Arrival of the deputation in Huahine—Death of Pomare—Notice of his ancestry—Description of his person—His mental character and habits—Perseverance and proficiency in writing—His letter to England, &c.—Facsimile of his hand-writing—Translation of his letter on the art of drawing—Estimation in which he was held by the people—Pomare the first convert to christianity—His commendable endeavours to promote its extension—Declension during the latter part of his life—His friendship to the Missionaries uniform—His aid important—Circumstances connected with his death—Accession of his son Pomare III.—Coronation of the infant king—Encouraging progress in learning—Earl death—Extensive use of letters among the islanders—Writing on plantain-leaves—Value of writing-paper—South Sea Academy—Trials peculiar to Mission families among uncivilized nations—Advantages of sending Missionary children to civilized countries.
Soon after our return from Tahiti, the indisposition of Mr. and Mrs. Williams required a suspension of their exertions in Raiatea, and a visit to New South Wales.
On the 8th of December. 1821, the shout of E pahi, e! A ship, ho! re-echoed through our valley; we proceeded towards the beach, and, on reaching the sea-side, beheld a large American vessel already within the harbour. The captain soon landed, and informed us that our friends Messrs. Bennet and Tyerman were in the ship. page 249 We hastened on board, conducted them to the shore, and welcomed them to our dwellings. Mr. Bennet took up his abode with Mr. Barff, while we were happy to accommodate Mr. Tyerman. The chiefs and people, who had been led to expect a visit from our friends, greeted their arrival with demonstations of joy; these friends remained some time in Fare, and the period they spent with us was one of unusual interest and enjoyment.
In the close of this year, 1821, the Mission and the nation experienced the heaviest bereavement that had occurred since the introduction of Christianity. This was the death of the king, Pomare II. which took place on the seventh of December, the day preceding the deputation's arrival in Huahine. His health had been for some time declining, but his departure at last was sudden. I spent the greater part of a Sabbath afternoon with him at Eimeo, in the beginning of October. He was then unable to leave the house, but was not considered dangerously ill. I was then for some days with him, and had not seen him since. He had long been afflicted with the elephantiasis, a disorder very prevalent among the people; but the principal cause of his dissolution was a dropsical complaint, to which he had been for some time subject.
The conspicuous station Pomare had occupied in the political changes of Tahiti, since the arrival of the Missionaries, the prominent part he had taken in the abolition of idolatry, the zeal he had manifested in the establishment of Christianity, and the assistance he had rendered to the Missionaries, caused a considerable sensation to be experienced among all classes by his death; and as his name page 250 is perhaps more familiar to the English reader than that of any other native of the South Sea Islands, some account of his person and character cannot fail to be acceptable.
Pomare, originally called Otoo, was the son of Pomare and Idia: the father was sovereign of the larger peninsula when it was visited by Cook, and was then called Otoo; subsequently, being aided by the mutineers of the Bounty, he became king of the whole island, and adopted the name of Pomare, which at his death was assumed by his son, and has since been the hereditary name of the reigning family. Idia, his mother, was a princess of the adjacent island of Eimeo, and sister to Motuaro, one of the principal chiefs at the time of Cook's visit.
Pomare was the second son of Otoo and Idia the first having been destroyed according to the regulations of the Areois society, of which they were members. He was born about the year 1774, and was consequently about forty-seven years of age at the time of his decease. Tall, and proportionably stout, but not corpulent, his person was commanding, being upwards of six feet high.∗ His head was generally bent forward, and he seldom walked erect. His complexion was not dark, but rather tawny; his countenance often heavy, though his eyes at times beamed with intelligence. The portrait of Pomare, in the frontispiece to the first volume of this work, is from one taken at Tahiti by an artist attached to two Russian ships of discovery, that visited the islands a short time before his death, and excepting a little undue prominency in the forehead, is a good likeness.
∗His father's height was six feet four inches.
His character was totally different from that of his father—who was a man of enterprise, excessive labour and perseverance, bent on the aggrandisement of his family, and the improvement of his country, clearing waste tracts of land, planting them, and generally occupying the people with some public work. Pomare took no delight in exertions of this kind; his habits of life were indolent, his disposition sluggish, and his first appearance was by no means adapted to produce a favourable impression on a stranger's mind. Captain Wilson conceived such an idea of his stupidity and incapacity, as to suppose him the last person on whom any favourable impression would be made.
