Character of the Barão de Parnahiba

As I brought several letters of recommendation with me to the Barão de Parnahiba, the President of the Province, I made enquiries for his house on entering the city, and was directed to it by a soldier. The Palacio, as it is called, is situated on the most elevated part of the town, is of one story, and has a very ordinary appearance. On arriving at the door I found it guarded by a sentinel, one of the most abject-looking beings that can be imagined. He was a young mulatto, dressed in the uniform of the troops of the line, which seemed as if it had not been off his back for the last six years; his cloth cap was old and greasy, his blue jacket one half patches and the other half holes, was open in front, displaying his naked breast, for he could not boast the possession of a shirt; his trowsers were little better than his jacket, and his bare feet were thrust into a pair of old shoes, down at the heels,[194] and open at the toes. Had it not been for his musket, and his upright position, I should certainly have taken him for a beggar. There was a pavement a few feet in breadth in front of the house, upon which, when I stopped, my horse’s fore-feet rested, and, before I had time to speak, the sentinel started forward, seized the bridle, and turned him off into the street. I then dismounted and was about to proceed to the door, but no sooner had I put foot upon the pavement, than I was served in the same way as my horse had been, and told that no one was allowed to enter the palace with spurs on. These I instantly took off, and having asked if anything else was necessary to be done, I was at last allowed to enter.

On reaching the lobby I was met by a sergeant, who asked me if I wished to speak with his Excellency, and who, on being told that I had letters for him, said that it was his duty to deliver them. After waiting about a quarter of an hour in the lobby, I was shewn into a large room containing two small tables, a sofa, and a few chairs. Here I had not been more than five minutes, when his Excellency made his appearance with my letters in his hand. He told me to excuse him while he read them, as also to pardon his undress, which he wore, he said, on account of the great heat of the day. The dress he had on was certainly one of a very light nature, but was that generally worn in the house by the inhabitants of this province; it consisted of a thin white cotton shirt hanging loose over a pair of drawers of the same material, which reached but a short way below his knees; his legs and feet were bare, the latter being thrust into a pair of old slippers; around his neck were several rosaries, with crucifixes and other appendages of gold attached to them.

While he was looking over my letters I could not help scrutinizing the appearance of an individual whose name is more celebrated than that of any other in the north of Brazil, and whose despotic government of the province of which he is President, has gained for him the appellation of ‘The Francia of Piauhy.’ He was low in stature and strongly built, though not corpulent, and his looks bespoke considerably more activity, both of body[195] and mind, than is generally met with in persons of his age in Brazil, for he was then about seventy years old; his head was remarkably large, and, according to the principles of phrenology was pretty well balanced before and behind, but deficient in the region of the moral sentiments, and was of considerable breadth between the ears. In conversation his countenance had a sinister unpleasant expression, notwithstanding that it was generally covered with a half-formed smile. After finishing the letters, all of which he read over very carefully, we entered into a conversation respecting my visit to the province, but I could not make him understand that my collections were for any other purpose than that of being converted into medicine or dye stuffs. That the productions of nature were studied for any other purpose than as regards their mere utility to man, he could not form the slightest idea. As soon as he learned that it was my intention to remain for some time in the city, he sent a person to procure an empty house for my use; and, as it was not furnished, he was kind enough to send me two chairs, a table, and a large earthen pot to hold water.

The city of Oeiras, the capital of the Province of Piauhy, is situated in a large circular valley, about a league in breadth, nearly surrounded by a broken range of low hills composed of a soft whitish-coloured sandstone. Until the year 1724, when it was raised to the dignity of a city, it was known by the name of Villa da Mocha, from a little stream which passes close to it and all the year round yields an abundant supply of water, which, however, in the dry season is very much impregnated with saltpetre. It is very irregularly built, consisting principally of a large square, and a few streets which proceed from the south and west sides of it. The population does not exceed three thousand souls; the most respectable part of which, not including those in the employ of the government, are shopkeepers who retail European goods. The greater part of the merchandize comes from Maranham, being carried in large canoes up the Rio Itapicuru to Cachias, from whence they are brought to Oeiras on the backs of horses. A portion is also brought by the same means from Bahia, but the[196] distance is much too great to render such expeditions profitable; this is brought by drovers who go there yearly with cattle for sale. Sometimes a solitary launch of twenty tons burden, laden with salt, arrives in the Rio Canindé, opposite Oeiras, from the Villa da Parnahiba, a flourishing town near the coast on the east bank of a large river of the same name, which divides the Provinces of Maranham and Piauhy, and up which the navigation takes place. One such arrived during my visit, but it took nearly three months to perform the distance, which is about one hundred leagues. It is only during the rainy season, when the river is flooded, that this voyage can be undertaken, and the current is then so strong that the vessel has to be pushed up by poles all they way. Owing to the length of time, and the number of men required, it is seldom that such a speculation terminates profitably. It has been recently proposed by Mr. Sturz, the Consul-General for Brazil, in Prussia, to navigate this stream by a small steam-boat, but there are many reasons for concluding that this will never be successfully put into execution. It is not probable that the middle and southern portions of the Province will ever be much more populous than they are at present, as from the great yearly droughts to which they are liable, the cultivation of cotton or sugar can never be carried on. The only articles of export are cattle and hides, and the latter is all that a steamer would get as cargo downwards. As regards the import of European goods, it is not likely that the traffic would soon be changed from Maranham to Parnahiba. The river, moreover, would only be navigable during the rainy season, at which period the force of the current, and the numerous shifting sandbanks which its bed is said to contain, would render the transit both slow and difficult.

The city contains three churches, two of which though now of considerable age are unfinished. There are also several other public buildings, such as a jail, military barracks, the provincial house of assembly, the Camara Municipal, and hospital, but none of these are deserving of notice excepting the jail, which was then just completed; it was erected under the superintendence of a German engineer, who has resided in the province several years in[197] the employ of the government; it consists of two stories, in which respect only two other buildings like it are to be found in the city; the lower part and wings serve as prisons and a house of correction, the upper story being used as a court of justice. At the north end of the city there is a fine large building, now falling into ruins, which was the college of the Jesuits previous to their expulsion from Brazil.

