First preaching in the native language—National council in Atehuru—Seizure of the idol Oro—Rebellion of the Oropa—Introduction of useful foreign fruits and vegetables—Providential arrival of two vessels—Battle of Pare—King's camp attacked, Oro retaken—Mission house garrisoned with seamen, &c.—Desolation of the war—Death of the king's brother—Ravages of foreign diseases—Death of Pomare—Sketch of his character— Otu assumes the name of his late father—Origin of the regal name—Efforts to instruct the children—Death of the queen—Compilation of the first spelling-book—First school for teaching reading and writing—Arrival of the Hawkesbury—Death of Mr. Jefferson—Mr. Nott's visit to the Leeward Islands—Rebellion in Matavai—Defeat of the king—Departure of the majority of the Missionaries—Abandonment of the Mission.
Anxious to increase the resources of the islands, those who had arrived in the Royal Admiral had brought with them a variety of useful seeds from Port Jackson, with plants of the vine, the fig, and the peach-tree, which were planted in the Mission garden. Many of the seeds grew, and the vegetables produced added an agreeable variety to the indigenous productions of the country. The vine, the peach, and the fig, appeared to thrive well; but in the war which broke out shortly after, the fences were broken down, the plants torn up or trodden under foot, and the garden was entirely destroyed. Pineapples and water melons, of page 50 which the natives seemed remarkably fond, were preserved amidst the general devastation. The pineapple grew luxuriantly in several parts of Tahiti; and though the natives were told it was palatable food, they were so mistaken in the nature of the fruit, that they baked numbers of them in their native ovens, before they attempted to eat any undressed. Had they exercised a little more patience, the vine also might perhaps have been spared; for it is stated, that as soon as the young grapes appeared, they eagerly plucked and tasted them, but, finding them exceedingly sour, they became indignant, and, regarding the plant as useless, destroyed it.
The Missionaries who had arrived in the Duff, had now acquired so much of the language as to be able to preach to the natives in their own tongue, and to engage in the catechetical instruction of the children. In these exercises they did not confine themselves to the inhabitants of their own vicinity, but visited the adjacent districts; and, in the month of March, 1802, Mr. Nott, accompanied by Mr. Elder, made the first Missionary tour of Tahiti. They were in general, hospitably entertained, and had many opportunities of speaking to the people, who frequently listened with attention, and often made inquiries, either while the preacher was speaking, or after the address was ended. They seemed interested in the account of the creation, and deeply affected with the exhibition of Jesus Christ, as the true atonement for sin; instead of pearls, or pigs, or other offerings, which they had been accustomed to consider as the best means of propitiating their deities. Some said they desired to pray to the true God, but were afraid the gods of Tahiti would page 51 destroy them if they did: others remarked, that the Duff came last among the ships, but that, if the gospel had been conveyed by the first ship, the gods of feathers, as they denominated their idols, would long ago have been destroyed: and one of the principal chiefs, at whose residence they spent the night, observed to the natives around, that he believed the Missionaries possessed the true foundation of knowledge.
On their return home, they travelled through the district of Atehuru, and found the king, Pomare, and all the chiefs and warriors of the land, assembled at the great marae, where a number of ceremonies were performing in honour of Oro, the great national idol. As they passed the marae, they saw a number of hogs on the altar, and several human sacrifices placed in the trees around; and when they reached the spot where the chiefs were assembled, they found Pomare offering five or six large pigs to Oro, on board a sacred canoe, in which the ark, or residence of the idol, was placed. Notwithstanding his being thus engaged, they told him Jehovah alone was God, that pigs were not acceptable to him as offerings, that Jesus Christ was the true atonement for sin, and that God was offended with them for killing men. The chief at first seemed unwilling to listen, but at last said he would attend to their religion.
On the following day, when the king, chiefs, and people, were assembled within the temple, Otu and his father, pretending to have received intimation that Oro wished to be conveyed to Tautira, in Taiarabu, Pomare addressed the chiefs of Atehuru, requesting them to give him up; but the orators of the Atehuruan chiefs resisted. page 52 Otu then demanded him, but the chiefs still refused compliance. Pomare then recommended his son, the king, to allow the Atehuruan chiefs to retain the idol until a certain ceremony had been performed. This the king declined, and again insisted that Oro should be given up. This was still refused; and, having asked for some time without effect, he rose in anger, and ordered his party to withdraw. A number of his attendants rushed upon the canoes, other seized the god by force, tore him away from the people of Atehuru, and bore him towards the sea. This was not only the signal for war, but the commencement of hostilities. The Atehuruans fled to the valley, and the king and Pomare set sail with their fleet to the place of rendezvous; and, lest Oro should feel indignant at the treatment he had received, a human sacrifice was ordered; but as they had no captives with them, one of Pomare's own servants was murdered, and offered, as soon as the king reached the shore. The next morning, the fleet sailed with the idol for Tautira, and the Missionaries returned to their companions, with the tidings of the threatening events, of which they had been the melancholy spectators. When the fleet reached Papara, Pomare sent them word that it was probable the Atehuruans would attack them, and advised them to be upon their guard. Ten days after, they heard that the inhabitants of Atehuru had invaded the district of Faa, murdered those who had not escaped by flight, burnt the houses, and continued their murderous and desolating course into the district of Pare, which joins Matavai on the south. Here they drove out the inhabitants, burnt their habitations, and then returned to their own territory; not, however, page 53 without threatening to enter the district of Matavai, and assault and plunder the Missionaries.