He was, however, though heavy in his appearance and indolent in his habits, inquisitive, attentive, and more thoughtful perhaps than any other native of the islands;—a keen observer of every thing that passed under his notice, although at the time he would not appear to be paying particular regard. He was not only curious and patient in his inquiries, laborious in his researches, but often exhibited a great degree of ingenuity. I have sometimes been in his company, when he has kept a party of chiefs in constant laughter, as much from the coolness with which his expressions were uttered, as the humour they contained. He was not, however, fond of conviviality or society, but appeared to be more at ease when alone, or attended only by one or two favourite chiefs.
In mental application, Pomare certainly exceeded every other Tahitian; and, had he been free from practices which so banefully retarded his progress, and enjoyed the advantage of a regular page 252 and liberal education, there is every reason to believe the development and culture of his intellect would have shewn that it was of no inferior order.
He had heard much, from the early visitors to his island, of king George, and appeared, on more than one occasion, desirous to make the British sovereign his model. He was walking one day in the district of Pare with great dignity, in the company of the Missionaries, when he suddenly stopped, and said, “Does king George walk in this way?” As soon as he in any degree comprehended the use of letters, he manifested a great desire to be able to read and write, and was one of the first pupils. Looking over the books of the Missionaries one day, he saw a Hebrew bible: the singularity of the letter attracted his attention; and having been informed that it was the language of the Jews, in which the greater part of the scriptures was written, he expressed a wish that one of the Missionaries would teach him to read it, inquiring at the same time whether king George understood Hebrew. In this he did not persevere, but he soon made himself master of the English alphabet, and could read in the English bible, not with fluency, but so as to comprehend the meaning of the plainest parts.
It was, however, in his native language that the Tahitian ruler made the greatest progress, and in writing this he excelled every other individual. Mr. Nott and Mr. Davies were his principal instructors; the latter has spent many hours with him, sitting on the ground, and teaching him to form letters on the sand, probably before Dr. Bell's system was introduced to general notice in England. The hand-writing of Pomare, during the latter part of his life, was much better than that of page 253 any of the Missionaries. His earliest letters or notes, the first ever written by a native, were from Eimeo. In 1805 he wrote a letter to the Missionaries. In 1807 he wrote one to the Missionary Society, which being the first despatch ever forwarded by a native of those islands to Britain, is a great curiosity.
The Directors had written, advising him to banish the national idol, to attend to the instruction of the Missionaries, and to discountenance those sins which were so rapidly depopulating his country. In reply, he wrote a letter in the native language, which the Missionaries translated; he then copied the translation, and both letters, signed by his own hand, were forwarded to London. He expresses a determination to banish Oro to Raiatea, wishes the Directors success in their efforts to instruct the people of Tahiti, which he calls a bad land, a regardless land. He desires them to send a number of men, women, and children, to Tahiti, to send cloth, and then they will adopt the English dress; but tells them, that, should he be killed, they will have no friend in the islands.” “Come not here after I am dead,” was his expression. He also requested them to send him all the curious things in England, especially those necessary for writing, and, after enumerating pens, ink, &c. concluded his request by stating, “Let no writing utensil be wanting.” He signed his name, “Pomare, King of Tahiti,” &c. superscribed his letter to “My Friends the Missionary Society, London.”
Sedentary occupations and amusements appeared more congenial to Pomare then active pursuits; he found an agreeable occupation in braiding the finest kinds of cinet with the fibre of the cocoa-nut husk; writing, however, was his chief employment page 254 and recreation. At first, he had a writing-house erected, that he might follow his favourite pursuit, uninterrupted by his domestics or the members of his household; he then had a table, but, during the latter part of his life, he usually wrote lying in a horizontal position, leaning his chest on a high cushion, and having a desk before him.
Pomare kept a regular daily journal, and wrote in a book provided for that purpose, every text of scripture that he heard. Sometimes he wrote out the prayers he used in social and private devotion; maintained an extensive correspondence, after the introduction of writing among the people; prepared the first code of laws for his kingdom; transcribed them fairly with his own hand, and promulgated them with his voice. He also rendered very important aid to the Missionaries in the translation of the scriptures, and copied out many portions before they were printed.
