OF THE INHABITANTS, AND THE INTERIOR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ISLAND.
THE situation of a little colony, embosomed in the recesses of a rocky island, and separated by an immense ocean front the troubles and calamities of the surrounding world, we should willingly figure to ourselves as the retreat of happiness ; which those who sought for, it in retirement, might expect to find in the valleys of ST. HELENA. Here the inhabitants, in the enjoyment of ease and security, have only to attend to the care of their families and gardens. They are exempted from many of those sources of strife and contention which vex and disquiet more extended communities of mankind; and, under the delightful climate where they dwell, they are blessed with some of the best things which this world can give:ówith long life ; exemption from disease ; a healthful offspring ; and beautiful women. Yet it must be confessed, with whatever sorrow, that the happiness and content, which some consider as attainable in a state of retirement from the great and busy world, are only delusive phantoms, feigned by sages and poets, in the fond hope of finding somewhere, what hitherto has not been found upon earth. Few of the inhabitants of ST. HELENA seem to live satisfied with their present condition, or without a longing desire to quit it ; and the wish of "going home," by which is meant going to England, is, fondly and familiarly expressed, as well by the native inhabitants as by the recent settlers. They appear to consider their situation as a state of exile, Which few of them have any hopes of getting away from : For those in the service of the East India Company have but very moderate appointments ; and the others, very little opportunity of getting wealth. That the inhabitants, whom their residence and occupation here have separated from their kindred and friends, should wish to return to them, is natural enough: But it seems mote unaccountable in the natives, who have never been out of the island, to express so strong a desire of "going home."
Of a little society, thus shut up in an irksome solitude, and having so few opportunities of intercourse with the rest of mankind, it would be pleasant to think, that they passed their days agreeably together; and that envy and discord had never found their way to those sequestered retreats, where fancy would gladly paint the abode of simplicity and innocence. But whether from the effects of family jealousies, which are apt to arise in such confined situations, or from those little tales of scandal and whispers of detraction which are so frequently heard in small communities, or from whatever other cause, it is to be regretted, that the peace and social intercourse of this settlement have. been sometimes disturbed. An acute and well-informed traveller, who visited this place, has remarked, "While ships are riding in the roads, and the inhabitants busy in supplying their wants, or eager to entertain their guests, their minds, occupied also with foreign events, of which the strangers bring accounts to them, that any dissentions subsisting among individuals in the place are suspended for the time ; but that, when the shipping season is over, and the settlement void of business, as well as of topics of discussion on distant incidents, intestine divisions sometimes revive ; and that it is an object of government to divert their minds from their private feuds, by engaging them in military exercises, or even in domestic amusements or dramatic entertainments."
To persons coming from the gay and cheerful scenes of the EAST INDIES, where society is enlivened by the utmost ease and freedom of intercourse, and by the most unbounded hospitality, the manner in which the inhabitants of ST. HELENA pass their time, seems dull and irksome. With so few objects around them. to relieve and diversify attention, it seems at first surprising, that they should not more generally seek for entertainment in the society of each other. To strangers, they appear to associate very little together : and, except during the shipping season, when they quit their country residences and live in JAMES TOWN, they pass the remainder of the year apart from each other at their garden houses, between which, if the tenants were even more disposed to associate, the intervention of crags, precipices, and chasms, would preclude the opportunity of easy and frequent intercourse. This quiet and secluded life they have probably chosen, as the most suitable to their circumstances, and to the care of their families ; and while it preserves their health, and contributes to their longevity, they have the less cause to envy the conviviality of their INDIAN brethren, which, however it may secure the enjoyment of the present hour, has not been found favourable to health and length of days.
It is customary for the passengers of the homeward-bound Indiamen, during their stay here, to live at the houses of the inhabitants ; and, excepting the Governor and Deputy Governor, and a few others, who entertain strangers with unbought hospitality, all the inhabitants are ready to accommodate them with board and lodging ; the terms of which are generally complained of as being extravagantly high. But it should be remembered, that most articles of provision here are obtained with difficulty ; that the inhabitants have but few opportunities of disposing of what little superfluous stock they are possessed of, or of adding to their means of replacing it ; and that those whom they entertain can in general afford to pay well for their accommodation. It seems, therefore, but reasonable, that wealthy strangers, who are treated with the best fare which the place affords, and certainly with much kindness and attention, should contribute adequately to the comfort of their hosts, and the benefit of the settlement.
