WHEN that eccentric individual, Captain John Gabriel Stedman, resigned his commission in the English navy, took the oath of abjuration, and was appointed ensign in the Scots brigade employed for two centuries by Holland, he little knew that “ their High Mightinesses the States of the United Provinces” would send him out, within a year, to the forests of Guiana, to subdue rebel negroes. He never imagined that the year 1773 would behold him beneath the rainy season in a tropical country, wading through marshes and splashing through lakes, exploring with his feet for submerged paths, commanding impracticable troops and commanded by an insufferable colonel, feeding on greegree worms and fed upon by mosquitoes, howled at by jaguars, hissed at by serpents, and shot at by those exceedingly unattainable gentlemen, “ still longed for, never seen,” the Maroons of Surinam.
Yet, as our young ensign sailed up the Surinam river, the world of tropic beauty came upon him with enchantment. Dark, moist verdure was close around him, rippling waters below; the tall trees of the jungle and the low mangroves beneath were all hung with long vines and lianas, a maze of cordage, like a fleet at anchor; odd monkeys travelled ceaselessly up and down these airy paths, in armies, bearing their young, like knapsacks, on their backs; macaws and humming-birds, winged jewels, flew from tree to tree. As they neared Paramaribo, the river became a smooth canal among luxuriant plantations, the air was perfumed music, redolent of orange-blossoms and echoing with the songs of birds and the sweet plash of oars; gay barges came forth to meet them; “ while groups of naked boys and girls were promiscuously playing and flouncing, like so many tritons and mermaids, in the water.” And when the troops disembarked,—five hundred fine young men, the oldest not thirty, all arrayed in new uniforms and bearing orangeflowers in their caps, a bridal wreath for beautiful Guiana,—it is no wonder that the Creole ladies were in ecstasy, and the boyish recruits little foresaw the day, when, reduced to a few dozens, barefooted and ragged as filibusters, their last survivors would gladly reembark from a country beside which even Holland looked dry and even Scotland comfortable.
For over all that earthly paradise there brooded not alone its terrible malaria, its days of fever and its nights of deadly chill, but the worse shadows of oppression and of sin, which neither day nor night could banish. The first object which met Stedman’s eye, as he stepped on shore, was the figure of a young girl stripped to receive two hundred lashes, and chained to a hundred-pound-weight. And the few first days gave a glimpse into a state of society worthy of this exhibition,—men without mercy, women without modesty, the black man a slave to the white man’s passions, and the white man a slave to his own. The present West Indian society in its worst forms is probably a mere dilution of the utter profligacy of those days. Greek or Roman decline produced nothing more debilitating or destructive than the ordinary life of a Surinam planter, and his one virtue of hospitality only led to more unbridled excesses and completed the work of vice. No wonder that Stedman himself, who, with all his peculiarities, was essentially simple and manly, soon became disgusted, and made haste to get into the woods and cultivate the society of the Maroons.
The rebels against whom this expedition was sent were not the original Maroons of Surinam, but a later generation. The originals had long since established their independence, and their leaders were flourishing their honorary silver-mounted canes in the streets of Paramaribo. Fugitive negroes had begun to establish themselves in the woods from the time when the colony was finally ceded by the English to the Dutch, in 1674. The first open outbreak occurred in 1726, when the plantations on the Seramica river revolted; it was found impossible to subdue them, and the government very imprudently resolved to make an example of eleven captives, and thus terrify the rest of the rebels. They were tortured to death, eight of the eleven being women ; this drove the others to madness, and plantation after plantation was visited with fire and sword. Alter a long conflict, their chief, Adoe, was induced to make a treaty, in 1749. The rebels promised to keep the peace, and in turn were promised freedom, money, tools, clothes, and, finally, arms and ammunition.
