Early voyages to the Pacific—Interest in behalf of the people excited by the published accounts—Formation of the Missionary Society—Sailing of the Duff—Arrival off Tahiti—Notice of a Roman Catholic mission—Opinion of Captain Cook on the formation of a settlement in Tahiti—Cession of Matavai—Departure of the Duff—Influence of the mechanic arts on the minds of the people—Comparative estimate of iron and gold—Difficulties attending the acquisition of an unwritten language—Methods adopted by the missionaries—Propensity to theft among the natives—Efforts to prevent human sacrifices and infant murder—Resolution of the missionaries relative to the use of fire-arms.
The circumstances of the South Sea Islanders, their habits, institutions, ceremonies, &c., described in the preceding volume, represent the state of the inhabitants of Tahiti and the adjacent isles at the time of their discovery, and during a period antecedent to this, the extent of which it is not easy to ascertain. Such, also, was their state, without any other alteration than a knowledge of the use of fire-arms produced, for a number of years after the visits of Wallis, Cook, and Bligh. Accident, so far as Captain Wallis was concerned, made us acquainted with their existence. The advancement of knowledge, the benefit of those interested in scientific research page 2 in Britain and Europe, not the communication of the light of science to the uninformed inhabitants, prompted the successive visits which Captain Cook paid to their shores. The improvement of our West India colonies, by transplanting thither the most valuable indigenous productions of Tahiti, rather than a desire to impart to the inhabitants a knowledge of the arts and comforts of civilized life, led Captain Bligh to their shores; and purposes of justice, his successors. The improvement of native society, and, above all, the communication of the Christian religion to the people, does not appear to have been thought of, either by those who directed or performed the early voyages to the South Sea Islands. These visits were, however, in the arrangements of Him who ordereth all things after the counsel of his own will, preparing the way for this, in a manner which those by whom they were made neither designed nor anticipated.
Without admitting the existence of a power, alike at variance with common sense and religion, in virtue of which the pope authorized the commanders from Spain and Portugal to seize any country they might discover, for the purpose of bringing its plundered inhabitants within the pale of Christendom, or approving the proceedings of those who acted upon such authority; their object, the conversion of the idolaters, was one that must commend itself to every enlightened Christian; and their ardour was frequently proportioned to the importance they attached to the enterprise. This was conspicuous in the conduct of many of the voyagers of the sixteenth century, and presents them in striking contrast with their successors. Papists have often adduced the indifference of Protestants page 3 to the propagation of their faith, as a proof of their heresy: yet supposing that many of the Portuguese and Spanish discoverers, who were Catholics, to have believed that their own was the true faith; while we commend their zeal, we cannot but condemn the violence and absurdity of their proceedings, in forcing what they called Christianity upon the tribes they discovered.∗
∗In this respect, few appear to have exceeded the first who traversed the Pacific—the adventurous Magellan. At Zebul, one of the Philippines, “the admiral (Magellan) persuaded the king, queen, and princes, to embrace the Christian faith, which they did with pleasure. Firing of cannon, and great solemnity, attended their baptism, at which the king received the name of Charles, and the prince that of Fernando. In eight days the inhabitants of the island, with the exception of one district, were made Christians. In order to punish those who refused, the Spaniards burnt their village, and built a cross upon its ruins. In order to shew the good effects of Christianity, a miraculous cure was wrought upon the king's brother at his baptism. The admiral pawned his head for his immediate recovery, should he receive baptism, and break his idols: he saved his head; the prince perfectly recovering soon after being thus initiated in the Christian religion. At Buthan he gave the chief a banner with a cross and crown of thorns painted on it, made his people worship it, and directed him to set it on a high mountain, as a token of good entertainment for Christians, and a means of national safety; stating, that, if devoutly prayed to, it would protect them from lightning and tempest.”— Abridged from Magellan's Voyage, in Callander's Collection of Voyages, vol. i. p. 91, 93.
