CHINA AND JAPAN
Arrival at Singapore -- Lord Elgin -- H.B.M.S. Esk -- Rainy Weather -- Sail for Malacca -- Our English Pilot -- An impartial "empire" -- Arrival at Malacca -- Description of Town and Country -- Visit to the Shore -- Establishment on board -- Ancient Ruins -- The native town -- Ball at the Stadt-house -- Seedy Beaux -- Low Tides -- Detention of the Ship -- Sail for Penang -- Arrival at Penang -- Ball on board -- Visit to Government Hill -- Beautiful Scenery -- The Town -- Climate and Productions -- Beautiful Scenery -- The Town -- Climate and Productions -- Province of Wellesley -- Admiral Hope and the British Minister -- The "Chesapeake" -- Naval Titles -- Salutes -- Arrival of the Minister -- Establishments on Shore -- Sail for Hong Kong -- Minister's Character -- Arrival at Hong Kong -- Charter of Toeywan -- More Passengers -- Sail for Shanghai.
The wind being fair and the steam high, we made the passage to Singapore in less than six days, no incident worthy of mention occurring to break the monotony of life at sea. An English officer from H.B.M. screw-steamer Esk, commanded by Sir Robert M'Clure, of Arctic celebrity, boarded the Powhatan soon after we anchored, and gave us the agreeable intelligence of the non-arrival of our Minister, and also, that he could not possibly reach Singapore before the 17th of March. We had grown weary of Hong Kong, and wanted a little relaxation from the dull routine of duties incident to the place, so that even six days of certain respite was regarded by all with pleasurable feelings. Having anchored about 11 P.M., the darkness prevented our distinguishing the nationality and character of the vessels in our vicinity. We were, therefore, agreeably surprised to find, the next morning, that our nearest neighbor was an old acquaintance -- H.B.M. steamer Furious, commanded by Captain Sherard Osborne, and bearing the diplomatic flag of Lord Elgin, the British Minister to China, who was on his return voyage to England; little thinking that the lapse of a few months would prove that all his diplomatic acumen had been thrown away ont he treacherous people with whom he had been negotiating, and that he had only supplied them with an incentive to redoubled efforts to repulse the encroachments of the obstinate "barbarians of the western seas." The Furious steamed slowly out of the roads towards the Straits of Malacca, the day after our arrival, and as she passed us a parting salute of nineteen guns was fired from our battery, with the English flag at the main, which was duly returned.
Our usual luck in escaping bad weather of every kind, seemed to adhere to us until we reached Singapore, in what the people on shore call the "dry season." Upon investigation of this term, it was found to apply to those few weeks in the year when the rain falls only in showers, or occasional squalls; there being another interesting feature connected with it during our stay, to which the attention of the inhabitants could scarcely have been directed, as I never heard it mentioned. I allude to the agreeable manner in which the return of these refreshing showers was varied from day to day; for instance, if it should rain in the forenoon of one day, the next would certainly be dry until the afternoon, and then a double allowance of the aqueous fluid was sure to descend, and always at the most inauspicious time. Dinner-parties form almost the only medium of social intercourse among the European residents, and whenever an invitation to dine on shore was extended to our mess, the late hours for partaking of this meal which prevail throughout the East, invariably brought about a combination of evils in the way of wet clothes, hungry stomachs, and, generally, the grand finale of bad colds and rheumatic symptoms among the seniors of the party, on the following morning; all which, of course, called forth the bitterest denunciations against the "Clerk of the weather" who presided at Singapore, for not regulating the frequent showers more to our taste and convenience. It really seemed as if the dry season had been made wet for our especial discomfiture, as that well-informed individual, "the oldest inhabitant," declared that such continued rains had never before been experienced during the month of March; and this was a grievance not to be tolerated without the satisfaction of a "growl" at least, and growl we did without stint; though "I am not prepared to say" that the fall of a single rain-drop was arrested thereby.
We made many agreeable acquaintances on shore, by whom we were hospitably entertained. The residences of most of the higher class of citizens are in the vicinity of the city, and are generally situated on some beautiful hill, and surrounded by handsome grounds. The roads are excellent, and garays abundant at the cheap hire of one dollar per diem; so we turned our attention to these country excursions with a zest only known to those ordinarily confined to the monotony of ship life. When in the city we enjoyed the cordial and generous hospitalities of the United States Consul, J.P. O'Sullivan, Esq., the worthy successor of our former friend Biddle.
In addition to these agreeable associations, we were handsomely entertained by the officers of the Esk, a few days previous to our departure from Singapore, and were preparing to reciprocate their attentions, when it was suddenly announced that we were to sail immediately for Penang, touching at the old city of Malacca, as we passed through the Straits. So that all things considered, we managed to pass the three weeks' sojourn at this place very satisfactorily, and to "moisten our clay" in more ways than one, notwithstanding "the dry season."
