The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27
The Isles of the Pacific.
This is a delightful book of 224 pages, profusely illustrated, by B. Francis. The Pacific Ocean is said to cover nearly half the globe, and sketches of its emerald isles set in azure are always attractive. New Zealand engrosses 100 pages of the work. This is the most remote corner of the British Empire, and still the most nearly resembling England, in respect to its climate, atmosphere, and productions. We "have completely filled it with our own people, plants, and animals, and built towns and villages almost like those in our own land. The climate, too, is in some respects like our own, but warmer and finer, and the atmosphere is clear and bright, and the sky very blue. There is a slight dampness in the air, owing, it is thought, to the vast tracts of water by which it is surrounded, but which keeps the foliage and the grass as green as it is in England. Of all the islands in the world, New Zealand is surrouded by the largest extent of water." The natives of these isles of New Zealand are "a fine, intelligent tribe of men." Captain Cook "found them living in villages, in huts made of wood and reeds. They wore clothing woven from the native flax, and dyed with bark, and they made stone weapons, and instruments of various kinds, and cooked their food. They also cultivated their land, and made laws about property, and stored provisions against bad times. Being much given to fighting among themselves, they made forts and defences of the most ingenious kind. Though they had no written language, they had all sorts of songs and proverbs, handed down from generation to generation; and they knew and had named every bird, plant, and insect in their island. They had also names for the stars, and called the constellations from page 80 fancied resemblances to different familiar objects, such as canoes or weapons. They had various amusements and games, many of them like our own—such as flying kites, walking on stilts, wrestling, and hide-and-seek. They treated their wives well. They were cannibals, and after a battle it was their custom to kill and eat the prisoners they had taken. They had no religion, only a sort of strange mythology of their own, but they believed in a future existence."
We are told that "the fruits and flowers of New Zealand are endless in variety and beauty." Roots and seeds imported from England flourish here in great perfection. In the Northern Island, "the myrtle and scarlet geranium bloom unsheltered all the year round; and grapes, figs, and melons ripen perfectly in the open air, and oranges, bananas, and pine-apples."
Currants, gooseberries, strawberries, potatoes, grow in great profusion in the South Islands. Our flowers—"roses, honeysuckle. lavender, mignonnette, snow-drops, crocuses, and daffodils blossom luxuriantly; also, the oak, elm, and other English trees. A New Zealand forest in its native wildness is a most beautiful sight, with its infinite variety of pine trees, evergreens, creepers, and shrubs. Many of the large trees bear lovely flowers, and the ground is carpeted with them. Among the most beautiful plants are the tree-fern and the cabbage-palm; the commonest is the manuka scrub, which grows all over the island. It is something like a myrtle, and has white, and sometimes pink, blossoms. All the native trees, with one or two exceptions, are evergreen."
The Maoris ornament their heads with feathers, combs, and pearl shells. "In their ears they wear pieces of jasper or green-jade, and sharks' teeth. The women adorn their necks with strings of sharks' teeth and a particular kind of berry." New Zealand is rich in " a great variety of birds; green parrots and pigeons of various kinds; the bell-bird, with its sweet, dreamy note; the iris, or parson-bird, who wears a glossy black suit; and the New Zealand robin, who is no robin at all, but has a yellowish-white breast." We have wood-hens also, and several species of the kiwi. They have neither wings nor tails, and are covered with hair. The moa is extinct. The Maoris—a tail, well-built race—with coarse black hair, large noses and mouths, "tattoo their faces most elegantly and elaborately." They, also, " smear their faces with oil and red ochre." With respect to their superstitious rites, the tapu and muru are very singular. The tapu means that a thing is sacred and not to be touched. With regard to the muru, " if any one has an accident or affliction, it is thought a compliment and a token of sympathy to page 81 visit him, eat up all his provisions, and sometimes rob him of everything he possesses! "
Like the Homeric heroes, "when a chief died, it was con-sidered right and proper to kill a slave immediately, in order that the great man might have a spirit to attend him into another world. One or more of his wives would always make an end of herself, that she might accompany her husband."
Of course these rites are now discontinued. However, "the wives content themselves with covering their heads, howling and lamenting for days together." These lamentations and certain ceremonies and a great deal of feasting always accompany the death of a chief, and constitute a Tangi."
Samuel Marsden was the first missionary to the Maoris. "In 1808 he visited England, and laid the foundation of the Church of England Mission in New Zealand." On his way back, he made the acquaintance of Ruatara—a young Maori chief, who like other young chiefs had gone to England, and had been cruelly treated by unprincipled captains. George, one of the ill-treated Maoris, had his revenge on the captain and crew, who were murdered on their return. But Ruatara proved a real friend and helper to the benevolent Mr Marsden. On the 19th November, 1814, Marsden embarked from Sydney for New Zealand with the pioneer missionaries. They landed at the Bay of Islands, " at the spot where the massacre had taken place." The missionary dissuaded the natives from further acts of mutual hostilities, for they were fighting on his arrival.
