Notice of the discovery of the Sandwich Islands—Correctness of Captain Cook's narrative—Remarks on the impressions produced by its perusal—Actual state of the people—General account of Hawaii, Mauf, Tahaurawe, Morokini, Ranai, Morokai, Oahu, Tauai, Niihau, and Taura—Climate, population, and natural history of the Sandwich Islands—Importance of their local situation—Arrival of Missionaries from America —Commencement of Missionary labours among them—Circumstances of the people.
IT is now half a century since Captain Cook, in search of a northern passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic, discovered a group of islands, which, in honour of his patron the Earl of Sandwich, first lord of the admiralty, he called the SANDWICH ISLANDS. The importance he attached to this discovery may be gathered from his own words; for, when speaking of the circumstances under which the vessels anchored for the first time in Keara-ke'kua bay, the appearance of the natives, &c. he remarks, “We could not but be struck with the singularity of this scene; and perhaps there were few on board, who now lamented our having failed in our endeavours to find a northern passage page 2 homeward last summer. To this disappointment we owed our having it in our power to revisit the Sandwich Islands, and to enrich our voyage with a discovery, which, though last, seemed in many respects to be the most important that had hitherto been made by Europeans, throughout the extent of the Pacific ocean.” These are the last words recorded in the journal of that enterprising and intelligent navigator: a melancholy event shortly afterwards occurred on the shores of this very bay, which arrested his career of discovery, and terminated his existence.
On the return of the survivors, a detailed account of the islands and their inhabitants, which was given to the world, excited no small degree of interest, not only in England, but throughout the continent of Europe.
The descriptions which Captain Cook's Voyages contained, of the almost primitive simplicity, natural vivacity, and fascinating manners, of a people, who had existed for ages, isolated, and unknown to the rest of the world, were so entirely new, and the accounts given of the mildness and salubrity of the climate, the spontaneous abundance of delicious fruits, and the varied and delightful appearance of the scenery in the Sandwich and other islands of the Pacific, were so enchanting, that many individuals were led to imagine they were a sort of elysium, where the highly favoured inhabitants, free from the toil and care, the want and disappointment, which mar the happiness of civilized communities, dwelt in what they called a state of nature, and spent their lives in unrestrained enjoyment.
These descriptions, were, I am convinced, faithful transcripts of the first impressions made on the page 3 minds of Captain Cook and his companions, and in every respect correct, so far as their partial observation extended. A residence of eight years in the Society and Sandwich Islands has afforded me an opportunity of becoming familiar with many of the scenes and usages described in their voyages, and I have often been struck with the fidelity with which they are uniformly portrayed. In the inferences they draw, and the reasons they assign, they are sometimes mistaken; but in the description of what they saw and heard, there is throughout a degree of accuracy, seldom if ever exceeded in accounts equally minute and extended. Still their acquaintance with the islands and the people was superficial, and the state of society which they witnessed was different from what generally existed.
An event so important and surprising as their arrival,—the ships and the foreigners,—the colour, dress, arms, language, manners, &c. of the latter, whom they regarded at first as superior beings, so powerfully affected the minds of the natives, that the ordinary avocations of life were for a time suspended. The news of such an event rapidly spread through the islands, and multitudes flocked from every quarter to see the return of Orono, or the motus, (islands,) as they called their ships. The whole island was laid under requisition, to supply their wants, or contribute to their satisfaction. Hence the immense quantity of provisions presented by Taraiopu; the dances, &c. with which they were entertained. The effect also produced on the minds of those early visitors, by what they saw during their transient stay among the islands, was heightened by all the attractions of novelty, and all the complacency which such discoveries page 4 naturally inspire.—Far different are the impressions produced on the minds of the Missionaries who have resided for some years in the islands. Having acquired their language, observed their domestic economy, and become acquainted with the nature of their government, the sanguinary character of their frequent wars, their absurd and oppressive system of idolatry, and the prevalence of human sacrifices, they are led, from the indubitable facts which have come under their notice, to more just and accurate conclusions—conclusions in awful accordance with the testimony of divine revelation.
Although ten in number, only eight of the Sandwich Islands are inhabited, the other two being barren rocks, principally resorted to by fishermen. They lie within the tropic of Cancer, between 18. 50. and 22. 20. north latitude, and between 154. 53. and 160. 15. west longitude from Greenwich, about one-third of the distance from the western coast of Mexico, towards the eastern shores of China. The Sandwich Islands are larger than the Society Islands, or any of the neighbouring clusters.
Ha-wai-i, (Owhyhee) the principal island of the group, resembles in shape an equilateral triangle, and is somewhat less than three hundred miles in circumference, being about ninety-seven miles in length, seventy-eight in breadth, two hundred and eighty miles in circumference, and covering a surface of 4000 square miles. It is the most southern of the whole, and, on account of its great elevation, is usually the first land seen from vessels approaching the Sandwich Islands. Its broad base and regular form render its outline different from that of any other island in the Pacific with which page 5 we are acquainted. The mountains of Hawaii, unlike the peak of Teneriffe in the Atlantic, the mountains of Eimeo, and some other islands of the Pacific, do not pierce the clouds like obelisks or spires, but in most parts, and from the southern shore in particular, the ascent is gradual, and comparatively unbroken, from the sea-beach to the lofty summit of Mouna Roa. The whole appearance of Hawaii is less romantic and picturesque than that of Tahiti, the principal of the Society Islands, but more grand and sublime, filling the mind of the beholder with wonder and delight. On approaching the islands, I have more than once observed the mountains of the interior long before the coast was visible, or any of the usual indications of land had been seen. On these occasions, the elevated summit of Mouna Kea, or Mouna Roa, has appeared above the mass of clouds that usually skirt the horizon, like a stately pyramid, or the silvered dome of a magnificent temple, distinguished, from the clouds beneath, only by its well-defined outline, unchanging position, and intensity of brilliancy occasioned by the reflection of the sun's rays from the surface of the snow.