On the 1st of April, the mail-steamer again arrived from Bombay without bringing the expected Minister, and the Commodore at once determined to vary the scene a little by paying a brief visit to Malacca, and then proceeding to Penang, for the purpose of intercepting Mr. Ward at that point on his route. Having secured the services of an English pilot for the Straits, who came strongly recommended, equipped with a ponderous tin case filled with charts, and an enormous spy-glass, we got under way on the morning of the 3d at early daylight, and bidding a sleepy adieu to our still slumbering friends on shore, steamed away from the anchorage toward the entrance to the Straits of Malacca. The pilot, who bore the unique name of Smith, entertained us on the passage out to the roads with an account of a trial of speed which he averred had taken place between the "Minny-sotter" and the "Hesk." on the voyage from Singapore to Penang -- the result of which was a very decided difference of opinion between the officers of the two vessels, each claiming victory; and to settle the important question, Smith asserted that he had been appointed "empire," by unanimous consent of both parties. After due deliberation on the part of this second "Daniel," he had decided without circumlocution or equivocation, that the "Minny-sotter" would inevitably have beaten the "Hesk" if she had possessed a little more power in proportion to her immense size, and the weather had been perfectly calm -- assuring me that he had not hesitated so to express himself to the "Hesk's" officers. Having had considerable intercourse with the officers of the Esk, and heard no previous reference to this subject, and nothing but commendatory remarks from them respecting the Minnesota, I am induced to believe that Mr. Smith was indebted to his imagination for the race between these two vessels, especially as much as his subsequent statements proved him to be of rather a fanciful turn of mind, and decidedly given to romancing.
We anchored off the ancient town of Malacca on the second day out, in a spot designated by the pilot, but which we afterwards learned from the residents on shore, was an extremely dangerous one in the event of a Sumatra, this being the local name given to terrific squalls which frequently blow from the opposite side of the straits, in the summer months, and whose violence is such as to unroof houses, tear up trees by the roots, and devastate things generally. Our fair weather angel had not deserted us, however, notwithstanding our ungrateful murmurings at the Singapore rains; and we passed two days as comfortably at this interesting old place as if the "empire" had been the best of pilots, and our anchorage the most secure he could have selected for us.
Viewing the town from the ship's deck, it had the appearance of having been once a handsome, well-built city, on which the hand of Time, and the march of improvement in architectural design, had clearly written "passing away." The decaying wooden buildings on the left seemed to extend some distance out of the water, apparently contemplating a plunge into the refreshing element for the sake of cleanliness, which they greatly needed; while the more imposing stone structures on the right, and toward the hill upon which the old fort was situated, looking as if they had bene imported from Amsterdam in the sixteenth century, about which time the Dutch, who were the "early birds" of the age, effected a settlement here among the Malays.
Possessing some antiquarian taste and a leisure hour, I accompanied a party of officers who were about to visit the shore soon after our anchoring, and as we approached the landing-place pointed out by the pilot, the town began to wear a fresher and more lively aspect. A broad and well-kept lawn, shaded by fine old trees, extended along the entire water-front, and the substantial old Stadt-house, flanked by several handsome residences, loomed up in all its pristine glory, on a gently rising eminence near the centre of the picture. The swelling tides are kept within their proper limits by a substantial stone-wall reaching nearly from one extremity of the town to the other, and having convenient landing-places at two or three different points; though the approach to them at low tides is attended with considerable difficulty, the shoal water extending nearly a mile from the landing. Two or three small islands lying near the coast off each end of the town, give the anchorage somewhat the appearance of a harbor, but there is no indentation of the coast sufficient to justify the application of this term. The anchorage is commanded by a strongly built fort on a hill two hundred and fifty feet high, to the right of the town, near which stands the remains of an ancient Catholic Church, constructed by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, the walls of which are still standing, though the roof has long since been numbered with the things that were. Two large trees have taken root in the walls, and grown with such luxuriance, that their branches spread over a large portion of the space between them, affording a slight protection to the crumbling ruins, against the effects of the heavy rains and squalls incident to the climate.