The king was remarkably pleased with engravings and paintings, and has often called at my house to look at the plates in an Encyclopædia, frequently asking if I thought it possible for him to learn to draw. I always told him it depended on his own industry; that I had no doubt of his capacity, if he would apply. In connexion with these encouragements, I received from him the accompanying note, soon after our settlement at Afareaitu in 1817. I insert it as a specimen of his hand-writing, although it is by no means so carefully written as many of his letters, or his copy of the laws, &c. It will also serve as a specimen of the idiom of the language, as I have affixed a literal translation. (See the Engraving.)
His policy as a ruler was deliberative and cautioous, rather than prompt and decisive, and most page 255 of his measures were pursued more with a view to their ulterior influence, than to their immediate effect. His views were in many respects contracted, and he was easily imposed upon by bold and heedless advisers. He was more rapacious than tyrannical, and probably would not have been so rigid in his actions, but for the influence of those constantly around him, who often availed themselves of his authority and influence to advance their own unjust and oppressive proceedings. Though destitute of many essentials in a great prince, the Tahitian ruler was universally respected. He was beloved by his own family, and by many of the chiefs, who were under great obligations to him, but I do not think he was beloved by the nation at large. It was rather a respectful fear than a fond attachment, that was generally entertained for him. He was exceedingly jealous of any interference with his prerogative or his interest, and was frequently attended by a number of the Paumotuans, or natives of the Palliser Islands, as a kind of body guard. These were considered as in some degree foreigners; and their selection by the king, as the protectors of his person, caused dissatisfaction in the minds of several of the chiefs.
Pomare was not only the first pupil whom the Missionaries taught to read and write, but he was also the first convert to Christianity in the island of which he was king. He made a profession of belief in the true God, and the only Saviour, in 1812; and there is every reason to believe that, according to the knowledge he had of Christianity, and the duties it enjoined, he was sincere. He bore the persecution and ridicule to which he was exposed, on this account, with firmness and temper, page 256 mildly entreating those who reviled him, to examine for themselves.
In the year 1813 he proposed to Tamatoa, the king of Raiatea, and Mahine the king of Huahine, to renounce idolatry. They determinately refused; but he still continued firm in his own principles, and persevering in all his endeavours to influence other chiefs in favour of Christianity. It was in consequence of his recommendation, that Taaroarii, the son of the king of Huahine, prohibited the abominations of the Areois, and sent for a preacher to teach him the word of God. Pomare continued the steady disciple of the Missionaries for several years, using all his influence in persuading the people to renounce their dependence on the idols, and to hear about the true God. His conduct in this respect was most commendable, for I never heard that he had recourse to any other means than persuasion, or that he ever held out any other inducements than those which the scriptures present. He had no honours or emoluments to bestow, for he was at that time in exile; and the constant reproach of his family and adherents was, that his ruin was inevitable, as he had, by renouncing the national worship, made the gods his enemies.
The conduct of the king in the battle of Atehuru, his treatment of the captives, and his clemency towards the vanquished, have been already detailed, as well as his journeys for the purpose of inducing the people to embrace Christianity. His baptism, and his promulgation of the laws by which the islands of Tahiti and Eimeo are now governed, have been also given.
During the latter part of his life, his conduct was in many respects exceptionable, and hi page 257 character appeared less amiable than it had been before. He had shewn his weakness in allowing the unfounded representations of a transient visiter to induce him to request that the manufacture of sugar might not be extensively carried on under the management of Mr. Gyles. He was also, as might have been expected, from the circumstance of his having been the high-priest of the nation under the system of false religion, and having been identified with all the religious observances of the people, too fond of regulating matters purely connected with public worship or ecclesiastical discipline; and, although the Missionaries deemed it right respectfully to inform him that here the directions of scripture were sufficient and supreme, and could not with safety or propriety be altered in subserviency to any measures of political expediency, they uniformly supported his authority, endeavoured to strengthen his influence, and increase his resources, as the rightful sovereign of the people.
A few years before his death he was induced, by the representations of designing and misinformed individuals to engage in injudicious commercial speculations, with persons in New South Wales. This proved a great source of disquietude to his mind, and probably hastened his death. One or two vessels were purchased for him at a most extravagant price; and the produce of the island was required to pay for them, and to defray expenses connected with their navigation. One of them was seized, a law-suit instituted in consequence at Port Jackson, the rahui or tabu laid upon the island, the rights of property were invaded, and no native was allowed to dispose of any other article of produce, excepting to the agents of the king. He page 258 became the chief factor in the island, or rather the instrument of those who were associated with him in these commercial speculations, and who used his authority to deprive the people of the right to sell the fruits of their own labour. The inhabitants were required to bring their pigs, oil, &c. and to receive in return what he chose to give them: the individuals who urged upon him this policy considered all they could obtain by any means as fair emolument. The welfare of the nation, the natural rights of the people, the establishment of commerce upon just and honourable principles, were beneath their regard. It is needless to add, that these speculations ended in embarrassment and loss.
