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July 18, 1686

The 18th day of July we arrived before the river of Mindanao, the mouth of which lies in latitude 6 degrees 22 minutes north and is laid in 231 degrees 12 minutes longitude west, from the Lizard in England. We anchored right against the river in 15 fathom water, clear hard sand, about two miles from the shore and three or four miles from a small island that lay without us to the southward. We fired seven or nine guns, I remember not well which, and were answered again with three from the shore; for which we gave one again.


Immediately after our coming to an anchor Raja Laut and one of the sultan’s sons came off in a canoe, being rowed with ten oars, and demanded in Spanish what we were? and from whence we came? Mr. Smith (he who was taken prisoner at Leon in Mexico) answered in the same language that we were English, and that we had been a great while out of England. They told us that we were welcome and asked us a great many questions about England; especially concerning our East India merchants; and whether we were sent by them to settle a factory here? Mr. Smith told them that we came hither only to buy provision. They seemed a little discontented when they understood that we were not come to settle among them: for they had heard of our arrival on the east side of the island a great while before, and entertained hopes that we were sent purposely out of England hither to settle a trade with them; which it should seem they are very desirous of. For Captain Goodlud had been here not long before to treat with them about it; and when he went away told them (as they said) that in a short time they might expect an ambassador from England to make a full bargain with them.


Indeed upon mature thoughts I should think we could not have done better than to have complied with the desire they seemed to have of our settling here; and to have taken up our quarters among them. For as thereby we might better have consulted our own profit and satisfaction than by the other loose roving way of life; so it might probably have proved of public benefit to our nation and been a means of introducing an English settlement and trade, not only here, but through several of the Spice Islands which lie in its neighbourhood.

For the islands Meangis, which I mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, lie within twenty leagues of Mindanao. These are three small islands that abound with gold and cloves, if I may credit my author Prince Jeoly, who was born on one of them and was at that time a slave in the city of Mindanao. He might have been purchased by us of his master for a small matter, as he was afterwards by Mr. Moody (who came hither to trade and laded a ship with clove-bark) and by transporting him home to his own country we might have gotten a trade there. But of Prince Jeoly I shall speak more hereafter. These islands are as yet probably unknown to the Dutch who, as I said before, endeavour to engross all the spice into their own hands.

There was another opportunity offered us here of settling on another Spice Island that was very well inhabited: for the inhabitants fearing the Dutch and understanding that the English were settling at Mindanao, their sultan sent his nephew to Mindanao while we were there to invite us thither: Captain Swan conferred with him about it divers times, and I do believe he had some inclination to accept the offer; and I am sure most of the men were for it: but this never came to a head for want of a true
understanding between Captain Swan and his men, as may be declared hereafter.

Beside the benefit which might accrue from this trade with Meangis and other the Spice Islands the Philippine Islands themselves, by a little care and industry, might have afforded us a very beneficial trade, and all these trades might have been managed from Mindanao by settling there first. For that island lies very convenient for trading either to the Spice Islands or to the rest of the Philippine Islands: since, as its
soil is much of the same nature with either of them, so it lies as it were in the centre of the gold and spice-trade in these parts, the islands north of Mindanao abounding most in gold, and those south of Meangis in spice.


As the island Mindanao lies very convenient for trade, so, considering its distance, the way thither may not be over-long and tiresome. The course that I would choose should be to set out of England about the latter end of August, and to pass round Tierra del Fuego, and so, stretching over towards New Holland, coast it along that shore till I came near to Mindanao; or first I would coast down near the American shore as far as I found convenient and then direct my course accordingly for the island. By this I should avoid coming near any of the Dutch settlements and be sure to meet always with a constant brisk easterly trade-wind after I was once past Tierra del Fuego. Whereas in passing about the Cape of Good Hope, after you are shot over the East Indian Ocean and are come to the islands, you must pass through the Straits of Malacca or Sunda, or else some other straits east from Java, where you will be sure to meet with country-winds, go on which side of the Equator you please; and this would require ordinarily seven or eight months for the voyage, but the other I should hope to perform in six or seven at most. In your return from thence also you must observe the same rule as the Spaniards do in going from Manila to Acapulco; only as they run towards the North Pole for variable winds, so you must run to the southward till you meet with a wind that will carry you over to Tierra del Fuego. There are places enough to touch at for refreshment, either going or coming. You may touch going thither on either side of Terra Patagonia, or, if you please, at the Galapagos Islands, where there is refreshment enough; and returning you may probably touch somewhere on New Holland, and so make some profitable discovery in these places without going out of your way. And to speak my thoughts freely, I believe it is owing to the neglect of this easy way that all that vast tract of Terra Australis which bounds the South Sea is yet undiscovered: those that cross that sea seeming to design some business on the Peruvian or Mexican coast, and so leaving that at a distance. To confirm which I shall add what Captain Davis told me lately that, after his departure from us at the haven of Realejo (as is mentioned in the 8th chapter) he went, after several traverses, to the Galapagos, and that, standing thence southward for wind to bring him about Tierra del Fuego in the latitude of 27 south, about 500 leagues from Copayapo on the coast of Chile, he saw a small sandy island just by him; and that they saw to the westward of it a long tract of pretty high land tending away toward the north-west out of sight. This might probably be the coast of Terra Australis Incognita.