While I was engaged in making these observations, the boat reached the landing, the tide being in, and as we jumped briskly from her to the flight of stone steps extending from the quay, we were welcomed to the shore by a cordial greeting from as jovial a specimen of a British army officer as it has ever been my good fortune to encounter. As the Powhatan was the first American man-of-war that had touched at Malacca for many years, Captain Austin felt assured that we were all strangers in the place; and with a degree of frankness and genuine hospitality which is not always met with in his countrymen, he advanced to meet us, and invited us to go immediately to his quarters, informing us that there was no hotel in the place, but such refreshments as his establishment afforded were entirely at our disposal. After partaking with him a bottle of "creature comfort" in the shape of "India Pale Ale," the more juvenile members of the party sallied forth under the guidance of our gallant host, to be introduced to some of the fair sex, intending to invite them to visit the ship on the following morning, and feeling assured that so rare an opportunity of inspecting a man-of-war, and especially one from Yankee land, would not be lightly rejected. I joined a messmate, meanwhile, in a pleasant ride into the interior, during which we passed through immense groves of cocoanut trees, in the midst of which we saw occasionally wretched looking wooden buildings in the most dilapidated condition, the occupants of which -- native Malays -- could be seen lounging in their immediate vicinity in all the luxury of perfect idleness, and almost in a state of nudity. The rankest vegetation abounded every where, and the excessive heat of the equatorial latitude rendered the shade of the massive foliage equally beautiful and refreshing. The road was perfectly level for the distance of two or three miles, and passed through lanes dividing fields in which rice had formerly been cultivated, but in which only very scanty crops of vegetables could now be seen. Our attention was attracted on approaching the rising hills, by seeing on their gently sloping sides numerous Chinese graves, and we were struck by the neat and substantial structures which covered each spot where rested the mortal remains of an expatriated "Celestial," whose soul, let us charitably hope, had been welcomed to the realms of which he claimed to be a native while in this unworthy sphere. The oblong tomb, standing two feet above the ground, was enclosed within a semicircular wall of nearly the same height, having a radius of about twenty feet, and the entire surface of the interior was smoothly plastered with bluish cement, while the wall and the tomb were neatly white-washed, presenting, if not an attractive, at least not a repulsive, appearance, and differing materially from any style of tomb I had ever seen in China.
Meeting with no other objects of interest, and the unrelenting tyrant Time, who exercises such iron rule over every one whose lot is cast in a man-of-war, pointing out with stern significance to the setting sun, warned us to "tack ship" and "stand for the anchorage," where lay the object of our dutiful solicitude and professional pride. Reaching the landing, we found the rest of the party awaiting our return to embark in the boats which had been sent to convey us on board the ship, and learned from them that we were to be honored the following morning, by a visit from a large majority of the ladies, comprising upper-tendom in Malacca. The crême de la crême of society, the Neubronners and the Baumgaertens proposed to lift us in the social scale by their notice, and we were, of course, greatly elated by their notice, and we were, of course, greatly elated at the prospect, for each individual bearer of these euphonious names had a perfect right to attach F.F. to the end of it, being all lineal descendants of the Stadt-house itself, or at least, of some of its former occupants.
By ten o'clock on the morning of the 5th, four of our largest boats returned from the shore, containing about forty of the élite of the ancient city, most of whom were ladies, and all of whom were welcomed on board in our best style. The band was immediately called upon to discourse its most eloquent music for the entertainment of our fair guests, while the ship underwent the usual inspection so interesting to strangers, and so gratifying to the pride of an efficient officers, who listens with natural pleasure to the complementary remarks upon the clean, white decks, the brightly polished guns, and the trim and neat appearance of the spars and rigging generally. Although many of our visitors had never before been on board of a man-of-war, a very cursory examination of the ship's equipments and general condition sufficed to satisfy their curiosity; and the quadrilles which the band now struck up produced such an electric effect upon the assembly, that one would have thought they had been bitten simultaneously by a swarm of tarantulas, and the "poetry of motion" became the grand sensation of the hour. The spacious quarter-deck was soon converted into a ball-room, and naval etiquette and official distinctions of rank were sunk for the nonce, in the determination not only to contribute to the entertainment of our guests, but to enjoy the rare occasion ourselves, with all the gusto accumulated during the long period in which we had been denied the pleasures of female society. Tables of refreshments were supplied with all the "delicacies of the season," of which the company partook as inclination prompted. One little faux pas occurred in the cabin: the Commodore's steward having placed upon the table a large bowl of betel-nuts, which must have excited no small degree of astonishment, and perhaps dismay, among the fair guests, as they are used only by the Malays and Chinese, who chew them for the stupefying effects they produce, serving as a cheap substitute for opium. But if any of the demoiselles supposed they were first to be drugged with the betel, and then carried off to sea in a somnolent state, they evinced no disposition to escape the fate in store for them by an early leave-taking; nor was their appetite for the more substantial meal in the shape of dinner, which in due time appeared, at all diminished by mental anxiety; on the contrary, our guests seemed to enjoy every thing with the relish usually excited by healthful exercise, and the pure, bracing sea air. The dancing was resumed late in the afternoon, and kept up with unabated vigor until about 8 o'clock, when the fast receding tide warned the party of the necessity of a speedy departure for terra firma, unless they seriously contemplated spending the remainder of the night on board the Powhatan -- an arrangement which I do not suppose would have been greatly objected to on the part of many of her officers.