The height of these mountains has been computed by some navigators who have visited the Sandwich Islands, at 12,000 and by others at 18,000 feet. The estimate of Captain King,∗ we page 6 think, exceeds their actual elevation, and the peaks of Mouna Kea, in the opinion of those of our number who have ascended its summit, are not more than 1000 feet high. But admitting the snow to remain permanent on the mountains of the torrid zone at the height of 14,600 feet, the altitude of Mouna Kea and Mouna Roa is probably not less than 15,000 feet.
∗In Cook's Voyages, Captain King, speaking of Mouna-Kaah, (Kea,) remarks, that it “may be clearly seen at fourteen leagues' distance.” Describing Mouna-Roa, and estimating it according to the tropical line of snow, he observes, “This mountain must be at least 16,020 feet high, which exceeds the height of the Pico de Teyde, or Peak of Teneriffe, by 724 feet, according to Dr. Heberden's computation, or 3680 according to that of Chevalier de Borda. The peaks of Mouna-Kaah appeared to be about half a mile high; and as they are entirely covered with snow, the altitude of their summits cannot be less than 18,400 feet. But it is probable that both these mountains may be considerably higher; for in insular situations, the effects of the warm sea air must necessarily remove the line of snow, in equal latitudes, to a greater height than where the atmosphere is chilled on all sides by an immense tract of perpetual snow.”
The base of these mountains is, at the distance of a few miles from the sea shore, covered with trees; higher up, their sides are clothed with bushes, ferns, and alpine plants; but their summits are formed of lava, partly decomposed, yet destitute of every kind of verdure.
There are a few inland settlements on the east and north-west parts of the island, but, in general, the interior is an uninhabited wilderness. The heart of Hawaii, forming a vast central valley between Mouna Roa, Mouna Kea, and Mouna Huararai, is almost unknown; no road leads across it from the east to the western shore, but it is reported, by the natives who have entered it, to be “bristled with forests of ohia,” or to exhibit vast tracts of sterile and indurated lava. The circumstance of large flocks of wild geese being frequently seen in the mountains, would lead to the supposition that there must be large ponds or lakes page 7 to which they resort; but if any exist, they have hitherto remained undiscovered.
The greatest part of the land capable of cultivation, is found near the sea-shore; along which, the towns and villages of the natives are thickly scattered. The population at present is about 85,000, and this will probably be greatly increased by the establishment of Christianity, whose mild influence, it may reasonably be expected, will effect a cessation of war, an abolition of infanticide, and a diminution of those vices, principally of foreign origin, which have hitherto so materially contributed to the depopulation of the islands.
Hawaii is by far the largest, most populous, and important island of the group, and, until within a few years, it was the usual residence of the king and the frequent resort of every chief of importance in the other islands. Foreigners, however, having found the harbours of some of the leeward islands more secure and convenient than those of Hawaii, have been induced more frequently to visit them; and this has led the king and principal chiefs to forsake, in a great degree, the favourite residence of their ancestors, and, excepting the governor, and the chiefs of Kaavaroa, to spend the greater part of their time in some of the other islands.
Separated from the northern shore of Hawaii by a strait, about twenty-four miles across, the island of Mau-i (Mowee) is situated in lat. 20. N. and long. 157. W. This island is forty-eight miles in length, in the widest part twenty-nine miles across, about one hundred and forty miles in circumference, and covers about 600 square miles. At a distance it appears like two distinct islands, but page 8 on nearer approach, a low isthmus, about nine miles across, is seen uniting the two peninsulas. The whole island, which is entirely volcanic, was probably produced by the action of two adjacent volcanoes, which have ejected the immense masses of matter of which it is composed. The appearance of Maui resembles Tahiti more than the neighbouring island of Hawaii. The southern peninsula which is the largest of the two, is lofty; but though its summits are often seen above the clouds, they are never covered with snow. The high land is steep and rugged, and frequently marked with extinct craters, or indurated streams of lava; yet whenever the volcanic matters have undergone any degree of decomposition, the sides of the mountains, as well as the ravines by which they are intersected, are covered with shrubs and trees.
In the northern peninsula there are several extensive tracts of level and well-watered land, in a high state of cultivation; and although this part of the island is evidently of volcanic formation, the marks of recent eruptions, so frequent in the southern peninsula, are seldom seen here. The population of Maui has been estimated at 18,000 or 20,000, and the number of inhabitants does not probably fall short of that amount.