This rebellion, called in the annals of Tahiti, Te tamai ia Rua, The war of Rua, (Rua being the name of the principal leader of the rebellion,) was the most powerful and alarming that had yet taken place; and the circumstances by which God providentially preserved the Missionaries from its rage, and from inevitable ruin, were remarkable. About six weeks before Mr. Nott commenced his tour of Tahiti, the Norfolk, an armed brig from Port Jackson, arrived at Matavai, and brought Mr. and Mrs. Shelly to join the Mission. About a week after the arrival of the Norfolk, the Venus, another colonial vessel, came into the bay, and left on shore Captain Bishop and six seamen, to purchase pigs and salt pork for Port Jackson, while Captain Bass pursued his voyage to the Sandwich Islands, on the same errand. About the 30th of March the Norfolk was wrecked in Matavai bay, having been driven on shore by a heavy gale of wind. The hull was destroyed, but all the stores were preserved. Seventeen Englishmen were thus cast ashore, and added to the number of those already residing there. These, together with Captain Bishop and his men, exposed to one common enemy, united with the Missionaries for mutual defence; and to them, under God, the Missionaries owed their preservation. Two or three hundred warriors came from Eimeo to Pomare's aid. They encamped in the northern part of Pare, where they were joined by a number of the inhabitants of those districts, favourable to his cause; but they were attacked, and driven in confusion before the rebels towards Matavai, which had now become the frontier district.page 54
On the day of the engagement, Captain Bishop, with a strong party, occupied the pass on the top of One-tree Hill, arrested the progress of the victors, and favoured the retreat of the vanquished, whose courage appeared to have forsaken them, under the conviction that the god Oro, fighting with their enemies, rendered them invincible. The rebels did not attempt to enter the district, but sent a messenger with proposals of alliance, offering the English the government of Matavai, and the two districts to the southward, which they had already ravaged. If this was not agreed to, they demanded permission to march through the district to attack their enemies beyond Matavai, and, in the event of refusal, declared their intention of forcing a passage with the club and the spear. The refugees from the conquered districts had already sheltered themselves under the protection of the Missionaries and their companions, and they would have fallen a sacrifice to the cruelty of their enemies, had these been allowed to pass through the district. The English, therefore, acceded to the first proposition. The Atehuruans ratified the treaty, returned to their own land, and thus afforded the foreigners at Matavai, and those under their protection, a short respite from the dread of immediate attack. Had the Missionaries been the only Englishmen residing on the island at the time, it is most probable the victors would not have been checked by them in their career of conquest. They would have prosecuted their march of destruction; and, as the Missionaries remark, they must have retreated, or fallen a sacrifice to their fury.
Flushed with success, and animated with the belief that the god fought with them, the rebels, page 55 having offered in sacrifice the bodies of the slain, and united in their confederacy the districts of Papara, and the whole of the south-west side of the larger peninsula, crossed the isthmus, marched at once to Tautira, and attacked the king and Pomare; who, ever since their arrival with the idol they had seized in Atehuru, had been engaged in offering human sacrificed, and by other acts of worship, propitiating the favour of Oro. The rebels conducted their expedition with so much secrecy and despatch, that the king was taken by surprise. Notwithstanding this, the assailants were, in their first onset, repulsed; but, renewing their attack in the night, although; Pomare's party had forty muskets, and those in the hands of the rebels were not more than fourteen, they threw the king's forces into confusion, killed a chief of influence, a near relative of Pomare's, and, driving his warriors to their canoes, retook the object of their murderous contention, the image of Oro, and remained masters of the whole of Tairabu, as well as of the south and western side of the large peninsula.
Pomare, with his vanquished forces, pursued their voyage to Matavai, where he and his son were received with respect by Captain Bishop and his companions. His affairs appeared desperate, and he entertained no thoughts of security, but by flight to Eimeo. When, however, he beheld the manner in which the English had prepared to defend themselves, if attacked; and was assured by Captain Bishop and his companions, that if he was conquered, they were not; and that they would support him in the present critical state of the nation, and assist in the restoration of his government, his prospects brightened, and he again page 56 indulged a hope that his affairs might be retrieved.
The rebels were now masters of the greater part of the island; and, as the Missionaries had every reason to believe they would attempt the conquest of the remainder, and knew that their establishment was the only point where they were likely to meet with the slightest resistance, they neglected no means of defence. The Mission-house was converted into a garrison. The enclosures of the garden were destroyed, the bread-fruit and cocoanut trees cut down, to prevent their affording shelter to the enemy, and the means of annoyance from their muskets or their slings. Their chapel was also pulled down, lest the enemy should occupy it or burn it, and from it set fire to their own dwelling. A strong paling, or stockade, was planted round the house; boards, covered with nails, were sunk in the paths leading to it; and thither the Missionaries, Captain Bishop, Captain House, commander of the vessel that had been wrecked, and the seamen under their orders, now retired, as they daily received the most alarming accounts of the intention of the rebels to make their next attack upon them. The veranda in front of their dwelling was protected by chests, bedding, and other articles, so as to afford a secure defence from musket-balls; and the sides of the house, which were only boarded, were fortified with similar materials. Four brass cannon, which had been saved from the wreck of the Norfolk, were fixed in two of the upper rooms, and the inmates of the dwelling were placed under arms, as far as the number of muskets would admit. The Missionaries, as well as the seamen, stood sentinels in turn, night and day, in order to prevent surprise. page 57 Their situation at this time must have been most distressing. Independently of the desolation that surrounded them, and the confusion and disquietude that must necessarily have attended their being all confined in one house, together with the two captains and their seamen, they were daily expecting an attack. Sometimes they heard that the rebels wer entering Matavai from the east, at other times from the west, and sometimes they received intelligence that they had divided their forces, and intended to commence the attack from two opposite points at the same time.
Pomare erected some works on One-tree Hill, to arrest their progress, should they attempt the district in that direction; and, hearing they were still ravaging the peninsula of Tairabu, sent a strong party to tabu-te ohua, strike their encampment at home. His party reached Atehuru, without molestation, late at night; and, after a short concealment, falling upon the unconscious and defenceless victims, under the cover of the darkness of midnight, in two hours destroyed nearly two hundred men, women, and children. The men who remained at home, in times of war, were generally either aged or sick, and incapable of bearing arms. This unprovoked act of cruelty, on the part of Pomare, heightened to such a degree the rage of the rebels, that they vowed the entire destruction of the reigning family.
While the affairs of the island remained in this unsettled state, the Nautilus arrived, and Pomare prevailing on the captain to furnish him with a boat manned by British seamen armed, went to Atehuru to present a costly offering to Oro, whose favour he still considered to be the only means of restoring his authority. Although that idol was now in page 58 the hands of his enemies, yet, as his errand was of a sacred character, the Atehuruans, notwithstanding they would not admit him to the temple, allowed him to present his offerings, which he deposited on a part of the beach near the temple, and peaceably retired.