In a situation where the inhabitants during the greatest part of their time, are cut off from all intercourse with the world, and left to look upon the naked expanse of the ocean, it will not easily be imagined, what lively interest is excited by the appearance of any ship. The arrival of the homeward-bound Indiamen is the greatest event of the year. It fills the whole settlement with alacrity and joy. They quit their gardens, flock to JAMES TOWN, open their houses for the accommodation of the passengers, and entertain them with plays, dances, and concerts. These gay assemblies are enlivened by the presence of many agreeable and handsome young women, natives of the place, who, amid the general festivity, seem to feel a peculiar interest in what is going forward ; probably, not without some throbbing expectations of being taken froth a scene, where they are weary with constantly contemplating the same objects. The appearance of so much loveliness and beauty, cast away in a lonesome situation like this, has sometimes raised stronger emotions than those of mere sympathy, in the bosoms of their guests ; and the native women of ST. HELENA have adorned domestic life, and graced the politest circles in ENGLAND and INDIA. To such fortunate and pleasing occurrences, it may somewhat contribute, that many of the strangers, having escaped with impaired constitutions from the oppression and sultriness of an INDIAN atmosphere, experience a sudden renovation of health and spirits, under this mild and salubrious climate. Into minds thus an exhilarated, from the effects of returning health, love easily finds an entrance.
But whether the expectations of the ladies are often favoured in this way, or not, the pleasure and benefit derived by convalescents from the climate tend greatly to enhance the enjoyment of their short stay here : and as the people with whom they live, are of a courteous and obliging disposition, and readily take the trouble of shewing, whatever is worth seeing in the island, it may easily be supposed, that strangers will pass their time very agreeably. We love so much better to be pleased than to be instructed, that the qualities which inspire good humour and complacency, easily compensate the want of information and intelligence. The conversation of the natives is that of a plain unaffected people, chiefly conversant about their own concerns. A life of seclusion, passed upon a spot where one only sees the sky and the ocean, is not likely to make men philosophers or citizens of the world. Where the mind is limited in its views to the scenery and occupations of a petty some of its conceptions will naturally betray the confined circumstances in which they arise. An observation made by a ST. HELENA lady, "that the arrival of the Indiamen in ENGLAND must, she supposed, make LONDON very gay," however it may excite a smile in this country, was perfectly natural, in the situation in which it was made : For it must be remembered, that the arrival of the Indiamen makes the season of festivity at ST. HELENA ; and is an event interesting to all, and to females in particular, big with expectation. As the writer of this was one day walking with a gentleman, who had never been out of the island, they stopped to look at a small spot of ground, where the vegetation was very exuberant, when the gentleman, lifting up his hands, cried out with great fervour, "If ST. HELENA were all as fruitful as this place, it would be the noblest and richest country in the world." The writer spoke of the wide and fertile regions of ASIA and EUROPE, stretching like the ocean around them to immense distances, and of the comparatively small size of this island ; but he did not succeed in convincing the gentleman, or at least in giving him any clear and impressive ideas of any country that could be finer than his own, if it were all cultivated. So true it is, that, our ideas of space depend upon experience. Yet some metaphysicians tell us, that these ideas may be acquired in a dungeon ; so a man in a dungeon, or elsewhere, may reason himself into a temporary belief of the non-existence of matter. But the clear and convincing notions of things, which regulate our judgment and actions, are the fruits of experience. The above gentleman, who had lived more than threescore years on an island only twenty-eight miles round, and having only a few inconsiderable spots that are fertile, could form no clear conception of any thing richer and finer in the Universe than ST. HELENA would be, if, to use his own phrase, "it were all green to the water's edge." We may smile at this simplicity; but if the familiar images and descriptions of HOMER and VIRGIL have taken a peculiar cast from the appearances of the countries where they lived, and from the circumstances of the times when they wrote, it cannot appear extraordinary, that the natives of a remote insulated rock, should have their ideas fashioned after the model of their own little world.
