Friday, October 2, 2009

XV. Concerning the form of Embassies at Siam.

The Eastern Ambassadors represent not their Masters, and are less honoured than in Europe; The Siamese Embassies consist in three persons; They are looked upon as Messengers which carry a Letter; He returns them no Answer, but a Recepisse; How the King of Siam is advertised of the Arrival of an Ambassador; An Ambassador has his Charges born at Siam. He must Communicate his Instructions; He enters not into his Metropolis till he goes to Audience, and departs thence in going from the Audience of Leave. The Solemn Audiences; What is observed in Audiences; To Foreigners which are not Ambassadors, he gives Audience only by accident. The Indians are cunning and deceitful in their Negotiations; That the Europeans have ever found it necessary to treat the Indians with arrogance; Presents are essential to Embassies in the East; The Orientals do esteem it a great Honour to receive Embassies; The Siamese Ambassadors are accountable.

An Ambassador throughout the East is no other than a Kings Messenger: he represents not his Master. They honour him little, in comparison of the respects which are render’d to the Letters of Credence whereof he is Bearer. Mr. de Chaumont, tho an Ambassador extraordinary, never had a Balon of the Body, not on the very day of his entrance; and it was in a Balon of the Body that the Kings Letter was put, which he had to deliver to the King of Siam. This balon had four Umbrella’s, one at each corner of the Seat; and it was attended with four other Balons of the Body, adorn’d with their Umbrella’s, but empty; as the King of Spain, when he goes abroad in his Coach, and that he would be seen and known, has always one which follows him empty, which is called de respeto, a word and custom come from Italy. The Kings Presents were likewise carry’d in Balon of the Body; and the same things were observed at the entrance of the King’s Envoys. Thus the Orientals make no difference between and Ambassador and an Envoy: And they understand not Ambassadors, nor ordinary Envoys, nor Residents; because they send no person to reside at a foreign Court, but there to dispatch a business, and return.

The Siameses do never send more nor less than three Ambassadors together. The first is called Rayja Tout, that is to say, Royal Messenger, the second Oubba Tout, and the third Tri Tout (Terms which I understand not) but the two last Ambassadors are obliged in every thing to follow the Advice of the first.

Every one therefore who is the carrier of a Letter from the King, is reputed an Ambassador throughout the Earth. Wherefore, after the Ambassador of Persia, which Mr. de Chaumont left in the Country of Siam, was dead at Tenasserim, his Domesticks having elected one amongst them, to deliver the King of Persia’s Letter to the King of Siam, he that was elected was received without any other Character, as the real Ambassador would have been, and with the same honors which the King of Persia had formerly granted to the Ambassador of Siam.

But that wherein they treat an Ambassador like a meer Messenger, is, that the King of Siam, in the Audience of Leave, gives him a Recepisse of the Letter he has received from him; and if this Prince returns an Answer, he gives it not to him, but he sends his own Ambassador with him to carry it.

A foreign Ambassador which arrives at Siam, is stopped at the Entrance of the Kingdom, until the King of Siam has received intelligence thereof; and if he is accompanied with Siamese Ambassadors, as we were, it belongs to the Siamese Ambassadors to go before, to carry unto the King their Master, the news of their Arrival, and of the Arrival of the foreign Ambassador, whom they brought with them.

Every foreign Ambassador is lodged and maintained by the King of Siam, and during the time of his Embassy he may exercise Merchandize; but he cannot treat of any affair till he has delivered his Letter of Credence, and communicated his Original Instructions. They dispenced with this last Article to Mr. de Chaumont, and the King’s Envoys; but the Ambassadors of Siam dispenc’d not therewith in France. They communicated their Instructions.

The Ambassador cannot enter into the Metropolis, till he goes directly to Audience, nor continue there in till after the Audience of Leave: in going from the Audience of Leave he departs out of the City, and negotiates nothing more. Wherefore on the Evening before the Audience of Leave, the King of Siam demands of him, whether he has any thing to propose? And in the Audience of Leave, he asks him, If he is contented?

The Majesty of the Prince resides principally in the Metropolis, ‘tis there that the Solemn Audiences are given; out of this City every Audience is accounted private, and without Ceremony. The whole Guard, as well the Ordinary, as that of Ostentation, was put in Arms for the Audience at Siam: the Elephants and Horses appear’d with their best Harness, and in great number, on the Entry of the King’s Envoys, and there was almost nothing of all this for the Audiences at Louvo. At Siam the Umbrella, which was before the King’s window, had nine Rounds, and the two which were at the side had seven each. At Louvo the King had no Umbrella before him, but two on each side, which had each four Rounds apiece, and which mounted up much lower than those of Siam. The King was not at Louvo at a single window, as at Siam; he was in a wooden Tower joined to the Floor of the Hall, into which he enter’d behind, and immediately, by a Step higher than the Hall. So that tho this Prince was as high at Louvo as at Siam, yet he was at Louvo in the Hall of Audience; whereas at Siam he was in another Room, which had a Prospect into the Hall. Moreover, the Gate of the Hall at Louvo was large, and in the middle of the Tower, that is to say opposite to the King; whereas at Siam the door was low and strait, and almost at the corner of the Hall: differences, which have all their reasons in this Country, where the least things are measured and performed with diligence. At the Audience at Siam there were 50 Mandarins prostrate in the Hall, 25 on each side, in five Ranks, each consisting of five. At the Audiences at Louvo there were no more than 32, 16 on each side, in four Ranks, of four in a Rank. The Audience of Reception, where the Letter of Credence is delivered, is always given in the chief City, and with all the magnificence imaginable, in respect to the Letter of Credence: the other Audiences are given without the City, and with less Pomp, because there appears no Letter from the King.