When Pomare returned, he solicited from the captains, men and arms to go against the insurgents; and on the 3d of July, Captain Bishop and the mate of the Nautilus, with twenty-three Europeans, well supplied with ammunition, arms, and a four-pound cannon, accompanied Pomare's forces to the attack. All the Missionaries remained at Matavai, excepting one, who accompained Captain Bishop as surgeon. On reaching Atehuru, they found the rebels had taken refuge in their Pare or natural fortress, about four miles and a half from the beach. This retreat was rendered by nature almost impregnable to the native warriors, and the only avenues leading to it being defended by the barriers its occupants had thrown up, it appeared difficult, if not impossible, to take it by storm, even with the foreign aid by which the king was supported. After spending the day in almost harmless firing at the enemy, the English and the natives were on the point of embarking to return, when the rebels having been decoyed from their encampment by the daring and challenges of an active and courageous young man, who had assumed the name of To-morrow Morning, chased him and his companions down to the sea-side. Here they were checked by Pomare's musketeers, and retreated a few moments, when they halted, and faced their pursuers; but on the arrival of the English, they were seized with a panic, and fled. Seventeen of the rebel warriors, including Rua, one of their leaders, were taken, and killed on the page 59 spot by Pomare; whose followers, according to their savage rules of war, treated their bodies with the most wanton brutality.
Pomare and his English allies marched the next morning to the strong-hold of the natives, and were much disappointed at finding it filled with men determined to defend it to the last. A female was sent, as a herald, with a flag of truce to the warriors in the fortress, informing them of the number slain, and proposing to them the king's terms of peace. Taatahee, the remaining chief of the rebels, who was related to Pomare, directed her to tell him, that when they had done to him, as they had done to Rua the slain chief, then, and not till then, there would be peace. As it appeared improbable that the place could be attacked with advantage to the assailants, and equally improbable that its occupants would accept any terms of capitulation that the king would offer, Captain Bishop returned to Matavai, and on the day following Pomare sailed about twelve miles towards Pare. Here he fixed his encampment; and, although peace was not concluded, hostilities appear to have been for some time suspended.
Soon after the return of Captain Bishop, the Nautilus sailed; and the Venus having revisited Tahiti, on the 19th of the following month Capt. Bishop with his men left the island.
Dreadful and alarming as these superstitious and bloody contests had been, and though still exposed to the horrors of savage war, the Missionaries, protected in their work by the care of Providence, felt that they were
“…… devote to God and truth,
And sworn to man's eternal weal, beyond
Repentance sworn, or thought of turning back,”
and determined, in dependence on Divine protection and support, to maintain their station; diligently to labour, and patiently to wait for the reward of their toil. They beheld, with deepest distress, their gardens destroyed, their trees cut down, the fences they had reared with so much care demolished, the country around a desolate wilderness, and the inhabitants reduced to a state of destitution and wretchedness; yet they could not contemplate the remarkable interposition of Providence, in affording them the means of perfect security amidst the surrounding destruction, without mingled emotions of admiration and gratitude.
The cessation of hostilities afforded the Missionaries a respite from anxious watching, and allowed them to pursue their former avocations. Their gardens were again enclosed, and such seeds as they had preserved were committed to the ground. The study of the language, which, under the guidance and assistance of Mr. Nott, had been regularly pursued one or two evenings every week, was resumed. In the instruction of the children, the greatest difficulties had been experienced from their restless and unrestrained dispositions and habits; for, having been unaccustomed to any steady application, or to the least control, they seldom attended to their lessons long enough to derive any advantage from the efforts of their teachers; yet, as opportunity offered, the Missionaries continued to catechize them, and to preach to the adults. The natives, however, persevered in their depredations on the little remaining property of the mission; and, in order to deter others, one of them, who had been detected, was publicly flogged by the king's order.
Towards the close of the year 1802, Mr. Jefferson page 61 and Mr. Scott made the tour of Tahiti, for the purpose of preaching to the people. In most of the places they were hospitably entertained, though, on one occasion, the chief refused them lodging, because a former Missionary had not rewarded him for his accommodations. In some instances, the natives appeared to listen with attention and interest to their message, but they frequently found great difficulty in inducing them to attend, and often observed with pain, that their instructions were received with indifference or with ridicule. At on place, though the people on their first arrival welcomed them cordially, yet when they understood the object of their visit, a marked, and by no means pleasing change, appeared in their behaviour.
For many years, the first Missionaries were variously annoyed in almost all their attempts to preach the gospel. Sometimes, when they had gone to every house in a village, and the people promising to attend, had left their houses, they often found, on reaching the appointed place, that only two or three had arrived there; at other times, they either talked all the while about their dress, complexion, or features, and endeavoured to irritate the foreigners by false insinuations as to the objects of their visit; or to excite the mirth of their own companions by ludicrous gestures, or low witticisms on the statements that were made. Brainard remarks, that while he was preaching, the Indians sometimes played with his dog: but the first teachers in Tahiti were often disturbed by a number of natives bringing their dogs, and setting them to fight on the outside of the circle they were addressing; or they would bring their fightingcocks, and set them at each other, so as completely page 62 to divert the audience, who would at once turn with a vidity from the Missionary, to the birds or the dogs. On some occasions, while they have been preaching, a number of Areois, or strolling players, passing by, have commenced their pantomime or their dance, and drawn away every one of the hearers. At such times, those who had stood round the Missionary only to insult him by their insinuations, ridicule him by their vulgar wit, or afflict his mind by their death-like indifference to the important truths he had declared, have instantly formed a ring around the Areois, and gazed on their exhibitions of folly and of vice with interest and pleasure.
In addition to these sources of disturbance, they were sometimes charged with being the authors of all the disasters and suffering of the people, in consequence of praying to their God, whom the natives called a bad God when compared with Oro. Under these circumstances, it required no small degree of forbearance and self-possession, as well as patient toil, to persevere in preaching the gospel among a people whose spirit and conduct afforded so little encouragement to hope it would ver be by them received.
Hitherto their labours had been confined to Tahiti; but in December, 1802, Mr. Bicknell, accompanied by Mr. Wilson, made a voyage to Eimeo, and, travelling round it, preached “the unsearchable riches of Christ” to its inhabitants, many of whom appeared to listen with earnestness, and desired to be more fully instructed.
