« ForrigeFortsæt »
collection of those most advanced in years, anticipate with horror the annihilation which now appears inevitable. The priests of a former age denounced the destruction of the people as one of the greatest punishments the gods could inflict; and they foretold the period when “ the fan (bulrush) shall grow and the coral shall spread, but men shall cease.” Pomare, addressing a European, said, “ you have come to see us under circumstances very different from those under which your countrymen formerly visited our ancestors. They came in the era of men, when the islands were inhabited, but you are come to behold just the remnant of the people.”
It admits not of any doubt, that the circumstances of society must at some time have been more favourable, not only to the preservation but to the increase of the inhabitants, or they could not have been so numerous as they were a century ago. There is no question that depopulation had taken place to a considerable extent prior to the epoch of Wallis' voyage, however difficult it may be to discover the causes which led to it. Infanticide and human sacrifices, added to the destructive wars in which they were wont to engage, will account in part for the disappearance of whole villages formerly occupied by large families ; but as these atrocities were not of recent origin, they do not fully explain the evil which the philanthropist most deeply deplores. There is less difficulty in tracing to their source the loss of life and other calamities which have occurred since Europeans established a footing in the South Sea. Diseases of various kinds have been introduced, compared with which the maladies incident to the climate were mild and in
The use of intoxicating drinks has likewise proved extensively fatal ; still, it must be acknowledged, that all the causes which have been assigned by the native priest and the foreign missionary do not appear adequate to an explanation of the melancholy fact. We therefore turn with greater satisfaction to the assurance that, although the Polynesians, a few years since, appeared on the verge of extinction, they are now, under the renewing influence of true religion and morality, rapidly increasing. When the people of the Society group in general embraced Christianity, the teachers recommended that a correct register of the births and deaths, in each of the islands, should be regularly kept; and it was found that, from the operation of the causes just enumerated, even after the crimes in which they originated had ceased, the number of deaths exceeded the amount of births. About the year 1820, they were nearly equal ; and since that period, population has been steadily advancing. * scene was calculated to excite! Dead to all emotion, the victors, holding by the hair, shook in our faces the heads of their vanquished foes ; directed our eyes to the bones and hands which they were carrying in bundles on their backs; and even offered us the flesh for food. A boy, not sixteen years of age, stuck up within two yards of our fencing a shrivelled human heart.”*
But the hope which we are thus taught to cherish is not a little cooled by the reflection that, in all parts of the world where Europeans have been permitted to establish colonies, the natives have gradually disappeared, losing at once their name and their inheritance. To effect such a consummation, it is not necessary to revive the cruel bondage inflicted by Cortez or the atrocities committed by Pizarro. There seems to be a certain incompatibility between the tastes of the savage and the pursuits of civilized man, which, by a process more easily marked than explained, leads in the end to the extinction of the former. The primitive inhabitants of America, both north and south, continue to decrease, even under the benign influence of institutions calculated to promote their welfare. Africa, too, wherever
* Ellis, vol. i. p. 108. The author of the MS. journal states, on the authority of John Young (the person of whom Vancouver gives so interesting an account), that infanticide was not practised at the Sandwich Islands until foreigners settled among the inhabitants. “The crews of vessels that visited the group formed connexions with the women, who, finding their children unprotected by their absent fathers, had recourse to the crime of child.murder, sometimes before and sometimes.after the birth of their offspring, Hence arose this unnatural cause of depopu. lation, which, although it is most strictly prohibited, is still secretly practised.”
We doubt the soundness of this hypothesis, as applicable to the origin of the evil, though it may account in some degree for its extension.
it has been penetrated by white men, presents the same melancholy phenomenon. In all parts of the globe, indeed, where the exotic takes root, the indigenous plants wither and decay; and we fear that, notwithstanding the favourable symptoms just recorded, Polynesia will not prove an exception.