The day following we were all invited to a ball to be given in the Stadt-house, by those who had been entertained on board the ship; and it is needless to say, the invitation was accepted by a large number of the recipients. I went on shore in the afternoon to pay a brief visit to the ruins of the old Portuguese church before mentioned, and to have a short walk through the native portion of the town. Ascending the beautifully formed hill on which the church is situated, I entered the ruin and gazed around its dilapidated, moss-covered walls, and upon the broken slabs of stone covering the human remains at my feet, with a feeling not far removed from awe, as I contemplated the inevitable fate, there so vividly portrayed, as well of man's fleeting life as of the ablest production of his hands. The entire surface of the ground within the walls was covered by stone slabs, marking the burial-places of the former Portuguese inhabitants of the town, whose remains were honored by interment within this consecrated spot. The inscriptions were mostly in the Portuguese language, though some of them were in Latin, and one, I remember, indicated the grave of a former Bishop of the diocese -- including at that time the island of Sumatra -- and bore the date of 1592; but the majority of those which could be deciphered, extended through the latter part of the sixteenth and the early part of the seventeenth century.
A very short walk through the portion of the town inhabited principally by Malays, though containing a large admixture of Chinese, and a few Parsees, was sufficient to satisfy my curiosity with regard to the domestic economy of the indolent and thriftless race to which the whole of this beautiful country once belonged. They seemed perfectly satisfied as long as they can obtain a sufficient supply of the stupefying betel-nut to chew, and the generous and prolific waters of the Straits yield a ready contribution of the finny tribe for their support.
At sunset quite a brilliant display of naval uniforms were seen at Captain Austin's convenient quarters, whither they were forwarded from the ship preparatory to the equipment of their respective owners, en costume du bal, and at the appointed hour we made a grand entrée into the spacious saloons of the venerable Stadt-house, where a small number of our entertainers received us, with a very complacent air, evidently delighted at the opportunity afforded of proving what the citizens of Malacca could achieve in a display of the elegancies and refinements of civilized society. The ladies soon made their appearance in all the gorgeous array of ribbons, flowers, and furbelows, and the more attractive charms of bright and smiling faces; there were no hoops to be seen, but the dresses were generally in good taste, although it was quite evident that there was no direct intercourse between Malacca and Paris, or this great emporium of fashions would certainly have contributed its quota to the adornment of the fair demoiselles who languish in beauless seclusion in this sequestered spot.
The dance was soon commenced and kept up with untiring perseverance until the small hours of the morning, with occasional intermissions devoted by the ladies to cake and lemonade, and to something more substantial and exhilarating by their less etherial attendants -- a portion of the entertainment from which we found some difficulty in restraining the uninvited participation of some of the boats' crews, who had been attracted to the spot by the music of the band, and found their way into the outer hall appropriated to refreshments. They made piteous complaints of their inability to procure and description of stimulating fluids in the shops of the town, and as they had been kept waiting the greater part of the night without anything to eat or drink, it seemed quite natural that they should resort, in a spirit of desperation, to the only place where there was any likelihood of their obtaining what they so much coveted.
The general retirement of the ladies from the ball, suggested the propriety of collecting together those thirsty sons of Neptune, that the boats might be in readiness to convey us back to the ship; and for this purpose, I went to the landing about one o;clock, at which hour, our sapient and veracious pilot had averred, the tide would serve for our embarcation; but on reaching the spot I discovered, to my horror and dismay, that the boats were lying alongside the quay on their sides, while there was not sufficient water to float them within less than half a mile; their weary crews were lying asleep on the grass near them, and the prospect of reaching our floating home by water appeared so remote that I was compelled to seek shelter and repose for my tired limbs under the hospitable roof of Captain Austin, until the tide rose sufficiently to float our stranded boats. This much-desired object could not be accomplished until 7 o'clock in the morning, at which hour might have been seen assembled on the landing the most disgusted and "seedy" looking party of beaux, who ever met on a festive occasion -- the maledictions poured on the head of the ignorant old pilot, formed a marked contrast to the honeyed words which the same lips had so recently been addressing to their parties in the dance. We reached the ship, however, in time for a substantial breakfast, by which we were somewhat consoled for the discomforts of the night, and resuming our respective duties, soon remembered only the most pleasurable circumstances connected with the occasion.
