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distinguished among their own countrymen for intelligence, have been the instruments of effecting this wonderful change, and that before a single European missionary had set his foot upon the island."*
In the year 1827, Mr Williams repaired to Rarotonga; and referring to the disorderly condition of the people when he formerly approached their shores, he aptly observes, that they were now “ clothed and in their right mind.” All the females wore bonnets, and were dressed in white cloth, while the men used clothes and hats of native manufacture. On the first Lord's day, a congregation of about four thousand assembled, a number much greater than their church could contain ; and hence the necessity of a larger structure, which was forthwith provided, a hundred and fifty feet in length, well plastered and fitted up throughout with seats. Indeed, the attendance of the people on the means of grace, and their anxiety to understand the truths of the gospel, were truly encouraging. At the conclusion of every service, many of them followed the preachers home, and taking seats under the shade of the banana trees, by which their habitations were encircled, spent an hour or more in making inquiries respecting the subject of the address they had just heard.
The change produced in their circumstances by the introduction of the gospel, rendered it expedient that some alteration should be made in their laws. The chiefs themselves had already perceived the necessity of following the example of the rulers at Otaheite and in
• Communication from Mr Bourne, quoted in Missionary Enterprises, p. 112. We are informed that “ some of the idols were torn to pieces; others were reserved to decorate the rafters of the chapel the natives proposed to erect; and one was kept to be sent to England, which is now in the Missionary Museum. It is not, however, so respectable in its appearance as when in its own country; for his majesty's custom-house officers, fearing lest the god should be made a vehicle for defrauding the exchequer, very unceremoniously took it to pieces; and not being so well skilled in making gods as in protecting the revenue, they have not made it so handsome as when it was an object of adoration to the deluded Rarotongans.”—P. 117.
the Society Islands, and of adopting a code of christian
as their civil polity was intimately connected with their sanguinary superstition, as soon as the one was subverted, the other ceased to have either authority or sanction. The inhabitants of Rarotonga, like the other branches of the great Polynesian family, had at all times been addicted to theft; and as many of them who professed Christianity were influenced merely by example, no sooner had the powerful excitement, produced by passing from one state of society to another, subsided in their minds, than they returned to the habits in which they had been trained from their earliest years. The laws enacted by the lords of the island, being principally borrowed from Raiatea, were few in number, and drawn up in the plainest language, entirely divested of all the technicalities by which the statutes of more civilized countries are too frequently obscured.
Some delicate subjects presented themselves for discussion before the new rules of life could be finally established. Among these was polygamy; for, prior to the abolition of their idolatrous usages, this practice prevailed to a considerable extent, and when a person so circumstanced offered himself as a candidate for baptism, the teachers usually required that he should make a selection of one from among his wives, and provide for the support of those whom he should dismiss. This method of procedure was generally acceptable for a season ; but some who had acceded to the proposed arrangement, afterwards reassembled the female members of their households, alleging as a reason for so soon returning to their ancient custom, that they were not aware the separation imposed upon them was meant to be more than temporary. It was therefore resolved to convene the people, and recommend that a choice should again be made of the spouse with whom each individual would consent to pass his life, and the marriage was immediately solemnized in the presence of the whole assembly. Knowing that the course pursued by the king would
form a precedent, the missionaries advised him to name publicly the individual he intended to make his future companion for better for worse ; and of his three wives he chose the youngest, to whom he was immediately united in the bonds of christian matrimony in the presence of his people. Having this example to urge, they advanced to the consideration of the other cases, which they found little difficulty in settling; and for some time at least no inconvenience was experienced.
