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CAPTAIN WILSON'S MISSIONARY VOYAGE
SOUTHERN PACIFIC OCEAN,
IN THE YEARS 1796, 1797, and 1798.
THE island of Otaheite, has from the narratives of different
navigators, become highly celebrated. The Spaniards claim the discovery of this delightful island; but this has been disputed. However, captain Wallis, in his majesty's ship Dolphin, discovered it in June, 1767, and took formal possession of the island in the name of his own sovereign. The Dolphin having struck upon a coral rock, was surrounded by many hundred canoes, and showers of large stones were poured in every direction. But the destructive effects of the great guns impressed the islanders with such terror, that they never afterwards repeated their hostile attacks.
At this time, Obera, the queen, exercised great authority, though her licentious conduct has been often related. Great inconveniences were also experienced from the sensuality of the other female islanders. Next year, this place was visited by M. de Bougainville, in the Boudeuse frigate, when sensuality seems to have been practised with still greater indecency than before, and several murders were privately committed by the French sailors. The celebrated captain Cook next visited
this island, in 1769, and was every where most hospitably treated; but the same lewdness was perpetrated as on former occasions. This navigator thrice afterwards visited the island, and maintained the most amicable intercourse with the natives; though the English punished some petty thefts committed by them, with unprecedented severity.
Eleven years now passed without any intercourse between Europe and Otaheite, when a ship called the Lady Penrhyn, which had been employed in transporting convicts to New South Wales, anchored in the bay of Mattavae. The utmost abundance of animal and vegetable food was supplied in exchange for European articles; and besides the original productions of the island, pumpkins and capsicums, cats and goats, were offered for sale. It was observed, that the women of the higher class were more cautious than formerly of promiscuous intercourse, probably in consequence of what they had suffered from disease.
An event now approached which issued in an important change of the condition of Otaheite. The information which had been received by the former voyagers of the great utility of the bread-fruit, induced the merchants and planters of the British West Indian islands to request that means might be used to transplant it thither. For this benevolent purpose a ship was commissioned by his majesty, which was named the Bounty; and lieutenant Bligh, who had sailed as master with captain Cook, was appointed to conduct her to Otaheite, where the plants might be most easily and abundantly procured. He arrived at Mattavae, on the 26th of October, 1788, hardly more than three months after lieutenant Watt's departure.
Pomarre was now the principal king or chief in the island. He offered no objections to providing a large quantity of the young bread-fruit plants; and iv return, he was gratified with two muskets, a pair of pistols, and a considerable stock of ammunition. But though he had not sufficient fortitude to use these articles himself, yet his wife, Iddea, whose personal strength and courage were unusually great, had learned to use a musket with some dexterity.
When twenty-five of the crew of the Bounty, as before related, mutinied, and turned adrift captain Bligh, in the ship's launch, they returned to Otaheite. Sixteen of the mutineers finally insisted upon settling in this island; but their leader, Christian, with thirty-five of the islanders, sailed in search of an uninhabited island, out of the usual track of European ships, in which object they succeeded, as they have since been discovered by an American vessel.
In 1791, the Pandora frigate, commanded by captain Edwards, arrived at Otaheite, and having apprehended the mutineers, sailed on her return to England. The native women who were attached to these unfortunate men, shewed the deepest grief at beholding them confined in chains. A midshipman, who had been active in the mutiny, had lived with the daughter of a person of property at Mattavae, and she had borne a child to him. His imprisonment and removal afflicted her to such a degree as to bring on a decline that terminated in her death. Her infant was left to the care of a sister, who cherished it with the utmost tenderness. Three daughters and a son were left by others of the mutineers.
At the close of the same year captain Vancouver, in a ship named the Discovery, and lieutenant Broughton in the Chatham brig, arrived at Otaheite. The vessels having been separated on their passage, the Chatham first reached the island, which was appointed for their rendezvous. She anchored at Mattavae on the 27th of December, 1791, and the Discovery joined her three days later. The natives behaved with their usual hospitality toward the English; but they could not dissuade Pomarre from the most immoderate use of spirituous liquors, till his sufferings convinced him of the necessity of temperance. Some thefts, which was evidently encouraged by the chiefs, interrupted the friendship that had prevailed; and prevented the repetition of a display of fireworks, with which they had been greatly delighted. The vessels sailed on the 24th of January, 1792.
Shortly afterward a private ship, named the Matilda, captain Weatherhead, touched at Otaheite for refreshments, having sailed from Port Jackson upon the southern whale fishery.
After a fortnight's stay they departed, and on the 25th of February, the ship was wrecked upon an extensive reef. The captain and crew escaped in their boats to Otaheite; but upon landing again at that island, the inhabitants plundered them of the articles they had saved from the wreck. This event became an occasion of contention among the islanders, and a part of the country was in consequence laid waste by Pomarre. The ship's company were, in other respects, well treated. A small vessel, called the Prince William Henry, of Newcastle, touching at Otaheite on the 26th of March, stayed only three days. Some of the Matilda's people embarked in her, and proceeded to the north-west coast of America.
Captain Bligh having been again sent out, to accomplish the purposes of his former voyage which had been frustrated by the mutiny, arrived at Otaheite on the 7th of April, 1792, in a ship named the Providence, attended by a small vessel called the Assistance, commanded by lieutenant Portlock.
The Dæedalus store-ship, in 1793, stayed a fortnight upon the island, after which there is no information respecting it, until the arrival of the Duff.
The encouraging account which the preceding navigators gave of the singular mildness and hospitality of the natives of Otaheite, induced several zealous Christian to select this island as the most proper station for missionaries, who might from thence extend their labours over the neighbouring islands. As those islands had suffered severely by the introduction of the venereal disease from Europe ; and were now likely to be abandoned, as affording nothing to excite the cupidity of ambition, or answer the speculations of the interested, their unhappy situation excited general commiseration; and favoured the pious project of sending out a missionary colony.
The mission consisted of thirty men, six women, and three children. They embarked in the Thames, on the 10th of August, 1796, on board the Duff, captain Wilson, with a select crew of twenty-one men and a boy. The missionary flag was at the same time hoisted at the mizen top-gallantmast head : three doves argent, on a purple field, bearing