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September 1787

September 1st. Having now procured every thing at Rio de Janeiro that we stood in need of, and thoroughly recovered and refreshed our people, the commodore, with such officers of the fleet as could be spared from duty, waited on the viceroy to take leave, and to return our acknowledgments for the indulgence and attention shown us, which, I think we may say, we experienced in a greater extent and latitude than any foreigners had ever before done. On our landing, the same officer who had attended us upon every other public occasion, conducted us to the presence-chamber. As we


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passed, every military and public honour was paid to the commodore; the colours were laid at his feet, as they hitherto had been whenever he landed in his public character; a token of respect that is never bestowed on any person but the governor himself. When we arrived at the palace, an officer of the household, who was waiting to receive us, conducted us through a most delightful recess, hung round with bird-cages, whose inhabitants seemed to vie with each other both in the melody of their notes and the beauty of their plumage. The passage we walked through was adorned on each side with odoriferous flowers and aromatic shrubs, which, while they charmed the eye, spread a delightful fragrance around. This passage led to a private room, on the outside of the door of which we were received by the viceroy, who stood uncovered, and noticed each person separately in the most friendly and polite manner. His excellency preceded us into the room, and having requested all of us to be seated, placed himself by the commodore, in a position that fronted us. In return for our thanks and acknowledgments, he said, “it gave him infinite pleasure and satisfaction to find that the place had afforded us the supplies we stood in need of:” to this he


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added, “that the attention of the inhabitants, which we were good enough to notice, was much short of his wishes.” We then arose and took our leave; but not before his excellency had expressed a desire of hearing from the commodore, with an account of his success in the establishment of the new colony. He concluded with saying, “that he hoped, nay did not doubt, from the character the English bore for generosity of disposition, but that those who had so cheerfully engaged in a service, strange and uncertain in itself, would meet with an adequate reward—a recompense that every one must allow they justly merited.” The room in which the governor received us was that wherein he usually sat in his retired moments. It was furnished and painted in a neat and elegant stile; the roof displaying well-executed representations of all the tropical fruits and the most beautiful birds of the country. The walls were hung round with prints, chiefly on religious subjects.

Rio de Janeiro is said to derive its name from being discovered on St. Januarius's day. It is the capital of the Portugueze settlements in South America, and is situated on


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the west side of a river, or, more properly (in my opinion), of a bay. Except that part which fronts the water, the city is surrounded by high mountains, of the most romantic form the imagination can fashion to itself any idea of. The plan on which it is built has some claim to merit. The principal street, called Strait Street, runs from the viceroy's palace, which is near the south-east end of the town, to the north-west extremity, where it is terminated by a large convent belonging to the Benedictine friars, situated on an eminence. The street is broad, well built, and has in it a great number of handsome shops. All the others are much inferior to this, being in general only wide enough to admit two carriages to pass each other in the centre. The pavement for foot-passengers (except in Strait Street, which is without any) is so very unsociably narrow that two persons cannot walk with convenience together. The houses are commonly two, and sometimes three, stories high, of which, even though inhabited by the most wealthy and respectable families, the lower part is always appropriated to shops, and to the use of the servants and slaves (who are here extremely numerous), the family rather chusing to reside in the upper


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part, that they might live in a less confined air. To every house there is a balcony, with lattice-work before it, and the same before all the windows.

The churches are very numerous, elegant, and richly decorated; some of them are built and ornamented in a modern stile, and that in a manner which proclaims the genius, taste, and judgment of the architects and artists. Two or three of the handsomest are at this time either unfinished or repairing; and they appear to go on but very slowly, notwithstanding large sums are constantly collecting for their completion. As they are erected or repaired by charitable contributions, public processions are frequently made for that purpose, and the mendicant friars belonging to them likewise exert themselves in their line. At these processions, which are not unfrequent, persons of every age and description assist. They usually take place after it is dark, when those who join in it are dressed in a kind of cloak adapted to religious purposes and carry a lanthorn fixed at the end of a pole of a convenient length: so that upon these occasions you sometimes see three or four hundred moving lights in the streets at the same time, which has an uncommon and a pleasing effect. Considerable sums


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are collected by this mode. At the corner of every street, about ten feet from the ground, is placed the image of a saint, which is the object of the common people's adoration.