Other obstacles arose from inveterate customs, which it was more easy to condemn than to reform. For instance, there was the unnatural practice called “ Kukumi anga," which allowed a son as soon as he reached manhood to fight or wrestle with his father; and if he obtained the mastery, he might take forcible possession of the land previously occupied by his parent. Again, when a wife was bereft of her husband by the hand of death, his relations had a right to seize every article of value belonging to him, and to eject from the house the destitute widow with her helpless children. There was a third evil known amongst them by a term which might be translated « land-eating," or the unlawful possession of each other's grounds; but upon inquiry it was found to be a species of oppression in which so many individuals were involved, and also a point on which the feelings of all classes were so exquisitely sensitive, that to bring it into discussion would probably endanger the peace of the island. After all these preliminary matters had undergone mature deliberation, a general assembly was again convened, when the whole code of laws, having
mously adopted by the chiefs and the people, as the ground on which public justice was ever to be administered in the island of Rarotonga.*
* Missionary Enterprises, p. 138. Mr Williams, “ in answer to the charge that the missionaries in the South Seas have assumed even regal authority,” maintains that “no missionary in the Pacific ever possessed any such authority; that his influence is entirely of a moral character; and I may add, that The ground being thus prepared, the foundation of the spiritual building was laid. Many obstacles have been encountered, arising at once from physical and moral causes; but the great work has never ceased to advance, though the progress has not at all times been equal, nor the prospect of ultimate success altogether unclouded. The Hervey group is subject to occasional hurricanes, which overturn the houses and root out the plants, even in the most sheltered places; and these visitations are usually followed by severe famine, and not unfrequently by infectious distempers. On the 19th December 1831, a storm of the most frightful nature, which swept over Rarotonga, destroyed in a few hours every chapel and school-house, nearly all the native dwellings, and the greatest part of the most valuable trees in the island. The consequences of this calamity were deeply felt; for the people, generally improvident, and destitute of the means of making suitable provision for such an occurrence, suffered intensely owing to the want of food. The previous season, too, appears to have been unfavourable, the supply of bread-fruit and cocoa-nuts being very deficient. Encouraged by Mr Pitman, the chief missionary, the natives extended their plantations; but a large proportion of the new trees was destroyed, either by mischievous depredators, or by a destructive insect bearing some resemblance to the locust. To these evils was added an epidemic, which was so general in its ravages, that in a population of nearly seven thousand, not more than ten or twelve individuals escaped infection. At one of the stations, called Ngatangiia, upwards of a thousand persons were seized with the distemper; and during two months, the deaths sometimes amounted to ten daily. It has since been ascertained that the number of victims at the several places under the inspection of the christian teachers, was not less than twelve hundred.
there are no instances on record where men have used their influence less for their own aggrandizement, or more for the welfare of the people.”
The reader who inspects the public communications from this part of Polynesia, will be convinced that the most gratifying results which have flowed from the exertions of christian teachers, are to be found in the improved character of the children. After the labour of a few years, the missionaries could boast that their schools were attended by three thousand young persons, all of whom had learned to read, repeat the catechism, and even refer to passages in the Bible, viewed as the basis of their creed. The adult pupils were neither so docile nor so industrious. Their minds, unaccustomed to exercise, could not put forth the powers of memory or judgment; they could not even combine syllables into words, nor master the simplest elements of literature, whether for amusement or instruction. Nay, it should seem, that after the first ardour was cooled, they had no desire to attend the lessons of their spiritual guides. These last candidly state, that many of the natives had become slack in their attendance on Sundays; upon which the chiefs sent a messenger to inform them, that they would employ the constables to make the people go to worship. It being contrary to the views of the preachers to allow coercion in such a case, they requested that they might be permitted to try some other method. The most pious and active Christians were immediately selected, who appropriated Saturday for the purpose of visiting every house, in order to hold religious conversation with the inmates ; an expedient which was found so completely successful, that the chiefs never afterwards deemed it incumbent on them to interpose their authority with the view of securing a due regard to the solemn duties of the gospel. On several occasions there has been a tendency to backsliding; and on one emergency, their old habits so far prevailed, that a civil war burst out, arms were resumed by the combatants on either side, and blood was shed in the field of battle. But the mediation of the missionaries calmed their angry spirits; the club and bow were laid aside; and now the most sanguinary of their