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Polynesia; A popular description of the physical features, inhabitants, natural history, and productions of the islands of the Pacific. With an account of their discovery, and the progress of civilisation and christianity amongst them.

Chapter IX. — The Sandwich Islands.*

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Chapter IX.
The Sandwich Islands.*

kealakekua bay, where captain cook was killed.

kealakekua bay, where captain cook was killed.

TheSandwich Islands, discovered by Captain Cook in 1778, form the most isolated group of all Polynesia, and are situated at the north-east extremity of this wide region, between latitude 19° and 23° north, and longitude 155° to 161° west.
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The entire group consists of eight inhabited islands, and two or three rocky, barren, and desolate islets. Their whole superficial area comprises about 7000 square miles, upwards of 4000 of which are comprised in the large island of Hawaii (formerly written "Owhyhee") alone, which is the most southerly, and by far the largest of the group, being 415 miles in circumference. It was this island which obtained a fatal celebrity as the scene of Captain Cook's death, who was killed in an affray with the natives at Kealakekua Bay, on its west coast, on the 14th of February, 1779. The other chief islands are Woahu, or Oahu, on which is situated the town of Honolulu, the residence of the king, and the capital of the group; Maui, where is the town and port of Lahaina; Kawai (or Atooi), the most northerly; Molokai; Lanai; Nihau; and Kahoolawe. They are of volcanic origin, and are generally surrounded by coral reefs, lying at a greater or less depth beneath the water, and forming, where there happen to be coves or indentations of the coast, several commodious, and many lesser harbours. On Hawaii two enormous mountains rise to nearly 14,000 feet above the level of the Pacific, and are crowned with perpetual snows. Many craters of extinct volcanoes, and extensive plains covered with the débris of earlier or later eruptions, exist everywhere; and Kilauea, on the mountain of Moana Kea (which has been already described in a former chapter), is supposed to be the largest active volcano in the world. The highest summit on the island of Maui is 10,270 feet; and other islands of the group con-page 189tain mountains of nearly equal altitude. At the first aspect, the Sandwich Islands exhibit to view—especially if approached from the westward or leeward side—nothing but bare and blackened rocks of lava, with steep volcanic ridges, and irregular truncated cones, which descend to the sea in abrupt and jagged precipices. It seldoms rains upon the leeward side of these islands; and upon the western shores of Hawaii not a single stream is discharged into the sea for more than a hundred miles of coast. But on the opposite or windward side, open to the prevailing north-east trade-winds, there is frequent rain, and numerous cataracts leap down the fertile sides of the hills. Sudden changes of the weather are almost unknown, and the Sandwich Islands may be considered in every respect as possessing one of the most healthy climates in the world. Near the sea the thermometer never rises above 86° Fahrenheit; whilst its lowest reading is 62°. The greatest heat occurs in July, and the coolest weather is in January. Thus the extreme range throughout the year does not exceed 24°, whilst the variation is seldom more than 8°. The inhabitants may, however, by ascending the higher lands, live in any temperature between that of the tropics and the frigid zone.

The population of the Sandwich Islands, according to the census taken in 1848, was distributed in the following proportions:—Hawaii, 27,200 inhabitants; Oahu, 23,000; Maui, 18,700; Kaui, or Atooi, 6900; Molokai, 3400. Adding to these numbers the population of the smaller members of the group, we page 190find a total of 80,643. The native population is, however, rapidly decreasing; for at the time of their discovery, these islands were estimated to contain 400,000 inhabitants. In 1832 they numbered 129,000; and in 1836, only four years afterwards, they had decreased to 108,000. The measles, the influenza, and dysentery, appear to be the three diseases most fatal to the natives; and, though the climate is so healthy to Europeans, one eighth of the entire native population was cut off by these complaints about twelve years ago. By the census of 1860 the natives numbered only 67,084; whilst the Europeans amounted to 2716. About 1000 males are generally absent at sea in the whaling and other vessels throughout the Pacific.

Hawaii is by far the largest, most populous, and important island of the group, and was formerly the usual residence of the king, and the frequent resort of every chief of importance in the other islands. Foreigners, having latterly 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 present sovereigns and principal nobles to forsake the favourite residence of their ancestors for the island of Oahu.

Of the approach to Hawaii from the sea, the Rev. W. Ellis says, "On such occasions the elevated summit of Moana Kea, or Moana 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 page 191the 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 base of these lofty 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, and capped with perpetual snow. There are a few inland settlements on the east and north parts of the island, but the interior generally is an uninhabited wilderness.

