Sejarah Sumatra (Marsden)/Bab 7
VEGETABLE PRODUCTIONS OF THE ISLAND CONSIDERED AS ARTICLES OF COMMERCE.
CULTIVATION OF PEPPER.
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PLATE 1. THE PEPPER-PLANT, PIPER NIGRUM.
E.W. Marsden delt. Engraved by J. Swaine, Queen Street, Golden Square.
Published by W. Marsden, 1810.
Di antara produksi-produksi Sumatra, yang dipandang sebagai barang-barang dagang, paling berpengaruh dan paling menonjol adalah lada. Ini adalah barang dagang Perusahaan Hindia Timur, dan barang itu sendiri disimpan di tangannya sendiri; para pelayan dan peniaganya yang berada di bawah perlindungannya, bebas untuk bersepakat dalam setiap komoditas lainnya.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TRADE[sunting]
Many of the princes or chiefs in different parts of the island having invited the English to form settlements in their respective districts, factories were accordingly established, and a permanency and regularity thereby given to the trade, which was very uncertain whilst it depended upon the success of occasional voyages to the coast; disappointments ensuing not only from failure of adequate quantities of pepper to furnish cargoes when required, but also from the caprices and chicanery of the chiefs with whom the disposal of it lay, the motives of whose conduct could not be understood by those who were unacquainted with the language and manners of the people. These inconveniencies were obviated when the agents of the Company were enabled, by their residence on the spot, to obtain an influence in the country, to inspect the state of the plantations, secure the collection of the produce, and make an estimate of the tonnage necessary for its conveyance to Europe.
In order to bind the chiefs to the observance of their original promises and professions, and to establish a plausible and legal claim, in opposition to the attempts of rival European powers to interfere in the trade of the same country, written contracts, attended with much form and solemnity, were entered into with the former; by which they engaged to oblige all their dependants to cultivate pepper, and to secure to us the exclusive purchase of it; in return for which they were to be protected from their enemies, supported in the rights of sovereignty, and to be paid a certain allowance or custom on the produce of their respective territories.
Harga sepanjang tahun yang dibayar kepada penanam untuk produksi mereka adalah sepuluh dolar Spanyol atau lima puluh shillings per bahar dari lima ribu massa atau lima ratus dan enam puluh pound. Pada sekitar tahun 1780, dengan penglihatan dari dorongan mereka dan peningkatan investasi, sesuai yang diatur, jumlah yang dikenakan mencapai lima belas dolar. Dari situ, harga tersebut menambahkan bea cukai di atas yang disebutkan, beragam di distrik yang berbeda menurut perjanjian spesifik, namun jumlah pada umumnya sampai satu setengah dolar, atau dua dolar untuk setiap bahar, yang didistribusikan di kalangan kepala-kepala wilayah di sebuah acara tahunan; dan persembahan dilakukan pada saat yang bersamaan untuk para penananm yang membedakan diri mereka sendiri menurut industri mereka. Harga rendah tersebut, yang ditawarkan penduduk asli untuk menanam penanaman-penanaman, membagi setiap pekerja dengan pendapatan tak lebih dari delapan sampai dua belas dolar per tahun, dan monopoli yang tak mengganggu mereka sepanjang menempatkan perdagangan tersebut, dari dekat Indrapura di utara sampai Titik Datar di selatan, kurang diragukan dalam tingkat keutamaan yang dikaitkan dengan perilaku pekuliar yang membuat belahan pulau tersebut tertutup, menurut para pengamat yang mengamati sepanjang pantai barat daya, dari komunikasi dengan orang-orang asing, yang akan bersaing secara alami untuk menghasilkan dampak dari pemberlakuan harga komoditas. Hal umum juga datang dari perlabuhan, karena banyak kelompok di utara Selat Sunda, sepanjang massa memiliki jalinan dengan para peniaga Tionghoa dan peniaga timur lainnya yang berniat untuk menjalin hubungan yang perlu dilakukan dengan resiko bagi para navigator iyang kurang terampil; selain itu, akan memahaminya sebagai tradisi di kalangan penduduk asli yang berbatasan pada pantai yang tak selama puluhan tahun semenjak belahan tersebut mulai ditinggali, dan mereka berbicara kepada keturunan mereka agar mengirim dari daerah yang lebih pedalaman. Sehingga, kebiasaan alami tersebut nampak, yang mereka pakai untuk lamen sebagai bungkusan terbesar untuk perdagangan mereka, pada kenyataannya dimajukan dalam ukuran yang besar sesuai keberadaannya. Di daerah utara pulau tersebut, yang orang-orangnya berjumlahg banyak dan memiliki pelabuhan-pelabuhan barang, kami juga menemukan penanaman yang lebih independen dan enggan untuk menanam tanaman selain tanaman yang mereka dapat sepakati dengan para pedagang swasta.
CULTIVATION OF PEPPER[sunting]
In the cultivation of pepper (Piper nigrum, L.)* the first circumstance that claims attention, and on which the success materially depends, is the choice of a proper site for the plantation. A preference is usually given to level ground lying along the banks of rivers or rivulets, provided they are not so low as to be inundated, both on account of the vegetable mould commonly found there, and the convenience of water-carriage for the produce. Declivities, unless very gentle, are to be avoided, because the soil loosened by culture is liable in such situations to be washed away by heavy rains. When these plains however are naked, or covered with long grass only, they will not be found to answer without the assistance of the plough and of manure, their fertility being exhausted by exposure to the sun. How far the returns in general might be increased by the introduction of these improvements in agriculture I cannot take upon me to determine; but I fear that, from the natural indolence of the natives, and their want of zeal in the business of pepper-planting, occasioned by the smallness of the advantage it yields to them, they will never be prevailed upon to take more pains than they now do. The planters therefore, depending more upon the natural qualities of the soil than on any advantage it might receive from their cultivation, find none to suit their purpose better than those spots which, having been covered with old woods and long fertilized by decaying foliage and trunks, have recently been cleared for ladangs or padi-fields, in the manner already described; where it was also observed that, being allured by the certainty of abundant produce from a virgin soil, and having land for the most part at will, they renew their toil annually, and desert the ground so laboriously prepared after occupying it for one, or at the furthest for two, seasons. Such are the most usual situations chosen for the pepper plantations (kabun) or gardens, as they are termed; but, independently of the culture of rice, land is very frequently cleared for the pepper in the first instance by felling and burning the trees.
(*Footnote. See Remarks on the Species of Pepper (and on its Cultivation) at Prince of Wales Island, by Dr. William Hunter, in the Asiatic Researches Volume 9 page 383.)
FORMATION OF THE GARDEN[sunting]
The ground is then marked out in form of a regular square or oblong, with intersections throughout at the distance of six feet (being equal to five cubits of the measure of the country), the intended interval between the plants, of which there are commonly either one thousand or five hundred in each garden; the former number being required from those who are heads of families (their wives and children assisting them in their work), and the latter from single men. Industrious or opulent persons sometimes have gardens of two or three thousand vines. A border twelve feet in width, within which limit no tree is suffered to grow, surrounds each garden, and it is commonly separated from others by a row of shrubs or irregular hedge. Where the nature of the country admits of it the whole or greater part of the gardens of a dusun or village lie adjacent to each other, both for the convenience of mutual assistance in labour and mutual protection from wild beasts; single gardens being often abandoned from apprehension of their ravages, and where the owner has been killed in such a situation none will venture to replace him.
After lining out the ground and marking the intersections by slight stakes the next business is to plant the trees that are to become props to the pepper, as the Romans planted elms, and the modern Italians more commonly plant poplars and mulberries, for their grape-vines. These are cuttings of the chungkariang (Erythrina corallodendron), usually called chinkareens, put into the ground about a span deep, sufficiently early to allow time for a shoot to be strong enough to support the young pepper-plant when it comes to twine about it. The cuttings are commonly two feet in length, but sometimes a preference is given to the length of six feet, and the vine is then planted as soon as the chinkareen has taken root: but the principal objections to this method are that in such state they are very liable to fail and require renewal, to the prejudice of the garden; and that their shoots are not so vigorous as those of the short cuttings, frequently growing crooked, or in a lateral instead of a perpendicular direction. The circumstances which render the chinkareen particularly proper for this use are its readiness and quickness of growth, even after the cuttings have been kept some time in bundles,* if put into the ground with the first rains; and the little thorns with which it is armed enabling the vine to take a firmer hold. They are distinguished into two sorts, the white and red, not from the colour of the flowers (as might be supposed) for both are red, but from the tender shoots of the one being whitish and of the other being of a reddish hue. The bark of the former is of a pale ash colour, of the latter brown; the former is sweet, and the food of elephants, for which reason it is not much used in parts frequented by those animals; the latter is bitter and unpalatable to them; but they are not deterred by the short prickles which are common to the branches of both sorts.
