CHAPTER II. Narrative of Captain Cook's first voyage round the world.
On the 5th of December, it being a dead calm, our navigators weighed anchor, and towed down the Bay; but, to their great astonishment, two shots were fired at them; when they had gotten abreast of Santa Cruz, the principal fortification of the harbour. Lieutenant Cook immediately cast anchor, and sent to the fort to demand, the reason of this conduct; the answer to which was, that the commandant had received no order from the viceroy to let the ship pass; and that, without such an order, no vessel was ever suffered to go below the fort. It now became necessary to send to the viceroy, to inquire why the order had not been given; and his behaviour appeared the more extraordinary, as notice had been transmitted to him of the departure of the English, and he had thought proper to write a polite letter to Mr. Cook, wishing him a good voyage. The lieutenant's messenger soon returned, with the information that the order had been written several days, and that its not having been sent had arisen from some unaccountable negligence. It was not till the 7th of December that the Endeavour got under sail.
In the account which Lieutenant Cook has given of Rio de Janeiro, and the country round it, one circumstance is recorded, which cannot be otherwise than very painful to humanity. It is the horrid expense of life at which the gold mines are wrought. No less than forty thousand Negroes are annually imported for this purpose, on the king of Portugal's account; and the English were credibly informed, that, in the year 1766, this number fell so short, that twenty thousand more were drafted from the town of Rio.
From Rio de Janeiro, Lieutenant Cook pursued his voyage, and, on the 14th of January, 1769, entered the Strait of Le Maire, at which time the tide drove the ship out with so much violence, and raised such a sea off Cape St. Diego, that she frequently pitched, so that the bowsprit was under water. On the next day, the lieutenant anchored, first before a small cove, which was understood to be Port Maurice, and afterward in the Bay of Good Success. While the Endeavour was in this station, happened the memorable adventure of Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, Mr. Monkhouse the surgeon, and Mr. Green the astronomer, together with their attendants and servants, and two seamen, in ascending a mountain to search for plants. In this expedition they were all of them exposed to the utmost extremity of danger and of cold; Dr. Solander was seized with a torpor which had nearly proved fatal to his life; and two black servants actually died. When the gentlemen had, at length, on the second day of their adventure, gotten back to the ship, they congratulated each other on their safety, with a joy that can only be felt by those who have experienced equal perils; and Mr. Cook was relieved from a very painful anxiety. It was a dreadful testimony of the severity of the climate, that this event took place when it was the midst of summer in that part of the world, and at the close of a day, the beginning of which was as mild and warm, as the month of May usually is in England.
In the passage through the Strait of Le Maire, Lieutenant Cook and his ingenious associates had an opportunity of gaining a considerable degree of acquaintance with the inhabitants of the adjoining country. Here it was that they saw human nature to its lowest form. The natives appeared to be the most destitute and forlorn, as well as the most stupid, of the children of men. Their lives are spent in wandering about the dreary wastes that surround them; and their dwellings are no other than wretched hovels of sticks and grass, which not only admit the wind, but the snow and the rain. They are almost naked, and so devoid are they of every convenience which is furnished by the rudest art, that they have not so much as an implement to dress their food. Nevertheless, they seemed to have no wish for acquiring more than they possessed; nor did any thing that was offered them by the English appear acceptable but beads, as an ornamental superfluity of life. A conclusion is hence drawn by Dr. Hawkesworth, that these people may be upon a level with ourselves, in respect to the happiness they enjoy. This, however, is a position which ought not hastily to be admitted. It is, indeed, a beautiful circumstance, in the order of Divine Providence, that the rudest inhabitants of the earth, and those who are situated in the most unfavourable climates, should not be sensible of their disadvantages. But still it must be allowed, that their happiness is greatly inferior, both in kind and degree, to that intellectual, social, and moral felicity, which is capable of being attained in a highly cultivated state of society.