On Christmas Day, 1814, Marsden preached the first sermon in New Zealand. The natives for the first time heard " the glad tidings of great joy! " Praise first rose up to heaven in the words of the Old Hundredth Psalm. There was a large congregation. Hangi, another chief who had visited England, and had been kindly treated, and received guns from King George, caused great trouble to the missionaries, and much carnage among the Maoris; for in his raids on other tribes "villages were burned, and hundreds of prisoners killed and eaten." The labours of Mr Williams for forty years require special praise. In 1836, the New Testament was translated into Maori, and in 1842, Mr Williams welcomed Bishop Selwyn to New Zealand. The Gospel and the Church came to subdue "the power of sin over the heart of unregenerate man."
The New Zealand Company was formed, "and sent out settlers, under the guidance of Colonel Wakefield, to buy land from the natives—to be paid for in all sorts of things which the Maoris valued more: tools, seeds, looking-glasses, clothing, muskets, gunpowder, &c." Land enough was bought in a year, page 82 and the natives began to repent of their foolish bargains; hence the subsequent wars. At last Captain Hobson hoisted the British flag, and the Treaty of Waitangi was "signed by 46 chiefs in 1840." This year also Taranaki was founded by the N.Z. Company, the settlers being mainly from Devon and Cornwall. New Plymouth is "one of the most beautifully situated towns in the world." It is built at the foot of Mount Egmont, cone-shaped, covered with snow, with sugar-loaf rocks around it. In 1844 Heke cut down the flagstaff at the Bay of Islands, and set the Government at defiance.
Troops were sent from Sydney to put down the rebels. But from this time we must really date "the beginning of the New Zealand war." True, there were a few years of peace, but "the seeds of the terrible wars of more modern times were sown" then and there. A Land League was created, "to prevent the settlers getting more land into their hands, and in 1858 a King was set up at Rangiawhia. Governor Browne was likened to the kapu or hawk, " which hovered over head, and though a bird of prey still could always be seen." Whereas, Sir George Grey was compared to the Mori or rat, " which worked underground, so that it could not be told where it went in or where it would come out." Striking comparison and true to the core; as subsequent events proved. " In 1883 the terrible campaign of the Waikato began." The bravery of the Maoris shone out conspicuously at the Gate Pah, which was defended by 300 natives against 1,700 English, with Armstrong guns. Twenty-seven were killed, of whom 11 were officers, and 70 wounded. Tamihana, the Maori chief and friend of England, established a newspaper, was a pacificator throughout, and told his countrymen on his death-bed "to stand by the Government and the law." The watchwords of this King-maker were Christianity, Love, Law. Like Cassandra, his counsels were not heeded—else there had been no wars at all.
New Zealand is famed for its beautiful scenery, fertile soil, and genial climate. Lady Baker's "Station Life" gives us "delightful pictures of the free, open-air life of the farmers and their families settled there." The forests, ferns, and mountains are splendid, so also are the lakes, hot-springs, baths, rivers, streams, plains, glens, and gullies.
"Fully a quarter of the Canterbury Province is one enormous plain of 3,000,000 acres, all divided into sheep runs, and covered with flocks and herds. The principal city, Christchurch, is built on the banks of the beautiful river Avon."
Otago was founded by the New Zealand Company, and colonised by the Scotch, on the 23rd March, 1848. In 1861 gold page 83 was discovered in Otago, and "the effect of the discovery was almost like the touch of the wand of Cinderella's fairy god-mother on this part of New Zealand. Fine buildings sprang up in the towns, gas illumined the streets, railways and telegraph wires crossed the country."
Dunedin is now the first city in the Colony, and "one of the finest of colonial cities."
The Maoris are dying off in obedience to a strange law of nature, which decrees that in whatever land the white man settles the dark native race diminishes, and as it were melts away before him."