The habits of intemperance which Pomare was led to indulge, in consequence of these associations, threw a stain upon his character, and cast a gloom over his mind, from which he never recovered, and under the cloud thus induced he ended his days.
He was also reported to be addicted to other and more debasing vices, but I have no wish to exhibit the dark features of his character—truth and impartiality require what has been said—and it is with far greater pleasure that we contemplate his uniform kindness to the Missionaries, and steady patronage, especially in their seasons of greatest extremity, when civil wars forced them to abandon their home, and seek safety in flight. His unwavering adherence to the profession of Christianity, amidst the greatest reproach, and his valuable aid in its introduction, were highly serviceable to the nation. Without presuming to pronounce an opinion on his final state, he certainly was employed by God (who selects his page 259 agents from whatever station he chooses, and uses them just so long as he sees fit,) as a principal instrument in subverting idol-worship introducing Christianity, and establishing a code of laws founded on the principles of true religion; he is therefore to be considered, if not a father, undoubtedly as a benefactor to his country. Pomare was not averse to religious conversation and devotional engagements; we conversed very freely together the last time I saw him, which was about two months before his death. He expressed his apprehensions of the increase of his disorder, but did not think it likely to prove fatal; he was shortly afterwards removed to Tahiti, where he died. During his illness, he was attended by Mr. Crook, who reminded him, in their last conversation, of the number and magnitude of his sins, and directed him to Jesus Christ, who alone could save his soul: all the reply he made was, “Jesus Christ alone,” and in about an hour afterwards expired.
The lamentations of his friends, and of the people around, were great; a new tomb was erected for his remains, near the large chapel he had built at Papaoa. Messrs. Nott, Davies, and Henry, the senior Missionaries in the island, performed the religious services at his funeral, which was attended by all the Missionaries, and multitudes of the people. Mr. Nott, who had been in habits of closest intimacy with him, and had better opportunities of understanding his character than others, deeply regretted his departure. No one felt the loss of his assistance more than Mr. Nott, who was principally employed in translations of the scripture. For this department Pomare was well qualified, and always ready to render the page 260 most important services. He was well acquainted with the language, usages, and ancient institutions of the people, and his corrections were usually made with judgment and care. The compilation of a dictionary of the Tahitian language, would, if completed, have been invaluable; but he had scarcely commenced it systematically, when death arrested his progress, even in the prime of life.
Pomare was succeeded in the government by his son, who being proclaimed king immediately after his father's death, was crowned, under the title of Pomare III. on the 21st of April, 1824.
In order that the ceremonies, on this occasion, might be performed in the presence of the inhabitants, the greater part of whom were expected to attend, a stone platform was raised, nearly sixty feet square, upon which another smaller platform was erected, where the coronation was to take place.
When the order of the procession was arranged, it advanced towards the place, preceded by two native girls, who strewed the path with flowers. Mahine, the chief of Huahine, and nominally one of the judges of Tahiti, carried a large Bible, and was attended by the deputation from the Missionary Society, who were then at Tahiti, and Messrs. Nott and Henry; the rest of the Missionaries followed. Then came the supreme judges, three abreast; Utami, the chief of Atehuru, bearing a copy of the Tahitian code of laws. Three other judges followed; and Tati, the chief of Papara, walking in the centre, carried the crown. The young king, seated on a chair, was next borne in the procession by four young chieftains, an equal number of chiefs' sons supporting the canopy over his head; his mother and his sister walking on page 261 one side, and his aunts on the other. His brother-in-law walked immediately behind, and was followed by Tamatoa, the king of Raiatea, and the members of the royal family. The governors, judges of districts, and magistrates, walking four abreast, closed the procession.
When they reached the place of coronation, the king was seated in his chair; in the centre before him, on small tables, the crown, the Bible, and the code of laws, were placed. Those who were to take part in the transactions of the day were seated around and behind the king.
