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Walsh's Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829.

The reverend Robert Walsh, C.E., travelled to Brazil for Church duties in 1828-1829. His account, published 1830, gives special attention to British and Irish settlers, but includes Negro uses and customs. Writing about love and war dances, Walsh cites no vernacular names, so the term capoeira cannot appear.

REVISED NOV 25, 2004


The Author

Robert Walsh (Waterford, Ireland, 1772 - Finglas, Ireland, 1852), graduated B.A. in 1796 (his other degrees cannot be traced). He was ordained in 1802, and, after a short time as a curate in Dublin, was apointed in 1806 to the curacy of Finglas, co. Dublin. The tradition of the place was that during Cromwell's victorious march through the country the alarmed inhabitants buried an old Celtic cross in a certain spot, indicated by some of the older people, who had heard it from their parents. On digging the cross was discovered in good preservation, and erected in the churchyard of Finglas. In 1820 Walsh went to Constantinople as chaplain to the British Embassy, remaining in that post for some years, during which he travelled through Turkey and Asia. Having obtained a medical degree, he practised as a physician on various occasions while in the more remote parts of that continent. From Constantinople he went to the embassy at St. Petersburg, to which he had been appointed chaplain, but only remained there a little while.

Robert Walsh was appointed chaplain to the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro in 1828. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro on October 16th, 1828, and left after 200 days on May 4th, 1829, having travelled in the interior of Rio de Janeiro state and Minas Gerais, along the same route as Rugendas with the Langsdorff expedition five years earlier. Walsh's Notices of Brazil appeared soon after his return to England, certainly as a part of the British effort to end slave trade. Walsh, an experienced traveller at age 56, could compare the slavery regime of Turkey and Russia with the Negro slavery in Brazil, and he unambiguously concludes against the African enslavement in America. He sustains his conclusions with examples and statistics, and does not fall into the excess of denying the degraded state of the Negroes in Brazil, but ascribes it almost entirely to slavery.

[sources: Dictionnary of National Biography, Notices of Brazil]

The Notices of Brazil

Volume 1 treats matters in a systematic way, furnishing the reader with the information gathered in Rio about Brazil and its capital. The historical part ends with the result of Walsh's inquiry into the uprising of German and Irish soldiers in Rio in june 1828, only a few months before he arrived. Walsh's account certainly echoes the point of view of his Irish compatriots, but is more keen on explaining the event than on extolling moral judgements, though he blames the Brazilian government in the occurence. Capoeira is not present in this account, neither is it in Debret's Notices historiques, or in the French navy commander C.A. Le Marant's report after his intervention, unless one decides that the term capoeira refers to the "miserable slaves of Rio", in general, or the "urban rabble" otherwise termed "Moleques" in most of the text. The police registers of Rio de Janeiro mention "capoeira" and "jogar capoeira" as motives of arrest of Negroes at least from 1789; their carrying of weapons (knives, razors, broken bottles, sticks or clubs) not being considered a separate offense [1]. The use of the term capoeira as generic for unwanted, dangerous behaviour was commonplace in 1871, when Pereira da Silva wrote his Secondo periodo do reinado de Dom Pedro I no Brazil, narrativa historica, the first book in which capoeira is mixed into this incident. The event has later been used in the construction of capoeira as a symbol of Brazilian nationality (see Rego).

Read about this (in French) our critical notice

Volume 2 is organized as a diary of Walsh's journey into the interior. It contains the description of a negro minstrel playing what is now known as the berimbau. At the end of this section, Walsh sums up, again in general terms, the conditions of white settlers and mostly slave Negroes as he saw them in his journey. This part contains a passage about music and dances certainly relevant to capoeira. The fact that the term does not appear is not significant, since Walsh uses no other vernacular terms.

Our transcription respects the spelling and the line breaks of the first edition, 1830.

Back to capoeira historical texts timeline
Association de Capoeira Palmares de Paris

Reverend Robert Walsh
LL.D., MRIA., Rector of Finglas
Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829
1st edition.
London:Frederick Westley & A.H. Davis, 1830.

2 volumes; in-8 of 528+xviii pages and 528 pages, 2 folding maps (of Rio de Janeiro and of the interior of Rio and Minas, with the itinerary of the author), 18 engraved plates.

Volume 1, about the Irish and German troops uprising

Among the unfortunate events to which the
war gave rise, was one which was attended with
the most fearful and disastrous effects at the
moment, and which, in its consequences, may
be highly injurious to the best interests of the
country. In order that as few persons as pos-
sible might be drawn from agriculture in the
interior, and from the pursuits of commerce and
manufactures in the maritime cities, to recruit
the army on the frontiers, it was determined to
engage a number of foreigners as soldiers ; first

p. 277

to do duty as military, and then be located
as agriculturists, after a certain term of service ;
and to that end Germans, who from the
family connexion of the emperor, and Irish,
who from the redundancy of population at
home, might be easily procured, were invited
to Brazil for the purpose.

This project was well conceived, and, had
the inducements held out been fulfilled with
punctuality and good faith, this influx of Euro-
peans, introducing their modes of agriculture and
the mechanic arts into a new country, would
have been of vast advantage to the existing
state of Brazil. But the moment the project
was adopted by the government, it roused all
the prejudices and suspicions of the people.
Since the expulsion of the Portuguese, the
greatest jealousy existed against every European ;
some imagined the present plan merely a scheme
to introduce and create an army of foreign
mercenaries, who, having no sympathy or bond
of connexion with the people, would be the
ready instruments of supporting a despotic
government; and this, in fact, did enter into
the contemplation of the emperor and his mini-
sters, who supposed they would be an avail-
able check on the growing spirit of democracy.
But even if this objection did not exist, the

p. 278

amalgamation of Brazilians with foreigners is
still a difficult thing, and all classes had a strong
repugnance to the introduction of any strangers
but slaves from the coast of Africa. Every secret
expedient, therefore, was resorted to, to render
the plan abortive, and the event proved with
what success.

