, p. 124.

[162] Book i. chap. ii. p. 38.

[163] South-Eastern Asia, vol. i. p. 212.

[164] Sangermano, p. 129.

[165] Sangermano, _ubi supra_, p. 129.

[166] My principal authority is Sangermano, p. 136.

[167] My chief authority is Sangermano, pp. 144-146.

[168] Burmese Empire, p. 146.

[169] Malcom, vol. i. p. 272.

[170] Vol. i. p. 7, note.

[171] Lib. v. tit. 4, ley 16.

[172] Lib. ix. tit. 2, ley 8.

[173] Lex Salica, tit. 43, sec. 1, 8.

[174] Lib. vi. tit. 4, ley 1.

[175] Lib. vi. tit. 5, leyes 12, 13.

[176] Lex Salica, tit. 11, sec. 1, 3.

[177] Embassy to Ava in the year 1795, vol. ii. p. 41 sqq.; later ed.
vol. i. p. 208 sq.

[178] Called by Sir William Jones, Valmiec.

[179] Honymaan is worshipped by the Hindoos under the form of an ape,
and is one of the most frequent objects of their adoration; almost every
Hindoo pagoda has this figure delineated in some part of it. Honymaan
(Hanuman) is the term used by the Hindoos to denote a large ape. The
worship was widely extended even among the Mexicans, who portrayed
monkeys in their picture writings. In the Coptic-Egyptian, Haanu
signifies monkey.

[180] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. p. 305.

[181] Stock characters seem as prevalent as at the Victoria or Adelphi.

[182] Journal of the As. Soc. of Bengal, vol. viii. p. 535 sq.

[183] I am partly indebted to Cox, Asiatic Researches, vol. vii. p. 497
sq.

[184] Asiatic Researches, vol. vii. p. 499. Comp. Symes, vol. ii. p. 226,
small ed.

[185] Sangermano, p. 127.

[186] Vol. i. p. 240.

[187] Vol. i. p. 242.

[188] Burmese Empire, p. 128.

[189] My authority is an interesting article in the Journal of the
Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. v. p. 159 sq.

[190] A territory to the southward of Manipur.

[191] Sravasti in Oude.—Wilson.

[192] Yázá is the Burmese pronunciation of Rája.

[193] Book i. chap. iii. p. 47.

[194] Ava, vol. i. p. 270, small edition.

[195] Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, vol. v. p. 164.

[196] One of the king of Ava’s titles is Nedwet bhuyen—Sun-descended
monarch. Strange coincidence with the Inca boast!

[197] Mr. Judson has given us a translation of a chronological summary,
which is of extreme value. It is now, together with the text, in the
British Museum.—(Additional MS., No. 12,400.)

[198] Symes, vol. ii. p. 51 sqq.

[199] Ib. id. p. 55.

[200] Symes, vol. ii. p. 58.

[201] Malcom, vol. i. p. 220.

[202] Sangermano, p. 119.

[203] Ibid.

[204] Sangermano, p. 120.

[205] Ibid.

[206] Symes, Ava, vol. i. p. 1.

[207] The particulars will be found in Captain Drury’s paper in No. V.
of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for 1851; and in Allen’s
Indian Mail, vol. x. p. 265.

[208] Burmese Empire, p. 47.

[209] Ava, vol. i. p. 12.

[210] My sketch of the Burmese revolution is derived from Symes.

[211] The first is a Burmese word signifying victory; the second, Pali,
for the same.—Crawfurd, vol. ii. p. 281.

[212] Jancigny, _Indo-Chine_, p. 255.

[213] See book i. chap. ii. p. 40.

[214] Ava, vol. i. p. 34.

[215] So Symes always spells the word. It is now generally spelt Burmans.

[216] Symes, vol. i. pp. 43-49.

[217] Ava, vol. i. pp. 53-55.

[218] Vol. i. pp. 56-57.

[219] Symes, vol. i. p. 67.

[220] Compare the following observations of a late excellent writer
upon India. “M. Dupleix’s wonderful talent for diplomacy and intrigue
soon obtained signal triumphs. His emissaries were everywhere; and the
native princes were all as fickle as faithless. In his intrigues with
them he is said to have derived wonderful assistance from his wife, who
was born in India, and perfectly understood not only the languages, but
also the character of the natives. In his union with this lady, who is
described as being even more ambitious than himself, we may probably
trace the cause of the essentially Oriental spirit of many of his
proceedings.”—Macfarlane’s History of British India, chap. iii. p. 31.
We shall, hereafter, have occasion to return to this work, in connection
with the Burmese war in 1824-26.

[221] Symes, vol. i. pp. 70-72.

[222] Sangermano, however, shows, by the ordinance of the port, that the
seizure of the vessel and its contents was nothing remarkable.—See his
Burmese Empire, p. 170.

[223] Vol. i. p. 74.

[224] Book i. chap. vi. p. 103.

[225] Symes, vol. i. p. 76.

[226] Book i. chap. iii. p. 56.

[227] Symes, vol. i. p. 81.

[228] Symes, vol. i. pp. 83-88.

[229] Ava, vol. i. p. 96.

[230] Symes, vol. i. pp. 106-109.

[231] Ib. id. pp. 113-115.

[232] Symes, vol. i. p. 120 sqq.

[233] Burmese Empire, p. 48.

[234] Ava, vol. i. p. 124.

[235] Symes, vol. i. p. 147 sq.

[236] Burmese Empire, p. 49.

[237] Symes, vol. i. p. 150.

[238] Ib. id. p. 151.

[239] Ib. id. p. 191 sqq.

[240] Symes alludes to the fate of Louis XVI.

[241] See book i. chap. iv. p. 78.

[242] I continue the narrative in the words of Sangermano, p. 50.

