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Portugal under Philip II., Ireland under the Plantagenets, (to coine no lower,) Greece and Asia Minor under the Turkish empire, the Crimea under the Czars, Arracan under the Birmans, are all cases in point, illustrating in the most striking manner, the reverse of Col. Stewart's most paradoxical assertion. But he must have been thinking only of our Indian empire, which certainly has been an infinite benefit to the subjects of those various petty despotisms which it has displaced ;-although even in this instance, he seems to think that the extension of territory and consolidation of empire have been carried too far, for he charges the British Government with obstructing in India the improvement of society. We . have given them,' he says, 'tranquillity ; but it is the tranquillity of stagnation, agitated by no living spring, unruffled by any salutary breeze, and prone to corrupt into every vice,
or to ferment into every baneful and pernicious excess. But unless this gentleman is of opinion that the Birman Government is of a more wise and beneficent character than the British, and better adapted to promote the improvement of society, we cannot understand how he can consistently object to the contraction of its territory, or rather, the emancipation of those territories into which it had obtruded.
That the late arrangements will not tend to weaken the British frontier, will be evident to any person who has a competent acquaintance with the nature of the country. On the side of Sylhet and Chittagong, we were decidedly vulnerable. The acquisition of Arracan, besides providing us with a most important line of coast, completing in fact our possession of the whole Bay of Bengal, gives us, instead of an open frontier, a natural barrier towards the east, formed of almost inaccessible mountains. Throughout this chain, which runs in a direction parallel with the coast from Assam to Cape Negrais, there are only two openings, so far as known, which admit of the passage of an army; and of these, one only is practicable the greater part of the year. On the other side of this frontier, we shall still have the Birmans for our neighbours. In placing Assam and Cassay under native princes, with residents at Rungpore, Cospoor, and Munnipore, we certainly cannot be considered as having either weakened our frontier, or placed ourselves in contact
with a less efficient government than that of the Birman chobwas who previously held possession of them. After all, politicians are divided with respect to the expediency of having a very efficient government as the neighbouring power; and it has been thought, that Turkey, on account of the very weakness and non-efficiency of its government, was the most desirable border country that Christendom could have.
The cession of the provinces of Mergui, Tavoy, and Yea to the British, together with the proposed establishment of a resident at Zeet-taung, brings us in immediate contact with the Siamese nation, who are expressly included in the treaty of peace. An immense chain of mountains, the spine of the whole region, stretching down through the isthmus and peninsula to the Sincapore strait, separates the newly acquired territory in this quarter from the great valley of the Siamese Nile. We could not, apparently, have more inoffensive neighbours. The present race of Siamese are a semi-aquatic people, more fond, however, of their river than of the ocean;- diminutive in stature, their average height being not more than five feet three inches ;-of a squat shape, inclining to obesity ;-in their general character, mild, patient, good-humoured. A very large proportion of the population of Siam (some accounts make it one third,-others nearly one half) consists of Chinese emigrants, or the descendants of those who were encouraged to settle in this country by King Pe-ya-tac, (himself the son of a Chinese,) about fifty years ago, after the country had been almost depopulated by a Birman invasion, followed by a year of famine. The original race of Siamese, the Tai-yai, or Great Tays, as they are called, are now to be found only in the northern and interior provinces, or in the unexplored countries between the Siam and Cambodia rivers. Siam is in fact scarcely an Indo-Chinese country; so decidedly does the Chinese character predominate, in combination with the Malay. Mr. Finlayson says:
* The skin of the Siamese is of a lighter colour than in the generality of Asiatics to the west of the Ganges, by far the greater number being of a yellow complexion; a colour which, in the higher ranks, and particularly among women and children, they take pleasure in heightening by the use of a bright yellow wash or cosmetic, so that their bodies are often rendered of a golden colour.
The texture of the skin is remarkably smooth, soft, and shining.'
A Chinese complexion, it seems, together with black teeth, is, in Siam, as well as in Birmah, the perfection of beauty. White teeth, they say, are fit only for dogs. This fondness for a golden complexion is not peculiar to the Indo-Chinese. Van Egmont tells us, that the Greek ladies at Smyrna, on high occasions, used to gild their faces, which was considered as rendering them irresistibly charming: Yellow is, moreover, a sacred colour among all the worshippers of Buddha. The priests are distinguished by their yellow garments, the yellow lotos is sacred to Buddha, and the precious yellow metal is the type of all grandeur and excellence.
The language of Siam is considered by Dr. Leyden as an original one. It is, he says, ' more purely monosyllabic than the languages of Birmah, Arracan, and Pegu, and is certainly
connected in some degree with the Chinese dialects; espe'cially the mandarin or court language, with which its nume• rals, as well as some other terms, coincide.' In its construction, its intonations, and its modes of expression, it coincides much more closely with the Chinese dialects, than with those of Birmah; and the words which it has borrowed from the Pali or Magadha, (the sacred language of the votaries of Buddha,) are much more contracted and disguised than in the other vernacular idioms*. The Siamese calendar differs little from that of the Chinese. Mr. Finlayson says indeed, that it is very doubtful if they could construct one without the assistance of a Chinese calendar, which they procure regularly from Pekin. Their era, answering to A.D. 638, also appears to be derived from China. What event it dates from, is unknown; but it is remarkable, that it corresponds very nearly to the accession of the first emperor of the Tang dynasty, the successor of the sovereign under whom China was first united in one empire. The comparatively modern date to which this era ascends, makes strongly against any pretensions of the present race of Siamese to an original literature. The history of their kings does not, indeed, go further back than A.D. 756. Their religion, which is that of Buddha, whom they worship under the name of Sommono-Kodam (the holy Kodam, the Godama. or Gaudama of the Birmans and Cingalese), is believed by the priests to have had its origin in Ceylon; but there is no room to doubt that they received it by way of China, into which it was introduced towards the close of the first century.