The seasons are very regular in this district, and although very few old persons are seen, it is not considered unhealthy. A few showers generally take place in the month of October, but the regular rains do not set in till about the beginning of January, when they continue till the end of May; during this period thunder storms are very common, fearfully loud, and of long duration, and accidents, it is said, do not unfrequently occur from them. Between Crato and Oeiras we saw several large trees which had been shivered in pieces by lightning; and while in Oeiras I was informed that a fazendeiro who was returning to his country house, after one of the church festivals, sent his family, consisting of his wife and several children, with their attendant slaves, a short distance before him; on overtaking them he was shocked to find them all dead, having been struck by lightning from a thunder storm which was then passing over. The months of May, June, and July, are the most pleasant of the season, for then the rains have ceased, and everything continues fresh and green, and the atmosphere is comparatively cool, from a strong S.E. wind which prevails during this period. After the month of July a great change takes place, the whole country begins to wear a dry and arid appearance, the grass and other herbaceous vegetation wither up, and the trees and shrubs throw off their leaves. At this period too the cooling S.E. winds cease, and are followed by light and variable ones or by calms, from which cause the air becomes so much heated, that no one stirs abroad, excepting those who are under the necessity of doing so.

The principal diseases in and around the city are agues and malignant fevers, particularly at the beginning and end of the rainy season; after the rains have ceased, and during the prevalence[198] of the south-east wind, pectoral complaints are not uncommon, and many cases of ophthalmia occur; in the latter, either because of improper treatment, or from neglect, many persons lose their sight. But the complaint for which I was most frequently called upon to prescribe, was dyspepsia, which under its various forms, these people are most subject to; asthma and paralysis are also prevalent. At the time I visited Oeiras it could boast of two resident medical men and an apothecary’s shop; the latter was but poorly furnished with medicines, and those neither new nor of the best quality. The senior of the two medical men, Senhor Josè Luiz da Silva, an intelligent and amiable person, from whom I received much kindness, holds the office of Cirurgião môr, and has charge of a small hospital, which is almost entirely devoted to the service of the military. He is a Portuguese by birth, and in his youth had acted as surgeon in the navy of that country. He had now resided thirty-six years in Oeiras, and was the father of a large and respectable family. The other, a young Brazilian, educated at Bahia, ill instructed, and of an unamiable disposition, was assassinated in the street a few months after I left. Although they both of them were accustomed to treat diseases generally, neither of them had the skill, and consequently the courage to undertake any serious operation, notwithstanding that many cases had long called for professional assistance. An opportunity was thus afforded me of undertaking several operations which few young surgeons in England have it in their power to attempt. The most serious of these were depression of Cataract and Lithotomy; the former I performed three times, but with success only in one case, when such was the astonishment produced in the minds of these simple people, by the blind regaining his sight, that it was spoken of through the country as a result little short of a miracle. The operation for stone in the bladder was likewise performed by me three times, in all cases with the greatest success; and it is deserving of remark that these were the only instances of this complaint that I met with during my whole travels. There can be no doubt, therefore, that this complaint is of very rare occurrence in the country,[199] but it is not easy to say from what cause this originates. My first patient was an otherwise healthy free black man, about thirty years of age; and it was astonishing to see the rapidity with which the wound healed; but this has been found to occur universally in people of his colour. The second was a poor mulatto, who lived in a little palm hut in the outskirts of the city: both these poor fellows did all in their power to show their gratitude, and would willingly have parted with all they possessed to repay me, but of course I would take nothing from them. The third case was the most remarkable of all: the patient was a man about forty-five years of age, and one of the most respectable shopkeepers in the city. About nine years before my arrival he had been treated by the surgeon in chief for stricture of the urethra, when by improper treatment a portion of a small leaden bougie passed into the bladder; this formed the nucleus for the stone, from which cause he suffered the most excruciating agonies that mortal could endure. I was consulted by him on my arrival, when I assured him that nothing but an operation would relieve him from his sufferings; being, however, of a very timid disposition, he would not consent to its performance, till after he heard of the success of the other two cases; assisted by my friend the Cirurgião môr, I happily succeeded in extricating the stone, which was about two inches in length. This occurred about a month before I left the place, by which time he was so far recovered as to be able to walk about his room. After a period of eighteen months I received a letter which he sent to meet me at Rio de Janeiro, in which he informed me that he had perfectly recovered, and offered me a thousand thanks (mil graças) for the good service rendered to him. Before I left, he gave me a very handsome gratuity of three hundred spanish dollars, two fine horses, and many little necessaries suited for the journey I was then about to undertake.

The province of Piauhy sends two members to the national chamber of Deputies in Rio, but in all that relates to its internal government, the Barão de Parnahiba rules with despotic sway. He has been its president ever since the establishment of the[200] independence of the empire, with the exception of one short period, when another person was sent to supersede him; but he did not hold his appointment long, dying suddenly, and under suspicious circumstances. Since that period, although the presidents of all the other provinces are changed every two or three years, he has remained constantly in office. He is more feared than respected by the mass of the population, and on an emergency can command, among his own friends and dependents, more than 2,000 staunch supporters: he has always at his call those who are both ready and willing to execute his orders of whatever nature these may be. By the firmness of his government he has acquired many enemies, especially by the enactment of some provincial laws, respecting which it must be confessed in their favour, that their tendency is always to benefit the poorer classes of the inhabitants: among others, he has forbidden that beef and farinha, the two principle articles of food, be sold in the city above a certain fixed price, and that a very low one; however, he has always taken care that his own cattle be sent to Bahia and other distant and more profitable markets, having abundant facilities for such arrangements. Although generally ill-informed, he possesses a great share of shrewdness and cunning, qualifications highly requisite for the maintenance of the despotism with which he has hitherto governed the province, under which it can certainly boast of a greater amount of peace and quietness than almost any other province in the empire. It is not a little strange that, notwithstanding his many enemies, only one attempt has hitherto been made to assassinate him, and that so late as the year before I arrived there.

