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A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 2 by Matthew Flinders

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[The text of the letter, in French, was set out in the book, but is not
set out in this ebook.]

The accusation of not preserving the rules of decorum, seemed not a
little extraordinary from one who had kept me above two hours in the
street when I had gone to wait upon him, and who had qualified me with
the title of impostor without examination; but it seemed that any act of
aggression on the part of the general was to meet only with submission
and respect. Embarrassment sheltering itself under despotic power, was
evident in this letter; but it gave no further insight into the reasons
for making me a prisoner, and consequently no opportunity of vindicating
my innocence. It therefore seemed wisest, seeing the kind of man with
whom I had to deal, to follow his directions and leave the main subject
to the operation of time; but to take off my mind from dwelling too
intensely upon the circumstance of being arrested at such a conjuncture,
I determined to employ it in forwarding my voyage, if an application for
the necessary papers should be attended with success.


Having obtained a translation of the general's letter from the
interpreter, who came next morning in company with the surgeon, I wrote
to request,

1st. My printed books from the schooner.

2nd. My private letters and papers out of the secretary's office.

3rd. To have two or three charts and three or four manuscript books, for
the purpose of finishing the chart of the Gulph of Carpentaria; adding in
explanation, that the parts wanting were mostly lost in the shipwreck,
and I wished to replace them from my memory and remaining materials
before it were too late. For these a receipt was offered, and my word
that nothing in the books should be erased or destroyed; but I wished to
make additions to one or two of the books as well as to the charts, and
would afterwards be ready to give up the whole.

4th. I represented a complaint from my seamen, of being shut up at night
in a place where not a breath of air could come to them; which, in a
climate like this, must be not only uncomfortable in the last degree, but
very destructive to European constitutions. Also, that the people with
whom they were placed were affected with that disagreeable and contagious
disorder the itch; and that their provisions were too scanty, except in
the article of bread, the proportion of which was large, but of a bad

An answer was given on the same day by one of the general's
aides-de-camp, who said that orders had been given for the delivery of
the books and papers; that the place where the seamen were kept was very
wholesome; and as to the provisions, that orders had been given on my
arrival for the people of the Cumberland to be treated as French seamen
in actual service; that he would inquire whether any thing contrary had
been done, which he did not think, but in that case it should be set


At noon next day colonel Monistrol and M. Bonnefoy called, and a trunk
was brought from on board the schooner, containing a part of my printed
books. The colonel seemed to be sorry that my letters to the general had
been couched in a style so far from humble, and to think that they might
rather tend to protract than terminate my confinement; on which I
observed, believing him to be in the general's confidence, that as my
demand was to obtain common justice, an adulatory style did not seem
proper, more especially when addressed to a republican who must despise
it: my rights had been invaded, and I used the language natural to a man
so circumstanced. Had favours been wanted, or there had been any thing to
conceal, my language would probably have been different; but of all
things I desired that the strictest scrutiny should be made into my
papers, and that it should be confronted with any examination they might
choose to make of myself or people. The colonel and interpreter, either
from politeness or conviction, did not disagree with these sentiments,
but repeated that a different mode of writing might have answered better;
it appeared indeed, from their conversation, that French republicanism
involved any thing rather than liberty, justice, and equality, of which
it had so much boasted.

So soon as the two gentlemen were gone, I took out my naval signal book
from the trunk and tore it to pieces; the private signals had been lost
in the shipwreck, so that my mind was now freed from apprehensions which
had given much inquietude.


On the 28th, M. Chapotin, the surgeon, called as usual with the
interpreter. He said that air and exercise were necessary to the
re-establishment of my health, and that so soon as I should be able to
walk out, it would be proper to apply to the general for a permission;
and on my objecting to ask any thing like a personal favour, he promised
with some degree of feeling to take the application on himself.

No mention was made this day of the books and papers, to be delivered
from the sealed trunks; but next morning [THURSDAY 29 DECEMBER 1803] I
was conducted to the government house, and took out all my private
letters and papers, the journals of bearings and astronomical
observations, two log books, and such charts as were necessary to
completing the Gulph of Carpentaria; for which a receipt was required,
without any obligation to return them. The third log book, containing
transactions and remarks in different vessels during the preceding six
months, was important to me on many accounts, and especially for the
observations it contained upon Torres' Strait and the Gulph; but it was
said to be in the hands of the general, who could not be disturbed, and
two boxes of despatches from governor King and colonel Paterson had been
taken away. All the other books and papers, including my passport,
commission, etc., with some accounts from the commissary of New South
Wales and many private letters from individuals in that colony, were
locked up in a trunk and sealed as before.


On the 31st. I sent to the town major's office an open letter addressed
to the secretary of the Admiralty, giving a short account of my
embarkation and shipwreck in the Porpoise, voyage in the Cumberland, and
situation in Mauritius; with two private letters, and a request that they
might be forwarded by the first opportunity. Next day [SUNDAY 1 JANUARY
1804] the receipt of them was acknowledged, and a promise given to inform
me of the means by which they should be sent, and it was done
accordingly; but not one of the letters, or of their duplicates, was ever

Having calculated with Mr. Aken the observations previously taken for the
rate of the time keeper,* I now worked earnestly upon the chart of the
Gulph of Carpentaria; and this employment served to divert my chagrin,
and the indignation which, however useless it might be, I could not but
feel at the author of our imprisonment. The want of my log book, however,
was a great obstacle to laying down the parts seen in the Cumberland; and
nothing more having been said of it, a short letter was written to
general De Caen on the 5th, reminding him that the log was necessary to
the construction of my charts, and that only a small part of the printed
books had yet been delivered. A verbal answer was brought by the
interpreter, and two days afterward the books came from the schooner; but
respecting the log no answer was made.

[* The rate from December 19 to 25, was 36.9" losing, or only 0.16" more
than that previously found at Coepang in Timor; but the longitude deduced
from the first observation with the Coepang rate, was 57 deg. 40' 40.5", or
10' 43.5" greater than afterwards obtained from twenty-seven sets of
lunar distances. In laying down the track from Timor, this error has been
equally distributed throughout the thirty five days between November 14
and December 19, 1803.]

The sentinel placed at the door of our chambers (for we had a few days
before obtained a second, with musketo curtains to our beds), became
unusually strict at this time, scarcely allowing the master of the
tavern, or even the interpreter or surgeon to see us; and one day,
hearing me inquire the name of some dish in French from the slave who
waited at dinner, the sentinel burst into the room and drove away the
poor affrighted black, saying that we were not to speak to any person.
Previously to this, a Dutch, a Swiss, a Norwegian, and two American
gentlemen had called; but except the Swiss, who found means to bid us
good day occasionally without being noticed, not one came a second time,
for fear of being held in a suspicious light by the government; and now,
the surgeon and interpreter were not admitted without a written order.
Two applications had been made by the surgeon in my behalf, to walk in
the fields near the town; the last was personally to the captain-general,
but although he might have caused a sentinel to follow, or a whole guard
if thought necessary, an unqualified refusal was given to M. Chapotin's
humane request.

We were lodged and supplied with meals in the tavern at the public
expense; but having lost part of our clothes in the shipwreck, and
distributed some to those of our companions who had saved nothing, both
Mr. Aken and myself were much in want of linen and other necessaries; and
after the few dollars I chanced to have about me were gone, we knew not
how to pay for our washing. All strangers being refused admittance took
away the chance of negotiating bills, for the surgeon spoke no English
and the interpreter always avoided the subject; one morning however,
having previously ascertained that it would not give umbrage, the
interpreter offered to attempt the negotiation of a bill drawn upon the
commissioners of the navy; but the sentinel, seeing him take a paper,
gave information, and M. Bonnefoy was scarcely out of the room when a
file of soldiers made him prisoner; nor, although a public officer, was
he liberated until it was ascertained that he acted with permission, and
had received no other paper than the bill. In the evening he brought the
full sum, at a time when bills upon England could obtain cash with
difficulty at a discount of thirty per cent. It was the chevalier
Pelgrom, who filled the offices of Danish and Imperial consul, that had
acted thus liberally; and he caused me to be informed, that the fear of
incurring the general's displeasure had alone prevented him from offering
his assistance sooner.

Although Mr. Aken and myself were strictly confined and closely watched,
my servant was left at liberty to go upon my commissions; and once a week
I sent him on board the prison ship, to take Mr. Charrington and the
seamen a basket of fruit and vegetables from the market. They had always
been permitted to walk upon deck in the day time, and latterly been
sometimes allowed to go into the town, accompanied by a soldier; and
since from all we could learn, the final decision of the captain-general
was yet in suspense, I augured favourably of the result from this
relaxation towards the men. My hopes became strengthened on the 14th, by
learning from M. Bonnefoy that it was believed we should be permitted to
walk out, and perhaps depart altogether, so soon as three Dutch ships
commanded by rear-admiral Dekker should have sailed. These ships were
loaded with pepper from Batavia, and bound to Europe; and it seemed
possible that one reason of our detention might be to prevent English
ships gaining intelligence of them by our means; but this could be no
excuse for close imprisonment and taking away my charts and journals,
whatever it might be made for delaying our departure.

Finding it impossible to obtain the third volume of my log book, the
charts of Torres' Strait and the Gulph of Carpentaria were finished
without it; fortunately the journal kept by Mr. Aken in the Cumberland
had not been taken away, and it proved of great assistance. Our time
passed on in this manner, hoping that the Dutch ships would sail, and
that general De Caen would then suffer us to depart, either in the
Cumberland or some other way; the surgeon came almost daily, on account
of my scorbutic sores, and the interpreter called frequently. I was
careful not to send out my servant often, for it appeared that he was
dogged by spies, and that people were afraid of speaking to him; the
surgeon and interpreter were almost equally cautious with me, so that
although in the midst of a town where news arrived continually from some
part of the world, every thing to us was wrapped in mystery; and M.
Bonnefoy afterwards acknowledged, in answer to a direct question put to
him, that an order had been given to prevent us receiving any

On the 29th, admiral Dekker sailed with his three ships; and whilst
anxiously expecting some communication, the interpreter called to inform
me that an order had been given for the schooner to be moved up the
harbour, and the stores to be taken out; and he wished to know if Mr.
Aken should be present at making the inventory. I asked what was to be
done with us--with my books and papers? To which he answered by a shrug
of the shoulders: he had come only for the purpose of executing his
order. On each of the two following days Mr. Aken was taken down to the
schooner; for he accepted the proposition to accompany the officers for
the sake of the walk, and in the hope of obtaining some intelligence. He
found the poor Cumberland covered with blue mold within side, and many of
the stores in a decaying state, no precautions having been taken to
preserve her from the heat or the rains; the French inventory was
afterwards brought to him to be signed, but he refused it with my


This new proceeding seemed to bespeak the captain-general to have finally
taken his resolution to keep us prisoners; and my disappointment at
seeing it, instead of receiving back my books and papers and permission
to depart, was extreme. In the hope to obtain some information I wrote a
note on the 3rd, to solicit of His Excellency the honour of an audience;
and five days having elapsed without an answer, the interpreter was
requested to deliver a message to the same effect. He presently returned
with the concise answer, _No_; but afterwards told me in conversation
that the general had said, "captain Flinders might have known that I did
not wish to see him, by not giving an answer to his note. It is needless
for me to see him, for the conversation will probably be such as to
oblige me to send him to the tower."

My intention in requesting the audience was to have offered certain
proposals to the general's consideration, and if possible to obtain some
explanation of the reasons for a detention so extraordinary, and now
protracted beyond six weeks; and being disappointed in this, a letter was
written on the 12th, containing the following propositions.

1st. If your Excellency will permit me to depart with my vessel, papers,
etc., I will pledge my honour not to give any information of the Isle of
France or any thing belonging to it, for a limited time, if it be thought
that I can have gained any information; or if judged necessary, any other
restrictions can be laid upon me. If this will not be complied with, I

2nd, to be sent to France.