The published accounts of the voyages from Britain to the South Seas, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, produced a strong feeling of wonder and delight, and excited considerable interest in behalf of the inhabitants of the remote and isolated regions. Among those whose regards for the people were awakened, the late excellent. page 4 Countess Dowager of Huntingdon was exceedingly solicitous that efforts should be made to convey to them a knowledge of the Christian religion. So strong was her desire on this subject, that she is said to have left it with the late Dr. Haweis as her dying charge, that he would attempt to accomplish it. About the same time, the publication of Letters on Missions, by the Rev. Melville Horne, directed the attention of British Christians to this subject; and, in 1795, a society, including among its founders and supporters liberal and enlightened ministers of the established church and dissenters, was formed, under the designation of the Missionary Society: its object was to send the gospel to heathen and other unenlightened nations. At the earnest recommendation of the late Rev. Dr. Haweis and others, the then newly-discovered islands of the South Sea were selected as the first scene of its exertions; and thirty individuals, who had volunteered their services, engaged to attempt the establishment of Missionary settlements in the Marquesian, Society, and Friendly Islands.
On the 10th of August, 1796, they embarked in the Thames on board the Duff, a vessel which had been purchased to convey them to their destinations. This ship was under the command of Capt. James Wilson, who had retired, after a perilous and honourable career in the service of the Hon. East India Company, but who now generously offered to conduct the distant and adventurous voyage. On the 23d of September following, they took their final departure from Portsmouth. Their voyage, though protracted, was safe, and not unpleasant; and on the 4th of March, 1797, they had the satisfaction of beholding the high land of Tahiti in the distant horizon.page 5
On the 7th of March, 1797, the Missionaries went on shore, and were met on the beach by the late Pomare and his queen, then called Otoo and Tetua; by them they were kindly welcomed, as well as by Paitia, an aged chief of the district. They were conducted to a large, oval-shaped native house, which had been but recently finished for Capt. Bligh, whom the natives expected to return. This building, the king and chiefs presented to the strangers as their dwelling: it was pleasantly situated on the western side of the river, near the extremity of Point Venus. To reclaim the inhabitants from superstition, to impart to them the truths of revelation, and to improve their present condition, were the objects that had brought them to Tahiti. How little such an event had been anticipated by Captain Wilson's predecessors, we may learn from the testimony of Captain Cook. Speaking of the departure of the Spanish Missionaries, and the prospect of any future European establishment in the islands, he observes, “It is very unlikely that any measure of this kind should ever be seriously thought of, as it can neither serve the purpose of public ambition, nor private avarice; and without such inducements, I may pronounce that it will never be undertaken.”∗—The natives were delighted to behold foreigners coming to take up their permanent residence among them; as those they had heretofore seen had been transient visitors, with the exception of the Spanish Missionaries and their attendants, and a Spaniard, who had saved his life by escaping from Langara's ship, while it was lying at anchor off Vaiarua, in Taiarabu, in March, 1773; at which time three of his shipmates were executed.
∗Cook's Third Voyage, vol. ii. p. 77.
From a Spanish account of Chiloe, &c. published in 1791, it appears that, in 1772, two ships, sent by the Viceroy of Peru to survey the islands of the Pacific, visited Tahiti, and conveyed to Peru two natives, who were baptized there, and sent back, in 1774, with two Roman Catholic Missionaries. A house of wood was erected for these Missionaries, near the shore of Vaitapeha Bay, in Taiarapu. “Before the ships departed, the Spanish commander called a meeting of the chiefs, who had taken the Missionaries under their protection, described the grandeur of his sovereign, and in formed them of his right to all the islands. The natives, (the account says,) demonstrated much complaisance, and, by acclamation, acknowledged the king of Spain, king of Otaheite and all the islands.” In January, 1775, the ships returned, taking two other natives with them.∗ The Missionaries do not seem to have held much, if any, intercourse with the people; they remained about ten months in the island, when the ships, in which they had arrived, returned, and they embarked for Lima. When Captain Cook visited Taiarapu, in 1777, he saw the house which they had left; it was divided into two rooms; loop-holes “were cut all around, which served as air-holes, and, perhaps, might be meant to fire from with muskets.”† A wooden cross, inscribed with “Christus vincit, et Carolus III. imperat, 1774,” stood in front of the house, and near it was the grave of the commander of one of the ships, who died in 1774. The Spaniards left hogs, goats, and dogs, on the island; and, so far as these have proved serviceable to the people, their mission was beneficial.
∗Burney's Hist. of Voyages and Discoveries, vol. iv. p. 570
†Cook's Third Voyage, vol. ii. p. 12.
