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A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 2 by Matthew Flinders

Part 9 out of 10

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serves the same purpose in others, as do the peach and other fruit trees
where the paths are more considerable. A long and strong grass, called
_vitti-vert_, is occasionally preferred for the lines of division; this
is cut twice or thrice in the year to be used as thatch, for which it is
well adapted. Hedges of the ever-flowering China rose, and of the
_netshouly_, a bushy shrub from India which prospers in every soil, are
often used in place of the tall jamb-rosa to form alleys leading up to
the house of the planter, and also the principal walks in his garden; the
waving bamboo, whose numberless uses are well known, is planted by the
sides of the rivers and canals.

A notion of the working and produce of a plantation at Vacouas will be
most concisely given by a statement of the ordinary expenses and returns;
and to render it more nearly applicable to the case of such persons in
Europe as might form the project of becoming settlers, I will suppose a
young man, with his wife and child, arrived at Mauritius with the
intention of employing his time and means on a plantation in this
district; and at the end of five years other affairs call him thence, and
he sells every thing. He is supposed to possess 18,000 dollars in money
or property, to be active, industrious, and frugal, and though
unacquainted with the business of a planter, to be sufficiently
intelligent to gain the necessary information in one year. With these
requisites, I would examine whether he will have been able to subsist his
family comfortably during the five years, and what will then be the state
of his funds.

EXPENSES. Dollars.

In town the first year, 1,800
Price of an uncleared habitation, 3,000
Twenty negroes, some being mechanics, 4,000
Ten negresses, 1,500
Ten children of different ages, 1,000
Maize 500 lbs. (71/2 D.), sweet potatoes
1250 lbs. (33/4 D.) to subsist each slave
the first year, 450

Head tax for 5 years, at .1 D. each per an. 100
Maroon tax for ditto 100
Surgeon to attend the slaves, 200
Building and furnishing a house,
magazine, etc., exclusive of wood and
labourers from the plantation, 2,500
Agricultural utensils, hand mills, etc. 300
100 fowls and 50 ducks for a breed, 100
Ten goats, 60
Ten pigs, 100
A horse, saddle, etc. 250
A good ass, side saddle, etc. 120
Seeds and fruit trees, 50
Coffee plants 30,000 for 20 acres, 450
Expenses at the plantation in 4 years,
exclusive of domestic supplies, 3,600
Losses from two hurricanes, 2,000
Total 21,680

RECEIPTS. Dollars.
Of 60 acres cleared to raise provisions,
30 are necessary to support the slaves;
from the rest may be sold 150,000 lbs.
of maize in 4 years, for 2,250
Ebony, timber, planks and shingles, sold
on the spot during 5 years, 3,000
Coffee reaped on the 5th year, 50 bales
(100 lbs. each) at 15 D. per bale, 750
Vegetables and fruit sold at the bazar, aver
age 2 D. per day, during four years, 2,920
Fowls and ducks 2000 at 1/2 D. 1,000
Thirty goats sold, 180
Thirty hogs, 600
At the end of 5 years, the plantation,
buildings, etc., will probably bring, 7,000
Probable value of the slaves, 5,500
Pigs, goats, and poultry remaining, 260
Horse, ass, etc. probably not more than 200
Whole receipts 23,660
Expenses and losses 21,680
Increase 1,980

The taxes and price of provisions, coffee, etc. in the above calculation,
are taken as they usually stood in time of war, under the government of
general De Caen; and every thing is taken against, rather than in favour
of the planter. In his expenses a sufficiency is allowed to live
comfortably, to see his friends at times, and something for the pleasure
of himself and wife; but if he choose to be very economical, 2000 dollars
might be saved from the sums allotted.

In selling his plantation at the end of five years, he is in a great
measure losing the fruit of his labour; for the coffee alone might be
reasonably expected to produce annually one hundred bales for the
following ten years, and make his revenue exceed 3000 dollars per annum;
and if he continued to live economically upon the plantation, this, with
the rising interest of his surplus money, would double his property in a
short time. It is therefore better, supposing a man to possess the
requisite knowledge, to purchase a habitation already established, than
to commence upon a new one.

The same person going to Vaucouas with the intention of quitting it at
the end of five years, would not plant coffee, but turn his attention to
providing different kinds of wood and sending it to Port Louis. With this
object principally in view, he would purchase two habitations instead of
one; and as this and other expenses incident to the new arrangement would
require a greater sum than he is supposed to possess, he must borrow, at
high interest, what is necessary to make up the deficiency. The amount of
his receipts and expenses for the five years. would then be nearly as

EXPENSES. Dollars.

As before, deducting coffee plants, 21,230
An additional habitation, 3,000
Twenty asses, at 90 D. each, 1,800
Harnesses for three teams, 300
Three waggons built on the plantation, 150
Three additional slaves, 600
Interest of 6,000 dollars borrowed for
three years, at 18 per cent. per an. 3,240
Total 30,320
Total receipts 41,922
Increase 11,602

RECEIPTS. Dollars.
As before, deducting wood, coffee,
plantation and buildings, 12,910
Trimmed ebony sent to the town 375,
6000 lbs. at 2 D. per 100, 7,512
Timber sent to Port Louis in 4 years,
640 loads at 25 D. each, 16,000
Two habitations stripped of the best
wood may sell for, with buildings, 4,000
Asses and additional slaves, 1,500
Total 41,922

These statements will give a general idea of a plantation at Vacouas, the
employments of the more considerable inhabitants, of the food of the
slaves, etc., and will render unnecessary any further explanation on
these heads.

It was considered a fair estimate, that a habitation should give yearly
20 per cent. on the capital employed, after allowance made for all common
losses; and money placed on good security obtained from 9 to 18 per cent.
in time of war, and 12 to 24 in the preceding peace. Had my planter put
his 18,000 dollars out at interest, instead of employing them on a
plantation at Vacouas, and been able to obtain 15 per cent, he would at
the end of five years, after expending 150 dollars each month in the town
of Port Louis, have increased his capital nearly 5,000 dollars; but it is
more than probable that he would have fallen into the luxury of the
place, and have rather diminished than increased his fortune.

The woods of Vacouas are exceedingly thick, and so interwoven with
different kinds of climbing plants, that it is difficult to force a
passage through; and to take a ride where no roads have been cut, is as
impossible as to take a flight in the air. Except morasses and the
borders of lakes, I did not see a space of five square yards in these
woods, which was covered with grass and unencumbered with shrubs or
trees; even the paths not much frequented, if not impassable, are
rendered very embarrassing by the raspberries, wild tobacco, and other
shrubs with which they are quickly overgrown. Cleared lands which have
ceased to be cultivated, are usually clothed with a strong, coarse grass,
called _chien-dent_, intermixed with ferns, wild tobacco, and other
noxious weeds. In the low districts the grass is of a better kind, and
supplies the cattle with tolerable food during three or four months that
it is young and tender, and for most of the year in marshy places; at
other times they are partly fed with maize straw, the refuse of the sugar
mills, and the leaves and tender branches of some trees.

A few short-legged hares and some scattered partridges are found near the
skirts of the plantations, and further in the woods there are some deer
and wild hogs. Monkeys are more numerous, and when the maize is ripe they
venture into the plantations to steal; which obliges the inhabitants to
set a watch over the fields in the day, as the maroons and other thieves
do at night. There are some wood pigeons and two species of doves, and
the marshy places are frequented by a few water hens; but neither wild
geese nor ducks are known in the island. Game of all kinds was at this
time so little abundant in the woods of Vacouas, that even a creole, who
is an intrepid hunter and a good shot, and can live where an European
would starve, could not subsist himself and his dogs upon the produce of
the chase. Before the revolution this was said to have been possible; but
in that time of disorder the citizen mulattoes preferred hunting to work,
and the woods were nearly depopulated of hares and deer.

Of indigenous fruits there are none worth notice, for that produced by
the ebony scarcely deserves the name; a large, but almost tasteless
raspberry is however now found every where by the road side, and citrons
of two kinds grow in the woods. A small species of cabbage tree, called
here _palmiste_, is not rare and is much esteemed; the undeveloped leaves
at the head of the tree, when eaten raw, resemble in taste a walnut, and
a cauliflower when boiled; dressed as a salad they are superior to
perhaps any other, and make an excellent pickle. Upon the deserted
plantations, peaches, guavas, pine apples, bananas, mulberries and
strawberries are often left growing; these are considered to be the
property of the first comer, and usually fall to the lot of the maroons,
or to the slaves in the neighbourhood who watch their ripening; the wild
bees also furnish them with an occasional regale of honey.

With respect to noxious insects, the scourge of most tropical countries,
the wet and cold weather which renders Vacouas a disagreeable residence
in the winter, is of singular advantage; the numerous musketoes and sand
flies, the swarms of wasps, the ants, centipedes, scorpions, bugs and
lizards, with which the lower parts of the island are more or less
tormented, are almost unknown here; and fleas and cockroaches are less
numerous. A serpent is not known to exist in Mauritius, though several
have been found on some of the neighbouring islets; it is therefore not
the climate which destroys them, nor has it been ascertained what is the

[* Mauritius is not singular in being free of serpents whilst they exist
on lands within sight, or not far off; but a late account says that one
of great size has been killed on that island near the Reduit, supposed to
have escaped out of a ship from India, wrecked on the coast a few years

From this account of the situation of my retreat, it will be perceived
that it was a vast acquisition to exchange the Garden Prison for Vacouas;
there, it had been too warm to take exercise, except in the mornings and
evenings, had there been room and inducements; whilst at the Refuge I was
obliged to clothe in woollen, had space to range in, and a variety of
interesting objects, with the charm of novelty to keep me in continual
motion. I bathed frequently in the R. du Rempart, walked out every fine
day, and in a few weeks my former health was in a great measure
recovered. Those who can receive gratification from opening the door to
an imprisoned bird, and remarking the joy with which it hops from spray
to spray, tastes of every seed and sips from every rill, will readily
conceive the sensations of a man during the first days of liberation from
a long confinement.


Occupations at Vacouas.
Hospitality of the inhabitants.
Letters from England.
Refusal to be sent to France repeated.
Account of two hurricanes, of a subterraneous stream and circular pit.
Habitation of La Perouse.
Letters to the French marine minister, National Institute, etc.
Letters from Sir Edward Pellew.
Caverns in the Plains of St. Pierre.
Visit to Port Louis.
Narrative transmitted to England.
Letter to captain Bergeret on his departure for France.



The latter end of August and beginning of September appertain to the
winter in the southern hemisphere, during which it rains frequently at
Vacouas; in the first month after my arrival there were few days that
continued fine throughout, and although all opportunities were taken to
make excursions in the neighbourhood, a considerable part of the time was
necessarily passed within doors. Having sent away my charts and
instruments, and most of the books and papers, no object of my voyage
could be prosecuted until a further supply should be obtained from the
captain-general De Caen; and this being the time, should it ever arrive,
to which I had looked for gaining some knowledge of the French language,
the study of it was now made a serious employment.

Amongst the principal habitations near the Refuge, the proprietor of one
only was resident in the country; and the introduction of my friend Pitot
having produced an invitation, I profited by it to spend there several
evenings, which, besides being passed agreeably, facilitated the study to
which my attention was directed. There was living in the family an
unemployed commander of a merchant ship, M. Murat, who had made the
voyage with Etienne Marchand, the account of which is so ably written by
M. de Fleurieu; he was obliging enough to accompany me in several
excursions, and amongst them in a walk of five miles to the house of M.
Giblot, commandant of the quarter of Wilhems Plains, to whom it seemed
proper to show myself and pay a visit of ceremony. The commandant was
unacquainted with my residence in his district, which was so far
gratifying that it showed I was not an object of suspicion in the eye of
the government.