The town is well supplied with water from the neighbouring mountains; which is conveyed over a deep valley by an aqueduct formed of arches of a stupendous height, and from thence distributed by pipes to many parts of the city. The principal fountain is close to the sea, in a kind of square, near the palace, where ships water at a good wharf, nearly in the same manner as at Teneriffe, and with equal expedition and convenience. On the opposite side of the fountain are cocks, from which the people in the neighbourhood are supplied. This convenient and capital watering place is so near the palace that when disputes or contentions arise between the boats' crews of different ships, the slaves, &c. they are suppressed and adjusted by the soldiers on guard, who, in the Portugueze service, have great power and often treat the people with no little severity.

While we staid at this place, we made several short excursions into the country; but did not go near the mines; as we knew the attempt would not only prove hazardous but ineffectual: and as the liberty and indulgence granted


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us was on the commodore's account, we never extended our trips beyond a few miles, lest our doing so should appear suspicious, and reflect discredit on him, we considering him in some degree responsible for our conduct. As far as we did go, we experienced the same polite and attentive behaviour we met with from the inhabitants of the city. Never was more distinguished urbanity shown to strangers than was shown to us by every rank.

From its complicated state, I could learn but few particulars relative to the government of Brazil. The viceroy is invested with great power and authority, subject in some cases to an appeal to the court of Lisbon; but, like a wise and prudent ruler, he seldom exerts it, unless in instances where sound judgment and true policy render it expedient and necessary. He is a man of little parade, and appears not to be very fond of pomp and grandeur, except on public days, when it is not to be dispensed with. When he goes abroad for amusement, or to take the air, his guard consists only of seven dragoons; but on public occasions he makes his appearance in a grander stile. I once saw him go in state to one of the courts of justice; and, though it was situated not a hundred yards from his palace, he was attended


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by a troop of horse. His state carriage is tolerably neat, but by no means elegant or superb; it was drawn by four horses irregularly mottled.

Carriages are pretty common at this place; there is scarcely a family of respectability without one. They are mostly of the chaise kind, and drawn in general by mules, which are found to answer better than horses, being more indefatigable and surer-footed, consequently better calculated to ascend their steep hills and mountains.

The military force of Brazil consists of a troop of horse, which serve as guards for the viceroy, twelve regiments of regulars from Europe, and six raised in the country: these last enlist men of a mixed colour, which the former are by no means suffered to do. Besides the foregoing, there are twelve regiments of militia always embodied. This whole force, regulars and militia, except those on out-posts and other needful duties, appear early in the morning, on every first day of the month, before the palace, where they undergo a general muster and review of arms and necessaries. The private men, although they are considered as persons of great consequence by the populace, are, on the other hand, equally submissive and obedient to their officers. This strict


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discipline and regularity, as the city is in a great measure under military orders, renders the inhabitants extremely civil and polite to the officers, who, in return, study to be on the most agreeable and happy terms with them.

A captain's guard (independent of the cavalry, who are always in readiness to attend the viceroy) is mounted every day at the palace. Whenever Commodore Phillip passed, which he did as seldom as possible, the guard was turned out, with colours, &c. and, as I before observed, the same mark of honour paid to him as to the governor. To obviate this trouble and ceremony, he most frequently landed and embarked at the north-west side of the town, where his boat constantly waited for him.

On both sides of the river which forms the bay or harbour, the country is picturesque and beautiful to a degree, abounding with the most luxuriant flowers and aromatic shrubs. Birds of a lovely and rich plumage are seen hopping from tree to tree in great numbers; together with an endless variety of insects, whose exquisite beauty and gaudy colours exceed all description. There is little appearance of cultivation in the parts we visited; the land seemed chiefly pasturage. The cattle here are small, and when killed do


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not produce such beef as is to be met with in England: it is not, however, by any means so bad as represented by some travellers to be; on the contrary, I have seen and eat here tolerably good, sweet, and well-tasted beef. I never saw any mutton: they have indeed a few sheep, but they are small, thin, and lean. The gardens furnish most sorts of European productions, such as cabbages, lettuce, parsley, leeks, white radishes, beans, pease, kidney beans, turnips, water melons, excellent pumpkins, and pine-apples of a small and indifferent kind. The country likewise produces, in the most unbounded degree, limes, acid and sweet lemons, oranges of an immense size and exquisite flavour, plantains, bananas, yams, cocoa-nuts, cashoo apples and nuts, and some mangos. For the use of the slaves and poorer sort of people, the capado is cultivated in great plenty; but this cannot be done through a want of corn for bread, as I never saw finer flour than at this place, which is plentiful, and remarkably cheap.

Brazil, particularly towards the northern parts, furnishes a number of excellent drugs. In the shops of the druggists and apothecaries of Rio de Janeiro, of which there are many, hippo, oil of castor, balsam capiva, with most of the valuable


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gums, and all of an excellent quality, are to be found; but they are sold at a much dearer rate than could possibly have been conceived or expected in a country of which they are the natural produce.