But no permanent, peace was ever made upon a barrel of gunpowder as a basis, and of course an explosion followed this one. The colonists naturally evaded the last item of the bargain, and the rebels, receiving the gifts and remarking the omission of the part of Hamlet, asked contemptuously if the Europeans expected negroes to subsist on combs and looking-glasses? New hostilities at once began; a new body of slaves on the Ouca river revolted; the colonial government was changed in consequence, and fresh troops shipped from Holland; and after four different embassies had been sent into the woods, the rebels began to listen to reason. The black generals, Captain Araby and Captain Boston, agreed upon a truce for a year, during which the colonial government might decide for peace or war, the Maroons declaring themselves indifferent. Finally the government chose peace, delivered ammunition, and made a treaty, in 1761; the white and black plenipotentiaries exchanged English oaths and then negro oaths, each tasting a drop of the other’s blood during the latter ceremony, amid a volley of remarkable incantations from the black gadoman or priest. After some final skirmishes, in which the rebels almost always triumphed, the treaty was at length accepted by all the various villages of Maroons. Had they known that at this very time five thousand slaves in Berbice were just rising against their masters and were looking to them for assistance, the result might have been different ; but this fact had not reached them, nor had the rumors of insurrection in Brazil, among negro and Indian slaves. They consented, therefore, to the peace. “ They write from Surinam,” says the “ Annual Register ” for January 23,1761, “ that the Dutch governor, finding himself unable to subdue the rebel negroes of that country by force, hath wisely followed the example of Governor Trelawney at Jamaica, and concluded an amicable treaty with them; in consequence of which, all the negroes of the woods are acknowledged to be free, and all that is past is buried in oblivion.” So ended a war of thirtysix years, and in Stedman’s day the original three thousand Ouca and Seramica Maroons had multiplied (almost incredibly) to fifteen thousand.
But for the slaves not sharing in this revolt it was not so easy to “ bury the whole past in oblivion.” The Maroons had told some very plain truths to the white ambassadors, and had frankly advised them, if they wished for peace, to mend their own manners and treat their slaves humanely. But the planters learned nothing by experience,—and indeed, the terrible narrations of Stedman were confirmed by those of Alexander, so lately as 1831. Of course, therefore, in a colony comprising eighty thousand blacks to four thousand whites, other revolts were stimulated by the success of this one. They reached their highest point in 1772, when an insurrection on the Cottica river, led by a negro named Baron, almost gave the finishing blow to the colony; the only adequate protection being found in a body of slaves liberated expressly for that purpose,—a dangerous and humiliating precedent. “ We have been obliged to set three or four hundred of our stoutest negroes free to defend us,” says an honest letter from Surinam in the “Annual Register” for September 5, 1772. Fortunately for the safety of the planters, Baron presumed too much upon his numbers, and injudiciously built a camp too near the sea-coast, in a marshy fastness, from which he was finally ejected by twelve hundred Dutch troops, though the chief work was done, Stedman thinks, by the “ black rangers ” or liberated slaves. Checked by this defeat, he again drew back into the forests, resuming his guerrilla warfare against the plantations. Nothing could dislodge him; bloodhounds were proposed, but the moisture of the country made them useless; and thus matters stood when Stedman came sailing, amid orange-blossoms and music, up the winding Surinam.
Our young officer went into the woods in the condition of Falstaff, “heinously unprovided.” Coming from the unbounded luxury of the plantations, he found himself entering “ the most horrid and impenetrable forests, where no kind of refreshment was to be had,”—he being provisioned only with salt pork and peas. After a wail of sorrow for this inhuman neglect, he bursts into a gush of gratitude for the private generosity which relieved his wants at the last moment by the following list of supplies:—“24 bottles best claret, 12 ditto Madeira, 12 ditto porter, 12 ditto cider, 12 ditto rum, 2 large loaves white sugar, 2 gallons brandy, 6 bottles muscadel, 2 gallons lemon-juice, 2 gallons ground coffee, 2 large Westphalia hams, 2 salted bullocks’ tongues, 1 bottle Durham mustard, 6 dozen spermaceti candles.” The hams and tongues seem, indeed, rather a poor halfpennyworth to this intolerable deal of sack; but this instance of Surinam privation in those days may open some glimpse at the colonial standards of comfort. “From this specimen,” moralizes our hero, “ the reader will easily perceive, that, if some of the inhabitants of Surinam show themselves the disgrace of the creation by their cruelties and brutality, others, by their social feelings, approve themselves an ornament to the human species. With this instance of virtue and generosity I therefore conclude this chapter.”