(*Footnote. It is a common and useful practice to place these bundles of cuttings in water about two inches deep and afterwards to reject such of them as in that state do not show signs of vegetation.)
Trial has frequently been made of other trees, and particularly of the bangkudu or mangkudu (Morinda citrifolia), but none have been found to answer so well for these vegetating props. It has been doubted indeed whether the growth and produce of the pepper-vine are not considerably injured by the chinkareen, which may rob it of its proper nourishment by exhausting the earth; and on this principle, in other of the eastern islands (Borneo, for instance), the vine is supported by poles in the manner of hops in England. Yet it is by no means clear to me that the Sumatran method is so disadvantageous in the comparison as it may seem; for, as the pepper-plant lasts many years, whilst the poles, exposed to sun and rain, and loaded with a heavy weight, cannot be supposed to continue sound above two seasons, there must be a frequent renewal, which, notwithstanding the utmost care, must lacerate and often destroy the vines. It is probable also that the shelter from the violence of the sun's rays afforded by the branches of the vegetating prop, and which, during the dry monsoon, is of the utmost consequence, may counterbalance the injury occasioned by their roots; not to insist on the opinion of a celebrated writer that trees, acting as siphons, derive from the air and transmit to the earth as much of the principle of vegetation as is expended in their nourishment.
When the most promising shoot of the chinkareen reserved for rearing has attained the height of twelve to fifteen feet (which latter it is not to exceed), or in the second year of its growth, it must be headed or topped; and the branches that then extend themselves laterally, from the upper part only, so long as their shade is required, are afterwards lopped annually at the commencement of the rainy season (about November), leaving little more than the stem; from whence they again shoot out to afford their protection during the dry weather. By this operation also the damage to the plant that would ensue from the droppings of rain from the leaves is avoided.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PEPPER-VINE[sunting]
The pepper-vine is, in its own climate, a hardy plant, growing readily from cuttings or layers, rising in several knotted stems, twining round any neighbouring support, and adhering to it by fibres that shoot from every joint at intervals of six to ten inches, and from which it probably derives a share of its nourishment. If suffered to run along the ground these fibres would become roots; but in this case (like the ivy) it would never exhibit any appearance of fructification, the prop being necessary for encouraging it to throw out its bearing shoots. It climbs to the height of twenty or twenty-five feet, but thrives best when restrained to twelve or fifteen, as in the former case the lower part of the vine bears neither leaves nor fruit, whilst in the latter it produces both from within a foot of the ground. The stalk soon becomes ligneous, and in time acquires considerable thickness. The leaves are of a deep green and glossy surface, heart-shaped, pointed, not pungent to the taste, and have but little smell. The branches are short and brittle, not projecting above two feet from the stem, and separating readily at the joints. The blossom is small and white, the fruit round, green when young and fullgrown, and turning to a bright red when ripe and in perfection. It grows abundantly from all the branches in long small clusters of twenty to fifty grains, somewhat resembling bunches of currants, but with this difference, that every grain adheres to the common stalk, which occasions the cluster of pepper to be more compact, and it is also less pliant.
MODES OF PROPAGATING IT[sunting]
The usual mode of propagating the pepper is by cuttings, a foot or two in length, of the horizontal shoots that run along the ground from the foot of the old vines (called lado sulur), and one or two of these are planted within a few inches of the young chinkareen at the same time with it if of the long kind, or six months after if of the short kind, as before described. Some indeed prefer an interval of twelve months; as in good soil the luxuriancy of the vine will often overpower and bear down the prop, if it has not first acquired competent strength. In such soil the vine rises two or three feet in the course of the first year, and four or five more in the second, by which time, or between the second and third year of its growth, it begins to show its blossom (be-gagang), if in fact it can be called such, being nothing more than the germ of the future bunch of fruit, of a light straw colour, darkening to green as the fruit forms. These germs or blossoms are liable to fall untimely (gugur) in very dry weather, or to be shaken off in high winds (although from this accident the gardens are in general well sheltered by the surrounding woods), when, after the fairest promise, the crop fails.
TURNING DOWN THE VINES[sunting]
In the rainy weather that succeeds the first appearance of the fruit the whole vine is loosened from the chinkareen and turned down again into the earth, a hole being dug to receive it, in which it is laid circularly or coiled, leaving only the extremity above ground, at the foot of the chinkareen, which it now reascends with redoubled vigour, attaining in the following season the height of eight or ten feet, and bearing a full crop of fruit. There is said to be a great nicety in hitting the exact time proper for this operation of turning down; for if it be done too soon, the vines have been known not to bear till the third year, like fresh plants; and on the other hand the produce is ultimately retarded when they omit to turn them down until after the first fruit has been gathered; to which avarice of present, at the expense of future advantage, sometimes inclines the owners. It is not very material how many stems the vine may have in its first growth, but now one only, if strong, or two at the most, should be suffered to rise and cling to the prop: more would be superfluous and only weaken the whole. The supernumerary shoots however are usefully employed, being either conducted through narrow trenches to adjacent chinkareens whose vines have failed, or taken off at the root and transplanted to others more distant, where, coiled round and buried as the former, they rise with the same vigour, and the garden is completed of uniform growth, although many of its original vines have not succeeded. With these offsets or layers (called anggor and tettas) new gardens may be at once formed; the necessary chinkareens being previously planted, and of sufficient growth to receive them.
This practice of turning down the vines, which appears singular but certainly contributes to the duration as well as strength of the plants, may yet amount to nothing more than a substitute for transplantation. Our people observing that vegetables often fail to thrive when permitted to grow up in the same beds where they were first set or sown, find it advantageous to remove them, at a certain period of their growth, to fresh situations. The Sumatrans observing the same failure have had recourse to an expedient nearly similar in its principle but effected in a different and perhaps more judicious mode.
In order to lighten the labour of the cultivator, who has also the indispensable task of raising grain for himself and his family, it is a common practice, and not attended with any detriment to the gardens, to sow padi in the ground in which the chinkareens have been planted, and when this has become about six inches high, to plant the cuttings of the vines, suffering the shoots to creep along the ground until the crop has been taken off, when they are trained to the chinkareens, the shade of the corn being thought favourable to the young plants.
PROGRESS OF BEARING[sunting]
The vines, as has been observed, generally begin to bear in the course of the third year from the time of planting, but the produce is retarded for one or two seasons by the process just described; after which it increases annually for three years, when the garden (about the seventh or eighth year) is esteemed in its prime, or at its utmost produce; which state it maintains, according to the quality of the soil, from one to four years, when it gradually declines for about the same period until it is no longer worth the labour of keeping it in order. From some, in good ground, fruit has been gathered at the age of twenty years; but such instances are uncommon. On the first appearance of decline it should be renewed, as it is termed; but, to speak more properly, another garden should be planted to succeed it, which will begin to bear before the old one ceases.
MODE OF PRUNING[sunting]
The vine having acquired its full growth, and being limited by the height of the chinkareen, sometimes grows bushy and overhangs at top, which, being prejudicial to the lower parts, must be corrected by pruning or thinning the top branches, and this is done commonly by hand, as they break readily at every joint. Suckers too, or superfluous sideshoots (charang), which spring luxuriantly, are to be plucked away. The ground of the garden must be kept perfectly clear of weeds, shrubs, and whatever might injure or tend to choke the plants. During the hot months of June, July, and August the finer kinds of grass may be permitted to cover the ground, as it contributes to mitigate the effects of the sun's power, and preserves for a longer time the dews, which at that season fall copiously; but the rank species, called lalang, being particularly difficult to eradicate, should not be suffered to fix itself, if it can be avoided. As the vines increase in size and strength less attention to the ground is required, and especially as their shade tends to check the growth of weeds. In lopping the branches of the chinkareens preparatory to the rains, some dexterity is required that they may fall clear of the vine, and the business is performed with a sharp prang or bill that generally separates at one stroke the light pithy substance of the bough. For this purpose, as well as that of gathering the fruit, light triangular ladders made of bamboo are employed.
Usai buah buni atau jagung berbulir, bulir tersebut dianggap layak untuk dikumpulkan, sisana kemudian umumnya bertumbuh seutuhnya, meskipun hijau; akan akan ditunggu sampai berubah warna secara menyeluruh, karena terlalu dewasa akan menjadi layu.