Mr. Finlayson states that the founder of their religion is also known under the name of Pra-Phut, which he interprets the ' high lord.' Phut or Phoodh is no other word than the Chinese Fuh or Fohi, the Japanese Buth, and the Pali Boodh ; and Pra is a titular prefix, signifying lord. It is used in Birmah as a regal title, (as Alom-praw, Minderajee-praw,)+ and is also applied to their sacred edifices ; as, in India, the divine titles of Deo, Paal or Baal, &c. are used as appellatives of a dynasty. Col. Symes conjectures with great plausibility, that Pra or Phra is no other word than the Egyptian Pharoah or Phralı, which, Josephus tell us, signified king, and which occurs in composition in the name of Potipherah, prince of On.
244. + In Siamese, the word for lord is Chaw, the same, probably, as the Persian Shah.
* Asiat. Res. Vol. X.
And since the Malay has been ascertained to bear so close an affinity to the Coptic, such a coincidence cannot be regarded as at all extraordinary. The prayers recited by the priests on the occasion of funerals and other solemnities, are in the Pali language; but this is every where the sacred language of Buddhism, as the Latin and the Arabic are respectively of the Romish and Mohammedan communions. And no other proof seems requisite, that Ceylon itself derived the superstition of which it has become the asylum and depository, from Magadha, the birth-place of Gaudama Buddha. But these are deep matters. We must proceed to notice the Mission of Mr. Crawfurd.
This abortive attempt to establish a beneficial commercial intercourse with Siam and Cochin China, is said to have originated with Mr. Crawfurd himself, who is represented as having prevailed upon the Marquess of Hastings to send him on a mission for which he certainly appears to have been ill qualified. His whole diplomatic career was a series of blunders, for which Mr. Finlayson makes the best apology when he says :
• We arrived in the country ignorant of the manners of the people, and of the state of political opinion ; for even in this despotic government, the spirit of party is not unknown. That knowledge which we subsequently acquired, would doubtless have been of the first importance to the British Agent, had he possessed it on landing in Siam. The history of past negotiations is sufficient to prove that neither privileges, nor immunities, nor advantages of any kind, are to be gained from the Ultra Gangetic nations by submission, by condescension, or even by conciliation or by flattery. They despise the former as a proof of weakness; the latter, as arguing a mean spirit.'
But, with the examples before him, of De Chaumont in Siam, and of Colonel Symes and Captain Hiram Cox in Ava, it is most marvellous that Mr. Crawfurd should not have been aware of this. Neither the military rank nor the diplomatic character of Colonel Symes availed to procure for him even the honour of a sight of the Golden Face, or to protect him from unequivocal marks of disrespect, till he assumed the language of firm remonstrance: he then obtained all he wished for. The Emperor was very reluctant to understand that the Governorgeneral of India could be any thing more than a provincial governor, with whom it would have been an infinite degradation for his Golden Majesty to correspond on terms of equality: Captain Cox, they played with ; and the poor Resident could make nothing of them. The sort of mercantile capacity in which they seem to have viewed him, evidently excited their contempt. And when we recollect with what real or affected contempt a certain Emperor of the West is stated to have
spoken of the British as a nation of shop-keepers, it cannot be deemed matter of wonderment that a military and polite nation like the Birmans should regard a Mercantile Company and the Company's Agent with the same dignified feelings.
The Chevalier Chaumont, with the address and good face characteristic of his countrymen, took high ground in his presentation to his majesty of Siam, insisting upon their keeping on their shoes, contrary to all oriental etiquette, and upon delivering the letter of his royal master into the king's own hands, instead of transmitting it through one of the officers. After making three bows to the king, he began a speech standing, but, after a few words, put on his hat and delivered the rest sitting and covered. He then rose to give the letter ; but it appeared to him that the king's position was much higher than had been stipulated, or than would admit of his delivering the letter without stretching his person in a manner unsuitable to his dignity. He therefore formed the bold determination not to lift the letter higher than himself, to the great consternation of his friend the prime minister, who was lying prostrate. At last, the king, laughing, stooped and took the gold box in which the epistle was contained, and afterwards conversed for about an hour with great affability. Meantime, all the mandarins remained flat on the ground. Let us now hear Mr. Finlayson's account of the reception of the British envoy.
• The hall was lofty, wide, and well-aired, and appeared to be about sixty or eighty feet in length, and of proportionate breadth. The cieling and walls were painted with various colours, chiefly in the form of wreaths and festoons. The roof was supported by wooden pillars, ten on each side, painted spirally red and dark green. Some small and rather paltry mirrors were disposed on the walls ; glass lustres and wall shades were hung in the centre ; and to the middle of each pillar
was attached a lantern, not much better than our stable lanterns. The floor was covered with carpets of different colours. The doors and windows were in sufficient numbers, but small and without ornament. At the further extremity of the hall, a large handsome curtain, made of cloth covered with tinsel or gold leaf, and suspended by a cord, divided the space occupied by the throne from the rest of the apartment. On each side of this curtain there were placed five or six singular ornaments, called chatt*, consisting of a series of small circular tables suspended over each other, diminishing gradually so as to form a cone, and having a fringe of rich cloth of gold or tissue suspended from each tablet. A few of the presents from the Governor General, as
* A chattah, in Birman, is an umbrella; and these ornaments were, we make no doubt, intended for the same article. ·