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Pitcairn's Island enjoyed comfort in Otaheite, the phenomenon of an entire desertion, the complete exode of a whole nation, would have been again repeated.
Southward of the Society Isles lies a group to which, from a reference to their position, the epithet Austral has been applied by a distinguished geographer. They are situated between lat. 23°—28° S., and long. 144°—148° W.; are five in number, and supposed to contain about 4000 inhabitants. Rapa, the most distant from the equator, was observed by Vancouver in December 1791, on his passage from New Zealand to Otaheite. It is about twenty miles in circumference, mountainous, but, at the same time, abundantly supplied with wood and water. Aurai, its principal harbour, is on the eastern side, having an extensive accommodation for shipping, though the entrance is rather narrow and intricate. Mr Ellis, who approached this island in 1817, describes it as presenting, in its higher parts, rather a barren aspect; but adds, that the lower eminences, with many of the valleys, were covered with verdure, trees, and bushes. As Rapa is not surrounded with a reef, the waves of the ocean dash against the base of the hills, and hence there is hardly any land skirting the shore. The inhabitants bear a greater resemblance to the Otaheitans than to the natives of New Zealand, though their language presents a closer affinity to that of the latter people. Their complexion is of the usual copper colour; their features regular; and their countenances, which are in many cases handsome, are shaded with dark hair, both straight and curling. But they were, at the period now mentioned, most savage creatures, fierce and suspicious; their behaviour being as unceremonious as their appearance was uninviting. Vancouver found them unusually shy at first, but afterwards very bold and thievish; and, as a singular trait in their manners, it is worthy of remark, that though his ship was surrounded by not fewer than three hundred of them, there were neither young
chil dren, women, nor aged persons in any of their canoes.
In the year 1825, a vessel belonging to an Otaheitan
chief touched at Rapa, and carried thence two natives. Being well received at Papara, where Mr Davies the missionary presided, they consented to attend church and go to school. After a brief space, they were sent home loaded with gifts, and, accompanied by two individuals, who were desired to collect information relative to the country and the character of its inhabitants. The result of this visit was extremely satisfactory; a trade in sandalwood was forthwith opened ; and the deputies from Otaheite were assured, that any proposals for a friendly intercourse would be met with corresponding feelings. In the beginning of the following year, accordingly, two teachers and their wives, with a schoolmaster and a mechanic, sailed for Rapa ; carrying thither spelling-books, copies of the Scriptures, and a variety of useful tools, seeds, plants, and timber for a chapel. They were received by the chiefs with respect and hospitality ; but, though these last promised protection, and even assistance in erecting a place of worship, they gave no encouragement as to a speedy reception of the gospel. Their intercourse, however, with the more civilized people of the Georgian Isles, not only increased their sources of temporal enjoyment, it also, sooner than they expected, proved the means of introducing Christianity amongst them, and of raising many to a participation in its spiritual blessings. Before the close of 1829, four chapels were erected at different stations, in which, by means of native missionaries, religious instruction was regularly given to attentive audiences.
About six degrees to the north-west of Rapa stands Raivavai, or High Island, which was discovered by Lieutenant Broughton of the Chatham, in the year 1791. The inhabitants, who have a great resemblance to the other South Sea Islanders in most of their usages, are esteemed less cruel, and, in some respects, more ingenious. Infanticide is said to have been unknown amongst them; and there is no evidence that, though strongly addicted to idolatry, they ever stained their hands with human sacrifices. Pomare, who considered the island as
subject to his dominion, sailed thither in 1819, on board an American trader; and he had no sooner presented himself than the people tendered their homage, and solicited his protection. About two years afterwards, Mr Henry, son of one of the missionaries, who commanded a small vessel belonging to the King of Otaheite, arrived at High Island on Sunday, when the converts were about to assemble for divine worship. The congregation consisted of seven hundred persons; and each individual, on entering the church, kneeled down, and uttered a short prayer. The stranger was much delighted with the quiet, devout, and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves at service, as well as during the remainder of the Lord's-day.*
The open renunciation of idolatry had been effected a short time previously; nearly all the inhabitants having declared themselves desirous of christian instruction. Most of their former objects of worship had been removed from the temples, and some of those mutilated stone figures were actually converted into seats at the doors of the missionary chapel. In 1822, suitable teachers from Eimeo were stationed in the island, who showed the utmost diligence in promoting the improvement of the people. Three years later, two large places were erected for public worship, one of which was capable of containing three hundred persons, and, at its opening, witnessed the administration of baptism to more than fifty adults, besides sixty children. Mr Davies, in 1826, organized a regular church, when sixteen individuals, after due examination, were united in christian fellowship with the brethren, who had resided some time amongst them. But three years afterwards, an epidemic, in the form of a malignant fever, swept away a large portion of the inhabitants, including twelve of their instructors.
