FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, II
|Near the Bay of Manilla.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
Great uneasiness prevailed in the Philippines at the time of the visit of the Thetis and the Espérance, and a political reaction which had steeped the metropolis in blood had thrown a gloom over every one. On December 20th, 1820, a massacre of the whites by the Indians; in 1824, the mutiny of a regiment, and the assassination of an ex-governor, Senor de Folgueras, had been the first horrors which had endangered the supremacy of the Spanish.
The Creoles, who, with the Tagalas, were alike the richest and most industrious classes of the true native population, at this time gave just cause for uneasiness to the government, because they were known to desire the expulsion of all who were not natives of the Philippines; and when it is borne in mind that they commanded the native regiments, and held the greater part of the public offices, it is easy to see how great must have been their influence. Well might people ask whether they were not on the eve of one of those revolutions which lost to Spain her fairest colonies.
Until the Thetis reached Macao, she was much harassed by squalls, gales, heavy showers, and an intensity of cold, felt all the more keenly by the navigators after their experience for several months of a temperature of 75¾° Fahrenheit. Scarcely was anchor cast in the Canton river before a great number of native vessels came to examine the frigate, offering for sale vegetables, fish, oranges, and a multitude of trifles, once so rare, now so common, but always costly.
"The town of Macao," says the narrative, "shut in between bare hills, can be seen from afar; the whiteness of its buildings rendering it very conspicuous. It partly faces the coast, and the houses, which are elegantly built, line the beach, following the natural contour of the shore. The parade is also the finest part of the town, and is much frequented by foreigners; behind it, the ground rises abruptly, and the façades of the buildings, such as convents, noticeable for their size and peculiar architecture, rise, so to speak, from the second stage; the whole being crowned by the embattled walls of the forts, over which floated the white flag of Portugal.
"At the northern and southern extremities of the town, facing the sea, are batteries built in three stages; and near the first, but a little further inland, rises a church with a very effective portico and fine external decorations. Numerous sampangs, junks, and fishing-boats anchored close in shore, give animation to the scene, the setting of which would be much brightened if the heights overlooking the town were not so totally wanting in verdure."
Situated as it is in the high road, between China and the rest of the world, Macao, once one of the chief relics of Portuguese colonial prosperity, long enjoyed exceptional privileges, all of which were, however, gone by 1825, when its one industry was a contraband trade in opium.
The Thetis only touched at Macao to leave some missionaries, and to hoist the French flag, and Bougainville set sail again on January 8th.
Nothing worthy of notice occurred on the voyage from Macao to Touron Bay. Arrived there, Bougainville learned that the French agent, M. Chaigneu, had left Hué for Saigon, with the intention of there chartering a barque for Singapore, and in the absence of the only person who could further his schemes he did not know with whom to open relations. Fearing failure as an inevitable result of this contretemps he at once despatched a letter to Hué, explaining the object of his mission, and expressing a wish to go with some of his officers to Saigon. The time which necessarily elapsed before an answer was received was turned to account by the French, who minutely surveyed the bay and its surroundings, together with the famous marble rocks, the objects of the curious interest of all travellers. Touron Bay has been described by various authors, notably by Horsburgh, as one of the most beautiful and vast in the universe; but such is not the opinion of Bougainville, who thinks these statements are to be taken with a great deal of reservation. The village of Touron is situated upon the sea-coast, at the entrance of the channel of Faifoh, from the right bank of which rises a fort with glacis, bastions, and a dry moat, built by French engineers.