The riches of this country arising from the mines are certainly very great. To go near, or to get a sight of these inexhaustible treasuries, is impossible, as every pass leading to them is strongly guarded; and even a person taken on the road, unless he be able to give a clear and unequivocal account of himself and his business, is imprisoned, and perhaps compelled ever after to work in those subterraneous cavities, which avarice, or an ill-timed and fatal curiosity, may have prompted him to approach. These circumstances made a trial to see them without permission (and that permission I understand has never been granted the most favoured foreigners) too dangerous to be attempted.

In addition to the above source of wealth, the country produces excellent tobacco, and likewise sugar canes, from which the inhabitants make good sugar, and draw a spirit called aquadente. This spirit, by proper management, and being kept till it is of a proper age, becomes tolerable rum. As it is sold very cheap, the commodorepurchased a


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hundred pipes of it for the use of the garrison when arrived at New South Wales. Precious and valuable stones are also found here. Indeed they are so very plenty that a certain quantity only is suffered to be collected annually. At the jewellers and lapidaries, of which occupation there are many in Rio, I saw some valuable diamonds and a great number of excellent topazes, with many other sorts of stones of inferior value. Several topazes were purchased by myself and others, but we chose to buy them wrought in order to avoid imposition, which is not unfrequent when the stones are sold in a rough state. One of the principal streets of this city is nearly occupied by jewellers and the workers of these stones, and I observed that persons of a similar profession generally resided in the same street.

The manufactures here are very few, and those by no means extensive. All kinds of European goods sell at an immoderate price, notwithstanding the shops are well stored with them.

The Brazil, or native Indians, are very adroit at making elegant cotton hammocks of various dyes and forms. It was formerly the custom for the principal people of Rio to be carried about in these hammocks; but that fashion is succeeded by the use of sedan chairs, which are now very common


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among them; but they are of a more clumsy form than those used in England. The chair is suspended from an aukward piece of wood, borne on the shoulders of two slaves, and elevated sufficiently to be clear of the inequalities of the street. In carrying, the foremost slave takes the pavement and the other the street, one keeping a little before the other, so that the chair is moved forward in a sidelong direction, very unlike the procedure of the London chairmen. These fellows, who get on at a great rate, never take the wall of the foot-passengers, nor incommode them in the smallest degree.

The inhabitants in general are a pleasant, cheerful people, inclining more to corpulency than those of Portugal; and, as far as we could judge, very favourably inclined to the English. The men are strait and well-proportioned. They do not accustom themselves to high living, nor indulge much in the juice of the grape.

The women, when young, are remarkably thin, pale, and delicately shaped; but after marriage they generally incline to be lusty, without losing that constitutional pale, or rather sallow, appearance. They have regular and better teeth than are usually observable in warm climates, where


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sweet productions are plentiful. They have likewise the most lovely, piercing, dark eyes, in the captivating use of which they are by no means unskilled. Upon the whole, the women of this country are very engaging; and rendered more so by their free, easy, and unrestrained manner. Both sexes are extremely fond of suffering their hair, which is black, to grow to a prodigious length. The ladies wear it plaited and tied up in a kind of club, or large lump, a mode of hair-dressing that does not seem to correspond with their delicate and feminine appearance. Custom, however, reconciles us to the most outré fashions; and what we thought unbecoming the Portugueze considered as highly ornamental. I was one day at a gentleman's house, to whom I expressed my wonder at the prodigious quantity of hair worn by the ladies, adding that I did not conceive it possible for it to be all of their own growth. The gentleman assured me that it was; and, in order to convince me that it was so, he called his wife and untied her hair, which, notwithstanding it was in plaits, dragged at least two inches upon the floor as she walked along. I offered my service to tie it up again, which was politely accepted, and considered as a compliment by both. It has been said that


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the Portugueze are a jealous people, a disposition I never could perceive among any of those with whom I had the pleasure of forming an acquaintance; on the contrary, they seemed sensible of, and pleased with, every kind of attention paid to their wives or daughters.

The current coin here is the same as that in Portugal, but silver as well as gold is coined at this place, where they have an established mint. The pieces of gold are of various sizes, and have marked on them the number of thousand rees they are worth. The most common coin is a 4000 ree piece which passes for £1. 2. 6, though not so heavy as an English guinea. The silver pieces, called petacks, value two shillings, are also marked with the number of rees they are worth. You get ten of these in exchange for a guinea; and for a Spanish dollar two petacks, five vintins and a half, which is about four shillings and eight-pence. Here, as in Portugal, they have five, ten, and twenty thousand ree pieces. A ree is a nominal coin; twenty make a vintin, value about three half-pence; eight vintins make one shilling; a petack is worth two shillings, and of these there are some double pieces, value four shillings sterling.