The highlands of Hawaii are supposed to contain upwards of 100,000 head of wild cattle, which the mountaineers catch either in the Chilian way by the lasso, or in pit-falls; whilst numbers are shot, if not required to be taken alive. Sheep are bred in these mountain districts, several European settlers owning considerable flocks of from 800 to 1000 head; they however suffer considerably from the attacks of wild dogs, which are very numerous in these alpine regions.

Byron's Bay, on the north-east coast of the island of Hawaii, comprises a spacious harbour, formed by a reef of coral rocks, about half a mile in breadth, through which there is a channel three quarters of a mile wide, with a depth of water throughout of eleven fathoms. The village of Hilo, on this bay, contains missionary stations, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and has one of the largest and best schools in the islands. It promises to become page 192eventually a flourishing settlement, although at the present time it only consists of some fifty native dwellings, beside the houses of the missionaries, and a few European stores and other buildings. In the neighbourhood of Hilo are fine sugar and coffee estates, on which Chinese coolie labour has latterly been employed.

The island of Hawaii, in an historical as well as a geographical point of view, is the most remarkable and interesting of the whole group. It was there that the navigators of the past age held the most intercourse with the inhabitants. It was there that Kamehameha I.—that renowned and brave warrior—dwelt, at the period of Cook's as well as Vancouver's visits. And it was there that the memorable incident occurred, which has impressed the name of "Owhyhee" upon the minds of all Europeans more strongly than that of any other island throughout the Pacific—the tragic death of the great discoverer of the group.

Maui, separated from Hawaii by a strait about twenty-four miles across, is about 140 miles in circumference, and has an area of 600 square miles. At a distance it appears like two distinct islands; but, on a nearer approach, a low isthmus nine miles across, is seen uniting its two lofty peninsulas. The high land is steep and rugged, displaying extinct craters; and though the summits of the mountains are often seen above the clouds, they are never covered with snow.

The first view of the east coast of Maui appeared quite enchanting to M. de la Pérouse. The water page 193fell in cascades from the sides of the mountains; and a thousand rivulets watered a coast which was so covered with houses, that a space of eight or ten miles seemed to be one continuous village. But the habitable part was only about three miles broad; and the south and west presented nothing to the eye but steep and barren rocks.

Lahaina, on the island of Maui, is a prettily situated town, facing the sea, and built amidst groves of bread-fruit and other trees. It consists of several dozen European dwelling and store-houses belonging chiefly to the merchants established at this port (who are engaged in supplying the whalers that visit the island), and to the mission; and perhaps about ten times that number of native huts. It has also a fortress, of inconsiderable importance, which serves as a residence for the governor of the island. The population of Lahaina is between 3000 and 4000.

The range of mountains that passes behind Lahaina runs the entire length of the island, and has peaks varying in altitude from 6000 to 10,000 feet. The most lofty of these, called Hale-a-ka-la, or "the house of the sun," is an extinct volcano, with a crater of enormous size. Mr. Cheever, who visited it in 1850, says, as he and his party advanced to its edge, there suddenly opened upon them a pit from twenty-five to thirty miles in circumference, and 2000 or 3000 feet deep. They counted within it about sixteen basins of old volcanoes—volcano within volcano.

A few miles south of Maui is the small island of Tahaurawe, about eleven miles long by eight across. page 194It is low, and destitute of every kind of verdure except a coarse sort of grass. There are but few settled residents on this island.

Ranai, to the north-west of Tahaurawe, seventeen miles long and ten broad, is for the most part barren, and suffers much from droughts at certain periods. The ravines are filled with thickets of low timber; and the coasts abound in shell-fish. The inhabitants are not numerous.

Molokai is a long, irregular island, divided by a narrow strait from the west of Maui. It appears to consist of a chain of volcanic mountains forty miles in length, and not more than seven broad. These mountains are broken by numerous deep ravines and water-courses, the sides of which are clothed with verdure. There is but little level land in Molokai; several spots, however, are fertile, and in such places the plantations repay the toil of their cultivators.

