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V. The Early Part of the Voyage.

THE expedition sailed from Brest rather sooner than had at first been contemplated, on August 1, 1785, and doubled Cape Horn in January of the following year. Some weeks were spent on the coast of Chili; and the remarks of LapérouseLaperouse concerning the manners of the Spanish rulers of the country cover some of his most entertaining pages. He has an eye for the picturesque, a kindly feeling for all well-disposed people, a pleasant touch in describing customs, and shrewd judgment in estimating character. These qualities make him an agreeable writer of travels. They are fairly illustrated by the passages in which he describes the people of the city of Concepcion. Take his account of the ladies:

“The dress of these ladies, extremely different from what we have been accustomed to see, consists of a plaited petticoat, tied considerably below the waist; stockings striped red, blue and white; and shoes so short that the toes are bent under the ball of the foot so as to make it appear nearly round. Their hair is without powder and is divided into small braids behind, hanging over the shoulders. Their bodice is generally of gold or silver stuff, over which there are two short cloaks, that underneath of muslin and the other of wool of different colours,

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blue, yellow and pink. The upper one is drawn over the head when they are in the streets and the weather is cold; but within doors it is usual to place it on their knees; and there is a game played with the muslin cloak by continually shifting it about, in which the ladies of Concepcion display considerable grace. They are for the most part handsome, and of so polite and pleasing manners that there is certainly no maritime town in Europe where strange, are received with so much attention and kindness.”

At this city LapérouseLaperouse met the adventurous Irishman, Ambrose O'Higgins, who by reason of his conspicuous military abilities became commander of the Spanish forces in Chili, and afterwards Viceroy of Peru. His name originally was simply Higgins, but he prefixed the “O” when he blossomed into a Spanish Don, “as being more aristocratic.” He was the father of the still more famous Bernardo O'Higgins, “the Washington of Chili,” who led the revolt against Spanish rule and became first president of the Chilian Republic in 1818. LapérouseLaperouse at once conceived an attachment for O'Higgins, “a man of extraordinary activity,” and one “adored in the country.”

In April, 1786, the expedition was at Easter Island, where the inhabitants appeared to be a set of cunning and hypocritical thieves, who “robbed us of everything which it was possible for them to carry off.” Steering north, the Sandwich Islands were reached early in May. Here LapérouseLaperouse liked

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the people, “though my prejudices were strong against them on account of the death of Captain Cook.” A passage in the commander's narrative gives his opinion on the annexation of the countries of native races by Europeans, and shows that, in common with very many of his countrymen, he was much influenced by the ideas of Rousseau, then an intellectual force in France —

“Though the French were the first who, in modern times, had landed on the island of Mowee, I did not think it my duty to take possession in the name of the King. The customs of Europeans on such occasions are completely ridiculous. Philosophers must lament to see that men, for no better reason than because they are in possession of firearms and bayonets, should have no regard for the rights of sixty thousand of their fellow creatures, and should consider as an object of conquest a land fertilised by the painful exertions of its inhabitants, and for many ages the tomb of their ancestors. These islands have fortunately been discovered at a period when religion no longer serves as a pretext for violence and rapine. Modern navigators have no other object in describing the manners of remote nations than that of completing the history of man; and the knowledge they endeavour to diffuse has for its sole aim to render the people they visit more happy, and to augment their means of subsistence.”

If LapérouseLaperouse could see the map of the Pacific to-day he would find its groups of islands all enclosed within coloured rings, indicating possession

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by the great Powers of the world. He would be puzzled and pained by the change. But the history of the political movements leading to the parcelling out of seas and lands among strong States would interest him, and he would realise that the day of feeble isolation has gone. Nothing would make him marvel more than the floating of the Stars and Stripes over Hawaii, for he knew that flag during the American War of Independence. It was adopted as the flag of the United States in 1777, and during the campaign the golden lilies of the standard of France fluttered from many masts in co-operation with it. Truly a century and a quarter has brought about a wonderful change, not only in the face of the globe and in the management of its affairs, but still more radically in the ideas of men and in the motives that sway their activities!

The geographical work done by LapérouseLaperouse in this part of the Pacific was of much importance. It removed from the chart five or six islands which had no existence, having been marked down erroneously by previous navigators. From this region the expedition sailed to Alaska, on the north-west coast of North America. Cook had explored here “with that courage and perseverance of which all Europe knows him to have been capable,” wrote LapérouseLaperouse, never failing to use an opportunity of expressing admiration for his illustrious predecessor. But there was still useful work to do, and the French occupied their time very profitably with it from June to August. Then their ships sailed down the western

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coast of America to California, struck east across the Pacific to the Ladrones, and made for Macao in China — then as now a Portugese possession — reaching that port in January, 1787.