M. Pitot came to pass a day with me at the end of a month, as did captain
Bergeret; and on the 9th of October, the proprietor of the Refuge arrived
with two of her sons and three daughters, to take up their residence on
the plantation. On the following day I received a proposal from Madame
D'Arifat, as liberal as the terms in which it was couched were obliging,
to partake of her table with the family, which after some necessary
stipulations, was accepted; and in a short time I had the happiness to
enumerate amongst my friends one of the most worthy families in the
island. The arrival of two other proprietors from the town increased the
number of our neighbours, and of those who sought by their hospitable
kindness to make my time pass agreeably. To M. de Chazal I was indebted
for sending out my baggage, and in the sequel for many acts of civility
and service; this gentleman had passed two years in England, during the
tyranny of Robespierre, and consequently my want of knowledge in the
French language, at first an obstacle to communication with others, was
none to reaping the advantage of his information.

On the 22nd, a packet of letters brought intelligence from my family and
friends in England, of whom I had not heard for more than three years;
Mr. Robertson, my former companion in the Garden Prison, had found means
to forward it to M. Pitot, by whom it was immediately sent to Vacouas. A
letter from the president of the Royal Society informed me that the
misunderstanding between the French and British governments was so great,
that no communication existed between them; but that the president
himself, having obtained the approbation of the ministry, had made an
application in my behalf to the National Institute, from which a
favourable answer had been received; and there were strong hopes that so
soon as the emperor Napoleon should return from Italy, an order for my
liberation would be obtained. Our frigates, the Pitt and Terpsichore,
came to cruise off Mauritius a short time afterward [NOVEMBER 1805], for
which I was as sorry on one account as any of the inhabitants; every week
might produce the arrival of the expected order, but it would probably be
thrown overboard if the vessel should be chased, or have an engagement
with our ships.


Three months thus passed in fruitless expectation; at length an
aide-de-camp of the general arrived, and gave a spur to my hopes; but
after many days of anxiety to know the result, I learned from captain
Bergeret that the despatches said nothing upon my imprisonment. This
silence of the marine minister and the great events rising in Europe,
admitted little hope of my situation being remembered; and I was thence
led to entertain the project of once more requesting general De Caen to
send me to France for trial; but the brother of the general and another
officer being also expected, it was deferred at that time. In effect, M.
De Caen arrived on the 25th, in the frigate La Canonniere from Cherbourg,
and excited a renewal of hope only to be again disappointed; the news of
victories gained by the French over the Austrians seemed to occupy every
attention, and threw a dark shade over all expectation of present
liberty. I learned, however, and a prisoner's mind would not fail to
speculate thereon, that my detention was well known in Paris, and thought
to be hard; but it was also said, that I was considered in the same light
as those persons who were arrested in France, as hostages for the vessels
and men said to have been stopped by our ships before the declaration of

MARCH 1806

My proposed letter to general De Caen was then sent; and after pointing
out the uncertainty of orders arriving, or even that the marine minister
should find time to think of a prisoner in a distant island, I repeated
for the third time my request to be sent to France; where a speedy
punishment would put an end to my anxieties, if found culpable, or in the
contrary case, a few days would restore me to my country, my family, and
occupations. Captain Bergeret had the goodness to deliver this letter,
and to give it his support; but it was unsuccessful, the verbal answer
being that nothing could be done until the orders of the government were
received. To a proposal of taking my parole to deliver myself up in
France, should the ship be taken on the passage, the general would not
listen; though my friend said he had read the letter with attention, and
promised to repeat his request to the minister for orders.

A hurricane had desolated the island on the 20th and 21st of February;
and on the 10th of this month a second came on, causing a repetition of
mischief in the port and upon the plantations. Several vessels were
driven on shore or blown out to sea, and more than one lost; the fruit
trees, sugar cane, maize, etc. were laid flat with the earth; the
different streams swelled to an extraordinary size, carrying away the
best of the vegetable soil from the higher habitations, mixed with all
kinds of produce, branches and trunks of trees, and the wrecks of bridges
torn away; and the huts of the slaves, magazines, and some houses were
either unroofed or blown down. All communication with the port was cut
off from the distant quarters, and the intercourse between adjoining
plantations rendered difficult; yet this chaotic derangement was said to
be trifling in comparison with what was suffered in the first hurricane
at Bourbon, where the vessels have no better shelter than open roadsteds,
and the plantations of cloves, coffee and maize are so much more
extensive. Some American vessels were amongst the sufferers, but as
domestic occurrences were not allowed to be published here, I learned
only a very general account from the different reports: happily for our
cruisers the last had quitted the island in January.

In the evening of Feb. 20, when the first hurricane came on, the
swift-passing clouds were tinged at sunset with a deep copper colour; but
the moon not being near the full, it excited little apprehension at the
Refuge. The wind was fresh, and kept increasing until eleven o'clock, at
which time it blew very hard; the rain fell in torrents, accompanied with
loud claps of thunder and lightning, which at every instant imparted to
one of the darkest nights the brightness of day. The course of the wind
was from south-west to south, south-east, east, and north-east, where it
blew hardest between one and three in the morning, giving me an
apprehension that the house, pavilions, and all would be blown away
together. At four o'clock the wind had got round to north and began to
moderate, as did the rain which afterwards came only in squalls; at nine,
the rain had nearly ceased, and the wind was no more than a common gale,
and after passing round to N. N. W. it died away. At the time the wind
moderated at Mauritius its fury was most exerted at Bourbon, which it was
said to have attacked with a degree of violence that any thing less solid
than a mountain was scarcely able to resist. The lowest to which the
mercury descended in the barometer at Vacouas. was 51/2 lines below the
mean level of two days before and two days afterward; and this was at
daybreak, when the wind and rain were subsiding.

Soon after the violence of the hurricane had abated, I went to the
cascades of the R. du Tamarin, to enjoy the magnificent prospect which
the fall of so considerable a body of water must afford; the path through
the wood was strewed with the branches and trunks of trees, in the forest
the grass and shrubs were so beaten down as to present the appearance of
an army having passed that way, and the river was full up to its banks.
Having seen the fall in the nearest of the two arms, I descended below
their junction, to contemplate the cascade they formed when united, down
the precipice of 120 feet; the noise of the fall was such that my own
voice was scarcely audible, but a thick mist which rose up to the clouds
from the abyss, admitted of a white foam only being distinguished.

During these hurricanes in Mauritius, the wind usually makes the whole
tour of the compass; and as during this of February it made little more
than half, the apprehension of a second hurricane was entertained, and
became verified about a fortnight afterwards. The wind began at E. S. E.
with rainy weather, and continued there twenty-four hours, with
increasing force; it then shifted quickly to north-east, north,
north-west, and on the third evening was at W. S. W., where it gradually
subsided. This was not so violent as the first hurricane, but the rain
fell in torrents, and did great mischief to the land, besides destroying
such remaining part of the crops as were at all in an advanced state: at
Bourbon it did not do much injury, the former, it was said, having left
little to destroy. The wind had now completed the half of the compass
which it wanted in the first hurricane; and the unfortunate planters were
left to repair their losses without further dread for this year: maize
and manioc, upon which the slaves are principally fed, rose two hundred
per cent.

An opinion commonly entertained in Mauritius, that hurricanes are little
to be apprehended except near the time of full moon, does not seem to be
well founded. In 1805 indeed, there was a heavy gale on April 14 and 15,
a few days after the full; but the first of the two hurricanes
abovementioned took place a day or two before the new moon, and the
middle of the second within twenty-four hours of the last quarter; whence
it should appear that the hurricanes have no certain connexion with the
state of this planet. January, February, and March are the months which
excite the most dread, and December and April do not pass without
apprehension; for several years, however, previously to 1805, no
hurricane had been experienced; and the inhabitants began to hope, that
if the clearing of the country caused a dearth of rain at some times of
the year, it would also deliver them from these dreadful scourges; for it
was to the destruction of the woods that the dryness of preceding years
and the cessation of hurricanes were generally attributed.

On the 21st, His Majesty's ship Russel came off the island upon a cruise,
and chased into Port Louis La Piemontaise, a French frigate which had
sailed from Europe in December. By this opportunity a confirmation of
some, and an account of other victories gained over the Austrians were
received, as also of the great naval action off Cape Trafalgar; the
bulletins of the former were inserted in the gazette of the island, but
except a report from the officers of Le Redoubtable, not a word of the
naval action; amidst such events as these, the misfortunes of an
individual must be very striking to occupy even a thought.

In a visit to M. Plumet, and to M. Airolles, the proprietor of an
extensive plantation called Menil, in his neighbourhood, I had an
opportunity of seeing a rivulet, which for some distance runs under
ground. The bed of this stream resembled a work of art, seeming to have
been nicely cut out of the solid rock; and close by the side of it was a
cavern, containing layers of a ferruginous stone like lava; their
combined appearance excited an idea that the canal might have been once
occupied by a vein of iron ore, which being melted by subterraneous fire,
found an exit, and left a place for the future passage of the waters.
About one mile from hence, and in a more elevated situation, is a large
and deep hole, of a form nearly approaching to a perfect circle, and its
upper part occupying, according to M. Airolles, the place of seventeen
arpents of land; I judged it to be two hundred feet deep, and that the
loose stones in its bottom formed a flat of four or five acres, the angle
of descent being nearly equal on all sides. The stones around, and at the
bottom of this vast pit are more honeycombed than is usual in other
parts, and much resemble those of the Grand Bassin, of whose nature they
seemed to partake in other respects.

Menil comprehends a smaller plantation, formerly occupied by the
unfortunate La Perouse, who was some time an inhabitant of this island. I
surveyed it with mixed sensations of pleasure and melancholy; the ruins
of his house, the garden he had laid out, the still blooming hedge-rows
of China roses--emblems of his reputation, every thing was an object of
interest and curiosity. This spot is nearly in the centre of the island,
and upon the road from Port Louis to Port Bourbon. It was here that the
man lamented by the good and well informed of all nations--whom science
illumined, and humanity, joined to an honest ambition, conducted to the
haunts of remote savages--in this spot he once dwelt, perhaps little
known to the world, but happy; when he became celebrated he had ceased to
exist. M. Airolles promised me to place three square blocks of stone, one
upon the other, in the spot where the house of this lamented navigator
had stood; and upon the uppermost stone facing the road, to engrave, LA

APRIL 1806

My lame seaman having recovered from the accident of his broken leg,
colonel Monistrol granted a permission for his departure in the beginning
of April; and he was shipped on board the Telemaque -- Clark, bound to
Boston in America. His companion, the last of the Cumberland's crew, had
the same means offered of recovering his liberty; but he still refused to
leave me in Mauritius.

On the 15th I sent away two packets of letters, one for the Admiralty and
my friends in England, the other to France; the last contained a second
letter to M. de Fleurieu, and one to the French marine minister giving a
short account of my voyage and detention; it inclosed the extract from
captain Baudin (Chapter V., August.), and requested His Excellency would
direct general De Caen either to set me at liberty, or send me to France
with my books and papers for examination. These letters were accompanied
by duplicates of those written by my friend Pitot in March 1805, to
Messieurs De Bougainville, De la Lande, Chaptal, and Dupuis, and were
sent away by two different conveyances. The Society of Emulation, formed
in Mauritius the preceding year to promote literary and philosophical
pursuits, but especially to advance the agriculture, navigation, and
commerce of the two islands, wrote also to the National Institute in my
favour; and as its sentiments may be supposed analogous to those of the
most enlightened part of the inhabitants, I venture to give in the
original French a copy of that letter in a note, to show what those
sentiments were.*

[Not included in this ebook.]