The same year, in the month of November, Teu, an aged and respected chief, the father of Pomare, and the grandfather of the king, died at his habitation not far from the Mission-house. page 63 He was remarkably venerable in his appearance, being tall and well made, his countenance open and mild, his forehead high, his hair blanched with age, and his beard as white as silver, hanging down upon his breast.∗ He had led a quiet and peaceful life ever since the commencement of the Mission, was probably the oldest man in the island, and, what is rather unusual, died apparently from the exhaustion of nature, or old age. He was esteemed by the natives, and supposed to be a favourite with the gods. But whenever the Missionaries had endeavoured to pour into his benighted mind the light of truth, as revealed in the sacred volume, it was a circumstance deeply regretted by them, that he had generally manifested indifference or insensibility.
∗In the plate of the Cession of Matavai, he appears standing on the right hand of the king, and immediately behind Pomare.
The family at Matavai were exposed to trials not only from the evils of war, and the opposition of the heathen to thier instructions, but also from the false reports which were circulated against them. An instance of this occurred early in the following year, 1803, when the Unicorn, a London ship, arrived, on her return from the north-west coast of America. Otu, the king, suddenly left Matavai, and repaired to his dwelling in Pare, incensed against some of the Missionaries, who, he was informed, had been endeavouring to prejudice the captain against him, that he might not receive any presents, and had actually prevented the captain from giving the natives the price they had asked for their pigs. This report was most unfounded, and it was hoped the effects were soon removed.page 64
About this time the Margaret, in which Captain Byers and Mr. Turnbull had visited the islands for purposes of commerce, was wrecked on a reef about 200 miles distant; Mr. Turnbull had remained in Tahiti; Captain Byers, his officers, and crew, consisting of sixteen individuals, with the mate's wife and child, safely reached that island in a long kind of chest, or boat, which they had built with the fragments of the wreck.
Towards the close of the last year, Otu's brother Teariinavahoroa, the young prince of Tairabu, removed from the smaller peninsula in consequence of the increase of his disorder, which appeared to be consumption. Pomare, his mother, Idia, his brother and sister, and the chiefs, paid him every attention; human sacrifices were offered; and both Pomare and Otu frequently invoked their gods in his favour, and presented the most costly offerings. For a number of days no fires were allowed to be lighted, in order that these might be effectual: but all were unavailing; the young chief, who had scarcely arrived at the age of manhood, died in the district of Pare on the 19th of June, 1803. The Missionaries frequently visited him after his arrival in Pare, and, as far as their scanty means would allow, administered cordials suited to his languid state. They were, however, most anxious to direct his mind to the great Physician of souls, and to lead him to apply for those remedies that would heal his spiritual maladies, and prepare him for his approaching dissolution. On this subject, they noticed with distress not only the unwillingness of his friends that any thing should be said, but also the insensibility of the young chieftain himself. It was supposed by the people, that his illness and death page 65 were occasioned by the incantations of Metia, a priest of Oro, a famous wrestler and sorcerer, whose influence, ceremonies, and prayers, had induced the evil spirits to enter into the young prince, and destroy him. Counter-ceremonies were performed; prayers, called faatere, were offered, to drive the evil spirits from him, and these, it was imagined, would all be unavailing, should the Europeans direct his mind to any other source, or offer on his behalf prayers to any other god, and hence in part might have proceeded the aversion of his friends to the presence and efforts of the Missionaries.
Another large meeting of chiefs, priests, and warriors, was held during the summer of 1803 at Atehuru, and rumours of war were again spread through the land. Here Otu once more demanded the body or image or the great god Oro, which the chiefs agreed ultimately to give up to the custody of the king, but which they were not so ready at once to surrender.
The state of the people was at this time most affecting. Diseases, introduced by Europeans, were spreading, unmitigated, their destructive ravages, and some members of almost every family were languishing under the influence of foreign maladies, or dying in the midst of their days. The survivors, jealous of the Missionaries, viewed them as the murderers of their countrymen, under the supposition that these multiplied evils were brought upon them by the influence of the foreigners with their God. They did not scruple to tell them that He was killing the people; but that by and by, when Oro gained the ascendencey, they should feel the effects of his vengeance. In addition to the diseases resulting from their immorality, page 66 there were others of a contagious and often fatal character, to which the natives were formerly strangers. These, whether they had been conveyed to the islands by the visits of ships, or the desertion of seamen afflicted with them, produced the most distressing sickness and mortality among the people; and, although nothing could be more absurdly imagined, yet, according to their ideas of the causes of disease and death, that they originated in the displeasure of some offended deity, or were inflicted in answer to the prayers of some malignant enemy, they were, from the representations of some, and the conjectures of others, led to suppose that these diseases were sent by the God of the Missionaries, in answer to their prayers, and because they would not reject Oro, and join in their worship.
At this time an event transpired, which threatened at first a revival of all the confusion and desolation of war. This was the demise of Pomare, the father of Otu the king. His death was sudden; he had taken his dinner, and was proceeding with two of his attendants in a single canoe towards the Dart, a vessel on the point of sailing from the bay. While advancing towards the ship, he felt a pain in his back, which occasioned him involuntarily to start in his seat; and, placing his hand on the part affected, he fell forward in the canoe, and instantly expired. The suddenness and circumstances of his death, taken in connexion with the troubles in which he had recently been engaged with the greater part of the people of the island, on account of his violent seizure of the idol of Atehuru, strengthened in no small degree the idolatrous veneration with which the natives regarded their god; and the anger of page 67 Oro was by them supposed to be the direct cause of Pomare's death.
In person, Pomare, like most of the chiefs of the South Sea Islands, was tall and stout; in stature he was six feet four inches high, his limbs active and well-proportioned, his whole from and gait imposing. He was often seen at Matavai, walking with firm steady step, and using with ease as a walking-stick a club of polished ironwood, that would have been almost sufficient for an ordinary native to have carried. His countenance was open and prepossessing, his conversation affable, though his manner was grave and dignified. He was originally only a chief of the district of Pare, but his natural enterprise and ambition, together with the attention shewn him by the commanders of British vessels, their presents of fire-arms and ammunition, and the aid of European seamen, especially the mutineers of the Bounty, had enabled him to assume and maintain the supreme authority in Tahiti. Though not possessed of the greatest personal courage, he was a good politician, and a man of unusual activity and perseverance. He laboured diligently to multiply the resources of the island, and improve the condition of the people, and his adherents were always well furnished with all that the island afforded. The uncultivated sides of the mountains, and the low flat sandy parts of the shore, seldom tilled by the natives, were reclaimed by his industry; and many extensive groves of cocoa-nut trees in Tahiti and Eimeo, which the inhabitants say were planted by Pomare, remain as monuments of his patriotism, and yield no small emolument to their present proprietors. In all these labours he endeavoured to infuse his own spirit into the bosom of his followers, page 68 and to animate them by his example, usually labouring with his people, and planting with his own hands many of the trees.
