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Arr. X.--Ma Defense, ou Reponse a l'anonyme Anglais du Foreign
QUARTERLY REVIEW, sur le Voyage au Congo. Par J. B. Douville. Paris, cbez Paulin, Libraire, Place de la Bourse. Octobre, 1832.
8vo. pp. 16. The same friends who urged M. Douville to publish his astronomical observations bave succeeded in inducing the wretched man to reply to our exposure of his impostures in the last number of the Foreign Quarterly. It is impossible to conceive a more weak and contemptible production than this reply, which, being placed in our hands on the very eve of our publication, and being also utterly futile, shall be treated very briefly; yet that we may not be suspected of want of candour, we will produce seriatim, and without any omission, all M. Douville's allegations in his defence,
1. He says that we have made an exaggerated representation of his expeuses.
“ It is evident that, although I was absent from Loanda five-and-twenty months, I was not marching all the time. There were of course frequent halts. Let us now reckon, assuming with the critic that I paid 400 followers at the rate of 1 fr. 25 c. per day. We shall have then 495 fr.* as the daily expense. Then, not to trifle in reckoning each day's march during five-and-twenty months, I will allow, as an average, that I have marched twelve months, or 365 days; certainly the highest mean term that can be taken for a journey of twenty-five months. I shall then bave an expense of 180,675.fr. Add to that, presents for the negro chiefs, and the support of the caravan, and you will bare the sum which I have stated, viz. 240,000 fr., wbich is the real amount of my expense, and not a million, as the critic has given to understand. Observe also that the pay of the negroes who die on journey is to be put to the traveller's credit; that food costs little, and that the value of merchandize increases in proportion to the distance from the coast; so that the quantity which would pay but one negro at Loanda, pays ten in the centre of Africa."
Merchandize is more valuable in the centre of Africa than on the coast, only because it costs more to bring it there.
If a negro die on a journey, a fine of two slaves must be paid to the chief of the district in wbich his death takes place, and the traveller who required his services must supply his place. M. Douville would now lead us to believe forsooth, that his retinue of porters, &c. were paid only for days of march : his own volumes afford abundant proofs to the contrary. Take, for example, the following passage.
My party were well pleased with the abundance of provisions which they found prepared, for they loved above all things good eating and drinking. The passage of the river procured a day's rest to the porters, and they guined, all the while, the sume wuges as if they were marching."-Voyage au Congo, vol. ii.
At the very commencement of his journey M. Douville bad 410 porters in his pay, (see tom. i. p. 63); but if we consent to reduce tbe twenty-five months during which he was en route (and during which be had always an army of negroes at his heels) to eighteen, we shall bave made an allowance in his favour to which he has not the shadow of a
It should be 500 francs per day, and the sum total 182,500.-Reviewer.
reasonable claim. Now as the expenses of twelve months amount, according to bis own calculation, to 240,000 fr., those of eighteen months will be 360,000. This is what we have already stated, for we estimated the expenses of M. Douville at £15,000, or about 370,000 fr., and not a million, as he affirms. But we must add that his allowance for the support of his caravan and for contingencies is ridiculously low.
II. On the score of provisions M. Douville says
“ The native manioc grows every where in the forests. Here then is abundance established by nature, and an answer to your complaints. And yet you seem to be ignorant how I supported my caravan. Read my narrative and your astonishment will cease!"
The negro, he adds, is always glad to excbange bis provisions for merchandize. We have read M. Douville's narrative, and find therein the following passages:
“ Nevertheless, as I did not wish that the subsistence of my people should depend on the caprices of the chiefs, I declared that if they refused to sell me their provisions I would take them by force.”—ji. 226. “We were in want of every thing for the last two days; roots and kidney-beans, which my porters had provided, were our sole support.”—11. 234. «The inhabitants of Mazenzala sold us their provisions with reluctance; the fear that we should take them by force alove decided them.”-ii. 319. “ Sickness and the want of nourishment had reduced me to an incredible state of emaciation; I was like a walking skeleton.”-iii. 129. My provisions were exhausted, my merchandize and rum visibly diminished, and so my resources to continue my route northward failed me."~. 130. “ I found great difficulty in procuring provisions. For nine days we lived only on roots, of which the forests supplied but a small quantity."-iii. 171.