The youthful Pomare, being only four years of age, was necessarily passive in the important business. Mr. Davies, one of the senior Missionaries, spoke for him; and as all were requested to take a part in the ceremonies, when the king had been asked if he promised to govern the people with justice and mercy, agreeably to the laws and the word of God, Mr. Nott placed the crown on his head, and pronounced a benediction upon the young ruler; Mr. Darling then presented him with a Bible, accompanying the presentation with a suitable address.
As soon as the coronation ceremony was closed, a herald proclaimed pardon to all who were under the sentence of the law. Every exile was directed to return, and all were exhorted to become good members of society. The assembly afterwards repaired to the Royal Mission Chapel, where Divine service was performed, and thus the first Christian coronation in the South Sea Islands closed.
The kings of Tahiti were not formerly invested with any regal dignity by receiving a crown, but by being girded with the maro ura, or sacred page 262 girdle, of which ceremony an account has been already given. On that occasion they bathed the king in the sea, before girding him with the sacred maro. On the present occasion they anointed his person with oil; a part of the ceremony which, I think, might have been as well dispensed with.
Shortly after his coronation, young Pomare III. was placed at the South Sea Academy, in Eimeo, under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Orsmond, for the purpose of receiving, with the children of the Missionaries, a systematic English education. His disposition was affectionate, his progress encouraging, and he promised fair to gain a correct acquaintance with the English language, which, had he lived, by giving him the key to all the stores of knowledge contained in it, would have conferred on him a commanding influence among the people over whom the providence of God had made him king. So far as his faculties were developed, they were not inferior to those of European children at the same age; but he was soon removed by death.
Being attacked with a complaint that passed through the islands about the middle of December, 1826, he was immediately conveyed to his mother's residence in Pare, where he lingered till the eleventh of January, 1827, when he died in Mr. Orsmond's arms. His mother and other friends standing by, when they saw him actually in the agonies of death, were so affected that they could not bear to look upon his struggles, but cast a cloth over Mr. Orsmond and the dying child he held in his arms; they removed it in a few minutes, and found his spirit had fled.
He was Pomare's only son, and the sole child of his surviving widow. A daughter of Pomare II. page 263 by a second wife, whose name is Aimata, and who is about sixteen years of age, being his only surviving child, has succeeded to the government: she was married some years ago to a young chief of Tahaa, to whom her father had given his own name, so that Pomare is still the regal name. Her character, perhaps, is yet scarcely formed, and we can only hope she will prove a blessing to the nation.
Although Pomare II. was the first pupil whom the Missionaries taught to write, and who excelled all others, his example induced many to make an attempt, while his success encouraged them to proceed; and it is probable, that as great a proportion of the population of the Georgian and Society Islands can now write, as would be found capable of doing so in many portions of the United Kingdom. Some progress had been made, by several of the most intelligent of the converts, before the abolition of idolatry in 1815, but it is only since that period that writing has become general.
Various methods of instruction have been adopted; some of the natives have been taught altogether by writing on the sea-beach, or on sand in the schools; others have learned to write on the broad smooth leaves of the plantain-tree, using a bluntly pointed stick, instead of a pen or pencil. The delicate fibres of the leaf, being bruised by the pen, become brown, while the other parts remain green. If it was necessary to read it immediately after being written: when held up to the light, the letters were easily distinguished. These plantain leaf letters answer very well for short notes to pass among the natives themselves, but are liable to injury if conveyed to any great distance, or kept any page 264 length of time. They are always rolled up like a sheet of parchment, and have a remarkably rustic appearance, being usually fastened with a piece of bark, tied round the roll, the length of which being formed by the breadth of the leaf, is about twelve or fifteen inches. I have often seen the chief's messenger hastening along the road with two or three plantain-leaf rolls under his arm, or in his hand, containing the despatches of which he was the bearer.
Some of the chiefs learned to write on a slate, but these have always been articles too scarce and valuable for common use; they were very highly prized, and preserved with care. The greatest favour a chief could shew his son, has sometimes been to allow him to practise on his slate. We have often regretted that the supply was not more abundant, and though several hundreds of the thick slates, without frames, such as are used in the national schools, have been sent out by the Society, and others by the liberality of friends, they have not been suficient to supply the different schools; so that many of the natives, who desire to possess them as their own, are still destitute. Framed slates are sometimes taken by traders, as articles of barter; but they are so liable to break, that the people greatly prefer the kind above alluded to.
