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The Georgian and Society Islands.
Discovery of Georgian and Society Islands—Quiros, Wallis,
Bougainville, Cook-Natives had not improved-Missionaries land from the Duff-Pomare II. King-Peter the Swede acts as Interpreter—Teachers well received-Mechanical Trades introduced—Idolatry checked— Misunderstanding with the King about the Nautilus-Attack on Missionaries, some of whom depart—War in Otaheite—Death of Mr Lewis -Second Voyage of the Duff-Is captured by a French Privateer-Additional Teachers arrive- Another WarDeath of Pomare 1.-His Character-His Son at first less favourable to the Cause-Missionaries again alarmed-Revival of Affairs—The King converted—His Baptism deferredProgress of the Gospel–Opposition of the Heathen-Clemency of the Royalists—Christianity extended to neighbouring Islands—Additional Teachers sent out-Printing begun -Great Desire for Books—Ship built by Missionaries–Natives form a Society for propagating the Gospel-Objection to their Mode of Contribution-Advantages gained—Church erected in Otaheite-Laws enacted-Pomare baptized-Communion administered in Raiatea—Demise of the King-Coronation of Pomare III.-His Death, and Accession of his Sister Aimata-Difficulties arise-Arrival of Pitcairn Islanders-Services of Captain Sandilands-War in RaiateaEvils of such Commotions.
The Society and Georgian Islands were first made known to civilized nations by a Spanish seaman. In 1605, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros sailed from the port of Callao, with instructions from the government of Madrid to prosecute discovery in the Pacific Ocean, and more especially to direct his researches towards that unknown continent which had so long roused the curiosity of the speculative, and the avarice of all others. On the 10th February the following year, he descried an island, which presenting itself to him in the form of a curved line, he gave to it the name of Sagitaria, or the Bow. From its position, though not quite accurately ascertained, as well as with reference to the circumstance of its being divided by a narrow isthmus, geographers have agreed that the Spaniard must have discovered Otaheite. The natives were found in a state of the utmost simplicity; entirely unencumbered with clothes, and armed with wooden lances burnt at the point, or with great clubs. An altar formed of rude stones was observed by the strangers, who, assuming that it must have been devoted to the prince of darkness, elevated on it a rude cross, an emblem of that better faith which, at that moment, they had neither leisure nor means to establish. *
Fully a century and a half had passed away before that beautiful island was again visited by a European, in the person of Captain Wallis, who, while prosecuting à voyage of discovery, reached its shores about the middle of June, in the year 1767. In the intercourse which took place with the inhabitants, the usual scenes occurred. On the one side was an unbounded curiosity, accompanied with an irrepressible propensity to theft, and, on the other, a becoming vigilance lest danger should be sustained by the ship or men from a sudden attack on the part of the savages. It is true that musketry and great guns possessed an incalculable advantage over stones and wooden missiles; but the superiority of numbers was so immense on the side of the assailants that no precaution could be deemed unjustifiable. After a brisk war, in which the simple people sustained a severe
Edinburgh Cabinet Library, No. XXI. P. 90. In the volume now cited, entitled “ An Historical Account of the Circumnavigation of the Globe,” the reader is supplied with ample details illustrating the progress of maritime discovery in those parts of the world. Hence we purposely confine ourselves to such an outline as may recall recollection of the principal facts and dates.
loss in life and property, peace was established on a firm basis; an active barter was carried on between them and the sailors; and at length, after a stay of nearly six weeks, they retired, leaving a variety of animals and mechanical instruments, highly useful to their hosts.
In the spring of next year, Bougainville, the celebrated discoverer, spent eight days at Otaheite. He was delighted with the beauty of its hills and valleys, as well as with the mild behaviour of the natives. The verdure of its swelling acclivities, the cool shades afforded by its groves, and the pleasant associations connected with its grassy plains and murmuring rivulets, fascinated the imagination of the French commander, who exhausts all the power of language in attempting to express his emotions. Fifteen months after his departure, Captain Cook arrived, having on board several scientific gentlemen, who had been selected to observe the transit of Venus across the solar disc. In the course of this voyage, he discovered Tethuroa, Huaheine, Raiatea, Otaha, Bolabola, Maurua, and Rurutoo. On two subsequent occasions, he visited Otaheite and some other of the Society Islands; from one of which Omai, the young savage, whose history has touched so many hearts, and awakened the sweetest notes of poetry, was conveyed to England.