In October, 1826, Colonel Cotter, an Irish
officer in the imperial service, entered into an
engagement with the Brazilian government to
bring over a number of his countrymen. It does
not appear what were the precise terms which
he was authorized to offer to them ; but, as far
as I can collect from several I have conversed
with, who remained behind in Brazil, and from
other sources, they were as follow : Every man
was to receive pay and allowances equal to
one shilling per day, one pound of beef, and
one pound of bread as rations, and were to
be employed four hours each day in learning
military exercises, to be ready to act as soldiers
if called on, but not to be sent out of the pro-
vince of Rio unless in time of war or invasion ;
and at the end of five years of such engagement,
to be discharged from all military service, and
located as farmers on land, each having fifty
acres assigned him.

With these powers, Colonel Cotter proceeded

p. 279

to Cork, caused notices to be affixed to chapel
doors, and instructed clergymen to give it out
from the altars, in different parts of the south of
Ireland. The notifications were received with
great joy by the people : the exceeding dis-
tress of the poor peasantry of that part of
Ireland, as well from exuberant population as
want of employment, is notorious, and they
were eager to avail themselves of the proposal.
Land was the great object of their com-
petition at home, and they who thought
themselves fortunate in obtaining a few acres
at an exorbitant rent in Ireland, were trans-
ported at the idea of receiving a grant of fifty
acres, rent free, in Brazil. Many, therefore,
as they told me, sold their farms at home, and
laid out the small portion of money they could
raise, in purchasing agricultural implements,
conceiving that their military service was to
be merely local, and would no more prevent
their attending to their land, than if they were
members of yeomanry corps in their own coun-
try. Among them were mechanics, who looked
forward to exercise their calling to advantage in
Rio, and had brought out the implements of
their trade ; and among them certainly were
many, whose idle habits led them to prefer a
military life and were ready to engage as

p. 280

soldiers, careless of the terms of their ser-
vice. Of these descriptions, two thousand
four hundred persons were collected, some of
them, as was to be expected, of indifferent
characters and dissolute manners; but the ma-
jority decent, respectable people, who brought
out with them their wives and families, and who
would be an acquisition to any country as
settlers, but particularly to Brazil.

Every thing was provided for their accommo-
dation on leaving their own country; the ships
were well found, stores and provisions of
good quality were not wanting, and the people
thought themselves highly fortunate in this
mode of emigration. They had been long
expected in Brazil, and it was natural to suppose
that every thing would have been ready for
their reception; but their arrival was the signal
for annoying them, and that system of petty
persecution commenced which roused them into
mutiny, and finally effected the purposes for
which it was resorted to, by driving them
from the country.

The minister of war was at that time S.
Barbozo, and from his subsequent hostility to
the foreigners, it is to be presumed he was the
instrument of their first annoyances, which were
in his department. When the transports arrived

p. 281

nothing was ready for the accommodation of
the men. They were kept for three or four
days on board, and when at length they were
landed, they were thrust into dirty empty bar-
racks, without the smallest preparation of any
kind for their comforts or wants. They had no
beds to sleep on, not even a mat to keep them
from the bare ground, which is always provided
for Brazilian soldiers. This comfortless state
was still increased by want of provisions, for
they were kept starving for two days without
any distribution of rations, and when at length
it was made, they were so bad in quality that the
men could not eat them, but sold them for a trifle
to the English to feed their horses ; they were also
deficient in quantity, and so irregularly given,
that they were frequently afterwards forty-eight
hours without receiving any issue. Many of
them contracted fevers, and other sickness, from
privation and anxiety, and in this state of de-
bility were seen crawling about the streets of
Rio. Application was made to the Brazilian
government to provide them with medicines
and necessaries, but no notice was taken ;
and they would have perished on the roads,
where they were sometimes obliged to lie
down, but for the humanity of Doctors Coates
and Dixon, who supplied them with medicine

p. 282

from their own pockets. For some time they
received no pay at all, and when at length it
was ordered, it was much less than they were

In this state of disappointment and growing
discontent, there was not the smallest pains
taken to give them any habit of order or
regularity. They remained in their quarters,
idle and unemployed, dirty and neglected, and
in the same clothes in which they had arrived,
ragged and squalid, without the habits or appear-
ance of common decency. Sometimes they were
permitted to leave their barracks when and how
they pleased, and to remain as long as suited
their humour in the vendas, or public-houses
Here a cheap and ruinous kind of rum is sold,
called caxas, and in this they were permitted,
if not encouraged, to indulge freely. Thus
situated, and highly susceptible of excitement,
an engine of irritation was applied to them, of an
annoyance so intolerable, that no person, under
any circumstance, could bear it patiently.