When the Missionaries from England, who had now arrived, landed from the Duff, the chiefs and people were not satisfied with giving them the large and commodious Fare Beritani (British House,) as they called the one they had built for Bligh, but readily and cheerfully ceded to Captain Wilson and the Missionaries, in an official and formal manner, the whole district of Matavai, in which their habitation was situated. The late Pomare and his queen, with Otoo his father, and Idia his mother, and his most influential persons in the nation, were present, and Haamanemane, an aged chief of Raiatea, and high priest of Tahiti, was the principal agent for the natives on the occasion. The frontispiece, representing this singular transaction, is taken from an original painting in the possession of Mrs. Wilson, relict of the late Captain Wilson. It exhibits, not only the rich luxuriance of the scenery, but the complexion, expression, dress, and tautauing of the natives, with remarkable fidelity and spirit. The two figures on men's shoulders are the late king and queen. Near the queen, on the right, stands Peter the Swede, their interpreter, and behind him stands Idia, the mother of the king. The person seated on the right hand is Paitia, the chief of the district; behind him stand Mr. and Mrs. Henry, Mr. Jefferson, and others. The principal person on this side is Capt. Wilson; between him and his nephew, Mr. W. Wilson, stands a child of Mr. Hassel; Mrs. Hassel with an infant is before them. On the left, next to the king, stands his father Pomare, the upper part of his body uncovered in homage to his son, and behind him is Hapai, the king's grandfather. Haamanemane, the high-priest, appears in a crouching page 8 position, addressing Captain Wilson, and surrendering the district.—Haamanemane was also the taio, or friend, of Captain Wilson; and rendered him considerable service, in procuring supplies, facilitating the settlement of the Mission, and accomplishing other objects of his visit.
Presentations of this kind were not uncommon among the islanders, as a compliment, or matter of courtesy, to a visitor; and were regulated by the rank and means of the donors, or the dignity of the guests. Houses, plantations, districts, and even whole islands, were sometimes presented; still, those who thus received them, never thought of appropriating them to their own use, and excluding their original proprietors, any more than a visitor in England, who should be told by his host to make himself perfectly at home, and to do as he would if he were in his own house, would, from this declaration, think of altering the apartments of the house, or removing from it any part of its furniture. It is, however, probable, that such was their estimate of the advantages that would result from the residence of the Mission families among them, that, in order to afford every facility for the accomplishment of an object so desirable, and impart confidence to the Missionaries, as to their support, they were sincere in thus ceding the district. They might wish them to reside in it, exercise the office of chiefs over the whole, cultivate as much of it as they desired, and receive tribute from those who might occupy the remaining parts; but by no means perpetually to alienate it from the king, or chief, to whom it originally belonged. This they knew could not be done without their permission, and that permission they could at any time withhold. In 1801, when the Royal Admiral page 9 arrived, Pomare was asked, when the Missionaries were introduced to him, if they were still to consider the district as theirs; and though he replied in the affirmative, and even asked if they wished the inhabitants to remove, it afterwards appeared that the natives considered them only as tenants at will. All that the settlers ever desired was, the permanent occupation of the ground on which their dwellings and gardens were situated; yet, in writing to the Society, in 1804, they remark, in reference to the district, “The inhabitants do not consider the district, nor any part of it, as belonging to us, except the small sandy spot we occupy with our dwellings and gardens; and even as to that, there are persons who claim the ground as theirs.” Whatever advantages the king or chiefs might expect to derive from this settlement on the island, they were not influenced by any desire to receive general or religious instruction. This was evident, from a speech once made by Haamanemane, who said that they gave the people plenty of the parau (word) talk and prayer, but very few knives, axes, scissors, or cloth. These, however, were soon afterwards amply supplied. A wish to possess such property, and to receive the assistance of the Europeans in the exercise of the mechanic arts, or in their wars, was probably the motive by which the natives were most strongly influenced.
Captain Wilson was, however, happy to find the king, chiefs, and people, so willing to receive the Missionaries, and so friendly towards them; and the latter being now settled with seeming comfort in their new sphere of labour, the Duff sailed for the Friendly Islands on the 26th of March.