MAY 1806

In May, my friend Pitot was accompanied in his monthly visit by M.
Baudin, an officer of the frigate last arrived from France, who had made
the voyage in Le Geographe with his name sake; and with liberality of
sentiment, possessed that ardent spirit of enterprise by which the best
navigators have been distinguished. He informed me that M. de Fleurieu
was acquainted with most of the circumstances attending my arrival in
this island, and took an interest in my situation, as did many others in
Paris; but could not say what might be the opinion or intentions of the

On the 6th, colonel Monistrol sent me two open letters from rear-admiral
sir Edward Pellew, commander in chief in the East Indies; in the first of
which it was said, "The circumstances of your situation have impressed
themselves most strongly on my attention; and I feel every disposition to
alleviate your anxiety, without, I fear, the means of affording you any
present relief from your very unpleasant situation. I have transmitted
your letter to the Admiralty, that steps may forthwith be taken for your
release at home, by effecting your exchange for an officer of equivalent
rank; under an impression that at least it may insure your return to
Europe on parole, if that should be a necessary preliminary to your final
liberation." To give an officer of equivalent rank was probably the most
certain mode of obtaining my speedy release, but was not altogether
agreeable to justice. It seemed to me, that the liberation of an officer
employed on discovery, and bearing a passport, ought to be granted as a
matter of right, without any conditions; and accompanied with the
restitution of every thing belonging to his mission and himself, if not
with an atonement to the offended laws of good faith and humanity; but
this was only the _just_, the views of sir Edward were directed to the
_expedient_, and showed a better knowledge of mankind. His second letter,
dated January 15, 1806, contained sentiments nearly similar to the first,
without any new subject upon which to ground the hope of an early
release; that my situation, however, should have excited the attention
and interest of an officer of sir Edward Pellew's established character
and merit, if it did not much increase the prospect of a speedy return to
my country and occupations, was yet gratifying to the feelings, and a
consolation under misfortune.

In compliance with an invitation from M. Curtat, a friend of our good
family at the Refuge, I went to his plantation near the Baye du Tamarin,
which was within my limits; and had an opportunity of seeing his sugar
and cotton manufactories, as also the embouchure of the rivers du Tamarin
and du Rempart. The bay into which they are discharged is no more than a
sandy bight in the low land, partly filled up with coral; and it would
soon be wholly so, did not the fresh stream from the rivers keep a
channel open in the middle; it is however so shallow, that except in fine
weather fishing boats even cannot enter without risk.

Upon a plantation in the Plains of St. Pierre, about one mile from the
foot of the Montagne du Rempart, are some caverns which M. Curtat
procured me the means of examining. In the entrance of one is a perpetual
spring, from which a stream takes its course under ground, in a vaulted
passage; M. Ducas, the proprietor of the plantation, said he had traced
it upon a raft, by the light of flambeaux, more than half a mile without
finding its issue; but he supposed it to be in a small lake near the sea
side. The other caverns had evidently been connected with the first,
until the roof gave way in two places and separated them. The middle
portion has a lofty arch, and might be formed into two spacious
apartments; its length is not many fathoms, but the third portion, though
less spacious, runs in a winding course of several hundred yards. From
being unprovided with torches we did not pass the whole length of this
third cavern; but at the two extremities, and as far within as could be
distinguished, the roof admitted of standing upright, and the breadth was
eight or ten yards from side to side.

About thirty years before, this part of the Plains de St. Pierre had been
covered with wood, and the caverns inhabited by a set of maroon negroes,
whose depredations and murders spread consternation in the neighbourhood.
Their main retreat in the third cavern was discovered by a man whom they
had left for dead; but having watched them to their haunt, he gave
information to the officers of justice, and troops were sent to take
them. After securing the further outlet, the soldiers crept to the
principal entrance, near which the maroons kept a sentinel with loaded
musket in the top of a tree; he was found nodding on his post, and having
shot him they rushed in a body to the mouth of the cavern. The poor
wretches within started from their beds, for they slept in the day time,
and flew to arms; a skirmish ensued, in which another of them was killed
and two soldiers wounded; but at length, finding their retreat cut off,
the sentinel, who happened to be their captain and chief instigator,
killed, and the force opposed to them too great to be overcome, they
yielded themselves prisoners to the number of fifty-one; and were marched
off, with their hands tied, to head quarters, to the great joy of the
district. Besides arms and a small quantity of ammunition, there was
little else found in the cavern than a bag of dollars, a case of wine,
some pieces of cloth, a slaughtered goat, and a small provision of maize
not more than enough for one day. The skull of their captain, who was
said to be possessed of much cunning and audacity, was at this time lying
upon a stone at the entrance of the cavern; and for narrowness of front
and large extent at the back part of the head, was the most singularly
formed cranium I ever saw. Little oblong inclosures, formed with small
stones by the sides of the cavern, once the sleeping places of these
wretches, also existed, nearly in the state they had been left; owing
apparently to the superstition of the black, and the policy and disgust
of the white visitants to these excavations.

The stone here is mostly of an iron-grey colour, heavy, and porous; and
there were marks upon the sides of the middle cavern which might have
arisen either from a sulphureous substance yielded by the stone when in a
state of ignition, or from an impregnated water draining through the roof
during a succession of time; upon the whole, though it seemed probable
that these caverns owe their origin to the same cause as the
subterraneous canal at Menil, the marks of fire in them were neither
distinct nor unequivocal. The position of these long, winding
excavations, in a country nearly level and of small elevation, appeared
to be the most extraordinary circumstance attending them; but in this
island they are commonly so situate, particularly that remarkable one, of
which a detailed account is given in Grant's _History of Mauritius_ from
M. de St. Pierre.

Quitting Le Tamarin with M. Curtat, I went to the town of Port Louis, to
take up my residence for a few days with my friend Pitot, the
captain-general having granted a permission to that effect. One of the
objects for which I had asked the permission, was to obtain a further one
to visit La Poudre d'Or and Flacq, on the north-east side of the island;
but my application was refused after two or three days consideration, and
accompanied with an order to return immediately to Wilhems Plains. It
appeared that general De Caen had received a letter of reproach from
governor King of Port Jackson, inclosing, it was said, a copy of that I
had written to the governor in August 1804, wherein my reception and
treatment at Mauritius were described in colours not calculated to
gratify the general's feelings; it was even considered, and perhaps was
in him, a great act of forbearance that he did not order me to be closely
confined in the tower.

During this short residence in town, the attentions of my friend Pitot,
of captain Bergeret, and several other French inhabitants were such as
bespoke a desire to indemnify me for the ill treatment of their governor,
whose conduct seemed to be generally disapproved; my acquaintance with
major Dunienville of La Savanne was renewed, as also with M. Boand, the
good Swiss, whose anxiety to serve me when a prisoner in the Cafe
Marengo, had not lost any thing of its ardour. At the Garden Prison,
which I could not refrain from visiting, there was no one but the old
serjeant, the six or eight Englishmen in the island being kept at the
Grande Riviere. In returning to Wilhems Plains I made a tour by the
district of Mocha, both to see that part of the island and to visit M.
Huet de Froberville, with whom his intimacy with the good family at the
Refuge had brought me acquainted; this gentleman was nephew of Huetius,
the celebrated bishop of Avranches, and author of _Sidner, or the dangers
of imagination_, a little work published in Mauritius.

JUNE 1806

The usual season of arrivals from France expired with the month of May,
and the time elapsed since my first detention, without being otherwise
noticed by the French government than giving general De Caen its
temporary approbation, had exceedingly weakened my confidence in its
justice; it appeared moreover, that not only had no public application
been made by our government for my liberty and the restitution of my
charts and journals, but that the advancement I had been led to expect in
consequence of the voyage, was stopped. This could not be from
inattention, and therefore probably arose either from a want of
information, or from some misconceived opinions at the Admiralty; to
remove which, it seemed necessary to transmit an account of all the
circumstances attending my imprisonment, accompanied with the letters to
and from the captain-general, and such other pieces as were proper to the
authentication of the narrative.

JULY 1806

I was occupied in writing this account when the Warren Hastings, richly
laden from China, was taken by La Piemontaise and brought to Mauritius;
and captain Larkins having obtained permission to return to England, he
offered by letter to take charge of any thing I desired to transmit. The
narrative, completed to the time of leaving the Garden Prison, was
therefore conveyed to him; and in an accompanying letter to the
Admiralty, my hopes were expressed that their Lordships would not suffer
an imprisonment, contrary to every principle of justice and humanity, to
continue without notice--without such steps being taken to obtain my
release and the restitution of my remaining charts and papers, as in
their wisdom should seem meet. Captain Larkins had ineffectually sought
to obtain a permission to come to Wilhems Plains, and my request to go to
the town for a day or two was refused; he therefore sailed [AUGUST 1806]
without my being able to see him or any of his officers; and his
departure was preceded by that of my friend Pitot for Bourbon, and
followed by the embarkation of captain Bergeret for France.

In consequence of the many kindnesses conferred by M. Pitot on several of
our countrymen as well as myself, I had been induced to write some
letters at his request to the commanders of His Majesty's ships;
recommending to their favour, in case of being taken, such of his friends
as had a claim to it, either from services rendered to prisoners or from
their superior talents; and I did not let slip the occasion of his voyage
to Bourbon, to testify in this manner my sense of his worth. To soften
the rigour of confinement to deserving men, is a grateful task; I
conceived that a war between two nations does not necessarily entrain
personal enmity between each of their respective individuals, nor should
prevent us from doing particular acts of kindness where merit and
misfortune make the claim; and in the confidence that such were the
general sentiments of officers in the navy, I had no hesitation in
addressing myself to them. Possibly some would think these applications
unadvisably made; but no--to distinguish merit and repay the debt of
gratitude contracted by unfortunate brother officers or countrymen, are
too congenial to the hearts of Britons; to those who produced either, or
both of these titles an English seaman could not be deaf, and on no other
account was my suffrage obtained.

Captain Bergeret's name was too well known to need any recommendation
from me; but I wished to express my gratitude for his generous
proceedings to many English prisoners, and to have the advantage of his
influence in obtaining an order from his government for my liberty, or
otherwise for being sent to France to be examined. The letter transmitted
a short time before he sailed, expresses the state of a prisoner's mind
when suffering under injustice and wearied with disappointment; on this
account, the greater number of readers will be induced to excuse the
insertion of the following passages, which otherwise are without
importance, and perhaps without interest.

I need not at this time call to your recollection what my situation is in
this place. I have been so long pressed under the hand of injustice, and
my confidence in the French government is so much exhausted, that I am
reduced to asking as a favour what ought to be demanded as a right. On
your arrival in France then, my dear Sir, forget not that I am here--that
my prayer is, to be examined, to be tried, to be condemned, if I have in
action, intention, or thought, done any thing whilst employed in my
voyage of discovery, against the French nation or its allies--if in any
way I have infringed upon the line of conduct prescribed by the passport
of the first consul of France. To have the best years of my life, the
essence of my existence thus drained away without any examination into
the affair; to have the fruits of my labours and risks thus ravished from
me--my hopes of advancement and of reputation thus cruelly blasted, is
almost beyond what I am able to support. Use then, I conjure you, Sir,
your best endeavours with those men in France who have it in their power
to forward my wish; with those men for whom a voyage of discovery, the
preservation of national faith, and the exercise of humanity have still
attractions. With such men, in spite of the neglect which my
extraordinary situation here has undergone, now near three years, I will
not believe but that the French empire abounds; a Fleurieu, a
Bougainville, a Lalande, a Delambre, and numberless others--can such men
be strangers to national honour and humanity? Has a man reduced to
misfortune by his ardent zeal to advance geography and its kindred
sciences, no claims upon men like these? It cannot be. However unworthy
an instrument I am in the hands of our literary British worthies, my
employment, if not my misfortunes, give me a claim upon their assistance
in obtaining, at least, an examination into my crimes or my innocence;
and this claim I now make. See these celebrated men, Sir, explain to them
the circumstances of my situation, tell them the plain tale, and that it
is towards them, though so distant, that my looks are directed; your own
name will give you an introduction, and the cause you undertake will not
disgrace it.

