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Extent of Tenasserim.-The Tenasserim Provinces consist of a part of Martaban (now Province Amherst, formerly belonging to Pegu) and the districts of Ye, Tavoy, Mergui, and Tenasserim.
Motives for occupying Tenasserim.-There seems to have been no secondary motive for retaining these provinces, beyond their affording facilities to command the bay of Bengal; they could not have then held out any other apparent, known allurement.
Present relations with Burmah.-The misapplied generosity of the British, left their Burmah foes in possession of the most productive and important part of the empire. This generosity has been misconstrued into weakness, or inability to retain the conquest; which prevailing opinion has acquired greater strength since the usurpation of the present ruler, and this opinion, strengthened by the peaceable policy of the British Indian Government in this quarter, is the reason of the insolence of the present ruler of Burmah.
Formerly prevailing opinion of the Burmah power.-Formerly when all intercourse with Burmah was either cut off entirely to Europeans, or when the notices of the embassies of the British government sent to Ava could be but imperfect, on account of their always proceeding the same way by water, up the Irrawaddy to the capital, the power and population, the resources and abilities of this empire were greatly exaggerated.
Now corrected. Since that time, our knowledge of it has greatly increased; the war laid the lower country open to investigation; and since the conclusion of the treaty of Yandaboo, several able British gentlemen have traversed the empire in different directions, and the conclusion drawn from personal experience has been, that Burmah could only rank in political importance with second rate Indian powers. It was found out, that the population formerly estimated at 17 millions of inhabitants, could not be reckoned at more than 3 or 4 millions scattered over a wide extent of country-that part of the population was tributary to the ruler-that, if that prince, be inclined to hostilities, he can but raise a kind of temporary militia, not exceeding at the utmost, 70 or 80,000 men-that a permanent disciplined soldiery does not exist that great part of this militia must be in a sad plight after a few months' campaign, placed opposite a disciplined army, commanded by Europeans, on account of want of ammunition, clothing, food, &c. -that most of these men are peasants, driven from their homes by e to fight the enemy-that few of them know even to handle their -and that none of them are able to fight a British Indian army open field.
Erroneous opinions of the people.-In the same manner in which the abilities of the ruling power were misrepresented, an erroneous opinion was also formed of the character of the inhabitants.
Equally corrected.—Instead of finding the mass of the population brute warriors, they are in fact a harmless, naturally mild race of husbandmen, oppressed by a highly tyrannical absolutism.
Reasons of their military excursions.—The love of sudden gain, and that (to every nation) inordinate desire after adventures, carried them, under the lead of ambitious men in power, from time to time to invasions of surrounding states, and rendered them chiefly under the founder of the present dynasty, Alompra, in the last century, a conquering nation. Yet they were destitute of the roaming ferocity of the Tartars, or the bloody propensity of the Arabs, and of the personal courage of both. The mass engaged in such expeditions, after a few months devastation and plundering, returned to their homes to labour in the fields; and a small part of them continued robbers even in their own country, often not discouraged by their own government, perhaps, with a view of conserving in them the stock and spirit of soldiery, useful for future enterprizes.
An exaggerated military reputation.—The dread of surrounding, unsettled, petty nations, the never decided superiority between them and the Siamese, their succeeding even in defeating a Chinese army, nurtured in them a persuasion of their invincibility; the boasting of their blinded adulating courtiers, the ignorance of the true state of the country-a terra incognita to Europeans-all this contributed to create a high opinion of their power, and consequently an erroneous belief of danger to British India, until their own signal defeat in the last war, followed by the first dismemberment of their empire, destroyed this delusion.
Other neighbours.-Shans.-The neighbours to the north, the tributary Shan states of Zimmay, Laboung, and Yaihaing, are equally an agricultural race of people, the nature of their mountainous sub-alpine country induces them also to partly follow the pursuits of pastoral tribes. They appear to be weak clans, and profess to detest the Burmese, but are too insignificant to become independent; they have hitherto manifested a spirit of amity towards the British, and have shewn themselves anxious to be allowed to throw themselves under their protection.
Siamese. The kingdom of Siam, fronting the Tenasserim provinces towards the east, is established upon the same foundations which are in these parts universally acknowledged and adopted. The government
is likewise an uncontrolled, sometimes very rigorous, absolutism; yet it appears Siam is advanced one step farther in civilization than Burmah, for its ruler not only protects agriculture, but encourages commerce; its inhabitants are undoubtedly more industrious, and in consequence, their country more wealthy. The fertility of the great valley and of the plains formed by the delta of the Meram river, is highly spoken of. The great number of Chinese settled amongst them has doubtless contributed to establish a more general and improved cultivation. The custom prevailing to this day of driving the population of whole districts, when conquered, to remote parts; forcing them to cultivate the ground, though in itself for the depopulated countries highly pernicious, seems to indicate that the government knows duly to appreciate the value of the labour of husbandmen. Though no positive data of the whole amount of the revenue are known, yet it must be, judging only from the duties levied at Bankouk, at least double that of the Burman empire.