The miserable slaves of Rio, employed only
as beasts of burden in the streets, are, of all

p. 283

classes of the human race, by far the most
abandoned and degraded. Used merely as in-
ferior animals, without the smallest reference
to their being endowed with the faculty of
reason, they are driven all day, and turned
loose in the evening ; and by a strange incon-
sistency, allowed the most licencious an un-
restrained habits. They go along in the streets
frequently drunk, shouting, hallooing, and fight-
ing ; and when one considers that there are
fifty or sixty thousand of this class, in a large
and licencious city, and the great majority of
its population, it is fearful to contemplate the
consequences which may arise, some time or
other, from their ferocious passions. Yet these
were the instruments used to goad and irritate
the strangers. They first insulted them when-
ever they met them, by calling them white slaves,
"escravos brancos," and they pointed to their
rags and dirt, as a proof of their being not
so good, or so well treated, as themselves.
Whenever they appeared outside their barracks,
they were attacked in this way, and constant
skirmishes and riots occured between individuals
and parties on both sides. In these encounters,
if the Irish officers interfered, and seized any
slaves, who they knew were the aggressors
and commenced the disturbance, to deliver

p. 284

them to the police, they were detained merely
a few hours, and then liberated to repeat the
offence ; if, on the contrary, any of the stran-
gers were complained of, they were committed
to the dungeons of the fortresses, and if not
closely confined, were dragged out only to be
worked as galley slaves ; and in this way, re-
spectable people have told me, they often saw
them fettered in the same chain with black slave-
felons, as if it was the system to degrade them
to that rank, and not suffer them to be held
in higher consideration.

In this state of things, a body of the Irish,
quartered in the barracks of Praya Vermelha,
were marched to the Campo d'Acclamação, and
in their way it was necessary to pass the Carioca,
a fountain where a large collection of blacks
continually attend to draw water. The moment
they appeared, an immediate insurrection of the
blacks took place, and an attack was made on
these unarmed men, quietly passing through
the streets ; they repelled it with sticks and
fists, and the blacks fled : but from that time
no recruit could appear in any part of the town,
without being assaulted. Even the officers failed
to preserve that respect for their rank, which
would be secured to any others ; they were the
indiscriminate object of attack by any slaves

p. 285

they met, as if the general system was to de-
grade and exasperate the whole corps without
distinction. In the Rua dos Barbonios is a bar-
rack, near a fountain attended by blacks, and
here the parties came into constant collision.
The blacks, who seemed, as it were, trained to
insult the Irish, constantly attacked the sentries,
and even climbed up the windows, and assaulted,
with stones and other missiles, those who were
inside quietly sleeping in their quarters. The
consequence was a very serious riot, which
lasted two days, and the loss of some lives. In
these conflicts, the people of the town looked
on with satisfaction, and were frequently seen
setting on the negroes, as I have seen Turks
hallooing their swarms of dogs at christian pas-

The time had now arrived when a fearful
retaliation seemed at hand, and threatened the
whole town with destruction. The Irish had
been about half a year in the country, and they
still remained in the same state of neglect,
contempt, and insubordination. A few, indeed,
who had entered as grenadiers, had received
clothes, and some partial improvement had been
attempted in the rations ; but the great body
remained the same, the causes of discontent
every day increasing. The state of the German

p. 286

troops was little better. They complained that
the promises made to them were not fulfilled,
that their pay was embezzled ; and the whole
only wanted some spark to set the inflammable
materials in a blaze. They were distributed in
three large barracks in different parts of the
town : the Germans, in the Praya Vermelha,
near the mouth of the harbour, at one extremity
of the city, and at the barrack of S. Christovão,
at the other ; and the Irish, nearly midway be-
tween both, at the Campo d'Acclamação, towards
the centre of the town.

On the 9th of June, 1898, as an alfares, or
ensign, was returning from his rounds, after the
ave-maria, or sun-set, he was met by a German
soldier, who refused to take off his bonnet as
he passed. The alferes ordered him into con-
finement, and he was sentenced to receive fifty
lashes for insubordination. A representation
was made that he had been a well-conducted
man, since the formation of the corps ; but this
did not avail, and he was led out to undergo
his sentence in the square of the barrack of
S. Christovão. He demanded to be tried by a
court-martial, and refused to take off his jacket ;
but he was ordered to be seized and bound, and
the jacket cut from his back; his sentence was
quintupled, and two hundred and fifty were

p. 287

ordered instead of fifty. He received two hundred
and ten of his punishment, but the soldiers now
became impatient, and, actuated by one spirit,
began to stamp with their feet, calling out
not to kill the man ; and as the officer still per-
sisted to inflict the full punishment, the whole
corps burst into a spontaneous mutiny, released
the prisoner, proceeded with shouts and menaces
to the palace in their neighbourhood, and de-
manded to see the emperor. He refused to
present himself ; but gave them to understand
if they had any complaint to make, they should
send a deputation of two or three and he would
listen to them, and they returned to their
barracks. Meantime the Irish, at the Campo
d'Acclamacão, hearing what had happened, pro-
ceeded to S. Christovão, some by land and some
in boats, to the amount of fifty or sixty ; and,
resolving now to make a common cause with
the Germans, encouraged them by shouts and
acclamations to persevere. The mutiny now
assumed a most alarming aspect : the magazine
of ammunition was forced open, the quarters
of the officers were attacked, the houses of the
major and quarter-master were plundered, and
several officers were pursued and just escaped
with their lives.

On the next day, the news of the mutiny at

p. 288

S. Christovão was received at the Praya Ver-
melha. The Germans quartered here had just
returned from Pernambuco, and were in a state
of irritation little less violent than their com-
rades. It had been the custom to stop the pay
of the soldiers, as in the French army in the
time of Napoleon, as a punishment for offences,
and in this way, under various pretexts, the
officers pocketed the greater part of it. The
major, whose name was Teola, was a man of low
extraction and bad character, and was greatly
detested by the men. He was an Italian, and
had been waiter at the Hotel du Nord, in the
Rue Direita. It is said that his wife, who was a
comely person, had attracted notice, and he was
immediately raised from his humble station to
the commission which he held in the German
regiment. He had been long accused of em-
bezzling their pay, and frequent complaints were
made ; but his influence in high quarters had
hitherto baffled all applications, and the soldiers
were now determined to take into their own
hands that redress, which they could not obtain.
As the prejudice against him was known to be
very strong, he was advised not to appear on
parade this day, where some violence was likely
to break out. He, however, disregarded the
caution, and his appearance was the signal for a

p. 289

general mutiny. He was attacked by the sol-
diers, and fled for refuge to Colonel Macgregor,
who would not, it is said, but who probably
could not, protect him. He then ran to make
his escape over the walls of the barracks, but
he was overtaken and dragged down ; and while
lying on the ground, he was stabbed by the
bayonets of the sentinels, and crushed to death
with heaps of large stones cast on him by the
exasperated soldiers. Two other officers, who
attempted to interfere for him, were severely
wounded. It does not appear that the Irish
here took any part in the assassination.