MODE OF DRYING AND CLEANSING[sunting]
It is collected in small baskets slung over the shoulder, and with the assistance of the women and children conveyed to a smooth level spot of clean hard ground near the garden or the village, where it is spread, sometimes upon mats, to dry in the sun, but exposed at the same time to the vicissitudes of the weather, which are not much regarded nor thought to injure it. In this situation it becomes black and shrivelled, as we see it in Europe, and as it dries is hand-rubbed occasionally to separate the grains from the stalk. It is then winnowed in large round shallow sieves called nyiru, and put in large vessels made of bark (kulitkayu) under their houses until the whole of the crop is gathered, or a sufficient quantity for carrying (usually by water) to the European factory or gadong at the mouth of the river. That which has been gathered at the properest stage of maturity will shrivel the least; but, if plucked too soon, it will in a short time, by removal from place to place, become mere dust. Of this defect trial may be made by the hand; but as light pepper may have been mixed with the sound it becomes necessary that the whole should be garbled at the scale by machines constructed for the purpose. Pepper that has fallen to the ground overripe and been gathered from thence will be known by being stripped of its outer coat, and in that state is an inferior kind of white pepper.
This was for centuries supposed in Europe to be the produce of a different plant, and to possess qualities superior to those of the common black pepper; and accordingly it sold at a considerably higher price. But it has lost in some measure that advantage since it has been known that the secret depended merely upon the art of blanching the grains of the other sort, by depriving it of the exterior pellicle. For this purpose the ripest red grains are picked out and put in baskets to steep, either in running water (which is preferred), in pits dug for the occasion near the banks of rivers, or in stagnant pools. Sometimes it is only buried in the ground. In any of these situations it swells, and in the course of a week or ten days bursts its tegument, from which it is afterwards carefully separated by drying in the sun, rubbing between the hands, and winnowing. It has been much disputed, and is still undetermined, to which sort the preference ought to be given. The white pepper has this obvious recommendation, that it can be made of no other than the best and soundest grains, taken at their most perfect stage of maturity: but on the other hand it is argued that, by being suffered to remain the necessary time in water, its strength must be considerably diminished; and that the outer husk, which is lost by the process, has a peculiar flavour distinct from that of the heart, and though not so pungent, more aromatic. For the white pepper the planter receives the fourth part of a dollar, or fifteen pence, per bamboo or gallon measure, equal to about six pounds weight. At the sales in England the prices are at this time in the proportion of seventeen to ten or eleven, and the quantity imported has for some years been inconsiderable.
APPEARANCE OF THE GARDENS[sunting]
The gardens being planted in even rows, running parallel, and at right angles with each other, their symmetrical appearance is very beautiful, and rendered more striking by the contrast they exhibit to the wild scenes of nature which surround them. In highly cultivated countries such as England, where landed property is all lined out and bounded and intersected with walls and hedges, we endeavour to give our gardens and pleasure-grounds the charm of variety and novelty by imitating the wildness of nature, in studied irregularities. Winding walks, hanging woods, craggy rocks, falls of water, are all looked upon as improvements; and the stately avenues, the canals, and rectangular lawns of our ancestors, which afforded the beauty of contrast in ruder times are now exploded. This difference of taste is not merely the effect of caprice, nor entirely of refinement, but results from the change of circumstances. A man who should attempt to exhibit in Sumatra the modern or irregular style of laying out grounds would attract but little attention, as the unimproved scenes adjoining on every side would probably eclipse his labours. Could he, on the contrary, produce, amidst its magnificent wilds, one of those antiquated parterres, with its canals and fountains, whose precision he has learned to despise, his work would create admiration and delight. A pepper-garden cultivated in England would not in point of external appearance be considered as an object of extraordinary beauty, and would be particularly found fault with for its uniformity; yet in Sumatra I never entered one, after travelling many miles, as is usually the case, through the woods, that I did not find myself affected with a strong sensation of pleasure. Perhaps the simple view of human industry, so scantily presented in that island, might contribute to this pleasure, by awakening those social feelings that nature has inspired us with, and which make our breasts glow on the perception of whatever indicates the prosperity and happiness of our fellow-creatures.
Once in every year a survey of all the pepper-plantations is taken by the Company's European servants resident at the various settlements, in the neighbourhood of which that article is cultivated. The number of vines in each particular garden is counted; accurate observation is made of its state and condition; orders are given where necessary for further care, for completion of stipulated quantity, renewals, changes of situation for better soil; and rewards and punishments are distributed to the planters as they appear, from the degree of their industry or remissness, deserving of either. Minutes of all these are entered in the survey-book, which, beside giving present information to the chief, and to the governor and council, to whom a copy is transmitted, serves as a guide and check for the survey of the succeeding year. An abstract of the form of the book is as follows. It is divided into sundry columns, containing the name of the village; the names of the planters; the number of chinkareens planted; the number of vines just planted; of young vines, not in a bearing state, three classes or years; of young vines in a bearing state, three classes; of vines in prime; of those on decline; of those that are old, but still productive; the total number; and lastly the quantity of pepper received during the year. A space is left for occasional remarks, and at the conclusion is subjoined a comparison of the totals of each column, for the whole district or residency, with those of the preceding year. This business the reader will perceive to be attended with considerable trouble, exclusive of the actual fatigue of the surveys, which from the nature of the country must necessarily be performed on foot, in a climate not very favourable to such excursions. The journeys in few places can be performed in less than a month, and often require a much longer time.
The arrival of the Company's Resident at each dusun is considered as a period of festivity. The chief, together with the principal inhabitants, entertain him and his attendants with rustic hospitality, and when he retires to rest, his slumbers are soothed, or interrupted, by the songs of young females, who never fail to pay this compliment to the respected guest; and receive in return some trifling ornamental and useful presents (such as looking-glasses, fans, and needles) at his departure.
SUCCESSION OF GARDENS[sunting]
The inhabitants, by the original contracts of the headmen with the Company, are obliged to plant a certain number of vines; each family one thousand, and each young unmarried man five hundred; and, in order to keep up the succession of produce, so soon as their gardens attain to their prime state, they are ordered to prepare others, that they may begin to bear as the old ones fall off; but as this can seldom be enforced till the decline becomes evident, and as young gardens are liable to various accidents which older ones are exempt from, the succession is rendered incomplete, and the consequence is that the annual produce of each district fluctuates, and is greater or less in the proportion of the quantity of bearing vines to the whole number. To enter minutely into the detail of this business will not afford much information or entertainment to the generality of readers, who will however be surprised to hear that pepper-planting, though scarcely an art, so little skill appears to be employed in its cultivation, has nevertheless been rendered an abstruse science by the investigations which able men have bestowed upon the subject. These took their rise from censures conveyed for supposed mismanagement, when the investment, or annual provision of pepper, decreased in comparison with preceding years, and which was not satisfactorily accounted for by unfavourable seasons. To obviate such charges it became necessary for those who superintended the business to pay attention to and explain the efficient causes which unavoidably occasioned this fluctuation, and to establish general principles of calculation by which to determine at any time the probable future produce of the different residencies. These will depend upon a knowledge of the medium produce of a determinate number of vines, and the medium number to which this produce is to be applied; both of which are to be ascertained only from a comprehensive view of the subject, and a nice discrimination. Nothing general can be determined from detached instances. It is not the produce of one particular plantation in one particular stage of bearing and in one particular season, but the mean produce of all the various classes of bearing vines collectively, drawn from the experience of several years, that can alone be depended on in calculations of this nature. So in regard to the median number of vines presumed to exist at any residency in a future year, to which the medium produce of a certain number, one thousand, for instance, is to be applied, the quantity of young vines of the first, second, and third year must not be indiscriminately advanced, in their whole extent, to the next annual stage, but a judicious allowance founded on experience must be made for the accidents to which, in spite of a resident's utmost care, they will be exposed. Some are lost by neglect or death of the owner; some are destroyed by inundations, others by elephants and wild buffaloes, and some by unfavourable seasons, and from these several considerations the number of vines will ever be found considerably decreased by the time they have arrived at a bearing state. Another important object of consideration in these matters is the comparative state of a residency at any particular period with what may be justly considered as its medium state. There must exist a determinate proportion between any number of bearing vines and such a number of young as are necessary to replace them when they go off and keep up a regular succession. This will depend in general upon the length of time before they reach a bearing state and during which they afterwards continue in it. If this certain proportion happens at any time to be disturbed the produce must become irregular. Thus, if at any period the number of bearing vines shall be found to exceed their just proportion to the total number, the produce at such period is to be considered as above the mean, and a subsequent decrease may with certainty be predicted, and vice versa. If then this proportion can be known, and the state of population in a residency ascertained, it becomes easy to determine the true medium number of bearing vines in that residency.