Having landed ten Missionaries at Tongatabu, in the Friendly Islands, Captain Wilson visited and page 10 surveyed several of the Marquesan Islands, and left Mr. Crook a Missionary there; he then returned to Tahiti, and on the 6th of July the Duff again anchored in Matavai Bay. The health of the Missionaries had not been affected by the climate. The conduct of the natives during his absence had been friendly and respectful; and supplies in abundance had been furnished. While the ship remained at Tahiti, Mr. W. Wilson made the tour of the island; the iron, tools, and other supplies for the Mission, were landed: the Missionaries, and their friends on board, having spent a month in agreeable intercourse, now affectionately bade each other farewell. Dr. Gilham having intimated to the Captain his wish to return to England, was taken on board, and the Duff finally sailed from Matavai on the 4th of August, 1797.
The Missionaries returning from the ship, as well as those on shore, watched her course as she slowly receded from their view, under no ordinary sensations. They now felt that they were cut off from all but Divine guidance, protection, and support, and had parted with those by whose counsels and presence they had been assisted in entering upon their labours, but whom on earth they did not expect to meet again. Captain Wilson coasted along the south and western shores of Huahine, and then sailed to Tongatabu; where, after spending twenty days with the Missionaries, who appeared comfortably settled, he sailed for Canton, where he received a cargo, with which he returned to England, and arrived safely in the Thames; having completed his perilous voyage, under circumstances adapted to afford the highest satisfaction, and to excite the sincerest gratitude from all page 11 who were interested in the success of the important enterprise.
The departure of the Duff did not occasion any diminution in the attention of the natives to the Missionaries in Tahiti. Pomare, Otu, Haamanemane, Paitia, and other chiefs, continued to manifest the truest friendship, and liberally supplied them with such articles as the island afforded. As soon, therefore, as they had made the habitation furnished by the people for their accommodation in any degree comfortable, they commenced with energy their important work.
Their acquaintance with the most useful of the mechanic arts, not only delighted the natives, but raised the Missionaries in their estimation, and led them to desire their friendship. This was strikingly evinced on several occasions, when they beheld them use their carpenters' tools, cut with a saw a number of boards out of a tree, which they had never thought it possible to split into more than two, and make, with these, chests, and articles of furniture. They beheld with pleasure and surprise the daily progress in the building of a boat, upwards of twenty feet long, and six tons burden, which was ultimately finished; but when the blacksmith's shop was erected, and the forge and anvil were first employed on their shores, they were filled with astonishment. They had long been acquainted with the properties and uses of iron, having procured some from the natives of a neighbouring island,∗ where a Dutch vessel, the African Galley, page 12 belonging to Roggewein's squardron, had been wrecked, in 1722, upwards of forty years before they were visited by Captain Wallis. When the heated iron was hammered on the anvil, and the sparks flew among them, they fancied it was spitting at them, and were frightened, as they also were with the hissing occasioned by immersing it in water; yet they were delighted to see the facility with which a bar of iron was thus converted into hatchets, adzes, fish-spears, and fish-hooks, &c. Pomare, entering one day when the blacksmith was employed, after gazing a few minutes at the work, was so transported at what he saw, that he caught up the smith in his arms, and, unmindful of the dirt and perspiration inseparable from his occupation, most cordially embraced him, and saluted him, according to the custom of his country, by touching noses. Iron tools they considered the most valuable articles they could possess; and a circumstance that occurred during the second visit of the Duff, will decisively shew the comparative value they placed upon gold and iron. The ship's cook had lost his axe, and Captain Wilson gave him ten guineas to try to purchase one from the natives, supposing that the intercourse already had with Europeans, would enable them to form some estimate of the value of a guinea, and the number of articles they could procure with it from any other ship that might visit the island; but, although the cook kept the guineas more than a week, he could meet with no individual among the natives who would part with an axe, or even a hatchet, in exchange for them.
∗Probably King George's, or one of the islands in its immediate vicinity, as Commodore Byron found at this place a piece of iron and of brass, which were supposed to have been procured from the wreck.—Hawkesworth's Voyage, vol. i. p. 102.