But, however simple they are in some of their notions, respecting other countries, they are perfectly well acquainted with their own affairs ; and he, who, in dealing with them, expects to find the simplicity of Shepherds or Savages, will be disappointed. In the disposal of the few articles, which their scanty means permit them to sell or barter, they are sufficiently skilful. In the little artifices of traffic, some of them speculate on very remote chances, and distant probabilities. One of them related, with apparent triumph and satisfaction, that if at any time he purchased, or was made a present of a main-topmast, main-yard, or any other essential appendage of a ship, which he could turn to future account, how he kept it in store with a provident avarice, till some unfortunate vessel, which had suffered in the storms of the southern latitudes, happened to arrive, in absolute want of these articles, when he could easily obtain his own price for them. Extensive dealers in monopoly play smile at this, petty species of forestalling: But the principle is the same, whether exercised on a large or small scale ; and whether the unfortunate object of it, is a seaman in want of a main-topmast, or a community in want of bread.
It cannot offend prejudice, or surprise credulity to be told, that the natives of ST. HELENA are like the rest of the human race ; and actuated, at times, by the same selfish passions. A tale of incredible manners, however it might amuse the ignorant and credulous, would not obtain belief and it is not intended here, to paint a fabulous race of Beings, differing as widely from the rest of mankind, as the singular aspect of those rocks which they live among, differs from the appearances of other countries. It may serve to repress envy, and to abate our partiality for the imaginary virtues of seclusion, to know, that those whom their local situation has removed the Farthest from evil communication, are not however exempted from the specks and blemishes of other mortals.
The exact number of the inhabitant it is-difficult for a stranger to ascertain. Some years ago, they were said to amount to upwards of 2,000, of whom 500 were soldiers, and 600 blacks. There are about seventy garden-houses, and there are very few families who have not garden-houses, in which they generally reside from October till April or May, which is the summer season; and during this period, JAMES'S VALLEY is deserted. It is said then to be sometimes hot and disagreeable. JAMES TOWN, which stands in this valley, facing the northern bay where the ships lye at anchor, consists of one street, neat enough, but irregularly built. It is well paved with small stones, which have been smoothed and rounded by the sea. JAMES'S VALLEY, though one of the widest, is yet so narrow, that the rows of houses on each side of the street and which run parallel with the hills, are so close to them, that fragments of rock, loosened by the rain, and tumbling from the declivities, have passed through their roofs ; and, on some occasions, killed the inhabitants.
The garden-houses are situated on different parts of the island, especially on the south side, towards SANDY BAY, which is full of the wildest scenery imaginable. The situation of these houses is very striking and curious, being placed here and there on gentle slopes, or little platforms, which jut out at different heights from the sides of the hills, and surrounded with small clumps of trees and shrubs. From DIANA'S PEAK, we observe them on each hand stuck up in corners like bird-cages, and hanging in elevations so different, that the distance in height between the highest and lowest, cannot be less than two thousand feet. The small tufts of trees and evergreens with which they are decorated, are heightened and enlivened in their effects by the rude and desolate scenery of the intermediate hills and rocks. These houses are only calculated for the abode of sober tenants; and it is fortunate for the inhabitants, that there is so little drinking and conviviality among them, as jolly parties might be attended with mischievous consequences, where the dwellings are surrounded with such tremendous precipices and chasms.
But in these romantic and salubrious abodes, they enjoy what is better and more desirable than conviviality, the solaces of domestic life, and the happiness of rearing large and promising families. What happens in this fine climate, may be easily supposed,-that females are prolific ; their labours easy ; and their offspring healthful. But it deserves particular notice, that the number of females born here, is said to exceed that of males, which also happens at the CAPE OF GOOD HOPE ; and, if the writer is not greatly mistaken, in the EAST INDIES. The number of males born in BRITAIN is known to exceed that of females ; and this is probably the case in all northern countries. Now if it be really true, as there seems reason to suspect, that there is a greater number of females born within the tropics, and of males towards the polar regions, the fact is well worth the attention of philosophers, as the illustration of it might enlarge our views of the order and design of Nature, in discovering why she thus varies, though by means utterly mysterious and unknown to use the proportion of male and female births in opposite circumstances of climate, for the purpose of perpetuating the race of mankind?