The body of the major was brought to be
buried in the cemetery, and the two wounded
officers to be received into the hospital of the
Misericordia, and a rumour was now industri-
ously circulated through Rio, that the German
regiments were marching in from both extremi-
ties of the city, to join the Irish at the Campo
d'Acclamação, and then proceed to burn and
plunder the town. It was now that the sangui-
nary policy of those who were hostile to the
Europeans, began to display itself. The Bra-
zilian troops were immediately ordered under
arms, and the minister of war sent directions to
the commandant, the Conde de Rio Pardo, " to
destroy every man, to give no quarter, but to

p. 290

exterminate the whole of the strangers ;"* and
lest the brave and humane commandant should
not execute these orders, an expedient was re-
sorted to, as terrible to others as it was dan-
gerous to themselves -- that was, a license to the
Moleques, or blacks, and the rest of the rabble,
to take up arms. I had seen the frightful effects
of this among the Turks ; but the idea of fifty
or sixty thousand black slaves, and such slaves in
a state of high excitement, armed with knives
and daggers, let loose on a city, was an experi-
ment at which humanity shudders.

A large crowd of them was soon collected in
the Campo d'Acclamação, and a tumult imme-
diately commenced with the Irish. These latter
had now become infuriate like the Germans -- 
had attacked the police barracks in the neigh-
bourhood, and having seized the arms, began
to fire in all directions. They then broke
open the vendas, and many of them having
drank caxas to excess, burst into private houses
and committed great excesses. A regular war-
fare soon ensued between them and the armed
Moleques, joined by a number of Brazilians of
the lowest description, and the Campo and the

p. 291

streets adjoining- were filled with dead and
wounded bodies.

The Brazilian government now applied to the
French and English ministers for a force of ma-
rines, from the ships of war of their respective
nations lying in the harbour, which was readily
granted. The French were immediately landed
at the trem, and the English at the arsenal, and
were prepared to protect the city if any attempt
should be made against it. In the mean time,
a battalion of the regiment of militia of the
Minas Geraes, some cavalry, and a field-piece,
proceeded to the Campo to restore order. They
did not act with the furious inhumanity re-
commended by the minister of war. They first
argued with the insurgents, then fired blank
cartridges, and at length had recourse to ball
as the last expedient. The insurgents had no
arms of their own, and used only those they
had wrested from the police, amounting to
fifty or sixty muskets. Their ammunition was
exhausted, and those whom insult and intoxica-
tion had driven to madness, had returned to
their senses, and retired to their barracks. The
Germans quietly submitted, and on the even-
ing of the 12th of June, every thing was
tranquil, after three days of intense anxiety.

While the conduct of the military was

p. 292

humane and praiseworthy, that of the armed
rabble was marked by the most atrocious fero-
city. The Moleques rushed on every foreigner
they met in the neighbourhood, with their
knives, and butchered them with the most sa-
vage mutilation ; and some, I am told, were
hunted down, and then torn limb from limb,
by the bloodhounds that pursued them. Se-
veral of the Irish, who were artisans, industri-
ously exercised their trades, and were doing
well at Rio. One of them, a tailor, was re-
turning to his barracks, with a bundle of clothes
under his arm, entirely ignorant of the in-
surrection that had taken place. He was met
by two Moleques in a street leading to the
Campo, who rushed at him with their facas, and
having stabbed him in several places, ripped up
his belly, and left him, with his bowels hanging
out, weltering on the pavement. One fellow,
a corpulent mulatto, of a very ferocious aspect,
was pointed out to me afterwards at the
butchery of S. Luzie, where he has now some
appropriate employment. He was seen, after
tranquillity was restored, brandishing a bloody
sabre over his head, and boasting it was stained
with the. blood of five foreigners, whom he had

The number of persons who lost their lives is

p. 293

variously stated at from sixty to a hundred ;
and about twice that number wounded. Many
respectable Brazilians, in the vicinity of the
Campo d'Acclamação, were killed, in defending
their houses and properties, when the insurgents
burst them open. Many of the insurgents lay
down in the streets and fell asleep, overcome
by fatigue and intoxication ; and in that state
of insensibility were stabbed by the Moleques.
As this disposition for blood continued after the
cause was past, and the excitement over, it was
found necessary to issue, on the 13th of June,
a second edital, prohibiting any person from
carrying arms, but especially slaves, after the
edital was posted, under severe punishment.
They had been most imprudently called on to
take them up para salvar a patria, and it was
found imperatively necessary to compel them to
lay them down, for the same reason.