The Philippines were next visited, and LapérouseLaperouse formed pleasant impressions of Manilla. It is clear from his way of alluding to the customs of the Spanish inhabitants that the French captain was not a tobacco smoker. It was surprising to him that “their passion for smoking this narcotic is so immoderate that there is not an instant of the day in which either a man or woman is without a cigar;” and it is equally surprising to us that the French editor of the history of the voyage found it necessary to explain in a footnote that a cigar is “a small roll of tobacco which is smoked without the assistance of a pipe.” But cigars were then little known in Europe, except among sailors and travellers who had visited the Spanish colonies; and the very spelling of the word was not fixed. In English voyages it appears as “seegar,” “segar,” and “sagar.”

Formosa was visited in April, northern Japan in May, and the investigation of the north-eastern coasts of Asia occupied until October.

A passage in a letter from LapérouseLaperouse to Fleurieu is worth quoting for two reasons. It throws some light on the difficulties of navigation in unknown seas, and upon the commander's severe application to duty; and it also serves to remind us that Japan, now so potent a factor in the politics of the East and of the whole Pacific, had not then emerged from the

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barbarian exclusiveness towards foreigners, which she had maintained since Europe commenced to exploit Asia. In the middle of the seventeenth century she had expelled the Spaniards and the Portugese with much bloodshed, and had closed her ports to all traders except the Chinese and the Dutch, who were confined to a prescribed area at Nagasaki. Intercourse with all other foreign peoples was strictly forbidden. Even as late as 1842 it was commanded that if any foreign vessel were driven by distress or tempestuous weather into a Japanese port, she might only remain so long as was necessary to meet her wants, and must then depart. LapérouseLaperouse knew of this jealous Japanese antipathy to foreign visitors, and, as he explains in the letter, meant to keep away from the country because of it. He wrote: —

“The part of our voyage between Manilla and Kamchatka will afford you, I hope, complete satisfaction. It was the newest, the most interesting, and certainly, from the everlasting fogs which enveloped the land in the latitudes we traversed, the most difficult. These fogs are such that it has taken one hundred and fifty days to explore a part of the coast which Captain King, in the third volume of Cook's last voyage, supposes might be examined in the course of two months. During this period I rested only ten days, three in the Bay of Ternai, two in the Bay de Langle, and five in the Bay de Castries. Thus I wasted no time; I even forebore to circumnavigate the island of Chicha

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(Yezo) by traversing the Strait of Sangaar (Tsugaru). I should have wished to anchor, if possible, at the northern point of Japan, and would perhaps have ventured to send a boat ashore, though such a proceeding would have required the most serious deliberation, as the boat would probably have been stopped. Where a merchant ship is concerned an event of this kind might be considered as of little importance, but the seizure of a boat belonging to a ship of war could scarcely be otherwise regarded than as a national insult; and the taking and burning of a few sampans would be a very sorry compensation as against the people who would not exchange a single European of whom they were desirous of making an example, for one hundred Japanese. I was, however, too far from the coast to include such an intention, and it is impossible for me to judge at present what I should have done had the contrary been the case.

“It would be difficult for me to find words to express to you the fatigue attending this part of my voyage, during which I did not once undress myself, nor did a single night pass without my being obliged to spend several hours upon deck. Imagine to yourself six days of fog with only two or three hours of clear weather, in seas extremely confined, absolutely unknown, and where fancy, in consequence of the information we had received, pictured to us shoals and currents that did not always exist. From the place where we made the land on the eastern coast of Tartary, to the strait which we

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discovered between Tchoka (Saghalien) and Chicha, we did not fail to take the bearing of every point, and you may rest assured that neither creek, port, nor river escaped our attention, and that many charts, even of the coasts of Europe, are less exact than those which we shall bring with us on our return.”

“The strait which we discovered” is still called LapérouseLaperouse Strait on most modern maps, though the Japanese usually call it Soya Strait. It runs between Yezo, the large northerly island of Japan, and Saghalien. Current maps also show the name Boussole Strait, after LapérouseLaperouse's ship, between Urup and Simusir, two of the Kurile chain of small islands curving from Yezo to the thumblike extremity of Kamchatka.

At Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka the drawings of the artists and the journals of the commander up to date were packed up, and sent to France overland across Asiatic Russia, in charge of a young member of the staff, J. B. B. de Lesseps. He was the only one of the expedition who ever returned to Europe. By not coming to Australia he saved his life. He published a book about his journey, a remarkable feat of land travel in those days. He was the uncle of a man whose remarkable engineering work has made Australia's relations with Europe much easier and more speedy than they were in earlier years: that Ferdinand de Lesseps who (1859-69) planned and carried out the construction of the Suez Canal.

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The ships, after replenishing, sailed for the south Pacific, where we shall follow the proceedings of LapérouseLaperouse in rather closer detail than has been considered necessary in regard to the American and Asiatic phases of the voyage.