[Footnote 246: This surely is an error for Fo-kien. Amoy has been before stated in the text as N.E. from Macao, whereas the kingdom of Tonquin is S.W. from that port.—E.]
Some travellers have reported that the Portuguese were sovereigns of Macao, as of other places in India: But they never were, and the Chinese are too wise a people to suffer any thing of the kind. Macao certainly is as fine a city, and even finer, than could be expected, considering its untoward situation: It is also regularly and strongly fortified, having upwards of 200 pieces of brass cannon upon its walls. Yet, with all these, it can only defend itself against strangers. The Chinese ever were, and ever will be, masters of Macao, and that without firing a gun or striking a blow. They have only to shut up that gate and place a guard there, and Macao is undone; and this they have actually done frequently. Without receiving provisions from the adjacent country, the inhabitants of this city cannot subsist for a day; and besides, it is so surrounded by populous islands, and the Chinese are here so completely masters of the sea, that the Portuguese at Macao might be completely starved on the slightest difference with the Chinese. The Portuguese have indeed the government over their own people within the walls of this city; yet Macao is strictly and properly a Chinese city: For there is a Chinese governor resident on the spot, together with a hoppo or commissioner of the customs; and these Chinese mandarins, with all their officers and servants, are maintained at the expence of the city, which has also to bear the charges of the Portuguese government.
[Footnote 247: The East India Company found all this to be true a few years ago, when its Indian government thought to have taken Macao from the Portuguese. Had this account of the matter been read and understood, they would not have unnecessarily incurred a vast expence, and suffered no small disgrace at Canton.—E.]
In spite of all this, the Portuguese inhabitants were formerly very rich, owing to the great trade they carried on with Japan, which is now in a great measure lost. Yet, being so near Canton, and allowed to frequent the two annual fairs at that place, and to make trading voyages at other times, they still find a way to subsist, and that is all, as the prodigious presents they have to make on all occasions to the