To the mission families he was uniformly kind. Shortly before his death, he recommended them to the protection of his son; though the more he understood the chief object of their pursuit, the greater aversion he seemed to manifest to it. To the favour of the gods he considered himself indebted for the aggrandisement of his person and family; and if the Missionaries would have allowed the claims of Oro or Tane to have received an equal degree of attention to that which they required for Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, Pomare would readily have admitted them; but when required to renounce his dependence upon the idols of his ancestors, and to acknowledge Jehovah alone as the true God, he at once rejected their message. He was justly considered as the principal support of the idolatry of his country. In patronizing the idols, and adhering to all the requirements of the priests, &c. he appears to have been influenced by the constant apprehension of the anger of his gods. Teu, his father, was a Tahitian prince; his mother was a native of Raiatea; he was born in the district of Pare; and at the time of his death, which took place on the 3d of September, 1803, was between fifty and sixty years of age.
In the circumstances attending the formation of his character, and in the commencement, progress, and result of his public career, there was a striking resemblance between Pomare, the first king of that name in Tahiti, and his contemporary, Tamehameha, the first king of the Sandwich Islands. Both rose from a comparatively humble station in society, to the supreme authority; both owed their page 69 elevation principally to their own energies, and the aid they derived from their intercourse with foreigners; both appeared the main pillars of the idolatry of their respective countries; and both left to their heirs the undisputed government of the islands they had conquered. Each appeared to have possessed natural endowments of a high order, and both were probably influenced by ambition. Pomare was distiguished by laborious and patient perseverance; Tamehameha, by bold and daring enterprise. The characters of their immediate descendants were in some respects similar to each other, though both were very different persons from their respective predecessors.
Otu the king was at Atehuru at the time of his father's death. He sent several messengers to Pare, commanding the body to be brought to him; but to this the raatiras, or resident chiefs, objected. When the Missionaries paid a visit of condolence, Idia requested them to tell her son it was her wish that the body should remain at Pare; and to this the king consented.
The death of Pomare did not alter the political state of Tahiti; its only influence on the people was such as tended to confirm them in their superstition; for, on the occasion of a religious ceremony, wherein his spirit was invoked, and which took place shortly after his decease, it was declared that he was seen by Idia, and one of the priests. To the latter it was said he appeared, above the waters of the sea, having the upper part of his person bound with many folds of finely braided cinet. From this circumstance his favourite wife assumed the name of Tane rurua, from Tane, a husband, and rurua, bound round, or bound repeatedly.page 70
Towards the middle of the year 1804, the king went over to Eimeo, talking with him the great idol Oro, to propitiate whom, so many of the inhabitants had been sacrificed. About the same time, Mr. Caw, a shipwright from England, joined the mission. Otu now assumed the name of Pomare, which has ever since been the regal name in Tahiti. Its assumption by his father was, as many names are among the Tahitians, perfectly accidental. He was travelling, with a number of his followers, in a mountainous part of Tahiti, where it was necessary to spend the night in a temporary encampment. The chiefs' tent was pitched in an exposed situation; a heavy dew fell among the mountains; he took cold, and the next morning was affected with a cough; this led some of his companions to designate the preceding night by the appellation of po-mare, night of cough, from po, night, and mare, cough. The chief was pleased with the sound of the words thus associated, adopted them as his name, and was ever afterwards called Po-ma-re. With the name he also associated the title of majesty, styling himself, and receiving the appellation of, “His Majesty Pomare.”
Peace continued during the remainder of the year, and the Missionaries were enabled to persevere in their labours, although they were cheerless, and apparently useless. Great attention had, during the last year, been paid to the instruction of the children in the short catechism, in which the first principles of Christianity were familiarly exhibited to the minds of the young people. Mr. Davies, in particular, had devoted much of his time to this work; and although it had hitherto been found impracticable to teach the children letters, a number had committed the page 71 catechism to memory. The gospel was preached, not only in the immediate neighbourhood of Matavai, but in every district in Tahiti and Eimeo; yet the people seemed more than ever disposed to neglect or ridicule it. Sometimes they said, We will hear our own gods; at other times they scoffingly asked the Missionaries, if the people of Matavai had attended to their word; if the king, or any of his family, had cast away Oro; declaring, that when the king and chiefs heard the word of Jehovah, then they would also.
Early in January, 1805, the Missionaries prepared a larger catechism; and, on the 6th of March, they adopted their Tahitian alphabet. In forming this, the Roman characters were preferred; sounds in the Tahitian language attached to them; and, for the purpose of facilitating the introduction of letters among the people, a native name was affixed to each. It was, however, a long time before any, among the native inhabitants of Tahiti could be induced to learn the letters of the alphabet; yet the Missionaries continued their labours in preaching to the people, and teaching the catechism to the children. One or two vessels arrived, but brought no letters or supplies; and, towards the close of the year, they experienced a heavy loss, in the destruction of a large and flourishing plantation.
Three of the Missionaries had cleared, enclosed, and cultivated it; and had rendered it, as far as the productions of the island were available, subservient to their interests. They had stocked it with cocoa-nuts, oranges, limes, and citrons, of which, not fewer than six hundred plants, with other productions, were growing remarkably well. In one hour, however, the whole of the fence was page 72 burnt to the ground, and the plantation destroyed, or the few plants that remained were so much injured as to be nearly useless. Great as was the loss experienced on this occasion, they had reason to fear it was caused by some of their neighbours, who had designedly set fire to the long dry grass immediately to windward of the plantation. This was probably done from motives of jealousy, lest, by cultivating the land, and reaping the fruits of it, the foreigners should suppose it had become theirs, and the natives cease to be its proprietors. On this account, much as they suffered by its destruction, they deemed it inexpedient to complain to the king.