3rd. But if it be indispensable to detain me here, I request that my
officer and people may be permitted to depart in the schooner; as well
for the purpose of informing the British Admiralty where I am, as to
relieve our families and friends from the report which will be spread of
the total loss of the Porpoise and Cato, with all on board. Mr. Aken can
be laid under what restrictions may be deemed requisite; and my honour
shall be a security that nothing shall be transmitted by me, but what
passes under the inspection of the officer who may be appointed for that

In case of refusing to adopt any of these modes, by which my voyage might
proceed without possibility of injury to the Isle of France, I then
reminded His Excellency that since the shipwreck of the Porpoise, six
months before, my people as well as myself had been mostly confined
either upon a small sand bank in the open sea, or in a boat, or otherwise
on board the Cumberland where there was no room to walk, or been kept
prisoners as at that time; and that I had not previously recovered from a
scorbutic and very debilitated state, arising from eleven months exposure
to great fatigue, bad climate, and salt provisions. After noticing my
scorbutic sores, and his refusal of the surgeon's application for me to
walk out, it was added--The captain-general best knows whether my conduct
has deserved, or the exigencies of his government require, that I should
continue to be closely confined in this sickly town and cut off from
society; but of no part of this letter was any notice taken.

Two days before, I had been favoured with a visit from captain Bergeret
of the French navy, who had commanded _La Virginie_ frigate when taken by
Sir Edward Pellew, and of whose honourable conduct in the affair of Sir
W. Sydney Smith's imprisonment, public mention had been made in England.
This gentleman sat some time conversing upon my situation, which he
seemed desirous to ameliorate; he said that "the general did not consider
me to be a prisoner of war, and that my confinement did not arise from
any thing I had done." From what then did it arise? At this question he
was silent. He regretted not to have been in town on my arrival,
believing it would have been in his power to have turned the tide of
consequences; and obligingly offered to supply me with money, if in want.

During a fortnight from this time, no incident occurred worth notice. My
scorbutic sores being much better, the surgeon came but seldom; and the
visits of the interpreter being less frequent than before, our solitude
was rarely interrupted. The Gulph of Carpentaria and Torres' Strait being
finished, my time had since been employed in writing an explanatory
memoir upon the latter chart; Mr. Aken was occupied in copying the
journal of bearings for the Admiralty, and my servant in transcribing the
two first volumes of the log, which had been torn and defaced in the
shipwreck; so that our time did not pass wholly in vain. It was the
completion of the charts, however, that I had most at heart; and although
the success of an application for more materials were very doubtful, an
essay to obtain them was made on the 27th, in the following letter to the


The term of my imprisonment being lengthened out much beyond my
expectation, puts me under the necessity of making another application to
Your Excellency for more books and charts, that I may still proceed in
completing the account of my observations and discoveries. If the whole
were put into my possession it would be of much service to my labour, and
save Your Excellency from being troubled with any further application on
this head; but if this will not be complied with, I beg to make a small
selection from them, which will principally consist of a roll of charts.
I am not however to deceive Your Excellency--this roll contains the
greater part of my original fair charts, and I am desirous to have them
principally for the purpose of making an abridgment of my discoveries
upon a single sheet. With all due consideration, I am

Your Excellency's prisoner,

Matthew Flinders.

This letter was no more fortunate than the last, and it seemed that
general De Caen had determined upon giving me no answer to any thing.

The Admiral Aplin, an extra-indiaman outward bound, on board of which
were several officers of the army and four ladies, had been brought in as
a prize; the ladies with their husbands were suffered to remain at a
tavern in the town, at the instance of captain Bergeret, by whose
privateer, La Psyche, they had been taken; the others were sent to a
house at a little distance in the country, where all the English officers
had been a short time confined. I ventured to send my servant to the
tavern, to inquire after my countrymen and women; and they obligingly
furnished me with magazines, newspapers, and a Steele's list of the navy,
up to August 1803, which in such a place, and after so long an ignorance
of what was passing in England, were highly acceptable.

MARCH 1804

On March 1, the interpreter made a personal application to general De
Caen concerning the books and charts mentioned in my last letter; to
which he received for answer, that so soon as the governor was a little
freed from business he would attend to this request. I asked M. Bonnefoy
to give me his opinion of what was likely to be done with us? He replied
that we should probably be kept prisoners so long as the war lasted, but
might perhaps have permission to live in some interior part of the
island, and liberty to take exercise within certain limits. This opinion
surprised me; but I considered it to be that of a man unacquainted with
the nature of a voyage of discovery, and the interest it excites in every
nation of the civilised world, and not the least in France. To be
liberated in an honourable manner by an order of the French government,
so soon as it should be informed of my detention, appeared to be certain;
for whatever colour general De Caen might give to his proceedings, it
could not be disguised that he had arrested the commander of a voyage
bearing a French passport, and had taken from him his charts, journals,
and vessel; but as yet I could not be persuaded that the general would
risk the displeasure of his government, and particularly of the first
consul Bonaparte, by whose order my passport had been given, and who had
professed himself to be a patron of science. A voyage of discovery
undertaken upon liberal principles, and carried on with zeal, tempered
with humanity towards the inhabitants of the countries visited, seemed to
me an object to interest every person, of whatever nation or profession.
The philosopher, or man of general science would see his knowledge of the
globe, and of man, its principal inhabitant, so much the object of such a
voyage, that he might consider it as undertaken for his gratification;
and he who professed a particular branch, whether of natural philosophy
or natural history, would expect so many new observations and discoveries
in his favourite pursuit, that the voyagers could not fail to have his
best wishes for their success. A professor of the fine arts might expect
new and striking subjects to be brought to light, upon which to exercise
his genius and display his powers; the merchant and manufacturer would
anticipate fresh aids to their industry, and new markets for its produce;
and the seaman, from such a voyage, would expect the discovery of new
passages and harbours, to which he might have recourse either for
convenience or safety; and he would also see in it the adoption of the
best means for advancing his art to perfection. The philanthropist and
zealous Christian would have delight in observing the blessings of
civilization thus continually extending themselves, and in seeing new
fields opened in which to sow the seeds of righteousness; and even the
man without profession, science, or zeal, the perfectly idle, could not
be without interest in a voyage of discovery, since the gratification of
curiosity is an object of at least as much concern with them as with any
other class of men. Considering, thus, a voyage for the investigation of
new countries as of extensive interest and importance, it was with
difficulty I could be convinced that there were people who thought it of
none; or of so little, that the putting a stop to it, imprisoning the
commander and seizing his charts and papers, required no more
consideration than if it were a common voyage. To be kept a prisoner so
long as the war should last, did not therefore enter into my conception
as within the bounds of probability, but it is the failing of men of all
professions to over-rate the importance of that which they have
themselves adopted, and into this error it will probably be thought I had
fallen with respect to voyages of discovery.

We had a second visit on the 6th from captain Bergeret, to whom the
passengers of the Aplin, and particularly the married gentlemen, were
indebted for much attention and indulgence. He seemed to think that
nothing could at this time be able to procure our release, but that we
might perhaps be permitted to live in the country; and he promised to
interest himself in it, so soon as a proper time and opportunity could be
found for speaking to the captain-general.

The season was arrived in which, should we be set at liberty, it would be
too late to attempt a passage round the Cape of Good Hope in the
schooner, and before the return of another year, the stores, and perhaps
the vessel itself might be rotten; and having no hope to obtain an answer
to a letter, I requested M. Bonnefoy to make an application to the
general for permission to sell the Cumberland. Ten days afterward the
interpreter informed me, that general De Caen had spoken to him of my
wish to live in the country, which had been made known to him by captain
Bergeret; and he desired him to tell me, "to have a little patience, he
should soon come to some determination upon my affair;" being spoken to
upon the sale of the Cumberland, his reply was, "a little patience, it is
time enough yet;" and when the charts and books for which I had applied
on Feb. 27 were mentioned, he still gave the same answer.

My people were brought on shore on the 23rd, with other British subjects
from the prison ship, in order to be sent to a district called Flacq, on
the east side of the island; and this circumstance confirmed my suspicion
that it was not intended to liberate us until orders were received from
France. Mr. Charrington, the boatswain, was permitted to speak to me in
the presence of an officer before their departure; and after learning the
condition of the poor prisoners, I recommended him to keep our people as
clean in their persons and regular in their conduct as circumstances
would permit; and not to attempt any escape, since we must be liberated
in six or eight months by order of the French government. One of them,
the Prussian who had behaved so ill, had gone away in the Spanish frigate
Fama, by permission of the French; the others had been kept strictly on
board the prison ship after the departure of the three Dutch men of war.
Although several prizes had been brought in, the number of English
prisoners was inconsiderable; owing to some of the vessels being manned
with lascars who were not confined and in part to the sailors having been
induced to enter on board the French privateers, for the sake of
obtaining more provisions and to avoid being kept in irons.

I had hitherto forborne to write any letters to England, whether public
or private, but what passed open through the office of the town major,
that no plea, even what arbitrary power could construe into such, might
be taken for continuing our imprisonment; but the arrival of letters thus
sent being exceedingly problematical, and my hope of liberation from
general De Caen having disappeared, the motive for this forbearance had
ceased to exist. An account was therefore written to the secretary of the
Admiralty of my arrival, reception, and treatment in Mauritius, inclosing
copies of all the letters written or received; that my Lords
Commissioners might be enabled to take proper measures for obtaining our
liberty and the restitution of my charts and journals; especial care was
taken at the same time, to avoid the mention of any thing which could be
thought to infringe on the passport, as much as if it had remained
inviolate on the part of general De Caen. This letter was inclosed to a
friend in London, and sent by the way of America; and I afterwards
learned from the public papers that it was received in the August

The end of March had arrived, and nothing more was said of our permission
to reside in the country; and being most heartily weary of close
confinement, I requested to be removed to the same place with the British
officers, prisoners of war; the house where they were kept being
described to be large, and surrounded with a wall inclosing about two
acres of ground, within which the prisoners were allowed to take
exercise. On the 30th colonel Monistrol came to confer on the subject,
and next day conducted me to the house for the purpose of choosing two
rooms. He said on the way that the house was originally built by a
surgeon named Despeaux, and now hired by the government at twenty-five
dollars per month to accommodate the English gentlemen; that it was very
spacious, and had formerly lodged the ambassadors sent by Tippoo Sultaun
to this island; I found it to be situate about a mile north-east from our
tavern in the middle of the town, and enjoying a fresh air which, in
comparison with our place of confinement, made me think it a paradise.
After the unpleasant task of selecting two rooms, which colonel
Monistrol, ordered to be vacated by the officers who were in possession,
he returned with me to the town; and promised at parting to speak again
to the captain-general concerning my charts and books.

This little walk of a mile showed how debilitating is the want of
exercise and fresh air, for it was not without the assistance of colonel
Monistrol's arm, that I was able to get through it. Conveyances were sent
in the evening for our trunks, and we took possession of our new prison
with a considerable degree of pleasure; this change of situation and
surrounding objects producing an exhilaration of spirits to which we had
long been strangers.


Prisoners in the Maison Despeaux or Garden Prison.
Application to admiral Linois.
Spy-glasses and swords taken.
Some papers restored.
Opinions upon the detention of the Cumberland.
Letter of captain Baudin.
An English squadron arrives off Mauritius: its consequences.
Arrival of a French officer with despatches, and observations thereon.
Passages in the Moniteur, with remarks.
Mr. Aken liberated.
Arrival of cartels from India.
Application made by the marquis Wellesley.
Different treatment of English and French prisoners.
Prizes brought to Mauritius in sixteen months.
Departure of all prisoners of war.
Permission to quit the Garden Prison.
Astronomical observations.