In the month of May, 1823, a Christian Mission was commenced at Lahaina, the most important and populous district in the island, and the endeavours of Messrs. Stewart and Richards, and the native teachers by whom they were accompanied, have been attended with the most decisive and extensive success. Public preaching on the Sabbath is regularly attended by numerous audiences, and thousands of the people are daily receiving instruction in useful knowledge, and the principles page 9 of Christianity, in the various native schools, which are patronized by the young Prince Kauikeouli, younger brother and successor to the late king,—by his sister Nahienaena,—and by all the principal chiefs of Maui. Hence, the most lasting benefits may be expected to result, not only to the present race, but to every future generation of the inhabitants.
To the south of Maui, and only a few mile's distant from its southern peninsula, is situated the small island of Ta-hau-ra-we, about eleven miles in length, and eight across. It is low, and almost destitute of every kind of shrub or verdure, excepting a species of coarse grass. The rocks of which it is formed are volcanic, but we are not aware of the existence of any active or extinct craters on the island; and, from its shape and appearance, it is not improbable that it once formed a part of Maui, from which it may have been detached by some violent convulsion connected with the action of the adjacent volcanoes of Maui or Hawaii. There are but few settled residents on the island, and these are considered as under the authority of the governor of Maui.
Mo-ro-ki-ni, a barren rock, which lies between these two islands, would render the navigation of the strait exceedingly dangerous, were it not so much elevated above the sea as to be at all times visible from vessels passing between the islands. Morokini is only visited by fishermen, who on its barren surface spread their nets to dry, and for this purpose it may be considered a convenient appendage to the adjacent islands.
Ra-nai, a compact island, seventeen miles in length and nine in breadth, lies north-west of Tahaurawe, and west of Lahaina, in Maui; from which it is separated by a channel, not more than page 10 nine or ten miles across. Though the centre of the island is much more elevated than Tahaurawe, it is neither so high nor broken as any of the other islands: great part of it is barren, and the island in general suffers much from the long droughts which frequently prevail; the ravines and glens, notwithstanding, are filled with thickets of small trees, and to these many of the inhabitants of Maui repair, for the purpose of cutting posts and rafters for their small houses. The island is volcanic; the soil shallow, and by no means fertile; the shores, however, abound with shell-fish, and some species of medusæ and cuttle-fish. The inhabitants are but few, probably not exceeding two thousand. Native teachers are endeavouring to instruct them in useful knowledge and religious truth, but no foreign Missionary has yet laboured on this or the neighbouring island of Morokai, which is separated from the northern side of Ranai, and the eastern end of Maui, by a channel, which, though narrow, is sufficiently wide for the purposes of navigation.
Mo-ro-kai is a long irregular island, apparently formed by a chain of volcanic mountains, forty miles in length, and not more than seven miles broad; the mountains are nearly equal in elevation to those of Maui, and are broken by numerous deep ravines and watercourses, the sides of which are frequently clothed with verdure, and ornamented with shrubs and trees. There is but little level land in Morokai, and consequently but few plantations; several spots, however, are fertile, and repay the toils of their cultivators. The population is greater than that of Ranai, though it does not probably exceed three thousand persons. Native teachers are engaged in the page 11 instruction of the people; many of the natives also occasionally visit the Missionary stations in the adjacent islands of Oahu and Maui, and participate in the advantages connected with these institutions.
O-A-HU, the most romantic and fertile of the Sandwich Islands, resembling, in the varied features of its natural scenery, several of the Society Islands, lies nearly west-north-west of Morokai, from which it is between twenty and thirty miles distant. This beautiful island is about forty-six miles long, and twenty-three wide; its appearance from the roads off Honoruru, or Waititi, is remarkably picturesque: a chain of lofty mountains rises near the centre of the eastern part of the island, and, extending perhaps twenty miles, reaches the plain of Eva, which divides it from the distant and elevated mountains that rise in a line parallel with the north-west shore. The plain of Eva is nearly twenty miles in length, from the Pearl river to Waiarua, and in some parts nine or ten miles across: the soil is fertile, and watered by a number of rivulets, which wind their way along the deep watercourses that intersect its surface, and empty themselves into the sea. Though capable of a high state of improvement, only a very small portion of it is enclosed, or under any kind of culture; and in travelling across it, scarce a habitation is to be seen. The whole island is volcanic, and, in many parts, extinguished craters of large dimensions may be seen; but, from the depth of mould with which they are covered, and the trees and shrubs with which they are clothed, it may be presumed that many ages have elapsed since any eruption took place. The plain of Honoruru exhibits in a singular manner the extent and effects page 12 of volcanic agency; it is not less than nine or ten miles in ength, and, in some parts, two miles from the sea to the foot of the mountains: the whole plain is covered with a rich alluvial soil, frequently two or three feet deep; beneath this, a layer of fine volcanic ashes and cinders extends to the depth of fourteen or sixteen feet; these ashes lie upon a stratum of solid rock, by no means volcanic, but evidently calcareous, and apparently a kind of sediment deposited by the sea, in which branches of white coral, bones of fish and animals, and several varieties of marine shells, are often found. A number of wells have been recently dug in different parts of the plain, in which, after penetrating through the calcareous rock, sometimes twelve or thirteen feet, good clear water has been always found; the water in all these wells is perfectly free from any salt or brackish taste, though it invariably rises and falls with the tide, which would lead to the supposition that it is connected with the waters of the adjacent ocean, from which the wells are from 100 yards to three-quarters of a mile distant. The rock is always hard and compact near the surface, but becomes soft and porous as the depth increases; and it is possible that the water in these wells may have percolated through the cells of the rock, and by this process of filtration have lost its saline qualities. The base of the mountains which bound the plain in the interior, appears to have formed the original line of coast on this side of the island, but probably in some very remote period an eruption took place from two broad-based truncated mountains, called by foreigners Diamond Hill and Punchbowl Hill, evidently extinguished craters; the ashes and cinders then thrown out, and wafted by the trade-winds in page 13 a westerly direction, filled up the sea, and formed the present extensive plain; the soil of its surface having been subsequently produced either by the decomposition of lava, or the mould and decayed vegetable matter washed down from the mountains during the rainy season of the year.
