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in a conspiracy against their mild teachers, proposing to cut them all off. But thinking themselves unequal to the task, those of the new religion being already formidable both in number and respectability, they acquainted the leaders of Atahuru and Papara with their views, and invited them to join. These, though their ancient rivals and enemies, came most readily into the measure, and prepared to co-operate without delay: and on the night of the 7th of July, these combined forces were to fall on such as had renounced heathenism and exterminate them utterly. But some of the confederates being rather dilatory, and secret intelligence having been conveyed to the party whose destruction was meditated, these last rushed on board their canoes and set sail for Eimeo, where they arrived in safety next morning. The chiefs, disappointed in their object, employed their arms against one another with great fury. All the north-eastern portion of Otaheite was burnt or plundered; for the question of religion being forgotten, the savage captains fought merely to revenge former injuries.
The most ardent patrons of missions will not maintain that in no instance has zeal overstepped the bounds of prudence, or that pearls have not occasionally been thrown before swine, who tried to turn again and rend their benefactors. But to justify the use of the means which have been employed, they point with satisfaction, and even some degree of triumph, to the effects which are already produced. They can assert, that wherever Christianity has been received, however imperfectly, the habits of the natives are improved, their fierce tempers have been mollified, and a respect for human life has succeeded to that thirst for blood which formerly occasioned the most deplorable catastrophes. In all the islands where the missionaries have succeeded in establishing a settlement, security is now afforded to the mariner of every nation, who either seeks refuge from misfortune, the intercourse of trade, or the gratification of a liberal curiosity. At other places, on the contrary, where
the mild spirit of the gospel has not yet been felt, scarcely a year passes in which we do not hear of murderous quarrels between the inhabitants and those by whom they are visited. At some of the Marquesas, till very lately, a trading vessel scarcely dared to anchor. In the Friendly Islands, according to the statement of a recent author, while the chiefs were manifesting the strongest attachment to Captain Cook, they planned the assassination of himself and all his officers, and with this view invited them to an entertainment by torch-light. Even on the shore of Otaheite, when Bligh’s vessel arrived, the people cut the cables, in order that, being drifted on the beach, she might fall into their hands as plunder. Some years afterwards, the Society islanders seized an English brig, murdered the officers, killed or disabled the crew, and took possession of her; but since the lessons of the christian teachers have been given, every ship that has touched there, or at any other in the adjacent groups, has been as safe as in the Thames or the Weser. *
Numerous testimonials from seafaring persons present themselves, corroborative of the statements just made, and illustrating the happy change which has been achieved in the character of the natives by the benign influence of Christianity. The captain of an American trader, wrecked on the coast of Rurutoo, relates that the islanders, formerly noted for their savage propensities, assisted him in landing his cargo, carried the goods to the mission-house, a distance of half-a-inile, and deposited them in safety. Not a single article of clothing was taken from any man belonging to the ship, though there was an opportunity of abstracting not only the property of the sailors, but even some valuable commodities which would have conferred unknown wealth upon the captors. He afterwards lived ashore among the simple
* A Vindication of the South Sea Missions, &c. By William Ellis (8vo. Lond. 1831). p. 47. An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, compiled from the Communications of Mr William Mariner (2 vols 18mo, Edin. 1827), vol. ii. pp. 71, 72.
people, from whom he, his officers, and crew, “ received the kindest treatment that could be imagined,” and for which, says he, “I shall ever be thankful.” Well might another navigator, who had just escaped from the hands of the unbaptized barbarians of Whytootake, exclaim to a christian teacher, “ now we see more than ever what has been done by you and the missionaries on the islands where you have resided, and the trouble you have had in bringing the natives from what they were to what they are at present."*
We have already adverted to the suppression of human sacrifices, of infanticide, of licentious commemorations, and of other usages incompatible with the feelings of a sound morality. To these improvements in the sentiments and habits of the people—the happy fruits of true religion—we shall hereafter have occasion to direct the attention of the reader more fully. Meantime, we proceed to notice other advantages which have sprung from missionary exertion in reference to domestic intercourse and the useful arts.
