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The Journal of James Hastie on his stay in Madagascar in 1822, insists on several points: the agricultural colony of Foulpointe, which will be reached by way of Ambatondrazaka, the Menabe countryside … About this last point, the Journal de l “Said John Valette, an archivist-paleographer,” provides valuable insights into the chronology of the beginnings of this expedition led by Radama himself.
The latter left Antananarivo on Friday, June 21, 1822, “escorted by his first regiment” to take the lead of the army gathered in advance. Before leaving, Radama organized a sort of regency to govern in his absence. Hastie, however, does not give the names of the members of this council.
The British agent accepts the reasons given by Radama to justify the campaign against the king of Menabe (see previous note). That is why the sovereign merina confirms to him that “his warlike preparations would in no way delay the realization of an idea dear to Farquhar: the creation of agricultural colonies”, and that the first of these establishments would be created as soon as possible in Foulpointe . In his Journal, Hastie explains this choice on 12 June, “because of the quality of its anchorage and because it was possible to establish easy communications throughout the Antsihanaka region”.
This colony occupies the attention of Radama who, from June 18, decides to entrust the realization to his brother-in-law Rafaralahy, put with this goal at the head of 2,000 workers and 100 soldiers. The money, the herds, and the goods deemed necessary for this creation, were united at the same period. Hastie considers that colonies of this kind should be placed under the direct authority of merina officers. He therefore agreed to accompany the detachment “to give all the advice I could to the officer in charge of his commander”. He spent the few days he still spent in Antananarivo preparing to travel to Foulpointe via Lake Alaotra.
The English agent only leaves Monday, June 24, not Rafaralahy company. “The establishment of easy communication with the future colony of Foulpointe was evidently one of the conditions for its success” (Jean Valette, archivist-paleograph). To achieve this, Radama promises Hastie “to make a good road leading to all the places chosen to create a commercial establishment there”. This involves recognizing various routes to choose the most appropriate.
The classic route by Moramanga and Toamasina is very difficult. It is decided that two groups will strive to find a better one, while Hastie and Rafaralahy, at the head of a third group, must take “a partly known road through the Antsihanaka region”.
They left Antananarivo on 24 June and arrived at Ambatondrazaka on 2 July, traveling in nine days, about 160 km as the crow flies. Starting from the latter locality, on 5 July, they arrived at Foulpointe on 16 July. The English agent describes the different regions they cross, the merina country, the sihanaka country, and the great eastern forest.
Hastie does not specify the exact boundaries of the Merina country, but Jean Valette fixes them, “arbitrarily, perhaps,” at the Mananara River. Rafaralahy, Hastie and their troops pass through the Imerina of the North and the Northeast. According to the English agent, the population of this country cleared up very quickly.
On the first day, after 26 km of course, he already notes that “the density of the population decreases as we move away from the capital.”
He pointed out “many small villages and scattered huts, and a large number of small plots of cultivated land in the valleys”, the second day he meets “only a few small villages and isolated huts …”