In the month of January, 1806, Pomare returned from Eimeo, bringing with him the idol Oro, which was kept in his sacred canoe; while the human sacrifices, offered on his arrival, were suspended on the trees around. The Missionaries paid a visit to the king, soon after his return; and, as he had become remarkably fond of using his pen, he intimated his wish that they should build him a small plastered house, near their own, in which he could attend to his writing without the interruptions he experienced in his own dwelling.
Early in the year 1806, the Mission was again weakened by the departure of Mr. Shelly, with his family. He relinquished Missionary pursuits, and sailed for Port Jackson on the ninth of March.
In the month of July, following, the queen of Tahiti died, in the district of Pare, after an illness of nearly eight weeks. About the time that her indisposition commenced, she had become the mother of a still-born child; the sickness that followed, and the fatal termination to which it led, page 73 were supposed to be the results of a cruel and unnatural practice, that cannot be described—a species of infanticide, often resorted to by females of high rank in the island, although not unfrequently issuing, as was imagined on the present occasion, in the death of the perpetrator. Pomare had offered his prayers to the gods of his family, and many ceremonies had been performed, but to no purpose. The queen was in person about the middle stature; mild and affable in her behaviour; addicted to all the vices of her country; and was cut off in the prime of life, being about twenty-four years of age at the time of her death. The king and his mother appeared affected with their loss; and the grief of his relatives was severe, as the death of so many members of Pomare's family threatened, at no very remote period, its total extinction. Pomare was left a widower and childless, all the children of the late queen having been destroyed.
Although reports of war were heard during the year, there was no actual hostility; and, under discouragements every day increasing, the Missionaries were enabled to prosecute their labours, Having found it difficult to engage the attention of the children, while attempting to teach them in the presence of the adults, who ridiculed the idea of their learning letters, they opened a school in a part of their own dwelling. In October, Mr. Davies proposed to begin with the boys attached to their own houses, and met them three nights in the week for the purpose of instructing them in the catechism, and teaching them to read those few specimens of writing they had been able to prepare. At the same time, Messrs. Nott and Davies were requested to draw up a brief summary of the page 74 leading events, and a short account of the principal persons mentioned in the Old Testament, in the form of a scripture history, for the use of these scholars. In the course of the following year, a spelling-book, which Mr. Davies had composed and used, was sent to England. Here it was printed, and afterwards transmitted to the islands, for the use of the schools.
No long period had elapsed since the first establishment of the Mission, without a vessel's touching at Tahiti. By many of these the Missionaries had been able to write to the directors and to their friends in England, and from several they had secured a small supply of such articles as they most needed. But since the arrival of the Royal Admiral, in July, 1801, although the directors had repeatedly sent out articles to Port Jackson for Tahiti, yet the Missionaries had received neither supplies nor letters from England. Many vessels had sailed from Port Jackson, where the supplies were lying, and had afterwards touched at the island; but the captaines, having no intention of doing so when they sailed, had refused to take the goods on board. Of tea and sugar, and many other comforts, they had long been destitute; and their apparel was scarcely such as to enable them to appear respectable in the company of any of their countrymen who might visit the island. Several of them were some years with only one pair of shoes; and often, in their journeys undertaken for the purpose of preaching, and instructing the natives, they had travelled barefoot. In addition to these privations, the gloom and discouragement that depressed their spirits, on account of the total want of success attending their labours, must have been increased, in a page 75 great degree, by the uncertainty and anxiety of remaining, at that remote distance from home, five years, without even once hearing by letter from their native country, or their friends. From this distressing state of feeling, they were in a great measure relieved by the arrival of the Hawkesbury, a colonial vessel, which anchored in Matavai bay on the 25th of November, 1806.
Since the year 1804, the Society in England had authorized Mr. Marsden to expend annually, for the support of the Missionaries, two hundred pounds, and had also sent out supplies. Unable to meet, in Port Jackson, with any vessel proceeding to Tahiti, Mr. Marsden had at length engaged the Hawkesbury, a small sloop of about twenty tons burden, to take out the letters and articles that had been so long delayed. The communications from England conveyed to the Missionaries the welcome and the needed assurance that they were not forgotten by their friends at home; but most of the articles, especially those of clothing, from the length of time they had been lying at Port Jackson, and the wretched state of the vessel in which they were sent, were so injured as to be almost useless; the packages were wet with the sea-water, and their contents consequently spoiled.
The repeated trials with which the Missionaries were exercised, the privations they endured, and the painful and protracted discouragements by which, at this period, they were depressed, were of no ordinary character. Few among modern Missionaries have been called to endure such afflictions; and it is matter of devout acknowledgment, that, notwithstanding the darkness of their prospects and the destitution of their circumstances, they were still enabled to persevere, and leave page 76 the event with Him, at whose command they had entered on their work.
Peace continuing in the island during the close of 1806, and the beginning of 1807, allowed the teachers to pursue uninterruptedly their endeavours to plant Christianity among the inhabitants, although at that time with little prospect of success.
The ravages of diseases originating in licentiousness, or nurtured by the vicious habits of the people, and those first brought among them by European vessels, appeared to be fast hastening the total desolation of Tahiti. The survivors of such as were carried off by these means, feeling the incipient effects of disease themselves, and beholding their relatives languishing under maladies of foreign origin, inflicted, as they supposed, by the God of the foreigners, were led to view the Missionaries as in some degree the cause of their suffering; and frequently, not only rejected their message, but charged them with being the authors of their misery, by praying against them to their God. When the Missionaries spoke to them on the subject of religion, the deformed and diseased were sometimes brought out and ranged before them, as evidences of the efficacy of their prayers, and the destructive power of their God. The feelings of the people on this subject were frequently so strong, and their language so violent, that the Missionaries have been obliged to hasten from places where they had intended to address the people. Instead of listening with attention, the natives seemed only irritated by being, as they said, mocked with promises of advantage from a God, by whom, as they imagined, so much suffering had been inflicted. Under these circumstances, page 77 their distresses were somewhat relieved by the arrival of Mr. Warner; who, after the ordinary preparation, had been sent from England in the capacity of surgeon to the Mission, which he joined on the 12th of May, 1807. The strength, however, which his arrival added to their establishment, was partially counterbalanced by the removal of Mr. Youl, one of those who had arrived in the Royal Admiral, and who departed in the vessel that conveyed Mr. Warner to Tahiti.