One morning, as I attended Mr. Il de Fonso, surgeon general


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to the army, and a man of ingenuity and abilities in his profession, to a large public hospital, a soldier was brought in with a wound in his left side. The instrument had penetrated the abdomen, without injuring the intestines; and from its form and nature the wound must have been inflicted with the point of a knife, or a stiletto. The patient, after being dressed, acquainted us that the preceding night he had had some words with another man about a woman, who, notwithstanding blows had not passed, stabbed him with some sharp instrument, of what kind he could not see, as it was then dark, and afterwards made his escape. This account led me to believe that assassinations were not unfrequent in Brazil; but Mr. Il de Fonso assured me to the contrary, telling me that such instances seldom happened except among the negroes, whose vindictive and treacherous dispositions led them wonderful lengths to gratify their revenge, whenever night and a convenient opportunity conspired, at once to aid and to conceal their horrid acts.

While we remained here, the weather being cool and favourable, I prevailed on the surgeon who was about to amputate a limb to allow me to take it off according to


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Allenson's method. During the operation I could plainly see that he and his pupils did not seem much pleased with it, and he afterwards told me it was impossible it could ever answer. A very short space of time, however, made them of a different opinion; and in eighteen days after, when we sailed, I had the satisfaction to leave the patient with his stump nearly cicatrized, to the no small joy of the surgeon, who said that if the man had died he should have been heavily censured for making him the subject of experiments. The circumstance of a man's leg being cut off, and almost healed in as many days as it generally takes weeks, soon became known, and added very much to the estimation in which the people of this place held English surgeons. Whenever I visited the hospital afterwards, the objects of pity with which it was filled used to crowd around me in such a manner, and in such numbers, for my advice, that I found it difficult to get from them. And they now would readily have submitted to any operation I should have proposed, but, as I saw the surgeon did not much approve of my interference, I gave up all ideas of it.

The harbour of Rio de Janeiro lies in 22°54' south latitude, and 43°19' west longitude, about eighteen or twenty


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leagues to the westward of Cape Frio. The entrance is good, and cannot be mistaken, on account of a remarkable hill, resembling a sugar loaf, that is on the left-hand side; and some islands before it, one of which is oblong and does not, at some distance, look unlike a thatched house: they lie from the mouth of the harbour S. by W. about two leagues. Ships going in may run on either side. The bar, over which we carried seven-fathom water, is not more than three-fourths of a mile across, and well defended by forts. The strongest is called Santa Cruz, built on a rock, on the starboard side as you run in, from which every shot fired at ships passing must take effect. The other, named Fort Lozia, is smaller, and built on an island or rock, on the larboard side, a little higher up, and lying contiguous to the main-land. The tide in the harbour rarely ebbs and flows more than seven feet; however, ships, if possible, never anchor in this narrow pass between the forts, as the bottom is foul and the tide runs with considerable rapidity. All danger in going in, or running out, may be avoided by keeping the mid channel, or a little bordering on the starboard shore. After Santa Cruz fort is passed, the course is nearly N. by W. and N.N.W.; but, as I before observed, the eye is the best


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pilot. When you get within a mile of a strong fortified island which lies before the town (only separated by a narrow pass), called the Isle of Cobras, you are then in the great road, where we anchored in fifteen fathom water; or, should you have occasion to get nearer the town, you may run round this island, on the north side, and anchor above it, before the convent of Benedictine friars at the N.W. end of the city, before spoken of.

The city and harbour are strongly defended and fortified, but with very little judgment or regularity. The hills are very high, and so is the coast, which has such strange, romantic, and almost inaccessible terminations that nature of her own accord, without the aid of military skill, seems disposed to defend them. Taking everything into the account, I think it one of the best harbours I have ever seen, and, upon the whole, better calculated to supply the wants of people who have long been at sea, and stand in need of refreshment, than any part of the world, everything being so remarkably cheap. Beef may be purchased at seven farthings per pound; hogs, turkeys, and ducks, both English and Muscovy, were equally reasonable. Fowls were dearer, but still sold at a lower rate than in England. Fish


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was not very plentiful, but I was told that at other seasons they have a most excellent market for that article. Their market for vegetables, however, abounded with fruit, roots, and garden stuff of every kind, notwithstanding it was not the best season for fruit, it then being too early in the spring to expect abundance. Oranges, which we had in the greatest plenty, cost only five-pence the hundred.