The most southerly of Melanesia, is 240 miles long, very mountainous and barren. The bread-fruit grows here. Plan tains, sugar-canes, and cocoa-nuts are to be found. The natives use spears, darts, slings, and clubs, and Tomahawks. They are good fishers, and catch sardines, eels, cray-fish, mullet, shell-fish and molluscs. The chiefs hold absolute rule, and have the power of life and death. Their ancestors are their gods, whose relics are carefully kept, and to which they pray before fighting, fishing, planting, feasting. The spirits of the dead go to the bush, where, periodically, feasts are spread before them. As in New Zealand, the first Christian worship was held on Christmas Day. "In a temple of waving cocoa-nut trees, with the blue sky for its roof, and the singing of birds in the branches, and the gentle murmur of the waves on the beach supplying the place of the solemn strains of the organ," the first act of public devotion was performed, We read of "the beauty of the scenery, the glorious mountains grand and bare, and the green valleys, and broad rivers often forming cascades." They are now comparatively civilized. Such is the marvellous influence "of the Gospel in taming the ferocity of savages and paving the way for the advance of civilization. It not only teaches them what is right and just, but wins their hearts to approve it; and thus prepares them to yield a willing obedience to fair and equitable laws."
The Loyalty and Fiji Islands.
Sandal-wood forms their staple article of barter. "They are the most civilized of the Melanesian race, and nearly all Christianized. There is a certain resemblance in all the languages of the Pacific Islanders, though there are an immense variety of them, all totally distinct." The Fiji group numbers 150 islands of all shapes and sizes. The largest is Viti Levu. Levuka, the page 84 capital, is on Ovalau. They were a very savage and degraded race of cannibals, but are now Christianized. They used to bury each other alive—generally with the consent of the party to be interred. They had a great variety of gods, with qualities like themselves. The natives are fond of dancing. The women are graceful, and light and agile in movement. Before conversion they were fearfully superstitious. They are also lazy. The climate is pleasant. The sea breeze sweeping continually over the islands keeps them comparatively cool and fresh during the summer; but the midges, flies and, mosquitoes, that love the damp, are almost intolerable. Insect life flourishes in Fiji. There are also rats, frogs, lizards and snakes.
Twenty years ago—1863—I wrote a series of letters and articles, urging upon the people of Australia and New Zealand to insist upon the English Government assuming the sovereignty of this group. Now the Fiji Isles form England's youngest Colony. England should annex the whole of the Pacific Isles, and thus prevent other powers stepping in upon this large archipelago. But Gladstone's parish policy prevents this desirable consummation.
The Island of Tahiti
Produces cocoanuts, oranges, guavas, bread-fruit, banana, &c. It is "crossed on all sides by splendid mountains, of which the highest is 7000ft. All these mountains are surrounded by a belt of land, which is inhabited, and skirted by splendid forests." Tahiti has been called the Queen of the Pacific. In 1797, "missionaries first entered the Matavai Bay, and were enchanted with the beauty of the Island." The natives are tall, graceful, the skin not dark, and their hair is sometimes red or flaxen. They have big mouths, flat noses, and white teeth. The women annoint their skin with cocoanut oil. They have short hair. The chiefs keep very long nails, and are tatooed. " The native dress is formed of a kind of cloth, resembling paper, made from the bark of certain trees, particularly of the paper-mulberry. They are vegetarians. The island abounds in birds, ducks, green turtle-doves, pigeons, parrots, king-fishers, cuckoos, herons. Snakes there are none. The climate is decidedly warm and healthy." They retire to rest shortly after dark—a good custom. They "use a kind of oily nut, stuck upon a piece of wood for a candle. The mats in their houses are woven in a wonderfully clever and dexterous manner, of rushes, grass, and the bark of trees. They also make very nice baskets, ropes, and lines, from the bark of a tree, and thread from the fibre of the cocoanut," &c.page 85
Fishing lines are made of nettle, nets of grass, and hooks of mother-of-pearl. They have also stone hatchets, chisels of human bone, and rasps of coral. Now they get plenty of European tools. The general complaint is "that the missionaries give them plenty of word, talk, and prayer, but very few knives, axes, scissors or cloth."
The Tahitian tongue was "the first Polynesian language reduced to writing." At first they were "in a deplorable condition of ignorance and superstition. They worshipped idols, killed their own children, and offered human sacrifice to their gods, especially to their principal deity, Oro, who was nothing but a straight log of hard wood, six feet long, and decorated with feathers." The king, Pomare, was first converted, then a powerful priest, Potu, and at last, in the year 1814, "five or six hundred had renounced idol-worship, and the following year it was totally overthrown." In the space of less than 20 years Tahiti became Christianized.
An aged chief confessed at a meeting of missionaries that he had murdered his 19 children on the very spot where they were gathered together. "What a contrast between his present moral state and the black ignorance of crime that formerly reigned in his heart!"