In the month of June, the flame of war was rekindled in Taiarabu, and the district of Atehuru, where the king's party suddenly attacked the inhabitants; and, after killing upwards of one hundred, including their principal chiefs, covered the country with all the murder and desolation that usually attended the march of the infuriated bands through the territories of those who were too weak to oppose their progress. Having driven to the mountains such as had escaped the slaughter in the assault, plundered their houses, and afterwards reduced them to ashes, the king took the bodies of the slain on board his fleet; and, sailing to Taurtira, offered them in sacrifice to Oro.
Towards the close of the year, the Mission sustained a heavy loss in the death of Mr. Jefferson. He was one of those Missionaries that arrived in the ship Duff; he had borne “the heat and burden of the day,” and finished his course on the 25th of September, 1807. He was a man of intelligence and ability, possessing extraordinary devotedness and parient zeal. He had laboured unremittingly for ten anxious years; filling, with credit to himself and advantage to the Mission, the most important station among his brethren, by whom he was highly and justly respected. He page 78 maintained an arduous post among the poineers of the little army of Christian Missionaries, who, “unarmed with bow and sword,” had ventured to attack idolatry in its strongest holds among these distant islands; and,
“High on the pagan hills, where Satan sat
Encamped, and o'er the subject kingdoms threw
Perpetual night, to plant Immanuel's cross,
The ensign of the gospel, blazing round
And, though he fell upon the field before he heard or uttered the shout of victory, his end was peaceful, and his hopes were firm. On a visit to Matavai, in the early part of 1821, conducted by Mr. Nott, I made a pilgrimage to his grave. I stood beside the rustic hillock on which the tall grass waved in the breeze, and gazed upon the plain stone that marks the spot where his head reposes, with feelings of veneration for his character. I felt, also, in connexion with the change that has since taken place, that he had indeed desired to see the things that I beheld, but he had died, without witnessing, on earth, the gladdening sight; and that, in reference to his unremitted exertions, I and my junior companions had entered into his labours, and were reaping the harvest for which he had toiled.
Shortly after Mr. Jefferson's death, Mr. Nott, accompanied by Mr. Hayward, visited the islands of Huahine, Raiatea, and Borabora; travelled round each, preaching and teaching the people; and thus, for the first time, published among their inhabitants the great truths of Christianity. Many of the natives listened with attention and apparent interest. The illness of the king terminated, for a time, the war which he had commenced against the page 79 people of Atehuru, and allowed the Missionaries uninterruptedly to pursue their labours in Tahiti.
Early in 1808, Mr. Elder left this island for Port Jackson. Peace at that period every where prevailed, but it was of short duration. The dissatisfaction of the farmers, inferior chiefs, and lower orders of the people, with Pomare's conduct, was daily increasing, and his recent massacre of the Atehuruans had greatly strengthened their determination to destroy his authority, and revive the ancient aristocratical form of government. In the month of October, the Missionaries received a note from the king, informing them of the probability of war, recommending them to be upon their guard, and not to be deceived or taken by surprise. In consequence of this intimation, and the increasing signs of approaching hostilities, they established a strict nightly watch, and seldom went far from their dwelling. The preparations for battle were continued on both sides; every morning it was expected that hostilities would commence before the close of the day, and every night it was apprehended that an attack would be made before morning. In this state of distressing anxiety, without any means of flying from the gathering storm, all the families continued till the 25th of October, when a vessel from Port Jackson providentially anchored in the bay, and, by ensuring a safe retreat in the event of sudden assault, afforded no small alleviation to their minds.
On the Sabbath-day, the 6th of November, the district of Matavai was thrown into great confusion, and numbers of men appeared in arms. The king, who was on board the ship at the time, hastened on shore, and was only restrained from commencing an immediate attack by the counsel of his page 80 uncle, who urged the necessity of invoking the favour of the gods before commencing hostilities. This afforded the people of Matavai time to retire, and encamp in the adjoining district with the people of Apaiano. Proposals of peace were sent by the king, but the rebels, being reinforced from districts to the estward, refused to meet Pomare, or negociate with him; and war appeared inevitable.
The king, expecting that his camp, which was at Matavai, would be immediately attacked, recommended that the wives and children of the Missionaries should take shelter in the vessel. They embarked on the 7th amid much confusion, but with the sincerest gratitude to God for the refuge so seasonably provided. The night passed without any attack; several leading chiefs, whom the rebels expected, had not arrived, and the Europeans were thus permitted to pack up a few articles for their use on board. The next morning a letter was addressed to the captain, requsting him to delay his departure forty-eight hours, that they might deliberate on the steps necessary to be taken. On the following day, the Missionaries Nott and Scott, as messengers of peace, went alone, unarmed, to the rebel camp at Apaiano, and invited the leaders to an interview with Pomare. The chiefs treated them with every mark of friendship, regretted that their establishment should suffer from the quarrel between them and the king, and requested them not to leave the island. The leaders of the rebels refused, however, to meet Pomare except in battle, and every hope of accommodation now vanished.
This disastrous war is called, in the Tahitian traditions, the Tamai rahi ia Arahuraia, The great war of Arahuraia. It was headed by Taute, page 81 who had long been the king's prime-minister, and who was one of the most powerful chiefs and successful warriors on the islands. His name inspired terror through the ranks of his enemies; and when the king heard that he had joined the rebels, he was so much affected, that he burst into tears. Pomare advised the married Missionaries to leave the island. They were unanimous in opinion, that there was no prospect of safety or usefulness, even should the rebel chiefs prove their friends; and this, together with the consideration of the little success that had attended the labours of so many years, occasioned their determination to remove. Four of the unmarried Missionaries offered to remain with the king, that they might be upon the spot, should any favourable change take place; the others, with most of the Europeans on the island, sailed from Tahiti on the 10th of November, 1808, and arrived the following day at the island of Huahine. Here they were hospitably received by the chiefs and people.