On the 17th of January, 1838, on returning from one of his fazendas, and when about half a league from the city he was fired at from behind some bushes; the shot only wounded him in the right shoulder. The assassins, for there were two, fled immediately, and one of them appeared among the first to congratulate the Barão on his arrival after so fortunate an escape. Parties were instantly despatched to scour the woods in pursuit of the delinquents, and a black man who was found hidden among some[201] bushes, and who could not give a good account of himself, was taken to the city, and on being interrogated, confessed that although he was one of the parties, he did not fire the shot, the person who did so being one Joaquim Seleiro, a mulatto saddler, who lived in the house of the Barão. This man was said to be of a very vicious disposition, and of strong passions; and it was well known that a few days before the occurrence, he had been ill used in some manner by the Barão, without just cause. At the time he was denounced, he was leading a party in the woods in search of the assassins; and was not a little astonished on his return to find himself a prisoner. He strongly denied the crime of which few deemed him to be innocent; the laws of the country do not inflict the penalty of death for a mere attempt at murder: he was, therefore, committed to prison, where he died twenty-six days after the perpetration of that crime, under circumstances that have given rise to suspicious reports.

To those who are interested in the history of Brazil, a slight sketch of the life of so extraordinary a man as the Barão de Parnahiba, may not be uninteresting, as his name is intimately connected with the establishment of the independence of the northern provinces. His father was a native of the Azores, and was very poor when he arrived in Brazil, but he soon married a lady possessed of a small property; of the family resulting from this union, the subject of this notice was the eldest, being born in the year 1776. His only education consisted in learning to read and write, and in acquiring a slight knowledge of arithmetic. His first occupation was that of a cowherd (vaqueiro) to his father, who died when he was only twenty years of age, leaving him a fazenda worth about 1,500 cruzados (£200 sterling); during his childhood he was brought up by a godmother, who at her death left him another fazenda of nearly equal value. After his father’s death, not content with the occupation of vaqueiro, he began to purchase cattle with the view of taking them to Bahia for sale, to which place he continued to go every year, till about twenty-five years ago, although from that period up to the present, he has never failed to send annually a drove of cattle to[202] the same market. Shortly after his father’s death he was enlisted, as was then the custom, into the cavalry militia; here he was soon advanced to the post of corporal which he held for a long time; he was next elevated to the rank of ensign, and about the same time was appointed treasurer of the national rents. Occupied in this manner, he continued till the period of the declaration of independence, when his name had acquired but little weight in the province, being better known for his cunning disposition and uncouth manners, than for any more eminent qualities. It was his custom to bestow gifts and attentions, and be very obsequious to all persons high in authority, such as governors, judges, &c., always providing men, horses, and provisions to bring them up from the coast. In this manner he ingratiated himself in their favour, and after their arrival was always their obedient servant; and without regard to their line of politics was ever a staunch supporter of their measures. He made it his endeavour on all occasions to gain the good opinions of the religious part of the community, by showing himself to be a great friend to all that belonged to the church, on which account he was anxious to be appointed director of its festivals, on which he did not hesitate to spend large sums, in this manner obtaining the good will and friendship of the priesthood.

At the time when Dom João the sixth gave the Constitution to Portugal, the larger provinces of Brazil were ruled by Governors General (Governadores Geräes), and the smaller by Governors only, the power of all being to a certain extent despotic. At this time the province of Piauhy was committed to the charge of Elias José Ribeiro de Carvalho, a native of Portugal, but immediately on the proclamation of the constitution in the mother country he was recalled, when the province fell to the care of a provisional government, consisting of six members, one of whom was the present president. It was during this time that a Major Fedié arrived at Oeiras from Rio de Janeiro, as commander in chief of the military force in the province, and who soon afterwards became notorious for his opposition to the cause of independence. It was also during the reign of this Governo Provisorio, as it was[203] called, that Dom Pedro Primeiro proclaimed the independence of Brazil. It was of course a long time before the news of this great event, that had taken place in Rio, reached this far distant province, and when the accounts arrived Fedié, true to the fealty he owed João, who had sent him thither, and supposing it to be only a disturbance of short duration, firmly opposed its proclamation in the city of Oeiras; and as soon as he learned it had been supported in the Villa da Parnahiba, he collected all the troops and militia he could raise, and marched against the inhabitants of that place, notwithstanding that he received previously official notice from the newly declared central government in Rio, ordering him to proclaim the independence of the country in the city. At this time also, advices arrived from the provinces of Bahia and Ceará, both of which had followed the example of the capital, strongly urging the most influential persons in the province to adopt the same course in Piauhy, but all refused to do so, declaring themselves to be firm supporters of the constitution of Dom João.

At this time the influence of the Barão was so small that none of the letters were addressed to him, but the opportunity did not escape him, for by the same posts that carried the above answers, he sent notice to both places that he was willing, in conjunction with several of his friends, to give his warmest support, and proclaim the cause of independence. Shortly after the departure of Fedié for Parnahiba, the Barão received answers to his letters, and was urged to lose no time in carrying his proposal into effect, to which end he immediately apprehended the members of the provisional government, who were in Oeiras, and confined them in prison, together with others who were either known or suspected to belong to the opposite party. The inhabitants of Parnahiba learning that Fedié was on the march for that place, united themselves and advanced on the road to meet him; the encounter took place at Campo Maior, about half way between Oeiras and Parnahiba, where in a very short time Fedié completely defeated the other party and put them to rout. In the meantime the Barão was using every exertion to raise men to march[204] against Fedié who was the most powerful opponent he had to dread. In order to give more weight to his authority, he first proclaimed himself president of the province; and under the pretence that Fedié was about to return to Oeiras, and that it was necessary to place them in security, he seized on the funds of the provincial treasury, which was said to be very rich at that time; but it is generally reported that the greater part of this treasure was never sufficiently accounted for: it is certain that at this time he laid the foundation of the great wealth which he at present possesses. He immediately sent advices to Rio de Janeiro stating what he had done, and in return Dom Pedro confirmed him in the presidentship, advanced him to the rank of colonel in the militia, and created his brother commander-in-chief in lieu of Fedié. The latter not wishing to return to Oeiras, where every one was now in arms against him, marched immediately to the Villa de Cachias, the most flourishing town in the interior of the province of Maranham, and which still remained loyal to the Portuguese cause. The imperial troops from Oeiras, having now united with those defeated at Campo Maior, together with about 2,500 more from the province of Ceará, headed by the president of Piauhy and his brother, marched to Cachias against Fedié, who with no more than 250 men maintained his position in that town for the long period of eleven months, and it was only when famine reduced them to the last necessity, that he capitulated, and was led back to Oeiras a prisoner. Thence he was conveyed to Rio, when he was liberated and sent to Portugal.