It is a singular fact, recorded by the missionaries, that disease has followed their steps in most of the islands which they have visited, even where no such personal intercourse has taken place as would afford an explanation on the ordinary principles of medical science. A similar observation applies to New Zealand, where the people appear to have laboured under sicknesses hitherto unknown. A professional gentleman, whose services were required at the station of Kaitai, writes as follows :-“I regret to state that there has been more disease among them during this period than has ever been observed at any previous epoch of their history. Its nature also appears to be quite new, and such as they appear never to have suffered from before. It has, in many of its features, resembled the influenza prevailing of late years in England, which brought with it so much mortality; and this in like manner has been very destructive.” In allusion to another ailment, the same writer observes, that “the epidemic from which they have been more recently suffering, has been more general, and of much more serious results to them. By it their numbers have been sadly thinned, and many have been carried off in a sudden and unexpected manner. It appears to have been of an erysipelatous character, and produced by the same causes as the former affection. During the last two months, the applications from the natives for the relief of this disease have been almost incessant; and at Paihaia alone, I should think medicine has been administered to not fewer than twelve hundred patients.”*
* Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society, ThirtyNinth Year, pp. 104, 105. The author of the communications referred to is Mr Ford, who was sent out by the society
In the islands to which these remarks apply, the progress of the gospel, though occasionally interrupted, is extremely gratifying, and must, at no distant period, take possession of the whole region. There is now more than a little leaven to leaven the unregenerate lump. Thousands of our countrymen are hastening thither, carrying with them the arts, the science, the literature, and the religion of England ; armed, too, with a moral power which cannot fail to subdue the savage hearts of the aborigines, and furnished with the means of civilisation, which, though they were inclined, they cannot long oppose. New Zealand, it is almost certain, will never again witness such sad scenes as passed in it a few years ago, when christian ministers were attacked and their stations demolished. Not fewer than a thousand natives were in arms, or following the footsteps of their sanguinary warriors, who, in proportion to their success in the fight, indulged the horrid propensities of cannibalism. A missionary observes, that “the smell of their garments, and the packages of human flesh which some of them were carrying as presents to chiefs at a distance, quite tainted the atmosphere. It might appear like casting pearls before swine, to speak to the natives to-day, intoxicated as they were with blood; but I could not help warning different groups as I passed along, of the punishment which would await their diabolical wickedness in another world. Who can describe the feelings of disgust and abhorrence which the whole
in December 1836, and whose“ primary object is to benefit the New Zealanders medically.” In allusion to the natives, it is remarked by Mr Davis, a missionary, that “ in times of sickness they have no necessary comforts to support them. The treatment of the sick by those who still adhere to their old superstitious customs, is also a great means of increasing their patients' sickness, and depopulating the country. As soon as a person becomes ill, he is made 'sacred,' and is not allowed to remain in a house ; and being exposed to the open air, or merely protected by a temporary shed, his sickness increases, and death in most cases is the natural consequence, particularly if it happen to be the winter season of the year."--Report, p. 61.
The number of natives killed amounted to about four hundred, besides women and children, to whom, on such occasions, no mercy is shown. Nor were the insurgents content with the revenge which they obtained over the enemies of their tribe : they destroyed the missionary station at Rotorua, laid violent hands on the teachers, and plundered a similar establishment at Matamata. But since the year 1836 there has not been any similar outbreak. The chiefs, respecting the power of Great Britain, and dreading retribution at the hands of the local government, have so far cultivated peace with one another as not to endanger the personal safety of Europeans, especially of those who labour for their advancement in divine knowledge and civilisation.
This sentiment of reverence mixed with wholesome fear will be henceforth greatly increased when they know that the religious instruction of the people is conducted by persons under the immediate sanction of the crown, acting through the regular channel of authority. We have already mentioned that the committee of the Missionary Society in London had opened a communication
* Scottish Missionary Register, vol. xix. p. 128.
+ The impression made on the minds of the leaders by their knowledge that our countrymen have the power as well as the inclination to punish them for their ferocities, is strikingly exemplified by the following occurrence :-A missionary, in endeavouring to convince them of their sin, said, “ friends, your deeds are written in a book.” “ Interrupting me with impatience, • What book ?' cried the chief speaker. He feared that the Europeans had been writing to King William. His impatience was wrought up to the highest pitch; and I was obliged to assume a serious air, and say, 'The book is in heaven.' – Oh! very good,' he replied, seeming to be vastly relieved by the explanation."