APRIL 1804

We lost no time in exploring our new place of confinement, and in making
acquaintance with our fellow prisoners. These were major Shippard and Mr.
W. H. Robertson, who had come from India during the peace on account of
their health, and been detained; the captains Mathews, Dansey, and Loane,
and Mr. McCrae of the Indian army, taken in the Admiral Aplin; and
Messrs. Dale and Seymour of H. M. frigate La DeDaigneuse, who having been
sent with a prize to Bombay had fallen in with the corvette Le Belier,
and been brought to Mauritius. The officers of merchant ships, at first
confined in the Garden Prison, had a few days before been sent out to
Flacq; and the four remaining officers of the army taken in the Aplin,
were allowed, at the intercession of captain Bergeret, to dwell with
their wives at a plantation in the quarter of Pamplemousses, about six
miles from the port.

M. Bonnefoy, the interpreter, continued to visit us occasionally; and
gave some useful assistance in forming our little establishment, by
procuring the restitution of a part of my private property left in the
Cumberland, and obtaining a permanent permission for my servant to pass
the sentinel at the gate. Our lodging and table in the Cafe Marengo had
been defrayed by the government; and during the first month, six dollars
per day, being two for each person, had been charged; but the _prefet_,
thinking this too much, had fixed the allowance at 116 dollars per month,
for which the tavern keeper agreed to supply us nearly as before. On
being removed to the Garden Prison, the interpreter informed me with some
degree of shame, that a further reduction of eleven dollars per month had
been ordered, to go towards paying the rent of the house; which is
perhaps the first instance of men being charged for the accommodation of
a prison.

Towards the middle of the month, rear-admiral Linois came into port after
his unsuccessful attempt upon our China fleet, the same in which my
officers and people were passengers. As I believed the want of nautical
information, and especially upon the usages adopted towards voyages of
discovery, had materially contributed to the extraordinary proceedings of
general De Caen, it seemed probable that an examination of my conduct and
papers by the rear-admiral might clear up the affair; and this hope, with
the character of the admiral as an upright and humane man, induced me to
write to him. I described the leading circumstances of my voyage, and
situation at that time; and said, "I should willingly undergo an
examination by the captains of your squadron, and my papers would either
prove or disprove my assertions. If it be found that I have committed any
act of hostility against the French nation or its allies, my passport
will become forfeited, and I expect no favour; but if my conduct hath
been altogether consistent with the passport, I hope to be set at
liberty, or at least to be sent to France for the decision of the
government." Admiral Linois had the politeness to return an immediate
answer; but said, that not being in the port at the time of my arrival,
it belonged to the captain-general to appreciate the motives of my
stopping at the Isle of France, and to determine the time of my momentary
detention. "Nevertheless Sir," he added, "believe, that taking an
interest in your situation, I shall have the honour to speak to the
captain-general concerning it; and shall be flattered in contributing to
your being set at liberty." Unfortunately a difference arose between the
admiral and general De Caen; and the answer given to the application was,
that my case having been submitted to the French government, his request
could not be complied with.

Captain Halgan of the French corvette Le Berceau, having been in England
during the short peace and heard my voyage there mentioned, as well as by
the officers of Le Geographe, did me the favour of a visit more than
once. He testified a lively interest in my situation, and offered
pecuniary assistance if wanted; and being afterwards ordered to France,
applied for me to be sent on board his ship; which being refused, he
obligingly took a letter to captain Melius of Le Geographe, and two
others for England which were punctually sent. In May [MAY 1804] I
addressed a letter to His Excellency the marquis Wellesley,
governor-general of British India, giving an account of my imprisonment.
The character of general De Caen permitted but little hope to be
entertained from the interference of His Lordship, but it seemed proper
to acquaint him with the circumstances; and it was possible that some
unforeseen occurrence might put it in the power of the marquis to demand
my liberty in a way not to be refused: in all these letters I continued
to adhere most scrupulously to the line of perfect neutrality indicated
by the passport.

A detention of some months longer, until orders should arrive from
France, appeared now to be inevitable, and the captain-general, by
withholding the charts, papers, and log book, seemed to desire that
nothing should take off my attention from feeling the weight of his
power; but both Mr. Aken and myself contrived to pass some months neither
uselessly nor disagreeably. We associated at table with Mr. Robertson and
the two young gentlemen of the Dedaigneuse, by which our society was
enlivened; and between the employments of copying my bearing book and
defaced journals, making some astronomical observations, reading, and the
amusements of music, walking in the inclosure, and an old billiard table
left in the house, the days passed along rather lightly than otherwise. A
prisoner or two were occasionally added to our number from the prizes
brought in; but when amounting to six or eight, they were marched off to
join the other merchant officers at Flacq. The seamen there were kept
closely confined; but the officers enjoyed some share of liberty, and
were as happy as they could make themselves upon fourteen dollars a
month, in a place where the necessaries of life were exorbitantly dear;
the hospitality of the French families in the neighbourhood, however,
aided them considerably, and they spoke of the kindness and attention
received in high terms.

JUNE 1804

On June 1, captain Neufville, the officer commanding the guard over the
Prison, demanded all the spy-glasses in our possession; at the same time
promising that each should be returned when the owner had permission to
quit the island, and threatening those with close confinement in the
tower, by whom any glass should be concealed. There was no cause to doubt
the authority captain Neufville had to make the threat, but it should
seem he had none to promise the restitution of the glasses; for I saw all
the officers depart, and to the best of my knowledge not one of them
could obtain their own. When Mr. Robertson quitted the island, and he was
one of the first, his spy-glass was not to be found. The French gentleman
to whom he delegated his claim, wrote to the town major upon the subject;
and the answer was, that all arms and instruments taken from prisoners of
war were the lawful property of the captors, as a reward for their
courage; that for himself, he had not taken advantage of this right, but
had given the glass in question to an officer of La Semillante, to be
used against the enemies of his country. This answer not appearing
satisfactory, the gentleman replied that he did not understand how a
spy-glass, belonging to a surgeon, as Mr. Robertson was, could be
construed into arms or instruments of war. The owner had come to the
island on account of his health, previously to the war, and been
detained, therefore no extraordinary courage had been displayed in his
case; and as these circumstances must have been forgotten by the major,
he hoped the glass would be restored according to promise. To this no
answer was returned; and whether all the glasses were given away, or how
disposed of I did not learn, but had to regret the loss of two.

To the measure of taking away our spy-glasses was added that of nailing
up the door leading to the flat roof of the house. At sunset the sentinel
was accustomed to quit the outer gate, and to be posted before the door
of the prison to prevent any person going into the inclosure after that
time; then it was that a walk upon the roof, after the heat of the day
was passed, became a real pleasure; but of this we were now deprived.* On
the following day a demand was made by a serjeant of invalids, who lived
in the house as police officer, of the swords and all other arms in
possession of the prisoners, and of mine amongst the rest; but not
choosing to deliver up my sword in this manner, I addressed a short
letter to the captain-general, representing that it was inconsistent with
my situation in His Britannic Majesty's service to do so; I was ready to
deliver it to an officer bearing His Excellency's order, but requested
that officer might be of equal rank to myself. In a week captain
Neufville called to say, that it was altogether a mistake of the serjeant
that my arms had been asked for, and he was sorry it had taken place; had
the captain-general meant to demand my sword, it would have been done by
an officer of equal rank; but he had no intention to make me a prisoner
until he should receive orders to that effect. The explanation attending
this apology seemed to be strange; and the next time captain Neufville
came to the house I observed to him, that it appeared singular, after
having been confined six months, to be told I was not a prisoner, and
asked him to explain it. He said, no certainly, I was not a prisoner--my
sword had not been taken away; that I was simply detained for reasons
which he did not pretend to penetrate, and put under _surveillance_ for a
short period.

[* It being afterward suspected, and not without reason, that some of the
gentlemen had forced the door, we were officially informed that the
sentinels had received orders to shoot any one who might be seen on the
roof; this produced greater circumspection, but the pleasure of the walk
and having a view of the sea was such, that it did not wholly remedy the

In this affair of the sword I thought myself rather handsomely treated;
but about three months afterward, one of the lower officers of the staff
came to demand it in the name of the town major, by order of the
captain-general. When told the circumstances which had occurred upon the
same subject, he said the general had consented to my wish at that time,
but had since altered his mind; and upon the promise of sending an
officer of equal rank, he said there was no officer of the same rank at
that time in readiness--that colonel D'Arsonval (the town major) would
himself have come had he not been engaged. I might, by a refusal, have
given the officer the trouble of searching my trunks, and perhaps have
received some further degradation; but since the order had come from the
general, who had broken his word, my sword was delivered, with the
observation that I should not forget the manner of its being taken. The
officer described himself as _lieutenant-adjutant de place_; he conducted
himself with politeness, and did not ask if I or Mr. Aken had any other

A seaman of the Cumberland and another prisoner from Flacq made their
appearance one morning behind the wall of our inclosure. They had come to
make a complaint of the scantiness of their provisions; for besides
bread, they had only six ounces of meat or fish in the day, without salt
or vegetables, which afforded them but a poor dinner and was their only
meal in twenty-four hours. Several petitions and complaints had been made
to the officer who had charge of them, but without effect; and they at
length resolved that two of their number should escape out of the prison,
and go to the _prefet_ to make their complaint. It was to be feared that
they would be considered as prisoners attempting to escape, if found
openly in the town; and therefore, after giving them money to satisfy
their immediate hunger, my servant was sent with them and a note to the
interpreter, requesting he would be good enough to take them to the town
major's office, where they might tell their story; and the result was,
that they were put on board the prison ship, and kept in irons for
several weeks. Mr. Charrington, my boatswain, had hitherto been treated
as a common seaman; but through the obliging mediation of M. Bonnefoy,
the allowance and portion of liberty granted to mates of merchant ships
were obtained for him; and by two or three opportunities I sent tea and a
few dollars to the seamen, on finding they were so miserably fed.

In the middle of this month, two of the officers who had resided with
their wives at Pamplemousses, obtained permission to go on their parole
to India, through the interest of captain Bergeret. This worthy man had
frequently come to the Garden Prison, and at this time undertook to apply
to the captain-general for my books and papers, and for Mr. Aken and
myself to be removed to Pamplemousses.

JULY 1804

On the 2nd of July he called early with information of having succeeded
in both applications; he had even ventured to propose my being sent to
France, but to this it was answered, that the affair being submitted to
the decision of the government, I must remain until its orders were

In a few days M. Bonnefoy conducted me to the secretary's office, and I
took out of the sealed trunk all the books, charts, and papers which
required any additions, or were necessary to the finishing of others; as
also a bundle of papers containing my passport
commission, etc., and the shattered accounts of the Investigator's
stores. For these a receipt was required, the same as before; but the
third volume of my log book, for which so many applications had been
made, was still refused. Word had been sent me privately, that _the trunk
had been opened and copies taken of the charts_, but to judge from
appearances this was not true; and on putting the question to colonel
Monistrol, whether the trunk or papers had been disturbed, he answered by
an unqualified negative. In regard to our living in the country, the
general had said to captain Bergeret, "he should think further upon it;"
and this we were given to understand must be considered as a retraction
of his promise: a second example of how little general De Caen respected
his own word.

Charles Lambert, Esq., owner of the Althaea indiaman, brought in some
time before as a prize, having obtained permission to go to England by
the way of America, and no restriction being laid upon him as to taking
letters, had the goodness to receive a packet for the Admiralty,
containing copies of the charts constructed here and several other


In August I found means of sending to India, for Port Jackson, a letter
addressed to governor King; describing my second passage through Torres'
Strait, and the bad state of the Cumberland which had obliged me to stop
at Mauritius, with the particulars of my imprisonment and the fate of his
despatches. This letter was received in the April following, and extracts
from it were published in the Sydney gazette; wherein was made a
comparison between my treatment in Mauritius and that of captain Baudin
at Port Jackson, as described by himself and captain Melius. This account
was copied into the _Times_ of Oct. 19, 1805, whence it afterwards came
to my knowledge.