The march to Cachias was another fortunate circumstance, which it is said the president turned to good account, for as nearly all the inhabitants of that place were natives of Portugal, and consequently favourable to the union of the two countries, they were naturally considered by the Brazilians as enemies, and consequently treated as such in the worst possible manner, for they were murdered and robbed without mercy. To save their lives and property, many of them are said to have paid the president very handsomely for his protection, and in this manner he is believed to have amassed an immense sum of money. After[205] his return from Cachias, the emperor raised him to the rank of a brigadier, and created him Barão de Parnahiba. The entire management of the affairs of the province was left in his hands, as it still is, and consequently all situations were filled up either by his own relations, or by persons belonging to his party. On the occasion of the coronation of the present emperor, he was created a viscount.

One of the great sources from which the provincial treasury above alluded to derives its income, is the profit resulting from the sale of cattle which are reared on thirty-three fazendas belonging to the crown. About the end of the seventeenth century, one Domingo Alfonso established a number of cattle-farms in different parts of the province, and at his death thirty of these were put into the hands of the Jesuits, on the condition that the profits should be applied to charitable purposes; when the Jesuits were expelled from the country, these fazendas, together with others they had purchased, became the property of the state. On an average about 3,000 head of cattle are sold annually; they are disposed of to the highest bidder, and although the price varies in different years, 6,000 reis (about fifteen shillings) may be taken as their mean value; were these properties well managed a much larger profit might be derived from them. Besides the salaries paid to three inspectors, amounting to 300,000 reis each, every fazenda is managed by a vaqueiro, whose income is derived from the fourth part of the cattle and horses annually reared. These situations are much sought after, as in the course of a few years, the persons who hold them save large sums of money, having no house-rent to pay, and being allowed to have all the profits resulting from the other produce of the farm, such as sheep, goats, pigs, cheese, &c.; to assist in looking after the cattle, the government provides them with slaves whom they are obliged to supply with food and clothing, the former being all produced on the farm, and the latter, which is both scanty and coarse, costing but a mere trifle.

Shortly after my arrival in Oeiras, some very serious disturbances took place in the neighbouring province of Maranham,[206] which prevented me from following out my original plan of proceeding westward to the Rio Tocantins: I shall briefly notice the origin and progress of these disorders. In November 1838, the Prefect of Cachias sent four soldiers to apprehend a criminal in the Arraial da Chapada, about forty leagues distant. The brother of this individual, one Raimundo Gomez, a mestico, better known by the name of Cara preta (black face), and a party of nine other men whom he had engaged to assist him, disarmed the soldiers and sent them back; a greater number of soldiers was then despatched by the prefect to accomplish the same object, but by this time Raimundo had increased his band by a number of vagabonds who are never wanting in the interior, and who are always more ready to join in a disturbance, than to follow any regular employment; on this occasion the soldiers were again beaten back. In a short time, this band was greatly augmented by the desertion of slaves, by Indians and others, who now commenced a regular system of pillage, attacking the fazendas, and taking away whatever they pleased. As soon as the president of the province was informed of these circumstances, he despatched a troop of about three hundred soldiers to disperse these robbers, but by some mismanagement, after having encountered them at Chapada, their ammunition failed, and they were obliged to surrender themselves into the hands of Raimundo. The lieutenant-colonel who commanded them, and a captain were put to the sword, but the rest of the officers and soldiers had their lives spared, on condition that they consented to join the insurgents; and it is said that the greater part did so with good will. Raimundo thus strengthened, now regularly organized his party, appointing the officers he had captured his secretaries, as neither he nor any of his own partizans could read or write. It is pretty certain that about this time he entered into correspondence with a party in the city of Maranham, which being opposed to the monarchical form of government wished its overthrow; from this source it is said that both arms and ammunition were secretly supplied to Raimund’s troops.

They now took up their quarters at a place called Brejo, rapidly increasing in numbers, principally by runaway slaves from the large cotton plantations in the neighbourhood. In the month[207] of April 1839, this united force amounted to about 5,000 men, the principal officer, besides Raimundo, being an old Indian, known by the name of O Balaio (the basket), from his having formerly gained a livelihood by making baskets, and selling them in the streets of Cachias. Being well armed, the rebel army, as it was called, marched to Cachias with the intention of taking it; at this time there were only about twenty soldiers in the town commanded by a lieutenant, but all the inhabitants rose in arms to defend it. The rebels besieged the place for about six weeks, allowing no provisions to enter, at the end of which time, the inhabitants being in a state of starvation, and unable to hold out longer, were obliged to capitulate on the 30th of June. The terms of this capitulation were, that all the military stores in the place, amounting to 5,000 stand of arms, and 800 barrels of gunpowder, should be delivered up, and a sum equivalent to seventy per cent. on the goods of each merchant and shopkeeper be paid immediately. The prefect and several other leading men in the town also, in terms of the capitulation, were declared prisoners, and kept in close confinement for several months.

As these disturbances took place principally to the north of Oeiras, I had still hopes of being able to proceed to the westward, but just as I was making preparations to leave, several persons arrived in Oeiras from Pastos Boms, a small town a little to the west of the Rio Parnahiba, exactly on the route I had intended to follow. I learned from them that a party of the rebels had been sent from Cachias to take that place, where five Portuguese and one Brazilian, who were known to be opposed to them, had been massacred, and their families robbed of all their property. News now reached Oeiras that Raimundo and his army, flushed with their success, were about to march from Cachias to take that city. The Barão de Parnahiba, who previously had been raising troops to send to the succour of Cachias, now redoubled his exertions, and the city became filled with rustic troops, undergoing the necessary process of drilling; these formed a very motley group, being of all sizes, of all colours, and variously dressed, most of them appearing in their leathern hats, jackets, and trowsers. As there were no symptoms that the rebels would[208] soon make their threatened attack on Oeiras, about 600 of these troops were despatched early in the month of July, under the command of Major Clementino Martins, the baron’s nephew, to join others, ordered to march from Ceará and Pernambuco, to the succour of Cachias. As soon as the rebels received notice of this movement, a general sack of the town took place, by about a thousand men, who still remained there, on which occasion many of the inhabitants for the most part Portuguese were murdered. It was not till the month of January 1840, that Cachias was finally restored to order, and still later before peace was established in Pastos Boms and Brejo. In passing through a ravine near Cachias, that had been fortified by the rebels, Major Clementino and nearly all his troops were cut off. It was calculated that from the beginning to the end of this insurrection, more than 5,000 fell victims; this may be considered as an example of the outbreaks perpetually occurring in Brazil, which keep it in an almost continual state of disorder, and paralyse the energies of those who really wish well to their country.

