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The beginning of Anglo-Malagasy relations, from 1816, played a key role in the evolution of the history of Madagascar. In a document he writes, the British civil servant Thomas Pye, gives details
– “of the highest interest”, according to the archivist palaeographer Jean Valette – over the previous few days, the signing, on 9 July 1817, of the treaty passed between Radama I and Jean René,
Prince betsimisaraka. A treaty which upsets the Malagasy political forces by subjecting Jean René, until then independent, to the merina king.
On 6 June 1817 in the evening, while residing in Toamasina as a civilian agent of the Government of Mauritius, Thomas Pye received confidential information from a mail from Foulpointe. This one announces that the French schooner “Hope”, flying the Arab flag, is about to embark slaves the next day and to sail immediately after Bourbon. The person who informs it is the French captain who commands the ship. The shipowners’ reluctance to pay him his pay and the apprehension that the Arabs on board would throw him into the sea when he reached the coast of Bourbon, gave rise to fear and a desire to avenge himself.
The English agent feels the need to surround himself with precautions and to make his arrangements. He left Toamasina and won Foulpointe on the evening of 8 June at 8 pm. Upon his arrival, he finds a young man waiting for him impatiently. He informed her that the captain was on board, and assured her that the ship was finishing embarking his cargo of 97 slaves destined for Bourbon. This is in contravention of French and English laws.
“I learned that, apart from eight Arabs, there were also on board six solid slaves employed as sailors and dressed as such. “
Thomas Pye is accompanied by an interpreter, a guide and Tsimirilaza, head of Fulpointe and younger son of king betsimisaraka Zanahary. They climb into a small canoe and within a few minutes they are on board the ship. After a relentless resistance from all, except the captain, the English agent succeeded in taking possession of it and maintaining it, despite two attempts by the Arabs to resume it. “During these two attempts, they had two killed and two wounded. The French captain of the schooner who helped me was also seriously wounded. The Englishman also insists on the “zealous and disinterested conduct” of Tsimirilaza.
He explains that the relations of friendship and commerce which bind him to the Arabs, by the payment of certain taxes in return for the use of his port, furnish him with the greatest part of his income. This is a considerable link of interest. But the dominant influence that the Arabs obtained in this part of the Great Island on this chief
Betsimisaraka, by frightening him by their numbers and their superior courage, is drawing to a close.
“Indeed, we have seen the Malagasy chief take such a swift and active part in breaking the bonds of the slaves and practically giving up forever what he was accustomed to, the sale of the Malagasy to the whites. It is the just reward of an enlightened policy that has for a long time been conducted with perseverance and vigor worthy of the importance of its purpose until the result is achieved. “
Pye returned to Toamasina on June 17, and found the chief and all the inhabitants of the country alarmed by the news, unforeseen for them, that Radama, king of the Merina, left his capital with an army of 40,000 men, with the aim To visit this part of the coast. Radama arrives on the 4th of July, and the next day the ship “Phaeton,” commanded by Captain Stanfell, arrives at the appointed hour of Maurice, with the young princes and his brothers on board, and James Hastie, their tutor. The joy of Radama is overflowing. His entry to Toamasina, at the head of his immense army, in the presence of which he received the young princes from Captain Stanfell, is an imposing spectacle.
“No description could render this magnificence. His bodyguard has reached a very high degree of discipline, never I had witnessed in Europe, more perfection in exercise and order in the outfit. I was astonished. This elite corps amounts to 500 men. There are also at least 35,000 trained soldiers. The king makes maneuver and directs with a glance this apparently disorganized army. “
According to the English agent, Radama has a great and beautiful soul and is very sensitive to feelings of gratitude and friendship. “In truth, he seemed to me worthy of the crown he bears.”