The interior resources and comforts of the island, as far as they regard the means of subsistence, are but scanty and limited. Yet the little farms and hardens of the inhabitants, supply them with some excellent fruits, pot-herbs, and farinaceous roots, sufficient, in years that are not unfavourable, for their own consumption, and for affording a seasonable refreshment to the crews of vessels that anchor in the roads. There is, however, no bread-corn; and the grounds seem not at all adapted to the culture of farinaceous grains. A little barley, indeed, has been raised, and it grows well; but it is destroyed by rats, which swarm here in incredible numbers, as do caterpillars and these, with the insect that attacks the peach, are the greatest pests which the inhabitants have to contend with in their gardening and agriculture. The rats are supposed to have been brought in our ships, and the peach insect and caterpillars seem to have been imported on some exotic plants. But in whatever way they have been brought here, they have multiplied amazingly, to the great annoyance of the inhabitants, and the detriment and obstruction of agriculture. It is curious that some creatures, when brought into a climate that is new to them, should. thus spread and increase to a degree beyond what they did in the countries from which they were imported. A very remarkable instance of this lately occurred in INDIA, on the coast of COROMANDEL, where, in the year 1796, a species of the cochineal insect, called the SYLVESTER, was introduced from the BRASILS. It was considered as a great acquisition, and much care was taken of it at first. It would feed on nothing, but the common native Opuntia, which is generally used for hedges all over the country. In a short time, the insect destroyed all the Opuntias in the CARNATIC ; and so complete was the havock which this voracious creature made, that the remaining stumps of the hedges on which it had settled, looked as if they had been consumed by fire. Nor was this all ; for when our army was in MYSORE, in the year 1799, the natives mentioned what appeared to them very astonishing and unaccountable, that all their Opuntias had, about the same period, been entirely consumed. In this manner, a small insect, introduced from the BRASILS for the laudable purpose of establishing a cochineal manufacture, wasted and destroyed, in the short period of three years, almost all the Opuntias of the southern peninsula of INDIA.
The Yams and Potatoes of ST. HELENA are excellent, and sufficiently plentiful for the use of the inhabitants, and for the supply of ships that touch here. When the store ships do not arrive in time, and flour becomes scarce, the yams and potatoes are used instead of bread. There are also Plantains and Bananas ; but these do not seem to thrive so well. Some good coffee has been raised, and the climate seems well adapted to the culture of this valuable plant. The apples are excellent, and rather plentiful ; and the peaches, from the few trees that have escaped the ravages of the insect, are of a most exquisite flavour. Fruits do not come to maturity on the interior heights, which is occasioned by the bleakness of the Trade wind. But there is abundance of sheltered situations ; and this natural shelter might be improved by plantations of wood. There are very good cabbages, and most of the other garden vegetables of EUROPE, though in small quantities. But there is great plenty of purslane, wild celery, and water cresses, which may afford immediate relief and benefit to sickly and scorbutic crews.
The best and most plentiful article of provision is beef, which is very fat, juicy, and delicious. But this, which is their most valuable and substantial resource, is liable to failure, from the extreme droughts of the climate; and some years ago, more than two thousand head of horned cattle perished through want of food and water. The goats are very numerous, and there is good kid, mutton, poultry, and some game. Partridges, pheasants, pigeons, and other birds have been introduced. The rice bird of the EAST INDIES (LOXIA ORYZIVORA) lives and multiplies here; though we might suppose, that a parched and rocky surface was ill adapted to a bird, which, in its wild and native state in INDIA, lives in fields of rice which are inundated. Some of the smaller birds have been introduced ; and the climate is well-calculated for this class of creatures, if there were a sufficiency of food for them. The partridges are pretty numerous, and several coveys of them are seen among the bare rocky hills, where it does not appear that there is any thing for them to eat. Here too we meet with some beautiful ring pheasants and rabbits, which, together with Guinea hens, were introduced by the Governor. There is a small blue dove and red-legged partridges, which Mr. FORSTER supposes, (from what authority the writer knows not) to have been found in the island when it was discovered. This, however, is contrary to the accounts which the writer received. There is a small but hardy breed of horses, originally brought from the CAPE. They are very useful, and well adapted to the nature of the roads, which are steep, narrow and difficult, cut in traverses up the hills, and enclosed on the side of the declivity by a wall of stones, without which they would be very dangerous. In some places, we pass under masses of loose impending rock, which look very aweful and threatening.
