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learned by some of the English who went on board, that it was the Nautilus of Macao, commanded by Mr Bishop. Originally destined to engage in the fur-trade on the north-western coast of America, she had been compelled by stress of weather to relinquish the object of her voyage, and proceed to Masafuera. In pursuance of this intention, the captain touched at the Sandwich Islands, whence he carried away two Englishmen and seven natives, whom he proposed to land at the port just mentioned; and on his way thither he designed to visit the Marquesas, either for supplies or with the view of com
He was again defeated by the prevalence of currents or contrary gales, which made it necessary for him to direct his course towards Otaheite, where he arrived in great want of provisions as well as of other necessaries.
In return for the food, of which his crew as well as passengers stood in need, Mr Bishop had nothing to offer except muskets and ammunition, commodities on which the natives set a high value, but which the missionaries determined they should not obtain in their present circumstances. The brethren, therefore, resolved to supply the Nautilus to the utmost extent of their own means rather than permit a traffic that could not fail to encourage the love of war, which still glowed very powerfully in the breasts of the inhabitants. This measure, however prudent, considered with reference to the untamed population of the island, appears to have given great offence to some of those in whose hands the safety of the foreigners continued to rest. The first indication of this change of feeling is contained in an entry of the journal kept at the mission-house : “ Pomare, Idia, and Otoo are at Opare; they neither visit us nor the ship, nor send any food to the vessel.” It happened at the same crisis that five of the natives who had been induced to leave the Sandwich Isles deserted from the Nautilus and took shelter in the house of the king, which, being held sacred, could not be approached with any appearance of violence or constraint. The monarch, too, on his part, finding that Captain Bishop required an additional quantity of provisions, issued an order which had the effect of disappointing him, and, at the same time, of frustrating the benevolent intention of the preachers.
The irritation which dictated such an unusual stretch of power was still farther increased by the flight of two other sailors from the same ship, who also abstracted a boat belonging to her. The commander, in a letter to their friends ashore, expressed his firm determination to recover the men, in defiance of every hazard which might present itself. The missionaries, sympathizing with them in their difficulties, and desirous to prevent the mischiefs which might arise from the residence of so many dissolute persons in the island, deputed four of their number to the king, begging that he would send the deserters on board. The result of this visit was most unfortunate, nd produced an effect on the christian est mei which greatly altered its aspect and operations, until, for a time, it was entirely suspended. When they reached the residence of Otoo, they perceived that the Sandwich islanders were among his attendants, a circumstance which increased their suspicion that he likewise favoured the concealment of the seamen. After waiting some time in expectation that Pomare himself would appear at the house of his son, they proceeded in search of the elder sovereign; but they had scarcely walked a mile, when, on approaching the margin of a river, they were suddenly seized by a number of natives, who stripped them, dragged two of them through the stream, attempted to drown them, and even threatened them with a more instant murder. Upon recovering from this unexpected struggle, they found themselves in a most pitiable condition, being deprived of their clothing, and severely bruised. When the king was questioned by his father in regard to this assault, he made a brief reply in his own defence; yet there is reason to believe that though he may not have actually commanded the outrage, he was at least privy to the intention of inflicting it.
There was no difficulty in sounding the motives of
the young monarch. He had resolved to make a conquest of the whole island, and, at the same moment, to deprive his parent and brothers of all share in the public authority. To accomplish this object muskets and gunpowder were of the greatest consequence to him, as also the aid of the Europeans who had taken shelter at his court. By furnishing supplies to the Nautilus the missionaries had prevented his agents from obtaining the very arms and ammunition by means of which he had hoped to extend his sovereignty; and now they appeared in his presence to demand the individuals on whose skill, as warriors, he placed his chief reliance. It was therefore in vain for Pomare to insist that the refugees should be delivered up to the captain ; they themselves expressed a fixed resolution to remain, and one of them declared, that “ if they take me on board again, they shall take me dead."
