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FOREMOST among the distinguished of early French voyagers was Louis Antoine de Bougainville, born in 1729 and deceased in 1811. He was of wealthy parentage, and had such advantages, which he diligently improved, that after entering the military service as aid-decamp to Gen. Chevert he gave his spare time to the preparation of a work on integral calculus, the highest branch of mathematics, which he published before he was scarce twenty-five years of age. He afterwards acted as secretary of the French Embassy to London, and in 1756 served in the war between Canada and France, as aid-de-camp to Montcalm. In 1761 he was in a short campaign on the Rhine, where he displayed great bravery, and early in 1763 he entered the navy, but as his country was then at peace, he sought and obtained permission to establish a settlement on the Falkland Islands, at his own expense, but the attempt proved a disastrous failure.

The Falkland Islands, called by Bougainville Isles Malouines, having subsequently been the subject of much dispute, after an attempt originally made by the French King and then by Bougainville to settle them, it was at last in 1764 decided to accede to a demand made by Spain, who claimed them as an appendage to South America, and to surrender their possession to the Spaniards. Mons. de Bougainville, a member of the French Embassy and afterwards an attache of the court of Napoleon, was accordingly commissioned to execute the official transfer. Under the instructions of his government, he set sail for South America on the 15th of November, 1766. His fleet consisted of three vessels, named the Boudeuse, Esmeralda, and the Liebre. Owing to contrary winds and false reckoning, Bougainville did not arrive at the Rio de La Plata until the 30th of January, when he came to anchor in the Bay of Montevideo on the following day, where he found two Spanish ships awaiting him and on one of which he found Don Philip Ruis Puente who had been appointed provisional governor of the Falkland Islands; owing to the excessively stormy weather, it became necessary for the two to make a land journey to Buenos Ayres in order to settle with the viceroy there the terms and conditions of the cession. The country being wild, there were no roads, and the guides which they took
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with them served them indifferently well. During the expedition Bougainville and Puente slept in small hovels, covered over with the skins of wild animals, while their condition was not improved by the hideous howlings of savage beasts during the night. Coming to the river St. Lucia, which was wide, deep, and extremely rapid, their only means of crossing was a long, narrow canoe, which, singularly enough, was propelled across by attaching horses to either side, which were made to swim and tow the canoe with them. The canoe not being large enough to accommodate the party, one of the attachés made the crossing on the back of a horse, but barely escaped drowning, being washed far down by the turbulency of the stream. But without serious adventure they arrived at Buenos Ayres and transacted their business with the viceroy to the satisfaction of both governments. Bougainville then returned to Montevideo, and assisted the new Spanish governor of the Falkland Islands in transferring a number of cattle to the islands; but this was not accomplished without very great difficulty, owing to the disastrous storms that drove the ships about at their mercy, almost dismantling them, and besides killing a greater number of the cattle in making the passage.


After waiting at the Falkland Islands until June, 1767, in the expectation of a supply-ship reaching him at that point, and being disappointed in her arrival, Bougainville returned to Montevideo which had been appointed as a meeting place, in case the supply-ship for any reason was not able to reach the Falkland Islands at the time fixed upon when he departed from Brest; for, in addition to his orders to perfect the cession of the islands to the Spaniards, he had additional commands from the French King to accomplish, if possible, a voyage around the world, in the expectation of attaching new lands to the French crown.

Directly after Bougainville's return to Montevideo, the supply-ship Etoile arrived with provisions sufficient to last the expedition nearly two years whereupon Bougainville directly began his preparations for an early start for the South Seas. But though the viceroy had been very obliging in his demeanor, and signified his consent to a request made by
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Bougainville for permission to purchase a sloop, he afterwards changed his mind, and interposed a hundred obstacles to prevent the French from getting certain necessary supplies which could only be had from the Spaniards, and in every way showed his intention of detaining them as long as possible. It was, therefore, not until the middle of November that Bougainville took his departure from Montevideo and sailed to the Island of St. Elizabeth. Though the wind was fair at their departure, two days later the sea ran high, and a storm came on which lasted for more than a week, and resulted in great damage to the vessels as well as the loss of a considerable part of their provisions, which became water-soaked. But they had the good fortune to reach the Cape of Virgins, on the Patagonian. coast, without more serious mishap, and running southward, after other difficulties, they entered Magellan's Strait on the 4th of December.