There are, agreeably to the form of the survey book, eleven stages or classes of vines, each advanced one year. Of these classes six are bearing and five young. If therefore the gardens were not liable to accidents, but passed on from column to column undiminished, the true proportion of the bearing vines to the young would be as six to five, or to the total, as six to eleven. But the various contingencies above hinted at must tend to reduce this proportion; while, on the other hand, if any of the gardens should continue longer than is necessary to pass through all the stages on the survey-book, or should remain more than one year in a prime state, these circumstances would tend to increase the proportion. What then is the true medium proportion can only be determined from experience, and by comparing the state of a residency at various successive periods. In order to ascertain this point a very ingenious gentleman and able servant of the East India Company, Mr. John Crisp, to whom I am indebted for the most part of what I have laid before the reader on this part of the subject, drew out in the year 1777 a general comparative view of Manna residency, from the surveys of twelve years, annexing the produce of each year. From the statement it appeared that the proportion of the bearing vines to the whole number in that district was no more than 5.1 to 11, instead of 6 to 11, which would be the proportion if not reduced by accidents; and further that, when the whole produce of the twelve years was diffused over the whole number of bearing vines during that period, the produce of one thousand vines came out to be four hundred and fifty-three pounds, which must therefore be estimated as the medium produce of that residency. The same principle of calculation being applied to the other residencies, it appeared that the mean annual produce of one thousand vines, in all the various stages of bearing, taken collectively throughout the country, deduced from the experience of twelve years, was four hundred and four pounds. It likewise became evident from the statements drawn out by that gentleman that the medium annual produce of the Company's settlements on the west coast of Sumatra ought to be estimated at twelve hundred tons, of sixteen hundred weight; which is corroborated by an average of the actual receipts for any considerable number of years.
Thus much will be sufficient to give the reader an idea of pepper-planting as a kind of science. How far in a commercial light this produce answers the Company's views in supporting the settlements, is foreign from my purpose to discuss, though it is a subject on which not a little might be said. It is the history of the island and its inhabitants, and not of the European interests, that I attempt to lay before the public.
SPECIES OF PEPPER[sunting]
The natives distinguish three species of pepper, which are called at different places by different names. At Laye, in the Rejang country, they term them lado kawur, lado manna, and lado jambi, from the parts where each sort is supposed to prevail, or from whence it was first brought to them. The lado kawur, or Lampong pepper, is the strongest plant, and bears the largest leaf and fruit; is slower in coming to perfection than the second, but of much longer duration. The leaf and fruit of the lado manna are somewhat smaller, and it has this peculiarity, that it bears soon and in large quantities, but seldom passes the third or fourth year's crop. The jambi, which has deservedly fallen into disrepute, is of the smallest leaf and fruit, very short-lived, and not without difficulty trained to the chinkareen. In some places to the southward they distinguish two kinds only, lado sudul and lado jambi. Lado sulur and lado anggor are not distinctions of species; the former denoting the cuttings of young creeping shoots commonly planted, in opposition to the latter, which is the term for planting by layers.
The season of the pepper-vines bearing, as well as that of most other fruit-trees on Sumatra, is subject to great irregularities, owing perhaps to the uncertainty of the monsoons, which are not there so strictly periodical as on the western side of India. Generally speaking however the pepper produces two crops in the year; one called the greater crop (pupul agung) between the months of October and March; the other called the lesser or half crop (buah sello) between the months of April and September, which is small in proportion as the former has been considerable, and vice versa. Sometimes in particular districts they will be employed in gathering it in small quantities during the whole year round, whilst perhaps in others the produce of that year is confined to one crop; for, although the regular period between the appearance of the blossom and maturity is about four months, the whole does not ripen at once, and blossoms are frequently found on the same vine with green and ripe fruit. In Laye residency the principal harvest of pepper in the year 1766 was gathered between the months of February and May; in 1767 and 1768 about September and October; in 1778 between June and August; and for the four succeeding years was seldom received earlier than November and December. Long-continued droughts, which sometimes happen, stop the vegetation of the vines and retard the produce. This was particularly experienced in the year 1775, when, for a period of about eight months, scarcely a shower of rain fell to moisten the earth. The vines were deprived of their foliage, many gardens perished and a general destruction was expected. But this apparent calamity was attended with a consequence not foreseen, though analogous to the usual operations of nature in that climate. The natives, when they would force a tree that is backward to produce fruit, strip it of its leaves, by which means the nutritive juices are reserved for that more important use, and the blossoms soon begin to show themselves in abundance. A similar effect was displayed in the pepper gardens by the inclemency of the season. The vines, as soon as the rains began to descend, threw out blossoms in a profusion unknown before; old gardens which had been unprolific for two or three years began to bear; and accordingly the crop of 1776/1777 considerably surpassed that of many preceding years.
TRANSPORTATION OF PEPPER[sunting]
The pepper is mostly brought down from the country on rafts (rakit), which are sometimes composed of rough timbers, but usually of large bamboos, with a platform of split bamboos to keep the cargo dry. They are steered at both head and stern, in the more rapid rivers with a kind of rudder, or scull rather, having a broad blade fixed in a fork or crutch. Those who steer are obliged to exert the whole strength of the body in those places especially where the fall of water is steep, and the course winding; but the purchase of the scull is of so great power that they can move the raft bodily across the river when both ends are acted upon at the same time. But, notwithstanding their great dexterity and their judgment in choosing the channel, they are liable to meet with obstruction in large trees and rocks, which, from the violence of the stream, occasion their rafts to be overset, and sometimes dashed to pieces.
It is a generally received opinion that pepper does not sustain any damage by an immersion in seawater; a circumstance that attends perhaps a fourth part of the whole quantity shipped from the coast. The surf, through which it is carried in an open boat, called a sampan lonchore, renders such accidents unavoidable. This boat, which carries one or two tons, being hauled up on the beach and there loaded, is shoved off, with a few people in it, by a number collected for that purpose, who watch the opportunity of a lull or temporary intermission of the swell. A tambangan, or long narrow vessel, built to contain from ten to twenty tons, (peculiar to the southern part of the coast), lies at anchor without to receive the cargoes from the sampans. At many places, where the kwallas, or mouths of the rivers, are tolerably practicable, the pepper is sent out at once in the tambangans over the bar; but this, owing to the common shallowness of the water and violence of the surfs, is attended with considerable risk. Thus the pepper is conveyed either to the warehouses at the head-settlement or to the ship from Europe lying there to receive it. About one-third part of the quantity of black pepper collected, but none of the white, is annually sent to China. Of the extent and circumstances of the trade in pepper carried on by private merchants (chiefly American) at the northern ports of Nalabu, Susu, and Mukki, where it is managed by the subjects of Achin, I have not any accurate information, and only know that it has increased considerably during the last twelve years.
NUTMEGS AND CLOVES[sunting]
It is well known with what jealousy and rigour the Batavian government has guarded against the transplantation of the trees producing nutmegs and cloves from the islands of Banda and Amboina to other parts of India. To elude its vigilance many attempts have been made by the English, who considered Sumatra to be well adapted, from its local circumstances, to the cultivation of these valuable spices; but all proved ineffectual, until the reduction of the eastern settlements in 1796 afforded the wished for opportunity, which was eagerly seized by Mr. Robert Broff, at that period chief of the Residency of Fort Marlborough. As the culture is now likely to become of importance to the trade of this country, and the history of its introduction may hereafter be thought interesting, I shall give it in Mr. Broff's own words:
The acquisition of the nutmeg and clove plants became an object of my solicitude the moment I received by Captain Newcombe, of his Majesty's ship Orpheus, the news of the surrender of the islands where they are produced; being convinced, from the information I had received, that the country in the neighbourhood of Bencoolen, situated as it is in the same latitude with the Moluccas, exposed to the same periodical winds, and possessing the same kind of soil, would prove congenial to their culture. Under this impression I suggested to the other members of the Board the expediency of freighting a vessel for the twofold purpose of sending supplies to the forces at Amboina, for which they were in distress, and of bringing in return as many spice-plants as could be conveniently stowed. The proposition was acceded to, and a vessel, of which I was the principal owner (no other could be obtained), was accordingly dispatched in July 1806; but the plan was unfortunately frustrated by the imprudent conduct of a person on the civil establishment to whom the execution was entrusted. Soon afterwards however I had the good fortune to be more successful, in an application I made to Captain Hugh Moore, who commanded the Phoenix country ship, to undertake the importation, stipulating with him to pay a certain sum for every healthy plant he should deliver.