There is no doubt but that the live stock of the island might be considerably augmented, and that some kinds of useful animals might be introduced. The principal difficulty would be, to procure a certain and sufficient supply of food for them at all seasons, in a situation where severe and frequent droughts arc so unfavourable to the growth of plants, and especially of the smaller vegetables. From the effect of culture and plantation, the climate may probably become more humid ; or it may undergo, some spontaneous change, and which, if we can credit some traditionary reports, has partly happened already. According to the testimony of some travellers too, who visited this place many years ago, it appears that the inhabitants, born on the island and grown up to a good old age, had never once heard thunder, or perceived lightning. These phenomena now occur once in ten, twelve, or fourteen years. But, whatever effect this chance may have on the climate, and whether thunder, which is heard so rarely now, and which formerly seems to have been heard much seldomer, is likely to increase the rains by becoming more frequent, there is something highly interesting and curious in contemplating the endless variety and revolutions of Nature, which equally affect the fleeting meteors of the air, and the more ponderous and unwieldy elements. The AURORA BOREALIS, for instance, which was formerly seen every autumn in ENGLAND, after having for several years left our northern sky, has begun lately to appear again, though in a very slight degree. It is affirmed by some of the oldest inhabitants of the north of SCOTLAND, who derive their knowledge of the fact from their fathers and grand-fathers, who were eye-witnesses of it, that this meteor was never seen in their hemisphere, till towards the close of the seventeenth century ; from which we may infer, that it appeared then after so long an interval, that all memory of it had been lost. That lightning, which in its nature is probably allied to the Aurora Borealis, should unexpectedly burst forth from an atmosphere where it had not been seen for so long a period, that its former appearance may have been indistinctly remembered or entirely forgotten, is not therefore a thing either incredible in itself, or inconsistent with the course and analogy of Nature. Mr. FORSTER, who received accounts corresponding with what is here stated, when he visited ST. HELENA. many years ago, has endeavoured to assign a reason why thunder and lightning do not occur here. He observes, that all the hills and highest rocks are a kind of lava or vitrifed slags, and that, like all vitrescent bodies, they must be electric per se, or non-conductors ; that, consequently, the electricity of the atmosphere is not conducted by them, and therefore causes no explosion. If this be the case, the decomposition of the surface, by the more extended growth of plants, or consequent increase of dews and showers, may have made this island somewhat more of an electric conductor than it seems to have been in the days of those old inhabitants, with whom Mr. FORSTER had an opportunity of conversing.
It is a matter of great advantage and convenience to those who live on a spot, where the interior means of subsistence are so scanty in themselves, and rendered yet, more precarious from the parching droughts of the climate, that the surrounding ocean abounds in esculent fish, seventy different species of which, including turtle, are caught upon its coast, It seems curious to find the sea stored with such a multitude and variety of tenants, on the shore of a remote and desolate isle, which appears itself to have been untenanted by any living creature, excepting some vagrant birds of the ocean. Yet the fact is neither extraordinary nor unaccountable : Fishes being free and unconfined by the nature of the element in which they live, easily roam from one part of the sea to another ; and the vicissitudes of climate which confine many land animals to particular latitudes, or compel others to migrate with the seasons, are hardly felt in the recesses of the ocean, where the temperature for many degrees of longitude and latitude varies so little. It cannot therefore appear surprising, that while there are very few kinds of quadrupeds, amphibious reptiles, or insects, in many islands remote from continents, the neighbouring sea is yet stored with abundanc and variety of fish, and that fishes of the same species are found in situations so remote from each other. Of the seventy different kinds, caught near ST. HELENA, several are common to cold latitudes ; and whales are seen playing about the island in such numbers, that it is supposed the Southern whale fishery might be carried on here with great advantage, as it certainly might with safety and without difficulty, in seas which are never obstructed with ice, nor ruffled with hurricanes. This circumstance may, in future, constitute a source of wealth and trade to the island itself. The tides here seldom rise above three feet and a half; but there is sometimes a tremendous surge breaking on the shore, which formerly occasioned accidents to boats going out or landing, till a wharf was erected, which makes the communication between the sea and land perfectly secure and easy.