While the ship was passing through the strait, the French observed on shore a number of Patagonian horsemen, partially clothed in the skins of beasts, who ran at their best speed in order to keep pace with the vessels. They also carried a small white flag, which had been carefully preserved for many years, having been a present to them by some Spaniards who had landed on their shores in one of the early voyages. At length, finding a suitable anchorage in Boucault's Bay, several officers from the two vessels, the Etoile and Boudeuse, first providing themselves with arms, went on shore. Scarcely had the officers landed when half a dozen of the natives made their appearance on horses, riding at full speed, and when within fifty yards of the French they dismounted and came forward, pronouncing a word of welcome. Bougainville received from these Patagonians a number of the skins of guanacos and other beasts, in exchange for trinkets on which they set a great value. Some of the Frenchmen having red clothes on, the natives advanced and exhibited their delight at the gay coloring, by affectionately stroking them. The Patagonians seemed to be familiar with fire-arms and tobacco, but when a small quantity of brandy was given each of them, they no sooner drank it than they struck their hands repeatedly against their throats and blew with their mouths in a manner to produce a kind of trembling sound, at the conclusion of which they had a singular quivering of the lips, altogether exhibiting their great alarm for the consequences. Thereafter Bougainville landed at several points on both the shores of "Terra del Fuego and of Patagonia, everywhere meeting with generous hospitality from the natives, who appeared to receive the French with great veneration.


This treatment, and mutually profitable exchange, continued for nearly a month, until one day the crews of the boats landed and went to the house of some of the Terra del Fuegans, who entertained their guests with dancing and singing until their mirth was interrupted by an accident as fatal as it was unexpected. A boy of one of the Fuegans was discovered to be suddenly seized with a great pain which increased until he was thrown into violent convulsions and the spitting of blood. It was soon ascertained that the boy had been on the Etoile, where he had been presented by a seaman with some pieces of glass, and as it is the custom of the natives to put such things up their nostrils or into their mouths, it was immediately concluded that the child had thus disposed of the pieces of glass from the effects of which he was now suffering. It may be also added that the Fuegans have been frequently known to swallow a substance resembling glass, probably pieces of shell, as a preventative remedy against certain disorders to which they are liable. The lips, palate and gums of the boy were severely cut, and as he was bleeding freely the Indians conceived an idea that the French had treated him with some violence, which gave rise to a distrust that speedily manifested itself, for as the boy wore a linen jacket which had been given to him by a seaman, it was torn off of him by a native and thrown violently at the feet of Bougainville. Being unwilling to trust to the surgical skill of their visitors, some of the natives proposed to administer to the wants of the suffering child. This was done by laying the boy upon his back, whereupon a conjurer knelt between his legs, and pressing the body forcibly with his hands, uttered a number of inarticulate
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vociferations. At repeated intervals during this ceremony the conjurer arose, and opening his hands which had been before closed, he blew in the air with the purpose of driving away some evil spirit with which he believed the boy to be afflicted. This superstitious treatment was assisted by an ancient native woman who shouted at the utmost of her voice into the ears of the child, probably supposing that by this means the evil that afflicted him might be driven away. But the condition of the boy remaining unimproved, the conjurer after a while retired, and then returned dressed in a very singular disguise;--his hair had been whitened with powdered chalk and upon his head he wore two wings taken from a bird, while his body was painted in various colors, and thus attired he repeated his incantations and blew clouds of tobacco smoke upon the sufferer, but with no better success than before. Seeing that the boy was in a dying condition, all the natives manifested their sympathy in a flood of tears, which excited like compassion in the French, seeing which the Fuegans mitigated their distrust and at length permitted the surgeon to examine the mouth of the youth. But examination showed that the glass had evidently been swallowed and that nothing further could be done to relieve him, and the boy died at two o'clock the following morning. At his expiration the natives set up loud cries which they continued until daybreak, and then took their departure from the place which had been so peculiarly fatal to them. Nor could they be induced to return and renew their friendly relations with the French.