No picture is more deceitful than that which exhibits the supposed innocence and delights of savage life. The child of nature is usually represented as being free from envy and all the factitious passions of civilized existence ; a stranger to covetousness and ambition ; happy in the enjoyments of those around him ; content with his present lot, and having no apprehension in regard to the future. Oppressed by no care, burdened by no toil, tormented by no restless desire, seldom visited by sickness, his wants easily satisfied, his pleasures often recurring, the Otaheitan was conceived to pass his days in uninterrupted felicity, under the magnificent sky of the tropics, and amid scenes worthy of paradise. But a closer view disclosed a very different state of things. The lower classes were unmercifully plundered and oppressed by their superiors; domestic happiness, in its
* Vindication of the South Sea Missions, p. 51, where many similar proofs of growing civilisation will be found.
proper sense, was unknown; the females were reduced to the greatest debasement, not being allowed to partake of the same food with their husbands and brothers, and not even permitted to dress it at the same fire, or place it in the same basket. It is farther asserted, that they were, generally speaking, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, and that, under the dominion of the worst of propensities, they often acted more like fiends than human beings. “ That there should,” says Forster, “ exist so great a degree of immorality in a nation, otherwise so happy in its simplicity and in the fewness of its wants, is a reflection very disgraceful to human nature in general, which, viewed to its greatest advantage here, is nevertheless imperfect.” That this immorality did exist is not denied by one of the most ardent admirers of the Polynesians, who to the observation of a philosopher could add the advantage of a repeated residence amongst them.*
It is no doubt asserted by various authors who have recently visited the islands of the South Sea, that the wickedness of the natives has only changed its form, and that their indulgences, though less open than formerly, are equally flagitious. This accusation seems not to be well founded. True it is, that many who have ceased to do evil, after the manner of their unconverted countrymen, have not yet learned to do well, to the full extent of their christian obligations. Where sins are gross and shameful, the first step is more easily taken than the
* Forster's Voyage round the World in his Britannic Majesty's Sloop Resolution, commanded by Captain James Cook, during the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775 (2 vols 4to, Lond. 1777), vol. i. p. 337. Mr Forster nevertheless marked many good qualities in the people of Otaheite. “ We now saw the character of the natives in a more favourable light than ever, and were convinced that the remembrance of injuries and the spirit of revenge did not enter into the composition of the good and simple Taheitans. It must surely be a comfortable reflection to every sensible mind, that philanthropy seems to be natural to mankind, and that the savage ideas of distrust, malevolence, and revenge, are only the consequence of a gradual depravation of manners."
second ; and hence the missionary finds less opposition when he denounces a flagrant iniquity than when he enjoins a needful virtue or a becoming grace. Those who read with attention the Epistles of St Paul to his converts, in the most refined parts of the Roman empire, will perceive that, though they had abjured the abominations of heathenism and the useless ceremonies of the Mosaical law, their conduct did not, in all cases, throw a suitable light on the purer principles which they had openly professed. The fifth and sixth chapters of his first letter to the Corinthians prove but too clearly that the licentiousness of pagan manners did not yield, all at once, to the holy precepts of the gospel, nor to the instructive example of its self-denied teachers.
Much allowance ought therefore to be made whenever a comparison is instituted between what the christianized savage is, and what he ought to be,-a remark which acquires double force when applied to Polynesia, where the influence of religion is so frequently counteracted by hostile causes. Of these, perhaps one of the most pernicious is the introduction of ardent spirits. Rum, we are assured, has been productive of more misery than firearms and all the European diseases with which the natives have been afflicted. When the gospel was first established among them, drunkenness was universally discountenanced; and even now the use of intoxicating mixtures has been revived in those districts chiefly which are visited by foreign ships. Mr Ellis maintains that but for the introduction of such traders the Otaheitans would have been at this day among the most temperate people on the face of the earth. Their own laws were strong enough to prevent the manufacture of spiritous liquors at home; and when the culture of sugar was introduced by the Missionary Society, it was made an express stipulation that rum should not be distilled. But the chiefs have wanted either the power or the firmness to prevent the importation of it from abroad. In all lands, drunkenness is a vice so difficult to relinquish, that, even among the highest ranks of social life,