Samoa Under the Sailing Gods
Regarding the intentions of the Mission itself towards Samoa, Williams said that the Navigators group was, with the exception of Hawaii, the largest and most populous in the Pacific at which missions had been commenced, and in a few years would, no doubt, rise into considerable importance.
"As it lies in the vicinity of the Friendly Islands, the extensive Fiji group, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and numerous other solitary islands, intercourse between them could be easily maintained, and thus a civilizing and religious influence might be exerted upon the countless thousands of benighted heathen, who dwell between the Samoas and the coast of New Holland1;page 45and, whether we view this group as a mart for commercial enterprise, a field for scientific research, or a sphere for the exercise of Christian benevolence, we must regard it with feelings of the liveliest interest.
"A few years ago it was much wished by the inhabitants of New South Wales that the British Government would form a settlement at one of the South Sea Islands, where ships might refresh and refit, without being exposed to danger. The fate of the unfortunate Oldham whaler,1 and the numerous tragical events which were constantly occurring at these islands, gave rise to this suggestion. Although the danger has ceased where Christianity has been introduced, yet, should such an establishment be determined upon, the Navigators group is a most eligible place for its formation. Its central situation, the excellence of the harbours, the abundant supply of water and provision, the amazing extent of rich and arable land, and the quantity and variety of the timber are important prerequisites for an establishment of this description, and such as must ensure its prosperity."
In reference to the islands generally, said the missionary, it might be observed that the blessings conveyed to them by Christianity had not been simply of a spiritual character, but that civilization and commerce had invariably followed in her train.
"Until the people are brought under the influence of religion, they have no desire for the arts and usages of civilized life; but that invariably creates it. The Missionaries were at Tahiti for many years, during which they built and furnished a house in European style. The natives saw this, but not an individual imitated their example. As soon, however, as they were brought under the influence of Christianity, the chiefs, and even the common people, began to build neat plastered cottages, and to manufacture bedsteads, seats, and other articles of furniture. The females had long observed the dress of the Missionaries' wives, but while heathen they greatly preferred their own, and there was not a single attempt at imitation. No sooner, however, were they brought under the influence of religion than all of them, even to the lowest, aspired to thepage 46possession of a gown, a bonnet, and a shawl, that they might appear like Christian women. I could proceed to enumerate many other changes of the same kind, but these will be sufficient to establish my assertion. While the natives are under the influence of their superstitions, they evie an inanity and torpor from which no stimulus has proved powerful enough to arouse them but the new ideas and the new principles imparted by Christianity, And if it be not already proved, the experience of a few more years ill demonstrate the fact, that the Missionary enterprise is incomparably the most effective machinery that has ever been brought to operate upon the social, the civil, and the commercial, as well as the moral and spiritual, interests of mankind."
1 Taken at Wallace Island.
Nor, said Williams, were the heathens the only parties benefited by such exertions.
"The whole civilized world, and our own countrymen especially, share the advantages. Without dwelling upon the improved state of religion in our churches; the holy and elevated feelings which have been called into exercise; the noble instances of Christian benevolence which have been displayed; and the reflex influence of the missionary enterprise upon home exertions; we may simply glance at the commercial advantages which have resulted and are still resulting from the labours. In the South Sea Islands alone, many thousands of persons are at this moment wearing and using articles of European manufacture, by whom, a few years ago, no such article had been seen: indeed, in the more advanced stations, there is scarcely an individual who is not attired in English clothing, which has been obtained in exchange for native produce. Thus we are benefited both in what we give and in what we receive…. At present, the Samoa islanders have nothing to dispose of but a little cinet,1 and small quantities of tortoise-shell. In a very few years, however, should our labours be successful, they will be taught to prepare hundreds of tons of coco-nut oil annually; to manufacture sugar; to cultivate their land; and to supply our shipping with provisions. Thus, wherever the Missionary goes, new channels are cut for the stream of commerce; and to me it is most surprising that any individual at all interested in the commercial prosperity ofpage break page 47his country can be otherwise than a warm friend to the Missionary cause."