On the 26th of January, 1768, and after a passage of seven weeks and three days, Bougainville emerged from the Strait of Magellan, the length of which is computed at 340 miles. Being well provisioned, and his ships in good order, he started directly upon his journey across the Pacific, in accordance with the orders of his king. His immediate quest was for what was called Davis' land, which was said to have been first seen by some Frenchmen in 1686. But Bougainville was unable to discover any islands at a point laid down in the chart which he carried; nor did he see any land until the latter part of March, when he came upon four very small islands to which he gave the name of The Facardins. But though he observed on the shore tempting cocoa-nut groves and a great abundance of beautiful flowers, as well as of birds, in the absence of a suitable harbor he continued on his course without landing. Two days later he came in sight of another small island, upon the shore of which he discovered a number of natives bearing long lances, who, at the sight of the vessel, disappeared in the thick woods which there abounded. Along the coast were dangerous breakers, which caused Bougainville to stand off for a day, hoping that some of the natives would put out to visit him in canoes. But being disappointed, he continued around the island, but nowhere finding a suitable anchorage, he was compelled to abandon the idea of landing. Thereafter, he found several other islands, which he named, but was unable to conduct a personal investigation, owing to the uninviting and tempestuous weather which he continually encountered. About this time his crew was attacked with scurvy, the evil effects of which, however, he successfully combatted by the issuing of a pint of lemonade and a powder specially recommended to each of the men, and in the adoption of wise sanitary measures. His supply of fresh water also ran short, which compelled him to the experiment of distilling sea water. The method he adopted is not described, but it seems to have been successful; for he used the water thus procured in boiling meat and making broth, though he relates that he was compelled to use salt water in the making of bread.


On the 4th of April Bougainville observed another large island, at which he purposed landing, in a horse-shoe, forming a fine bay, and which promised a fine anchorage. While his ships were standing in towards the land, a boat was seen approaching, which directly after crossed ahead of the ship, and joined a number of other canoes which had assembled as if intent on either attacking the ship or welcoming its passengers. Out of this assemblage of boats proceeded one which was rowed by twelve Indians, all of whom were naked, but it advanced toward the ship and the occupants held up branches of the banana tree, which Bougainville considering as tokens of friendship, he endeavored to express his peaceful intentions by waving a white cloth; whereupon the natives rowed alongside the
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Boudeuse, and a rope being lowered to the canoe, one of the islanders affixed to it a branch of the banana tree and a quantity of the fruit, and also a small pig, in return for which Bougainville threw down to the occupants of the canoe several hankerchiefs and caps, after which a friendly intercourse immediately began between the natives and their white visitors. Seeing their friends so well entertained, the other islanders, who had awaited the result of the visit of those sent on before, now rowed down upon the ship, until presently it was surrounded by more than a hundred boats laden with bananas, cocoa-nuts, and fruits of various kinds, which they eagerly exchanged with the French for such trinkets and articles as their visitors had to give. Bougainville describes the place of his anchorage as being a most delightful and safe spot, within a perfect horse-shoe, while the shores of the island rose to great heights, and were everywhere clothed with the finest verdure. The coast, which was level ground, was sheltered by mountains, and abounded with cocoa-nut and other trees, beneath the inviting shades of which were situated the houses of the inhabitants. A short distance from this harbor, he saw a silvery cascade breaking through a high cleft of a mountain, and dashing down into the sea, producing at once a remarkable and magnificent effect. On the following day, the natives came back to the ships in even greater numbers than before, bringing with them, in addition to fruits such as they had previously bartered, fowls, pigeons, cloths of bark, shells, and other things, which they eagerly exchanged for earrings and pieces of iron.


The historian of the voyage writes: "These parties dealt with the same ease and mutual confidence as they had done on the preceding day; and among the number of visitors were several women whose clothes barely sufficed to hide those charms which could not fail to attract the ravished eyes of the seamen. One of the Indians slept all night on board the Etoile and seemed not to entertain a shadow of fear. On the third day the boats put out in even greater number, and were crowded with young women whose beauty of face was at least equal to that of the ladies of Europe, and their symmetry of body was superior. Almost all of them were naked, the old men and women having taken previous care to divest them of those coverings which might otherwise have prevented their charms from taking the wished for effect."

