Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

freedom. This bad feeling, too, was greatly strengthened by the number of ships which now resorted thither for refreshments. These were chiefly vessels engaged in the whale-fishing, whichi, owing to the uncertainty of obtaining supplies in the South American towns, and the exorbitant charges now made at the Sandwich group, found it convenient to visit the Society Islands. Some of them remained several weeks in harbour, introducing all the irregularities incident to a seaport, and countenancing the natural licentiousness of the people, who again became addicted to the use of ardent spirits.

It is known that, when the gospel was first adopted as the religion of the Windward Isles, the apparatus previously used for distillation was systematically destroyed; and, moreover, that the chiefs, during a long period, steadily opposed all the efforts of foreign traders to revive a practice which, they were convinced, was more destructive of happiness, and even of life, than war, human sacrifice, and infanticide united. But the late king connived at this indulgence on the part of his retainers ; and hence, in defiance of the wisest regulations, increasing quantities of spirits were received from the ships, supplying the means of a growing intemperance.

Nor was the prevalence of wickedness among the people the only obstacle with which the new religion had to contend. In addition to positive crime an alarming heresy arose, which threatened the most fatal consequences to faith as well as to practice. Two individuals, laying claim to plenary inspiration, announced themselves as the sole medium of communication with heaven; and under the influence of fanaticism or fraud, affirmed that the millennium was come, that moral evil no longer existed, that the ten commandments had ceased to have any force, and, consequently, that every one might safely follow the course of life most agreeable to his own desires. These tenets produced in some of the stations great irregularities, and a very general defection from evangelical

Missionary Records, p. 302.

truth. The church at Maurua, which was thereby entirely dissolved, yielded to all the licentious maxims introduced by the visionaries of Otaheite.

Notwithstanding these untoward events, the progress of Polynesian society in the arts and enjoyments of civilized life continued to confirm the hopes of philanthropists at home and abroad, that their labours had not been expended altogether in vain. The industry and enterprise of the people were gradually increasing ; the number of vessels which visited their shores created a demand for vegetables, live stock, and other supplies; and a prosperous traffic among the different islands necessarily led to shipbuilding on a considerable scale. Down to the close of 1830 public tranquillity remained unbroken, though certain causes of misunderstanding between the queen and the chiefs had threatened the fearful calamity of a civil contest. Indeed, in the commencement of the following year, the hostile parties were about to enforce their respective claims by an appeal to arms, when an English ship of war, the Comet, providentially arrived at Otaheite. The commander, with great promptitude, united with the missionaries in their endeavours to maintain peace, and their efforts were successful.*

It is not unworthy of notice that, at this crisis, the descendants of such of the mutineers on board the Bounty as had taken refuge in Pitcairn's Island, debarked in Papeete Bay, with the view of fixing a permanent residence in the territories of Queen Pomare. Finding the resources

Captain Sandilands, in a reply made by him to a letter of thanks received from the missionaries, ascribes the acceptance by the queen of his offer of mediation “ much more to the intelligence and ability displayed by you, at so momentous and interesting a time, than to any intrinsic merit that my proposals possessed ; and it is a circumstance affording me the highest satisfaction, to observe the great estimation you are all held in by the queen and her chiefs, which could not have been obtained but by a faithful discharge of your duties as ministers of Christ and teachers of our holy religion ; and it will be peculiarly gratifying to me to make known these circumstances more fully to those authorities whom it is my duty to inform of this transaction."

L

of the small spot of land on which Adams had established his colony much too limited to supply them with the means of subsistence, they applied to the captain of the Comet, who removed them, eighty-seven in number, to the country of their maternal ancestors. But the circumstances under which they reached the shore could not fail to produce an unfavourable impression on their minds. The royal army on the one side, and the principal chiefs with their followers on the other, were encamped in a hostile attitude at no great distance. It is true, both parties concurred in expressions of good will towards the strangers, and a piece of ground in the neighbourhood was appropriated to their accommodation; but their minds being ill at ease, and their health affected by the change of climate or of food, they soon embraced an opportunity, gratuitously supplied to them, of returning to their native abode.