Complete success attended the measure: he returned in July 1798, and I had the satisfaction of planting myself, and distributing for that purpose, a number of young nutmeg and a few clove trees in the districts of Bencoolen and Silebar, and other more distant spots, in order to ascertain from experience the situations best adapted to their growth. I particularly delivered to Mr. Charles Campbell, botanist, a portion to be under his own immediate inspection; and another to Mr. Edward Coles, this gentleman having in his service a family who were natives of a spice island and had been used to the cultivation. When I quitted the coast in January 1799 I had the gratification of witnessing the prosperous state of the plantations, and of receiving information from the quarters where they had been distributed of their thriving luxuriantly; and since my arrival in England various letters have reached me to the same effect. To the merit therefore of introducing this important article, and of forming regulations for its successful culture, I put in my exclusive claim; and am fully persuaded that if a liberal policy is adopted it will become of the greatest commercial advantage to the Company and to the nation.
Further light will be thrown upon this subject and the progress of the cultivation by the following extract of a letter to me from Mr. Campbell, dated in November 1803:
Early in the year 1798 Mr. Broff, to whom the highest praise is due for his enterprising and considerative scheme of procuring the spice trees from our newly-conquered islands (after experiencing much disappointment and want of support) overcame every obstacle, and we received, through the agency of Mr. Jones, commercial resident at Amboina, five or six hundred nutmeg plants, with about fifty cloves; but these latter were not in a vigorous state. They were distributed and put generally under my inspection. Their culture was attended with various success, but Mr. Coles, from the situation of his farm, near Silebar River but not too close to the seashore, and from, I believe, bestowing more personal attention than any of us, has outstripped his competitors. Some trees which I planted as far inland as the Sugar-loaf Mountain blossomed with his, but the fruit was first perfected in his ground. The plants were dispatched from Amboina in March 1798, just bursting from the shell, and two months ago I plucked the perfect fruit, specimens of which I now send you; being a period of five years and nine months only; whereas in their native land eight years at least are commonly allowed. Having early remarked the great promise of the trees I tried by every means in my power to interest the Bengal government in our views, and at length, by the assistance of Dr. Roxburgh, I succeeded.
SECOND IMPORTATION OF PLANTS[sunting]
A few months ago his son arrived here from Amboina, with twenty-two thousand nutmeg plants, and upwards of six thousand cloves, which are already in my nurseries, and flourishing like those which preceded them. About the time the nutmegs fruited one clove tree flowered. Only three of the original importation had survived their transit and the accidents attending their planting out. Its buds are now filling, and I hope to transmit specimens of them also. The Malay chiefs have eagerly engaged in the cultivation of their respective shares. I have retained eight thousand nutmegs as a plantation from which the fruit may hereafter be disseminated. Every kind of soil and every variety of situation has been tried. The cloves are not yet widely dispersed, for, being a tender plant, I choose to have them under my own eye.
Since the death of Mr. Campbell Mr. Roxburgh has been appointed to the superintendence, and the latest accounts from thence justify the sanguine expectations formed of the ultimate importance of the trade; there being at that period upwards of twenty thousand nutmeg trees in full bearing, capable of yielding annually two hundred thousand pounds weight of nutmegs, and fifty thousand pounds of mace. The clove plants have proved more delicate, but the quality of their spice equal to any produced in the Moluccas.
CULTURE LEFT TO INDIVIDUALS[sunting]
It is understood that the Company has declined the monopoly of the trade and left the cultivation to individual exertion; directing however that its own immediate plantations be kept up by the labour of convicts from Bengal, and reserving to itself an export duty of ten per cent on the value of the spices.
Among the valuable productions of the island as articles of commerce a conspicuous place belongs to the camphor.
This peculiar substance, called by the natives kapur-barus,* and distinguished by the epithet of native camphor from another sort which shall be mentioned hereafter, is a drug for which Sumatra and Borneo have been celebrated from the earliest times, and with the virtues of which the Arabian physicians appear to have been acquainted. Chemists formerly entertained opinions extremely discordant in regard to the nature and the properties of camphor; and even at this day they seem to be but imperfectly known. It is considered however as a sedative and powerful diaphoretic: but my province is to mention such particulars of its history as have come within my knowledge, leaving to others to investigate its most beneficial uses.
(*Footnote. The word kapur appears to be derived from the Sanskrit karpura, and the Arabic and Persian kafur (from whence our camphor) to have been adopted from the language of the country where the article is produced. Barus is the name of a place in Sumatra.)
PLACE OF GROWTH[sunting]
The tree is a native of the northern parts of the island only, not being found to the southward of the line, nor yet beyond the third degree of north latitude. It grows without cultivation in the woods lying near to the sea-coast, and is equal in height and bulk to the largest timber trees, being frequently found upwards of fifteen feet in circumference.
For carpenters' purposes the wood is in much esteem, being easy to work, light, durable, and not liable to be injured by insects, particularly by the kumbang, a species of the bee, whose destructive perforations have been already mentioned; but is also said to be more affected than most others by the changes of the atmosphere. The leaf is small, of a roundish oval, the fibres running straight and parallel to each other, and terminates in a remarkably long and slender point. The flower has not yet been brought to England. The fruit is described by C.F. Gaertner (De Seminibus Volume 3 page 49 tab. 186) by the name of Dryobalanops aromatica, from specimens in the collection of Sir Joseph Banks; but he has unaccountably mistaken it for the cinnamon tree, and spoken of it as a native of Ceylon. It is also described, from the same specimens, by M. Correa de Serra (Annales du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle Tome 10 page 159 plate 8) by the name of Pterigium teres; without any reference whatever to the nature of the tree as yielding this valuable drug. A beautiful engraving of its very peculiar foliage has been made under the direction of Mr. A.B. Lambert.
CAMPHOR FOUND IN THE FISSURES[sunting]
The camphor is found in the concrete state in which we see it, in natural fissures or crevices of the wood, but does not exhibit any exterior appearance by which its existence can be previously ascertained, and the persons whose employment it is to collect it usually cut down a number of trees, almost at random, before they find one that contains a sufficient quantity to repay their labour, although always assisted in their research by a professional conjurer, whose skill must be chiefly employed in concealing or accounting for his own mistakes. It is said that not a tenth part of the number felled is productive either of camphor or of camphor-oil (meniak kapur), although the latter is less rare; and that parties of men are sometimes engaged for two or three months together in the forests, with very precarious success. This scarcity tends to enhance the price. The tree when cut down is divided transversely into several blocks, and these again are split with wedges into small pieces, from the interstices of which the camphor, if any there be, is extracted. That which comes away readily in large flakes, almost transparent, is esteemed the prime sort or head; the smaller, clean pieces are considered as belly, and the minute particles, chiefly scraped from the wood, and often mixed with it, are called foot; according to the customary terms adopted in the assortment of drugs. The mode of separating it from these and other impurities is by steeping and washing it in water, and sometimes with the aid of soap. It is then passed through sieves or screens of different apertures in order to make the assortment, so far as that depends upon the size of the grains; but much of the selection is also made by hand, and particular care is taken to distinguish from the more genuine kinds that which is produced by an artificial concretion of the essential oil.
The inquiries I formerly made on the subject (not having been myself in the district where the tree grows) led me to believe with confidence that the oil and the dry crystallized resin were not procured from the same individual tree; but in this I was first undeceived by Mr. R. Maidman, who in June 1788 wrote to me from Tappanuli, where he was resident, to the following effect:
I beg your acceptance of a piece of camphor-wood, the genuine quality of which I can answer for, being cut by one of my own people, who was employed in making charcoal, of which the best for smiths' work is made from this wood. On cutting deep into a pretty large tree the fine oil suddenly gushed out and was lost for want of a receiver. He felled the tree, and, having split it, brought me three or four catties (four or five pounds) of the finest camphor I ever saw, and also this log, which is very rich. My reason for being thus particular is that the country people have a method of pouring oil of inferior camphor-trees into a log of wood that has natural cracks, and, by exposing this to the sun every day for a week, it appears like genuine camphor; but is the worst sort.
This coexistence of the two products has been since confirmed to me by others, and is particularly stated by Mr. Macdonald in his ingenious paper on certain Natural Productions of Sumatra, published in the Asiatic Researches Volume 4 Calcutta 1795. It seems probable on the whole that, as the tree advances in age, a greater proportion of this essential oil takes a concrete form, and it has been observed to me that, when the fresh oil has been allowed to stand and settle, a sediment of camphor is procured; but the subject requires further examination by well-informed persons on the spot.