Of 2,400 Irish who had been invited, and
arrived in Brazil, not more than 200 were con-
cerned in the insurrection ; and these were
generally young men, totally neglected, and
left to themselves, to follow the impulse of any
passion excited in them. They were without
officers or arms, yet they caused much terror
and anxiety, in a large and populous city, for
three days. It was determined, therefore, to

p. 294

send them all back to their own country ; and
the object of those who laboured to bring that
end about, was completely answered. They
were immediately embarked, and placed on
board the ships of war in the harbour, till trans-
ports could be provided for them. The em-
peror himself seemed very well disposed towards
them ; and I am told by those who witnessed the
fact, that he shed tears of anxiety and vexation,
when he heard the state into which they were
degraded. It had been his custom frequently to
attend divine service, when it was performed for
the Irish at the Praya Vermelha, where he freely
knelt down amongst them. His condescension,
however, was suspected. An absurd rumour had
been circulated, that if this ceremony was per-
formed three times, they were bound to him,
as soldiers, for unlimited service. On the third
Sunday none but the officers attended -- the men
all disappeared -- a strong proof of their repug-
nance to such an engagement, and their de-
termination to resist it. He now gave every
direction for their ample accommodation, on
their return home ; and Mr. Gordon, the British
minister, and the English admiral, had power in
his name to supply them with every necessary.

On this occasion it was expedient to collect
them all, and it was discovered that many of

p. 295

them had been arrested and confined in various
prisons. Mr. Aston, the Secretary of Legation to
the British Mission, with that promptness and
humanity which every one who knows him will
give him credit for, immediately applied to the
proper authorities to have them found out ; but
so little interest did they take in the life or
liberty of those foreigners, that they could give
no information about them. At length he
found thirty of them confined in the dungeon
of the fortress of Villegagnon. On one occa-
sion the whole of the officers had been arrested,
and shut up in the cells of the prisons in the
different islands. After eighteen or twenty
days' incarceration, however, they were libe-
rated, and never could learn why they had
been confined ; but numbers of inferior rank
remained behind, till they were altogether for-
gotten. Such was the case of these poor men.
When they emerged from these catacombs, they
were in the most miserable state of destitution
and disease, their bodies ulcerated with sores
and covered with vermin, and their skins so raw
and tender from putrescency and mortification,
that when it was necessary to clothe them for
the sake of decency, to enable them again to
appear, they could not bear the painful touch of
any covering.

p. 296

They were a fine body of young men, and of
good character. They had been called on to
take the military oath, but they refused. They
affirmed they had come out as settlers ; if they
were located as such, they had no objection to
be enrolled as militia, learn military duty, and
be ready to turn out to defend their own or any
other part of the country invaded : but they
persisted in refusing to take the oath tendered
to them as mere soldiers, for unlimited service.
For this offence they were represented as
mutineers, and thrown at once into these dismal
dungeons, where they had remained totally neg-
lected, and must in a short time have perished in
a state of putridity, had they not been relieved by
th´┐Że humane and timely interference of Mr. Aston.
Two hundred and fifty were embarked in the
Moro Castle, on the 3d July, 1828, and sailed for
Ireland. The Phoebe followed with 150 more,
with the Highlander, and a Swedish ship, carrying
in all 1400 persons back to their native land. It
was industriously given out, that many of these
persons had carried plate and other valuables
from the houses they had plundered, and a
search was made among their boxes and trunks.
Nothing was found to justify the suspicion,
and then it was said, that to avoid detection
they had cast all these valuables into the sea.

p. 297

About 400 were left behind, engaged in diffe-
rent employments. A body of them, to the
amount of 220 persons, forming 101 families,
were conveyed to Bahia, and located at Taporoa,
in the comarca of Ilheos, where they formed a
colony, directed by a commissioner appointed
to regulate their affairs. It was the only portion
of the emigrants with whom good faith was
observed ; and it appears, from the report of
the Viscount Camamu, president of the assem-
bly of the province, that they were deserving of
every care and attention. Several who re-
mained at Rio I afterwards met and conversed
with. They were doing well; and the whole,
had they been properly encouraged, would have
done the same. Some men from Waterford
and Lismore were engaged in a quarry in the
rear of our residence, preparing blocks of
granite for building, and by their industry and
good conduct were earning five patacs (about
seven shillings) a day, and making a comfortable
independence. Another family, of the name of
Cook, from the county of Tipperary, had been
recommended to Messrs. Marsh and Watson, who
located them on a farm in the Organ Mountains,
where I visited them with Mr. Watson. The
farm was in the depth of a forest, fourteen or
fifteen miles within the recesses of the mountain.

p. 298

The way led through the wildest scenery ; and
on the bank of a river, in the centre of a forest,
we found these colonists. They had built a
large and comfortable house with a rustic
portico, and thatched it very neatly with palm
branches, whose regular fronds formed a tasty
roof, the stems and pinnate leaves of which
were very elegantly disposed in the thatch.
On the other side of the river, which we crossed
by two trees forming a rustic bridge, was a large
shed for cattle, and other conveniences ; and
rising up the hill was an extensive plantation of
coffee, behind which, descending into a glen, was
a rich field of Indian corn in high health, with
gourds, mandioca, and a variety of other products
of Brazilian agriculture. On our return the
good woman had prepared for us a plentiful dish
of bacon and eggs, with fried cakes of maize ;
and our entertainment concluded with whisky,
which our host had contrived to distil from his
coffee plantation. When I contemplated this
comfortable house and abundant farm, rescued
from the heart of a Brazilian forest, cultivated by
persons who in their own country could not
make out a scanty livelihood in a miserable
hovel, I could not help feeling the deepest regret,
that 2400 who had left their homes were not,
as they might have been, so 1ocated. It would

p. 299

have abstracted so many individuals from an
overflowing people perishing from want, and
added a valuable population to a country, where
millions of fertile acres are lying waste for lack
of hands to cultivate them.