About 10 A.M., on the 7th of April, we were in the act of getting under way for Penang, when it was discovered that our rather abstracted chaplain still remained on shore, where he was doubtless employed in collecting valuable information concerning the moral condition of the Malays and Hindoos, as his sympathies were warmly enlisted in behalf of the destitute heathen nations, with whom, of late, he had been so frequently associated. He was soon seen coming off in a native boat, however, and arrived on board with a thousand apologies for the delay he had unwittingly caused. We then bade adieu to the old town which our visit had so thoroughly awakened from its slumbers, and steamed up the straits toward the romantic island which is generally called the "Paradise of the East."
We reached the northern end of Penang late in the following evening, but were compelled to anchor upon the pilot's recommendation, in consequence of a heavy squall, which rendered it too dark for him to distinguish his "marks." Early the next morning we were again under way, arriving off Georgetown, the capital of the island, at about 9 A.M., where we anchored within half a mile of the landing, and immediately abreast of the fort in front of the town, which is built on a level plain. extending several miles along the eastern side of the island, and back to the mountainous range near its centre.
Three miles in the rear of the town stands Government Hill, at an elevation of nearly 2800 feet above the sea; this forms the principal point of natural beauty in the place, and affords a salubrious retreat from the heat of the plain below, which is usually very oppressive -- the thermometer ranging between 80° and 95° Fahrenheit throughout the year.
We soon formed the acquaintance of the principal inhabitants, and by way of placing ourselves on the most agreeable social terms, with the ladies especially, invitations were issued, on the second day after our arrival, to a ball on board the ship -- a style of entertainment which usually possesses irresistible attractions for the fairer portion of humanity.
Anticipating a much larger number than we had on board at Malacca, the arrangements for their reception and amusement were on a more extended scale; the guns were removed from the quarter-deck, to make room for dancing; the awnings were lined with national flags, and chandeliers made of barrel hoops, covered with bunting, and having bayonets lashed around them to hold the lights, were suspended here and there along the deck, -- seats were arranged on either side for the "wall flowers" in particular, and the company in general, -- though as well as I remember, the scarcity of ladies was such that we had no botanical specimens of the former class -- the combined result being that of a brilliantly lighted ball-room on shore.
A handsome spread was spread both in the cabin and ward-room, and extensively patronized by the entire company up to the hour of 3 in the morning, when the guests had returned to the shore, protesting that no man-of-war had ever acquitted herself so creditably in the way of entertainment.
So favorable an introduction of ourselves to the community at Penang, gave us at once the entrée to every respectable house in the place; and invitations to dinners, tea-squalls, etc., were showered upon us in great profusion from all points of the compass, which were cheerfully accepted by the most juvenile members of our little fraternity; but I was glad to embrace the opportunity afforded me by the Commodore, of spending a few days with him at the Governor's bungalow, on the summit of the hill or mountain in the rear of the town.
While at Singapore, the Governor had kindly placed this delightful mountain residence at the disposal of Commodore Tattnall during his sojourn at Penang; and as something more than the possession of the large empty building was required, in order to render its occupancy comfortable and convenient, our hospitable Consul, Charles C. Currier, Esq., constituted himself the host of the establishment, sending up his own servants daily with abundant supplies for the use of the party, which consisted of Mr. Currier, the Commodore, the Chief Engineer, the Marine officer, one of the Medicos, and myself.
A few days were whiled away here in the most agreeable manner, the dolce far niente of our life on the hill contrasting strongly with the rigid requirements of duty which had governed us on board ship, to say nothing of our escape from the excessive heat prevailing below, the mean temperature of the hill being 76°, while the nights were quite cool enough to make a blanket a necessary sleeping companion. The whole extent of the island, sixteen miles in length by eleven in breadth, can be plainly seen from this elevated point of view, including a fine prospect of the wide-spreading town, and also of the straits for a long distance. The lower world, however, was occasionally entirely obscured by the whirling clouds around and beneath our mountain eyrie, which would settle in the deep ravines, until caught up by some eddying blast, and dispersed far and wide over hill and dale.
The earth was almost entirely concealed from view by the luxuriant and beautiful vegetation spread over its surface, and trees of gigantic proportions shot their towering and graceful branches up from the deep recesses of the valleys, overhung by precipitous heights, along the sides of which lay the smooth and winding road leading to their summits. Birds of rich and varied plumage sung their wondrous notes of Nature's music, making the air vocal with melodious strains, while the spicy and aromatic odors produced by the nutmeg, clove, and jessamine, lent their fragrance to perfect the enchantment of the scene. And even during the night the woods resounded with the strange, and not unmusical chirpings of the numberless insects frequenting their tropical recesses -- the trumpeter-beetle, in particular, sending forth its brazen notes with such stentorian voice as to induce the idea that they proceeded from some mountain minstrel.