While some of the Missionaries were employed in the exercise of those arts which were adapted to make the most powerful impression upon the page 13 minds of the natives, others were equally diligent in exploring the adjacent country, planting the seeds they had brought with them from Europe and Brazil, and studiously endeavouring to gain an acquaintance with the native language, which they considered essential to the accomplishment of their objects. In this opinion they were correct; for whatever qualification a man may possess, unless he manifests application and ability sufficient to acquire the language of those among whom he labours, he will make but a very inefficient teacher.
The language was altogether oral; consequently, neither alphabet, spelling-book, grammar, nor dictionary existed, and its acquisition was a most laborious and tedious undertaking. On their arrival, they found two Swedes, Peter Hagersteine, and Andrew Cornelius Lind; the former had been wrecked in the Matilda, and the latter had been left by Captain New of the Dædalus, only a few years before the Missionaries arrived. Peter had a slight knowledge of the colloquial language of the natives; and in all their early communications with the chiefs and people, the Missionaries were glad to avail themselves of his aid as interpreter. He was a man of low education, and bad principles; and if he did not intentionally misrepresent the communications of the Missionaries, his statements must often have conveyed to the minds of the natives very erroneous impressions of their sentiments and wishes. From him, as an instructor, they derived no advantage; as he seldom came near them, excepting when he bore some message from the king, or the chief with whom he resided. The remarks of former voyagers, and the specimens of the language they had given, were of little service, as they could only be the names of page 14 the principal persons and things that had come under the notice of such individuals, and even in the representation of these, the orthography was as various as the writers had been numerous. In reference to their attempts to acquire the knowledge of Tahitian, they remarked, that they found all Europeans, who had visited Tahiti, had mistaken the language as to spelling, pronunciation, and ease of acquisition. In addition to the printed specimens, they had a small vocabulary, compiled by one of the officers of the mutineers in the Bounty, who had resided some months in Tahiti, prior to the arrival of the Pandora; when he was arrested, and brought a prisoner to England, where he was executed at Portsmouth. This vocabulary he left with the worthy clergyman who attended him in his confinement, and by him it was kindly given to the Missionaries; who found it more useful than every aid besides. On their voyage, they had carefully studied it, but though they were thus put in possession of a number of words, in their proper collocation they discovered that they had every thing to learn. They had arranged a number of words in sentences according to the English idiom, which they supposed would be serviceable on landing; but the use of which they soon found it necessary to discontinue. One of these sentences, Mity po tuaana, often afterwards amused the king, when he came to know what they intended by it. Maitai is good, po is night, and tuaana brother. Good-night, brother, was the sentiment intended; but if the natives understood the English word mighty, it would mean, Mighty night, brother; or, if they understood mity as their word maitai, the phrase would be an assertion to this effect, Good (is the) night, brother. page 15 The simple declaration, Good-night, brother, would be unintelligible to the Tahitians, though the language were correct; a corresponding wish among them would be, Ia ora na oe i teie nei po, “May you have peace or life this night.” This circumstance shews the difficulties they had to contend with, even when they had acquired the meaning of many of the substantives and adjectives in the language.
In these embarrassments they had no elementary books to consult, no preceptors to whom they could apply, but were frequently obliged, by gestures, signs, and other contrivances, to seek the desired information from the natives; who often misunderstood the purport of their questions, and whose answers must, as often, have been unintelligible to the Missionaries. A knowledge of the language was, however, indispensable; and many of the Missionaries employed much of their time in making excursions through the neighbouring districts, spending several days together with the chiefs at their own habitations, for the purpose of observing their customs, and obtaining an acquaintance with the words which they employed in social intercourse. This was the more necessary, as the natives who reside in those parts visited by shipping, soon pick up a few of the most common English phrases, which they assimilate as much as possible to the native idiom, and apply almost indiscriminately, supposing they are thereby better understood, than they would be if they used only native words; yet these words are so changed in a native's mouth, who cannot sound any sibilant, or many of our consonants, and who must also introduce a vowel between every double consonant, that no Englishman would page 16 recognize them as his own, but would write them down as native words. Pickaninny is a specimen of this kind.
It was not in words only, but also in their application, that the most ludicrous mistakes were made by the people. “Oli mani,” a corruption of the English words “old man,” is the common term for any thing old; hence, a blunt, broken knife, and a threadbare or ragged dress, is called “oli mani.” A captain of a ship, at anchor in one of the harbours, was once inquiring of a native something about his wife, who was sitting by. The man readily answered his question, and concluded by saying, “Oli mani hoi,” she is “also an old man.”