As the violence to which the four missionaries had been exposed was accompanied with menaces against their whole body, it is not surprising that their courage should have been somewhat shaken. Indeed, the impression produced upon the society at Matavai was such that eleven of them, including four who were married, considered a removal from the island a part of their duty; and as the captain, on whose account they had incurred the danger, offered a passage to such of them as were desirous to migrate to Port Jackson, they made preparations for their departure.
Intelligence that the teachers were about to withdraw soon reached the ears of the people, among whom, generally, it produced a feeling of deep regret. Pomare, who was much distressed, used every effort to persuade them to stay, promising whatever might conduce to their convenience, and assuring them of protection. His sorrow was greatly alleviated when he found that six of their number, one of whom had a wife, intended to remain. Nor did he conceal from these resolute men that their fears were not altogether ithout foundation : on the contrary, he confessed that he had been frequently urged
by the unprincipled foreigners who lived on the island, including Peter their interpreter, to murder the whole body and seize their property. *
In a letter addressed to the Missionary Society, after the departure of their brethren to New Holland, they write as follows :—“ Experience has taught us, the more we are encumbered about worldly things, the less concern we have for the conversion of the heathen; and the more we are detached from secular employments, the more, we trust, our minds will be attached to the propagation of the gospel. Otaheite affords food and raiment suitable to the climate, and sufficient to answer the great end of Providence in granting us these blessings; and, having these things, we hope the Lord will teach us to be content. We deem it needful to inform the directors, that it appears to us, at present, a reinforcement of this island with a body of missionaries, consisting of men, women, and children, and furnished after the manner of ourselves when we quitted our native country in the ship Duff, would nothing forward the work of God on Otaheite or the adjacent islands; but if four or six christian men, void of worldly encumbrances, will be willing to hazard their lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the conversion of the heathen, and led by the Eternal Spirit, forsake all and follow us, we shall glory, if spared to give them the right hand of fellowship."
Though reduced in number, and not a little discouraged by the indifference of the people among whom they laboured, the six individuals, Bicknell, Harris, Lewis, Eyre, Jefferson, and Nott, who signed this communication to the Society in London, continued to instruct such of the natives as would listen to them, and prepare themselves for future exertions. Exposed to constant depredations, and even menaced with death, they persevered in the study of the Otaheitan language, reducing it to a regular orthography, and unfolding the principles of its
Missionary Records, p. 115.
construction. Pomare, though he valued their mechanical skill much more highly than their religion or grammatical researches, considered it his duty to protect them from open violence, and to punish the thieves by whom their property was invaded. He made some compensation to them for the injuries they had sustained in the late assault, and even ravaged part of the district where the offenders dwelt, fifteen of whom were deprived of life by his command. But, nevertheless, they could not shut their eyes to the fact, that though the chief, with the view of promoting certain temporal objects, favoured their pretensions, the inhabitants in general treated them with less respect, and showed an increasing disinclination to listen to their admonitions. Every day exhibited new and appalling proofs of the deplorable immorality which prevailed on all sides; darkening the prospect, at no time bright, of planting the gospel among tribes in whose eyes the interests of eternity possessed no value. At the same moment, reports were circulated which greatly increased the apprehension of the missionaries. It was rumoured that the principal men were in a short time to proceed to the neighbouring island of Eimeo, and that, prior to their expedition, they meant to burn the house in which the teachers resided.
Towards the close of 1798, these devoted persons were farther alarmed by the renewal of war in the district of Matavai. The whole country was devastated with unrelenting fury; and the natives, abandoning their little property to the lawless plunderers by whom they were invaded, sought safety by fleeing to the mountains. The Swede, aided by one of the sailors who had deserted from the Nautilus, had an active share in this evil work, having lent themselves to the vindictive feelings of Otoo, who seemed to entertain a grudge against his father, whose influence, though he had descended from the throne, was still considerable. In the midst of these commotions, Hamanemane, the high-priest, was murdered, with the connivance if not by the positive order of the king. It is true, he punished with death the per