The greater part of the Irish who returned
home, were in a disabled state. Hardship,
wounds, privation, and sickness had affected
them more or less ; but the ailment under which
they principally laboured was lameness. Not
furnished with shoes, nor able to provide them,
their feet were attacked with the bichu, or
insect of the country, which burrowed in my-
riads in their naked feet, and caused the most
frightful ulcerations. Many of the men, there-
fore, are lame beggars about the streets, or incu-
rables in the hospitals of Cork. Many who had
left comfortable farms, are reduced to common
labourers ; and of all who returned home, there
is not one, perhaps, who is not now enduring
want and misery.

The Germans, as they were regularly en-
rolled, were subject to martial law as mutineers ;
and the ringleaders in the riot were tried, and
some convicted. One of them was shortly after
executed. On the formation of the German
corps, as they were generally Lutherans, the Rev.
Mr. Crane, British Chaplain at Rio, officiated

p. 300

for them; and when this man was ordered
for execution, he was attended, by order of the
emperor, by the chaplain, to prepare him for
death. Mr. Crane, from whom I derived some
of the foregoing statements, informed me he
was a tall vigorous young man, six feet high, of
singularly determined character. He told him
he had neglected his early religious impressions,
but did not then wish to recall them ; and
begged him not to press him on the subject, as
his only wish was to die like a soldier, and
such considerations as he proposed, would only
disturb him. A Catholic clergyman was sent to
him with no better success. He dismissed him
at once, telling him to go and reform his master,
who more wanted it. He walked to the Campo
d'Acclamação, where he was executed, with
a pipe in his mouth, frequently turning round
and conversing with the greatest indifference
with his comrades, who were to shoot him, and
who followed immediately behind him. The
only mark of interest or concern he evinced on
any subject, was with respect to the place of his
burial. He asked where he was to be laid, and
he was answered, in the Misericordia. As this
is the cemetery attached to the hospital, and the
great receptacle for negroes, he expressed a
strong repugnance to be buried among them,

p. 301

and confounded with the slaves who had
behaved in such a manner to his comrades.
He therefore earnestly requested permission to
be buried in the English burying-ground, which
Mr. Crane promised, and he then died with the
most perfect unconcern. His regiment was sent
off to the south.

Thus ended a project for the gradual intro-
duction of Europeans into Brazil, from which
much good was reasonably expected. To form
a counterpoise to the fearful superiority of the
slave population, and increase as much as
possible the number of white inhabitants ; to
colonize the immense tracts of fertile land now
lying waste, and cultivate the soil with the
vigorous arms of freemen, bringing with them
the lights and improvements of Europe, instead
of the enormous importations annually of blacks
from Africa, was certainly the object of an
enlightened policy. But the vigilant suspicion
of the people, ever on the watch to guard
against any supposed instruments of despotism,
and the universal and inveterate prejudices still
existing against strangers, rendered the measure
highly unpopular in Brazil. It was supposed
that the difference of the religion of the Ger-
mans had some influence in increasing this pre-
judice, but the similarity of that of the Irish did

p. 302

not procure them more favour. The Aurora,
the Astraea, and other genuine national papers,
teemed with equal invectives against both,
talked boastfully of " delivering themselves from
the German and Irish invasion," and studiously
avoided all notice of the French and English
marines who landed to assist them.

Volume 2. A Negro Minstrel in Minas Gerais.

p. 175

After mid-day we arrived at the venda of
Chepado do Mato[2], kept by an exceedingly rude
and forward old lady ; she had coarse sharp
features, large ear-rings, and her grey hair, arti-
ficially curled, surrounded her sallow face as if in
a storm. She set her hands a-kimbo, described
the excellence of her wine with great volubility,
and was quite displeased because we would not
drink it for our breakfast, but preferred coffee,
which she would hardly condescend to make for
us. As a contrast to her, there stood in the

p. 176

hall a poor black minstrel boy, who played a
very simple instrument. It consisted of a single
string stretched on a bamboo, bent into an arc,
or bow. Half a cocoa nut, with a loop at its
apex, was laid on his breast on the concave side ;
the bow was thrust into this loop, while the
minstrel struck it with a switch, moving his
fingers up and down the wire at the same
time. This produced three or four sweet notes,
and was an accompaniment either to dancing or
singing. He stood in the porch, and entertained
us like a Welsh harper, while we were at break-
fast, and he was so modest that when we praised
his music, he actually blushed through his dusky
cheeks. It was the first time that a branco, or
white, had ever paid him such a compliment.

Volume 2: Summing up the impressions of the journey.

p. 312

Among the objects which excited my particular
attention in the interior, was the state of slavery
in which the greater part of the population re-
main ; and as it is a subject likely to be one of
considerable interest in a few months, when the

p. 313

total abolition of the slave trade is to take place
in Brazil, I shall add a few observations, which
I have gleaned here, to the mass of information
you are already in possession of.


[history of the portuguese slave trade to America]


p. 329

The number of blacks, and mulatto offspring
of blacks, is now estimated at
2,500,000, while the whites are but 850,000 ;
so that the former exceed the latter in the pro-
portion of three to one. From this great supe-
riority, serious apprehensions have long been
entertained, that some time or other, in the
present diffusion of revolutionary doctrines on
this continent, they will discover their own
strength, assert independence for themselves,
and Brazil become a second St. Domingo. This

p. 330

is particularly the case at Bahia and Pernam-
buco, where almost all the negroes are brought
from the same part of the coast of Africa; and
there is a general union and understanding
among them, as speaking the same language, and
feeling an identity of interests ; and here several
conspiracies have been formed, and risings
attempted. In April, 1828, a partial insurrec-
tion took place in some engenhos at Bahia,
and apprehensions were entertained that it has
ramified to Pernambuco. But at Rio the case
is different. The negro population consists of
eight or nine different castes, having no common
language, and actuated by no sympathetic tie ;
insomuch so, that they frequently engage in
feuds and combats, where one, or even two
hundreds of a nation on each side are engaged.
This animosity the white cherish, and endea-
vour to keep alive, as intimately connected with
their own safety.