One advantage of being confined in the Garden Prison rather than at the
Cafe Marengo, was in the frequency of visitors to one or other of the
prisoners; permissions were required to be obtained from the town major,
but these were seldom refused to people of respectability. In this manner
we became acquainted with all the public news, and also with the opinions
entertained in the island upon the subject of my imprisonment. Those who
knew that I had a passport, and was confined upon suspicion only, thought
the conduct of the captain-general severe, impolitic, and unjust; and
some who pretended to have information from near the fountain head,
hinted that if his invitation to dinner had been accepted, a few days
would have been the whole of my detention. Others understood my passport
and papers to have been lost in the shipwreck, and that it was uncertain
whether I were the commander of the expedition on discovery or not;
whilst many, not conceiving that their governor could thus treat an
officer employed in the service of science without his having given some
very sufficient cause, naturally enough made a variety of unfavourable
conjectures, and in due time, that is, when these conjectures had passed
through several hands, reports were in circulation of my having chased a
vessel on shore on the south side of the island--of soundings and surveys
of the coast found upon me--and of having quarrelled with the governor of
New South Wales, who had refused to certify on my passport the necessity
of quitting the Investigator and embarking in the Cumberland; and this
last seemed to have acquired credit. I will not pretend to say, that
general De Caen had any part in propagating these reports, for the
purpose of satisfying the curiosity of an inquisitive public and turning
its attention from the truth, though far from thinking it improbable; be
that as it may, the nature of my voyage, our shipwreck, the long passage
made in the little Cumberland, and our severe imprisonment, had excited a
considerable degree of interest; and I was told that this imprisonment
had been mentioned in an anonymous letter to the captain-general, as one
of the many tyrannical acts committed in the short time he had held the
government of the island.

One of the persons who asked permission to see me, was M. Augustin
Baudin, brother of the deceased commander of Le Geographe; he testified
the grateful sense his brother had always entertained of the generous
reception and great assistance received from governor King at Port
Jackson, and expressed his own regret at not being able to do any thing
for my release. On learning from him that a letter still existed, written
by captain Baudin to a member of the tribunal of appeal in Mauritius, I
succeeded in obtaining an extract, of which the following is an exact

On board Le Geographe, New Holland,
Port Jackson, the 3rd December, 1802.

After having traversed the sea in different directions for nine months
after leaving Timor, I came to Port Jackson to pass the winter. The
scurvy had then made such rapid progress, that I had no more than twelve
men fit for duty when I arrived in this colony. The succours which were
lavishly bestowed, the affectionate and obliging cares of governor King,
his unremitting conduct and proceedings beyond example, every thing in
fine, has concurred to make the effects of this disorder less fatal than
the first (a dysentery contracted at Timor), although the cause was not
less serious. I cannot pass in silence an act of humanity to which our
situation gave rise. These are the facts.

On our arrival at Port Jackson, to the number of a hundred and seventy
persons, the resources in corn were far from abundant; a great inundation
and the overflowing of the River Hawkesbury, having in part destroyed the
harvest which was upon the eve of being got in, and the following one
being distant and uncertain, was not a fortunate circumstance for us.
Nevertheless we were made perfectly welcome, and so soon as our present
and future wants were known, the ration given daily to the inhabitants
and the garrison was reduced one-half. The governor and the civil and
military officers set the example of this generosity, which was
immediately followed by the others. We were not only strangers, but still
at war, for the news of the peace was not yet known.

The original extract in my possession, is certified to be true by the
gentleman to whom the letter was addressed. Its contents afford a
contrast to the proceedings of the governor of Mauritius, too striking to
require any comment.

Amongst the acquaintances formed whilst in the Garden Prison, the most
agreeable, most useful, and at the same time durable, was that of a young
French merchant; a man well informed, a friend to letters, to science,
and the arts; who spoke and wrote English, and had read many of our best
authors. To him I am principally indebted for having passed some
agreeable days in prison, and his name therefore merits a place in this
history of the misfortune which his friendship contributed to alleviate;
nor am I the sole English prisoner who will mention the name of _Thomas
Pitot_ with eulogium.

On the 27th, an English squadron consisting of two ships of the line and
two frigates, under the command of captain John Osborn, arrived to cruise
off the island.


Some days afterward, my boatswain and six of the merchant officers,
prisoners at Flacq, made their escape to one of the ships. The
captain-general, in a paroxysm of rage, ordered the officer commanding at
Flacq to be dismissed, and every Englishman in the island, without
distinction, to be closely confined; neither paroles of honour, nor
sureties, nor permissions previously given to depart, being respected.
Six were brought to the Garden Prison, of whom the captains Moffat and
Henry from Pamplemousses were two, and their wives followed them. The
seamen and remaining officers from Flacq passed our gate under a strong
guard, and were marched to an old hospital about one mile on the
south-west side of the town; where the seamen were shut up in the lower,
and the officers in the upper apartment, there being only two rooms.

The arrival of the squadron gave the prisoners a hope of being released,
either from a general exchange, or for such Frenchmen as our ships might
take whilst cruising off the island; even Mr. Aken and myself, since our
swords had been taken away, conceived some hopes, for we were then
prisoners according to the definition of M. Neufville. There was,
however, no intercourse with the squadron until the 19th, on which, and
the two following days, a frigate was lying off the port with a flag of
truce hoisted, and boats passed and repassed between her and the shore.
Our anxiety to know the result was not a little; and we soon learned that
captain Cockburne of the Phaeton had come in for the purpose of seeing
general De Caen; but on entering the port he had been met, blindfolded,
and taken on board the prison ship, which was also the guard ship; that
finding he could not see the general, and that no officer was sent to
treat with him, he left a packet from captain Osborn and returned in
disgust. His mission, we were told, was to negotiate an exchange of
prisoners, particularly mine; but in the answer given by general De Caen
it was said, that not being a prisoner of war, no exchange for me could
be accepted; nor did any one obtain his liberty in consequence.


Few persons were admitted to the Garden Prison during the presence of the
English squadron; but it did not prevent captain Bergeret and M. Bonnefoy
from coming occasionally. In the end of October I learned with much
regret, that the interpreter had been dismissed from his employment, in
consequence of having carried only one copy of the same newspaper to
general De Caen, when two had been found in an American vessel which he
had boarded off the port, according to custom; the other had been
communicated to some of his friends, which was deemed an irremissible
offence. This obliging man, to whom I was under obligations for many acts
of attention and some of real service, feared to ask any future
permission to visit the Garden Prison.

Admiral Linois arrived from a cruise on the 31st, with three rich prizes,
and got into Port Bourbon unimpeded by our ships, which were off another
part of the island; and the same evening commodore Osborn quitted
Mauritius. Mr. Robertson and Mr. Webb of the Aplin were now permitted to
go to England by the way of America [NOVEMBER 1804]; and I took the good
opportunity of sending by the first of these gentlemen a copy of the
general chart of Terra Australis, comprehending the whole of my
discoveries and examinations in abridgment, and a paper on the magnetism
of ships addressed to the president of the Royal Society.* Four officers
of the army also obtained permission to go to India, on condition of
returning, should four French officers whose names were specified, be not
sent back in exchange; and two other gentlemen left the Garden Prison,
and the island soon afterward. In lieu of these, were sent in captain
Turner and lieutenant Cartwright of the Indian army, and the officers of
the Princess Charlotte indiaman.

[* This paper was read before the Society, and published in the
Transactions of 1805, Part II.]

By information received from the Grande-Riviere prison, where the
merchant officers and the seamen were confined, it appeared that my six
remaining people, and no doubt many others, were very miserable and
almost naked; having been hurried off suddenly from Flacq, and compelled
to leave their few clothes behind. On this occasion I addressed the
captain-general on the score of humanity, intreating him either to order
their clothes to be restored, or that they should be furnished with
others; and on the same day an answer was returned in the most polite
manner by colonel D'Arsonval, saying that an order had been given for all
the prisoners to be fresh clothed, and their wants supplied. Six weeks
afterward, however, finding that the poor seamen remained in the same
naked state as before, I wrote to remind the town major of what he had
said; requesting at the same time, if it were not intended to give these
unfortunate men any clothing, that Mr. Aken might be permitted to visit
them, in order to relieve their urgent necessities from my own purse. No
answer was returned to this letter, but it produced the desired effect.


My hopes of a speedy liberation by an order of the first consul became
weakened in December, on seeing nothing arrive to confirm them after a
whole year's imprisonment. On the 17th I wrote to remind the
captain-general that one year had elapsed; and requested him to consider
that the chance of war rendered the arrival of despatches uncertain--that
I was suffering an irretrievable loss of time, and very severely in my
health, advancement, and every thing that man holds dear; I begged him to
reflect, that the rights of the most severe justice would be ensured by
sending me to France, where the decision of my fate was remitted; and
where, should the judgment of the French government be favourable, it
could be immediately followed by a return to my country and family, and
the resumption of my peaceable labours. No answer being given at the end
of a week, a second letter was sent, inclosing a copy of the extract from
captain Baudin; and His Excellency was requested to compare the treatment
of the French commander at Port Jackson with what I had received at
Mauritius, and at least to give Mr. Aken and myself the liberty of some
district in the island where we might take exercise, and find the
amusement necessary to the re-establishment of our health; but neither of
these letters obtained any reply, or the least notice.

Mr. Aken had been removed to the hospital in September, and after a stay
of six weeks had returned, more from finding himself so ill accommodated
and fed than from the improvement in his health. He now declined rapidly;
[JANUARY 1805] and my own health was impaired by a constitutional
gravelly complaint to which confinement had given accelerated force, and
by a bilious disorder arising partly from the same cause, from the return
of hot weather, and discouraging reflections on our prospects. We were
therefore visited by Dr. Laborde, principal physician of the medical
staff, who judged the air and exercises of the country to be the most
certain means of restoration; and in order to our procuring them, he gave
a certificate which I sent to general De Caen through colonel Monistrol,
then become town major. No answer was returned; but after some days it
was told me that Dr. Laborde had received a message from the general,
desiring him not to interfere with matters which did not concern him; and
this was the sole mark of attention paid to his certificate or to our

[* The doctor had said in his certificate, "J'estime qu'il faut prevenir
'augmentation de ses maux; et en le secourant apropos, c'est assurer la
conservation d'un homme dont les travaux doivent servir aux progres des
sciences, et a 1'utilite de ses semblables."]

Being thus disappointed in every attempt to procure an amelioration for
my companion and myself, I sought the means of dispensing with the
captain-general's humanity. I rose very early, and took much exercise in
our inclosure before the heat of the sun, became too powerful; and
applied closely to the charts and accounts of my voyage, which ill health
and a languid melancholy had for some time caused to be neglected. By
perseverance in these means, my disorders were at least prevented from
becoming worse; but more particularly I acquired a tranquil state of
mind, and had even the happiness of forgetting general De Caen, sometimes
for days together. The strength of my companion was too much exhausted
for such a regimen; and he was obliged to return to the hospital, being
so much reduced that there was reason to fear for his life.

Several military and merchant officers obtained permissions at this time
to depart on parole, some to India, others to America; which furnished
opportunities of writing many letters. I addressed one to admiral
Rainier, the commander in chief of His Majesty's ships in India, upon the
subject of my detention; and another to lord William Bentinck, governor
of Madras, in favour of two relations of my friend Pitot, who were
prisoners under his government; and it is with much gratitude to His
Lordship that I add his more than compliance with the request: he not
only set the two prisoners at liberty, but used his endeavours to procure
my release from general De Caen.

On the 29th, an American vessel arrived from France with many passengers,
and amongst them monsieur Barrois, the brother-in-law of the general. He
was charged with despatches; and I was told upon good authorities that he
had been sent to France in Le Geographe upon the same service, in
December 1803. The knowledge of this fact gave an insight into various
circumstances which took place at, and soon after my arrival at
Mauritius. Le Geographe having an English passport, was equally bound
with myself to observe a strict neutrality; and the conveyance of an
officer with public despatches in time of war was therefore improper.
Common report said, that captain Melius objected to it, as compromising
the safety of his ship and results of the voyage; but on its being known
from the signals that an English vessel was on the south side of the
island, M. Barrois embarked secretly, and the ship was ordered off the
same evening. Hence I missed seeing her, and was arrested on arriving at
Port Louis without examination; and hence it appeared to have been, that
an embargo was immediately laid on all foreign ships for ten days, that
none of our cruisers might get information of the circumstance and stop
Le Geographe; hence also the truth of what was told me in the Cafe
Marengo, that _my confinement did not arise from any thing I had done_.

