Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

and the fort received the name of St. Iago. A church was erected at the same time, and dedicated to St. Bartholomew. In this manner the Portuguese nation, as its historians inform us, became possessed of dominion both spiritual and temporal in India. The Albuquerques, leaving behind them a squadron of three ships, and a hundred and fifty men in the fort at Cochin, set sail for Europe with a very rich cargo. Francisco and the ships under his command were never heard of more: but Alfonso arrived safe in Lisbon; and, among other things, brought the king forty pounds of large pearls, a diamond of extraordinary size, and two horses —the one Persian, the other an Arab–which were highly prized, being the first of those generous races seen in Portugal. Conquest in India was now begun; and the king of Portugal deemed it expedient to confirm the first steps towards power, by assuming the style and exterior of regular authority. He accordingly selected Don Francisco Almeyda, a nobleman of courage and experience, for the chief command in the East, and gave him the title of viceroy and governor-general of the Indies; assigning him, at the same time, guards for his person, a number of chaplains, and whatever was thought necessary to give an air of grandeur to his office. Almeyda sailed from Lisbon in March, 1507, with a considerable fleet; and having stormed the city of Mombaza, on the eastern coast of Africa, and reduced the inhabitants to slavery, he arrived in India without any accident. The success of the viceroy justified the high opinion entertained of his abilities. Under his government, the Portuguese rapidly increased their possessions in India, extended their discoveries in every direction, and carried their arrogant sense of superiority so far as to seize all vessels which were not provided with a passport or letter of protection from the viceroy. Almeyda, having lost his son in a sea-fight with the Egyptians, who had joined the zamorin and other enemies of the Portuguese, was resolved on taking vengeance. He sailed, accord.

o

ingly, from Cananore, with a fleet of nineteen vessels, and attacking Dabul, reduced it to ashes. No provisions could be procured here, the country having been desolated by locusts, great quantities of which were found in pots, preserved by the natives for food. The Portuguese found them pleasing to the palate, and not unlike shrimps in flavour. Almeyda came next to Diu, a city at that time in the power of Malek Azz, a Russian renegade. Here he found the combined fleets of Egypt, Cambay, and Calicut. An engagement immediately ensued, in which the Portuguese obtained a complete victory, purchased with little loss on their side. The plunder of the enemies' ships was very rich; and a great number of volumes, in many languages, are said to have been found in them. The whole coast between Diu and Cochin being subdued, and the time of Almeyda's viceroyalty having expired, the government devolved on Alfonso de Albuquerque. Almeyda reluctantly resigned his power, and sailed for Europe in November, 1509. On passing the Cape of Good Hope, he was overjoyed to find events so far falsify the predictions of the witches of Cochin, who prophesied that he should not live to pass it. But shortly after, his ships putting into the bay of Saldanha, a little to the north of the Cape, he went ashore, and was killed, with fifty of his crew, in a quarrel with the savages. The unhappy fate of Almeyda. was sincerely lamented by the king of Portugal.

Alfonso de Albuquerque, who succeeded Almeyda in the power but not in the title of viceroy, had already risen to the highest reputation in India. His attacks on Ormuz, in the Persian Gulf, although unsuccessful, had shown how bold and comprehensive were his designs; and now that he was invested with the chief command, he displayed an unwearied activity along with boundless ambition. The first measure of his government was to attack Calicut, which he reduced to ashes: he then turned his arms against Goa, one of the most important commercial cities of India. The Moors, who held the place, made an obstinate resistance, but were at length

overpowered and put to the sword. Albuquerque erected a fort and coined silver and copper money at Goa, which he designed to be the chief of the Portuguese possessions in the East. It became, in 1559, the seat of the governor, and of an archbishop and primate of the Indies. The next exploit of Albuquerque was of a still more brilliant character. In the year 1509, Almeyda had despatched Sequeira with a small squadron to make discoveries in the East. This officer directed his course to Malacca, where he was received with feigned demonstrations of warm friendship. Suspecting treachery, he declined the invitations he received to attend a grand festival prepared for him by the king; but of his companions, who went on shore to buy merchandise, some were killed and a great many made prisoners. Sequeira retaliated by plundering several richly laden vessels along the coast, and then returned to Portugal. Albuquerque now prepared to punish the affront offered to the Portuguese name, by the subjugation of Malacca. He set sail from Cochin in May, 1511, with an armament of nineteen ships and 1400 fighting men. On his arrival off the coast of Sumatra, he received friendly messages from some of the kings of that island. Among the Malays captured at sea was a chieftain who had acted a conspicuous part in the treachery practised on Sequeira's crew. As soon as he was recognised he was pierced with a number of mortal wounds, but, to the astonishment of all, shed not one drop of blood; when, however, the Indians (who discovered the amulet) took from his arm a certain bracelet of bone, he bled copiously. This bracelet was considered a most valuable prize, and brought to Albuquerque. The Moorish sovereigns of Malacca withstood the assaults of the Portuguese but a few days. They were killed, with their followers, or driven from * the city, which was immediately peopled by Malayans and other natives of the East. The conquerors found here so rich a booty that the fifth reserved for the king was bought on the spot by merchants for 200,000 pieces of gold. And they took, say the veracious historians of