The Custom in all Audiences is, that the King speaks first, and not the Ambassador. What he speaks in Audiences of Ceremony, is reduced to some Questions almost always the same; after which, he orders the Ambassador to address himself to the Barcalon upon all the Propositions which he has to make. Harrangues please him not at all; tho’ he had the goodness to acquaint me, upon the Compliments I had the Honour to make to him, that I was a great Contriver of Words. We were fain to embellish them with Figures, and therein to use the Sun, Moon and Stars; Ornaments of Discourse, which may please them in other things: This Prince thinks that the longer an Ambassador speaks the first time, the less he honours him. And indeed when the Ambassador is only a Messenger, which delivers a Letter, it is natural that he has nothing to say which is not asked him. After the King has spoken to the Ambassador, he gives him Arek and Betel, and a Vest, with which the Ambassador cloaths himself immediately, and sometimes a Sabre, and a Chain of Gold.

This Prince gave Sabres, Chains of Gold and Vests, or sometimes only Vests to the principal French Officers, but gave them Audience only as it were by accident in his Gardens, or out of his Palace at some Show.

In all sorts of Business, the Indians are slow in concluding, by reason of the length of their Councils, for they never depart from their Customs. They are very phlegmatic and hypocritical. They are insinuating in their Speeches, captious in their Writings, deceitful, to such a degree as to Cheat. The praise which the King of Siam’s Wives and Concubines give him, when they would flatter him to the highest degree, was to tell him, not that he was an Hero, or the greatest General in the World, but that he had always been more politic and witty, than all the Princes with whom he had to do. They engage themselves in writing as little as they can. They will rather receive you into a Port, or into a Castle, than they will agree with yu to surrender them up to you by a Treaty in ample Form, and sealed by their Barcalon.

The Portugueses being naturally bold and distrustful, have always treated the Indians with a great deal of Loftiness, and with very little Confidence. And the Dutch have thought they could not do better, than herein to imitate the Portugueses, because that the Indians being educated in a Spirit of Servitude, are crafty, and, as I have said in another place, subservient to those who treat them haughtily, and insolent to those that use them gently. The King of Siam says of his Subjects, that they are of the temper of Apes, who tremble so long as one holds the end of their Band, and disown their Master, when the Band is loosed. Examples are not rare in India of simple European Factors, who have bastinado’d the Officers of the Indian Kings without being punished. And it is evident, that the certain vigorous Repartees which are sometimes made in our Countries, appear to us more daring, than the Bastinado is in theirs: provided it be given to them in cold Blood, and not in Anger. A Man that suffers himself to be transported with Passion, is what the Indian most contemn.

But as Trade is their most sensible Interest, Presents are essential for them in Embassies. ‘Tis a trafficking under an honourable Title, and from King to King. Their Politeness excites them to testify by several Demonstrations, who they esteem the Presents which they have received. If it is any thing of use, tho’ it be not for their use, the publickly prepare whatever shall be necessary to use it, as if they had a real desire thereof. If it is any thing to wear, they will adorn themselves with it in your presence. If they are Horses, they will build a Stable on purpose to lodge them. Was it only a Telescope, they would build a Tower to see with this Glass. And so they will seem to make an high account of all sorts of Presents, to honour the Prince which sends them, unless he has received Presents from their part with less demonstrations of Esteem. Nevertheless they are really concern’d only for the Profit. Before that the King’s Presents went out of our hands, some of the King of Siam’s Officers came to take an exact description thereof in writing, even to the counting all the Stones of every sort which were interspers’d in the Embroideries; and to the end that it might not seem that the King their Master took this care to prevent being robbed by his Officers, through whose hands the Presents were to pass, they pretended that this Prince was curious and impatient, and that it was necessary to go render him an account of what this was, and to be ready to answer him exactly upon the least things.

All the Oriental Princes do esteem it a great Honour to receive Embassies, and to send the fewest they can. Because that, in their Opinion, it is a Badge which cannot be alien’d from them and their Riches, and that they can content themselves without the Riches of Foreigners. They look upon Embassies as a kind of Homage; and in their Courts they retain the Foreign Ministers as long as it is profitable, to prolong, as much as in them lies, the Honour which they receive. Thus the great Mogul, and the Kings of China and Japan, do never send Ambassadors. The King of Persia likewise sends only to Siam, because the King of Siam’s Ambassador demanded it, as I proceed to relate.

The Siamese Ambassadors are accountable, because that they are loaded with Goods; and it rarely happens, that they render an Account good enough entirely to avoid the Bastinado. This Agi Selim (‘tis the name of a Moor, whom the King of Siam sent eight or nine years since into Persia, as his Ambassador) was severely chastised at his return, tho’ in appearance he had served very faithfully. He had established Commerce with Persia, and had brought with him that Persian Ambassador, who, as I have several times related, dyed at Tenasserim. He was a Moula, or Doctor of Law of Mahomet, whom Agi Selim had demanded of the King of Persia, to instruct, as he pretended, the King of Siam in Mahumetanism. BernierTome II. Pag. 54. Reports that during his abode in the Indies, some Ambassadors from Prester John, who, as every one knows, professes to be a Christian, demanded that the great Mogul an Alcoran, and eight of the most renowned Books that were in the Mahumetan Religion; a base Flattery, which exceedingly scandalized Bernier. But generally speaking, these trading Kings do exceedingly make use of the pretence of Religion, for the increase of their Commerce.

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