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It appears from an examination of the tables, that the exports of Barra alone, in the year 1850, are not in value far below those of the whole Comarca in the year 1840. I have no doubt, as in the case of Egas, that the value of the imports is very nearly double that of the exports; so that the present trade of Barra with Pará may fairly be estimated at sixty thousand dollars per annum.
Town of Barra-Foreign residents-Population-Rio Negro-Connexion with
the Oronoco-River Purus–Rio Branco-Vegetable productions of the Amazon country.
The town of Barra, capital of the province of Amazonas, is built on elevated and broken ground, on the left bank of the river, and about seven miles from its mouth. Its height above the level of the sea is, by boiling point, one thousand four hundred and seventy-five feet. It is intersected by two or three ravines, containing more or less water, according to the state of the river, which are passed on tolerably constructed wooden bridges. The houses are generally of one story, though there are three or four of two, built of wood and adobe, and roofed with tiles. The floors are also of tiles, and the walls are plastered with the colored earth which abounds on the banks of the Amazon.
Every room has several hooks driven into the walls, for the purpose of hanging hammocks. People find it more comfortable, on account of the heat, to sleep in hammocks, though I always suffered from cold, and was obliged every night to wrap myself in a blanket. There are few musquitoes, these insects always avoiding black water.
I was surprised to find, before I left Barra, that provisions were getting very scarce. The supply of flour gave out, so that for some time there was no bread in the city; and beef was killed but once a fortnight. Even the staples of the country were difficult to procure; and I heard the President say that he was desirous of recruiting some fifty or sixty tapuios to work on the new government buildings, but that he really did not know where he should get a sufficient quantity of salt fish and farinha to feed them on. Just before I sailed, a boat-load of turtles came up from the Amazon for Henrique, and his house was besieged by the poorer part of the population, begging him to sell to them.
Soon after my arrival, the President did me the honor to ask me to dime with him, to meet the officers of the new government. There seemed then a great abundance of provisions. We had fish, beef, mutton, pig, turtle, and turkey. There are very fine fish taken about Barra; they come, however, from the Amazon, and, unless cooked immediately on their arrival, invariably spoil. The best fish is called pescado; it is very delicate, and quite equal, if not superior, to our striped bass, or rock-fish, as it is called in the Southern States. Cut into pieces, fried, and potted, with vinegar and spices, it makes capital provisions for a voyage of a week or two.
Williams is the only American resident in Barra. He was in partnership with an Irishman named Bradley, who died a few months ago
of yellow fever, in Pará; he, however, had been very sick, but a short time before, of the tertiana of the Rio Negro, and had not fairly recovered when he went to Pará. There had been another American in Barra a year ago. This was a deaf mute, named Baker, who was travelling in this country for his amusement. He carried with him tablets and a raised alphabet, for the purpose of educating the deaf, dumb, and blind. He died on the 29th of April, 1850, at San Joachim, the frontier port of Brazil, on the Rio Branco.
I heard some muttered suspicions that the poor man had possibly met with foul play, if not in relation to his death, at least in relation to his property; and understanding that the soldier in whose house he died was then in prison in Barra, I directed a communication to the President, requesting an interview with this soldier. His Excellency did not think proper to grant that, but sent for the soldier, and himself examined him. He then replied to my communication, that he could find nothing suspicious in the matter of Mr. Baker's death, but enough in regard to his property to induce him to send for the commandant of the port of San Joachim and bring the whole matter before a proper tribunal, which he should do at the earliest opportunity, and communicate the result to the American minister at Rio.
Henrique had told me that he saw in Mr. Baker's possession a rouleau of doubloons, which he judged amounted to two thousand dollars, besides a large bag of silver. A military gentleman whom I was in the habit of meeting at Henrique's house, told me that he himself had heard the soldier say that he should be a rich man when he got back to San Joachim; all of which I communicated to the President. The soldier's imprisonment at Barra was on account of some military offence, and had nothing to do with this case.
The President also sent me a list of the personal effects of Mr. Baker, which had been sent down by the commandant of San Joachim to Col. Albino, the Commandante Geral of the Comarca. Amongst them were some things that I thought might be valuable to his family—such as daguerreotypes, maps, and manuscripts; and I requested his Excellency to place them at my disposal, for transportation to the United States; but he replied that by a law of the empire the effects of all foreigners belonging to nations who have no special treaty upon the subject, who
die in Brazil, are subject to the jurisdiction of the Juiz de Orfaos y Difuntos; and that it was therefore out of his power to comply with my request. I am told (though this may be scandal) that if property once gets into this court, the heir, if he ever succeeds in getting a settlement, finds but a Flemish account of his inheritance.