Head camphor is usually purchased from those who procure it at the rate of six Spanish dollars the pound, or eight dollars the catty, and sells in the China market at Canton for nine to twelve dollars the pound, or twelve to fifteen hundred dollars the pekul of a hundred catties or one hundred thirty-three pounds and a third, avoirdupois. When of superior quality it sells for two thousand dollars, and I have been assured that some small choice samples have produced upwards of thirty dollars per catty.* It is estimated that the whole quantity annually brought down for sale on the western side of the island does not exceed fifty pekul. The trade is chiefly in the hands of the Achinese settled at Sinkell, who buy the article from the Batta people and dispose of it to the Europeans and Chinese settlers.
(*Footnote. See Price Currents of the China trade. Camphor was purchased in Sumatra by Commodore Beaulieu in 1622 at the rate of fifteen Spanish dollars for twenty-eight ounces, which differs but little from the modern price. In the Transactions of the Society at Batavia it appears that the camphor of Borneo sells in their market for 3200 rix dollars, and that of Japan for 50 rix dollars the pekul.)
It has been commonly supposed that the people of China or Japan prepare a factitious substance resembling native camphor, and impregnated with its virtues by the admixture of a small quantity of the genuine, which is sold to the Dutch factory for thirty or forty dollars the pekul, sent to Holland, and afterwards refined to the state in which we see it in our shops, where it is sold at eight to twelve shillings the pound. It appears however an extraordinary circumstance that any article could possibly be so adulterated, bearing at the same time the likeness and retaining the sensible qualities of its original, as that the dealers should be enabled, with profit to themselves to resell it for the fiftieth part of the price they gave. But, upon inquiry of an ingenious person long resident in China, I learned that the Japan camphor is by no means a factitious substance, but the genuine produce of a tree growing in abundance in the latter country, different in every character from that of Sumatra or Borneo, and well known to our botanists by the name of Laurus camphora, L. He further informed me that the Chinese never mix the Sumatran camphor with that from Japan, but purchase the former for their own use, at the before-mentioned extravagant price, from an idea of its efficacy, probably superstitious, and export the latter as a drug not held in any particular estimation. Thus we buy the leaves of their tea-plant at a high rate and neglect herbs, the natives of our own soil, possessing perhaps equal virtues. It is known also that the Japan camphor, termed factitious, will evaporate till it wholly disappears, and at all stages of its diminution retain its full proportion of strength; which does not seem the property of an adulterated or compounded body. Kaempfer informs us that it is prepared from a decoction of the wood and roots of the tree cut into small pieces; and the form of the lumps in which it is brought to us shows that it has undergone a process. The Sumatran sort, though doubtless from its extreme volatility it must be subject to decrease, does not lose any very sensible quantity from being kept, as I find from the experience of many years that it has been in my possession. It probably may not be very easy to ascertain its superiority over the other in the materia medica, not being brought for sale to this country, nor generally administered; but from a medical person who practised at Bencoolen I learned that the usual dose he gave was from half a grain to one or two grains at the most. The oil, although hitherto of little importance as an article of commerce, is a valuable domestic medicine, and much used by the natives as well as Europeans in cases of strains, swellings, and rheumatic pains; its particles, from their extreme subtlety, readily entering the pores. It undergoes no preparation, and is used in the state in which, upon incision, it has distilled from the tree. The kayu putih (Melaleuca leucadendron) oil, which is somewhat better known in England, is obtained in the same manner; but to procure the meniak kayu or common wood-oil, used for preserving timber or boards exposed to the weather, from decay, and for boiling with dammar to pay the bottoms of ships and boats, the following method is practised. They make a transverse incision into the tree to the depth of some inches, and then cut sloping down from the notch, till they leave a flat superficies. This they hollow out to a capacity to receive about a quart. They then put into the hollow a bit of lighted reed, and let it remain for about ten minutes, which, acting as a stimulus, draws the fluid to that part. In the space of a night the liquor fills the receptacle prepared for it, and the tree continues to yield a lesser quantity for three successive nights, when the fire must be again applied: but on a few repetitions it is exhausted.
Benzoin or Benjamin (Styrax benzoin*) called by the Malays kaminian, is, like the camphor, found almost exclusively in the Batta country, to the northward of the equator, but not in the Achinese dominions immediately beyond that district. It is also met with, though rarely, south of the line, but there, either from natural inferiority or want of skill in collecting it, the small quantity produced is black and of little value. The tree does not grow to any considerable size, and is of no value as timber. The seeds or nuts, which are round, of a brown colour, and about the size of a moderate bolus, are sown in the padi-fields and afterwards require no other cultivation than to clear away the shrubs from about the young plants. In some places, especially near the sea-coast, large plantations of it are formed, and it is said that the natives, sensible of the great advantage accruing to them from the trade, in a national point of view, oblige the proprietors, by legal regulation, to keep up the succession.
(*Footnote. See a Botanical Description of this tree by my friend Mr. Jonas Dryander, with a plate, in Volume 77 page 307 of the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1787.)
MODE OF PROCURING IT[sunting]
When the trees have attained the age of about seven years, and are six or eight inches in diameter, incisions are made in the bark, from whence the balsam or gum (as it is commonly termed, although being soluble in spirits and not in water, it is rather a resin) exudes, which is carefully pared off. The purest of the gum, or Head benzoin, is that which comes from these incisions during the first three years, and is white, inclining to yellow, soft, and fragrant; after which it gradually changes to the second sort, which is of a reddish yellow, degenerating to brown; and at length when the tree, which will not bear a repetition of the process for more than ten or twelve years, is supposed to be worn out, they cut it down, and when split in pieces procure, by scraping, the worst sort, or Foot benzoin, which is dark coloured, hard, and mixed more or less with parings of the wood and other impurities. The Head is further distinguished into Europe and India-head, of which the first is superior, and is the only sort adapted to the home market: the latter, with most of the inferior sorts, is exported to Arabia,* Persia, and some parts of India, where it is burned to perfume with its smoke their temples and private houses, expel troublesome insects, and obviate the pernicious effects of unwholesome air or noxious exhalations; in addition to which uses, in the Malayan countries, it is always considered as a necessary part of the apparatus in administering an oath. It is brought down from the country for sale in large cakes, called tampang, covered with mats; and these, as a staple commodity, are employed in their dealings for a standard of value, to which the price of other things have reference, as in most parts of the world to certain metals. In order to pack it in chests it is necessary to soften the coarser sorts with boiling water; for the finer it is sufficient to break the lumps and to expose it to the heat of the sun. The greater part of the quantity brought to England is re-exported from thence to countries where the Roman Catholic and Mahometan religions prevail, to be there burnt as incense in the churches and temples.** The remainder is chiefly employed in medicine, being much esteemed as an expectorant and styptic, and constitutes the basis of that valuable balsam distinguished by the name of Turlington, whose very salutary effects, particularly in healing green and other wounds, is well known to persons abroad who cannot always obtain surgical assistance. It is also employed, if I am not misinformed, in the preparation of court sticking-plaster. The gum or resin called dulang is named by us scented benzoin from its peculiar fragrance. The rasamala (Lignum papuanum of Rumphius, and Altingia excelsa of the Batavian Transactions) is a sort of wild benzoin, of little value, and not, in Sumatra, considered as an object of commerce.
(*Footnote. Les Arabes tirent beaucoup d'autres sortes d'encens de l'Habbesch, de Sumatra, Siam, Java, etc. et parmi celles-la une qu'ils appellent Bachor (bakhor) Java, et que les Anglois nomment Benzoin, est tres semblable a l'Oliban. On en exporte en grande quantite en Turquie parles golfes d'Arabie et de Perse, et la moindre des trois especes de Benzoin, que les marchands vendent, est estimee meilleure que l'Oliban d'Arabie. Niebuhr, Description de l'Arabie page 126.)
(**Footnote. According to Mr. Jackson the annual importation of Benzoin at Mogodor from London is about 13,000 pounds annually.)