Part of each day was by several devoted to the study of the language, while once a week, the whole met together for conversation and mutual aid. The only means they had of obtaining it was, by observing carefully the native sounds of words, and then writing down the characters by which they were expressed. In this they found great difficulty, from what generally proves a source of perplexity to a learner, in his first attempt at understanding a foreign tongue, viz. the rapidity with which the natives appeared to speak, and the want of divisions between the words. The singular fact of most of their syllables consisting of a consonant and a vowel, and a vowel always terminating both their syllables and their words, increased their embarrassment in this respect.
It was circumstance highly advantageous to the Missionaries, that the Tahitians were remarkably loquacious, often spending hours in conversation, however trivial its topics, patiently listening page 17 to inquiries, and anxious to make themselves intelligible. Although among themselves accustomed to hear critically, and to ridicule, with great effect, any of their own countrymen who should use a wrong word mispronounce or place the accent erroneously on the one they used, yet they seldom laughed at the mistakes of the newly arrived residents. On the contrary, they endeavoured to correct them in the most friendly manner, and were evidently desirous that the foreigners should be able to understand their language, and convey their own ideas to them with distinctness and perspicuity.
When the Missionaries heard the natives make use of a word or sentence with which they were not already acquainted, they wrote it down, and repeated distinctly several times what they had written. If the natives affirmed that the word or sentence was correctly pronounced by the Missionary, it was left for more careful and deliberate investigation.
Sometimes they endeavoured to find out words, by presenting to the natives different combinations of the letters of their alphabet: thus they would pronounce the letters a a, and say, “What is that?” The natives would answer by pointing to the fibrous roots of a tree, or the matted fibres round the cocoa-nut stalk, which are called aa. They would then pronounce others, as a i, and ask what it meant; the natives, putting their hand to the back of the neck, and repeating ai, told them that that part of the body was thus called. By this means they sometimes discovered the meaning of a variety of words, which they did not before know were even parts of the language. In speaking of their progress, shortly after they had commenced page 18 this department of labour, they observe, “We have already joined some thousands of words together, and believe some thousands yet remain.” Still their progress was but slow, and one of them, who has perhaps made himself most familiar with the native tongue, has frequently assured me, he was ten years on the island, before he knew the meaning of the word ahiri, corresponding to the English word if, used only in connexion with the past tense of the verb to have, as, “If I had seen,” &c.
While the Missionaries were thus employed, the chiefs continued friendly and attentive; the people, however, began to manifest that propensity to theft, which they evinced even on the first visits they received. This obliged the Europeans to watch very narrowly their property. Clothing and iron tools appeared to be most earnestly sought; and, not-withstanding the measures of security which they adopted, their blacksmith's shop was robbed by a native, who dug two or three feet into the ground on the outside, and, burrowing his way under the wall or side of the house, came up through the earthen floor within, and stole several valuable articles.
Their increased acquaintance with the people had awakened their deepest commiseration, when they beheld them, not only wholly given to idolatry, and mad after their idols, but sunk to the lowest state of moral degradation and consequent wretchedness. This furnished a powerful incentive to energetic perseverance in the acquisition of the language, that they might speedily instruct them in the principles of Christianity, and thereby elevate their moral character, and improve their present circumstances.page 19
The Tahitian was the first Polynesian language reduced to writing. In acquiring a knowledge of its character and peculiarities, and reducing it to a regular system, the Missionaries had to proceed alone. In adapting letters to its sounds, forming its orthography, and exhibiting the vernacular tongue in writing to the people, presenting to the eye that which had before been applied only to the ear, and thus furnishing a vehicle by which light and knowledge might be conveyed through a new avenue to the mind, they were unaided by the labours of any who had preceded them, and were therefore the pioneers of those who might follow. That their difficulties were great, must be already obvious. They advanced with deliberation and care; and though the Tahitian dialect, as written by them, is doubtless imperfect, and susceptible of great improvement, the circumstance of its having formed the basis of those subsequently written, the ease with which it is acquired, and the facility with which it is used by the natives themselves, are evidences of its accuracy and its utility.