Another island of the group which lays claim to our attention is Toobouai, which is situated in lat. 23° 30' S. and long. 149° 20' W. being about twelve miles in cir
cumference. It was discovered by Cook in the course of his third voyage, and has obtained a certain celebrity from being the first place at which the mutineers touched after having taken possession of the Bounty. It was subsequently approached by the Duff, the crew of which, in February 1797, saw it at the distance of thirty miles, just as the shades of night were about to veil its scenery and inhabitants from their eyes. It is supposed to have been but recently peopled by the natives of a neighbouring island, who, when sailing to some other quarter, were driven thither by a violent gale.
The author of the Researches, who landed at Toobouai in the year 1817, describes it as hilly and verdant; and being surrounded by a coral reef, is well protected from the pressure of the heavy waves which roll in that latitude. The population appeared but small, and their means did not seem equal to the maintenance of a greatly increased number: only one pig was taken on board, a proof that their stock of provisions was not ample. Mr Ellis mentions, that the day after their arrival two or three men belonging to the Low Archipelago came on board the vessel, and asked the captain for a passage to Otaheite. Upon his inquiring their purpose, they replied that, some weeks before, they had left that island to return to their native place, but, being drifted by contrary winds out of their course, they ultimately reached Toobouai; that shortly after they landed, the inhabitants fiercely attacked them, seized their property, and broke their canoe ; and that they now wished to acquaint Pomare with their misfortune, who, they hoped, as sovereign of both countries, would command a full indemnification of their losses, and by supplying another boat, enable them to realize their first intentions. Two Europeans, who were on the island at the time, reported that they were very peaceable, and that the Toobouans had commenced the attack, because the strangers tried to persuade them to cast away their idols and believe in Jehovah, the only true God. Being asked why they did not resist the onset, and whether they were averse
to war, they answered that they were taught to delight in battles, and were not at all afraid of the people among whom they had been cast. But, they added, when at Otaheite they had embraced the new religion, which taught them to do no murder, and even to love their enemies; wherefore they thought it better to lose their canoe and all their goods than to offend God by killing the assailants, or to disregard the injunctions of Jesus Christ. Being afterwards provided with a skiff, they returned for their companions, and finally completed their voyage, by debarking at the island whence they originally departed.
The inhabitants of Toobouai, who appear to have first heard of the gospel from these casual visiters, were at no distant period incited to make inquiry for themselves respecting its sublime doctrines and cheering consolations. In 1822, they sent messengers to Otaheite to request books and instructors. Their wishes were complied with ; two native teachers were selected for that new province of evangelical labour; and Mr Nott accompanied them in order that he might preach to the converts, and make the necessary arrangements for future ministrations. The first fruits of this mission appeared in the reconciliation of two chiefs, who had actually taken the field to decide their quarrel in a fierce combat. On the following morning, they all attended public worship in a building erected for the purpose, where they heard a sermon on christian principle, duty, and hope. “ It was truly gratifying to behold those who had only the day before expected to have been engaged in shedding each other's blood, now mingled in one quiet and attentive assembly, where the warriors of rival chieftains might be seen sitting side by side, listening to the gospel of peace.” But here, as elsewhere, the prospects of the teachers were not fully realized. A certain reaction usually followed the introduction of the new faith in most of the islands, originating, it has been supposed, in public distress, which was not unnaturally ascribed to the anger of the gods whose service had been abandoned.