Across this plain, immediately opposite the harbour of Honoruru, lies the valley of Anuanu, leading to a pass in the mountains, called by the natives Ka Pari, the precipice, which is well worth the attention of every intelligent foreigner visiting Oahu. The mouth of the valley, which opens immediately behind the town of Honoruru, is a complete garden, carefully kept by its respective proprietors in a state of high cultivation; and the ground, being irrigated by the water from a river that winds rapidly down the valley, is remarkably productive. The valley rises with a gradual ascent from the shore to the precipice, which is seven or eight miles from the town. After walking about three miles through one unbroken series of plantations, the valley becomes gradually narrower, and the mountains rise more steep on either side. The scenery is romantic and delightful: the bottom of the valley is gently undulated; a rapid stream takes its serpentine way from one side of the valley to the other, sometimes meandering along with an unruffled surface, at other times rushing down a fall several feet, or dashing and foaming among the rocks that interrupt its progress; the sides of the hills are clothed with verdure; even the barren rocks that project from among the bushes are ornamented with pendulous or creeping plants of various kinds; and in several places, beautiful cascades roll their silvery streams down the steep mountain's side into flowing rivulets page 14 beneath. The beauty of the scenery around increases, until at length, after walking some time on a rising ground rather more steep than usual, and through a thicket of hibiscus and other trees, the traveller suddenly emerges into an open space, and, turning round a small pile of volcanic rocks, the Pari all at once bursts upon him with an almost overwhelming effect. Immense masses of black and ferruginous volcanic rock, many hundred feet in nearly perpendicular height, present themselves on both sides to his astonished view; while immediately before him, he looks down the fearful steep several hundred feet, and beholds hills and valleys, trees and cottages, meandering streams and winding paths, cultivated plantations and untrodden thickets, and a varied landscape many miles in extent, bounded by lofty mountains on the one side, and the white-crested waves of the ocean on the other—spread out before him as if by the hand of enchantment. I have several times visited this romantic spot, and once climbed the rocky precipice from the district of Kolau, on the northern side: the ascent is at first gradual and easy, but in two places, towards the highest edge, the volcanic rocks appear to rise perpendicularly, presenting an even, and apparently projecting front, which it seems impossible to ascend; but though the passage is thus difficult, and the elevation of the upper ridge, over which the path leads, is from four to five hundred feet above the level land below, yet the natives not only pass and repass without much difficulty, but often carry heavy burdens from one side to the other. It is reported that a native female, on one occasion, carried her husband, who was in a state of intoxication, down the precipice in safety; this appears page 15 scarcely possible, and the story is probably one of those fabulous wonders, with which inquiring foreigners are often entertained during their stay among the islands. On one of my visits, however, I saw a party, heavily laden with provisions for the king's household, ascend the Pari, and one of them had a pig, of no very small size, fastened on his back, with which he climbed the steep, but not without difficulty.
Within a few yards of the upper edge of the pass, under the shade of surrounding bushes and trees, two rude and shapeless stone idols are fixed, one on each side of the path, which the natives call Akua no ka Pari, gods of the precipice; they are usually covered with pieces of white tapa, native cloth; and every native who passes by to the precipice, if he intends to descend, lays a green bough before these idols, encircles them with a garland of flowers, or wraps a piece of tapa round them, to render them propitious to his descent; all who ascend from the opposite side make a similar acknowledgment for the supposed protection of the deities, whom they imagine to preside over the fearful pass. This practice appears universal, for in our travels among the islands, we have seldom passed any steep or dangerous paths, at the commencement or termination of which we have not seen these images, with heaps of offerings lying before them. Until very recently, it is evident the influence of superstition was strong in the minds of the great mass of the people; for although the natives who accompanied us in our excursions, either from a conviction of the absurdity of the notions of their countrymen, or from mere wantonness, usually overturned the idols, battered them with stones, or rolled them down page 16 the precipice or passage which they were supposed to defend; yet, on passing the same path only a very short time afterwards, we have invariably found them replaced, or, if broken, their places supplied by fresh ones. This conduct of our native companions was never the consequence of our directions, and seldom received our approbation, for we were not ambitious to become Iconoclasts; our object was rather to enlighten the minds of the people, and convince them of the absurdity and evil of idolatry, to present before them the true God as the only legitimate object of rational homage, lead them to the exercise of a better faith, and the adoption of a purer worship; well assured that, if, under the blessing of God, we succeeded in this, they themselves would, with the adoption of the Christian system, not only renounce idolatry, but abolish the observances by which it was upheld.