Adieu, worthy Sir, may the winds be propitious, and may you never be
reduced to the bitterness of sighing after justice in vain.


Effects of repeated disappointment on the mind.
Arrival of a cartel, and of letters from India.
Letter of the French marine minister.
Restitution of papers.
Applications for liberty evasively answered.
Attempted seizure of private letters.
Memorial to the minister.
Encroachments made at Paris on the Investigator's discoveries.
Expected attack on Mauritius produces an abridgment of Liberty.
Strict blockade.
Arrival of another cartel from India.
State of the public finances in Mauritius.
French cartel sails for the Cape of Good Hope.



News of negotiations at Paris for peace formed the principal topic of
conversation at Mauritius in September, and no one more than myself could
desire that the efforts of Lord Lauderdale might be crowned with success;
a return to England in consequence of such an event was of all things
what I most desired, but the hope of peace, before national animosity and
the means of carrying on war became diminished, was too feeble to admit
of indulging in the anticipation.


The state of incertitude in which I remained after nearly three years of
anxiety, joined to the absence of my friends Bergeret and Pitot, brought
on a dejection of spirits which might have proved fatal, had I not sought
by constant occupation to force my mind from a subject so destructive to
its repose; such an end to my detention would have given too much
pleasure to the captain-general, and from a sort of perversity in human
nature, this conviction even brought its share of support. I
reconstructed some of my charts on a larger scale, corrected and extended
the explanatory memoir, and completed for the Admiralty an enlarged copy
of the Investigator's log book, so far as the materials in my hands could
admit; the study of the French language was pursued with increased
application, and many books in it, particularly voyages and travels, were
read. But what assisted most in dispelling this melancholy, was a packet
of letters from England, bringing intelligence of my family and friends;
and the satisfactory information that Mr. Aken had safely reached London,
with all the charts, journals, letters and instruments committed to his


No occurrence more particular than the departure in January of a prisoner
of war, which furnished an opportunity of writing to England, took place
for several months. In April [APRIL 1807] the season for the arrival of
ships from France was mostly passed, and the captain-general had still
received no orders; being than at the town, I requested of him an
audience through the intervention of M. Beckmann, who engaged, in case of
refusal, to enter into an explanation with His Excellency and endeavour
to learn his intentions. On his return, M. Beckmann said that the general
had expressed himself sensible of the hardship of my situation, and that
he every day expected to receive orders from France; but being unable to
do any thing without these orders, it was useless to see me, and he
recommended waiting with patience for their arrival.

MAY 1807

In acknowledgment for the letter written to the National Institute by the
Society of Emulation, I sent to it a description of Wreck Reef, with my
conjectures upon the place where the unfortunate La Perouse had probably
been lost; and this letter, as also a succeeding one upon the differences
in the variation of the magnetic needle on ship-board, was transmitted by
the Society to the Institute at Paris.

JUNE 1807

The effect of long protracted expectation, repeatedly changing its object
and as often disappointed, became strongly marked in my faithful servant.
This worthy man had refused to quit the island at the general exchange of
prisoners in August 1805, and also in the following year when his
companion, the lame seaman, went to America, because he would not abandon
me in misfortune; but the despair of our being ever set at liberty had
now wholly taken possession of his senses. He imagined that all the
inhabitants of the island, even those who were most friendly, were
leagued with the captain-general against us; the signals on the hills
communicated my every step, the political articles in the gazettes
related in a metaphorical manner the designs carrying on, the new laws at
that time publishing showed the punishments we were doomed to suffer,
persons seen in conversation, every thing in fine, had some connexion
with this mysterious league; and the dread of some sudden and
overwhelming blow left him no peace, either by day or night. This state
of mind continued some months, his sleep and appetite had forsaken him,
and he wasted daily; and finding no other means of cure than persuading
him to return to England, where he might still render me service, a
permission for his departure was requested and obtained; and in the
beginning of July [JULY 1807] he embarked on board an American brig, for
Baltimore. I gave into his charge some remaining charts and books, and
many letters; and had the satisfaction to see him more easy, and almost
convinced of the folly of his terrors on finding he was really allowed to
go away, which till then, had appeared to him incredible.

On the 18th, arrived the Hon. Company's ship Marquis Wellesley, as a
cartel from Madras, with French prisoners; and four days afterward
colonel Monistrol transmitted me a letter from the secretary of sir
Edward Pellew, containing the extract of a despatch to the
captain-general, and two letters of a more recent date from the admiral
himself. One of these, addressed upon His Majesty's service, was as

H. M. ship Duncan, Madras Roads, 21st June, 1807.


Two days ago I renewed my application to the captain-general De Caen in
your favour, requesting that His Excellency would permit of your
departure from the Isle of France, and suggesting the opportunity now
offered by His Majesty's ship Greyhound.

I have since received despatches from England, containing the letter of
which a copy is now inclosed, from Mr. Marsden, secretary of the
Admiralty,* therewith transmitting instructions for your release under
the authority of the French minister of marine, to the captain-general of
the French establishments.

I congratulate you most sincerely on this long protracted event; and I
trust, if your wishes induce you to proceed to India, that you may be
enabled to embark with captain Troubridge, for the purpose of proceeding
to England from hence by the first opportunity.

(Signed.) Edward Pellew.

[* COPY.

The accompanying letter is understood to contain a direction from the
French government for the release of captain Flinders. It has already
been transmitted to the Isle of France in triplicate; but as it may be
hoped that the vessels have been all captured, you had better take an
opportunity of sending this copy by a flag of truce, provided you have
not heard in the mean time of Flinders being at liberty.

Admiralty, 30th Dec. 1806.
(Signed) William Marsden.]

The admiral's second letter was a private one, inviting me to take up my
residence in his house at Madras, until such time as the departure of a
King's ship should furnish an opportunity of returning to England; and
was accompanied by one from captain Troubridge, expressing the pleasure
he should have in receiving me; but the Greyhound had already been sent
away two days! and nothing announced any haste in the general to put the
order into execution. I then wrote to request His Excellency would have
the goodness to confirm the hopes produced by these letters; or that, if
they were fallacious, he would be pleased to let me know it. It was seven
days before an answer was given; colonel Monistrol then said, "His
Excellency the captain-general has charged me to answer the letter which
you addressed to him on the 24th of this month; and to tell you that, in
effect, he has received through the medium of His Excellency sir Edward
Pellew, a despatch from His Excellency the minister of the marine and the
colonies of France, relative to you. I am also charged to send you the
copy, herewith joined, of that letter; and to inform you that so soon as
circumstances will permit, you will fully enjoy the favour which has been
granted you by his Majesty the Emperor and King." This long expected
document from the marine minister was literally as follows.*

[* The document, in French, is not included in this ebook.]

It appeared from this letter, that so long before as July 1804, the
council of state had come to a decision upon my case; which was, _to
approve of the conduct of general De Caen, and from a pure sentiment of
generosity, to grant my liberty and the restitution of the Cumberland_.
This decision had lain over until March 1806, before it was made
efficient by the approval of the French emperor; it had then been sent in
triplicate by French vessels; and it seemed very extraordinary that in
July 1807, the quadruplicate sent from England in December, round by
India, should first arrive, when two or more vessels had come from France
in the preceding twelve months.

Colonel Monistrol's letter gave me to understand that the order would be
executed, but the time when, and the manner, were left in uncertainty; I
therefore requested a permission to go to town for the arrangement of my
affairs, hoping there to learn some further particulars; this however was
refused, the answer being, "that when the time of my departure should be
fixed," a permission would be granted for as many days as were necessary.
Whence this delay in executing the minister's order could arise, I knew
not; but having heard that the Cumberland had been removed from her usual
place, and fearing that her reparation and refitment might be the cause,
a letter was sent to inform colonel Monistrol, [AUGUST 1805] "that the
impossibility of obtaining any better vessel for a direct passage to
England could alone have induced me to undertake it in the Cumberland;
and that unless His Excellency denied me any other means of quitting the
Isle of France, it was not my intention to re-embark in her. If therefore
it were His Excellency's desire that she should be restored to me, rather
than her value, I hoped he would admit of her being sold; and allow me to
take a passage on board some ship bound to America or India;" a request
for the restitution of my books and papers was also made, that the
intervening time might be employed in arranging them from the disorder
into which they had been thrown at the shipwreck, four years before. At
the end of three weeks, a letter from the colonel invited me to go to
town, that he might restore the books and papers, with the other objects
relating to my voyage of discovery; and on presenting myself at his
office, the trunk into which they had been put was given up; my sword and
spy-glasses were to be returned at the time of departure, as also the
amount of the schooner and her stores, which had been valued soon after
my arrival. On asking for the two boxes of despatches, the colonel said
they had long been disposed of, and he believed that something in them
had contributed to my imprisonment; and to an application for the
remaining journal, he replied that it was wanted for the purpose of
making extracts, at which I expressed surprise, seeing that it had been
in the general's possession near four years, and the French government
had made its decision. On requesting to know if it were intended to let
me embark in the Wellesley cartel, then in port, it appeared that this
had not been thought of; and the colonel hinted, that the order for my
liberation had been given at a moment when England and France were in
better intelligence than usual, and perhaps would not be granted to an
application made at the present time; and it appeared from his
conversation, that the restitution of my papers was not to be considered
an assurance of a speedy departure.

After quitting colonel Monistrol, I examined the condition of the papers,
and then sent him the following note and receipt.

I have the honour to inclose a receipt for the books and papers received
yesterday. The rats have made great havock amongst them, and many papers
are wholly destroyed; but so far as I have yet examined, those which are
of the most importance seem to have wholly, or in part escaped their
ravages. I shall return immediately within the limits of my parole,
according to the directions of His Excellency the captain-general; to
wait the time when he shall be pleased to execute the orders which his
Imperial and Royal Majesty thought proper to give on March 11, 1806, for
my liberation; and I have the honour to be, etc.

Received from colonel Monistrol, _chef de l'etat-major-general_ in the
Isle of France, one trunk containing the remainder of the books, papers,
etc. taken from me in Port North-West on Dec. 17, 1803, and Dec. 21 of
the same year; which books and papers, with those received at two
different times in 1804, make up the whole that were so taken, with the
following exceptions.

1. Various letters and papers either wholly or in part destroyed by the
rats, the remains of which are in the trunk.

2. The third volume of my rough log book, containing the journal of
transactions and observations on board the Investigator, Porpoise, the
Hope cutter, and Cumberland schooner, from sometime in June to Dec. 17,
1803, of which I have no duplicate.

3. Two boxes of despatches. The one from His Excellency governor King of
New South Wales, addressed to His Majesty's principal secretary of state
for the colonies; the other from colonel Paterson, lieutenant-governor of
Port Jackson, the address of which I cannot remember.

In truth of which I hereunto sign my name, at Port Napoleon,* Isle of
France., this 24th day of August 1807.

Matthew Flinders.
Late commander of H. M. sloop Investigator,
employed on discoveries to the South Seas with a French passport.

[* Port Louis, after having been changed to Port de la Montagne, Port
North-West, and I believe borne one or two other names, was now called
Port Napoleon; Port Bourbon and Isle Bourbon underwent similar changes:
such was the inflexibility of French republicanism.]