But the troops soon had to undergo worse troubles than those of the commis-sariat. The rainy season had just set in. “As for the negroes,” said Mr. Klynhaus, the last planter with whom they parted, “you may depend on never seeing a soul of them, unless they attack you off guard; but the climate, the climate, will murder you all.” Bringing with them constitutions already impaired by the fevers and dissipation of Paramaribo, the poor boys began to perish long before they began to flight. Wading in water all day, hanging their hammocks over water at night, it seemed a moist existence, even compared with the climate of England and the soil of Holland. It was “Invent a shovel and be a magistrate,” even more than Andrew Marvell found it in the United Provinces. In fact, Raynal evidently thinks that nothing but Dutch experience in hydraulics could ever have cultivated Surinam.
The two gun-boats which held one division of the expedition were merely old sugar-barges, roofed over with boards, and looking like coffins. They were pleasantly named the “Charon” and the “Cerberus,” but Stedman thought that the “Sudden Death” and the “Wilful Murder” would have been titles more appropriate. The chief duty of the troops consisted in lying at anchor at the intersections of wooded streams, waiting for rebels who never came. It was dismal work, and the raw recruits were full of the same imaginary terrors which have haunted other heroes less severely tested: the monkeys never rattled the cocoa-nuts against the trees, but they all heard the axes of Maroon wood-choppers ; and when a sentinel declared, one night, that he had seen a negro go down the river in a canoe, with his pipe lighted, the whole force was called to arms—against a firefly. In fact, the insect race brought by far the most substantial dangers. The rebels eluded the military, but the chigres, locusts, scorpions, and bush-spiders were ever ready to come half-way to meet them; likewise serpents and alligators proffered them the freedom of the forests and exhibited a hospitality almost excessive. Snakes twenty feet long hung their seductive length from the trees; jaguars volunteered their society through almost impenetrable marshes ; vampire bats perched by night with lulling endearments upon their toes. When Stedman describes himself as killing thirty-eight mosquitoes at one stroke, we must perhaps pardon something to the spirit of martyrdom. But when we add to these the other woes of his catalogue,—prickly-heat, ring-worm, putrid-fever, “the growling of Colonel Fougeaud, dry, sandy savannas, unfordable marshes, burning hot days, cold and damp nights, heavy rains, and short allowance,"—we can hardly wonder that three captains died in a month, and that in two months his detachment of forty-two was reduced to a miserable seven.
Yet, through all this, Stedman himself kept his health. His theory of the matter almost recalls the time-honored prescription of “ A light heart and a thin pair of breeches,” for he attributes his good condition to his keeping up his spirits and kicking off his shoes. Daily bathing in the river had also something to do with it,—and, indeed, hydropathy (this may not be generally known) was first learned of the West India Maroons, who did their “packing” in wet clay,—and it was carried by Dr. Wright to England. But his extraordinary personal qualities must have contributed most to his preservation. Never did a “meagre, starved, black, burnt, and ragged tatterdemalion,” as he calls himself, carry about him such a fund of sentiment, philosophy, poetry, and art. He had a great faculty for sketching, as the engravings in his volumes, with all their odd peculiarities, show; his deepest woes he coined always into couplets, and fortified himself against hopeless despair with Ovid and Valerius Flaccus, Pope’s “ Homer” and Thomson’s “ Seasons.” Above all reigned his passion for natural history, a ready balm for every ill. Here he was never wanting to the occasion, and, to do justice to Dutch Guiana, the occasion never was wanting to him. Were his men sickening, the peccaries were always healthy without, and the cockroaches within the camp; just escaping from a she-jaguar, he satisfies himself, ere he flees, that the print of her claws on the sand is precisely the size of a pewter dinner-plate ; bitten by a scorpion, he makes sure of his scientific description in case he should expire of the bite ; is the water undrinkable, there is at least some rational interest in the number of legs possessed by the centipedes which preoccupy it. This is the highest triumph of man over his accidents, when he thus turns his pains to gains, and becomes an entomologist in the tropics.
Meanwhile the rebels kept their own course in the forests, and occasionally descended upon plantations beside the very river on whose upper waters the useless troops were sickening and dying. Stedman himself made several campaigns, with long intervals of illness, before he came any nearer to the enemy than to burn a deserted village or destroy a ricefield. Sometimes they left the Charon and the Cerberus moored by grape-vines to the pine-trees, and made expeditions into the woods single file. Our ensign, true to himself, gives the. minutest schedule of the order of march, and the oddest little diagram of manikins with cocked hats, and blacker manikins bearing burdens. First, negroes with bill-hooks to clear the way; then the van-guard ; then the main body, interspersed with negroes bearing boxes of ball-cartridges; then the rear-guard, with many more negroes, bearing camp-equipage, provisions, and new rum, surnamed “kill-devil,” and appropriately followed by a sort of palanquin for die disabledThus arrayed, they marched valorously forth into the woods, to some given point; then they turned, marched back to the boats, then rowed back to camp, and straightway went into the hospital. Immediately upon this, the coast being clear, Baron and his rebels marched out again and proceeded to business.