Prevented in this manner from travelling westward, and unwilling to retrace my steps, I determined to proceed southward to Rio de Janeiro, through the great inland provinces of Goyaz and Minas Geräes, though but ill provided for such an undertaking, particularly in pecuniary matters, the state of the country rendering it impossible to receive money from the coast. I had, however, my profession to depend upon, and I knew that if much money could not be gained by it, a great deal of expense might be saved, for I had already experienced that, as a medical man, I was well received wherever I went. The country to the south-west being also in rather an unsettled state, I was strongly advised by the Barão de Parnahiba, as well as by other influential persons in Oeiras, not to pursue this proposed journey, as I should run a risk of losing my life by so doing; but my strong desire to pass through a hitherto unexplored country, determined me not to listen to their advice, and I immediately set about making arrangements for undertaking it.

The large collections which I made between Crato and Oeiras,[209] and in the neighbourhood of the latter place, I had intended to send to Maranham to be shipped for England, but this was now impossible, on account of the great distance between Oeiras and Pernambuco or Bahia. There is but little traffic between these places, and had it not been for a fortunate occurrence, there would have been no resource left but to take them with me to Rio. From Pernambuco I brought letters with me to Dr. Casimiro José de Moraes Sarmento, a young advocate, who held a small government appointment in Oeiras, his native place; with this gentleman I formed a very intimate friendship; besides being well educated, I found him possessed of a very superior intelligence, of much moral worth, and of great goodness of heart. He had brought with him from Pernambuco, where he studied, a fine library of Portuguese, French, and English works, of all which he generously allowed me the freest use. The moment I was preparing to leave Oeiras, he suddenly determined to return to Pernambuco, and kindly consented to take my collections with him, which being packed in such a manner as only to form a single load, I despatched on one of my own horses.

As far as I could learn, only one Englishman had visited this part of the country; several of the inhabitants still remembered Drs. Spix and Martius, and the house in which they resided was pointed out to me by the old Barão, who was then, however, a person of but small note in the place. During the four months I passed in this city, I met with the greatest civility and hospitality from all classes of society, much more, indeed, than in any other place in the empire in which I resided for any period. The Barão was particularly obliging, for besides providing a house for me, he sent my horses to one of his fazendas to graze, and I was a frequent guest at his table: he dines quite in the old baronial fashion, his table, which is very long, extending from one end to the other of a large room. He himself sits in a chair at the head of it, and his guests are seated on long forms placed on each side, the lowest places being often filled by his commonest shepherds. Captain Antonio de Moraes, the father of my young friend, and Captain Faria, I particularise among a host of others to whom I[210] am indebted for innumerable services; indeed, I shall ever look back on my stay at Oeiras, as one of the most pleasant portions of my pilgrimage in Brazil.

On the afternoon of the 22nd of July, we bade adieu to the city of Oeiras, and commenced our overland journey to Rio,—a journey which, though both tedious and painful, yielded me a far more abundant harvest of novelties than I anticipated. It was my intention to leave in the morning, but while preparing to do so, one of the men I had engaged to go as far as the southern extremity of the province of Piauhy, came to inform me that he had changed his mind: I instantly applied to the Barão for his assistance in procuring another, and as soon as he learned what had occurred, he sent for the man, who, still refusing to go, was sent to prison. He then kindly informed me, that he would allow me the use of a soldier, and having sent for one, told him that if he served me faithfully, he would give him his discharge on his return. I did not much like the look of this man, his face having one of the most cut-throat expressions I ever saw: I had no help but to accept his services, though in the end I was glad to get rid of him, as he proved to be one of the most insolent, lazy, and sulky fellows I ever had in my service. Captain Moraes and several other of my friends accompanied me for about a league from the city, when, with their hearty wishes for a safe return to my native country, we parted. About a league further we encamped for the night, under some large trees by the side of a small stream.

Our route was now nearly in a southerly direction, and lay through a beautiful country, consisting of diversified and park-like scenery. Many large flat tracts occur, to which the name of Chapada is given; these are but thinly wooded, the trees consisting of the Cashew (Anacardium occidentale), Jatobá (Hymenæa), Parahiba (Simaruba versicolor), and the Folha largo (Salvertia convallariodora),—a beautiful tree with large leaves, and spikes of sweet-smelling flowers, not unlike those of the horse-chesnut. As the weather was now quite settled, we generally slept in the open air at night, slinging our hammocks between trees. At a[211] short distance from Oeiras, we passed through some of the national fazendas, and on one of them had an opportunity of seeing the method adopted by the vaqueiros for catching the cattle, which roam about in large herds nearly in a wild state. In the southern provinces, it is well known that the cattle are caught by the lasso and bolas, the open country of those districts allowing their free use, which is not the case in the north. The instrument used here is a slender pole about nine feet long, a little thicker at one end than at the other; into the thicker end, a quadrangular pointed piece of iron is fixed, projecting only about half an inch; mounted on horseback, with this pole in his hand, the vaqueiro selects with his eye the animal he wishes to take, and pursuing it at full gallop, he soon overtakes it, and striking it on the hip with the armed end of the pole, while it is going at full speed, he easily upsets it, and before it can rise again, the vaqueiro has dismounted, and secured it; in this manner nearly all the cattle are taken in this province. There are no fences between the different properties, but every fazendeiro has a brand, with which all his horses and cattle are marked before they are allowed to roam at liberty, and by which they are, of course, easily recognised. The cattle of Piauhy supply for the most part the markets of Maranham, Bahia, and Pernambuco; droves are also occasionally sent into the province of Minas Geräes; they are generally of a large size, and vary very much in colour, though brown is the prevailing one; their horns are long, pointed, and wide-spreading. We stopped a night at one of these national fazendas, which was entirely devoted to the rearing of horses, and the principal vaqueiro informed me that it produced annually about 400 foals. The horses of Piauhy are in general small, and not long-lived, seldom exceeding ten or twelve years; those used on the cattle farms, owing to the violent exercise of hunting the cattle, do not last so long. The riding horses are broken in with great care, and some of the paces which they are taught are very pleasant; they are never shod, and this is less necessary here than in many of the other provinces, for the roads are generally level and soft. The price of a good working horse,[212] that is, one fit for carrying a load on a journey, is seldom more than three pounds.