Messrs Le Blanc and Stock, the commander and commissary of the Wellesley
cartel, having a house in the town, I took this opportunity of seeing
them; and it was agreed between us, that when the cartel was allowed to
sail, Mr. Stock should make an official request for my embarkation with
him. As, however, there was much reason to apprehend a refusal, I
arranged a great part of the books and papers just received, with all the
Port-Jackson letters, and sent them on board the Wellesley; writing at
the same time [SEPTEMBER 1807] to Sir Edward Pellew my suspicion, that
general De Caen would not execute the order he had received from the
marine minister. This precaution was not useless, for in the beginning of
October the Wellesly was sent away suddenly; and although she had been
detained three months, not a prisoner was given in exchange for those
brought from India. Mr. Stock left a copy of the letter he had written,
as was agreed, and of the answer from the general's secretary; this said,
"the captain-general is very sorry that he cannot allow captain Flinders
to embark in the cartel Wellesley. So soon as circumstances will permit,
that officer will be set at liberty, and to that effect be sent to
London." The most direct means of conveyance to London in time of war,
was assuredly by the way of France; but two vessels, the first of which
was commanded by the brother of the captain-general, had sailed a short
time before for that destination; so that this answer, if not false, was
at least equivocal. My opinion of the general's unfair dealing had
induced me to write by the last of these French vessels to the minister
of the marine, representing the little probability there was of his order
being executed; but this vessel was captured, and my letter most probably
thrown overboard.

An attempt to gain some knowledge of what were the captain-general's
intentions was made in the following letter, written on the 16th, to
colonel Monistrol.


You will do me a favour in transmitting the log book which was detained
for the purpose of making extracts from it, as they have doubtless been
made long since. At the same time, Sir, you would relieve me from much
inquietude, if you could inform me of the time at which it is the
intention of His Excellency the captain-general to grant me the liberty
which His Imperial and Royal Majesty was pleased to accord in March 1806.
BY your letter of July 27 last, I was led to hope from the expression,
"vous jouirez pleinement de la faveur," etc., that this long desired
period would soon arrive. What the circumstances are to which you allude
in that letter, it is impossible for me to know; nor is it within my
imagination to conceive the circumstances which permit vessels to sail
for India or America, but which cannot allow of my departure.

The desire expressed by His Excellency to captain Bergeret and M.
Beckmann, to receive orders relating to me, and to the latter that he was
sensible of the hardship of my situation, led me to hope that he would
have taken into consideration the length of time that my detention had
continued, the misfortune which preceded it, and the time elapsed since
the date of the marine minister's letter; and I still intreat him to take
them into his consideration. I have suffered much, Sir, in the Isle of
France, and the uncertainty in which I have ever been kept has been one
of the bitterest ingredients in the cup; I thought it exhausted when you
favoured me with the copy of the letter from His Excellency the minister;
but the dregs remained, and it seems as if I must swallow them to the
last drop.

If the means of my return to England cause any part of the delay, I beg
to inform you of my readiness to embrace any means, or any route, in the
Cumberland even, if it will save time, or in any other vessel of any
nation. A passage on board the finest ship one month hence, would not
indemnify me for one month longer of suffering, such as the last
forty-six have been.

I am fully persuaded that no representation of mine can change the
arrangements of the captain-general; if therefore the time and manner of
my return be absolutely fixed, I have only to request that he will have
so much charity as to impart them; or even the time only, when I may
expect to see myself out of this fatal island; for the manner, when
compared to the time, becomes almost indifferent. To know at what period
this waste of the best years of my life was to end, would soften the
anguish of my mind; and if you would favour me with the return of my log
book, I should have an occupation which would still further tend to
diminish it.

I request you to accept the assurances of consideration with which I have
the honour to be, etc.

The answer received eight days afterward, said not a word of the log
book; but simply that "so soon as a convenient opportunity for my
departure presented itself, the captain-general would order it to be
communicated;" which was evidently no more than an evasion, for vessels
had gone to France, and others were at that very time sailing every week,
either to India or America, in any one of which a passage might have been
obtained. I was now induced to enter into the examination whether, in
justice and honour, my parole ought to continue to be a restraint from
quitting the island; it had been given to general De Caen as the
representative of the French government--that government had ordered me
to be set at liberty--and nothing was alleged for not putting the order
into execution, other than the want of a convenient opportunity; had I
not then a right to seek that opportunity for myself, since the
captain-general had let pass so many without indicating any one of them?
This question was debated a long time, and under every point of view,
before deciding upon the line of conduct which duty to my country, my
family and myself prescribed to be right.

Many letters for India, and a copy of my narrative for sir Edward Pellew
had been confided to my Swiss friend, M. Boand, who was to have embarked
in the Wellesley; but at the moment of sailing, the captain-general gave
an order to prevent his going on board; the good man went immediately to
ask an audience of His Excellency, and after discussing his own case,
spoke of my imprisonment and tried to learn when it would cease. That he
could obtain nothing decisive, was to be expected; but that the general
should preserve his temper during this conversation, and even answer
gaily, though equivocally, to several closely-put questions, was contrary
to what usually happened when my name had been mentioned before him. M.
Boand was permitted to embark in a Danish ship, which sailed early on the
24th; but late in the evening before, some police officers went on board,
searched his trunk, and took away all the letters they could find,
telling him he might then sail, they had got what they wanted. This
transaction explained the general's views in preventing M. Boand's
departure in the cartel, where a search could not decently have been
made; also why the cartel had been sent off so suddenly that my letters
could not be put on board, and the cause of his moderation when speaking
of my imprisonment. He was not deceived in supposing this friend would be
the bearer of many letters, though very much so if he hoped to find
therein proofs of my having acted, or intending to act contrary to the
passport; he however missed his aim altogether, as I learned some months
afterward; the cautious Swiss had separated my letters from those he had
received from other persons, and these last only were found; but it was
not less evident, that general De Caen was seeking all means to fortify
himself with pretexts to avoid setting me at liberty.


This year finished in the same manner as the preceding, without the least
change in my situation; but if I had reason to complain of the want of
justice, humanity, and good faith in the captain-general, there was, on
the other hand, great cause to be satisfied with the sustained attentions
of the inhabitants in my small circle, especially of those in the house
where I still continued to dwell; and it was some consolation to see,
that the interest generally taken in my liberation increased with every
fresh act denoting perseverance in rigorous measures.

JULY 1808

Six other months had elapsed when two vessels came from France, and it
was known that the captain-general's brother had safely reached Paris; he
had sailed two months after the order for my liberty had arrived, and as
the general had probably communicated his intentions to the marine
minister, he might have received fresh directions; I therefore wrote to
the chief of the staff, requesting to know whether the despatches
contained any thing to give me hopes of early liberty, and repeating my
readiness to embark in any vessel of any nation; but it was answered,
that nothing in the despatches related to this subject.


Several ships being in preparation to depart for France in September, a
memorial containing the circumstances previous to and attending my
imprisonment was made out, with authenticating papers annexed, to be
transmitted to the minister of the French marine; in this, I explained
the late conduct of the captain-general, and earnestly entreated that His
Excellency would direct him to send me to France, by an order couched in
such terms as should leave no room for evasion; declaring at the same
time, perhaps incautiously, that I considered his previous order to have
released me from parole. Two copies of this memorial were confided to
gentlemen who promised to deliver them in person to the minister; or in
case of being taken, to the captain of the English man of war who would
forward them to the Admiralty. There still remained La Semillante, an old
frigate sold to the merchants, on board of which two officers of the
French navy were to go as passengers. This afforded the most desirable
opportunity of sending me to France, if such had been the general's
intention; and to do away all after pretext of not knowing it to be my
wish, another request was made to that effect [OCTOBER 1808]; with a
proposition to engage, "in case La Semillante should not arrive at her
destination, to take the most direct means that could be found of
reaching France, and giving myself up into the hands of the government;
should it be judged expedient to require from me such a parole." In
answer to this letter, it was then said for the first time, fifteen
months after receiving the order for my liberty, that the
captain-general, "having communicated to His Excellency the marine
minister the motives which had determined him to suspend my return to
Europe, he could not authorise my departure before having received an
answer upon the subject." Thus the frequently expressed desire of general
De Caen to receive orders, and the promise, when they arrived, that I
should be set at liberty so soon as circumstances would permit, were
shown to be fallacious; and the so long expected order to be of none
effect. The reasoning of the inhabitants upon this suspension was, that
having been so long in the island, I had gained too much knowledge of it
for my departure to be admitted with safety; but if this were so, the
captain-general was punishing me for his own oversight, since without the
detention forced by himself, the supposed dangerous knowledge could not
have been acquired. In calling it an oversight I am probably wrong. When
the general suffered me to quit the Garden Prison, he expected the order
which afterwards arrived; and what appeared to be granted as an
indulgence, was perhaps done with a view to this very pretext of my too
extended knowledge of the island; a pretext which could scarcely have
been alleged so long as I remained shut up in prison.


One of the naval officers who embarked in La Semillante had served in the
expedition of captain Baudin; he took charge of a triplicate of my
memorial to the marine minister, and promised to use his efforts in
obtaining for it a powerful support. This triplicate was accompanied by
many letters, addressed to distinguished characters in the ministry, the
senate, in the council of state and the national institute; as well from
myself as from several worthy persons who interested themselves in the
issue of my detention. By this and another opportunity, I stated to the
Admiralty and the president of the Royal Society the circumstances
attending the order which had arrived; and from these various steps
united, my friends in Mauritius conceived the hope of a success almost
certain; but from having been so often deceived I was less sanguine, and
saw only that if this memorial and these letters failed, there was little
hope of being restored to liberty before the uncertain epoch of peace.


Constant occupation was, as usual, my resource to beguile the time until
the effect of the memorial and letters could be known. Being furnished by
some friends with several manuscript travels and journals in the
interior, and along the coasts of Madagascar, I constructed a chart of
the northern half of that extensive island, accompanied with an
analytical account of my materials; and in this employment, reading
various French authors, mathematical studies, and visiting occasionally
some of the inhabitants within my circle, this time of anxious suspense
passed not unprofitably. In the month of March [MARCH 1809] arrived the
frigate La Venus, captain Hamelin, the same who had commanded Le
Naturaliste at Port Jackson. His affairs, or some other cause, prevented
him from seeing or writing to me; but he told M. Pitot that many persons
took an interest in my situation, and that several officers of Le
Geographe and Naturaliste had made applications to the marine minister.
The answers they received had constantly been, that orders were sent out
to Mauritius to set me at liberty and restore the Cumberland; yet it was
known in France before captain Hamelin sailed, that these orders had not
been executed, and the future intentions of the government were unknown.
The publication of the French voyage of discovery, written by M. Peron,
was in great forwardness; and the emperor Napoleon considering it to be a
national work, had granted a considerable sum to render the publication
complete. From a Moniteur of July 1808, it appeared that French names
were given to all my discoveries and those of captain Grant on the south
coast of Terra Australis; it was kept out of sight that I had ever been
upon the coast; and in speaking of M. Peron's first volume the newspapers
asserted, that no voyage _ever_ made by the English nation could be
compared with that of the Geographe and Naturaliste. It may be
remembered, that after exploring the South Coast up to Kangaroo Island,
with the two gulphs, I met captain Baudin, and gave him the first
information of these places and of the advantages they offered him; and
it was but an ill return to seek to deprive me of the little honour
attending the discovery. No means were spared by the French government to
enhance the merit of this voyage, and all the officers employed in it had
received promotion; but the Investigator's voyage seemed to obtain as
little public notice in England as in France, no one of my officers had
been advanced on their arrival, and in addition to so many years of
imprisonment my own promotion was suspended. It would ill become me to
say that in one case there was an ostentatious munificence, or in the
other, injustice and neglect; but the extreme difference made between the
two voyages could not but add to the bitterness of my situation, and
diminish the little remaining hope of being speedily and honourably

A vessel from St. Malo arrived in May, and gave information that one of
the ships which carried a duplicate of my memorial to the marine
minister, had reached France; and in a few days La Bellone, a frigate in
which the brother of the captain-general was an officer, got into Port
Louis; she had sailed in the end of January and brought despatches, but
if the general received any new order by this or the former vessel, it
was kept to himself. In June the English cruisers sent in a flag of truce
with a French lady, taken in L'Agile from St. Malo; this lady brought
many letters, in some of which the arrival in France of La Semillante was
mentioned; also that Bonaparte was at Paris when L'Agile sailed, and that
the naval officer who carried the last copy of my memorial had been
promoted and made a member of the legion of honour. I did now certainly
entertain hopes that general De Caen would have received an order to set
me at liberty, and that no further pretext for prolonging my detention
would be admitted; but week after week passed as before, without any
intimation of this so much desired event.