In the course of years, these Maroons had acquired their own peculiar tactics. They built stockaded fortresses on marshy islands, accessible by fords which they alone could traverse. These they defended further by sharp wooden pins, or crows’-feet, concealed beneath the surface of the miry ground,—and, latterly, by the more substantial protection of cannon, which they dragged into the woods, and learned to use. Their bush-fighting was unique. Having always more men than weapons, they arranged their warriors in threes,—one to use the musket, another to take his place, if wounded or slain, and a third to drag away the body. They had Indian stealthiness and swiftness, with more than Indian discipline; discharged their fire with some approach to regularity, in three successive lines, the signals being given by the captain’s horn. They were full of ingenuity: marked their movements for each other by scattered leaves and blazed trees; ran zigzag, to dodge bullets; gave wooden guns to their unarmed men, to frighten the plantation negroes on their guerrilla expeditions ; and borrowed the red caps of the black rangers whom they slew, to bewilder the aim of the others. One of them, finding himself close to the muzzle of a ranger's gun, threw up his hand hastily. “What!” he exclaimed, “ will you fire on one of your own party ? ” “ God forbid ! ” cried the
ranger, dropping his piece, and was instantly shot through the body by the Maroon, who the next instant had disappeared in the woods.
These rebels were no saints: their worship was obi-worship; the women had not far outgrown the plantation standard of chastity, and the men drank “kill-devil ” like their betters. Stedman was struck with the difference between the meaning of the word “good” in rebellious circles and in reputable. “ It must, however, be observed that what we Europeans call a good character was by the Africans looked upon as detestable, especially by those born in the woods, whose only crime consisted in avenging the wrongs done to their forefathers.” But if martial virtues be virtues, such were theirs. Not a rebel ever turned traitor or informer, ever flinched in battle or under torture, ever violated a treaty or even a private promise. But it was their power of endurance which was especially astounding; Stedman is never weary of paying tribute to this, or of illustrating it in sickening detail; indeed, the records of the world show nothing to Surpass it; “ the lifted axe, the agonizing wheel ” proved powerless to subdue it; with every limb lopped, every bone broken, the victims yet defied their tormentors, laughed, sang, and died triumphant.
Of course, they repaid these atrocities in kind. If they had not, it would have demonstrated I the absurd paradox, that slavery educates higher virtues than freedom. It bewilders all the relations of human responsibility, if we expect the insurrectionary slave to commit no outrages ; if slavery have not depraved him, it has done him little harm. If it be the normal tendency of bondage to produce saints like Uncle Tom, let us all offer ourselves at auction immediately. It is Cassy and Dred who are the normal protest of human nature against systems which degrade it. Accordingly, these poor, ignorant Maroons, who had seen their brothers and sisters flogged, burned, mutilated, hanged on iron hooks, broken on the wheel, and had been all the while solemnly assured that this was paternal government, could only repay the paternalism in the same fashion, when they had the power. Stedman saw a negro chained to a red-hot distillery-furnace; he saw disobedient slaves, in repeated instances, punished by the amputation of a leg, and sent to boat-service for the rest of their lives; and of course the rebels borrowed these suggestions. They could bear to watch their captives expire under the lash, for they had previously watched their parents. If the government rangers received twenty-five florins for every rebel right-hand which they brought in, of course they risked their own right-hands in the pursuit. The difference was, that the one brutality was that of a mighty state, and the other was only the retaliation of the victims. And after all, Stedman never ventures to assert that the imitation equalled the original, or that the Maroons had inflicted nearly so much as they had suffered.
