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will be observed; for the natives have such a dread of judicial proceedings, that they will scarcely ever infringe upon publicly made contracts. When after the British occupation, all was placed on a certain undeviating footing, cunning and shrewdness became to them of less avail, and are said to be daily less common. One bad quality however remains with them from the time of Burmese rule, which they cannot get rid of, this is falsehood in speech. A Burmese if asked a question, even of the most unimportant nature, scarcely ever gives a direct answer, but will ponder a long time, and then couch his words, in an ambiguous sense; and if he cannot succeed in this, he will plead his ignorance straight forward, though he may be well acquainted with the subject asked. This want of good faith is a bad quality in a subject, and it would naturally follow, that an attachment to the government cannot be relied upon, and the British government ought to be on a continual guard not to be overthrown by treachery. It can be supposed, however, that there is no fear of that; the dispositions of the Burmese on any other subject may be as doubtful as possible; but the boon which has been conferred upon them by an equitable administration is so generally appreciated, that they fear only the present state of things will not last for ever. Only few individuals, once in power, might gain by a change; but they will never find adherents amongst the mass of the population; from a rebellion therefore, the government has nothing at present to apprehend.
Religious connection of the Burmese in Tenasserim with the king of Ava.-Profound veneration and attachment to the present royal family in Ava is generally spread, and has its source in religious feelings-Gaudama the first of beings, and the royal family the next in rank in this world.
Though the Burmese in the Tenasserim provinces know that they are at present quite independent of the ruler of Ava, and are not influenced by any of his ministers or governors, yet they consider the emperor of Burmah as the head of religion, but acknowledge cordially, the worldly supremacy of the English. The more enlightened and wealthy of the inhabitants take a lively interest in the affairs of their ancestors' country; the overthrow of the king and his ministers, the usurpation of Tharawaddie, the subsequent expulsion of the crown prince, were watched with anxiety, and the present cruel proceedings keep them in awe and suspense.
The Burmese hold the customs of their forefathers in high veneration, but not so the laws imposed upon them by their superiors. The reason is, that the laws until lately have always been
arbitrary, too often not conducing to their happiness, and frequently contrary to their interest. The Burmese accustomed to tyranny, never questioned the right of imposing whatever laws their superiors thought proper, but they opposed them when they had the power, and evaded them when they had the opportunity.
The love of country in the Burmese, is based much more upon natural, than moral ties. It is the face of the country, the manner of living, the similarity of occupations which ties the Burmese. As far as his language is spoken, and the face of the country is the same or similar, this is his country. From the banks of the Tenasserim to the mountains above Ava, forming the Chinese frontier, a Burmese is at home, and would be so in Cochin China could he make himself understood. The moral ties, the recollections of his youth, his parents, his wife, his children, do not so much rivet him to the spot, as the ties above mentioned. Hence a Burmese is easily induced to exchange his sojourn in Mergui for a better livelihood in Maulmaim or Rangoon, but a Burmese will never be found to expatriate into Hindoostan Proper, and very few are to be met with in Penang.
Common Interest.-The common interest which an assemblage of communities exercises, has little weight in the eyes of a Burmese. He prefers the British countries, because they are safer; but supposing an equal guarantee were held out to him in Pegu or Ava, he would scarcely settle there as in the Tenasserim provinces.
Fame, fortune, and power, cannot be appreciated by the natives of these countries otherwise than as they contribute to their bodily welfare. To consider them as the means of accession to moral ends, would appear ridiculous to the Burmese. The above passions had amongst the Burmese, a much wider field for development under their own government, than under the British. The wish to become illustrious seems at present to be nearly stagnant, they perceive that the Europeans are mentally their superiors; that the power wrested from them, is entrusted entirely to the former; and they know that they have to develop their talents only in the functions of native magistrates.
Desire after fortune is innate in every human breast, but it is less inordinate in the Burmese, simply on account of not knowing how to employ it; for fame and power, cannot be longer bought with fortune. It formerly rendered a Burmese famous, to employ his fortune in building pagodas and endowing khiaungo, or monasteries. The people emulated the prince and the ministers, who expended immense sums in this way. The British government has nothing to do with the
embellishment of Buddhistic symbols, or with the support of the numerous Buddhistic monks, and the people begin to be tired with the exertion of a sort of fame, which is not appreciated by their superiors.
Avarice. Avarice, or an inordinate desire after fortune, without considering it as the means of gaining any thing else, seems as far as I have observed, no native vice. The Burmese hoard up money frequently in secret places under pagodas, not unfrequently in the bamboo rafts of their houses; but this does not originate in avarice, but in the apprehension of insecurity, and ignorance how to employ the capital advantageously. All Asiatic nations, living under despotic governments, who have constantly the violation of property to fear, act in like manner, and bury their valuables. British stability is not yet understood, and the certainty, that the British will maintain the country against expected attacks from Burmah and Siam, not yet believed in; so that the natives cannot be blamed for following the impulse of their distrust.
Rights of property.-The rights of another's property, are well understood and generally held sacred; except in the larger places on the sea-coast, where, like in all larger congregations, irregularities are much more common; however very few thefts happen in the country ; property entrusted to natives by Europeans is very rarely embezzled ; and with money they are considered more trusty and honest, than the same classes in Europe.
