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Woahoo, who fell in battle, he became sole master of the principal islands. Soon afterwards the ruler of Towee and Nihau, intimidated by the news of his triumph, acknowledged himself a vassal, and consented to hold the government as a tributary prince.
The success of Tamehameha, whose wisdom was equal to his courage, and who was known to be desirous of an intercourse with civilized nations, opened the path to traders of every class, more especially from England and America. Indeed the discovery of some excellent harbours in the island of Woahoo, which had escaped the notice of Vancouver when examining the coast, made them become the resort of ships from all countries, which, during a lengthened voyage in the Northern Pacific, might require repairs, water, or provisions. Sandalwood, an article of great value in the Chinese market, was found in the mountains, and soon proved the means of an extensive commerce with foreigners. In return for this production, the natives at first were satisfied with pieces of iron, nails, and coarse cloth ; afterwards, as their notions of exchangeable value expanded, they required axes, guns, muskets, powder, and shot ; next they bargained for Chinese, American, and British manufactures ; and finally, aspiring, as we have said, to the possession of ships, they purchased with the fruits of their industry schooners and brigs measuring several hundred tons. Without doubt, the local position of the Sandwich Isles renders them highly important to all the great trading communities of either hemisphere. On the north are the Russian settlements along the coast of their Asiatic territories; towards the north-west are the dominions of Japan; due west are the Marian Islands, the Philippines, and Canton; and on the east are California and Mexico. The establishment of the independent states of South America has of late greatly increased their value as an emporium for the commerce of that remote section of the globe, as they lie in the very track
They are visited too, as has already been noticed, by those who trade in furs in the countries bordering on Nootka Sound, as well as by the whalers, who, having found the sperm-whale on the coast of Japan, annually frequent the Northern Pacific.
Meantime a friendly intercourse was kept up with the British government, on whose aid the new sovereign relied for opposing the attempts of certain adventurers who seemed determined to take possession of his islands. In particular, a person named Schiffer had excited a rebellion in Towee, which was promoted by the Russians of Petropaulauska, though not openly countenanced by the cabinet of St Petersburg. In acknowledging a gift sent by the ruler of the Sandwich Isles, George the Third assures him of his friendship, and announces that he has commanded the English navy to respect all ships sailing under the flag of his majesty King Tamehameha. A vessel built at Port Jackson was at the same time presented to him, by the direction of the same monarch, as a mark of gratitude for the kindness shown to such British subjects as had happened to enter his harbours. Intent on the improvement of foreign commerce, the usurper bought two brigs from the Americans, for which he paid in provisions and sandal-wood. Confiding the charge of his cargoes to Europeans, he sent the latter commodity and other productions to the China market, whence, besides the luxuries now required by his people, he received large sums of money, of which he already began to appreciate the convenience. His warehouses were soon filled with articles suited either for barter or commerce with the traders who should touch at his ports; and it is computed that in one year produce from his several islands was sold at Canton to the value of not less than four thousand dollars.
In all respects, he displayed the spirit of a reformer, being little restricted by the belief or usages of his countrymen. Feeling that the independent power of the priests was dangerous to his authority, he assumed at an early period of his reign the sacerdotal functions in connexion with those of royalty. But it is supposed that a
nearer acquaintance with the machinery of superstition soon alienated his mind from all reliance on the ancient gods of Owhyhee ; at all events, there is no doubt that, before his death, he often expressed dissatisfaction at the useless forms of his own religion, and an earnest desire to know the principles of the faith professed by more civilized nations.*
Like all other persons in the same early stage of society, he seems to have estimated the power of supernatural beings, and also their claim to adoration, by the extent of the benefits which they were enabled to confer upon their votaries. Having adopted this standard, he could not long hesitate in preferring the divinities to which Europeans were understood to bow the knee. The high attainments of the strangers compared with the ignorance of his own people; their power too, viewed as arising from their knowledge, contrasted with the feeble efforts of savages, even when inspired with the most daring courage ; and, above all, the comforts and conveniences which spring from a successful application of the arts to the advancement of society, could not fail to make an impression on a mind so vigorous as that of the king, and thereby to lead to a change more or less advantageous. But he had to combat the same prejudices, sanguinary propensities, and corruptions, which had so long opposed reformation in the Society Islands, and even endangered the existence of the ancient government at Otaheite and Eimeo. The superstition at Owhyhee presented features not less horrible, and possessed over the public mind an influence still more enthralling than that of Tongataboo or Savaii. To attempt any immediate or direct change in the faith of his subjects must necessarily have been attended with much hazard to his own power, as well as to the progress of the great plan which he had formed for their future welfare. He therefore, in the mean time, contented himself with
* Voyage of H. M. S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands in the Years 1824-1825, Captain the Right Hon. Lord Byron Commander (4to, Lond. 1826), p. 40.