The Sandwich Islands
Are 2350 miles from San Francisco, and the same distance from Japan, the Marquesas, the Samoa Islands, and the Alentian Islands. "They are only connected with the other Pacific Islands by bare coral reefs, the nearest of which is 700 miles off." They are civilised and Christianized, with an educated king. They are seven in number; besides four rocky and uninhabited islets. Hawaii, the largest, is 70 miles across. It has vast volcanic mountains, some 14,000 feet high. "Hilo, the principal town in Hawaii, is one of the most delightful places in the world. The crescent-shaped bay is fringed with cocoanut and palm trees, and the town beyond looks from the sea like one mass of greenery, for white houses are half burried in the rich, luxuriant vegetation." The people are indolent and voluptuous. They are passionately fond of flowers. "The girls and women are constantly employed in making wreaths and necklaces of every description, with which they adorn themselves." The taro or kalo, a sort of arum, forms the principal article of diet. They are famous bathers and swimmers. Molokai Island is reserved for lepers. "Father Danneus, a man of education and refinement, has chosen to give up all the comforts and enjoyments of life" in order to minister to the wants of his afflicted page 86 fellow islanders. He is a noble example of heroic self-sacrifice. The volcano of Kilanea is the largest in the world—a gulph of liquid fire, nine miles in circumference and 1000 feet deep down the centre. It issues out of Mauna Loa, which with Mauna Kea, are the two great volcanic mountains towering over Hilo. Fancy a river of fire issuing from four huge fountains, throwing crimson lava, and rocks weighing many tons, to a height of 1000 feet. Fancy, I say, "a river of fire from 200 to 800 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, with a speed varying from 10 to 25 miles an hour."
Dimensions 6x3 miles. Shores rocky. Water around it deep. "But within the rocky precipices round the coast are lovely valleys with palm-forests and groves of cocoa-nut, bread and fruit-trees. The climate is delicious and the soil rich. It is the scene of the story of the Mutineers of the Bounty. Life here in the open air among flowers and cocoa-nut trees is Elysian. "The little village of Pitcairn stands on a rock, in the midst of bananas and banyan trees, and surrounded by glorious scenery. The women wear a loose bodice and skirt down to the ankles, and their long black hair twisted into a graceful knot, without any pin or fastening. Their food was pork or fowls, baked between stones, bread-pudding, made of the Taro root, fruit, and vegetables."
In 1829, John Adams, the good patriarch, died; and in 1856, the people migrated to Taihiti; "but a small portion became so home-sick that they made their way back to Pitcairn Island."
The Marquesas—a group of islands discovered in 1595 by a Spanish Marquis. They are numerous, and "vary in size from 10 to 20 miles." The climate is both warm and salubrious. "They are not encircled by coral reefs. The coast is rocky and abrupt, but there are very good harbours, such as Resolution Bay, in Tahuata." The natives have "wonderfully beautiful figures." The women are both "simply and gracefully dressed in tunics of snow-white tapa, and mantles of the same, with necklaces and flowers strung together on fibres of tapa, bracelets and anklets made in the same way, and garlands of flowers on their heads—the perfection of grace and beauty.
Their idols are rough, clumsy, possessed of great power, but often treated disrespectfully. They are splendid swimmers.
Is thirty or forty miles in circumference. Its natives "live on yams, pototoes, and sugar-cane, the soil being so fertile that three days' work is sufficient to provide sustenance for a native page 87 for a whole year. Easter Island is celebrated for the wonderful remains of some prehistoric people, who must have lived there ages before the race who now inhabit it, and about whom the people there now cannot tell us anything at all. The remains consist of stone houses, sculptured stones, and gigantic stone images." Sculptured monuments extend over the island—"the most extraordinary are found in nearly every headland round the coast, where there is almost always an enormous platform of stone."
"Towards the sea there are high walls built of immense stones most ingeniously fitting into one another without cement, and stone platforms and terraces have been levelled with large slabs which had been pedestals for the images. Most of those slabs were 15 or 18 feet high, and some 37 feet. The figures are human bodies without legs, the heads being flat to allow of crowns being put on; these crowns were made of a red material found only at a crater three miles from the stone houses. The houses are built on regular lines, with doors facing the sea, the walls are 5 feet thick and 6 feet high, built of layers of irregularly-shaped flat stone, and lined inside with upright flat slabs. These are painted with figures of birds and animals, and geometrical figures. Quantities of a particular shell were found inside the houses, and in one of them a statue 8 feet high. Near these houses the rocks on the brink of the sea-cliffs are carved into all sorts of strange shapes, sometimes like odd human faces, and sometimes like turtle."
Was there once a civilisation over the Pacific Isles? Was this isle the Delos of the great Archipelago? Who can tell? The whole is enveloped in a mysterious shroud. So much for the Isles of the Pacific by B. Francis. It is a charming book, and will well repay the cost of purchase and the labour of pe rusal. It is full of illustrations, and fraught with wisdom.