The Pari of Anuanu was an important position in times of war, and the parties in possession of it were usually masters of the island. In its vicinity many sanguinary battles have been fought, and near it the independence of Oahu was lost in or about the year 1790. Tamehameha invaded Oahu; the king of the island assembled his forces to defend his country, between Honoruru and the Pearl river; an engagement took place, in which his army was defeated, and his ally, Taeo, king o Tauai and Neehau, was slain. The king of Oahu retreated to the valley of Anuanu, where he was joined by Taiana, an ambitious and warlike chief of Hawaii. Hither Tamehameha and his victorious warriors pursued them, and, about two miles from the Pari, the last battle in Oahu was fought. Here the king of Oahu was slain; his army then fled towards the precipice, chased by the warriors of page 17 Tamehameha: at the edge of the Pari, Taiana made a stand, and defended it till he fell: the troops of the fallen chiefs still continued the conflict, till, being completely routed, a number of them, it is said four hundred, were driven headlong over the precipice, and dashed to pieces among the fragments of rock that lie at its base, leaving Tamehameha master of the field, and sovereign of the island. The natives still point out the spot where the king of the island stood, when he hurled his last spear at the advancing foe, and received the fatal wound; and many, as they pass by, turn aside from the path, place their feet on what they describe as the identical spot where he is said to have stood, assume the attitude in which he is said to have received his mortal wound, and, poising their staff or their spear, tell their children or companions that there the last king of Oahu died defending his country from its invaders.
Immediately south of the valley of Anuanu is situated the town and harbour of Honoruru: the harbour is the best, and indeed the only secure one at all seasons, in the Sandwich Islands, and is more frequented by foreign vessels than any other; seldom having within it less than three or four, and sometimes upwards of thirty, lying at anchor at the same time. The town has also, since the number of shipping has increased, become populous; it is one of the largest in the islands, usually containing 6000 or 7000 inhabitants; it is the frequent residence of the king and principal chiefs, who are much engaged in traffic with foreigners visiting the islands, or residing on shore, for purposes of trade. There are twelve or fourteen merchants, principally Americans, who have established warehouses on shore for foreign goods, principally piece-goods, page 18 hardware, crockery, hats and shoes, naval stores, &c. which they retail to the natives for Spanish dollars or sandal wood. On the eastern side of the basin is a strong fort, one hundred yards square, mounting sixty guns. It was begun by the Russians, who were expelled—but finished by the natives, from an apprehension that these foreigners, in connexion with the Russian settlements on the north-west coast of America, were about to take possession of the island. Here also, in the month of April, 1820, an American Mission was commenced, which, under God, has been the means of producing a most happy moral and domestic change in the character of many of the people, whose advancement in the arts of civilized life, as well as Christian knowledge, is truly gratifying. Several thousands are under religious instruction, and numbers regularly attend the preaching of the gospel, which we earnestly hope will result in the conversion of many. Several have forsaken their grass huts, and erected comfortable stone or wooden houses, among which, one built by Karaimoku, the prime minister, is highly creditable to his perseverance and his taste.
About six miles to the west of Honoruru, and nearly as far from the village of Eva, on the Pearl river, there is a singular natural curiosity—a small circular lake, situated at a short distance from the sea shore, so impregnated with salt, that twice in the year the natives take out between two and three hundred barrels of fine, clear, hard, crystallized salt: this lake is not only an interesting natural curiosity, but an important appendage to the island. It belongs to the king, and is not only useful in curing large quantities of fish, but furnishes a valuable article of commerce; quantities page 19 of it having been sent for sale to Kamtschatka, and used in curing seal skins at the different islands to which the natives have sent their vessels for that purpose, or sold in the islands to Russian vessels, from the settlements on the north-west coast of America. The population of Oahu is estimated at about 20,000.
North-west of Oahu, and distant from it about seventy-five miles, is situated the island of Tauai, which is mountainous, and exceedingly romantic in its appearance, but not so fertile as Oahu, or the greater part of Maui. It is forty-six miles in length, and twenty-three in breadth, and covers a surface of 520 square miles. The population probably amounts to nearly 10,000. The principal settlements are in the neighbourhood of Waimea river, the roads at the entrance of which are the usual resort of vessels touching at Tauai. Near the mouth of the river is a strong fort, in excellent repair, mounting twenty-two guns. It was erected several years since, and is well adapted for defence. This, and the neighbouring island of Nihau, were not invaded and conquered by Tamehameha, by whom all the other islands of the group were subdued. Taumuarii, the late king, however, rendered a tacit acknowledgment of dependence on that ambitious prince, and paid annually a nominal tribute both to him, and his son, the late Rihoriho, and, shortly before his death, which took place in 1824, he formally ceded the islands which he had governed to Karaimoku, the regent of the Sandwich Islands, for the king, who was then absent on a visit to Great Britain. The son of the late king, and several old warriors, dissatisfied with the conduct of their sovereign, took up arms, to rescue page 20 the islands from the dominion of the chiefs of the windward islands; but being defeated in a battle fought in a valley near Waimea, the island is now under the authority of the young prince Kauikeouli, the successor to Rihoriho, and the present sovereign of the whole of the Sandwich Islands.
Soon after the commencement of the Mission in Oahu, a similar institution was undertaken in Tauai, under the friendly auspices of the late king; this continued to prosper until the civil war, which followed his death, obliged the Missionaries to remove from the island, and suspend their endeavours for the instruction of the natives. Since the restoration of peace, however, their labours have been resumed with more extensive and encouraging prospects of success than had been previously enjoyed. The inhabitants are in general a hardy and industrious race; but it is remarkable that in their language they employ the t in all those words in which the k would be used by the natives of the other islands.