The affairs of Tahiti continued in the same state until the 22d of December; when the king, influenced by Metia, the prophet of Oro, attacked the rebels; who were not only superior in numbers, but favoured in the conflict by the occupation of an advantageous position. Notwithstanding the prophet's prediction of victory, Pomare was defeated, and fled with precipitation to Pare; leaving a number of muskets in the hands of his enemies, and several principal warriors among the slain. Convinced, that though the chiefs of the victorious army might be friendly to them, yet that they could not restrain their followers, who, in time of war, threw off all subordination; and expecting that the victors, after this success, would instantly page 82 attack their dwelling, and that their lives were no longer secure, the Missionaries remaining at Tahiti fled to Eimeo, where they were shortly after joined by the king. Some months afterwards, three of them were compelled to follow their companions to Huahine. During their residence here, some had made the tour of the island, and endeavoured, with but little prospect of success, to instruct the inhabitants.
The melancholy aspect of affairs, their expulsion from Tahiti, the total destruction of the settlement, and the little probability of a restoration of peace, induced them to determine on removing by the first opportunity to Port Jackson. This occurred in the course of the year; and on the 26th of October, 1809, they all sailed from the islands, excepting Mr. Hayward, who remained in Huahine, and Mr. Nott, who still resided in Eimeo with the king.
After the victory of the 22d of December 1808, the rebels plundered the district of Matavai and Pare, and, devoting to destruction every house and plantation, reduced the whole country to a state of the wildest desolation and ruin. The mission houses were ransacked and burnt, and whatever the insurgents were unable to carry away was destroyed. Every implement of iron was converted into a weapon of war. The most valuable books were either committed to the flames, or distributed among the warriors for the purpose of making cartridge papers, and the printing types were melted into musket balls.
During such seasons, it was not merely apprehension, but actual danger, to which all the Europeans were exposed. On one occasion, Mr. Nott, returning from a visit to the king, was resting in a page 83 native house, when a party of the rebels approached the spot; his native companion, one of Pomare's warriors, observing them, touched him on the shoulder, and urged him to fly to the canoe lying on the beach: he and his fellow-traveller had scarcely pushed off from the shore, when the men came up, and, finding they had escaped, invited them to land, or requested the native to allow the foreigner to walk. Mr. Nott's companion assured him, however, that if he landed, his life would certainly be taken, merely because he was a friend to the king. The natives followed the canoe for some miles, but Mr. Nott was mercifully preserved, and reached Matavai in safety, indebted, under God, to the vigilance and promptitude of his Tahitian friend, for his life. Before this time, a musket, ball, aimed at a native who had taken shelter in his house, was fired through the window of the room in which he was sitting; and during another war, the spear of one of the king's enemies was already poised, and would in all probability have inflicted a fatal wound in his body, had not the interference of one of Mr. Nott's friends, at the moment, saved him from the deadly thrust.
It is not easy to form an accurate idea of the distress of the last Missionaries who reluctantly left Tahiti, when they beheld their gardens demolished, their houses plundered and burnt, their pupils engaged in all the barbarity of a savage war; and the people, among whom they had hoped to introduce order, and peace, and happiness, doomed to the complicated miseries attending anarchy, idolatry, and the varied horrors of cruelty and vice. The enterprise in which they had embarked, had at its commencement united, in bonds of disinterested philanthropy, parties before but seldom page 84 associated; and had, by a vigorous and combined movement, in force and magnitude surpassing any thing that had been hitherto attempted by British Christians, introduced a new era in the Missionary efforts of modern times. It had excited among all classes the liveliest interest, called forth splendid efforts of sacred eloquence, and noble deeds of Christian benevolence; but, painful and deeply humiliating as it was, it now appeared to those devoted servants of God, who had, amidst protracted and severe privations, maintained their ground till life was no longer secure—after having engaged the prayers of the people of God, and waited in vain for the results of patient and self-denying toil, during twelve eventful years—that the scene of their labour must be abandoned.
Their enemies at home became bold in denouncing the enterprise as the wild project of extravagance and folly, and stamping upon its projectors and conductors the impress of the blindest fanaticism. Even those who, though they had not condemned the scheme as Utopian and visionary, had withheld their sanction and their aid, now pointed to the deserted field as a demonstration of the soundness of their judgment, and an explanation of their conduct. There were others also, who, whatever might be their opinion of the measure itself, and however they might approve or disapprove of the choice of those with whom it originated, in the selection of the most distant, isolated, and, as it regarded the moral character of its inhabitants, the most unpromising parts of the world, for the first field of their labours, considered its projectors as influenced in a great degree by self-confidence, and a desire of aggrandisement or applause. It has sometimes been unwarrantably page 85 insinuated, that the founders of the Missionary Society expected to convert the heathen to Christianity by their own energy; and the allegation has been occasionally repeated since those days,—perhaps, in some instances, to increase the impression produced by the accounts of the recent changes which have taken place in those islands, contrasting the former and latter results of Missionary labours, and representing them as demonstrations of the impotency of man, and the power of the Most High. The lively feeling that attended the establishment of the Missionary Society, the liberality of the principles recognized as its basis, and the combination of different parties in its support, were at that time adapted to excite in minds of a cautious and deliberative habit, and fearful of innovation, the apprehension that it had originated in a desire, on the part of its projectors, to signalize themselves, and secure a name and influence in the Christian world, to which they were not otherwise entitled. Individuals, whose minds were deeply imbued with the subject, who had identified themselves with its progress and its results, and had embarked not only their influence, but much of their property, in the undertaking, might, and probably did, under the ardour of their feelings, indulge on some occasions in a splendour of imagery, and a richness of description, that exceeded the sober realities of fact: but they never imagined that they could subvert any system of idolatry by their own agency; or, that their efforts would be in any degree effectual for the conversion of the people, but as they were attended by the influence of the Holy Spirit. There might be, and perhaps was, a more confident hope of the speedy accomplishment of the object than now prevails; page 86 but the appeals and addresses, delivered at that period, manifest a deep conviction of human insufficiency, and breathe a spirit of entire dependence upon the blessing of God.
But although Tahiti was, by the departure of the Missionaries, surrendered, for a season, as a prey to the spoiler, and subjected to the rule of ignorance, barbarism, and idolatry, it was not abandoned by Him, in obedience, to whose command to “go and teach all nations,” the Mission had been undertaken. He had still “thoughts of mercy” towards its inhabitants, and was, by this distressing event, teaching those who had undertaken the work—and instructing his church, in regard to all their future efforts to extend his gospel—that singleness of aim, purity of motive, and patient diligence in labour, were of themselves insufficient for the work; that it was by His Spirit that the heathen were to be converted; and without His blessing, Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, in vain.