But to return to Mindanao; as to the capacity we were then in, of settling ourselves at Mindanao, although we were not sent out of any such design of settling, yet we were as well provided, or better, considering
all circumstances, than if we had. For there was scarce any useful trade but some or other of us understood it. We had sawyers, carpenters, joiners, brick-makers, bricklayers, shoemakers, tailors, etc. We only wanted a good smith for great work; which we might have had at Mindanao. We were very well provided with iron, lead, and all sorts of tools, as saws, axes, hammers, etc. We had powder and shot enough, and very good small arms. If we had designed to build a fort we could have spared 8 or 10 guns out of our ship and men enough to have managed it, and any affair of trade beside. We had also a great advantage above raw men that are sent out of England into these places, who proceed usually too
cautiously, coldly, and formally to compass any considerable design, which experience better teaches than any rules whatsoever; besides the danger of their lives in so great and sudden a change of air: whereas we
were all inured to hot climates, hardened by many fatigues, and in general, daring men, and such as would not be easily baffled. To add one thing more, our men were almost tired and began to desire a quietus est;
and therefore they would gladly have seated themselves anywhere. We had a good ship too, and enough of us (beside what might have been spared to manage our new settlement) to bring the news with the effects to the owners in England: for Captain Swan had already five thousand pound in gold, which he and his merchants received for goods sold mostly to Captain Harris and his men: which if he had laid but part of it out in spice, as probably he might have done, would have satisfied the merchants to their hearts’ content. So much by way of digression.

To proceed therefore with our first reception at Mindanao, Raja Laut and his nephew sat still in their canoe, and would not come aboard us; because, as they said, they had no orders for it from the sultan. After about half an hour’s discourse they took their leaves; first inviting Captain Swan ashore and promising to assist him in getting provision; which they said at present was scarce, but in three or four month’s time the rice would be gathered in and then he might have as much as he pleased: and that in the meantime he might secure his ship in some convenient place for fear of the westerly winds which they said would be very violent at the latter end of this month and all the next, as we found them.


We did not know the quality of these two persons till after they were gone; else we should have fired some guns at their departure: when they were gone a certain officer under the sultan came aboard and measured our ship. A custom derived from the Chinese, who always measure the length and breadth, and the depth of the hold of all ships that come to load there: by which means they know how much each ship will carry. But what reason this custom is used either by the Chinese or Mindanao men I could never learn: unless the Mindanayans design by this means to improve their skill in shipping, against they have a trade.


Captain Swan, considering that the season of the year would oblige us to spend some time at this island, thought it convenient to make what interest he could with the sultan; who might afterwards either obstruct
or advance his designs. He therefore immediately provided a present to send ashore to the sultan, namely, three yards of scarlet cloth, three yards of broad gold lace, a Turkish scimitar and a pair of pistols: and
to Raja Laut he sent three yards of scarlet cloth and three yards of silver lace. This present was carried by Mr. Henry More in the evening. He was first conducted to Raja Laut’s house; where he remained till report thereof was made to the sultan, who immediately gave order for all things to be made ready to receive him.

About nine o’clock at night a messenger came from the sultan to bring the present away. Then Mr. More was conducted all the way with torches and armed men till he came to the house where the sultan was. The sultan with eight or ten men of his council were seated on carpets, waiting his coming. The present that Mr. More brought was laid down before them, and was very kindly accepted by the sultan, who caused Mr. More to sit down by them and asked a great many questions of him. The discourse was in Spanish by an interpreter. This conference lasted about an hour and then he was dismissed and returned again to Raja Laut’s house. There was a supper provided for him, and the boat’s crew; after which he returned aboard.

The next day the sultan sent for Captain Swan: he immediately went ashore with a flag flying in the boat’s head and two trumpets sounding all the way. When he came ashore he was met at his landing by two principal officers, guarded along with soldiers and abundance of people gazing to see him. The sultan waited for him in his chamber of audience, where Captain Swan was treated with tobacco and betel, which was all his entertainment.