Such was the respect paid by general De Caen to the English passport; and
how little sacred he held that given by his own government for the
protection of the Investigator's voyage, will in part have already
appeared. The conduct of the British government and its officers in these
two cases was widely different. In consequence of the English passport,
the Geographe and Naturaliste were received at Port Jackson as friends,
and treated with the kindness due to their employment and distressed
situation, as will satisfactorily appear from M. Peron's account of their
voyage; and with regard to the French passport, it may be remembered that
the Admiralty directed me, on leaving England, not even to take letters
or packets other than such as might be received from that office, or that
of the secretary of state; and the despatches sent from those offices
were to governor King alone, and related solely to the Investigator's
voyage. I was ordered to stop at Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope, but
neither to the officers commanding His Majesty's land or sea forces at
one, nor at the other place was any despatch sent; although no
opportunity of writing to the Cape had for some time presented itself.


The return of M. Barrois gave a reasonable hope that the captain-general
might have received orders concerning me, and that some thing would be
immediately determined; but a whole month passed in silence as so many
others had before done. It was reported, however, as having come from the
general, that the council of state had approved of the precautions he had
taken; but whether it had decided upon my being set at liberty, sent to
France, or continued a prisoner, was not said.

There were at this time only six officers in the Garden Prison, Mr. Aken
being still at the hospital; lieutenant Manwaring of the Bombay marine,
before commander of the Fly packet, with two of his officers had
possession of one part of the house, and Messrs. Dale and Seymour,
midshipmen of the Dedaigneuse, lived with me in the other. These two
young gentlemen, the first in particular, aided me in making copies of
charts and memoirs, in calculating astronomical observations, etc.; and I
had much pleasure in furnishing them with books and assisting their

MARCH 1805

In the beginning of March, I was surprised to see in the official gazette
of the French government, the Moniteur of July 7, 1804, a long letter
from Dunkirk addressed to the editor; containing many particulars of my
voyage, praising the zeal with which it had been conducted, and
describing my detention in Mauritius as a circumstance which had
originated in a mistake and was understood to be terminated. In the
succeeding Moniteur of the 11th, some observations were made upon this
letter on the part of the government, which afforded some insight into
what was alleged against me; and these being important to the elucidation
of general De Caen's policy, a translation of them is here given.

MONITEUR, No. 292.

Wednesday 22 Messidor, year 12; or July 11, 1804.

In a letter from Dunkirk, addressed to the editor of the Moniteur, and
inserted in the paper of the 18th of this month, No. 288, we read an
account of the voyage of Mr. Flinders, an English navigator, who arrived
at the Isle of France the 24 Frimaire last, in the schooner Cumberland.
The author of the letter in the Moniteur says, that Mr. Flinders, _"not
knowing of the war, stopped at the Isle of France which was in his route,
to obtain water and refreshments: that some secret articles in his
instructions gave rise to suspicions upon which the captain-general at
first thought it his duty to detain him prisoner; but that, nevertheless,
the passports he had obtained from the French government and all other
nations, the nature even of his expedition which interested all civilized
people, were not long in procuring his release."_

The fact is, that Mr. Flinders not knowing of, but suspecting the war,
ventured to come to the Isle of France; where having learned its
declaration, he doubted whether the passport granted him by the French
government in the year 9, would serve him. In reality, the passport was
exclusively for the sloop _Investigator, of which it contained the
description_; and it is not in the Investigator that he has been
arrested, but in the Cumberland.

The same passport did not permit Mr. Flinders to stop at French colonies
but on condition that he should not deviate from his route to go there;
and Mr. Flinders acknowledges in his journal that he deviated
voluntarily, (for the Isle of France was not in his passage, as the
author of the above cited letter says). In fine, the passport granted to
Mr. Flinders did not admit of any equivocation upon the objects of the
expedition for which it was given: but we read in one part of his
journal, _that he suspected the war_; and in another, _that he had
resolved to touch at the Isle of France, as well in the hope of selling
his vessel advantageously, as from the desire of knowing the present
state of that colony, and the utility of which it and its dependencies in
Madagascar could be to Port Jackson._

As the passport given by the French government to Mr. Flinders, an
English navigator, was far from admitting an examination of that nature
in a French colony; it is not at all surprising that the captain-general
of that colony has arrested him; and nothing announces as yet, that he
has thought it necessary to release him.

An elaborate refutation of these trifling, and in part false and
contradictory charges, will not, I should hope, be thought necessary. By
turning to Chapter 3 (December), and comparing my reasons for putting in
at Mauritius with what the Moniteur says, it will be seen that the
necessity of the measure, arising from the bad state of the Cumberland,
is kept wholly out of sight; and that in giving the subordinate reasons,
there is much omission and misrepresentation. The charges, even as they
stand in the Moniteur, amount to nothing, if my suspicion of the war be
taken away; and it has no other foundation than that, being a stranger to
what had passed in Europe for twelve months, I thought there was a
possibility of war between England and France; and thence deduced an
additional reason for stopping at Mauritius where my passport would be
respected, in preference to going on to the Cape of Good Hope where it
might not. This suspicion, which is twice brought forward, is moreover
contradicted by inference, in the Moniteur itself. It says, "Mr. Flinders
not knowing of, but suspecting the war, ventured to come to the Isle of
France; where having learned its declaration, he doubted whether the
passport would serve him." Now it is not credible, that with such a
suspicion, and being aware, consequently, of the great importance of the
passport, I should wait until arriving at the island before seeking to
know its particular contents; but going to Mauritius under the belief of
peace, and finding war declared, an examination of the passport was then
natural. It is true that I did then entertain some apprehensions, from
not finding any provision made for another vessel in case of shipwreck or
other accident to the Investigator; but my confidence in the justice and
liberality of the French government overcame them; and had general
Magallon remained governor, this confidence would most probably have been
justified by the event.

How my reasons for stopping at Mauritius were worded in the log book, I
certainly do not remember correctly, nor how far they were accompanied
with explanations; and particular care has been taken to prevent me
giving the words themselves; but is it possible to suppose, that
suspecting the war and entertaining inimical designs, I should have
inserted this suspicion and these designs in my common journal? Or that,
having done so, the book would have been put into the hands of general De
Caen's secretary, and these very passages pointed out for him to copy?
Yet the reasons alleged in the Moniteur, to be true, require no less.

The assertion that I acknowledge to have deviated _voluntarily_ from my
route, for the Isle of France was not in my passage--if voluntarily mean,
_without necessity_, must be false altogether. I had intended to pass the
island without stopping, and probably said so; but that the intention was
altered voluntarily, could not have been said, for the _necessity_
arising from the bad state of the schooner was alleged for it. Whether
Mauritius be in the passage from Timor to the Cape of Good Hope, any
seaman or geographer who knows the trade winds, can tell: it is as much
in the passage as is the Cape in going from Europe to India. The above
assertion induced me to examine captain Cook's track from Timor to the
Cape, as it is traced upon Arrowsmith's general chart, and to measure the
distance from a certain part of it to Port Louis, and from thence to
regain the track really made; and I found that his distance would not
have been increased so much as _one hundred miles_; or less than the half
of what ships augment their distance by stopping at Table Bay, in their
route to India. It may perhaps be said, that my _voluntary_ deviation and
the island not being in the passage, apply only to my intention of
passing Mauritius and then changing it. If so, the assertion could only
be made for superficial readers, and contains nothing; such, in fact, are
all the charges when duly examined, not excepting the pretence that the
passport was _exclusively for the Investigator_; and more has already
been said upon them than is due to their real importance.

These Moniteurs, however, informed me of two material circumstances--that
there was at least one person in France who viewed my detention in its
true light, and that the government had either been deceived by the
representations of general De Caen, or coincided with his views from some
secret motive; consequently, that too much reliance ought not to be
placed in an early liberation by its orders. I then determined to write
to monsieur De Fleurieu, author of the instructions to La Perouse, etc.,
and counsellor of state, who might be supposed to interest himself in my
voyage; and annexed to the letter copies of papers showing the reception
given to the French ships at Port Jackson, and the necessity which had
forced me to stop at Mauritius; and begged him in the name of humanity
and the sciences, to use his influence that I might either be permitted
to continue the voyage, or otherwise be ordered to France for
examination. My worthy friend Pitot wrote to the same effect, to M. De
Bougainville, the navigator and counsellor of state--to M. De la Lande,
the astronomer--to M. Chaptal, minister of the interior--and to M.
Dupuis, counsellor of state; and admiral Linois had the goodness to write
to M. De Fleurieu in favour of my request. At the same time I wrote to
the secretary of the Admiralty, inclosing a copy of the first letter; and
all these being sent away in duplicate, by opportunities which occurred
soon afterward, every step seemed to have been taken that could afford
any hope of liberty and the restitution of my books and papers.

APRIL 1805

The fate of my officers and people on board the Rolla had been a subject
of some anxiety; but about this time I had the satisfaction to learn from
the public papers, that they had arrived safely in England; that
lieutenant Fowler and the officers and company of the Porpoise had been
honourably acquitted of all blame for the loss of the ship, and that Mr.
Fowler had much distinguished himself in the action between the China
fleet and admiral Linois' squadron.

MAY 1805

Permissions being granted to several prisoners to go away on their parole
in American vessels, Mr. Aken, who still remained at the hospital,
conceived hopes that his might pass amongst the rest, if he applied. In
this notion I encouraged him, since my own prospects were so obscure; and
recommended that his plea should turn wholly upon his long-continued ill
health, and to say nothing of his connexion with me. The application was
made accordingly; and on the 7th, he came to the Garden Prison with the
unexpected information of being then at liberty to depart, on giving his
parole "not to serve against France or its allies, until after having
been legally exchanged;" that is, as a _prisoner of war._

It seemed doubtful whether this permission had been granted from motives
of humanity, from forgetfulness, or from some new plan having been
adopted; the general might possibly have received orders, permitting him
to dispose of us as he should think proper, and have no objection to
getting rid of me also, as a prisoner of war, provided an application
gave him the opportunity. In this uncertainty of what might be his
intentions, I wrote to colonel Monistrol, requesting him to state the
length of my imprisonment and ill health; and to move His Excellency to
let me depart on parole, or in any other way he should judge proper; but
it appeared after waiting several days, that the colonel foreseeing the
request could answer no purpose, had not laid it before the
captain-general. I then resolved to make good use of the opportunity
presented by Mr. Aken's departure, and from this time to that of his
sailing, was fully occupied in making up my despatches; and Mr. Aken's
health being improved, he took up his residence in the Garden Prison for
the purpose of giving his assistance.

Besides a general chart of Terra Australis, showing the whole of my
discoveries, examinations and tracks in abridgment, this packet for the
Admiralty contained nine sheets upon a scale of four inches to a degree
of longitude, and three sheets of particular parts in a larger size; also
five chapters of a memoir explanatory of their construction, of the
changes in the variation on shipboard, etc.; an enlarged copy of my log
book, with remarks and astronomical observations from the commencement of
the voyage to quitting the north coast of Terra Australis in March 1803;
and a book containing all the bearings and angles which entered into the
construction of the charts. The time keeper, with the mathematical and
nautical instruments belonging to the Navy Board were also sent; and in
fine, either the original or a copy of every thing in my possession which
related either to the Investigator or the voyage.

Mr. Campbell, commander of the American ship James, bound to New York,
liberally gave Mr. Aken and some other prisoners a passage free of
expense;* and the paroles they were required to sign laying no other
injunction than that of not serving until legally exchanged, the books.
etc. above mentioned, with many letters both public and private, were
safely embarked; and on the 20th in the evening, the ship got under sail,
to my great satisfaction. Of the ten officers and men who had come with
me to Mauritius, only four now remained; one was in the hospital with a
broken leg, another with me in the Garden Prison, and two were shut up at
the Grande Riviere. A seaman had been allowed to go with Mr. Aken in the
James, and all our endeavours were used to obtain permission for the two
in prison to embark also, but without effect; about a month afterwards,
however, they were suffered to enter on board an American ship, at the
request of the commander.