The difference of caste is very strongly marked
in the colour of their skin, and still more in the
expression of their countenance, to a degree of
which I had no conception. Before I went to
Brazil, I could no more distinguish one black
from another, than I could sheep in a flock ;
but in this country, it struck me that the variety
of the human face was still more strongly marked

p. 331

in the black than in the white colour : the
gradation of the latter was only from handsome
to ugly, but of the former, from handsome to
hideous ; and I think I have met among these
dark visages, some of the most engaging, and
some of the most revolting aspects in nature.
This diversity is attended with disunion and
separation, on which the Brazilians lay great

The superiority of the coloured population is
not greater in number than it is in physical
powers. Some of the blacks and mulattos are
the most vigorous and athletic looking persons
that it is possible to contemplate, and who would
be models for a Farnesian Hercules. Their
natural muscular frame is hardened and im-
proved by exercise ; and when the fibres are
swelled out in any laborious action, they exhibit
a magnificent picture of strength and activity.
Their faka, or long knife, they use with tre-
mendous effect. They sometimes hurl it, as
an Indian does his tomahawk, with irresistible
force, and drive the blade, at a considerable
distance, through a thick deal board. In this
respect, they are strongly contrasted with the
flabby Brazilians of Portuguese descent, who
look the very personification of indolence and
inactivity ; and should they ever unhappily come

p. 332

into contact with their vigorous opponents in
the field, it would seem as if whey would be
crushed at once, under the mere physical weight
of their antagonists.

This muscular strength, however, is not uni-
versal, but only displayed by the natives of
particular districts in Africa. The principal
marts from whence they are brought, are An-
gola, Congo, Angico, Gaboon, and Mosambique.
Those of Angola are the most highly esteemed,
and are in every respect the most tractable, and
next to them the natives of Congo. The
Angicos are tall and robust, and their skins
jetty black and shining. They are generally
distinguished by their singular mode of tat-
tooing, which consists of three gashes made in
each cheek, and extending, in a circular form,
from the ear to the angle of the mouth. The
Gaboons are also tall and comely, with great
muscular strength; they are, however, less
esteemed, from their exceeding impatience of
the state of slavery to which they are reduced.
They are greatly addicted to suicide, and take
the first opportunity of destroying themselves.
Instances have occurred, where a lot of eighteen
or twenty, purchased together, have made a
determination not to live ; and in a short time
they all stabbed themselves, or sunk rapidly

p. 333

under an insupportable feeling of despondency.
The people of Mosambique include generally all
those of Southern Africa. They are distin-
guished by their diminutive stature and feeble
limbs, but still more by their colour, inclining to
brown, and some even as light as mulattos. It
is remarkable that vigour and muscularity
in a negro seem intimately connected with
his hue ; the distinctive characteristic of the
race is a black skin, and the more dark the
exterior the more perfect seems the person ; and
as it recedes from its own and approaches to our
colour, it is proportionately imperfect.

From the operation of the abolition laws, and
the activity of our cruisers to the north of the
line in enforcing them, the trade for slaves, in
the last ten years, has been directed to the
coast of Africa on both sides of the Cape of
Good Hope, and the negro race in Brazil has
sensibly deteriorated ; they seem to approach
the character of Cafres or Hottentots; and I
have more than once seen among them persons
distinguished by the peculiarity that marked the
Venus from that country, exhibited in England
some years ago. One was a girl of fourteen, of
most extraordinary proportions. This race is
particularly noted for a propensity to eat lime
and earth ; whether it be from a determination

p. 334

not to live, or from a morbid and irrepressible
appetite for such things, like some diseased
children, they persist in it with the most ob-
stinate perseverance, notwithstanding they are
severely flogged, till they at length sink under
it. They are distinguished also by their extra-
ordinary mode of tattooing ; the flesh is raised
into protuberances, so as to form a succession of
knobs, like a string of beads, from their forehead
to the tip of their nose, and very frequently the
upper lip is perforated by a hole, through which
the teeth are seen.

Notwithstanding the antipathies which the
different tribes bring with them from their own
country, and the petty feuds they excite in Brazil,
cherished and promoted by the whites, there is
often a bond which connects them as firmly as if
they had belonged all to the same race, and that
is a community of misery in the ships in which
they are brought over. The people so united
by this temporary association, are called Malun-
goes ; they continue attached to each other
ever after, and when separated, are quite re-
joiced if they meet again.

The negroes bring with them their language
and usages, which are found in Brazil as recent
and original as on the coast of Africa, from
whence they only just arrive. The language

p. 335

is so diversified by dialects, that different
tribes do not understand each other. When
those of the same caste work together, they
move to the sound of certain words, sung in a
kind of melancholy cadence, commenced in a
tenor tone by one part, and concluded in a base
by the other. A long line of negroes, with
burdens on their heads, sing it as they go along,
and it is heard every day, and in almost every
street in Rio. This, which seems a regular
national song, I was particularly curious to
know the import of, but no one could interpret
the words for me, and the negroes, when asked,
either did not, or pretended not to know, as if
it was something occult, which they made a
mystery of. The following is the notion of
one of the airs or tunes to which the words are
chanted, taken down on the spot by Mr.