A copy-book has never been used for the purpose of learning to write; paper has always been too scarce and valuable amongst them, to admit of such an appropriation. And a copy-book, although highly prized, is used rather as a journal, common-place book, or depository of something more valuable than mere copies. Writing paper is still a very valuable article, and proves page 265 one of the most acceptable presents that can be sent them.
I have often been amused on beholding a native, who had several letters to write, sitting down to look over his paper, and finding perhaps that he possessed but one sheet, has been obliged to cut it into three, four, or five pieces, and regulate the size of his letter, not by the quantity of information he had to communicate, but by the extent of the paper he had to fill. I have recently received upwards of twenty letters from the natives, some of them, although they were to travel fifteen thousand miles, written on very small scraps of paper, and that often of an inferior kind: part of the small space for writing being occupied by apologies for the small paper, and urgent requests, that, if I do not return soon, I will send them some paper; and that, if I return, I will take them a supply.
The art of writing is of the greatest service to the people in their commercial, civil, and domestic transactions, as well as in the pursuit of knowledge. They are not so far advanced in civilization as to have a regular post; but a native seldom makes a journey across the island, and scarcely a canoe passes from one island to another, without conveying a number of letters. Writing is an art perfectly congenial with the habits of the people, and hence they have acquired it with uncommon facility; not only have the children readily learned, but many adults, who never took pen or pencil in their hands until they were thirty or even forty years of age, have by patient perseverance learned, in the space of twelve months or two years, to write a fair and legible hand. Their comparatively small alphabet, and the simple structure of their language, has probably been page 266 advantageous; their letters are bold and well formed, and their ideas are always expressed with perspicuity, precision, and simplicity.∗
∗Writing apparatus and materials of every kind are in great demand among them; most of the letters I have received contain a request that, if possible, I will send them out a writing-desk, or an inkstand, penknife, pens, a blank paper book, &c. The widow of Taaroarii, in her last letter, solicited me to bring her a writing-desk.
The South Sea Academy, in which the young king was a pupil, is an important institution, in connexion with the Missionary establishments in this part of Polynesia. It had long been required by the circumstances of the European families, and the peculiar state of Tahitian society; and the establishment of the Academy was designed to meet their peculiar necessities in this respect.
There are many trials and privations inseparable from the situation of a Christian Missionary among a heathen people. The latent enmity of the mind familiar with vice, to the moral influence of the gospel; the prejudices against his message, the infatuation of the pagan in favour of idolatry, and the pollutions connected therewith—originate trials common to every Missionary; but there are others peculiar to particular spheres of labour. The situation of a European in India, where, although surrounded by pagans, he yet can mingle with civilized and occasionally with Christian society, is very different from that of one pursuing his solitary labours, year after year, in the deserts of Africa, or the isolated islands of the South Sea, where five years have sometimes elapsed without hearing from England, where there is but one European family in many of the islands, and where I have been twelve or fifteen months without seeing a ship, or hearing a page 267 word of the English language, excepting what has been spoken by our own families.
There are disadvantages, even where the Missionary is in what is called civilized society, but they are of a different kind from those experienced from a residence among a rude uncultivated race. In either barbarous or civilized countries, the greatest trials the Missionaries experience are those connected with the bringing up of a family in the midst of a heathen population; and it probably causes more anxious days, and sleepless nights, than any other source of distress to which they are exposed. This was the case in the South Sea Mission. There were at one time nearly sixty children or orphans of Missionaries; and there are now, perhaps, forty rising up in the different islands, under circumstances adapted to produce in their parents' minds the most painful anxiety.
In the Sandwich Islands, during our residence there, although our hearts were cheered, and our hands strengthened, by the great change daily advancing among the people, yet the situation of our children was such as constantly to excite the most intense and painful interest. It is impossible for an individual, who has never mingled in pagan society, and who does not understand the language employed in their most familiar intercourse with each other, to form any adequate idea of the awfully polluting character of their most common communications. Their appearance is often such as the eye, accustomed only to scenes of civilized life, turns away in pain from beholding. Their actions are often most repulsive, and their language is still worse. Ideas are exchanged, with painful insensibility, which cannot be repeated, and whose most rapid passage through the mind must leave page 268 pollution. So strongly did we feel this in the Sandwich Islands, that the only play-ground to which our children were allowed access, was enclosed with a high fence; and the room they occupied was one, strictly interdicted to the natives, who were in the habit of coming to our dwelling.