We were now in the country to which the name of Campos Agrestes is given in Piauhy. These Campos are partly open, and partly wooded; the open tracts are covered with coarse perennial grasses, and are not entirely destitute of trees, but all are more or less deciduous, with the exception of one which is truly evergreen; this is a species of Zizyphus, known by the name of Joazeira; it is not a large tree, but has wide-spreading branches that give an excellent shade, of which we often took advantage during the heat of the day. The cattle also are very fond of the shade of this tree, as well as of the sweet fleshy fruit, about the size of a small cherry, which it produces in great abundance, and which when ripe falls to the ground; this fruit, called Joá, is also eaten by the inhabitants. Many of the trees of these tracts have a stunted appearance, their branches being gnarled and tortuous. Sometimes large swampy tracts exist in the Campos Agrestes, and in these grow clusters of Buriti palms, the soft fruit of which is the principal food of three beautiful species of Maccaw which frequent them in great numbers. These birds generally fly in pairs, and rend the air with their loud cries of ará, ará, ará, and hence the Indian name of Arára. One of the most common of these is entirely blue (Psittacus hyacinthinus, Lath.); the others are blue also, with the exception of their breasts, which in one of them is orange, while the other has it of a crimson colour. Many of the level Chapadas, where the soil is of red clayey character, are covered with numerous ant-hills, often six or eight feet high, which have the appearance of clay huts when seen at a distance; these are formed by the white ant, and as these insects constitute the principal food of the Ostrich of the country (Rhea Americana), and the great ant-bear, the Tamandúa of the natives (Myrmecophaga jubata), we saw many of them in the neighbourhood of the ant-hills. In the more closely wooded districts, the trees very much resemble the Catingas of the Campos Mimosos, and like them are deciduous in the dry season.

On the afternoon of the 29th of July, we reached a little hamlet[213] called Algodoes, distant thirty-four leagues from Oeiras, where we remained for a day. We halted in the morning, and breakfasted at a fazenda called Pombas, about three leagues from Algodoes; and when we left, a fine large mastiff dog that accompanied us, and which had been presented to me by Captain Moraes, was not to be found: this appeared the more remarkable, as he had become very much attached to us all. I thought he might have gone into the woods after some animal, and would soon follow us, but as he did not appear on the following morning, I sent Mr. Walker back to make enquiries about him, when the vaqueiro told him he had not been seen since we left. I strongly suspected at the time that this man, who was the only person on the farm, had stolen him; nor was I mistaken, as several days afterwards I heard from a person who passed a night there, that he saw the dog tied up, and was told by the vaqueiro that he had been presented to him by an Englishman who was going up to Minas.

At about a league beyond Pombas, we arrived at a large fresh-water lake extending two leagues in length, but not more than a quarter of a league in breadth; it terminates at Algodoes; and nearly all along its whole length, it is bounded by a belt of Carnahuba palms; the road led by the side of it, and we frequently came suddenly upon some large alligators (Jacaré), which were basking in the shallow water by the margin. We also saw many Capibaras (Hydrochærus Capybara), one troop of which, consisting of upwards of fifty individuals, crossed the path about a hundred yards before us, and entered the water; they crossed the lake by swimming, and we saw them land on the opposite side. Many parts of the lake were covered with the large floating leaves of a water lily (Nymphæa), which unfortunately was not in flower. During the night we heard the Capibaras plunging in the lake quite near to the house in which we slept; and I was told they are seldom molested, as their flesh is not good to eat; they are, therefore, very tame in this neighbourhood. Wishing to procure a specimen for the sake of its cranium, I went out early in the morning with my gun, but after walking[214] nearly half a league along the side of the lake, not one was to be seen: we saw, however, plenty of alligators, and a very large one, which was floating like an old log on the surface of the water, at but a little distance from the shore, was too tempting a shot to be passed by: I fired at his head, my gun being loaded with large shot, when making a spring for the deep water, it turned upon its back and floated, apparently dead. Believing it to be so, I sent in Manoel, my Indian servant to bring it out: he waded up to his chin in the water, and attempted to seize the animal by the tail, when it turned suddenly round and disappeared. I know not which of the two was most frightened, for Manoel gave a loud roar, and lost no time in getting to terra firma: the animal had evidently only been stunned by the shot.

In this lake I found some curious aquatic plants, such as a new species of Cabomba (C. Piauhyensis, Gardn.), a fine yellow-flowered Jussiæa (J. sedoides, Humb.), first found by Humboldt in lakes in New Granada; it floats on the water, and the leaves which are small, all reach the surface, and form round the axis of the plant a dense circle, which at a distance appears like a large entire floating leaf. Specimens of a Chara and a Potamogeton were also collected; both interesting, from belonging to genera common to South America and Great Britain.

On the 31st, we left Algodoes early in the morning, and after a ride of about three leagues, over a dry flat Chapada, we arrived at Golfes, a single house situated on a hill near a small marsh, in which grows a great number of Buriti palms; we halted by the side of this marsh, under a large Cashew tree. In the afternoon, another journey of two leagues and a half, brought us to a small uninhabited house, at a place called Retiro Alegre, situated in a beautiful valley, skirted by high hills, and abounding in Buriti palms, the leaves of which afforded shelter to vast numbers of the orange-breasted Maccaw (Canindé). At this place I found a little black fellow, waiting my arrival to act as guide to the next fazenda (Genipapo), which was five leagues and a half distant. He was sent by Captain Valentim Pereira da Silva, whom I met at Algodoes, on his way to visit his son, to whom the country through[215] which we were then passing, belonged. When this old man knew that I was the person who had performed several cures in Oeiras, he was very desirous that I should visit his son, who was in a bad state of health; and as his house was only a few leagues out of our direct course, I consented to do so. About half a league from the fazenda the son himself met us. The estate of Genipapo belongs to him, and we remained there for the night; but he went to another, two leagues further on, called Canavieira, at which he himself resides.