The sultan sent for two English letters for Captain Swan to read, purposely to let him know that our East India merchants did design to settle here, and that they had already sent a ship hither. One of these
letters was sent to the sultan from England by the East India merchants. The chiefest things contained in it, as I remember, for I saw it afterwards in the secretary’s hand, who was very proud to show it to us,
was to desire some privileges in order to the building of a fort there. This letter was written in a very fair hand; and between each line there was a gold line drawn. The other letter was left by Captain Goodlud,
directed to any English-men who should happen to come thither. This related wholly to trade, giving an account at what rate he had agreed with them for goods of the island, and how European goods should be sold to them with an account of their weights and measures, and their difference from ours.


The rate agreed on for Mindanao gold was 14 Spanish dollars (which is a current coin all over India) the English ounce, and 18 dollars the Mindanao ounce. But for beeswax and clove-bark I do not remember the
rates, neither do I well remember the rates of Europe commodities; but I think the rate of iron was not above 4 dollars a hundred. Captain Goodlud’s letter concludes thus. “Trust none of them, for they are all
thieves, but tace is Latin for a candle.” We understood afterwards that Captain Goodlud was robbed of some goods by one of the general’s men, and that he that robbed him was fled into the mountains and could not be found while Captain Goodlud was here. But, the fellow returning back to the city some time after our arrival here, Raja Laut brought him bound to Captain Swan and told him what he had done, desiring him to punish him for it as he pleased; but Captain Swan excused himself and said it did not belong to him, therefore he would have nothing to do with it. However the General Raja Laut would not pardon him, but punished him according to their own custom, which I did never see but at this time.

He was stripped stark naked in the morning at sun-rising, and bound to a post, so that he could not stir hand nor foot but as he was moved; and was placed with his face eastward against the sun. In the afternoon they turned his face towards the west that the sun might still be in his face; and thus he stood all day, parched in the sun (which shines here excessively hot) and tormented with the mosquitoes or gnats: after this the general would have killed him if Captain Swan had consented to it. I did never see any put to death; but I believe they are barbarous enough in it. The general told us himself that he put two men to death in a town where some of us were with him; but I heard not the manner of it. Their common way of punishing is to strip them in this manner and place them in the sun; but sometimes they lay them flat on their backs on the sand, which is very hot; where they remain a whole day in the scorching sun with the mosquitoes biting them all the time.

This action of the general in offering Captain Swan the punishment of the thief caused Captain Swan afterwards to make him the same offer of his men when any had offended the Mindanao men: but the general left such offenders to be punished by Captain Swan as he thought convenient. So that for the least offence Captain Swan punished his men, and that in the sight of the Mindanayans; and I think sometimes only for revenge; as he did once punish his chief mate Mr. Teat, he that came captain of the bark to Mindanao. Indeed at that time Captain Swan had his men as much under command as if he had been in a king’s ship: and had he known how to use his authority he might have led them to any settlement, and have brought them to assist him in any design he had pleased.


Captain Swan being dismissed from the sultan, with abundance of civility, after about two hours’ discourse with him, went thence to Raja Laut’s house. Raja Laut had then some difference with the sultan, and therefore he was not present at the sultan’s reception of our captain but waited his return and treated him and all his men with boiled rice and fowls. He then told Captain Swan again, and urged it to him, that it would be best to get his ship into the river as soon as he could because of the usual tempestuous weather at this time of the year; and that he should want no assistance to further him in anything. He told him also that, as we must of necessity stay here some time, so our men would often come ashore; and he therefore desired him to warn his men to be careful to give no affront to the natives; who, he said, were very revengeful. That their customs being different from ours, he feared that Captain Swan’s men might some
time or other offend them, though ignorantly; that therefore he gave him this friendly warning to prevent it: that his house should always be open to receive him or any of his men, and that he, knowing our customs, would never be offended at anything. After a great deal of such discourse he dismissed the Captain and his company, who took their leave and came aboard.

Captain Swan, having seen the two letters, did not doubt but that the English did design to settle a factory here: therefore he did not much scruple the honesty of these people, but immediately ordered us to get
the ship into the river. The river upon which the city of Mindanao stands is but small and has not above 10 or 11 foot water on the bar at a spring-tide: therefore we lightened our ship and, the spring coming on,
we with much ado got her into the river, being assisted by 50 or 60 Mindanayan fishermen who lived at the mouth of the river; Raja Laut himself being aboard our ship to direct them. We carried her about a quarter of a mile up, within the mouth of the river, and there moored her head and stern in a hole where we always rode afloat.