Ni-hau, a small island, twenty miles in length, and seven miles wide, politically connected with Tauai, lies in a westerly direction, about fifteen miles distant. The inhabitants are not numerous, and, in the general features of their character, they resemble those of Tauai. These two islands are celebrated throughout the whole group for the manufacture of the fine painted or variegated mats, so much admired by foreigners, and which, for the purpose of sleeping on, the chiefs in all the islands prefer to any others. These mats are sometimes very large, measuring eighteen or twenty yards in length, and three or four yards in breadth, yet they are woven by the hand, without any loom page 21 or frame, with surprising regularity and exactness; they are made with a fine kind of rush, part of which they stain of a red colour with vegetable dyes, and form their beautiful patterns by weaving them into the mat at its first fabrication, or working them in after it is finished.
The natives of these islands are also distinguished for the cultivation of the yam, which grows very large, both at Tauai and Nihau, and contributes essentially to the support of the inhabitants. As they are not cultivated to any extent in the other islands, many ships are induced to visit these, principally for the purpose of procuring a supply; they are not only an excellent root, but will keep a long time at sea without deterioration.
Tau-ra, is another small island belonging to the group, lying in a south-western direction from Tauai; but it is only a barren rock, the resort of vast numbers of aquatic birds, for the purpose of procuring which, it is occasionally visited by the natives of the windward islands.
Adjacent to the shores of most of the islands, small reefs of white coral, common throughout the Pacific, are occasionally found; but they are not so varied in their kind, so frequently met with, nor so extensive, as in all the southern islands.
The climate is not insalubrious, though warm, and debilitating to an European constitution. There is no winter; and the principal variation in the uniformity of the seasons, is occasioned by the frequent and heavy rains, which usually fall between December and March, and the prevalence of southerly and variable winds during the same season. The following tabular view of a meteorological journal, kept by the American Missionaries, will shew more fully the state page 22 of the weather for a year, from August 1821, to July 1822; the thermometer was noted at 8 a. m. 3 p. m. and 8 p. m.
|MONTHS.||Greatest heat.||Least heat.||Range.||General range.||Mean Temperature.||General course of wind.||GENERAL STATE OF THE WEATHER.|
|August, 1821||88°||74°||14°||75°to85°||79°||N. E.||Clear; rain but once.|
|September,||87||74||13||76–84||78||N. E.||Rained on five days.|
|October||86||73||13||76–83||78||N. E.||Clear; rainbut once.|
|November,||82||71||11||75–80||76||N. E.||Clear; rain butr once.|
|January, 1822||80||59||21||68–76||70||Variable.||Rain 1 day; 7 others cloudy.|
|February,||77||61||16||68–75||71||N. E.||Rain 4 days; 10 others cloudy.|
|March,||78||66||12||71–75||72||N. E.||Rain 5 days; 8 others cloudy.|
|April,||81||62||19||72–78||73||Variable.||Rain 5 days; 12 other cloudy.|
|May||81||71||13||76–81||78||N. E.||Rain 4 days; 3 others cloudy. Cloudy 6 days.|
|June,||84||74||10||76–83||78||N. E.||Cloudy 6 days.|
|July,||84||74||10||76–83||78||N. E.||Rain 5 days; 7 others cloudy.|
|Result for the year.||88°||61°||27°||70°to80°||75°||N. E.||Rain on 40 days; generally clear at other times.|
Rain falls but seldom on the western shores of any of the islands, excepting in the season above mentioned, though showers are frequent on the eastern or windward side, and in the mountains they occur almost daily.page 23
The soil is rich in those parts which have long been free from volcanic eruptions; but the general appearance of the country is hardly so inviting as when first discovered; many parts, then under cultivation, are now lying waste.
The natives are in general rather above the middle stature, well formed, with fine muscular limbs, open countenances, and features frequently resembling those of Europeans. Their gait is graceful, and sometimes stately. The chiefs in particular are tall and stout, and their personal appearance is so much superior to that of the common people, that some have imagined them a distinct race. This, however, is not the fact; the great care taken of them in childhood, and their better living, have probably occasioned the difference. Their hair is black or brown, strong, and frequently curly; their complexion is neither yellow like the Malays, nor red like the American Indians, but a kind of olive, and sometimes reddish-brown. Their arms, and other parts of the body, are tataued; but, except in one of the islands, this is by no means so common as in many parts of the Southern sea.
Compared with those of other islands, the inhabitants may be termed numerous. They were estimated by their discoverers at 400,000. There is reason to believe this was somewhat above the actual population at that time, though traces of deserted villages and numerous enclosures, formerly cultivated but now abandoned, are every where to be met with. At present it does not exceed 130,000 or 150,000, of which 85,000 inhabit the island of Hawaii. The rapid depopulation which has most certainly taken place within the last fifty years, is to be attributed to the frequent and desolating page 24 wars which marked the early part of Tamehameha's reign; the ravages of a pestilence, brought in the first instance by foreign vessels, which has twice, during the above period, swept through the islands; the awful prevalence of infanticide; and the melancholy increase of depravity, and destructive consequences of vice.