Cassia or kulit manis (Laurus cassia) is a coarse species of cinnamon which flourishes chiefly, as well as the two foregoing articles, in the northern part of the island; but with this difference, that the camphor and benzoin grow only near the coast, whereas the cassia is a native of the central parts of the country. It is mostly procured in those districts which lie inland of Tapanuli, but it is also found in Musi, where Palembang River takes its rise. The leaves are about four inches long, narrower than the bay (to which tribe it belongs) and more pointed; deep green; smooth surface, and plain edge. The principal fibres take their rise from the peduncle. The young leaves are mostly of reddish hue. The blossoms grow six in number upon slender footstalks, close to the bottom of the leaf. They are monopetalous, small, white, stellated in six points. The stamina are six, with one stile, growing from the germen, which stands up in three brownish segments, resembling a cup. The trees grow from fifty to sixty feet high, with large, spreading, horizontal branches, almost as low as the earth. The root is said to contain much camphor that may be obtained by boiling or other processes unknown on Sumatra. No pains is bestowed on the cultivation of the cassia. The bark, which is the part in use, is commonly taken from such of the trees as are a foot or eighteen inches diameter, for when they are younger it is said to be so thin as to lose all its qualities very soon. The difference of soil and situation alters considerably the value of the bark. Those trees which grow in a high rocky soil have red shoots, and the bark is superior to that which is produced in a moist clay, where the shoots are green. I have been assured by a person of extensive knowledge that the cassia produced on Sumatra is from the same tree which yields the true cinnamon, and that the apparent difference arises from the less judicious manner of quilling it. Perhaps the younger and more tender branches should be preferred; perhaps the age of the tree or the season of the year ought to be more nicely attended to; and lastly I have known it to be suggested that the mucilaginous slime which adheres to the inside of the fresh peeled rind does, when not carefully wiped off, injure the flavour of the cassia and render it inferior to that of the cinnamon. I am informed that it has been purchased by Dutch merchants at our India sales, where it sometimes sold to much loss, and afterwards by them shipped for Spain as cinnamon, being packed in boxes which had come from Ceylon with that article. The price it bears in the island is about ten or twelve dollars the pecul.
Rattans or rotan (Calamus rotang) furnish annually many large cargoes, chiefly from the eastern side of the island, where the Dutch buy them to send to Europe; and the country traders for the western parts of India. Walking-canes, or tongkat, of various kinds, are also produced near the rivers which open to the straits of Malacca.
In almost every part of the country two species of cotton are cultivated, namely, the annual sort named kapas (Gossypium herbaceum), and the shrub cotton named kapas besar (Gossypium herboreum). The cotton produced from both appears to be of very good quality, and might, with encouragement, be procured in any quantities; but the natives raise no more than is necessary for their own domestic manufactures. The silk cotton or kapok (bombax) is also to be met with in every village. This is, to appearance, one of the most beautiful raw materials the hand of nature has presented. Its fineness, gloss, and delicate softness render it, to the sight and touch, much superior to the labour of the silkworm; but owing to the shortness and brittleness of the staple it is esteemed unfit for the reel and loom, and is only applied to the unworthy purpose of stuffing pillows and mattresses. Possibly it has not undergone a fair trial in the hands of our ingenious artists, and we may yet see it converted into a valuable manufacture. It grows in pods, from four to six inches long, which burst open when ripe. The seeds entirely resemble the black pepper, but are without taste. The tree is remarkable from the branches growing out perfectly straight and horizontal, and being always three, forming equal angles, at the same height: the diminutive shoots likewise grow flat; and the several gradations of branches observe the same regularity to the top. Some travellers have called it the umbrella tree, but the piece of furniture called a dumb-waiter exhibits a more striking picture of it.
The betel-nut or pinang (Areca catechu) before mentioned is a considerable article of traffic to the coast of Coromandel or Telinga, particularly from Achin.
The coffee-trees are universally planted, but the fruit produced here is not excellent in quality, which is probably owing entirely to the want of skill in the management of them. The plants are disposed too close to each other, and are so much overshaded by other trees that the sun cannot penetrate to the fruit; owing to which the juices are not well ripened, and the berries, which become large, do not acquire a proper flavour. Add to this that the berries are gathered whilst red, which is before they have arrived at a due degree of maturity, and which the Arabs always permit them to attain to, esteeming it essential to the goodness of the coffee. As the tree is of the same species with that cultivated in Arabia there is little doubt but with proper care this article might be produced of a quality equal, perhaps superior, to that imported from the West Indies; though probably the heavy rains on Sumatra may prevent its attaining to the perfection of the coffee of Mocha.*
(*Footnote. For these observations on the growth of the coffee, as well as many others on the vegetable productions of the island, I am indebted to the letters of Mr. Charles Miller, entered on the Company's records at Bencoolen, and have to return him my thanks for many communications since his return to England. On the subject of this article of produce I have since received the following interesting information from the late Mr. Charles Campbell in a letter dated November 1803. "The coffee you recollect on this coast I found so degenerated from want of culture and care as not to be worth the rearing. But this objection has been removed, for more than three years ago I procured twenty-five plants from Mocha; they produced fruit in about twenty months, are now in their second crop, and loaded beyond any fruit-trees I ever saw. The average produce is about eight pounds a tree; but so much cannot be expected in extensive plantations, nor in every soil. The berries are in no respect inferior in flavour to those of the parent country." This cultivation, I am happy to hear, has since been carried to a great extent.)
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PLATE 2. THE DAMMAR, A SPECIES OF PINUS.
Sinensis delt. Swaine Sc.
Published by W. Marsden, 1810.
The dammar is a kind of turpentine or resin from a species of pine, and used for the same purposes to which that and pitch are applied. It is exported in large quantities to Bengal and elsewhere. It exudes, or flows rather, spontaneously from the tree in such plenty that there is no need of making incisions to procure it. The natives gather it in lumps from the ground where it has fallen, or collect it from the shores of bays and rivers whither it has floated. It hangs from the bough of the tree which produces it in large pieces, and hardening in the air it becomes brittle and is blown off by the first high wind. When a quantity of it has fallen in the same place it appears like a rock, and thence, they say, or more probably from its hardness, it is called dammar batu; by which name it is distinguished from the dammar kruyen. This is another species of turpentine, yielded by a tree growing in Lampong, called kruyen, the wood of which is white and porous. It differs from the common sort, or dammar batu, in being soft and whitish, having the consistence and somewhat the appearance of putty. It is in much estimation for paying the bottoms of vessels, for which use, to give it firmness and duration, it ought to be mixed with some of the hard kind, of which it corrects the brittleness. The natives, in common, do not boil it, but rub or smear it on with their hands; a practice which is probably derived from indolence, unless, as I have been informed, that boiling it, without oil, renders it hard. To procure it, an incision is made in the tree.
Dragons-blood, Sanguis draconis, or jaranang, is a drug obtained from a large species of rattan, called rotan jaranang, growing abundantly in the countries of Palembang and Jambi, where it is manufactured and exported, in the first instance to Batavia, and from thence to China, where it is held in much estimation; but whether it be precisely the drug of our shops, so named, I cannot take upon me to determine. I am informed that it is prepared in the following manner: the stamina and other parts of fructification of this plant, covered with the farina, are mixed with a certain proportion of white dammar, and boiled in water until the whole is well incorporated, and the water evaporated; by which time the composition has acquired a red colour, and, when rubbed between the fingers, comes off in a dry powder. Whilst soft, it is usually poured into joints of small bamboo, and shipped in that state. According to this account, which I received from my friend Mr. Philip Braham, who had an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the process, the resinous quality of the drug belongs only to the dammar, and not to the rotan.
Gambir, or gatah gambir, is a juice extracted from the leaves of a plant of that name, inspissated by decoction, strained, suffered to cool and harden, and then cut into cakes of different shapes, or formed into balls. It is very generally eaten by the natives with their sirih or betel, and is supposed to have the property of cleansing and sweetening the mouth; for which reason it is also rubbed to the gums of infants. For a minute detail of the culture and manufacture of this article at Malacca see the Batavian Transactions Volume 2 page 356, where the plant is classed between the portlandia and roella of L. In other places it is obtained from a climbing or trailing plant, evidently the Funis uncatus of Rumphius.* See also Observations on the Nauclea Gambir, by Mr. W. Hunter, in the Linnean Transactions Volume 9 page 218. At Siak, Kampar, and Indragiri, on the eastern side of Sumatra, it is an important article of commerce.
(*Footnote. Hoc unum adhuc addendum est, in Sumatra nempe ac forte in Java aliam quoque esse plantam repentem gatta gambir akar dictam, qum forte unae eaedemque erunt plantae; ac verbum akar Malaiensibus denotat non tantum radicem, sed repentem quoque fruticem. Volume 5 page 64.)