Ever since that great navigator visited these islands, a deep interest has been felt in the welfare of the inhabitants, whose gentle manners seem to compensate for their questionable morality, and whose docile tempers promised an ample reward for whatever pains might be bestowed
their instruction. It was manifest that, if their knowledge of European power and science were not to be extended beyond the casual acquaintance supplied by the residence of voyagers, they had sustained an injury by their intercourse with our seamen and philosophers. Having proved the superior advantages of iron tools, they were disposed to neglect their own less perfect instruments. The stock they received could neither be replenished nor repaired ; and, despising their boneknives and stone-axes, they could not fail to consider themselves in a more destitute state than before they had learned, from comparison, the extent of their wants. As their vales and mountains were found to produce little which could excite the cupidity of the trader, or gratify the ambition of the statesman, they were about to be abandoned to their primitive seclusion, when a spirit of philanthropy arose in England, which resolved that some effort should be made to improve their condition, to raise them in the scale of intellectual existence, and to rescue them from the bondage of a degrading idolatry.
Between the years 1779, when the great discoverer lost his life, and the spring of 1797, when the Duff reached the shores of Otaheite, several ships, public as well as private, visited the South Sea Islands. The names of Dixon, Portlock, Edwards, Vancouver, La Perouse, and Marchand, will occur to every reader, as those of distinguished commanders who had occasion to enter the ports of Otaheite, Eimeo, and Raiatea; but he will not find in their pages any proof that the acquaintance with European manners, previously communicated to the natives, had been productive of the slightest advantage in regard to their temporal comfort, the enlargement of their thoughts, or the purification of their religious feelings. In 1792, the Dedalus store-ship had followed Vancouver to Nootka Sound, and was thence despatched, under the direction of Lieutenant Hanson, to Port Jackson, in New South Wales.
In her way thither she stopped a fortnight at Otaheite, where the crew were treated with the utmost friendship. Two of them deserted, one of whom was recovered by the contrivance of a chief, who advised the commanding-officer to detain himself until the man should be sent back by the people of the island. The other runaway was a Swede, named Peter, who, being allowed to remain, afterwards rendered himself notorious by the part which he acted against the missionaries.
No change for the better was observed among the natives. While in some respects the humanity and prudence of our navigators are worthy of all praise, it
has been lamented, that, in various points of view, they appear to have derived from the profession of Christianity no superiority whatever to the heathen among whom they sojourned. The morals of the inhabitants had become more depraved from their intercourse with them during the ten preceding years; various diseases, either unknown to the island, or recognised only in a modified form, had carried deformity and death among every class of society; and these evils were not diminished by any improvement in the conduct of their chiefs, whose intemperance, while it was encouraged by a larger supply of intoxicating liquors, received no check from the example of their civilized visiters. It may therefore be believed, that there is little exaggeration in the details given by the first christian teachers, who, in depicting the depravity of the Otaheitans, exhaust all the terms of reproach which St Paul employed when denouncing the crimes of the Greeks and Romans.
In March 1797, a body of missionaries landed from the Duff, having previously performed divine service on board in the presence of about forty of the natives. During sermon and prayer they appeared quite thoughtful; but when the singing struck up they seemed charmed and filled with amazement. “ Sometimes they talked and laughed, but a nod of the head brought them to order.” Two Europeans presented themselves, from whom some important intelligence was obtained respecting the principal persons on the island, as well as in regard to the political changes which had recently taken place. Both the individuals now mentioned were Swedes, namely, Peter Haggerstein, already noticed, and Andrew Lind, who was a native of Stockholm. They informed the strangers that Otoo, recently king, having transferred his
power and title to his son, had assumed the appellation of Pomare; and that in a contest, about twenty months before, with the chief of the southern part of the island, he had triumphed so completely as to establish his dominion over the whole. It was also stated, that the sovereign of Eimeo being dead, he further laid