granting every facility to the ingress of enlightened foreigners, whose example, it was hoped, would give birth to a spirit of industry, and whose wealth would enrich a large class of the people who were now employed either in producing the commodities required for exportation, or in superintending the details of traffic.
But a cause was about to be called into operation, on the aid of which Tamehameha had not calculated, though he had perhaps heard of its effects in the islands beyond the equator. The reader is aware that, so early as the year 1796, the Missionary Society had sent out teachers to several of the windward islands of Polynesia, where their success, though various according to circumstances, presented very little encouragement to the authors of this benevolent scheme. The evangelist left at the Marquesas, after spending about a year among the people, returned in despair ; and the establishment at the Friendly Islands was relinquished in a similar manner, after some of the individuals of which it was composed had sunk under the hands of the natives. While the efforts of the institution were continued under circumstances so inauspicious, and with a degree of perseverance which has since been compensated by an extensive conversion among all ranks, several causes prevented them from making any efforts for communicating the knowledge of the gospel to the Sandwich Islanders. The saving light of Christianity reached them through a different channel. About the beginning of this century, the natives began to enter into the service of foreign ships as seamen, and in pursuit of this occupation several individuals at length reached the United States. Among these was a youth named Obookiah, who arrived at New York in 1809, and, being of an inquisitive turn of mind, manifested an anxious desire for instruction. The contrast presented by a civilized people, when compared with the degraded state of his own nation sunk in ignorance and idolatry, made a deep impression upon his feelings ; and obtaining admittance into Yale College, he rapidly advanced in the usual studies, stimulated by the hope that he might be qualified to convey to others the treasure on which he himself set so high a value. Above all, being a sincere convert to the true religion, and animated with zeal for the conversion of his countrymen, he constantly looked forward to the day when he might be permitted to return home, to make known to his relations the existence of the only true God, and the hope of immortality as manifested through Jesus Christ.
A society was formed in the year 1810, denominated the “ American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,” the chief seat of whose operations was in the city of Boston, though its members were drawn from various parts of the commonwealth. Hearing of Obookiah and other young adventurers from the Pacific, they established a seminary at Cornwall, called the “ Foreign Mission School,” the object of which was to educate such persons preparatory to their being sent back as teachers to their respective islands. The student of Yale College was placed on this new foundation ; but before he could complete the course of instruction suitable for the duties on which it was intended he should enter, he was removed from his labours by the hand of death in the month of February 1818. This event, however, did not long delay the fulfilment of the design, now generally entertained, of conveying the blessings of the gospel to the inhabitants of the Sandwich group. In the autumn of the following year, a company of missionaries, under the patronage of the board just mentioned, sailed from Boston, carrying with them four natives, one of whom was son to the tributary king of Towee, and had been sent to America for his education. The barbarous death inflicted on Captain Cook, and the massacre of other foreigners at later periods, had produced an impression that the people they were about to visit were more savage and bloodthirsty than any other tribe of the South Sea. All maritime persons who were consulted in reference to the contemplated mission, declared that the natives were too much addicted to their pagan customs ever to relinquish them ; that they would