[* It gives me pleasure to say, that almost the whole of the American
commanders were ready to accommodate the English prisoners who, from time
to time, obtained leave to depart, and the greater number without any
other expense than that of laying in provisions for themselves; some were
received on board as officers for wages, and others had a table found for
them without any specified duty being required. In most cases these were
beneficent actions, for, as will readily be imagined, the greater part of
the prisoners had no means of obtaining money in Mauritius; the military
officers, however, and those who had money at their disposal, were
required to pay for their passages, and in some cases, dear enough.]

JUNE 1805

On June 4, a fortnight after Mr. Aken had sailed, captain Osborn again
came off the island, with His Majesty's ships Tremendous, Grampus, Pitt,
and Terpsichore; and an embargo on all foreign vessels was, as usual, the
immediate consequence. On the 23rd, the ship Thetis arrived from Bengal
under cartel colours, having on board captain Bergeret, with such of his
officers and people as had not been killed in the action he had sustained
against our frigate the St. Fiorenzo. This arrival animated the spirits
of all the prisoners in the island; and the return of my friend Bergeret
even gave me some hopes, particularly after the reception of a note from
him, promising to use his exertions to obtain a favourable change in my
situation. Mr. Richardson, commander of the Thetis, informed us some days
afterward [JULY 1805], that all the prisoners of war would be allowed to
go to India in his ship, and that hopes were entertained of an
application for me also being successful. Captain Bergeret did not call
until the 3rd of July, after having used his promised endeavours in vain,
as I had foreseen from the delay of his visit; for every good Frenchman
has an invincible dislike to be the bearer of disagreeable intelligence.

On the 5th, a letter came from Mr. Lumsden, chief secretary of the
government at Calcutta, acknowledging the receipt of mine addressed to
the marquis Wellesley in May 1804; he said in reply, "that although the
governor-general had felt the deepest regret at the circumstances of my
detention and imprisonment, it had not been in His Excellency's power to
remedy either before the present time. The ship Thetis," he added, "now
proceeds to the Isle of France as a cartel; and I have the honour to
transmit to you the annexed extract from the letter of the
governor-general to His Excellency general De Caen, captain-general of
the French establishments to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope. The
governor-general entertains no doubt that the captain-general of the Isle
of France will release you immediately on receipt of that letter."

EXTRACT.--I avail myself of this opportunity to request your Excelleney's
particular attention to the truly severe case of captain Flinders; and I
earnestly request Your Excellency to release captain Flinders
immediately, and to allow him either to take his passage to India in the
Thetis, or to return to India in the first neutral ship.

Mr. Lumsden's letter and the above extract were inclosed to me by the
secretary of general De Caen, who at the same time said, "I wish with all
my heart that the captain-general could accede to the request of His
Excellency the marquis Wellesley; but the motives of your detention
having been of a nature to be submitted to the French government, the
captain-general cannot, before he has received an answer, change any
thing in the measures which have been adopted on your account." Thus
whatever hope had been entertained of liberation from the side of India
was done away, but I did not feel less gratitude to the noble marquis for
his attempt; after eighteen months of indignities, this attention, and
the previous arrival of the two relations of my friend Pitot, set at
liberty by lord William Bentinck, were gratifying proofs that my
situation was known and excited an interest in India.

An exchange of prisoners was soon afterwards agreed upon between
commodore Osborn and colonel Monistrol, with the exception of
post-captains and commanders in the navy and officers of similar rank in
the army; it was not said that the exceptions had any reference to
captain Bergeret or myself, the sole officers in Mauritius of the ranks
specified, but it seemed probable.

On the 28th, the ship Prime arrived from Bombay with French prisoners,
having on board lieutenant Blast of the Company's marine, as agent;
admiral Linois had met the ship near Ceylon, and taken seventy-nine of
the French seamen on board his squadron, notwithstanding the
representation of Mr. Blast that no exchange had yet been settled. This
proceeding was said to be disapproved by general De Caen; and afterwards
to be the cause of the exchange being declared void by Sir Edward Pellew,
then become commander in chief in the Indian seas.


There was at this time an almost uncontrolled liberty to enter the Garden
Prison, and I was favoured with frequent visits by Mr. Richardson of the
Thetis, and by Messrs. Blast, Madegon, and Davies of the Prime; these
gentlemen, finding they should be obliged to leave me behind and alone,
rendered every service I could permit myself to receive at their hands,
and made an impression by their kindness which will ever be retained.
From their conversation I learned what was the treatment of French
prisoners at Bengal and Bombay; and the contrast it formed with that of
English officers and seamen in Mauritius, both in the degree of liberty
and allowance for subsistence, was indeed striking. Something has already
been said upon this subject, and much more might be said; but it is a
more agreeable task to bestow praise where it can with truth be given. It
is therefore with pleasure, and with gratitude on the part of my
unfortunate countrymen to admiral Linois and the officers of his
squadron, as also to the commanders of privateers, that I declare no one
of the several prisoners I conversed with to have made any complaint of
them; on the contrary, almost all acknowledged to have been treated with
kindness _whilst on board_, and except sometimes a little pilfering by
the sailors, to have lost nothing of what they had a right to keep by the
received usages of war; the trunks of many were not searched, it being
only required of the possessor to declare, that it was his private
property and that no letters or journals were contained therein. When the
Fly packet was taken by the privateer La Fortune, lieutenant Manwaring's
table plate and time keeper were returned to him; and his treatment by M.
Lameme was altogether so liberal, when compared with the usual conduct of
privateers in Europe, as to merit being cited.

In order to give some notion of the mischief done to British commerce in
India, by ships from Mauritius, an abstract of all the captures made in
the first sixteen months of the war, so far as they came to our knowledge
in the Garden Prison, is subjoined. There are probably several omissions;
and the supposed values annexed to them are the least that can be
estimated, perhaps not exceeding two-thirds of the prime cost.

By admiral Linois' squadron, three Indiamen and
five country ships mostly large, L 505,000

By La Psyche privateer, one Indiaman and two
private ships, 95,000
La Henriette, six ships and small vessels, 150,000
La Fortune, one packet, three ships, four small vessels, 103,000
Cutter commanded by Surcouf, four vessels, 75,000
L'Alfred, one ship, 10,000
Le Pariah, one ship, 10,000
Brought into Port Louis, 948,000
Ships known to have been sent to France or
Batavia, run on shore, or sunk at sea, 200,000
Mischief done at Bencoolen by admiral Linois' squadron, 800,000
Estimated loss to British commerce in 16 months, 1948,000

The sailing of the Thetis and Prime, and of a little brig named the Ariel
which had brought prisoners from Ceylon, was delayed until the cruising
squadron had left the island. On the 13th commodore Osborn took his
departure, and my young friends Dale and Seymour quitted the Garden
Prison; the first carrying for me a letter to Sir Edward Pellew, giving
an account of my situation, and another to Mr. Lumsden, informing him of
the little success attending the governor-general's request. In the
evening of the same day the cartels sailed; and I remained with my
servant, who refused to profit by the occasion of obtaining his liberty,
and my lame seaman, the sole English prisoners at Mauritius.

Captain Bergeret informed me two days afterward, that the general was
disposed to permit of my residence in the interior part of the island;
and he advised a written application to be made, specifying the place of
my choice. After consulting with M. Pitot, who had received several
offers to accommodate me from different parts of the island, I wrote on
the 17th, pointing out the plantation of Madame D'Arifat at Wilhems
Plains; which being at some distance from the sea, seemed least liable to
objection. On the 19th, a polite note from colonel Monistrol said that my
request was granted; and he sent word next day, that I was at liberty to
quit the Garden Prison, and pass two or three days in town previously to
going into the country; and being importuned by my friend Pitot to spend
the evening with him, immediate advantage was taken of the permission.

On taking leave of the old serjeant, who had behaved kindly to all the
prisoners, and finding myself without side the iron gate, I felt that
even a prison one has long inhabited is not quitted without some
sentiment of regret, unless it be to receive liberty. Of the twenty
months which my detention had now reached, more than sixteen had been
passed in the Garden Prison, sometimes rather lightly, but the greater
part in bitterness; and my strength and appearance were so changed, that
I felt to be scarcely recognisable for the same person who had supported
so much fatigue in exploring the coasts of Terra Australis.

Various observations had been taken in the Garden Prison, both by Mr.
Aken and myself, principally for our amusement and to exercise Messrs.
Dale and Seymour in the calculations. The corrected results of my
observations were as follow:

_Latitude_ from eight meridian altitudes of the sun, taken with a sextant
and artificial horizon, 20 deg. 9' 13.5" S.

_Longitude_ from twenty-seven sets of lunar distances, the particulars of
which are given in Table IX. of the first Appendix to this volume, 57 deg.
30' 42" E.

_Variation_ of the theodolite from azimuths a.m. and p.m. 11 deg. 42' 30" W.

The middle of the town being nearly one mile south-west from the prison,
its situation should be: Port Louis, latitude 20 deg. 9' 56" south, longitude
57 deg. 29' 57" east.


Parole given.
Journey into the interior of Mauritius.
The governor's country seat.
Residence at the Refuge, in that Part of Wilhems Plains called Vacouas.
Its situation and climate, with the mountains, rivers, cascades, and
views near it.
The Mare aux Vacouas and Grand Bassin.
State of cultivation and produce of Vacouas;
its black ebony, game, and wild fruits; and freedom from noxious insects.



My first visit after being liberated from the Garden Prison, was to
captain Bergeret, whose interposition I considered to have been the
principal cause of this favourable change; he obligingly offered me the
accommodation of his lodging whilst in town, but M. Pitot had previously
engaged my residence with him. Next morning I accompanied captain
Bergeret to the town major's office for the purpose of giving my parole,
which colonel Monistrol proposed to take verbally; but to avoid all
future misunderstanding, I desired that it might be taken in writing, and
two days afterward it was made out as follows.

His Excellency the captain-general De Caen having given me permission to
reside at Wilhems Plains, at the habitation of Madame D'Arifat, I do
hereby promise, upon my parole of honour, not to go more than the
distance of two leagues from the said habitation, without His
Excellency's permission; and to conduct myself with that proper degree of
reserve, becoming an officer residing in a country with which his nation
is at war. I will also answer for the proper conduct of my two servants.

Town of Port North-west,
Matthew Flinders.
August 23, 1805

The habitation, for so plantations are here called, which was to be my
residence, belonged to a respectable widow with a large family; and was
represented to be five French leagues, or twelve miles from the town, in
a S. S. W. direction. The permission to range two leagues all round I
considered to be an approach towards liberality; and a proof that, if
general De Caen had ever really believed me to be a spy, he had ceased to
think so; it was not indeed consistent with the reason alleged for my
imprisonment, to grant a parole at all, but this it was no part of my
business to point out. On the other hand, by signing this parole I cut
myself off from the possibility of an escape; but it seemed incredible,
after the various letters written and representations made both in
England and France, that a favourable order should not arrive in six or
eight months. I moreover entertained some hopes of Mauritius being
attacked, for it was not to be imagined that either the East-India
company or the government should quietly submit to such losses as it
caused to British commerce; and if attacked with judgment, it appeared to
me that a moderate force would carry it; upon this subject, however, an
absolute silence was preserved in my letters, for although the passport
had been so violated by general De Caen, I was determined to adhere to it

During four days stay in the to town of Port Louis no restriction of any
kind was imposed; I visited the theatre, and several families to whom my
friends Pitot and Bergeret introduced me, and passed the time as
pleasantly as any one who spoke no French could do in such a situation. A
young Englishman, who under the name of an American expected to sail
immediately for Europe, took charge of a box containing letters and
papers for the Admiralty and president of the Royal Society, one of which
was upon the effect produced on the marine barometer by sea and land
winds;* and on the 24th in the afternoon I set off with M. Pitot's family
for their country house, which was four miles on the way to my intended

[* This paper appeared in the Society's Transactions of 1806, Part II.]