Nor were we devoid of society of more sympathetic and congenial description in this cloud-wrapped region; the families of Sir Benson Maxwell, the Recorder of the island, and of Mr. Green, the business partner of Mr. Currier, having taken up their abode on the hill previous to our arrival, and extending to us the hospitalities of their charming homes. But the luxurious ease of our sojourn in this delightful spot, was daily rendering the thoughts of our return to the stern and monotonous realities of our professional life, more and more unwelcome, and yet more imperative; causing us to descend to the level of the plains below, not at all inclined to appreciate the social enjoyments by means of which our less fortunate messmates had been endeavoring to "kill time" during our absence. A few days after our return in the ship, however, all hands were invited to a ball given by the Resident, or local Governor, to the Commodore, and the attendance was as large as the duties of the ship would permit; even the high-minded excursionists to the hill condescending to return to the level of ordinary existence, and to don their grand parure in honor of the occasion.
The business portion of the town of Georgetown consists of a small number of substantial commercial warehouses, with a large and straggling addition of Chinese shops, the numerous and industrious representatives of the "Celestial Empire" holding considerable sway in this, latterly, somewhat neglected colony of Great Britain. The residences of the more respectable citizens are generally situated in the extensive suburban district covering the plain to the westward of the town, and reaching back to the hills in the rear, a distance of about three miles. They are mostly large and handsome dwellings, built in a style admirably adapted to the climate, sufficiently remote from the roads to prevent any annoyance from dust, etc., and surrounded by spacious ornamental grounds. Groves of cocoanut, palm, and betel-nut trees, with a variety of shrubbery, line the highway on either side, and water is abundant everywhere.
The island lies in lat. 5° 10' N., and long. 100° 17' E., and has a population of about 45,000, only 350 of whom are of English descent, the remainder being Malays, Hindoos, and Chinese. It is one of the penal settlements of the East Indian government, and I saw many Hindoo convicts working in chains on the public roads.
The climate is healthy and the soil fertile, producing fruits and vegetables in great variety and perfection -- the delicious mangostin, and the pineapple flourishing more abundantly here than at any other place I have ever visited. The former is too delicate to bear transportation, and, consequently, "stay at home travellers" are obliged to content themselves with imagining its luscious flavor from the description of others -- but this "Barmecide feast" poorly compensates for the absence of the rich and aromatic fruit itself, which seems to combine the flavors of the orange, the peach, and the pineapple, and yet resembles none of them apart; the pulp is white and is enclosed in a thick rind, from which it is easily separated. There is another fruit found throughout the Straits Territory, called the Durienne, which is considered delicious by those who once acquire a taste for it, but its nauseating odors repel persons generally from making any attempt to cultivate its acquaintance; it is somewhat larger than the pineapple, and is not unlike that fruit in external appearance. It is said to be exceedingly rich and nutritious, as well as refreshing. A few years since the nutmeg tree grew here in great luxuriance and productiveness, but latterly an unaccountable blight has fallen on the trees, and on many extensive plantations they have been entirely destroyed -- compelling the planters to resort to the less profitable growth of the cocoanut. Sugar-cane is cultivated to some extent on the island, but by no means so largely as in the province of Wellesley, from whence several cargoes are annually exported to England. Tin is brought in considerable quantities from the mines of Junkceylon, on the Malay Peninsula, and exported from Penang, and there are various other articles of commerce indigenous to this locality, which afford a source of profit to the merchants of the island.
The mail-steamer, which reached this port on the 22d of April, brought as passengers the Hon. Mr. Bruce, the newly-appointed British Minister to China, and Rear-Admiral James Hope, ordered to relieve Sir Michael Seymour in command of the English naval forces on that station. Their presence on board the steamer being indicated by a small square flag at the fore, a salute of seventeen guns was fired from the Powhatan, in compliment to the elevated positions they were en route to assume. A few days subsequently, the English steam-frigate Chesapeake appeared off the harbor; and as soon as they discerned the Admiral's flag flying at our mizen, the American ensign was displayed at her fore, while a salute of thirteen guns was being fired from her battery in compliment to our Flag-officer. Commodore Tattnall had received an order, some months previously, from the Navy Department, to haul down the broad pendant so long worn by commanders of squadrons in our navy, at the main royal mast-head, and hoist a square blue flag at the mizen, in token of the new title of "Flag Officer," assigned to an officer in his position by our ultra democratic Congress in 1858: thus conceding the substance -- the position and authority of Admiral -- while they shrank affrighted from the shadow conveyed by the purely naval designation. The Chesapeake came into the anchorage, but remained only a few hours, being under orders to proceed with all despatch to the China station, where she was to become Admiral Hope's flagship. As she passed us on her way out of the harbor, her band played "Auld Lang Syne," to which ours replied with "Home, Sweet Home." We rather suspected our English friends of a little disposition to taunt us with the victory which the name of the ship recalled -- while, in return, we desired to intimate to them that it only reminded us of the Capes of "Old Virginny," and the delights of home.