We always sought to inspire the natives with confidence, and admit them to our houses, but when any of the chiefs came, they were attended by a large train of followers, whose conversation with our own servants we could not restrain, but which we should have trembled at the thought that our children heard. The disadvantages under which they must have laboured, are too apparent to need enumeration. Idolatry had indeed been renounced by the natives, but, during the earlier part of the time we spent there, nothing better had been substituted in its place, and the great mass of the people were living without any moral or religious restraint.
Our companions, the American Missionaries, felt deeply and tenderly, on account of the circumstances of their rising families, and made very full representations to their patrons; they have also sent some of their children to their friends in their native country. The children of the Missionaries in the South Sea Islands were not in a situation exactly similar to those in the northern islands. The moral and religious change that has taken place since the subversion of idolatry, had very materially improved the condition of the people, and elevated the tone of moral feeling among them; still it must be remembered, that though many are under the controlling influence of Christian principle and moral purity, these are not the majority, and there page 269 is not yet among them that fine sense of decency, which is so powerful a safeguard to virtue; and, besides this, the circumstances of the families are far from being the most pleasing.
In only two of the islands is there more than one Missionary; and only at the Academy, where Mr. Blossom is associated with Mr. Orsmond, is there more than one family at a station. The duties of each settlement, from the partially organized state of society, and the multitude of objects demanding his attention, are such, that the Missionary cannot devote the necessary time to the education of his own children, without neglecting public duties; hence he experiences a constant and painful struggle between the dictates of parental affection and the claims of pastoral care. To afford relief, as far as possible, from this embarrassment, the South Sea Academy was established by the deputation from the Society, and the Missionaries in the islands, in March, 1824.
In compliance with the earnest recommendation of the deputation, and the solicitation of his bretheren, Mr. Orsmond removed from Borabora, to take charge of the institution, over which he has continued to preside, to the satisfaction of the parents, and the benefit of the pupils. The first annual meeting was held in March, 1825; the children had not only been taught to read the scriptures, and to commit the most approved catechisms to memory, but had also been instructed in writing, grammar, history, &c. During the examination, portions of scripture were read and recited, copy-books examined, problems in geometry worked, and parts of catechisms on geography, astronomy, and chronology, repeated. The whole of the proceedings gave satisfaction to all page 270 present, and left an impression on each mind, that great attention must have been paid by Mr. and Mrs. Orsmond to the pupils, during the short period they had been in the school. Subsequent examinations have been equally satisfactory.
The institution is under the management of a committee, and its primary design was to furnish a suitable, and, so far as circumstances would admit, a liberal education to the children of the Missionaries, “such an education as is calculated to prepare them to fill useful situations in future life.” Native children of piety and talent have access to its advantages, and it is designed as preparatory to a seminary, for training native pastors to fill different stations in the South Sea Islands. It is an important institution, and will, it is hoped, exert no ordinary influence on the future character of the nation at large, as well as prove highly advantageous to the individuals who become its inmates. It merits the countenance of the friends of Missions. Several individuals have kindly enriched its library with suitable elementary books, philosophical apparatus, &c. but these are still very inadequate to the accomplishment of the design contemplated.
But while the establishment of this institution is a just occasion of gratitude to the Missionaries, it does not remove anxiety from their minds with regard to the future prospects of their families. The nature of their station, and the spirit and principles of their office as ministers of Christ, prevent the parents from making any provision for their families. The proper settlement of their children is an object of most anxious solicitude to Christian parents at home—to foreign Missionaries it is peculiarly so. Their remote and page 271 isolated situation precludes their embracing those openings in Divine Providence for placing their children in suitable circumstances, of which they might avail themselves in Christian and civilized society. The prospects of filling comfortable stations there, are all uncertain; professions there are none; commerce is in its infancy, as will appear from the fact of its being still carried on by exchange or barter. The circulation of money is very limited, and its use known to but few.
The fondest hope of every Missionary is, that his children may grow up in the fear of God, be made partakers of his grace, and, under the constraining influence of the love of Christ in their hearts, imbibe their parent's spirit, select his office, spend their lives in supplying his lack of service, and carrying on that work which he has been honoured to commence. In prosecuting this, they will have advantages their parents never possessed; they will have been identified with the people among whom they labour, and will not appear in language and idiom as foreigners; but they will labour under more than counteracting disadvantages, if they never visit the land of their fathers, and must necessarily be far less efficient teachers of the truths of Christianity than their predecessors in the work.