[243] According to Malcom (vol. i. p. 157), the _fourth_ son.

[244] His reign, however, included eleven days.—Symes, vol. i. p. 227.

[245] My chief authority is Symes, vol. i. p. 218 sq.

[246] Symes, vol. i. pp. 221-224. Sangermano’s account, it will be
perceived, is somewhat different.

[247] Ava, vol. i. p. 231.

[248] See book i. chap. ii. p. 40.

[249] My chief authority is Crawfurd, vol. ii. pp. 1-9.

[250] Ava, vol. ii, p. 5.

[251] Ib. id. p. 6.

[252] Ava, vol. i. p. 131.

[253] Ava, vol. i. p. 133.

[254] Symes, vol. i. p. 138.

[255] Alves in Journal quoted by Symes, vol. i. p. 140.

[256] Bassein.

[257] Symes, vol. i. p. 142.

[258] Marquis Wellesley’s Indian Despatches, &c.

[259] Macfarlane’s History of British India, p. 355.

[260] Macfarlane, _l.c._

[261] In 1802 Symes again visited Burmah for a diplomatic purpose; but
his letters, while they modify his book, add little of value to our
knowledge of the country.

[262] This is, however, very problematical. Mr. Macfarlane cannot have
forgotten the whole previous history of European intercourse with the
country, and how many distinctions and quibblings were brought forward at
different times upon that plea.

[263] Travels, vol. i. p. 159.

[264] See Sangermano, p. 113.

[265] Wilson’s Narrative of the Burmese War, p. 1 of the reprint of 1852.

[266] Wilson, p. 25.

[267] Wilson, p. 29 sq.

[268] Macfarlane’s British India, pp. 450-452.

[269] Burmese War, p. 52, ed. 1852.

[270] Burmese War, p. 54.

[271] Burmese War, p. 56 sq.

[272] Wilson, p. 61.

[273] Crawfurd’s Ava, vol. i. p. 304.

[274] Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi, p. 361, July, 1840.

[275] Wilson’s Burmese War, p. 63.

[276] The gilt umbrella surmounting the highest pinnacle of the pagoda.

[277] Two Years in Ava, p. 26 sqq. This interesting and well-written book
seems to be the production of a naval officer attached to the expedition.
It is by far the most attractive narrative of the proceedings in 1824,
with which I am acquainted.

[278] Snodgrass, Burmese War, p. 12.

[279] See Two Years in Ava, p. 25.

[280] Snodgrass, p. 6.

[281] Two Years in Ava, p. 24.

[282] Ibid. p. 29. Cf. book i. chap. ii. p. 40 of this work.

[283] Burmese War, pp. 15-20.

[284] Page 16.

[285] Snodgrass, pp. 20-22.

[286] Page 25.

[287] Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi. p. 358.

[288] Two Years in Ava, p. 40.

[289] Burmese War, p. 27.

[290] Page 43 sq.

[291] A doolie is a species of litter, used in the East to carry the
wounded from the field of battle.

[292] Burmese War, pp. 35-37.

[293] Two Years in Ava, p. 56. So, too, did the wild shouts and savage
songs of the Mexicans strike on the ears of the watching Spaniards.

[294] Wilson, Burmese War, p. 86 sq., and the authorities quoted there.

[295] Two Years in Ava, p. 60.

[296] Two Years in Ava, p. 66 sq.

[297] I may here mention, that Major Canning, who had accompanied the
expedition as political agent, about this time returned to Calcutta by
the _Nereide_, where, debilitated by the marsh fever of Ava, he shortly
died.

[298] Burmese War, p. 96.

[299] Book i. chap. ii. p. 39.

[300] British India, p. 463 sq. Geijer, the historian of Sweden, well
compares them to the Bersekkars.

[301] Wilson’s Burmese War, p. 105.

[302] It may be as well to state, that about this time Colonel Godwin,
after a gallant resistance, took Martaban for the first time; it has
since been given up to the Burmese; but in this last war it was again
taken possession of, and it is now in our hands.

[303] Wilson, pp. 106, 107.

[304] Wilson, p. 113.

[305] Burmese War, p. 119. My limits do not admit of my speaking much of
the war in Arakhan, which was yet undetermined. I shall content myself
with referring to Macfarlane, Wilson, and other historians, merely
adding, that the conquest of the province was completed by the end of
April, 1825.

[306] Wilson, p. 175.

[307] I may here mention, that the author of Two Years in Ava has
enriched his book by an excellent and complete plan of the fortress and
works of Donabew, which I most heartily recommend to the student of
military science.

[308] MacFarlane’s India, p. 479.

[309] Wilson’s Burmese War, p. 181.

[310] Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi. p. 356.

[311] Wilson, Burmese War, p. 184.

[312] British India, p. 485.

[313] “In the month of August, Sir Archibald Campbell went down to
Rangoon, and returned from that place to Prome, in the steam-vessel the
_Diana_, with as much ease and tranquillity as we go from London-bridge
to Ramsgate and back again.”—Mac Farlane.

[314] Wilson’s Burmese War, p. 196.

[315] Mac Farlane’s British India, p. 487.

[316] Wilson, p. 209.

[317] Burmese War, p. 216.

[318] Statistical Report.

[319] British India, p. 490.

[320] It may not be inapposite here to mention that, according to a
writer in the _Times_ of the 7th of September, 1852, “letters were found
in the stockades at Prome, ordering white slaves to be sent up to Ava,
for the use of the Ava ladies.”

[321] Wilson, p. 229.

[322] Burmese War, p. 238.

[323] British India, p. 492.

[324] Page 355.

[325] Papers relating to the Hostilities with Burmah. Presented to both
Houses of Parliament by her Majesty’s command, June 4, 1852, pp. 87-89.

[326] Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi. p. 356.


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