On a hill about half a mile S.E. of the city stands a convent, named Convento de Santa Theresa, the nuns of which, amounting to about forty, are not allowed to unveil when they come to the grate: and on a plain between this convent and the city stands another, called Convento A. de Juda, a very large building, governed by an abbess and several nuns, all under the direction of a bishop. Here about seventy young ladies are placed to be educated, who are subject to all the restrictions of a monastic life, only they are permitted to be frequently at the grate, and that unveiled. But, what is singular, the nuns of this convent, when they arrive at a proper age, are allowed either to take a husband, or to take the veil, just as their inclination leads. They are not, however, suffered to quit the convent on any other terms than that of marriage, to which the consent and approbation


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of the bishop is always necessary. If they do not get a husband early in life, it is common for them to take the veil. Many of these young ladies were very agreeable both in person and disposition, and, by frequently conversing with them at the grate, we formed as tender an intercourse with them as the bolts and bars between us would admit of. Myself, and two other gentlemen belonging to the fleet, singled out three of those who appeared to be the most free and lively, to whom we attached ourselves during our stay, making them such presents as we thought would prove most acceptable, and receiving more valuable ones in return. These


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little attentions were viewed by them in so favourable a light, that when we took a last farewell they gave us many evident proofs of their concern and regret. Indeed every circumstance while we continued at this charming place (except there being no inns or coffee-houses, where a stranger could refresh himself, or be accommodated when he chose to stay a night or two on shore) conspired to make us pleased and delighted with it; and I can truly say that I left it with reluctance, which I believe was the case with many of my companions.

September 3d. The commodore sent Mr. Moreton, the


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master of the Sirius, and two of his midshipmen, who had been put on the invalid list, aboard an English ship returning from the Southern whale fishery to England, which, being leaky, had been forced into Rio. As this ship was to sail in a few days, it furnished us with an opportunity of writing to our friends. About two in the afternoon the commodore made the signal for all officers to repair on board their respective ships, and for the transports to hoist in their boats.

4th. At six the fleet weighed with a light land breeze. On the commodore's approaching Santa Cruz Fort, he was saluted from the batteries with twenty-one guns; which he returned from the Sirius with an equal number. About ten o'clock we got clear of the land, steering to the eastward with a gentle breeze. Thomas Brown, a convict, was punished with a dozen lashes for behaving insolently to one of the officers of the ship. This was the first that had received any punishment since their embarkation on board the Charlotte.

5th. Wind variable and cloudy; Rio Sugar-loaf still in sight, about eight or nine leagues distant.

6th. The officers, ship's company, marines, and convicts,


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were, by signal from the Sirius, put to an allowance of three quarts of water per day, including that usually allowed for cooking their provisions. In the course of the day a steady breeze sprung up at N.E. About six in the evening, the Fishburne victualler carried away her fore-top-gallant yard, which she soon got replaced with another.

7th and 8th. The weather continued dark and cloudy, with some heavy showers of rain. On the evening of the 8th, between the hours of three and four, Mary Broad, a convict, was delivered of a fine girl.

9th and 10th. Fine, clear, dry weather. The commodore made a signal for the convoy to close, being scattered about at a considerable distance from him.

11th, 12th, and 13th. Fresh breezes, with sudden squalls and heavy rain. The four succeeding days, light airs, and hazy, with some showers, and a damp moist air. On the evening of the 17th, our longitude being, by signal from the commodore, 31°34'W. we caught a shark six feet long, of which the people made a good mess.

18th. Heavy rain, with dark and cold weather. Saw several albatrosses and pintado birds.

19th. William Brown, a very well-behaved convict, in


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bringing some clothing from the bowsprit end, where he had hung them to dry, fell overboard. As soon as the alarm was given of a man being overboard, the ship was instantly hove to, and a boat hoisted out, but to no purpose. Lieutenant Ball of the Supply, a most active officer, knowing from our proceedings (as we were at the time steering with a fair wind, and going near six knots an hour) that some accident must have happened, bore down; but, notwithstanding every exertion, the poor fellow sunk before either the Supply or our boat could reach him. The people on the forecastle, who saw him fall, say that the ship went directly over him, which, as she had quick way through the water, must make it impossible for him to keep on the surface long enough to be taken up, after having received the stroke from so heavy a body.

23d. From the 19th, the weather had been cold, dry, and pleasant; it now became wet, squally, and unsettled; the wind westerly, with a high sea; albatrosses, pintado birds, and some small hawks hovering round the ship.

30th. The weather became more moderate and pleasant, the wind variable, inclining to calms.

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