The Missionaries have been charged with affectation in their orthography, &c. but so far from this, they have studied nothing with more attention than simplicity and perspicuity. The declaration and the pronunciation of the natives formed their only rule in fixing the spelling of proper names, as well as other parts of the language. They aimed at precision, and having adopted the English character, affixed to each letter a distinct and invariable sound. The letters of each word constitute the word, so that a person pronouncing the letters used in spelling a word, would, in fact, pronounce the word itself. Pursuing this plan, page 20 they were under the necessity of presenting to the natives a mode of spelling different from that which had been given to Europeans in the narratives of early voyagers. They did this reluctantly. Their early associations and strongest predilections were all in favour of Otaheite, Ulitea, Otahaa, &c. names which English voyagers had given to the scenes and persons they describe, and it was only from the firm conviction that such were not their native designations, that they adopted others. The orthography of Bougainville, who visited Tahiti in 1768, about twelve months after its discovery by Wallis, they found approximate nearer the native sounds than that which Captain Cook and his companions afterwards followed. The principal island Bougainville called Taiti, and his designations of other islands greatly resemble those given them by the people. In adjusting the spelling they have adopted, they did not follow any former visitors, but, having fixed their alphabet, they have invariably endeavoured, as accurately as possible, to express the names the natives use.
The Missionaries sought an early opportunity to unfold to the rulers of the nation the objects of their Mission, and, after several disappointments, held a public interview with Pomare, Otu, and other principal chiefs, in which they stated, as distinctly as possible, through the medium of Peter Hagerstien, as interpreter, their design in coming to reside amongst them; viz. to instruct them in useful arts, teach them reading and writing, and make known to them the only true God, and the way to happiness in a future state; urging the discontinuance of human sacrifices, and the abolition of infanticide. As an inducement to compliance with this last request, they offered to build a house page 21 for the accommodation of the children that might be spared, whom they promised to nurse with attention equal to that which they paid to their own. The chiefs and people listened attentively to their proposal, appeared pleased, and said no more children should be murdered. It was, however, only a promise.
The distressing circumstances under which this unnatural and revolting crime was practised, and the awful extent to which it prevailed, was one of the first of the many horrid cruelties filling these “dark places” of paganism, that deeply affected them. More than once having received intimation of the murderous purpose of the parents, they had, when the period of childbirth drew nigh, used all their influence to dissuade them from its execution, offering, as a reward for this act of common humanity, articles highly valued by them. When these had failed to move the parents' hearts, and they could obtain no promise from either the father or mother, that they would spare the child, the wives of the Missionaries have, as a last resort, begged that the infant, instead of being destroyed, might be committed to their care. But the people were so much under the slavish influence of custom, that, with one or two exceptions, their efforts were unavailing, and the guilty murderers have in a few days presented themselves at the Missionary dwellings, not only with most affecting insensibility, but apparently with all the impudence of guilty exultation.
The persons and the habitations of the Missionaries had hitherto been secure, excepting from petty thefts; they were, however, occasionally alarmed by rumours of war. Haamanemane had formerly requested their aid in a descent he intended page 22 to make upon Raiatea, for the recovery of his authority there; but this they had firmly declined. The pilfering habits of the people rendered it necessary for them to watch their property during the night; and the unsettled state of political affairs in the island indicating their exposure to the consequences of actual war, led them to consider the line of conduct it would be their duty under such circumstances to pursue. They were in the possession of fire-arms, which they had brought on shore solely with a view to intimidate the natives, and deter any, who, unrestrained by the influence of the chiefs who had guarantied their protection, might be disposed to attack them. The propriety of their using fire-arms was, however, questioned by some, and discussed by the whole body; who publicly agreed that it was not their duty even to inflict punishment upon those that might be detected in stealing their property, but to complain to their chiefs; and that they could take no part even with their friends, in any of their wars. They resolved that their arms should be used for defence only, in the event of an attack being made upon their habitations; and not even then, until every means of avoiding it had been employed. Some of the Missionaries carried their principles of forbearance so far, as to declare that, but for the exposure of the females even then it would not be right to have recourse to arms. Such were the views of the Missionaries, and the circumstances of the people, when an event transpired which altogether altered the aspect of affairs in reference to the Mission.