-Portugal, 3000 pieces of cannon. Albuquerque built a fort and a church at Malacca, and then set sail for the coast of Malabar; but on his passage, near the coast of Sumatra, he encountered a violent storm, which destroyed the greatest part of his fleet, with all the riches on board. The vessel in which he himself sailed struck on a rock; and just as he was putting off from the wreck in the long boat, he saw a young man fall from one of the masts of the ship into the sea. The general sprang to his assistance, and saved him ; and by this heroic act, perhaps, raised himself higher in the estimation of his followers than by his most important conquests. Nothing was wanting now but the conquest of Ormuz to render the Portuguese perfect masters of the commerce of India. Albuquerque had formerly attempted to construct a fort there, but without success: his power being now increased, he proceeded to accomplish his design. The king of Ormuz, a weak and spiritless prince, offered no resistance: he admitted Albuquerque into the citadel, surrendered all his artillery, assigned the Portuguese some of the best houses in the town for their factory, and ordered their flag to be displayed on the palace. A short time after the return of Albuquerque to Goa, in December, 1515, he was seized with a violent illness, which carried him off in a few days, at the age of sixtythree. The epithet great has been affixed to his name by the gratitude of his countrymen; yet he does not seem to have possessed any merit but the vulgar one of being a conqueror; and it must be remembered that he fought with his inferiors. He was a lawless soldier, totally ignorant or regardless of the rights of nations, and not often attentive to those of humanity. The affairs of the Portuguese in India were raised by him to the highest state of prosperity, and obviously began to decline not long after his death, –a circumstance too lightly ascribed by historians to the inability of his successors: but a dominion reared wholly on violence has no natural stability; nor can rapine and spoliation always yield a rich harvest. Among the wild schemes which he conceived, were those of desolating Egypt by diverting the course of the Nile in Abyssinia; and of plundering Mecca, by an expedition of 300 horsemen from the Persian Gulf. The preceding rapid sketch of the rise and progress of the Portuguese empire in India will suffice for the object of this work, and show how the foundations of that political edifice were laid, from which European intelligence and activity afterwards issued forth to examine all the recesses of the East. As soon as the Portuguese obtained a settlement in India, and adopted the plan of always maintaining a fleet in those seas, their ardour to arrive at those rich countries which their hopes still descried on the bounds of their geographical knowledge acquired fresh vigour; and they prosecuted their researches with an alacrity and good fortune which may be best estimated from a brief notice of their several discoveries in the order in which they occurred. In the year 1506, when Alfonso de Albuquerque was proceeding to India, a violent tempest dispersed his fleet. Tristan de Acunha, one of his captains, was driven so far to the south that his crew suffered severely from the cold: he fell in with those sequestered islands which still bear his name, and which are at present inhabited by a few English families. At the same time, Alvaro Telez ran so far to the east that he came to Sumatra, and thence returned to the coast of Arabia; thus making an imperfect discovery of the Indian Archipelago. The same gale forced Emanuel de Meneses to Madagascar, which he named the island of St. Lawrence. In the same year Soarez discovered the Maldives, which immediately attracted the covetous regards of the Portuguese. But as these usurpers were never able to obtain a firm footing in that insular kingdom, they affected to despise it. The sovereign of the Maldives, nevertheless, is decorated with the pompous title of king of thirteen provinces and of 12,000 islands. Ceylon naturally followed in the order of discovery. Lorenzo Almeyda, the son of the viceroy, landed on that fine island in 1506,

« ForrigeFortsett »