Blacks, or rather persons of different shades of that colour, who discover in the variety of their complexions and features a strange and motley mixture of races, are employed in cultivating the country, in fishing, and in the capacity of household servants. These people, who are either descended from the blacks brought here by the first EUROPEAN settlers, or who have been since imported from the WEST INDIES, GUINEA, MADAGASCAR, or the CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, were, till within these few years, in a state of slavery. But the practice of slavery here has been long since restrained in its exercise, and mitigated in its effects, by some humane and salutary regulations ; and it has very lately, to the honour of the Directors of the East India Company, been wholly abolished. The release of 600 blacks from a state of thraldom, can subtract but little from the guilt of EUROPE, or the wrongs of AFRICA : Yet it is consolatory to record even a single act of justice and mercy to an inconsiderable portion of this unhappy race, whom the enormous wickedness of EUROPEANS has dragged from their homes, and condemned to slavery ; not for any wrong they ever did us, or for any good we ever mean. to do them ; but because our power has unhappily enabled us to make their weakness and sufferings subservient to our avarice.
The emancipation of the blacks was an act of humanity the more desirable here, and the more naturally to be expected from the East India Company, as this was the only part of their widely-extended territories, where the practice of slavery Was ever tolerated. It was introduced by the first EUROPEAN settlers - for it has been observed, that whites will seldom work in a warm climate when they can get slaves to labour for them. The blacks here remained long under the absolute and uncontrouled dominion of their masters, till complaints of the oppression and abuses that this gave rise to, induced the Court of Directors to place them under the immediate protection of the magistracy, and to put a stop to all further importation of slaves. Several regulations were at the same time enacted, to render their situation more easy and comfortable, by which they seem to have been encouraged to marry and propagate : For it is a fact, that before these regulations were established, there was an annual loss of about ten in a hundred. But since the blacks have been placed under the immediate protection of the magistracy, and all further importation of them prohibited, they have increased. This act is noticed by Sir GEORGE STAUNTON, in his short account of this place.
Still, however, it may be doubted, whether any partial mitigation of an evil, which in its nature so thoroughly debases the human mind as slavery, and which utterly destroys the only vigorous and independent principle of action, can ever tender the unhappy beings placed in this condition, either fully comfortable in themselves, or more useful to their owners. Where men are retained against their will in a state of bondage; and only impelled to labour by the dread and example of punishment, it is difficult to relax their fetters, or in the least to diminish the authority of their owners, without exciting among them strong tendencies to disobedience and disorder. Drunkenness, irregularity, and idleness, will be the natural consequences among those who feel themselves exempted from the arbitrary dominion of their roasters, without being at the same time released from that condition, which has not in itself any comforting, hope, nor any animating incentive to industry. This seemed to be the case at ST. HELENA, as was evident from the constant complaints of the owners against their slaves and from what the writer saw of the idle and disorderly state of the slaves themselves. In this situation of things, it was certainly better to abolish slavery altogether, that those who were no longer impelled to the performance of duty through fear, might be drawn to it by self-interest, and the prospect of reward.
This island, which is so valuable to the East India Company, as a commodious station for the refreshment of their fleets, derives yet an additional importance from the cession of the CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, and from there being no other station at which our Indiamen can conveniently touch, for a supply of water and fresh provisions. The CAPE, which is situated in a healthy and prolific climate, and commands a vast tract of country, capable of yielding all the necessaries and conveniences of life, with most of which it already abounds, is unquestionably far more valuable with respect to its various and independent resources, than a small barren island, which produces no corn and very little wood. Yet, as a station for our lndiamen, the CAPE has many inconveniences, arising from the position of its lands, and the general course of the winds which prevail in these latitudes. To make it a place of importance to this country, whether as a barrier to our East India territories, or as a port from which to direct our attacks against the colonial possessions of other powers, great sums must necessarily be expended in its improvement, and in the maintenance of large and adequate garrisons. As this could only have been done at an expence disproportioned to any real advantage we could at last derive from its possession, it was better to abandon this object altogether. In our hands, its principal advantage would have been of a negative kind, by keeping others out of it; and particularly, by excluding an ambitious and enterprizing people, who from such a port may harrass our trade, and at some future period equip armaments against our eastern dominions.