On the 28th of April, the steamer, whose arrival was to be the signal of our departure, came into Penang with the American flag flying at the fore, in compliment to the presence on board of His Excellency, John E. Ward, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to China. Another salute of seventeen guns was fired, of course -- this time with our own bright flag at the fore, instead of the English, in honoring which we had recently consumed so much powder. On the following day, the Flag-officer accompanied the Minister on a friendly visit to Sir Benson Maxwell, at the summit of Government Hill, where they were received with the cordial hospitality and distinguished consideration which that truly noble specimen of an Irish gentleman so well understands how to display.
In anticipation of our immediate departure for China, on the arrival of the mail-steamer with the Minister on board, the principal citizens of Penang had united to make a demonstration of their kindly feelings toward the officers of the ship prior to that event; and invitations to a dinner and ball to be given by them on the evening of the 28th of April, had been issued and accepted a few days previously. As soon as it became known on shore that the Minister had arrived, he was also invited to partake of the hospitalities of the occasion, and cheerfully complied. The house selected for this double entertainment was the residence of one of the wealthiest merchants in the place, and admirably adapted to the purpose, being the largest private dwelling I ever entered. The dinner was a very handsome affair, and was attended by fifty gentlemen, who assembled at 7«, and rose from the table at 9«, having partaken, meanwhile, of the various viands presented for their consumption, drank sundry potations, made several "neat and appropriate" speeches, and pledged everlasting friendship, individually and collectively; fairly wiping out all national distinctions, by the unanimity and cordiality which prevailed. "The Queen," "the President," "the Captain and Officers of the Powhatan," "the Minister of the United States to China," "the Consul of the United States to Penang," were the standing toasts, and were all drank with "three times three," and appropriate music from our fine band; after which, came a brief response of acknowledgement from each distinguished official. Our Captain acquitted himself with a great degree of good sense and eloquence, and the Minister did honor to the occasion in as pretty a little speech as I ever heard, giving unquestionable evidence of the diplomatic ability and brilliant social qualities which a further acquaintance during the six months of his intimate association with the Powhatan's officers, proved him to possess -- the feeling, pertinence, and humor of his remarks exciting universal applause.
Bringing these convivialities to a somewhat hasty conclusion, the gentlemen ascended to the ball-room, where the ladies had already assembled, in readiness for the more ethereal portion of the evening's entertainment. The band of the Powhatan being in attendance, and striking up a lively quadrille, dancing was immediately commenced and untiringly kept up until three o'clock in the morning, when we parted with regret from the many friends we had made in Penang, and returned to our steam-winged home, now ready to make another flight across the cheerless waters of the China Sea.
On the morning of the 1st of May, we took a last, lingering look at the beautiful island where we had received so much genuine hospitality and kindness, and where our presence, as we flattered ourselves, had conferred no small degree of pleasure on the estimable people with whom, for a brief space, we had been associated; men-of-war so rarely touch at Penang of late years, that the inhabitants hail their visits with delight -- the ladies especially, regarding the advent of a crowd of bright-buttoned beaux, attended by a fine band of musicians, as an incident of great importance in the calendar of their usually monotonous lives, and worthy of being marked with a "white-stone."
We passed Singapore without stopping, save for a few moments to land the "empire," from whom we parted with very dry eyes, as he was certainly the most worthless specimen of a pilot with whom I have ever been brought into contact.
The passage to Hong Kong was marked by nothing of material interest, apart from the pleasure we derived from the society of our distinguished passengers, for whom an universal feeling of respect and friendly regard was entertained by the officers of the ship. Mr. Ward was considered a fine specimen of a Southern gentleman, and a better representative of the diplomatic corps of our country than is ordinarily appointed to any other than a first-class European mission.
The unsettled condition of the relations between China and the great commercial nations of the earth, rendered it particularly desirable that our country should be represented, at this time, by a man of great ability and political acumen, and there is no doubt that Mr. Ward was admirably well calculated to sustain the dignity and honor, as well as the commercial interests of his country, in any emergency that might arise.
We arrived at Hong Kong on the 10th of May, dispensing with the assistance of a Chines pilot on this occasion, and securing a convenient anchorage, without annoyance to ourselves or damage to others.
Orders were immediately issued by the Flag-officer, to have the ship in readiness for a six months' absence from this, our only depot for provisions on the station, accompanied by the assurance that only four days would be allowed for the performance of this rather arduous duty -- five hundred tons of coal, and about the same weight of provisions, water, wood, and stores, having to be received on board, in addition to the daily routine of duties, many of which, however, were necessarily suspended for the time. Besides all this, a small steamer was to be chartered and equipped for service as "tender" to the ship, for the purpose of conveying the Minister and his suite from the mouth of the Pei-ho to Tientsin, to which point there was no doubt entertained of his being allowed to ascend.