The natural history of the islands, as it regards the animal kingdom, is exceedingly circumscribed. The only quadrupeds originally found inhabiting them, were a small species of hogs, with long heads and small erect ears; dogs, lizards, and an animal larger than a mouse, but smaller than a rat. There were no beasts of prey, nor any ferocious animals, except the hogs, which were sometimes found wild in the mountains. There are now large herds of cattle in Hawaii, and some tame ones in most of the islands, together with flocks of goats, and a few horses and sheep, which have been taken thither at different times, principally from the adjacent continent of America. Horses, cattle, and goats, thrive well, but the climate appears too warm for sheep, unless they are kept on the mountains, which, in consequence of the keenness of the air, are seldom inhabited by the natives.
Birds, excepting those which are aquatic, and a species of owl that preys upon mice, are seldom seen near the shores. In the mountains they are numerous; and the notes of one kind, whose colour is brown and yellow speckled, are exceedingly sweet, resembling those of the English thrush. Several are remarkably beautiful, among which may be reckoned a small kind of paroquet of a glossy purple, and a species of red, yellow, and green woodpecker, with whose feathers the gods were dressed, and the helmet and handsome page 25 cloaks of the chiefs are ornamented. But the feathered tribes of Hawaii are not in general distinguished by variety of plumage, or melody in their notes. There are wild geese in the mountains, and ducks near the lagoons or ponds in the vicinity of the sea shore; the domestic fowl was found there by their first discoverer, and, though now seldom used as an article of food, many are raised for the supply of shipping.
In common with the other islands of the Pacific, they are entirely free from every noxious and poisonous reptile, excepting centipedes, which are neither large nor numerous.
Fish are not so abundant on their shores as around many of the other islands; they have, however, several varieties, and the inhabitants procure a tolerable supply.
The vegetable productions, though less valuable and abundant than in some of the islands both to the west and the south, are found in no small variety, and the most serviceable are cultivated with facility. The natives subsist principally on the roots of the arum esculentum, which they call taro, on the convolvulus batatas, or sweet potato, called by them uära, and uhi, or yam. The principal indigenous fruits are the uru, or bread-fruit; the niu, or cocoa-nut; the maia, or plantain; the ohia, a species of eugenia; and the strawberry and raspberry. Oranges, limes, citrons, grapes, pineapples, papaw-apples, cucumbers, and watermelons, have been introduced, and, excepting the pine-apples, thrive well. French beans, onions, pumpkins, and cabbages, have also been added to their vegetables, and, though not esteemed by the natives, are cultivated to some extent, for the purpose of supplying the shipping. page 26 Sugar-cane is indigenous, and grows to a large size, though it is not much cultivated. Large tracts of fertile land lie waste in most of the islands; and sugar-cane, together with cotton, coffee, and other valuable intertropical productions, might be easily raised in considerable quantities, which will, probably, be the case when the natives become more industrious and civilized.
The local situation of the Sandwich Islands is important, and highly advantageous for purposes of commerce, &c. On the north are the Russian settlements in Kamtschatka, and the neighbouring coast; to the north-west, the islands of Japan; due west, the Marian islands, Manilla in the Philippines, and Canton in China; and on the east, the coast of California and Mexico. Hence they are so frequently resorted to by vessels navigating the northern Pacific. The establishment of the independent states of South America has greatly increased their importance, as they lie in the track of vessels passing from thence to China or Calcutta, and other parts of India, and are not only visited by these, but by those who trade for skins, &c. with the natives of the north-west coast of America.
From the time of their discovery, the Sandwich Islands were unvisited, until 1786, when Captains Dixon and Portlock, in a trading voyage to the north-west coast for furs and sea-otter skins, anchored, and procured refreshments in the island of Oahu. The island of Maui was visited about the same time by the unfortunate La Perouse. After this period, the islands were frequently visited by vessels engaged in the fur trade. Capt. Douglas, of the Iphigenia, and Capt. Metcalf, of the Eleanor an American snow, were nearly cut off by the turbulent page 27 chiefs, who were desirous to procure the guns and ammunition belonging to their vessels, to aid them in carrying their purposes of conquest into effect. The son of the latter, a youth of sixteen, who commanded a schooner, called the Fair American, which accompanied the Eleanor from Canton, when close in with the land off Mouna Huararai, was becalmed; the natives thronged on board, threw young Metcalf overboard, seized and plundered the vessel, and murdered all the crew, excepting the mate, whose name was Isaac Davis; He resided many years with Tamehameha, who very severely censured the chief under whose direction this outrage had been committed. A seaman, whose name is Young, belonging to the Eleanor, who was on shore at the time, was prevented from gaining his vessel, but was kindly treated by the king, and is still living at Towaihae.
In the years 1792 and 1793, Captain Vancouver, while engaged in a voyage of discovery in the North Pacific, spent several months at the Sandwich Islands; and, notwithstanding the melancholy catastrophe which had terminated the life of Capt. Cook, whom he had accompanied, and the treacherous designs of the warlike and ambitious chiefs towards several of his predecessors, he met with the most friendly treatment from all parties, and received the strongest expressions of confidence from Tamehameha, sovereign of the whole group, who had been wounded in the skirmish that followed the death of their discoverer, but who had ever lamented with deepest regret that melancholy event. He alone had prevented the murderous intentions of his chieftains towards former vessels from being carried into effect; and it was his uniform endeavour to shew every mark of friendship page 28 to those who visited his dominions. His attachment to the English induced him, during the stay of Capt. Vancouver, to cede the island of Hawaii to the British crown, and to place himself and his dominions under British protection an act which was repeated by his son, the late king, on his accession to the sovereignty of all the islands.