On the following day we visited the country seat of the governor, called
the _Reduit_, about seven miles from the town, and at the edge of my
limit of two leagues from the habitation at Wilhems Plains. It stands
upon an elevated point of land between the Riviere de Mocha, which comes
from the east, and an equally large stream which collects the waters of
Wilhems Plains from the southward; their junction at this place forms the
Grande Riviere, and the Reduit commands a view of its windings in the low
land to the north, until it is discharged into the sea about a mile on
the west side of Port Louis. There was little water in the two rivers at
this time; but the extraordinary depth of their channels, which seemed to
be not less than a hundred feet, and to have been cut through the solid
rock, bespoke that the current must be immense during the hurricanes and
heavy summer rains; and the views which the different falls of water
amongst the overhanging woods will then present, cannot be otherwise than
highly picturesque. At the Reduit the sides of these ravines were planted
with the waving bamboo, and the road leading up to the house, with the
gardens around it, were shaded by the mango and various other fruit
trees; but all was in great disorder, having suffered more than neglect
during the turbulent period of the French revolution. The house was said
to be capable of containing thirty-five beds, and was at this time in a
state of preparation for general De Caen; and when completed, and the
gardens, alleys, fish ponds, and roads put into order, it would be an
elegant residence for the governor of the island. Our inspection was
confined to the gardens and prospects, from the house being shut up; we
afterwards made a rural dinner under the shade of a banian tree, and my
friend Pitot, with M. Bayard, a judge in the court of appeal, then
separated from their families to conduct me onward to my asylum.

Instead of taking the direct road, they pursued a winding route more to
the eastward, to pay a visit to M. Plumet, a friend of the judge; and we
reached his habitation not much before sunset, though still four or five
miles short of our destination. Thus far I found the country to be stony
and not very fertile, the roads bad and irregular, with several places in
them which must be impracticable in the heavy rains; here and there,
however, we were gratified with the view of country houses, surrounded
with fruit trees and well watered gardens; and once turned out of the
road to see a water fall made by a considerable stream down a precipice
of at least a hundred feet. The cultivated fields seemed to be generally
planted either with sugar cane, maize, or manioc, but we were often in
the shade of the primitive woods.

M. Plumet had passed many years in India, in the service of Scindeah, the
Mahratta chief, and spoke some English; he received us so kindly that we
remained with him until the following afternoon, and his habitation being
within my limits, he invited me to visit him afterwards. From the time of
quitting the port we had been continually ascending; so that here the
elevation was probably not less than a thousand feet, and the climate and
productions were much altered. Coffee seemed to be a great object of
attention, and there were some rising plantations of clove trees; I found
also strawberries, and even a few young oaks of tolerable growth. A vast
advantage, as well as ornament in this and many other parts of the
island, is the abundance of never failing streams; by which the gardens
are embellished with cascades and fish ponds, and their fruit trees and
vegetables watered at little expense.

Quitting M. Plumet in the afternoon of the 26th, we rode in intricate
paths and crossed various plantations to get into the direct road. In
these, besides sugar cane, coffee, maize, and manioc, some fields were
totally covered with a creeping plant bearing a heart-shaped leaf; this
was the _patate_, or sweet potatoe, a root of great utility to the
nourishment of the slaves; and in the higher parts of the island, where
it succeeds best, is a favourite object of cultivation, being little
subject to injury from the hurricanes. As we advanced the streams became
smaller and more numerous, and the uncleared woods more extensive; the
country was still partly covered with large stones; but I remarked with
some surprise, that the productions of the stony land were generally the
most vigorous.

Neither of my conductors were acquainted with the place of my retreat;
they inquired of every black man on the road, as to the right path and
the distance that yet remained; but often could get no answer--sometimes
it was three-quarters, and sometimes two leagues; at length we found
ourselves surrounded on all sides by wood, the road had diminished to a
foot path, it was dark, and began to rain. It was then judged necessary
to turn back and make for a light near the road, to obtain a guide; and
it seemed odd that the person applied to should answer in English, that
the plantation of Madame D'Arifat was just bye. He proved to be an
Irishman named Druse, who had been settled more than twenty years in this
distant island as a carpenter; he had known that an English officer was
coming to reside here, and undertook to be our guide, seeming to be not a
little pleased at again using his native language.

A black man who had charge of the plantation in the absence of the
proprietor, had received orders to accommodate us; but not finding my
servant and lame seaman who should have arrived the day before, we walked
half a league to the habitation of M. de Chazal, a friend of M. Pitot who
had the goodness to send out my baggage. Next morning we returned, and my
abode was fixed in one of two little pavilions detached from the house,
the other being appropriated to my two men; and M. Pitot having brought
me acquainted with a family resident on an adjoining plantation, and made
some inquiries and arrangements as to supplies of provisions, he and his
companion M. Bayard then returned to the town.


My attention for the first several weeks was principally directed to
acquiring a knowledge of the surrounding country, its natural curiosities
and romantic views; and as these are well worth notice, a description of
the most remarkable objects, with an account of the cultivation and
produce of this secluded part of Mauritius, may probably be acceptable to
some readers.

The district or quarter called Wilhems Plains, occupies a considerable
portion of the interior of the island; its northern extremity borders on
the sea by the side of the district of Port Louis, from which it is
separated by the Grande Riviere; and it extends southward from thence,
rising gradually in elevation and increasing in breadth. The body of the
quarter is bounded to the N. E. by the district of Mocha--to the S. E. by
that of Port Bourbon or the Grand Port--to the south by the quarter of La
Savanne--and to the west by the Plains of St. Pierre. Its length from the
sea to the Grand Bassin at its southern extremity, is about five
geographic leagues in a straight line, and mean breadth nearly two
leagues; whence the superficial extent of this district should not be
much less than ninety square miles. In the upper part is a lake called
the _Mare aux Vacouas_, apparently so named from the number of pandanus
trees, called vacouas, on its borders; and that part of Wilhems Plains by
which the lake is surrounded, at the distance of a league, more or less,
bears the appellation of Vacouas; in this part my residence was situate,
in a country overspread with thick woods, a few plantations excepted,
which had been mostly cleared within a few years.

In consequence of the elevation of Vacouas, the climate is as much
different from that of the low parts of the island as if it were several
degrees without the tropic; June, July, and August are the driest months
at Port Louis, but here they are most rainy, and the thermometer stands
from 7 deg. to 12 deg. lower upon an average throughout the year.* In a west
direction, across that part of the Plains of St. Pierre called Le
Tamarin, the sea is not more distant than six miles; the descent is
therefore rapid, and is rendered more so from three-fourths of the space
being flat, low land; in comparison with Le Tamarin, Vacouas is in fact
an irregular plain upon the top of the mountains, to which there is
almost no other access than by making a circuit of four or five miles
round by the lower part of Wilhems Plains. Three rugged peaks called the
Trois Mamelles, and another, the Montagne du Rempart, all of them
conspicuous at sea, are the highest points of a ridge somewhat elevated
above this irregular plain, and bounding it to the westward; and the road
forming the ordinary communication between the high and low land passes
round them. My retreat, which very appropriately to the circumstances of
my situation bore the name of _The Refuge_, lay two or three miles to the
south-east of the Trois Mamelles.

[* The mean height of the thermometer in July 1805, which is the middle
of winter, was 671/4 deg., and of the barometer in French inches and lines,
26.73/4; and during February 1806, the middle of summer. 76 deg. and 26.53/4 were
the mean heights. At M. Pitot's house in the town of Port Louis, the
averages in the same February were 86 deg. and 27.73/4. According to De Luc,
the difference between the logarithms of the two heights of the barometer
expresses very nearly the difference of elevation in thousand toises,
when the thermometer stands at 70 deg. in both places; and therefore the
approximate elevation of Vacouas above M. Pitot's house, should be

1871/4 toises, or in French feet, 1123
Correction for excess of thermometers above 70 deg., + 25
Supposed elevation of M. Pitot's house above the sea, + 40
Elevation of Vacouas in French feet, 1188

The English foot being to the French, as 12 is to 12.816, the height of
Vacouas above the level of the sea should be nearly 1269 English feet.]

The principal rivers in the neighbourhood are the R. du Tamarin and the
R. du Rempart, each branching into two principal arms; these collect all
the smaller streams in this portion of the island, and arriving by
different routes at the same point, make their junction at the head of
the Baye du Tamarin, where their waters are discharged into the sea. In
wet weather these rivers run with great force, but in ordinary times they
do not contain much water; and their smaller branches are mostly dried up
in October and November. Both arms of the R. du Rempart take their rise
between one and two miles to the S. by E. of the Refuge, and within half
a mile of the Mare aux Vacouas, from which it is thought their sources
are derived; the western arm bears the name of R. des Papayas, probably
from the number of those trees found on its banks;* and taking its course
northward, is the boundary between two series of plantations, until it
joins the other branch at the foot of the Montagne du Rempart and its
name is lost. The Refuge was one of these plantations bounded by the R.
des Papayes, being situate on its eastern bank, and receiving from it an
accession of value; for this arm does not dry up in the most unfavourable
seasons, neither does it overflow in the hurricanes.

[* The papaye, papaya, or papaw, is a tree well known in the East and
West Indies, and is common in Mauritius; the acrid milk of the green
fruit, when softened with an equal quantity of honey, is considered to be
the best remedy against worms, with which the negroes and young children,
who live mostly on vegetable diet, are much troubled.]

The eastern arm bears the name of R. du Rempart throughout, from its
source near the _mare_ or lake to its embouchure. Its course is nearly
parallel to that of the sister stream, the distance between them varying
only from about half a mile to one hundred and twenty yards; and the
Refuge, as also the greater number of plantations on the eastern, or
right bank of the R. des Papayes, is divided by it into two unequal
parts, and bridges are necessary to keep up a communication between them.
Although the source of this arm be never dried up, yet much of its water
is lost in the passage; and during five or six months of the year that
nothing is received from the small branches, greater or less portions of
its bed are left dry; there seems, however, to be springs in the bed, for
at a distance from where the water disappears a stream is found running
lower down, which is also lost and another appears further on. In the
summer rains, more especially in the hurricanes, the R. du Rempart
receives numberless re-enforcements, and its torrent then becomes
impetuous, carrying away the bridges, loose rocks, and every moveable
obstruction; its partial inundations do great damage to the coffee trees,
which cannot bear the water, and in washing off the best of the vegetable
soil. During these times, the communication between those parts of the
plantations on different sides of the river is cut off, until the waters
have in part subsided; and this occurred thrice in one year and a half.

At the western end of the Mare aux Vacouas is an outlet through which a
constant stream flows, and this is the commencement of the principal
branch of the R. du Tamarin; the other branch, called the R. des
Aigrettes, is said to take its rise near a more distant lake, named the
Grand Bassin; and their junction is made about one mile to the S. S. W.
of the Refuge, near the boundary ridge of the high land, through which
they have made a deep cut, and formed a valley of a very romantic
character. A short distance above their junction, each branch takes a
leap downward of about seventy feet; and when united, they do not run
above a quarter of a mile northward before they descend with redoubled
force a precipice of nearly one hundred and twenty feet; there are then
one or two small cascades, and in a short distance another of eighty or a
hundred feet; and from thence to the bottom of the valley, the descent is
made by smaller cascades and numberless rapids. After the united stream
has run about half a mile northward, and in that space descended near a
thousand feet from the level of Vacouas, the river turns west; and
passing through the deep cut or chasm in the boundary ridge, enters the
plain of Le Tamarin and winds in a serpentine course to the sea.