3 bars of music score

Their music consists of several different in-
struments; the first is a rude guitar, composed
of a calabash, fasted to a bar of wood, which
forms a neck to the shell ; over this is stretched a
single string of gut, which is played on by a rude

p. 336

bow of horse-hair ; and by moving the finger up
and down along the gut, three or four notes are
elicited, of a very plaintive sound. The minstrel
is generally surrounded by a group sitting in
a circle, who all unite their voices as accom-
paniments to the music. The next is half a
calabash, containing within it a number of small
bars of iron parallel to each other, with one
extremity flat, presenting a surface like the keys
of a harpsichord : this he holds in both hands,
and presses with his thumbs, in succession, the
flat bars, which emit a tinkling sound like a
spinet. This instrument is very universal.
Every poor fellow who can, procures one of
those ; and as he goes along under his burden,
continues to elicit from it simple tones, which
seem to lighten his load, as if it was his grata
testudo, laborum dulce lenimen. A third is a single
string stretched on a bamboo, such as I have
described to you before at Chapado do Mato, in
the Minas Geraes.

These instruments are used by themselves or
accompanied by the voice; and, I think, are
called by the general name of merimba, though
the word is more particularly applied to the
bars of iron. There are others used as accom-
paniments to dancing, of which the negroes are
passionately fond. One is a hollow trunk of a

p. 337

tree, covered at one end with a piece of tense
leather ; on this the performer gets astride, and
strikes it with the palms of his hands, eliciting a
very loud sound, which is heard to a consider-
able distance. This "spirit-stirring drum" has
a powerful effect on all the negroes within the
extent of its sound. There is a small green at
S. José near the Chafariz, where the negroes
assemble every Sunday evening to dance. Here
the performer bestrides his drum, and assembles
the dancers by the sound. The first strokes,
which are heard all around, produce an electric
effect; they rush to the spot from all quarters,
and in a little time they are worked up to a
degree of hilarity little short of frenzy. They
dance, sing, shout, and scream till the whole
neighbourhood echoes with their noise.

As a substitute for this drum, they sometimes
use bones, which the dancers strike together.
These are accompanied by an instrument the
size of a pepper-box, having some rattling sub-
stance inside. This is attached to a handle,
which one holds over the heads of the rest ; and
while they strike the bones he rattles the box,
and so the time is regulated. This mode of
directing the dance, I have seen at the Matanza.

The dances begin with a slow movement of
two persons, who approach each other with a

p. 338

shy and diffident air, and then recede bashful
and embarrassed ; by degrees, the time of the
music increases, the diffidence wears off, and
the dance concludes with indecencies not fit to
be seen or described. Sometimes it is of a dif-
ferent character, attended with jumping, shouting,
and throwing their arms over each other's heads,
and assuming the most fierce and stern aspects.
The first is a dance of love, and the latter of
Dancing seems the great passion of the
negro, and the great consolation which makes
his slavery tolerable. Whenever I have seen a
group of them meeting in the street or the road,
or at the door of a venda, they always got up a
dance ; and if there was no instrument in com-
pany, which rarely happened, they supplied its
place with their voice. At all the fazendas,
where there is a number together, Saturday
night is usually devoted to a ball, after the la-
bours of the week. A fire of wood or the
heads of milho is lighted up in a hut, where
they assemble, and they continue dancing till
light in the morning.

The obeah man in Brazil is called Mandin-
geiros, because he comes from the Mandingos,
near Senegal. He is not at all so formidable
a person, nor does he exercises such powerful
fascinations as elsewhere, probably because the

p. 339

country from which he came has been for some
time interdicted, and the practice is not kept
up in other tribes, and so is fallen into

The patriarchal feeling, however, that con-
siders a tribe as a family, the members as
brothers, and the prince as the father, still
strongly subsists. They believe that the tie of
allegiance to the prince never ceases under any
change of circumstances, no more than the
obligation due from a son to a father. These
princes, therefore, are frequently seen sitting
on a stone in the street, surrounded by a crowd
who come to them for judgment. At the corner
of the Travessa de S. Antonio, where it opens
into the Rua do Cane, is a curb stone or post,
which was pointed out to me, as being for many
years the throne of an African prince from An-
gola. Every evening after the labours of the
day, and on Sundays and holidays at any hour,
he was found on the spot, holding his court
and a number of blacks around him, appealing to
and submitting to his decrees. He was a strong
athletic young man, of general good conduct,
and comported himself with spirit and dignity in
his regal situation. If a black, for any offence
committed against his brother, deserved punish-
ment, it was inflicted with a stick by an officer

p. 340

in attendance. He of course took cognizance
of matters only occurring between themselves,
and his jurisdiction was not objected to by the
police, because it tended to good manners. He
had, a short time before my arrival, abdicated
his stone, and I could not learn where he had
gone, but his throne remained vacant till his
return. You have heard the notion of African
princes among an importation of slaves, laughed
at as an absurd fiction. This I know to be a
fact, from the unquestionable authority of a
frequent eye witness, and also that it is a
common occurrence. The natives of Congo
elect a king among themselves, to whose de-
crees they submit in a similar manner.


[1] The entries in the police registers (Códice 403, vol.II, Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro) were published by Paulo Coelho de Araújo in his Abordagens sócio-antropológicas da luta/jogo da capoeira, Maia, 1997. Thomas H. Holloway published entries from 1836, studying police action in Rio in Policing Rio de Janeiro - Repression and resistance in a 19th century city, Stanford University Press, 1993 and "A Healthy Terror - Police Repression of Capoeiras in Nineteenth Century Rio de Janeiro" The Hispanic American Historical Review n69:4, Durham:Duke University Press, 1989 [back].

[2] Obviously Chapada do Mato. The map has Chapado do Mato [back].

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