The natives received many advantages from the visit of Capt. Vancouver; a breed of cattle, and a variety of useful seeds, had been given. Generous and disinterested in his whole behaviour, he secured their friendship and attachment, and many still retain grateful recollections of his visit.
After his departure, the islands were seldom resorted to, except by traders from the United States of America, who, having discovered among them the sandal-wood, conveyed large quantities of it to Canton, where it was readily purchased by the Chinese, manufactured into incense, and burnt in their idol temples. Subsequently, when the South Sea whalers began to fish in the North Pacific, the Sandwich Islands afforded a convenient rendezvous for refitting and procuring refreshments during their protracted voyages, particularly since they have found the sperm whale on the coast of Japan, where of late years the greater part of their cargoes have been procured.
So early as the year 1796, the London missionary society despatched the ship Duff to the South Sea Islands; and early in 1797, Missionary settlements were established in the Marquesan, Friendly, and Society Islands. The Missionary left at the Marquesas, after spending about a year among the people, returned. The establishment in the Friendly Islands was relinquished, though not till some of the individuals of which it was page 29 composed had fallen a sacrifice to the fury of the islanders in their intestine wars. The Missionaries in the Society Islands have been enabled to maintain their ground, though exposed to many dangers and privations, and some ill usage; but their labours were continued with patience and industry for fifteen years, from the time of their first establishment, without any apparent effect. After this protracted period of discouragement, God has granted them the most astonishing success; and the happy change in the outward circumstances of the people, and the moral renovation which the reception of the gospel has effected in many, have more than realized the ardent desires of the Missionaries themselves, and the most sanguine anticipations of the friends of the Mission.
But though the efforts of the London Missionary Society were continued under appearances so inauspicious, with a degree of perseverance which has since been most amply compensated, various causes prevented their making any efforts towards communicating the knowledge of Christ to the Sandwich Islands. While their southern neighbours were enjoying all the advantages of Christianity, they remained under the thick darkness, and moral wretchedness, of one of the most cruel systems of idolatry that ever enslaved any portion of the human species.
The attention of the American churches was at length directed to the Sandwich Islands; and their sympathies being awakened, resulted in a generous effort to ameliorate the wretchedness of their inhabitants. A society already existed, under the name of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the chief seat of whose operations was in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, page 30 though including among its members many distinguished individuals in different states of the Union.
In the autumn of 1819, a select and efficient band of missionaries was appointed by this society to establish a mission in the Sandwich Islands. They landed at Kairua, in Hawaii, on the 4th of February, 1820, and had the satisfaction to find the way in a measure prepared for them, by one of those remarkable events which distinguish the eras in the history of nations, whether barbarous or civilized. This was, the abolition of the national idolatry, which, though it was closely interwoven with all the domestic and civil institutions of every class of the inhabitants, upheld by the combined influence of a numerous body of priests, the arbitrary power of warlike chiefs, and the sanction of venerable antiquity, had been publicly and authoritatively prohibited by the king only a few months before their arrival. The motives which influenced the monarch of Hawaii in this decisive/measure, the war it occasioned, and the consequences which ensued, are detailed in the following narrative. The Missionaries could not but view it as a remarkable interposition of divine Providence in their favour, and a happy prelude to the introduction of that gospel which they had conveyed to their shores. They had naturally expected that their landing would be opposed by the institutions of a system, which, however degrading and oppressive in its influence, had presented more than human claims to the support of its adherents,—and to, be withstood by a numerous and influential class of priests, whose craft would be endangered as soon as they should present the paramount claims of the true God to page 31 the homage of the heart and uniform obedience of the life. Instead of this, they found the laws of the Tabu entirely abrogated, and priests no longer existing as a distinct body, but merged in the other classes of the community. The whole nation was without any religion, and, in this respect at least, prepared to receive the dispensation of the gospel, recommended, as it was, by an exemption from all the miseries of their former system, and the animating prospects of life and immortality. Notwithstanding this, the Missionaries, in the commencement of their efforts to instruct the natives, met with some opposition from misinformed and jealous individuals, who entertained groundless suspicions as to the ultimate object of their mission. This, however, was overruled by Karaimoku, Keopuolani, and other leading chiefs, and the king willingly allowed them to remain at least for a year.
They were accompanied by several native youths, whom a roving disposition had induced to visit America, where they had been educated in a school for instructing the aborigines of various heathen nations, designated the Foreign Mission School, and who, having given pleasing evidence of piety, and understanding English, were qualified to act as interpreters, and assist the Missionaries in the acquisition of the language. The difficult task of settling the orthography of an unwritten language, required all their energies; but by diligent application, and the help of the elementary books in the dialects of the Society Islands and New Zealand, they were enabled, in the beginning of 1822, to put to press the first sheet of a Hawaiian spelling-book, and to present the natives with the elements of the vernacular page 32 tongue in a printed form. Schools were established on a scale less extended than the Missionaries desired, but not without advantage, as many of their early scholars, who made encouraging proficiency, have since become useful teachers. The more public instructions were generally well received by the people.