JULY 1809

There was reason to believe that a direct application to know whether any
order had arrived, would obtain no answer; therefore after waiting a
month, I wrote to ask "whether His Excellency would permit my wife to
come and join me, should she present herself before Port Napoleon." It
was not in reality my intention that she should leave England, but I
hoped to draw the desired information from the answer; and in six weeks
[SEPTEMBER 1809], after another vessel had arrived from France, one was
given to the following effect: "The captain-general will not oppose the
residence of your wife in the colony; but with respect to a safe conduct,
it is necessary that Mrs. Flinders should apply to the ministers of His
Britannic Majesty, who should make the request to those of His Majesty
the Emperor and King;" which was equivalent to saying, either that no
fresh order to set me at liberty had been received, or that it would not
be put into execution.

At this time there was much talk of an attack upon the island, said to be
projected by the British government; and all the English officers,
prisoners of war, were taken from their paroles and closely shut up. In
the middle of the month our cruisers quitted the island unexpectedly, and
a fortnight afterwards it was known that they gone to Bourbon, and made
an attack upon the town of St. Paul; both the town and bay were then in
their possession, as also La Coraline frigate and two Indiamen her
prizes, upon which this government had counted for supplying its
deficiency of revenue. During the attack, great disorders had been
committed by the black slaves, and the humane care of commodore Rowley
and his captains had alone prevented greater excesses; this intelligence
put a stop to the raising of regiments of slaves for the defence of
Mauritius, which the captain-general had commenced under the name of
African battalions, much against the sense of the inhabitants. These
various circumstances, with the distress of the government for money,
caused much agitation in the public mind; and it was to be apprehended
that general De Caen would scarcely suffer me to remain with the usual
degree of liberty, whilst all the other prisoners were shut up. I
endeavoured by great circumspection to give no umbrage, in order to avoid
the numberless inconveniences of a close imprisonment; but in the
beginning of October [OCTOBER 1809] a letter came from colonel Monistrol,
saying that "His Excellency the captain-general having learned that I
sometimes went to a considerable distance from the habitation of Madame
D'Arifat, had thought proper to restrain my permission to reside in the
interior of the colony on parole, to the lands composing that
habitation." This order showed that the general had either no distinct
idea of a parole of honour, or that his opinion of it differed widely
from that commonly received; a parole is usually thought to be a
convention, whereby, in order to obtain a certain portion of liberty, an
officer promises not to take any greater; but general De Caen seemed to
expect me to be bound by the convention, whilst he withdrew such portion
of the advantages as he thought proper, and this without troubling
himself about my consent. If any doubts remained that the order of the
French government had in strict justice liberated me from parole, this
infraction by the captain-general was sufficient to do them away;
nevertheless the same reasons which had prevented me declaring this
conviction long before, restrained the declaration at this time; and I
returned the following answer to colonel Monistrol, written in French
that no pretext of bad translation might afterwards be alleged.


Yesterday at noon I had the honour of receiving your letter of the 1st.
inst. It is true that I have sometimes profited by the permission
contained in the parole which I had given (que j'avais donnee) on Aug 23,
1805, by which I was allowed to go as far as two leagues from the
plantation of Madame D'Arifat; but since His Excellency the
captain-general has thought good to make other regulations, I shall
endeavour to conduct myself with so much prudence respecting the orders
now given, that His Excellency will not have any just cause of complaint
against me.

I have the honour to be, etc.

The two objects I had in view in giving this answer, were, to promise
nothing in regard to my movements, and to avoid close imprisonment if it
could be done without dishonour; had it been demanded whether I still
considered the parole to be in force, my answer was perfectly ready and
very short, but no such question was asked. Many circumstances had given
room to suspect, that the captain-general secretly desired I should
attempt an escape; and his view in it might either have been to some
extraordinary severity, or in case his spies failed of giving timely
information, to charging me with having broken parole and thus to throw a
veil over his own injustice. Hence it might have been that he did not
seek to know whether, being restricted to the plantation of Madame
D'Arifat, I still admitted the obligatory part of the parole to be
binding; and that the expression in my answer--_the parole which I had
given_, implying that it existed no longer, passed without question.
However this might be, I thenceforward declined accepting any invitations
beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the plantation; and until the
decisive moment should arrive, amused by solitude with instructing the
two younger sons of our good family in the elements of mathematical
science, with inventing problems and calculating tables that might be
useful to navigation, and in reading the most esteemed French authors.

After the evacuation of the town and bay of St. Paul at Bourbon, the
blockade of Mauritius was resumed by commodore Rowley with increased
strictness. The frigate La Canonniere and the prize formerly H. M. ship
Laurel, which the want of a few thousand dollars had induced the
government to let for freight to the merchants, were thus prevented
sailing; and a cartel fitted long before to carry the English prisoners
to the Cape of Good Hope, and waiting only, as was generally supposed,
for the departure of these two ships, was delayed in consequence. When
captains Woolcombe and Lynne of the navy had been desired in August to
keep themselves in readiness, I had committed to the obliging care of the
latter many letters for England, and one for admiral Bertie at the Cape;
but instead of being sent away, these officers with the others were put
into close confinement, and their prospects retarded until the hurricane
season, when it was expected the island would have a respite from our


In the beginning of December, despatches were said to have arrived from
France, and the marine minister having received my memorial in the early
part of the year, full time had been given to send out a fresh order; but
disappointment on such arrivals had been so constant during greater part
of the six years to which my imprisonment was now prolonged, that I did
not at this time think it worth asking a question on the subject. A
British cartel, the Harriet, arrived from India on the 12th, with the
officers of La Piemontaise and La Jena; the Harriet was commanded by Mr.
John Ramsden, formerly confined with me in the Garden Prison, and the
commissary of prisoners was Hugh Hope, Esq., whom Lord Minto had
particularly sent to negotiate an exchange with general De Caen. The
cartel had been stopped at the entrance of the port by the blockading
squadron, and been permitted to come in only at the earnest request of
Mr. Hope and the parole of the prisoners to go out again with him should
the exchange be refused. In a few days I received an open letter from Mr.
Stock, the former commissary; and having learned that Mr. Hope proposed
to use his endeavours for my release, a copy of all the letters to and
from colonel Monistrol, subsequent to the marine minister's order, was
transmitted, that he might be better enabled to take his measures with
effect; and towards the end of the month, a letter from the commissary
informed me of the very favourable reception he had met with from the
captain-general, of the subject of my liberty having been touched upon,
and of his entertaining hopes of a final success. The flattering
reception given to Mr. Hope had been remarked to me with surprise from
several hands; but a long experience of general De Caen prevented any
faith in the success of his application for my release: I feared that Mr.
Hope's wishes had caused him to interpret favourably some softened
expressions of the general, which he would in the end find to merit no
sort of confidence.


La Venus frigate, after her exploit at Tappanouli, got into the Black
River on the first of January, notwithstanding the presence of our
cruisers; she had on board a part of the 69th regiment, with the officers
and passengers of the Windham, including five ladies, and announced the
capture of two other ships belonging to the East-India Company; and two
days afterward, the frigates La Manche and La Bellone entered Port Louis
with the United Kingdom and Charleston, the Portuguese frigate Minerva,
and His Majesty's sloop Victor (formerly La Jena). This was a most
provoking sight to commodore Rowley, whom baffling winds and his position
off the Black River prevented stopping them; whilst the joy it produced
in the island, more especially amongst the officers of the government who
had been many months without pay, was excessive. The ordinary sources of
revenue and emolument were nearly dried up, and to have recourse to the
merchants for a loan was impossible, the former bills upon the French
treasury, drawn it was said for three millions of livres, remaining in
great part unpaid; and to such distress was the captain-general reduced
for ways and means, that he had submitted to ask a voluntary contribution
in money, wheat, maize, or any kind of produce from the half-ruined
colonists. Promises of great reform in the administration were made at
that time; and it was even said to have been promised, that if pecuniary
succour did not arrive in six months, the captain-general would retire
and leave the inhabitants to govern themselves; and had the frigates not
returned, or returned without prizes, it seemed probable that such must
have been the case.*

[* According to information from various sources, the prizes brought to
Mauritius were disposed of in this manner. The proceeds went first into
the hands of the government, which took ten per cent. as a duty upon the
sales, and afterwards one-third of the remainder as its proper right.
Sixty per cent. remained for the captors, but the necessities of the
state being generally urgent, it took thirty more, giving bills for the
amount on the treasury of France; and for the remaining portion, it was
parted with so reluctantly that the inferior officers and seamen were
seldom able to obtain a dollar; but they were offered other bills, and
these they were glad to sell for almost any thing to the inhabitants.
This was the distribution to the frigates; the prizes brought in by
privateers were not so profitable to the government, its claims being
limited, I believe, to the ten per cent. duty and one-third of the

The hurricane season was now arrived; and the Canonniere and Laurel
having taken advantage of our cruisers being at a little distance to get
out at night, the British squadron abandoned the island. Expecting then
that the cartel for the Cape of Good Hope would be sent away, I augmented
the number of letters for England and the Cape in the hands of captain
Lynne; and transmitted to him the greater part of my books and clothes,
which he had the goodness to send on board with his own. So many vessels
had arrived from France, and amongst them two during this month of
January, without producing any fresh information, that almost all hope
from my memorial to the marine minister had ceased; and should the
captain-general send me in this cartel, contrary to expectation, then my
effects were already on board. She sailed on the 29th, with captains
Woolcombe and Lynne and the commanders of the Company's ships Windham,
Charleston and United Kingdom, and their officers; captain W. Owen of the
Sea Flower and the remaining English officers were reserved for the
Bengal cartel, commanded by Mr. Ramsden; and with respect to the seamen
and soldiers, a part only of the crews of the Laurel and Sea Flower, and
of the 69th regiment were left, many of them having been seduced from
their allegiance to enlist in the French service.


A prospect of liberty, which is officially confirmed.
Occurrences during eleven weeks residence in the town of Port Louis
and on board the Harriet cartel.
Parole and certificates.
Departure from Port Louis, and embarkation in the Otter.
Eulogium on the inhabitants of Mauritius.
Review of the conduct of general De Caen.
Passage to the Cape of Good Hope, and after seven weeks stay,
from thence to England.