These sentences afford a sufficient commentary on the abundance of nature, and on the facility of buying provisions from the natives. The Africans never have more than sufficient for themselves. A caravan of 400 men would cause a famine in the best village in Angola. Those who live on the bounty of nature are always in a state of famine. But M. Douville, though he chequers his narrative now and then by relating his distresses of this kind in situations where they were not wholly irremediable, uses a poetic license when he marches for weeks together across deserts, or through hostile nations ; and prudently says nothing about food where it was obviously impossible to obtain it.
III. M. Douville says, that he maintained order and subordination in his motley army of savages, by opposing moral to physical force. This is quite unintelligible. Let him read Mr. Burchell's travels in South Africa, and he will perceive the difficulty of governing even a dozen half-civilized Hottentots. The negro laws, he says, are favourable to the white traveller, because as they condemn to slavery the negro who ventures beyond the bounds of his native state, they secure his attachment to the master who protects him. But, on the other hand, they render it highly improbable, or even impossible, that negroes will follow a traveller who is not expressly bound to reconduct them to their native soil. This consideration, however, never weighed much with M. Douville. Having resigned his project of marching to Egypt, where he might have sold his followers, he dis
missed at Sali, his negroes of Mucangama and of Bihé, to return to their homes, (a distance of at least 700 miles for the latter,) through hostile nations. Is not this all palpable falsehood ?
IV. M. Douville imagines that we have made it an article of accusation, that he marched a distance of 300 miles in fifteen days, without reckoning halts; and stoutly maintains that such expedition was quite practicable. He has often travelled sixty miles a day, the palanquin bearers running at the rate of a league and a half per hour. This assertion is not entitled to the slightest credit. He continually states his daily marches at three, four, or five leagues; sometimes, though rarely, he exceeds this; as in the following instance:
" I travelled seven leagues the following day to arrive at Cabolo, my porters complained in consequence." His next day's march was six leagues, and immediately afterwards he adds, " although for some days my negroes had made very fatiguing marches, &c.”--vol. ii. pp. 216, 217. But M. Douville grossly misstates our accusation. We have said, that supposing M. Douville's narrative to be untrue, and his map and tables to be correct, there is still great difficulty in believing that such a space could be passed over in the time assigned; but if M. Douville wishes to maintain the genuineness of his narrative, let him explain how, leaving Benguela on the 23d of August, he marched to Quissange, (a nine day's journey,) and then crossing a forest for three days, arrived at the Catumbela on the 24th.
V. The errors of M. Douville's dates are, in his judgment, a proof of the authenticity of his volumes. He believes that imposture is more accurate, more harmonious and self-consistent than truth. We hold the contrary opinion. We have objected to him that his narrative would lead us to suppose that he had remained a month at Mucangama, whereas he arrived in that place on the 28th of August, and left it on the 1st September. He now says that he really arrived there on the 26th August, and that the progress which the people made in the mechanical arts under his superintendence, might have been effected in a few hours. Now let us look at his narrative.
“ In less than an hour after being stretched on my mat, (on the day of his arrival,) a second attack of fever deprived me of my senses. On the following day the fever subsided and I came to myself. I remained some days in a very alarming state, &c. .... At length the disease gave way to medicines and a good constitution, and I grew better; but, alas ! I recovered only to see one of my interpreters, two of my domestics, and my best cook, attacked by the same fever so violently, that no remedies could avail against it. On the third day they succumbed, &c."-tom. iii. p. 38.
Having recovered, he visited the lead mines of the country, taught the people to construct furnaces, to make moulds, &c. and witnessed their great progress in the mechanical arts, and all this, the time of sickness included, occurred in the space of four days!
He omits to explain openly how, having arrived at Tandi a Vua on the 21st September, he could contrive to spend some days there, and yet leave it on the 22d. But he informs us that he was inaccurate in stating that he remained in Quiamba eight days; his stay in that place was in reality only three days. The falsehood of this plea of mistake is evident from his narrative; he rested in Quiamba until his men, who suffered much from disease, had completely recovered their health, (tom. iii. p. 50.). But if we give him the advantage of these five days, and suppose that he reached Tandi a Vua on the 16th; yet his lunar observation made in that place on the 12th, is as inexplicable
“ The charge brought against me," says M. Douville," for having dated my lunar observations on days too near the new moon, requires some explanation. When I sojourned some time in a place, I made my notes only every five or six days: I made my observations and calculated them the same day, but when inserting them in my journal, I may have erred in affixing to them the dates of the days when I copied them.”