The work progressed with extraordinary rapidity, and the ship was reported ready for sea at the expiration of the fourth day after our arrival; but there was some hitch about the charter-party of the steam-tender, which delayed our departure four days longer. The British Admiral, on hearing incidentally of the difficulties encountered in our efforts to procure a suitable vessel, made the very complimentary and generous offer of two of the gunboats under his command to perform the service for which the Flag-officer had been authorized to charter a steamer; but the courteous proposal was respectfully declined, of course; Flag-officer Tattnall having no desire to place himself under unnecessary obligations, and anticipating the possibility of more active employment for all the Admiral's forces than appeared to be contemplated at the moment.
The arrival of our new Minister at Hong Kong, created the necessity for a considerable expenditure of powder in complimentary salutes, as he was visited by all the foreign diplomatic and naval dignitaries in the town and harbor, and subsequently had their visits to return, the usual noisy testimonials of respect being exchanged on each occasion, and the Powhatan answering all salutes to her honored guest.
On the 16th of May, the English steamer Toey-wan, of 175 tons burthen, was chartered by the Flag-officer for the period of five months, at the rate of @336;9000 per month, the owners incurring all risks to which she might be exposed during the continuance of the charter-party, saving those incident to battle. By the order of the Flag-officer to Captain Pearsons, Lieutenant Alexander A. Semmes, of the Powhatan, was immediately detailed to assume the command of the "tender," and she was forthwith supplied with two assistant engineers, one Midshipman, two Master's mates, and a crew of twelve men, by whom she was soon equipped in her new character as an American government vessel -- the stars and stripes replacing the cross of St. George at her peak, and a graceful coach-whip pendant at the masthead, indicating her national employment.
On the morning of the 18th, she was taken in tow by the Powhatan, as she proceeded to sea on the long northern cruise for which we were now thoroughly prepared -- having on board, in addition to the Minister and his Secretary of Legation, S. Wells Williams, L.L.D., official interpreter to the embassy, and George W. Heard, Esq., attaché; also Albert Heard, Esq. of the house of Heard & Co. Dr. Williams had held the office of Secretary of the former Legation, and his services appear indispensable to every minister sent to China by our government; his long residence in the country, and his thorough acquaintance with the written language, as well as with the peculiar customs of the Mandarins in the transaction of official business, making him an invaluable adjunct to the minister, as he is moreover a complete walking encyclopedia on the subject of China and the Chinese in general.
These gentlemen were all guests of the Flag-officer, and occupied quarters in his cabin; but there were still two other less distinguished passengers, who became the guests of the ward-room officers. Mr. E.M. Van Reed, of California, had accompanied a young Japanese, by the name of Joseph Heco, from San Francisco to Hong Kong, en route to Japan, the former being desirous of becoming one of the pioneer settlers in that newly opened country, and the latter of returning to his native home, after an absence of eight years. Heco was one of the crew of a native junk, which was blown off the coast in 1851, most of whom were lost, the remainder having been picked up by the American bark Auckland, and taken into San Francisco, where they were kindly cared for by Beverly Sanders, Esq. Through the kindness of this gentleman, Heco was thoroughly instructed in the English language, and afterward placed in a counting-house, where he evinced great intelligence and aptitude for commercial pursuits. He was subsequently brought to Washington by Senator Gwin; remaining in the Atlantic States only a few weeks, he returned to California in the autumn of 1859, and joined Lieut.-Commanding John M. Brooke, as his clerk on board the surveying schooner Fenimore Cooper, but his health compelled him to leave that vessel at Honolulu, from whence he proceeded to Hong Kong, awaiting there our return from the Straits of Malacca, to solicit a passage back to his native country; having learned that we were soon to visit Japan again, and feeling that his head would be a little more secure on his shoulders, if he returned under protection of the Powhatan's guns, as death has always heretofore been the penalty awarded to the return of shipwrecked natives after having visited other countries. His request for a passage was cheerfully granted, so far as conveying him and his companion to Shanghai could facilitate his natural and persevering efforts to reach the long-lost home of his childhood. His mild and gentlemanly manners and general intelligence soon made him a great favorite on board, and not desiring to recur to the subject again, it may be well to state here, that before we left Japan for the United States, Heco had become a merchant a Yoku-hama, with every prospect of making a fortune. He retained his character as a naturalized American, and adhered to his Yankee costume with equal pride and personal comfort. Mr. Van Reed was also in prosperous circumstances, both these gentlemen having obtained a passage from Shanghai to Kanagawa, in the steam-frigate Mississippi, in the month of June, 1859.
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