The agallochin, agila-wood, or lignum aloes, called by the natives kalambak and kayu gahru, is highly prized in all parts of the East, for the fragrant scent it emits in burning. I find these two names used indiscriminately in Malayan writings, and sometimes coupled together; but Valentyn pronounces the gahru to be an inferior species, and the Batavian Catalogue describes it as the heart of the rasamala, and different from the genuine kalambak. This unctuous substance, which burns like a resin, is understood to be the decayed, and probably disordered, part of the tree. It is described by Kaempfer (Amaenit page 903) under the Chinese name of sinkoo, and by Dr. Roxburgh under that of Aquillaria agallocha.
The forests contain an inexhaustible store and endless variety of timber trees, many sorts of which are highly valuable and capable of being applied to ship-building and other important purposes. On the western coast the general want of navigable rivers has materially hindered both the export and the employment of timber; but those on the eastern side, particularly Siak, have heretofore supplied the city of Batavia with great abundance, and latterly the naval arsenal at Pulo Pinang with what is required for the construction of ships of war.
The teak however, the pride of Indian forests, called by the Malays jati (Tectona grandis, L.), does not appear to be indigenous to this island, although flourishing to the northward and southward of it, in Pegu and Java; and I believe it is equally a stranger to the Malayan peninsula. Attempts have been made by the servants of the Company to promote its cultivation. Mr. Robert Hay had a plantation near Bencoolen, but the situation seemed unfavourable. Mr. John Marsden, when resident of Laye in the year 1776, sowed some seeds of it, and distributed a quantity amongst the inhabitants of his district. The former, at least, throve exceedingly, as if in their natural soil. The appearance of the tree is stately, the leaves are broad and large, and they yield, when squeezed, a red juice. The wood is well known to be, in many respects, preferable to oak, working more kindly, surpassing it in durability, and having the peculiar property of preserving the iron bolts driven into it from rust; a property that may be ascribed to the essential oil or tar contained in it, and which has lately been procured from it in large quantities by distillation at Bombay. Many ships built at that place have continued to swim so long that none could recollect the period at which they were launched.
For masts and yards the wood preferred is the red bintangur (a species of uvaria), which in all the maritime parts of India has obtained the name of poon or puhn, from the Malayan word signifying tree in general; as puhn upas, the poison-tree, puhn kayu, a timber-tree, etc.
The camphor-wood, so useful for carpenters' purposes, has been already mentioned.
Kayu pindis or kapini (species of metrosideros), is named also kayu besi, or iron-wood, on account of its extraordinary hardness, which turns the edge of common tools.
Marbau (Metrosideros amboinensis, R.) grows to a large size, and is used for beams both in ship and housebuilding, as well as for other purposes to which oak is applied in Europe. Pinaga is valuable as crooked timber, and used for frames and knees of ships, being also very durable. It frequently grows in the wash of the sea.
Juar, ebony, called in the Batavian Catalogue kayu arang, or charcoal-wood, is found here in great plenty.
Kayu gadis, a wood possessing the flavour and qualities of the sassafras, and used for the same purposes in medicine, but in the growth of the tree resembling rather our elm than the laurus (to which latter tribe the American sassafras belongs), is very common in the plains near Bencoolen.
Kayu arau (Casuarina littorea) is often termed a bastard-pine, and as such gave name to the Isle of Pines discovered by Captain Cook. By the Malays it is usually called kayu chamara, from the resemblance of its branches to the ornamental cowtails of Upper India. It has been already remarked of this tree, whose wood is not particularly useful, that it delights in a low sandy soil, and is ever the first that springs up from land relinquished by the sea.
The rangas or rungi, commonly supposed to be the manchineel of the West Indies, but perhaps only from the noxious quality of its juices, is the Arbor vernicis of Rumphius, and particularly described in the Batavian Transactions Volume 5 under the name of Manga deleteria sylvestris, fructu parvo cordiformi. In a list of plants in the same volume, by F. Norona, it is termed Anacardium encardium. The wood has some resemblance to mahogany, is worked up into articles of furniture, and resists the destructive ravages of the white ant, but its hardness and acrid sap, which blisters the hands of those employed about it, are objections to its general use. I am not aware of the natives procuring a varnish from this tree.
Of the various sorts of tree producing dammar, some are said to be valuable as timber, particularly the species called dammar laut, not mentioned by Rumphius, which is employed at Pulo Pinang for frame timbers of ships, beams, and knees.
Kamuning (camunium, R. chalcas paniculata, Lour.) is a light-coloured wood, close, and finely grained, takes an exquisite polish, and is used for the sheaths of krises. There is also a red-grained sort, in less estimation. The appearance of the tree is very beautiful, resembling in its leaves the larger myrtle, with a white flower.
The langsani likewise is a wood handsomely veined, and is employed for cabinet and carved work.
Beside these the kinds of wood most in use are the madang, ballam, maranti, laban, and marakuli. The variety is much greater, but many, from their porous nature and proneness to decay, are of very little value, and scarcely admit of seasoning before they become rotten.
I cannot quit the vegetable kingdom without noticing a tree which, although of no use in manufacture or commerce, not peculiar to the island, and has been often described, merits yet, for its extreme singularity, that it should not be passed over in silence. This is the jawi-jawi and ulang-ulang of the Malays, the banyan tree of the continent, the Grossularia domestica of Rumphius, and the Ficus indica or Ficus racemosa of Linnaeus. It possesses the uncommon property of dropping roots or fibres from certain parts of its boughs, which, when they touch the earth, become new stems, and go on increasing to such an extent that some have measured, in circumference of the branches, upwards of a thousand feet, and have been said to afford shelter to a troop of horse.* These fibres, that look like ropes attached to the branches, when they meet with any obstruction in their descent conform themselves to the shape of the resisting body, and thus occasion many curious metamorphoses. I recollect seeing them stand in the perfect shape of a gate long after the original posts and cross piece had decayed and disappeared; and I have been told of their lining the internal circumference of a large bricked well, like the worm in a distiller's tub; there exhibiting the view of a tree turned inside out, the branches pointing to the centre, instead of growing from it. It is not more extraordinary in its manner of growth than whimsical and fantastic in its choice of situations. From the side of a wall or the top of a house it seems to spring spontaneously. Even from the smooth surface of a wooden pillar, turned and painted, I have seen it shoot forth, as if the vegetative juices of the seasoned timber had renewed their circulation and begun to produce leaves afresh. I have seen it flourish in the centre of a hollow tree of a very different species, which however still retained its verdure, its branches encompassing those of the adventitious plant whilst its decayed trunk enclosed the stem, which was visible, at interstices, from nearly the level of the plain on which they grew. This in truth appeared so striking a curiosity that I have often repaired to the spot to contemplate the singularity of it. How the seed from which it is produced happens to occupy stations seemingly so unnatural is not easily determined. Some have imagined the berries carried thither by the wind, and others, with more appearance of truth, by the birds; which, cleansing their bills where they light, or attempt to light, leave, in those places, the seeds adhering by the viscous matter which surrounds them. However this be, the jawi-jawi, growing on buildings without earth or water, and deriving from the genial atmosphere its principle of nourishment, proves in its increasing growth highly destructive to the fabric where it is harboured; for the fibrous roots, which are at first extremely fine, penetrate common cements, and, overcoming as their size enlarges the most powerful resistance, split, with the force of the mechanic wedge, the most substantial brickwork. When the consistence is such as not to admit the insinuation of the fibres the root extends itself along the outside, and to an extraordinary length, bearing not unfrequently to the stem the proportion of eight to one when young. I have measured the former sixty inches, when the latter, to the extremity of the leaf, which took up a third part, was no more than eight inches. I have also seen it wave its boughs at the apparent height of two hundred feet, of which the roots, if we may term them such, occupied at least one hundred; forming by their close combination the appearance of a venerable gothic pillar. It stood near the plains of Krakap, but, like other monuments of antiquity, it had its period of existence, and is now no more.
(*Footnote. The following is an account of the dimensions of a remarkable banyan or burr tree, near Manjee, twenty miles west of Patna in Bengal. Diameter 363 to 375 feet. Circumference of shadow at noon 1116 feet. Circumference of the several stems, in number fifty or sixty, 921 feet. Under this tree sat a naked Fakir, who had occupied that situation for twenty-five years; but he did not continue there the whole year through, for his vow obliged him to lie, during the four cold months, up to his neck in the waters of the river Ganges.)
<a name="sumatra-18"></a><img alt="" src="images/sumatra-18.jpg"> PLATE 18. ENTRANCE OF PADANG RIVER. With Buffaloes.
<a name="sumatra-18a"></a><img alt="" src="images/sumatra-18a.jpg">
PLATE 18A. VIEW OF PADANG HILL.
Published by W. Marsden, 1810.