If this were the case, then the dates affixed would be posterior to, or later than the true ones. But such an apology is applicable to hardly one of M. Douville's observations. He arrived at Yanvo on the 27th September. The new moon commenced at three o'clock the following morning, and his observation is dated the 28th. His observations at Matamba and Bihé appear to have been made on the very day of, and those at Benguela and Tandi a Vua a few days previous to, his arrival at those respective places. He says expressly, that he made his astronomical observations in each place as soon as he arrived there; the meaning of which declaration is, that as it was not advisable that the dates in his tables should betray any connexion with the length of his abode in each place, they should always correspond with the day of his arrival. If any new evidence were requisite to prove M. Douville's observations to be all forgeries, his apology supplies it.
M.Douville having replied thus inadequately to some of our charges against him, attempts to retort on us by accusing us of bad faith. Many of his objections are frivolous, and all show his stupidity. We certainly did not deceive our readers when we affirmed that the Portuguese carried on in security a commerce with nations 700 miles from the coast. The word security is relative, and admits of modification. M. Douville could send his porters to Cassange with merchandize, which was kept in safety till his arrival there a year and a half later. Such is the security we spoke of. We did not mean to intimate that robberies are not as common in the wilds of Africa as on the highways of Europe.
We did not miscalculate his journey from Quilunda to Gregorio Alto; but we said, and now repeat, that leaving Quilunda on the 13th February (tom. i. p. 88.) he was at Zenza do Golungo on the 20th, or perhaps the 24th (p. 117.); and that when we find him afterwards entering the province of Golungo Alto on the 18th (p. 125.), we detect a false date ; the narrative and tables being here forced to coincide, whereas they previously differed a fortnight. We affirm also, that there is no absurdity in distinguishing between the country of the Dembos, and the Portuguese province of the Dembos. We do not agree with the committee of the Société de Geographie, that ancient geographers must have erred in what they said of the former (l'immense plateau des
Dembos, tom. i. p. xxi.), because M. Douville found a province of the same name in the neighbourhood of the Coanza. Again, the same committee assert (p. xviii.) that M. Douville corrects Montecuculi in his description of the rocks of Maopongo. We, on the contrary, maintain that M. Douville never saw those rocks, though he may have seen many more which he is willing to raise into importance.
M. Douville affects to be astonished at the severity with which he has been treated. He is not sufficiently enlightened to comprehend the heinousness of his transgression. If he had merely published a volume of falsehoods, and been content to enjoy its profits in obscurity, he might have escaped with silent contempt; but since he has thrust himself forward, seeking the suffrage and recommendation of honourable men, and cheating them to their faces, his fraud, aggravated by his effrontery, deserves peculiar ignominy. The man who perjures himself is set in the pillory. He who hurts commercial credit by forgery, attains a worse eminence. And are not credit and confidence and good faith to be protected in the world of letters, as well as in courts of law, or on the exchange? Let M. Douville reflect on the kindness which he has experienced, the honours bestowed on him, and all in frank confidence that he spoke the truth ; and then let him consider how lamentable it would be, if, from the discovery of his impostures, men of merit should be repulsed or mistrustfully received by those who ought to protect them." But, says M. Douville, “ I offered my observations to the Institute-could an impostor act thus?” To be sure he could, if he were a man of consummate impudence; nay, he could even offer to conduct an expedition to traverse the interior of Africa, from Benguela to Abyssinia, and estimate its expense for three years at one third of the sum which he expended in twelve months, as he affirms.
But we confess that our indignation has not been owing to M. Douville's dishonesty alone. We find in almost every page of his volumes something vile and revolting. We detest the traveller who, in his intercourse with rude and simple people, never betrays the slightest sympathy with his fellow-creatures: who never witnesses or experiences any thing good ; who loves to expatiate on whatever is degrading and shocking to humanity; who lies awake through suspicion of poison and assassination ; who shoots, flogs, and carries into slavery an ignorant people on the slightest provocation. Let M. Douville call to mind the attempt made on his life by his eighteen slaves, who were sitting, “ according to custom,” with irons on their legs, while their free brethren were dancing at a distance. Let him reflect on the “involuntary shuddering" (tom. ii. p. 220,) which he felt on being left alone with his slaves, and the recollection of that momentary compunction may teach him the light in which we regard him.
In fact, when we consider M. Douville's connexion with the Brazils, and that he carried recommendations from that country to M. Viera, at Loanda, who took a warm and apparently imprudent interest in his plans, and who, it appears, is a slave merchant (tom. ii. p. 268 ;) when we consider that he is unwilling to explain satisfactorily how he ob