ST. HELENA, which may be maintained at an expense comparatively so inconsiderable, is in its nature more compact and defensible; being only in a few points accessible to the assaults of an enemy, and those points, already fortified, and capable of being made impregnable by some additional works. An enemy could not easily land here by surprise, for there are signals so placed all over the island, as to give instant notice of the approach of vessels to any part of the coast. Here too there are means of annoying an enemy, which might prove more potent and destructive in their effects than fire arms: For a few unarmed individuals, placed on the tops of the hills, might, by rolling loose fragments of rock down the steep declivities, completely overwhelm the invaders in any of those deep and narrow valleys where only they could land; and from which they must, with whatever difficulty, climb to the summits,- before they could close with their opponents, or get possession of the island. Of these offensive weapons, ST. HELENA, however deficient in its other resources, affords an exuberant supply on the top of every hill, and on the face of every declivity, of all sizes and dimensions ; many of them, it least, as large as that which TURNUS hurled against his foe, and abundance that might be more commodiously wielded by mortals of modern days.
"Qualia nunc hominum producit corpora tellus."
That this may not seem wholly chimerical, it may be proper to mention here that this mode of defence has been often practised with success in INDIA, where there are many forts situated on the summits of rocks and hills. In the memorable campaign of the MARQUIS CORNWALLIS, conducted with so much judgment and success by that gallant and virtuous nobleman, the only check which our arms sustained was at KISTNAGUERRY, Which is a fortress erected on the summit of a steep and lofty rock; and our miscarriage here was occasioned by the besieged rolling down huge stones and fragments of rock upon the assailants.
As a station for our homeward-bound Indiamen, ST. HELENA has advantages superior to the CAPE. Its position is sufficiently convenient; and being exempted from the storms and tempestuous weather of the southern promontory of AFRICA, it far exceeds the CAPE in the serenity of its climate, and the security of its roads : Yet it has some inconveniences; it can only be approached in the track of the Trade wind; and the approach to it requires some skill and management. Vessels, therefore, coming from the quarter opposite to that from which the Trade-wind blows, are under the necessity of making a prodigious circuit. It will be obvious too, that ships cannot lye at anchor on its windward side, though the anchorage is safe and secure, at all seasons, on the leeward coast. Besides, as it is so inconsiderable a speck on the surface of the great ocean where it lyes, and in which there are no other land-marks to guide the mariner, it may easily be missed by vessels which do not keep exactly in the windward track of it ; and if they once pass it but a little, the difficulty of beating up to windward is very great, and they are obliged to fleet to a vast distance, in order to get into the longitudes whence the Trade-wind blows continually towards it. It is related of a British commander, who had missed it in this way, that, after some endeavours to discover it, he abandoned the search, in the full persuasion that it must have been recently swallowed up by the waves. We may smile at this; and yet a seaman, acquainted with ST. HELENA, who should in this way miss it, might more naturally entertain such an apprehension about it, than about almost any other land ; as its loose and crumbling composition, its impending and disjointed cliffs, and its hollow and cavernous base, give it altogether ail appearance among the waves so tottering and unstable. JAMES'S BAY on the northward, where ships anchor opposite to JAMES TOWN, is said to have the inconvenience of shelving very abruptly, at a short distance from the shore. SANDY BAY, which is in itself so much finer, and more capacious, and so strikingly embosomed in the wildest and most stupendous scenery, is rendered useless as a place of anchorage, by being situated too far to windward.
These natural inconveniences of the island would be fully compensated to the vessels and fleets that touch here, if the place in itself afforded more ample means of supplying their wants. That its interior, conveniences arm resources, with respect to shipping, might be considerably augmented, and that it might be altogether much improved and beautified, there can be no doubt. This indeed is evident, from what has been done already; by which the place has become a more commodious and comfortable abode than it was before, to those who either dwell or sojourn in it. But with whatever further conveniences it ma be enriched, or with whatever improvements its surface may be decorated, its great advantages are dependent on sources which are never likely to fail, as they are derived from the order of the elements and seasons. And if this cheerless and gloomy island were in itself utterly destitute of every means of subsistence to man, bird, or beast; if no tree, shrub, or trace of verdure should ever soften that aspect of desolation and horror which heightens the dreariness of its solitude, and seems to cast an air of sadness on its cheerful and enlivening climate, it would still afford some valuable comforts and advantages to seafaring strangers ; while vessels, at all seasons, ride with security in its roads ; while its shores swarm with multitudes of fish; while its hills abound with fountains of pure water, and its atmosphere is refreshed by a breeze of perpetual salubrity.