The leaders of the rebels, especially, were men who had each his own story of wrongs to tell. Baron, the most formidable, had been the slave of a Swedish gentleman, who had taught him to read and write, taken him to Europe, promised to manumit him on his return,—and then, breaking his word, sold him to a Jew. Baron refused to work for his new master, was publicly flogged under the gallows, fled to the woods next day, and became the terror of the colony. Joli Cœur, his first captain, was avenging the cruel wrongs of his mother. Bonny, another leader, was born in the woods, his mother having taken refuge there just previously, to escape from his father, who was also his master. Cojo, another, had defended his master against the insurgents until he was obliged by ill usage to take refuge among them; and he still bore upon his wrist, when Stedman saw him, a silver band, with the inscription,— “ True to the Europeans.” In dealing with wrongs like these, Mr. Carlyle would have found the despised negroes quite as ready as himself to take the total-abstinence pledge against rose-water.
In his first two months’ campaign, Stedman never saw the trace of a Maroon; in the second, he once came upon their trail; in the third, one captive was brought in, two surrendered themselves voluntarily, and a large party was found to have crossed a river within a mile of the camp, ferrying themselves on palm-trunks, according to their fashion. Deep swamps and scorching sands,—toiling through briers all day, and sleeping at night in hammocks suspended over stagnant water, with weapons supported on sticks crossed beneath,—all this was endured for two years and a half, before Stedman personally came in sight of the enemy.
On August 20th, 1775, the troops found themselves at last in the midst of the rebel settlements. These villages and forts bore a variety of expressive names, such as “ Hide me, O thou surrounding verdure,” “ I shall be taken,” " The woods lament for me,” “ Disturb me, if you dare,” “Take a tasting, if you like it,” " Come, try me, if you be men,” “ God knows me and none else,” “ I shall moulder before I shall be taken.” Some were only plantation-grounds with a few huts, and were easily laid waste; but all were protected more or less by their mere situations. Quagmires surrounded them, covered by a thin crust of verdure, sometimes broken through by one man’s weight, when the victim sank hopelessly into the black and bottomless depths below. In other directions there was a solid bottom, but inconveniently covered by three or four feet of water, through which the troops waded breast-deep, holding their muskets high in the air, unable to reload them when once discharged, and liable to be picked off by rebel scouts, who ingeniously posted themselves in the tops of palm-trees.
Through this delectable region Colonel Fougeaud and his followers slowly advanced, drawing near the fatal shore where Captain Meyland’s detachment had just been defeated, and where their mangled remains still polluted the beach. Passing this point of danger without attack, they suddenly met a small party of rebels, each bearing on his back a beautifully-woven hamper of snow-white rice: these loads they threw down, and disappeared. Next appeared an armed body from the same direction, who fired upon them once and swiftly retreated ; and in a few moments the soldiers came upon a large field of standing rice, beyond which lay, like an amphitheatre, the rebel village. But between the village and the field had been piled successive defences of logs and branches, behind which simple redoubts the Maroons lay concealed. A fight ensued, lasting forty minutes, during which nearly every soldier and ranger was wounded, but, to their great amazement, not one was killed. This was an enigma to them until after the skirmish, when the surgeon found that most of them had been struck, not by bullets, but by various substitutes, such as pebbles, coat-buttons, and bits of silver coin, which had penetrated only skindeep. “We also observed that several ot the poor rebel negroes, who had been shot, had only the shards of Spa-water cans, instead of flints, which could seldom do execution ; and it was certainly owing to these circumstances that we came off so well.”
The rebels at length retreated, first setting fire to their village; a hundred or more lightly built houses, some of them two stories high, were soon in flames; and as this conflagration occupied the only neck of land between two impassable morasses, the troops were unable to follow, and the Maroons had left nothing but rice-fields to be pillaged. That night the military force was encamped in the woods; their ammunition was almost gone; so they were ordered to lie flat on the ground, even in case of attack; they could not so much as build a fire. Before midnight an attack was made on them, partly with bullets and partly with words ; the Maroons were all around them in the forest, but their object was a puzzle: they spent most of the night in bandying compliments with the black rangers, whom they alternately denounced, ridiculed, and challenged to single combat. At last Fougeaud and Stedman joined in the conversation, and endeavored to make this midnight Volley of talk the occasion for a treaty. This was received with inextinguishable laughter, which echoed through the woods like a concert of screech-owls, ending in a charivari of horns and hallooing. The Colonel, persisting, offered them “ life, liberty, victuals, drink, and all they wanted”; in return, they ridiculed him unmercifully: he was a half-starved Frenchman, who had run away from his own country, and would soon run away from theirs; they profoundly pitied him and his soldiers ; they would scorn to spend powder on such scarecrows; they would rather feed and clothe them, as being poor white slaves, hired to be shot at and starved for four-pence a day. But as for the planters, overseers, and rangers, they should die, every one of them, and Bonny should be governor of the colony. “After this, they tinkled their bill-hooks, fired a volley, and gave three cheers; which being answered by the rangers, the clamor ended, and the rebels dispersed with the rising sun.”