The French cartel for the Cape of Good Hope had sailed two days when a
packet boat arrived with despatches from Bayonne, and from the unusual
degree of secrecy observed respecting them, some persons were willing to
suppose that orders to set me at liberty formed part of their contents;
of this, the most prudent mode to gain information was to wait patiently
for the sailing of the English cartel for India, when my embarkation
therein or being again left the sole British prisoner in the island,
would afford a practical solution of the question. In the time of waiting
for this event, I revised some notes upon the magnetism of the earth and
of ships, and considered the experiments necessary to elucidate the
opinions formed from observations made in the Investigator; and I was
thus occupied when, on March 13th [MARCH 1810], a letter came from Mr.
Hope, the commissary of prisoners, to inform me that he had obtained the
captain-general's promise for my liberty, and departure from the island
with him in the Harriet. This unhoped for intelligence would have
produced excessive joy, had not experience taught me to distrust even the
promises of the general; and especially when, as in the present case,
there was no cause assigned for this change in his conduct.

I dared not therefore allow my imagination to contemplate a meeting with
my family and friends as likely to soon take place, nor to dwell upon any
subject altogether English; the same preparation however was made for a
departure, as if this promise were expected to be fulfilled. It was
reported that the Harriet would sail within a fortnight after two
frigates and a sloop should have gone out upon a cruise; and as these
ships sailed on the 14th, the official information of my liberty, if
really granted, might be expected daily.

It will be believed that I sought on all hands to learn whether any thing
had transpired from the government to bespeak an intention of suffering
me to go in the cartel; but it was without success, and every person
endeavoured to discourage the hope, with a friendly design of softening
another probable disappointment. They argued, that for general De Caen to
let me go at this time, when I knew so much of the island and an attack
upon it was expected, would be to contradict all the reasons hitherto
given for my detention; and therefore, that unless he had received a new
and positive order, he could not with any degree of consistency set me at
liberty. This state of suspense, between hope and apprehension, continued
until the 28th, when an express from the town, sent by M. Pitot, brought
the following welcome information from colonel Monistrol.

His Excellency the captain-general charges me to have the honour of
informing you, that he authorises you to return to your country in the
cartel Harriet, on condition of not serving in a hostile manner against
France or its allies during the course of the present war.

Receive, I pray you, Sir, the assurance of the pleasure I have in making
you this communication, and of the sentiments of perfect consideration
with which I have the honour to be, etc.

P. S. The cartel is to sail on Saturday next (31st.)

Being then satisfied of the intention to permit my return to England,
though the cause of it was involved in mystery, I visited our immediate,
and still almost incredulous neighbours, to take leave of them; and wrote
letters to the principal of those more distant inhabitants, whose
kindness demanded my gratitude. Early next morning a red flag with a
pendant under it, showing one or more of our ships to be cruising before
the port, was hoisted upon the signal hills; this was an unwelcome sight,
for it had been an invariable rule to let no cartel or neutral vessel go
out, so long as English ships were before the island. I however took
leave of the benevolent and respectable family which had afforded me an
asylum during four years and a half; and on arriving at my friend Pitot's
in the town, was met by Messrs. Hope and Ramsden, neither of whom knew
any other reason for setting me at liberty than that the captain-general
had granted it to Mr. Hope's solicitations.


On waiting upon colonel Monistrol on the 30th, it appeared that nothing
had been done relative to the Cumberland, or to returning what had been
taken away, particularly the third volume of my log book so often before
mentioned; he promised however to take the captain-general's pleasure
upon these subjects, and to repeat my offer of making and signing any
extracts from the book which His Excellency might desire to preserve. In
the evening I had the pleasure to meet a large party of my countrymen and
women, at a dinner given by M. Foisy, president of the Society of
Emulation; and from the difficulty of speaking English after a cessation
of four years, I then became convinced of the possibility of a man's
forgetting his own language.

APRIL 1810

There were lying in port two Dutch and one American vessel, with a number
of Frenchmen on board, whom marshal Daendels, governor of the remaining
Dutch possessions in the East, had engaged to officer some new regiments
of Malays; these vessels waited only for the absence of our cruisers to
go to Batavia; and that we might not give information of them was the
alleged cause for detaining the cartel all the month of April, our
squadron keeping so close off the port that they dared not venture out.

MAY 1810

On May 2, captain Willoughby of the Nereide made a descent upon the south
side of the island, at Port Jacotet; where he cut out L'Estafette packet
boat, spiked the guns of the fort, carried off the officer with two field
pieces, and M. Etienne Bolger, commandant of the quarter of La Savanne,
the same who had acted so ungraciously on my arrival at the Baye du Cap.
This _sullying of the French territory_ produced a fulminating
proclamation from general De Caen, nearly similar in terms to that of the
emperor Napoleon after the descent at Walcheren; its effect on the
inhabitants, however, was not much, for on asking some of them what they
thought of this second-hand gasconade, the reply was, "Oh it is not to
us, it is to Bonaparte that the proclamation is addressed;" meaning that
it was a bait to catch his approbation. Three days afterwards a flag of
truce was sent out to negotiate an exchange for M. Bolger and the officer
who had commanded the fort, for whom twenty soldiers of the 69th regiment
were given; we afterwards learned that a proposal had been made to let
the cartel sail, provided the squadron would suffer her to pass without
being visited; but to this arrangement captain Pym, the then senior
officer, refused his consent.

An order was given on the 8th for all the British officers to embark in
the cartel, and we hoped to sail immediately; but the merchants of the
town presented a petition to the captain-general for a delay, lest we
might give information of the expected arrival of some ships from France.
Our cruisers were stationed purposely to stop every French vessel,
whether going in or out, and this petition therefore seemed to be
ridiculous; it appeared however to be complied with, for we not only were
prevented sailing, but denied all communication with the inhabitants for
several weeks; and the five ladies on board were as much subjected to
these restrictions as the officers. The French cartel returned from the
Cape of Good Hope on the 10th, with exchanged prisoners; and the former
reports of a projected attack on Mauritius and Bourbon were so strongly
revived that general De Caen made a tour of the island, in order, as was
said, to have batteries erected at all the landing places without
defence, and to strengthen the existing fortifications. On the 18th, an
exchange was made with the squadron of sixteen soldiers and people out of
the prison on shore, for the commander and some others of L'Estafette;
but nothing transpired relative to the sailing of the cartel.

JUNE 1810

June 2, a salute of twenty-one guns was fired to celebrate the marriage
of the French emperor with the princess Maria Louisa of Austria. This
intelligence, accompanied with that of the capture of La Canonniere, was
brought by a ship from Bourdeaux, which had succeeded in getting into the
Black River, as had L'Atree frigate some weeks before. The entrance of
these vessels at the time that five or six of our ships were cruising
round the island, affords additional proof of the impossibility of
blockading it effectually, without a much more extensive force than so
small a spot can be thought to deserve. Mauritius owes this advantage
principally to its numerous hills; from whence vessels at sea are
informed by signal of the situation of the cruisers, and are thus enabled
to avoid them.

On the 7th, a parole made out by the English interpreter was brought on
board for me to sign; and at daylight of the 18th a pilot came to take
the cartel out of harbour, and we received forty-six seamen of the Sea
Flower and soldiers of the 69th; my sword was then delivered back, and
the following duplicate of the parole was given, with a certificate
annexed from colonel Monistrol.

I undersigned, captain in His Britannic Majesty's navy, having obtained
leave of His Excellency the captain-general to return in my country by
the way of Bengal, promise on my word of honour not to act in any service
which might be considered as directly or indirectly hostile to France or
its allies, during the course of the present war.

Matthew Flinders.

Je soussigne certifie que monsieur Mathieu Flinders, capitaine des
vaisseaux de Sa Majeste Britannique, a obtenu l'autorisation de Son
Excellence le capitaine-general De Caen de retourner dans sa patrie, aux
conditions enoncees ci-dessus, dont le double est reste entre mes mains.

Au Port Napoleon, Isle de France, le 7 Juin 1810.
L'adjutant commt., chef de l'etat-major-gen.

(Signed) Monistrol.

I had much feared to be laid under the obligation of going to India, and
of thus losing some months of time and incurring a considerable and
useless expense; but although the parole expresses the "having obtained
leave to return by the way of Bengal," neither the part containing my
promise nor the certificate of colonel Monistrol specified any particular
route; and the officer of the staff who delivered this duplicate, said he
supposed I should not lose time in going to India, but proceed to the
Cape in the first vessel sent in by the squadron.

Frequent mention has been made of attempts to procure back the third
volume of my journal, the sole book remaining in the hands of the
captain-general. Twice during my residence in the town these attempts had
been renewed, but with no better effect than were my applications
respecting the Cumberland; nor would certificates be given of the refusal
either of these objects or of the Port-Jackson despatches. I therefore
requested Mr. Hope to certify the steps which had been taken, that the
Admiralty and Secretary of State might be satisfied of every thing in my
power having been done; and this he did in the following terms.

This is to certify to whomsoever it may concern, that after having
succeeded in executing that part of the instructions of His Excellency
lord Minto, governor-general of British India, relating to the liberation
of Matthew Flinders, Esq., late commander of His Majesty's ship
Investigator, who had been detained more than six years in the Isle of
France, I did, at the request of captain Flinders, make a personal
application to His Excellency general De Caen for the third volume of the
log book of his voyage of discovery, which that officer represented to be
still kept from him by His Excellency. That the answer to this was a
positive refusal, both of the book and of permission to take a copy of
it; and the reason given for this refusal was, that captain F. _not being
set at liberty in consequence of any orders from France_, every thing
relating to this log book and to his little schooner Cumberland must
remain to be settled between the French and British governments in

I do further certify that captain Flinders did, in my presence, apply to
the chief of the staff in the Isle of France, for certificates of the
above log book and schooner being refused to be given up; and also for a
certificate of two boxes of despatches having been taken on his arrival
in this island, in December 1803, and that I have since made a similar
application to the same officer for the said certificates; but which have
been refused for the same alleged reason as before given to me by His
Excellency the captain-general De Caen.

Witness my hand on board the Harriet cartel, in Port Napoleon,
Isle of France, this 9th of June 1810.

(Signed) H. HOPE,
Commissary and agent of the British government in India
for the exchange of prisoners.

It may probably be asked, what could be general De Caen's object in
refusing throughout to give up this log book, or to suffer any copy to be
taken? I can see no other reasonable one, than that the statements from
it, sent to the French government as reasons for detaining me a prisoner,
might have been partial and mutilated extracts; and he did not choose to
have his accusations disproved by the production either of the original
or an authentic copy. Besides this book and the little schooner, I lost a
cask containing pieces of rock collected from different parts of Terra
Australis, the two spy-glasses taken in the Garden Prison, and various
small articles belonging to myself; but I was too happy at the prospect
of getting out of the island to make any difficulty upon these heads.


On the same morning that the pilot came on board, the anchors were
weighed; but in swinging out, the ship touched the ground, and hung till
past four in the afternoon. During this time we saw L'Estafette coming in
with a flag of truce from the squadron; and the boat that went to meet
her was returning when the cartel had floated off, and sail was made. We
were a good deal alarmed at what might be the subject of L'Estafette's
communication, and particularly anxious to get without side of the port
before any counter order should come from the general; at sunset it was
effected, the French pilot left us, and after a captivity of six years,
five months and twenty-seven days, I at length had the inexpressible
pleasure of being out of the reach of general De Caen.