Despite the efforts of Bougainville and the officers of the vessel, some of these beautiful island women contrived to get on board the ships, and their presence served to throw the crews into a wild disorder; and Bougainville himself makes confessions in nowise creditable to his strength of will under sore temptation. Finding the natives so hospitably inclined, and their island so productive, Bougainville and some of his officers went on shore with the purpose of obtaining a supply of water and to familiarize themselves with the productions of the island. No sooner had they landed than the natives flocked around them in incredible numbers, regarding them with looks of inexpressible
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curiosity. Some of the natives, bolder than the rest, came and touched the French, and actually tore off their clothes in order to find if they were formed like themselves. But they offered them no further indignity and seemed to have been ashamed of taking so much liberty. Among the great number that had assembled, Bougainville observed one very old islander, who appeared to be a chief, in which conjecture he was not disappointed; for presently receiving an invitation, he retired with the chief to his house, and received many manifestations of a tender hospitality. The old man was a truly venerable figure, whose long white beard and hair added dignity to his person, which was exceedingly graceful and well formed. He had none of the decrepitude of age; no wrinkles were on his face, and his body was smooth and fleshy.


The house of this chief was very large, being as much as 20 feet in width and 80 in length, and was covered with a thatch, from which hung a cylinder adorned with black feathers; but the purpose of this strange figure Bougainville was not able to ascertain. There were also observed two wooden figures, which served as idols, but he was unable to determine what kind of devotions the islanders paid to them. Having gratified his curiosity in observing the house and its furnishing, Bougainville was invited by the chief to a feast, which was provided on a grass-plat in front of the residence, where was set before him a collation of broiled fish, game, and cold water, and a variety of fruits. While the French were regaling themselves, the chief caused to be produced two collars, formed of osiers, and adorned with sharks' teeth and black feathers. These collars resembled the prodigious ruffs in the reign of Francis the First, and were put upon the necks of Bougainville and the gentlemen of his party, as a testimony of the honor which the chief felt for the visit which they had paid him.

Retiring to his ship after the feast, Bougainville was visited by many other natives, and on the following day the chief himself came on board, and was treated to an entertainment in the evening, in which a band of musicians discoursed European airs to the great delight of the natives. Thereafter there was a display of fire-works, at which, however, the natives were more terrified than delighted. The name of the chief who had thus so agreeably treated Bougainville was Ereti, who never tired of paying attention to his French visitors; and every condition being so inviting for a long stay on the island, the commander decided to pitch his tents on shore there and remain for at least a period of eighteen days. At first, there was some distrust exhibited by the natives, who seemed to entertain the suspicion that the French intended to take permanent possession of their beautiful island, but upon being assured to the contrary, they omitted no effort to administer to the comfort and pleasure of their visitors.


Bougainville took the necessary precautions to insure his safety in case of hostility, but those provisions proved entirely unnecessary; for very soon the trustfulness of the French was such that they went about freely, unarmed, in any part of the island which they wished to visit, and considerable expeditions were undertaken to remote parts, by which journeys the French were enabled to obtain a thorough knowledge of the productions and topographical characteristics of the islands as well as of the habits of the natives. But to the shame of the voyagers, it must be said that they availed themselves of liberties which reflect severely upon the morals of the commander; and, worse yet, these violations of decency are reported by Bougainville in such language as would bring a blush to the face of any refined reader.

Towards the latter part of their visit, the French fell into some difficulty by unfortunate misunderstandings, which resulted in the killing of four of the natives. The circumstances of the tragedy, however, were not fully ascertained by Bougainville; but he reconciled the natives, who had fled from his camp in terror, by assurances of his intention to punish the perpetrators, and by gifts of large quantities of cloths aud silks to the chief. Trouble with the natives being overcome, Bougainville was congratulating himself on its fortunate termination when suddenly his peaceful prospects were disturbed by a violent storm, which caused the hawser of the Etoile to part, and which drove that vessel down on to the Boudeuse. For a while it appeared that both ships must certainly be destroyed. At the most critical moment, however, the wind veered, which enabled the crew to cast another anchor, and save the vessels from further drifting.

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