Very aimless nonsense it certainly appeared. But the next day put a new aspect on it; for it was found, that, under cover of all this noise, the Maroons had been busily occupied all night, men, women, and children, in preparing and filling great hampers of the finest rice, yams, and cassava, from the adjacent provisiongrounds, to be used for subsistence during their escape, leaving only chaff and refuse for the hungry soldiers. “ This was certainly such a masterly trait of generalship in a savage people, whom we affected to despise, as would have done honor to any European commander.”
From this time the Maroons fulfilled their threats. Shooting down without mercy every black ranger who came within their reach,—one of these rangers being, in Stedman’s estimate, worth six white soldiers,—they left Colonel Fougeaud and his regulars to die of starvation and fatigue. The enraged Colonel, “finding himself thus foiled by a naked negro, swore he would pursue Bonny to the world’s end.” But he never got any nearer than to Bonny's kitchen-gardens. He put the troops on half-allowance, sent back for provisions and ammunition,— and within ten days changed his mind, and retreated to the settlements in despair. Soon after, this very body of rebels, under Bonny's leadership, plundered two plantations in the vicinity, and nearly captured a powder-magazine, which was, however, successfully defended by some armed slaves.
For a year longer these expeditions continued. The troops never gained a victory, and they lost twenty men for every rebel killed; but they gradually checked the plunder of plantations, destroyed villages and planting-grounds, and drove the rebels, for the time at least, into the deeper recesses of the woods or into the adjacent province of Cayenne. They had the slight satisfaction of burning Bonny’s own house, a two-story wooden hut, built in the fashion of our frontier guard-houses. They often took single prisoners,—some child, born and bred in the woods, and frightened equally by the first sight ot a white man and of a cow,—or some warrior, who, on being threatened with torture, stretched forth both hands in disdain, and said, with Indian eloquence,— "These hands have made tigers tremble.” As for Stedman, he still went bare-footed, still quarrelled with his colonel, still sketched the scenery and described the reptiles, still reared gree-gree worms for his private kitchen, still quoted good poetry and wrote execrable, still pitied all the sufferers around him, black, white, and red, until finally he and his comrades were ordered back to Holland in 1776.
Among all that wasted regiment of weary and broken-down men, there was probably no one but Stedman who looked backward with longing as they sailed down the lovely Surinam. True, he bore all his precious collections with him,—parrots and butterflies, drawings on the backs of old letters, and journals kept on bones and cartridges, But he had left behind him a dearer treasure ; for there runs through all his eccentric narrative a single thread of pure romance, in his love for his beautiful quadroon wife and his only son.
Within a month after his arrival in the colony, our susceptible ensign first saw Joanna, a slave-girl of fifteen, at the house of an intimate friend. Her extreme beauty and modesty first fascinated him, and then her piteous narrative,—for she was the daughter of a planter, who had just gone mad and died in despair from the discovery that he could not legally emancipate his own children from slavery. Soon after, Stedman was dangerously ill, was neglected and alone ; fruits and cordials were anonymously sent to him, which proved at last to have come from Joanna, and she came herself, ere long, and nursed him, grateful for the visible sympathy be had shown to her. This completed the conquest; the passionate young Englishman, once recovered, loaded her with presents, which she refused,—talked of purchasing her and educating her in Europe, which she also declined, as burdening him too greatly,—and finally, amid the ridicule of all good society in Paramaribo, surmounted all legal obstacles and was united to the beautiful girl in honorable marriage. He provided a cottage for her, where he spent his furloughs, in perfect happiness, for four years.