The feelings of the court of Bankouk, manifested towards the British Government of India, have been hitherto those of amity and good-will. These feelings are dictated partly by apprehension for their own safety, partly by their hereditary enmity towards the Burmese; they viewing the British as the natural enemies of that nation. Burmese and Siamese have been for a long time rivals, and in consequence, never friends. The weakening the Burmese gave additional strength to the Siamese. Before the British war with Burmah, neither of the two powers, though almost uninterruptedly engaged in petty warfare, could subdue the other; their military force and prowess being equal.
Their mode of warfare was confined in latter times to temporary invasions, accompanied by mutual devastations, generally to both parties equally injurious. The consequence was, that the confines of the two powers have been rendered a waste, and hence it is accounted for that the frontiers of the Tenasserim provinces towards Siam are totally uninhabited, desolate, uninterrupted forests, from thirty to eighty miles in breadth.
It appears from the late accounts of Dr. Richardson, that the high opinion which the court of Bankouk had conceived of the British power, and which they knew only to measure by the progress of British arms in the last war, has somewhat diminished, within the last two years. With the returning belief of their own strength, and diminishing apprehension of their new neighbours, the feelings of amity, and the desire of mutual peace, will be lessened.
The Siamo-Malays.-The Siamese are conquerors in the Malay peninsula. The petty states to the south of the Tenasserim provinces (whose boundary is formed by the Packchan river disemboguing in lat. 9° 57′) are under Siamese dominion. The races inhabiting it are mixed. Those in the neighbourhood of the Tenasserim provinces are either Siamese, or formerly captured Burmese, or people from the eastern frontier of Siam, besides others forcibly transplanted from other parts. The people lower down the peninsula are half Siamese and half Malays; and nearer to the extremity of the peninsula, of pure Malay origin. It seems that the Siamese government exercises in these provinces a much more severe absolutism than within the proper limits of Siam, and consequently it is proportionably more hated.
Malays.-The Tenasserim provinces have no intermediate intercourse with the Malays, except with some few people of this race, who have farmed the edible birds' nest caves in the Mergui archipelago, from government.
Nicobarians.-The people of the Nicobars, apparently the offspring of a mixture of surrounding nations, wrecked or dispersed accidentally on the islands, are totally insignificant in a political point of view.
There exist some relations between the Burmese of the Tenasserim provinces and these islanders, with whom a trade of exchange is carried on. The Nicobarians furnish ship loads of cocoanuts which they barter with the Burmese for cloth, tobacco, iron, and earthenware. They must be called independent at present, for though the Danes endeavoured repeatedly to take possession of some of the islands, at present not a vestige is to be found either of their establishment or of their authority.
Andamanese. To finish the enumeration of the nations bordering on the Tenasserim provinces, mention must be made of the Andamanese, perhaps the lowest beings in the scale of civilization belonging to the human species. They are of the negro variety with woolly curly hair, of a diminutive stature, almost untameable, even when caught young, living upon trees, or under a shed of pealed bark, or in the crevices of mountains, subsisting upon the spontaneous produce of nature; their chief food consists of shell-fish, collected on the sea-shore. They are reported to be cannibals. No nation has yet succeeded in forming a friendly alliance with them, they considering every stranger an enemy, whom if it be practicable they kill, and in retaliation are destroyed by every stranger without compunction, whenever accident brings them in contact.
The interior of these large and interesting islands is entirely unexplored. The sea-shore is visited by the Burmese inhabitants of Tenasserim and the Malays, for the purpose of collecting sea-slugs, and edible birds' nests. These occasional visitors have no intercourse with the savage inhabitants, and live during the season of collection either in their boats, or build a sort of temporary stockade for their defence.
Notwithstanding the favourable situation of these islands in the bay of Bengal, notwithstanding the beautiful harbour of Port Cornwallis, the attempt to form an establishment there, made several times by the English for the sake of a military and commercial depôt, has been given up entirely.
The Dutch. The Dutch is the only European power which has possessions in the post-Asiatic countries, besides the British (if the Philippine islands be excepted.) However not only their vicinity, but even their very existence is unknown to the people of Tenasserim there is no intercourse, no communication whatever with their ports, and I believe that not a Dutch vessel has even approached the coast of the territory since its occupation by the British.
The French.-Some old inhabitants remember the French. In the last war, their fleets had for a time their station in King's Island Bay, for the purpose of intercepting the Indiamen trading to China; and their rendezvous place, as well as the rivulet from whence they supplied their ships with water, were pointed out to me by the Burmese. The French however never ventured upon an inland excursion, and the inhabitants then having scarcely any notion of the existence of Englishmen, could of course have no suspicion of the relations which existed between the two nations.
Intercourse with the Chinese.-Though a number of Chinese are settled in the provinces as merchants, yet there is no intercourse directly with China either by land or water. A caravan from the Chinese province of Yunan approached last year within fifteen to twenty days' march from Maulmain, and intended to penetrate as far as that settlement, for the purpose of trading; however, jealousy, and apprehension in general, as well as the then already manifest inimical intentions of the Burmese usurper, prevented those enterprising men from accomplishing their purpose. A considerable loss to them it is said was the consequence, and probably no other attempt will be made on their part, until the relations with the petty states to the north, through whose territories the Chinese have to pass, are based upon a more secure and solid foundation.
The different nations and tribes inhabiting the Tenasserim Pro