Our intelligent and efficient consul at Pará, Henry L. Norris, has represented this matter to the government in strong terms, showing the effect that such a law has upon the credit and standing of large mercantile houses in Brazil. I am not aware of any other nation than the French being exempted from its operation. It is clear that the credit of a house whose property may be seized by such a court as this on the death of its resident principal will not be so good, cæteris paribus, as that of a house exempted from the operation of such a law. The Brazilian authorities are very rigid in its execution, and I was told that a file of soldiers was sent (I think in Maranham) to surround the house of a dying foreigner, to see that no abstraction of property was made, and that the whole might be taken possession of, according to law, on the decease of the moribund.
There were two English residents at Barra-Yates, a collector of shells and plants; and Hauxwell, a collector of bird-skins, which he prepares most beautifully. He used the finest kind of shot, and always carried in his pocket a white powder, to stop the bleeding of the birds when shot. In the preparation of the skins he employed dry arsenic in powder, which is much superior, in this humid climate, to arsenical soap. He admired some of my birds very much, and went with Williams up to Pebas, in Peru, where I procured most of them.
There were also two English botanists, whose names I have forgotten, then up the Rio Negro. One had been very sick with tertiana, but was recovering at latest accounts.
The chief engineer of the steamer was a hard-headed, hot-tempered old Scotchman, who abused the steamer in particular, and the service generally, in no measured terms. He desired to know if ever I saw such beef as was furnished to them; and if we would give such beef to the dogs in my country. I told him that I thought he was fortunate to get beef at all, for that I had not seen any for a fortnight, and that if he had made such a voyage as I had recently, he would find turtle and salt fish no such bad things. The steamer, though preserving a fair outside, is, I believe, very inefficient--the machinery wanting in power, and being much out of order; indeed, so much so that on her downward passage she fairly broke down, and had to be towed into Pará. She, however, made the trip up in eighteen days, which, considering that
the distance is full a thousand miles; that this was the first trip ever made up by steam; that the wood prepared for her had not had time to dry; and that there is nearly three-miles-an-hour current against her for about one-third of the distance, I do not consider a very bad The officers did not call to see me or invite me on board their vessel, though I met some of them at the dinner and evening parties of the President.
Mr. Potter, a daguerreotypist and watchmaker, who came up in the steamer, and my good friend Enrique Antonii, the Italian, with his father-in-law, Senhor Brandão, a Portuguese, make up the list of the foreigners of Barra, as far as I know them. Senhor Brandão, however, has lived many years in the country; has identified himself with it; and all his interests are Brazilian. He is a very intelligent man; and I observe that he is consulted by the President and other officials in relation to the affairs of the new government.
Whilst speaking of persons, I should be derelict in the matter of gratitude if I failed to mention Donna Leocadia, the pretty, clever, and amiable wife of Enrique. She exhibited great interest in my mission, and was always personally kind to myself. When our sunrise meal of coffee and buttered toast gave out, she would always manage to send me a tapioca custard, a bowl of caldo, or something nice and comfortable for a tired invalid. Unlike most Brazilian ladies, wher er her household duties would permit, she always sat with the gentlemen, and bore an intelligent part in the conversation, expressing her desire to speak foreign languages, and to visit foreign countries, that she might see and know what was in the world. A son was born to her whilst I was in the house, and we had become such friends that the young stranger was to be called Luis, and I was to be compadre, (godfather.) But the church, very properly, would not give its sanction to the assumption of the duties belonging to such a position by a heretic.
Ijurra left me here, and returned up stream with Williams. He laid out nearly all the money received for his services in such things as would best enable him to employ the Indians in the clearance of the forest, and the establishment of a plantation, which he proposed to “ locate” at Caballo-cocha, saying to me that he would have a grand crop of cotton and coffee ready against the arrival of my steamer.
Ijurra has all the qualities necessary for a successful struggle with the world, save two-patience and judgment. He is brave, hardy, intelligent, and indefatigable. The river beach and a blanket are all that are necessary to him for a bed; and I believe that he could live on coffee and cigars. But his want of temper and discretion mars every scheme