The simple idyl of their loves was unbroken by any stain or disappointment, and yet always shadowed with the deepest anxiety for the future. Though treated with the utmost indulgence, she was legally a slave, and so was the boy of whom she became the mother. Cojo, her uncle, was a captain among the rebels against whom her husband fought. And up to the time when Stedman was ordered back to Holland, he was unable to purchase her freedom, nor could he, until the very last moment, procure the emancipation of his boy. His perfect delight at this last triumph, when obtained, elicited some satire from his white friends. “ While the well-thinking few highly applauded my sensibility, many not only blamed, but publicly derided me for my paternal affection, which was called a weakness, a whim.” “ Nearly forty beautiful boys and girls were left to perpetual slavery by their parents of my acquaintance, and many of them without being so much as once inquired after at all.”
But Stedman was a true-hearted fellow, if his sentiment did sometimes run to rodomontade; he left his Joanna only in the hope that a year or two in Europe would repair his ruined fortunes, and he could return to treat himself to the purchase of his own wedded wife. He describes, with unaffected pathos, their parting scene,—though, indeed, there were several successive partings,—and closes the description in a manner worthy of that remarkable combination of enthusiasms which characterized him. “ My melancholy having surpassed all description, I at last determined to weather one or two painful years in her absence ; and in the afternoon went to dissipate my mind at a Mr. Roux’ cabinet of Indian curiosities ; where as my eye chanced to fall on a rattlesnake, I will, before I leave the colony, describe this dangerous reptile.”
It was impossible to write the history of the Maroons of Surinam except through the biography of our Ensign, (at last promoted Captain,) because nearly all we know of them is through his quaint and picturesque narrative, with its profuse illustrations by his own hand. It is not fair, therefore, to end without chronicling his safe arrival in Holland, on June 3d, 1777. It is a remarkable fact, that, after his life in the woods, even the Dutch looked slovenly to his eyes. “ The inhabitants, who crowded about us, appeared but a disgusting assemblage of ill-formed and ill-dressed rabble,—so much had my prejudices been changed by living among Indians and blacks: their eyes seemed to resemble those of a pig; their complexions were like the color of foul linen ; they seemed to have no teeth, and to be covered over with rags and dirt. This prejudice, however, was not against these people only, but against all Europeans in general, when compared to the sparkling eyes, ivory teeth, shining skin, and remarkable cleanliness of those I had left behind me. Yet, in spite of these superior attractions, he never recrossed the Atlantic; for his Joanna died soon after, and his promising son, being sent to the father, was educated in England, became a midshipman in the navy, and was lost at sea. With his elegy, in which the last depths of bathos are sadly sounded by a mourning parent,—who is induced to print them only by “ the effect they had on the sympathetic and ingenious Mrs. Cowley,”—the “Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition” closes.
The war, which had cost the govern. ment forty thousand pounds a year, was ended, and left both parties essentially as when it began. The Maroons gradually returned to their old abodes, and, being unmolested themselves, left others unmolested thenceforward. Originally three thousand,-in Stedman’s time, fifteen thousand,-they were estimated at seventy thousand by Captain Alexander, who saw Guiana in 1831,-and a recent American scientific expedition, having visited them in their homes, reported them as still enjoying their wild freedom, and multiplying, while the Indians on the same soil decay. The beautiful forests of Surinam still make the morning gorgeous with their beauty, and the night deadly with their chill ; the stately paim still rears, a hundred feet in air, its straight gray shaft and its head of verdure; the mora builds its solid, buttressed trunk, a pedestal for the eagle; the pine of the tropics holds out it> myriad hands with water-cups for the rain and dews, where all the birds and the monkeys may drink their fill; the trees are garlanded with epiphytes and convolvuli, and anchored to the earth by a thousand vines. High among their branches, the red and yellow mockingbirds still build their hanging nests, uncouth storks and tree-porcupines cling above, and the spotted deer and the tapir drink from the sluggish stream below. The night is still made noisy with a thousand cries of bird and beast; and the stillness of the sultry noon is broken by the slow tolling of the campanero, or bellbird, far in the deep, dark woods, like the chime of some lost convent. And as Nature is unchanged there, so apparently is man; the Maroons still retain their savage freedom, still shoot their wild game and trap their fish, still raise their rice and cassava, yams and plantains,—still make cups from the gourd-tree and hammocks from the silk-grass plant, wine from the palm-tree's sap, brooms from its leaves, fishing-lines from its fibres, and salt from its ashes. Their life does not yield, indeed, the very highest results of spiritual culture ; Its mental and moral results may not come up to the level of civilization, but they rise far above the level of slavery. In the changes of time, the Maroons may yet elevate themselves into the one, but they will never relapse into the other.