After this the citizens of Mindanao came frequently aboard to invite our men to their houses, and to offer us pagallies. It was a long time since any of us had received such friendship, and therefore we were the more easily drawn to accept of their kindnesses; and in a very short time most of our men got a comrade or two, and as many pagallies; especially such of us as had good clothes and store of gold, as many had who were of the number of those that accompanied Captain Harris over the Isthmus of Darien, the rest of us being poor enough. Nay, the very poorest and meanest of us could hardly pass the streets but we were even hauled by force into their houses to be treated by them: although their treats were but mean, namely, tobacco, or betel-nut, or a little sweet spiced water; yet their seeming sincerity, simplicity, and the manner of bestowing these gifts made them very acceptable. When we came to their houses they would always be praising the English, as declaring that the English and Mindanayans were all one. This they expressed by putting their two forefingers close together and saying that the English and Mindanayans were “samo, samo,” that is, all one. Then they would draw their forefingers half a foot asunder and say the Dutch and they were “bugeto,” which signifies so, that they were at such distance in point of friendship: and for the Spaniards they would make a greater representation of distance than for the Dutch: fearing these, but having felt and smarted from the Spaniards who had once almost brought them under.

Captain Swan did seldom go into any house at first but into Raja Laut’s. There he dined commonly every day; and as many of his men as were ashore and had no money to entertain themselves resorted thither about 12 o’clock, where they had rice enough boiled and well dressed, and some scraps of fowls, or bits of buffalo, dressed very nastily. Captain Swan was served a little better, and his two trumpeters sounded all the time that he was at dinner. After dinner Raja Laut would sit and discourse with him most part of the afternoon. It was now the Ramdam time, therefore the general excused himself that he could not entertain our captain with dances and other pastimes, as he intended to do when this solemn time was past; besides, it was the very height of the wet season, and therefore not so proper for pastimes.


We had now very tempestuous weather and excessive rains which so swelled the river that it overflowed its banks; so that we had much ado to keep our ship safe: for every now and then we should have a great tree come floating down the river and sometimes lodge against our bows, to the endangering the breaking our cables, and either the driving us in over the banks or carrying us out to sea; both which would have been very dangerous to us, especially being without ballast.

The city is about a mile long (of no great breadth) winding with the
banks of the river on the right hand going up, though it has many houses
on the other side too. But at this time it seemed to stand as in a pond,
and there was no passing from one house to another but in canoes. This
tempestuous rainy weather happened the latter end of July, and lasted
most part of August.

When the bad weather was a little assuaged Captain Swan hired a house to
put our sails and goods in while we careened our ship. We had a great
deal of iron and lead, which was brought ashore into this house. Of these
commodities Captain Swan sold to the sultan or general 8 or 10 tuns at
the rates agreed on by Captain Goodlud, to be paid in rice.


The Mindanayans are no good accountants; therefore the Chinese that live here do cast up their accounts for them. After this Captain Swan bought timber-trees of the general, and set some of our men to saw them into planks to sheath the ship’s bottom. He had two whip-saws on board which he brought out of England, and four or five men that knew the use of them, for they had been sawyers in Jamaica.


When the Ramdam time was over, and the dry time set in a little, the general, to oblige Captain Swan, entertained him every night with dances. The dancing women that are purposely bred up to it and make it their trade I have already described. But beside them all the women in general are much addicted to dancing. They dance 40 or 50 at once; and that standing all round in a ring, joined hand in hand and singing and keeping time. But they never budge out of their places nor make any motion till the chorus is sung; then all at once they throw out one leg and bawl out aloud; and sometimes they only clap their hands when the chorus is sung. Captain Swan, to retaliate the general’s favours, sent for his violins and some that could dance English dances; wherewith the general was very well pleased. They commonly spent the biggest part of the night in these sort of pastimes.


Among the rest of our men that did use to dance thus before the general there was one John Thacker who was a seaman bred, and could neither write nor read but had formerly learnt to dance in the music houses about Wapping: this man came into the South Seas with Captain Harris and, getting with him a good quantity of gold, and being a pretty good husband of his share, had still some left besides what he laid out in a very good suit of clothes. The general supposed by his garb and his dancing that he had been of noble extraction; and to be satisfied of his quality asked of one of our men if he did not guess aright of him? The man of whom the general asked this question told him he was much in the right; and that most of our ship’s company were of the like extraction; especially all those that had fine clothes; and that they came aboard only to see the world, having money enough to bear their expenses wherever they came; but that for the rest, those that had but mean clothes, they were only common seamen. After this the general showed a great deal of respect to all that had good clothes, but especially to John Thacker, till Captain Swan came to know the business, and marred all; undeceiving the general and drubbing the nobleman: for he was so much incensed against John Thacker that he could never endure him afterwards; though the poor fellow knew nothing of the matter.