Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/18

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A SKETCH OF

The pirates continued their depredations with success until the year 1721, when the nations of Europe, alarmed at the enormous losses sustained by their commerce, finally united to clear the Indian Ocean from these depredators. The capture of two Portuguese vessels of war by the pirates on the same day, on board of one of which were the Count Receisa and the Archbishop of Goa, aroused the attention of Europe to the formidable proportions which the power of the pirates had assumed.

Elated with their past successes the pirates made a long resistance. Considerable squadrons were required to oppose them, and the most rigorous and exemplary punishments were inflicted upon them. Their vessels were pursued to the most secret recesses of the coast and there destroyed by fire.

The loss of their ships deprived the pirates of the means of interrupting the commerce between India and Europe, and confined them to their settlements on the coast of Madagascar. Forced to give up their wandering and predatory life, they plunged into a different kind of villainy, which has left upon their memory a deeper stain. The source of wealth which they had lost in being shut out from the plunder of richly freighted ships, they might compensate for by a sale of the natives as slaves. And in the pursuit of this plan, they were favored and protected by European powers, since it was a common source of enrichment to all.

As a means of procuring slaves the pirates stimulated their former friends the natives to frequent wars, and for the captives which either party made they gave in exchange firearms and ammunition, which, while being much coveted by the natives, served to incite to further wars and bloodshed among them. And in this respect we can hardly see any difference between the wars thus got up and the recent war of rebellion among us, since that war originated in the avowed purpose of maintaining the system of slavery which these Madagascar pirates were thus laboring to build up.

Before that period, the trifling divisions among the natives, arising from their peculiar social yet barbarous habits, never lasted long, nor left traces of deadly animosity behind them; but by this double system of treachery and bloodshed, the whole country was involved in all the miseries of violently agitated and ferocious passions, which have since diffused over the entire population every species of suffering, outrage and crime. The pirates did more than merely instigate the islanders to these internecine wars. Numerous instances are related, in