The R. du Tamarin is at no time a trifling stream, and in rainy weather
the quantity of water thrown down the cascades is considerable; by a
calculation from the estimated width, depth, and rate of the current
after a hurricane, the water then precipitated was 1500 tons in a minute.
There are some points on the high land whence most of the cascades may be
seen at one view, about a mile distant; from a nearer point some of them
are perceived to the left, the Trois Mamelles tower over the woods to the
right, and almost perpendicularly under foot is the impetuous stream of
the river, driving its way amongst the rocks and woods at the bottom of
the valley. In front is the steep gap, through which the river rushes to
the low land of Le Tamarin; and there the eye quits it to survey the
sugar plantations, the alleys of tamarinds and mangoes, the villages of
huts, and all the party-coloured vegetation with which that district is
adorned; but soon it passes on to the Baye du Tamarin, to the breakers on
the coral reefs which skirt the shore, and to the sea expanded out to a
very distant horizon. An elevation of ten or eleven hundred feet, and the
distance of three or four miles which a spectator is placed from the
plantations, gives a part of this view all the softness of a
well-finished drawing; and when the sun sets in front of the gap, and
vessels are seen passing before it along the coast, nothing seems wanting
to complete this charming and romantic prospect.

Amongst the natural curiosities of Mauritius may be reckoned the _Mare
aux Vacouas_, situate about two miles S. by E. of the Refuge. It is an
irregular piece of fresh water of about one mile in length, surrounded
with many hundred acres of swampy land, through which run four or five
little streams from the back hills; in some places it is from 20 to 25
fathoms deep, as reported, and is well stocked with eels, prawns and a
small red fish called _dame-cere_, originally brought from China. The
eels and prawns are indigenous, and reach to a large size; the latter are
sometimes found of six inches long without the beard, and the eels
commonly offered for sale ran from six to twenty, and some were said to
attain the enormous weight of eighty pounds. This fish is delicate
eating, and the largest are accounted the best; its form has more
affinity to the conger than to our fresh-water eel, and much resembles,
if it be not exactly the same species caught in the small streams of
Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean. Whence it is that fresh-water fish
should be found on small islands, frequently at several hundred leagues
from other land, will probably long remain one of the secrets of nature;
if it were granted that they might come by sea, the difficulty would
scarcely be less to know how they should have mounted precipices of many
hundred feet, to reach lakes at the tops of mountains where they are not
uncommonly seen.

Five or six miles to the south of the Refuge lies another lake of fresh
water, called the _Grand Bassin_; its situation is more elevated than
Vacouas, and except the ridges and tops of mountains, it seemed to be in
the highest part of the island. This basin is nearly half a mile in
diameter, of a form not far from circular, and is certainly deep; but
that it should be 84 fathoms as was said, is scarcely credible. The banks
are rocky, and appear like a mound thrown up to keep the water from
overflowing; and the surrounding land, particularly to the south, being
lower than the surface of the water, gives the Grand Bassin an appearance
of a cauldron three-quarters full. No perceptible stream runs into it,
but several go out, draining through hollow parts of the rocky bank, and
forming the commencement of so many rivers; the Rivieres des Anguilles,
Dragon, and du Poste fall into the sea on the south or south-east parts
of the island; the R. des Aigrettes before mentioned, and the R. Noire
which runs westward, rise not far off, but their asserted subterraneous
communication with the basin is doubtful. No great difference takes place
in the level of the water except after heavy rains; when the supply,
which must principally come from springs in the bottom, so far exceeds
the quantity thrown out, as to raise it sometimes as much as six feet.

On the western bank is a peaked hill, from which the Grand Bassin is not
only seen to much advantage, but the view extends over great part of
Mauritius, and in several places to the horizon of the sea. It was
apparent from hence, that between the mountains behind Port Louis and
those of La Savanne to the south, and from the R. Noire eastward to Port
Bourbon, not one-half, probably not a third part of the primitive woods
were cut down; and this space comprehends three-fifths of the island, but
excludes great part of the shores, near which the plantations are most

The elevated bank round the Grand Bassin consists partly of stones thrown
loosely together; though porous, the stone is heavy and hard, of a dark
grey colour, and contains numerous specks of what seemed to be
feldtspath, with sometimes particles of mica and olivine; it is more or
less ferruginous, gives a bell-like sound when struck, and in some parts
appeared to have run in the manner of lava. From this description, and
the circular form and elevated position of this basin, the geologist will
probably be induced to think it the crater of an ancient volcano; and
since there are other large holes nearly similar to it, and many caverns
and streams under ground in other parts, it may perhaps be concluded that
if the island do not owe its origin to subterraneous fire, it has yet
been subject to volcanic eruptions, and that the Grand Bassin was one of
the vents.

Such were the rivers, lakes, and views which most excited my excursions
to the north, the west, and south of the Refuge. To the east at a league
distance, there was, according to my information, a lake called the Mare
aux Joncs, from whence rises the R. du Menil; and taking its course
northward, joins the R. de Wilhems and at length falls into the Grande
Riviere. At a further distance several other streams were said to rise,
some running northward to the same destination as the above, and others
south-eastward towards Port Bourbon; but having never visited this part
of my limits, I can speak of it only from report, corroborated by a view
of the chart. The country was represented as less inhabited than Vacouas,
owing to the want of roads and consequent difficulty of conveyance to the
town, upon which the value of land very much depends: an uncleared
_habitation_* near the Mare aux Joncs was sold for 500 dollars, whilst
the same quantity of land at Vacouas was worth six times that sum.

[* The original concessions of land in Mauritius were usually of 1561/2
_arpents_, of 40,000 French square feet each, making about 1601/2 acres
English; this is called _un terrein d'habitation_, and in abridgment a
_habitation_, although no house should be built, nor a tree cut down; by
corruption however, the word is also used for any farm or plantation,
though of much smaller extent.]

Upon the high land near the Grand Bassin and in some other central parts
of Mauritius, a day seldom passes throughout the year without rain; even
at Vacouas it falls more or less during six or eight months, whilst in
the low lands there is very little except from December to March. This
moisture creates an abundance of vegetation, and should have rendered the
middle parts of the island extremely fertile; as they would be if the
soil were not washed down to the low lands and into the sea, almost as
soon as formed. Large timber, whose roots are not seen on the surface,
and a black soil, are here the exterior marks of fertility; but near the
Grand Bassin the trees are small, though thickly set, and the roots,
unable to penetrate below, spread along the ground. The little soil which
has accumulated seemed to be good, and it will increase, though slowly;
for the decayed wood adds something to its quantity every year, whilst
the trunks and roots of the trees save a part from being washed away.
Both these advantages are lost in the cleared lands of Vacouas, which
besides are made to produce from two to four crops every year; the soil
is therefore soon exhausted, and manuring is scarcely known. A plantation
covered with loose rocks is found to retain its fertility longest;
apparently from the stones preserving the vegetable earth against the
heavy rains, as the roots of the trees did before the ground was cleared.

Much of the lower part of Wilhems Plains has been long cleared and
occupied, and this is one of the most agreeable portions of the island;
but Vacouas is in its infancy of cultivation, three-fourths of it being
still covered with wood. This neglect it owes to the coldness and
moisture of the climate rendering it unfit for the produce of sugar and
cotton, to its being remote from the sea side, and more than all to its
distance from the town of Port Louis, the great mart for all kinds of
productions. Mauritius is not laid out like the counties in England and
other parts of Europe, with a city or market town at every ten or twenty
miles; nor yet like the neighbouring isle Bourbon, where there are two or
three towns and some villages; it has but one town, which is the seat of
government and commerce for both islands. In other parts the plantations
are scattered irregularly; and although half a dozen houses may sometimes
be found near together, families within a mile of each other are
considered as next door neighbours. There being few tradesmen except in
the town, the more considerable planters have blacksmiths, carpenters,
and one or more taylors and shoemakers amongst their slaves, with forges
and workshops on their plantations; but every thing they have occasion to
buy, even the bread for daily consumption, is generally brought from Port

The produce of the different districts in Mauritius varies according to
the elevation and climate of each; and the temperature of Vacouas being
better suited to European vegetables, the daily supply of the bazar or
market with them, is a great object to the inhabitants. Owing to the bad
roads and excessive price of beasts of burthen, the manner universally
adopted of sending these supplies is upon the heads of slaves; and the
distance being twelve heavy miles, this employment occupies nearly the
whole time of two or more strong negroes, besides that of a trusty man in
the town to make the necessary purchases and sales. The distance of a
plantation from Port Louis therefore causes a material increase of
expense and inconvenience for this object alone, and is one reason why
Vacouas is less cultivated than many other districts; in proportion,
however, as timber becomes more scarce in the neighbourhood of the town,
the woods of Vacouas will rise in value and present a greater inducement
to clear the lands. Timber and planks for ships, and also for building
houses, with shingles to cover them, were fast increasing in demand; and
the frequent presence of English cruisers, which prevented supplies being
sent from La Savanne and other woody parts of the sea coast, tended
powerfully to throw this lucrative branch of internal commerce more into
the hands of the landholders at Vacouas, and to clear the district of its
superfluous woods.

Besides various kinds of excellent timber for building, these woods
contain the black ebony, the heart of which is sold by weight. The tree
is tall and slender, having but few branches which are near the top; its
exterior bark is blackish, the foliage thick, and the leaf, of a dark
green above and pale below, is smooth, not very pointed, and larger than
those of most forest trees. It produces clusters of an oblong fruit, of
the size of a plum, and full of a viscous, sweetish juice, rather
agreeable to the taste. The ordinary circumference of a good tree is
three or four feet; when cut down, the head lopped off and exterior white
wood chipped away, a black log remains of about six inches in diameter,
and from twelve to fifteen feet in length, the weight of which is
something above 300 pounds. In 1806 several inhabitants permitted a
contractor to cut down their ebony, on condition of receiving half a
Spanish dollar for each hundred pounds of the black wood; others cut it
down themselves, trimmed and piled the logs together, and sold them on
the spot for one dollar the hundred; but those who possessed means of
transporting the wood to town, obtained from 11/2 to 21/2 dollars, the price
depending upon the supply, and the number of American vessels in port,
bound to China, whither it was principally carried. Many of the
plantations in Vacouas were thus exhausted of their ebony; and the tree
is of so slow a growth, that the occupiers could expect afterwards to cut
those only which, being too small, they had before spared; these were
very few, for the object of the planter being generally to realize a sum
which should enable him to return to Europe, the future was mostly
sacrificed to present convenience.

Such cleared parts of Vacouas as are not planted with maize, manioc, or
sweet potatoes for the support of the slaves, or with vegetables and
fruits for the bazar, are commonly laid out in coffee plantations, which
were becoming more an object of attention, as they have long been at
Bourbon; the great demand made for coffee by the Americans, and its
consequent high price, had caused this object of commerce to flourish in
both islands, notwithstanding the war. Indigo and the clove tree were
also obtaining a footing at Vacouas; but the extensive plantations of
sugar cane and cotton shrubs found in the low parts of the island,
appeared not to have been attempted, and it is certain that the cotton
would not succeed.

The portions of each habitation allotted to different objects of culture,
are usually separated by a double row of some tree or shrub, either
useful or ornamental, with a road or path running between the lines.
Amongst the useful is the vacoua or pandanus; whose leaves being strongly
fibrous, long, spreading, and armed with prickles, both form a tolerable
fence and supply a good material for making sacks, bags, etc. It is only
whilst young that the vacoua answers this double purpose; but the tree is
twelve or fifteen years before it arrives at maturity, and the leaves may
be annually cut: no other use is made of the fruit than to plant it for
the production of other trees. A double row of the tall jamb-rosa, or
rose apple, makes the principal divisions in some plantations, forming
agreeable, shady walks; and from the shelter it affords is preferred for
surrounding the coffee trees, which require the utmost care to protect
them from hurricanes. A tree once violently shaken, dies five or six
months afterward, as it does if water stand several days together round
its foot; sloping situations, where the water may run off, are therefore
preferred for it, and if rocky they are the more advantageous, from the
firmness which the roots thereby acquire to resist the hurricanes. Rows
of the banana, of which the island possesses a great variety of species,
are also planted by the sides of the paths leading through the
habitations, sometimes behind the vacoua, but often alone; the pine apple

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