Robberies.-Robberies committed on the highway, or on the water, are unknown as far as I am aware, since the British occupation. Those committed on the Salween last year cannot be imputed to the Tenasserim people; they were perpetrated at the instigation of the hostile neighbours on the Burmese side.
Murder. The same may be said of murder. To commit deliberate murder is not within the sphere of Burmese character, and murder committed in passion is equally rare, for the Burmese are much more calm than excitable, and form in this respect a great contrast to the Malays, their neighbours.
Passions-revenge. That the Burmese are not passionate, is obvious even to a superficial observer; how far they are revengeful I do not know; however, I never had an opportunity of witnessing inveterate rancour, or hatred. There are no hereditary quarrels; in which respect the Buddists, amongst other good qualities, have again the preference over the Mussulmen; the neighbouring Malays being
equally famous for implacability, with their religious brethren in Arabia.
Politeness.-The opinions which have been disseminated in Europe about Burmese in general, where they were represented as bloodthirsty barbarians, are wrong. On a mere superficial acquaintance, their mildness and placidity are apparent. Their behaviour is conformable to strict rules of decency. Politeness is the characteristic of all the natives of Indo-China, which amongst the lower classes in Europe is too little exercised, and which is again exaggerated when speaking of the Chinese. The Chinese are more formal than polite, on the contrary, they are sometimes rude. The Burmese are naturally polite, not only to strangers, but amongst themselves. Boat people gathered together by order of government, and strangers to each other, live crowded in a small place for months in an uninterrupted state of harmony. Common coolies address each other as Sir, and the rare occurrence of fights and quarrels amongst the lowest classes, shows, that they know how to pay each other, on all occasions, that deference which is due to a fellow creature.
Courtesy and good fellowship.-Courtesy and good fellowship are strictly adhered to; the people of one village form a community, bound together by friendship and mutual wants; and a stranger not entering into their adopted mode of life is not tolerated.
Exercise of charity.—Charity is little exercised in a country where real wants do not exist. The disabled and decrepid are maintained by their families, relations, or even by strangers. The exercise of charity amongst the Burmese cannot be considered a virtue, as its practice does not call for a sacrifice, the alimentary subsistence of a person amounting monthly to a mere trifle.
Hospitality.-Hospitality is considered in all (not European) countries, not a virtue, but a duty, for in a country where the comforts of life are not so far advanced, as to lead to the establishment of inns, all intercourse with people in distant districts would be interrupted without hospitality. Hospitality in general, is dictated either by philanthrophy or by religion. In the latter case, it embraces men of a particular sect, party, or nation, and such hospitality is chiefly exercised in Mussulman countries; philanthropic hospitality has its origin in the common rights of society,—such is exercised by the Buddhistic nations. In all parts are zayats, or resting places, built expressly for travellers, who take possession of the building by right, and if the travellers be poor, they are provided by the inhabitants with food, sometimes on application, and sometimes without.
It is a peculiar institution in Buddhistic countries, to erect sheds at short distances in which are placed chatties (earthen vessels) filled with water to afford drink to the wearied traveller.
Temperance.-Temperance is one of the shining qualities of the Burmese; their fare is simple, moderate, and wholesome. They subsist chiefly upon vegetable substances,-rice is their chief food, all other ingredients secondary.
Like all natives of the tropics, the Burmese are fond of spices; these condiments seem necessary to digestion in equatorial climates. The majority of the people, who are Buddhists, do not drink spirits, a drunken man being considered a degraded being. The Kareans make an exception, they indulge in temporary intemperance on solemn occasions. Opium smoking exercises its baneful influence wherever the drug is introduced; it is fortunately however too expensive a vice, to which rich people only can be addicted. In the public opinion, it is held degrading, and the epithet of "Opium smoker," denotes a bad character, capable of performing the worst acts.
All nations whose climate permits them to remain unencumbered with clothes, whose abodes permit the free circulation of air, whose occupations are mostly in the fields and woods, and require a free exercise of the limbs of the body, will be found possessed of agility, dexterity, and hardiness, which are the concomitants of good health, if no local causes operate inimically. The Burmese in Tenasserim are remarkably healthy, strong, and muscular, without being powerful.
Perseverance.-The Burmese are capable in moments of excitement of great exertion, but their energy is of short duration. Want of perseverance is a characteristic of them; the reason of which may be, that few of them are engaged in regular, never ceasing, monotonous labours. The Burmese mode of life does not force them to toilsome, long continued exertions. In a highly cultivated country they gain their subsistence with little trouble, and because they scarcely ever know absolute want, or even poverty, they are more indifferent to affluence.
Patience.-Patience is the result of that mode of life which people are generally obliged to lead, who occupy countries where nature has scattered her bounties with parsimony. Though few of the Burmese are exempted from the cares of life, and the vicissitudes which attend a regular occupation, yet disappointments are not often experienced; and as only the repeated experience of disappointments creates patience and endurance, the Burmese cannot possess that virtue.