On the following morning we arrived at Canavieira in time for breakfast, and had a very hospitable reception from the captain and his son; upon examination, I found the latter labouring under the incipient symptoms of consumption, and prescribed for him accordingly. It being seldom that a medical man is seen in this part of the country, I had many other patients to prescribe for, some of whom came from a considerable distance. At about a quarter of a mile beyond Genipapo, we arrived at the banks of the Rio Gurgea, which takes its rise in the southern extremity of the province, and falls into the Parnahiba, a little below the parallel of Oeiras. As is generally the case with the rivers in the northern provinces, the banks of this are more densely wooded, and more verdant in appearance, than the rest of the country. I remained with my hospitable friends all that day, and received an invitation to accompany them on the following morning to a fazenda eight leagues distant, belonging to the son’s father-in-law, whither all the family were going, as the Visitador was on his triennial tour, and was expected there about this time. This place also being but little out of our route, I accepted the invitation.

On the morning of the 3rd of August we left Canavieira, and, after a ride of about three leagues, crossed the Rio Gurgea, and entered the district of Urusuhy. The river here was about the breadth of the Clyde at Glasgow, but so shallow, that it did not reach much above the horse’s middle. After riding another league, we arrived at a house belonging to a vaqueiro, where we halted to take breakfast, and to remain during the heat of the day. The house was situated in a hollow, and being shut out from the breeze,[216] the heat was quite intolerable. The thermometer in the shade rose to 98°, and I suffered dreadfully from headache. We did not leave this place till four o’clock in the afternoon, and having still four leagues to travel, we reached the Fazenda dos Prazeres a little after sunset. With the exception of the banks of the river, the whole country through which we passed, was very much dried up for want of rain.

Our party was rather a large one. Besides ourselves, there were the captain, his son and lady, and a mulatto girl carrying their child, which they were taking to get baptized, three of the captain’s nephews, and a black schoolmaster, all from top to toe in leather dresses; and, besides the blacks on foot who were bringing on the loaded horses, there were three on horseback acting as attendants. The lady and her girl were both mounted on men’s saddles, according to the common custom of the country in the interior. The black schoolmaster was decidedly far superior to any of his race that I ever met with. He was a Creole, with a fine expansion of forehead, and had received a good education; he was a freeman, and his colour did not prevent him from mixing in the best society in the part of the country to which he belonged; indeed, the Brazilians are perhaps more free from those prejudices than any other nation. He was possessed of an immense fund of wit and humour, the continual flow of which kept the whole party in good spirits during the journey, notwithstanding the great heat of the day.

The Fazenda dos Prazeres stands on a rather elevated knoll in a large valley, which, at its upper extremity, is marshy and full of Buriti palms. On the dry sides of the low hills which surround the valley, there are large forests of that palm called Palmeira, already spoken of as being common about Crato; and in the Catinga forest, which we rode through, one or two smaller kinds of palm were common. One of these had its stem forked at the summit, being the only instance of the kind I ever met with; the central bud had been destroyed by some means, and two more arms generated in its stead. The house is large, well constructed, and by far the best we had seen since leaving Oeiras. The owner of it,[217] who died suddenly about a year before, seems to have been not only more industrious, but a person of much greater taste than the generality of the Piauhy fazendeiros. Around the house, and also to a considerable distance from it, there were many fine orange trees loaded with fruit, which being very rare in this province, were highly prized by us. There were also near the house large plantations of plantains and bananas, as also several fine cocoa-nut trees, which were beginning to bear fruit. These trees were the most distant from the coast I had met with in the country; and indeed it is but very seldom they are seen in cultivation inland, the tree being essentially of a sea-side growth. The estate is principally a cattle farm, but in the valley below the house there was a large patch of cane growing, from which they manufacture rapadura; and the soil being favourable for the cultivation of mandiocca, a good deal of it is also grown. The widow, who with her sons now manages the farm, is both active and intelligent, and very hospitable. We remained here two days, during which time many people arrived from various quarters in the neighbourhood, to avail themselves of the services of the Visitador. Before we left, our provision boxes were well filled; and a large supply of oranges which we took with us, lasted for many days, and formed a grateful refreshment on our journey.

Recrossing the Rio Gurgea at a place called Flores, about sixteen leagues above the fazenda Dos Prazeres, and travelling for ten days in a southerly direction, more or less parallel with that river, we arrived at a small hamlet called Rapoza. The country we found to be very level, and generally of an arid nature, particularly when we were obliged to travel at some distance from the river, for its banks are for the most part well wooded, the trees consisting of the Jatobá Piki, several species of Laurus, large Bignonias, which at this season were covered with their bright yellow blossoms. Among these grew many climbing shrubs, such as Bauhinias, Combretums, Bignonias, Malpighias, &c., whose branches, covered with their many-coloured flowers, gaily adorned the wide-spreading tops of the trees. Numerous large wild fig-trees also grow along the side of the stream, which often afforded[218] us shelter both by day and by night. It was quite refreshing to travel under this shade, and we found it the more so, as the country around produced only a few leafless trees, and the soil, which was of a brick-red colour, had its herbaceous vegetation quite destroyed. During this season, the cattle frequent the margins of the river, both on account of the water, and the grass and other herbage which grow there; but this year, the latter had been nearly destroyed by the great rise of the waters during the previous rains, which were said to have been heavier than any that had occurred since the year 1820. We could see by the marks on the stems of the trees, left by the muddy water, that it had risen ten feet above the level of the road.

At Rapoza I met with Major José Martins de Sousa, to whom I carried letters from his uncle the Barão de Parnahiba. His house was about thirty leagues distant, but having been ordered to raise troops to send to the city, he had made this place the general rendezvous. About four years before this period, he bought a tract of ground, in the district of Parnaguá, amounting to about ninety-six square leagues, for five contos de reis, which he divided into six cattle farms, all of which were now in a flourishing condition. He told me that in the district, of which he was Prefect, there were 1,700 men capable of bearing arms, but all he had been able to raise in the course of a week, were twenty-two. The whole population, he added, were worse than savages, and that no eloquence could prevail on them to rise in defence of their country. He was even afraid that disorders, similar to those which were disturbing the province of Maranham, would not be long ere they reached this district; and he said it was his intention as soon as possible, to take his wife and children down to the city. This, I believe, he shortly afterwards did, and it was well for them that he had this foresight, as about a month after I met him, the district of Parnaguá rose to join the rebels, and the major, who remained behind, had a very narrow escape from falling a victim to the fury of the inhabitants, and the cattle on his estates were nearly all destroyed. During his journey to the city, all his recruits deserted, with the exception of two or three.