Three frigates and a sloop of war composed the squadron cruising before
the port; but instead of coming to speak us for information, as was
expected, we observed them standing away to the southward; a proceeding
which could be reconciled only upon the supposition, that commodore
Rowley had sent in an offer not to communicate with the cartel. This was
too important an affair to me to be let pass without due inquiry; my
endeavours were therefore used with Mr. Ramsden, the commander, to induce
him to run down to the ships; and this was done, on finding they
persisted in stretching to the southward. At nine o'clock Mr. Ramsden
went in a boat to the Boadicea, but was desired to keep off; a letter was
handed to him for the commissary, containing a copy of one sent in by
L'Estafette, wherein it was proposed, if general De Caen would suffer the
cartel to sail, that she should not be visited by any ship under the
commodore's orders. Mr. Hope replied that the cartel had not come out in
consequence of this proposal, nor had the boat reached the shore at the
time; and this point being clearly ascertained, a communication was
opened, and I applied for a passage to the Cape of Good Hope. It happened
fortunately, that the Otter sloop of war was required to go there
immediately with despatches; and the commodore having satisfied himself
that no engagement of the commissary opposed it, complied with my
request. Next day I took leave of Mr. Hope, to whose zeal and address I
owed so much, and wished my companions in the cartel, with her worthy
commander, a good voyage; and after dining with commodore Rowley,
embarked in the evening on board the Otter with captain Tomkinson.

On bidding adieu to Mauritius, it is but justice to declare that during
my long residence in the island, as a marked object of suspicion to the
government, the kind attention of the inhabitants who could have access
to me was invariable; never, in any place, or amongst any people, have I
seen more hospitality and attention to strangers--more sensibility to
the misfortunes of others, of what ever nation, than here--than I have
myself experienced in Mauritius. To the names of the two families whose
unremitting kindness formed a great counterpoise to the protracted
persecution of their governor, might be added a long list of others whose
endeavours were used to soften my captivity; and who sought to alleviate
the chagrin which perhaps the strongest minds cannot but sometimes feel
in the course of years, when reflecting on their far-distant families and
friends, on their prospects in life indefinitely suspended, and their
hopes of liberty and justice followed by continual disappointment; and to
the honour of the inhabitants in general be it spoken, that many who knew
no more than my former employment and my misfortunes, sought to render me
service by such ways as seemed open to them. The long continuation and
notorious injustice of my imprisonment had raised a sensation more strong
and widely extended than I could believe, before arriving at Port Louis
to embark in the cartel; when the number of persons who sought to be
introduced, for the purpose of offering their felicitations upon this
unexpected event, confirmed what had been before said by my friends; and
afforded a satisfactory proof that even arbitrary power, animated by
strong national prejudice, though it may turn aside or depress for a
time, cannot yet extinguish in a people the broad principles of justice
and humanity generally prevalent in the human heart.

Some part of my desire to ascertain the motives which influenced general
De Caen to act so contrary to the passport of the first consul, and to
the usages adopted towards voyages of discovery, may perhaps be felt by
the reader; and he may therefore not be displeased to see the leading
points in his conduct brought into one view, in order to deducing
therefrom some reasonable conclusion.

On arriving at Mauritius after the shipwreck, and producing my passport
and commission, the captain-general accused me of being an impostor; took
possession of the Cumberland with the charts and journals of my voyage,
and made me a close prisoner. On the following day, without any previous
change of conduct or offering an explanation, he invited me to his table.

All other books and papers were taken on the fourth day, and my
imprisonment confirmed; the alleged cause for it being the expression in
my journal of a desire to become acquainted with _the periodical winds,
the port, and present state of the colony_, which it was asserted were
contrary to the passport; though it was not said that I knew of the war
when the desire was expressed.

After three months seclusion as a _spy_, I was admitted to join the
prisoners of war, and in twenty months to go into the interior of the
island, on _parole_; I there had liberty to range two leagues all round,
and was unrestricted either from seeing any person within those limits or
writing to any part of the world. It might be thought, that the most
certain way of counteracting my desire to gain information alleged to be
contrary to the passport, would have been _to send me from the island_;
but general De Caen took the contrary method, and kept me there above six

His feeling for my situation, and desire to receive orders from the
French marine minister had been more than once expressed, when at the end
of three years and a half, he sent official information that the
government granted my liberty and the restitution of the Cumberland; and
this was accompanied with the promise, that I, so soon as circumstances
would permit, I should fully enjoy the favour which had been granted me
by His Majesty the Emperor and "King;" yet, after a delay of _fifteen
months_, an application was answered by saying, "that having communicated
to His Excellency the marine minister the motives which had determined
him to suspend my return to Europe, he could not authorize my departure
before having received an answer upon the subject;" in twenty months
more, however, he let me go, and declared to Mr. commissary Hope that it
was _not in consequence of any orders from France_.

When first imprisoned in 1803, for having expressed a wish to learn the
present state of the colony, there was no suspicion of any projected
attack upon it; in 1810, preparations of defence were making against an
attack almost immediately expected, and there were few circumstances
relating to the island in which I was not as well informed as the
generalitv of the inhabitants; then it was, after giving me the
opportunity of becoming acquainted with the town and harbour of Port
Louis, that general De Caen suffered me to go away in a ship bound to the
place whence the attack was expected, and without laying any restriction
upon my communications.

Such are the leading characteristics of the conduct pursued by His
Excellency general De Caen, and they will be admitted to be so far
contradictory as to make the reconciling them with any uniform principle
a difficult task; with the aid however of various collateral
circumstances, of opinions entertained by well informed people, and of
facts which transpired in the shape of opinions, I will endeavour to give
some insight into his policy; requesting the reader to bear in mind that
much of what is said must necessarily depend upon conjecture.

After the peace of Amiens, general De Caen went out to Pondicherry as
captain-general of all the French possessions to the east of the Cape of
Good Hope; he had a few troops and a number of extra officers, some of
whom appear to have been intended for seapoy regiments proposed to be
raised, and others for the service of the Mahrattas. The plan of
operations in India was probably extensive, but the early declaration of
war by England put a stop to them, and obliged His Excellency to abandon
the brilliant prospect of making a figure in the annals of the East; he
then came to Mauritius, exclaiming against the perfidy of the British
government, and with a strong dislike, if not hatred to the whole nation.
I arrived about three months subsequent to this period, and the day after
M. Barrois had been sent on board Le Geographe with despatches for
France; which transaction being contrary to the English passport, and
subjecting the ship to capture, if known, it was resolved to detain me a
short time, and an embargo was laid upon all neutral ships for ten days.
It would appear that the report of the commandant at La Savanne gave some
suspicion of my identity, which was eagerly adopted as a cause of
detention; I was therefore accused at once of imposture, closely
confined, and my books, papers, and vessel seized. Next day another
report arrived from La Savanne, that of major Dunienville; from which,
and the examination I had just undergone, it appeared that the accusation
of imposture was untenable; an invitation to go to the general's table
was then sent me, no suspicion being entertained that this condescension
to an Englishman, and to an officer of inferior rank, might not be
thought an equivalent for what had passed. My refusal of the intended
honour until set at liberty, so much exasperated the captain-general that
he determined to make me repent it; and a wish to be acquainted with the
present state of Mauritius being found in my journal, it was fixed upon
as a pretext for detaining me until orders should arrive from France, by
which an imprisonment of at least twelve months was insured. The first
motive for my detention therefore arose from the infraction previously
made of the English passport, by sending despatches in Le Geographe; and
the probable cause of its being prolonged beyond what seems to have been
originally intended, was to punish me for refusing the invitation to

The marine minister's letter admits little doubt that general De Caen
knew, on the return of his brother-in-law in January 1805, that the
council of state at Paris, though approving of his conduct, proposed
granting my liberty and the restitution of the Cumberland; and he must
have expected by every vessel to receive orders to that effect; but
punishment had not yet produced a sufficient degree of humiliation to
make him execute such an order willingly. When the exchange was made with
commodore Osborn in the following August, it became convenient to let me
quit the Garden Prison, in order to take away the sentinels; captain
Bergeret also, who as a prisoner in India had been treated with
distinction, strongly pressed my going into the country; these
circumstances alone might possibly have induced the captain-general to
take the parole of one who had been detained as a spy; but his subsequent
conduct leaves a strong suspicion that he proposed to make the portion of
liberty, thus granted as a favour, subservient to evading the expected
order from France, should such a measure be then desirable. At length the
order arrived, and three years and a half of detention had not produced
any very sensible effect on his prisoner; the execution of it was
therefore suspended, until another reference should be made to the
government and an answer returned. What was the subject of this reference
could not be known, but there existed in the island only one conjecture;
that from having had such a degree of liberty during near two years, I
had acquired a knowledge of the colony which made it unsafe to permit my

Extensive wars were at this time carrying on in Europe, the French arms
were victorious, and general De Caen saw his former companions becoming
counts, dukes, and marshals of the empire, whilst he remained an untitled
general of division; he and his officers, as one of them told me, then
felt themselves little better circumstanced than myself--than prisoners
in an almost forgotten speck of the globe, with their promotion
suspended. Rumours of a premeditated attack at length reached the island,
which it was said the captain-general heard with pleasure; and it was
attributed to the prospect of making military levies on the inhabitants,
and increasing his authority by the proclamation of martial law; but if I
mistake not, the general's pleasure arose from more extended views and a
more permanent source. If the island were attacked and he could repulse
the English forces, distinction would follow; if unsuccessful, a
capitulation would restore him to France and the career of advancement.
An attack was therefore desirable; and as the captain-general probably
imagined that an officer who had been six years a prisoner, and whose
liberty had been so often requested by the different authorities in
India, would not only be anxious to forward it with all his might, but
that his representations would be attended to, the pretexts before
alleged for my imprisonment and the answer from France were waved; and
after passing six weeks in the town of Port Louis and five on board a
ship in the harbour, from which I had before been debarred, he suffered
me to depart in a cartel bound to the place where the attack was publicly
said to be in meditation. This is the sole motive which, upon a review of
the general's conduct, I can assign for being set at liberty so
unexpectedly, and without any restriction upon my communications; and if
such a result to an attack upon Mauritius were foreseen by the present
count De Caen, captain-general of Catalonia, events have proved that he
was no mean calculator. But perhaps this, as well as the preceding
conjectures on his motives may be erroneous; if so, possibly the count
himself, or some one on the part of the French government may give a more
correct statement--one which may not only reconcile the facts here
brought together, but explain many lesser incidents which have been
omitted from fear of tiring the patience of the reader.


I thought it a happy concurrence of circumstances, that on the same day
we quitted Port Louis in the cartel, the arrival of a frigate from India
should require commodore Rowley to despatch the Otter to the Cape of Good
Hope. Captain Tomkinson took his departure on the 14th at nine in the
evening, from Cape Brabant, with a fresh trade wind and squally weather;
at noon next day the island Bourbon was in sight, and the breakers on the
south-east end distinguishable from the deck; but thick clouds obscured
all the hills. The winds from south-east and north-east carried us to the
latitude 27 deg. and longitude 49 deg.; they were afterwards variable, and
sometimes foul for days together, and we did not make the coast of Africa
until the 3rd of July [JULY 1810]. Being then in latitude 34 deg. 52' and
longitude 251/2 deg., the hills were descried at the distance of twenty leagues
to the northward; and the water being remarkably smooth, the lead was
hove, but no bottom found at 200 fathoms. A continuance of western winds
obliged us to work along the greater part of the coast, and Cape Agulhas
was not seen before the 10th; we then had a strong breeze at S. E., and
Cape Hanglip being distinguished at dusk, captain Tomkinson steered up
False Bay, and anchored at eleven at night in 22 fathoms, sandy bottom.
In this passage of twenty-six days from Mauritius, the error in dead
reckoning amounted to 1 deg. 18' south and 2 deg. 21' west, which might be
reasonably attributed to the current.

On the 11th we ran into Simon's Bay, and captain Tomkinson set off
immediately for Cape Town with his despatches to vice-admiral Bertie and
His Excellency the earl of Caledon; he took also a letter from me to the

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