The disaffection which alarmed the Georgian Islands produced results still more unhappy in the Society cluster. The chief of Tahaa, having resolved to withdraw his allegiance from the King of Raiatea, thereby gave rise to the most disastrous war which has occurred in that part of the Pacific since the introduction of Christianity. In May 1831, the venerable Tamatoa, whose name occurs frequently in the missionary annals as an ardent friend of the new religion, fell a victim to grief and fatigue. From the moment of his conversion he appeared to be influenced by a sincere conviction of truth; and his dying charge to his people was, to preserve the word of God with vigilance, and to be careful that it should not be driven from their shores.*

Such commotions were almost necessarily productive of dissension and indifference among the mixed multitude who professed to believe in the gospel, without fully understanding its principles or imbibing its power. At the close of 1832, accordingly, it was evident to those

Missionary Records, p. 315. Tamatoa is known to have written several letters to the London Missionary Society, besides others to private correspondents in England.

who viewed the general aspect of the missions, that though external ordinances were observed, those whose faith was sincere constituted only a small minority; and that there was an obvious line drawn between true and ostensible believers, who formed two separate classes which had little in common. That this unfortunate distinction should have taken place, cannot be matter of surprise to those who have estimated the causes of deterioration which had been allowed to operate. Exposed to the evil communication which corrupteth good manpers, the flexible mind of the soft barbarian could not resist the powerful temptation which assailed his principles through his appetites. A flood-gate for the practice of iniquity was thus opened, whilst the unconfirmed conscience, not accustomed to the finer distinctions which separate virtue from vice, supplied an argument to the sinner that, though guilty, he might escape punishment. Those who, during this period of trial, had no root in themselves, naturally fell away; and others, who were strangers to any higher principle than regard for the opinion of the world, returned in haste, like the sow that was washed, to wallow in the mire. The churches were afflicted by a partial defection; the enemy triumphed, and the friend of religion mourned over the catastrophe. Such details as have reached this country since the date just mentioned will be communicated to the reader in a subsequent chapter.

CHAPTER V.

Marquesas, Low Archipelago, and Austral Islands.

Marquesas discovered by Mendana-Description-Climate

Inhabitants-Intercourse with Spaniards-Cruelty practised by Manriquez-Visit of Captain Cook in 1774–One of the Natives killed- The Dædalus arrives at Santa Christina-Attack on an Officer - The Duff touches at the Marquesas and lands two Missionaries-Despondency of one of them-Mission renewed and abandoned — Voyage of the Olive BranchMissionaries from the Sandwich Islands-Notice by Mr Bennet of the Tuscan-Visit of Captain Waldegrave-Character of the People in the Low Archipelago–Form of the IslandsJustly called “Dangerous” — Whence peopled — Gambier Islands-Inhabitants seek refuge in the Georgian GroupConversion to Christianity-Violence inflicted on Missionaries—Their Religion and Manners-Incident on Island of Byam Martin-Bow Island - Pitcairn's Island-Account of John Adams and Family–Visit of Christian and YoungThe domestic and religious Habits of the People-Visited by Captain Beechey — Austral Isles — Rapa Chapel and School-Raivavai—Church organized—Toobouai-Inhabitants converted—Rurutoo-Docility of Natives-RimataraAdvance in Civilisation–New Islands discovered.

It is obvious that, in most cases, the lines which separate the several clusters of islands must be to a great extent imaginary, because there are no natural boundaries, or even characteristic distinctions, whereby their precise position might be determined. There is, notwithstanding, a certain convenience in describing them under particular heads, inasmuch as, while following out this principle, we are naturally led to mark the date of their discovery, the geological features connected with their

« ForrigeFortsæt »