A journey of fourteen leagues brought us to the Villa de Parnaguá, the most southern town in the province, the country still continuing flat, and very similar to that through which we had already passed. The whole journey from Oeiras, presented little that was interesting in a geological point of view, the only rocks which occurred being of the same character as those existing in the vicinity of the city itself. The peculiar construction of the houses on the road, so very different from those met with in any other part of Brazil, or even in Piauhy itself, attracted my attention: they are built for the most part with one of their ends to the road, and in this end there is a large apartment with a table and a form, evidently intended for the accommodation of travellers, as it has no direct communication with the rest of the house. The door of the part inhabited by the family, is in the other end, and on this account it is very seldom that any of the females of the family are seen, they being kept strictly secluded. Should the house stand parallel to the road, then the door to the travellers’ apartment opens in front, while the door and windows of the other apartments are all in the back part. A stranger may thus live at one of these houses for many days, without the slightest knowledge of what is going on within. The ladies are not, however, destitute of curiosity, as I have frequently detected a pair of black eyes peering through some slit in the fragile partitions to get a peep at the strangers. Yet, as a professional man, it was seldom I was not admitted, being called in to prescribe for some one or other of the females of the family; the sedentary life which they lead rendering them very subject to dyspeptic and such like complaints. Ague is also very common indeed, and nearly all the inhabitants suffer from the effects of it. Mr. Darwin, in his Journal, mentions that there are few houses in Chili where a traveller will not be received for the night, but a trifle is expected to be given in the morning, and that even a rich man will accept two or three shillings. In Brazil this is very different; on the road from Rio de Janeiro to the Mining Districts, which is now very much frequented, there are always houses to be found which serve as apologies for inns, and in which the traveller is[220] expected to pay; but should he put up at any of the large fazendas he is allowed to sit free at the table, paying only for such provender as his animals may require. In the more distant parts of the country, I always met with the most unbounded hospitality, even from the poorer classes, and often the only recompense which these poor beings would accept was a little gunpowder or salt, articles which very often are not to be procured at any price.

When I left Rapoza, Major Martins gave me a letter to the Juiz de Paz of Parnaguá, and a note to receive the keys of an empty house in which he puts up when he visits the Villa. On our arrival, I found that the Juiz had gone to visit his fazenda, at a distance of six or seven leagues. The vicar and the other padre of the place were also absent, visiting their district. An old lawyer, the schoolmaster, and a shopkeeper were the only persons of consequence we found in the place. The Villa, which is situated on the east side of a large lake, contains in all about a hundred houses, but not more than one half of them are inhabited, as many belong to fazendeiros who only occupy them during the festival times. Owing to the recruiting which was then going on throughout the province, the greater part of the male population had left the Villa and gone to distant places, few being inclined to join the army; women and children only were to be seen, with the exception of a few slaves. The houses are generally built of a coarse wicker-work, and plastered, both inside and out, with a red-coloured clay, which, not being white-washed, gives the town a very strange appearance. The best days of the place seem to have gone by, as many of the houses are falling into ruins; and the church, which stands in a large square and has once been a neat building, is also going to decay, one half of the roof has fallen in, and it seemed to have been in that state for some years. There is not a single regular shopkeeper in the place, the only one that we found there, had arrived some time before from Bahia, and proposed to return as soon as he had sold his goods. Having no competitor, he took advantage of this, and was selling everything at a very exorbitant price. The people, both in the Villa and in the neighbouring fazendas, complained that the revolution in[221] Maranham had prevented the merchants, who yearly visit them, from coming to Parnaguá. These were in the habit of bringing up European goods, salt, gunpowder, &c., which they generally exchanged for horses, cattle, and hides.

Salt is an article for which there is a great demand, and the people in the Villa have found out a substitute for that which comes from the coast. Along the banks of the lake, the soil in many places is highly impregnated with saline matter, which, although mixed with saltpetre, is yet very acceptable where no other can be procured; during our visit many people from distant parts were occupied in collecting this salt. The manner in which they obtain it is as follows; the soil is cleaned of grass and other herbaceous vegetation, and on being moistened with water, the part richest in salt soon shows itself by the appearance of small crystals. This earth is then scraped up with the scapular bone of an ox, and put into a trough made of a cow-hide, supported upon four short posts fixed in the ground. Water is then poured on the earth, which, during the space of a day, is allowed to filter slowly through small holes in the bottom of the trough, when it is received into a large basin placed below it: the process is continued till the salt is all extracted. The water thus extracted is either put into smaller hide-troughs and evaporated in the sun, or boiled down in an iron pot, but as these are rather scarce articles in Parnaguá, few only can have recourse to this mode. The salt is not very clean, but a quantity which I bought was found to preserve meat very well.

The lake, near which the village is situated, is about two leagues long, and one broad, but it is said not to be deep; it is always of a red colour, caused no doubt by the soil of the surrounding country, which is everywhere of a deep red-coloured clay. It is said to abound in fish, but during our stay I could not obtain any. Great numbers of large alligators exist in it, as also boa constrictors, capivaras, and tapirs; I saw, besides, some large otters, but could not come within shot of them. After we arrived I went to bathe in the lake, and swam out a long way, but did not do so again, on being told that several accidents had[222] taken place, not only from the attacks of alligators, but also from piranias.

With the exception of a small Serra to the south-east, the country around the Villa is flat, and but for the lake, it would have a very unpicturesque appearance. I took several walks in the neighbourhood, but in consequence of the long-continued drought, I did not meet with much to reward my labour. In a marsh, which in the rainy season forms part of the lake, I found two species of water-lily (Nymphæa), both small and bearing white flowers, one of them smelling very sweetly, while the other had exactly the fœtid smell of coal-tar. On the Serra I found a small-leaved Gomphia, a Triads, and a tree-lily (Vellozia); the latter was not in flower, as was the case with one I found at Oeiras. These are the two most northerly stations in which I have met with species of this genus, whose great focus lies in the mountains of the Diamond District.

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