There are a thousand things known to an indidual who has received or finished his education and passed his early days in England, which can only be known under corresponding circumstances, and which a Missionary can never, in such situations as the South Sea Islands, teach his child. Those born there may indeed have access to English literature; but many books, however familiar and perspicuous to an ordinary English page 272 reader, will, in many perhaps important parts, appear enigmatical to those who have never seen any other society than such as that now under consideration. It has always appeared to me, in reference to an uncivilized, illiterate people, who are to be raised from ignorance, barbarism, and idolatry, to a state of intelligence, enjoyment, and piety—where their character, habits, taste, and opinions, have to be formed principally, if not entirely, by the Missionary—that for some generations, at least, every Missionary's child, trained for the Missionary work even by a father's hand, and blessed with the grace of God, ought to finish his education in the land of his parents, prior to entering upon the work to which his life is devoted.
Many a Missionary spends the greater part of his life without being able to produce any powerful or favourable impression upon the people among whom he has laboured; others expire in a field, on which they have bestowed fervent prayer, tears, and toil, but from which no fruit has been gathered; the second generation have to commence their labours under circumstances corresponding with those under which their predecessors began. When success attends their efforts, and a change takes place decisive and extensive as that which has occurred in the South Sea Islands; yet so mighty is the work, so deep the prejudices, so difficult to be overcome are evil habits, and so slow the process of improvement upon a broad scale, even under the most favourable circumstances, that the ordinary period of a Missionary's life in actual service, is too short to raise them from their wretchedness, to a standard in morals, habits, intelligence, and stability in religion, at which page 273 those who were instrumental in originating their emancipation, would desire to leave them. They never can be expected to advance beyond those who are their models, their preceptors, and their guides; and if the successors of the first Missionaries be in any respect inferior to their predecessors, the progress of the nation must, in regard to improvement, be retrograde—unless this deficiency be supplied from some other source.
On this account, it does appear exceedingly desirable that the successors to the first Missionaries among an uncivilized people, who may even renounce idolatry, should be in every respect equally qualified for this office with those by whom they were preceded, and that even the children of the Missionaries should be able to carry on, to a greater degree of perfection, that work which their parents were privileged to commence.
I am aware that the expense attending a measure of this kind will probably prevent its adoption in those Institutions by whom the first Missionaries are sent out; but this does not render the measure less desirable or important in its immediate or remote and permanent influence upon the converted nations. The same difficulties occur with regard to the promotion of civilization, and the culture of the mechanic arts, among the barbarous nations. The primary design of all Missionary contributions is the communication of Christianity to the heathen; and it is to be regretted that the smallest portion of the pecuniary means furnished by Christian liberality for this purpose, should be appropriated to any other purpose than the direct promulgation of the gospel.
The difficulties already alluded to, connected with the Missionary stations, are not the only ones page 274 that exist. They would operate powerfully, supposing the children were all that the parents could wish; supposing they were qualified by talent, disposed by deliberate choice, and prepared by Divine grace, for the work of Christian Missionaries; but these indispensable requisites, it is unnecessary to remark, a parent, with all his solicitude and care, cannot always secure. God may see fit to withhold those decisive evidences of genuine piety, without which the fondest parent would tremble at the idea of introducing even his own child into the sacred office of an evangelist. However Missionary pursuits may have been accounted the honour, or have proved the happiness, of the parent, the child, as he grows up, may not even possess a desire to engage in the same: that desire the parent cannot give; and, without it, it would, from every consideration, be both cruel and injurious to urge it.
The alternative is most distressing to contemplate. There are at present no situations of comfort to fill, no trade or business that can be followed. Productive plantations, regular labour, mercantile establishments, warehouses, and shops, it is to be expected, will ultimately exist and flourish in these islands, but they cannot be looked for in the short period of fifteen years from the time when the people emerged from gross ignorance, inveterate vice, and the most enervating and dissipating idleness. The circumstances of the female branches of the Mission families are, perhaps, still more discouraging.
I have extended these remarks much beyond what I intended, when speaking of the South Sea Academy; and although they may be less interesting to the general reader than other matters, page 275 they will serve to shew what are some of the trials of a Missionary life among an uncivilized people. They may also, not only awaken the sympathies of the friends of Missionaries, but lead to such a consideration of the subject, as may result in the suggestion or application of a remedy, which, if it shall not altogether remove them, will, at least, alleviate their pressure; which is, perhaps, felt more heavily by the present generation, than it will be by their successors.