Oahu is the most romantic and fertile of all the Sandwich Islands. It lies to the west-north-west of Molokai, from which it is distant between twenty and thirty miles. This charming island is about forty-six miles long and twenty-three wide: its appearance from the anchorage or roadstead off Honolulu is remarkably picturesque. A chain of lofty and peaked 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 run parallel to the north-west shore. The plain of Eva is nearly twenty miles in length, and page 195in 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 water-courses that intersect its surface. The plain of Honolulu is not less than ten miles long; and, in some places, two miles from the sea to the foot of the mountains. It is covered with a rich alluvial soil, two or three feet deep, beneath which is a layer of fine volcanic ashes and cinders. Across the plain, immediately opposite the harbour of Honolulu, lies the valley of Anuanu, leading to a remarkable pass in the mountains, called by the natives "ka pari," or the "precipice," which is thus described by the Rev. Mr. Ellis. "The mouth of the valley, which opens just behind the town of Honolulu, is a complete garden, kept in a high state of 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 undulating; a rapid stream takes its serpentine way from one side of the valley to the other, sometimes meandering gently along, at others rushing down a fall of 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 page 196among 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 beneath. The beauty of the scenery increases, until, after ascending a rising ground 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 rocks, 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." Within a few yards of the upper edge of the pass, at the top of the precipice, there formerly stood two hideous stone idols, before which every native, previous to commencing his descent, was wont to lay a green bough, and encircle them with a garland of flowers, to render them propitious to his descent. These were called "Akua no ka Pari," or "Gods of the Precipice."

The harbour of Honolulu, in the island of Oahu, is formed by an indentation of the coast, and a page 197broad coral reef, having a single opening. It is conveniently situated with respect to the prevailing winds, and sufficiently capacious to contain above 100 vessels in perfect security. Outside this reef is a roadstead with good anchorage, where such ships as are of too great a draught of water to pass the reef generally lie at anchor. In the year 1864 271 vessels of various sizes anchored in the harbour and roadstead of Honolulu.

Forty years ago, the town of Honolulu consisted of between 100 and 200 huts, built of dried grass, and inhabited by the natives, who subsisted by fishing and the cultivation of the taro root, together with a few houses of unburnt brick or wood, occupied by some chiefs and a few Europeans or Americans. At the present time, this poor collection of native huts has become a thriving capital, with a population of over 11,000 souls, about 1000 of which are foreigners, the greater proportion being Americans, and now naturalized subjects of the Sandwich Islands. The central portion of the town consists of wide, regularly laidout streets, on either side of which stand warehouses and dwelling-houses, constructed after the European style, generally painted, and frequently placed within spacious gardens. The outer portions and suburbs are still chiefly composed of grass huts; although here and there are houses built of coral limestone. The king's palace is a handsome building, in good taste, surrounded by pleasure-grounds, and approached through an avenue of shady trees; and several of the public edifices are worthy of notice, such as the custom-house, the government offices, page 198and the fortress. There is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and that of our own missionary Bishop Staley is now being built.

Honolulu possesses an excellent police force, and an efficient fire brigade; schools for the youth of both sexes; a hospital, built with subscriptions obtained through the untiring exertions of the late king and his queen; a theatre, and a circus. Several newspapers are published weekly; and there are some superior hotels in the business part of the town.

Elevated lands, divided by broad ravines, or fresh green vales, rise beyond the narrow plain, at the extremity of which the town of Honolulu stands. On these lands are many native houses, distributed about amidst the luxuriant vegetation of the climate. They generally stand in the midst of plantations of taro, or have around them gardens of coffee and sugar-cane. The views around are picturesque and beautiful. At intervals, throughout the lower lands, are to be seen groves of palms and cocoa-nut trees; whilst higher up the hills appears the deep green foliage of the indigenous trees of the cooler regions.

Seventy-five miles north-west of Oahu is situated the island of Tauai, which is mountainous and romantic in the extreme, but not so fertile as Oahu, or Maui. It is forty-six miles long and twenty-three broad, and covers a surface of 520 square miles. The principal settlements are in the neighbourhood of the Waimea River, the roads at the entrance of which are the usual resort of vessels calling at Tauai. The inhabitants are generally a hardy and industrious race.

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Nihau is a small island twenty miles long, and distant from Tauai about fifteen miles. These two last-named islands were formerly celebrated for the manufacture of their fine painted or variegated sleeping mats: these mats are sometimes eighteen or twenty yards in length, and three or four yards in breadth; yet they are woven by the hand, without any frame, with surprising regularity and exactness; they are made with a fine kind of rush, parts of which are stained of a red colour with a vegetable dye, their beautiful patterns being formed either by weaving them into the mat at its first fabrication, or working them in after it is finished. Yams are extensively cultivated both at Tauai and Nihau, where they attain a very large size.

Taura, the most westerly of the whole group, is merely a barren rock, the resort of vast numbers of seafowl; for the purpose of procuring which, together with their eggs, this spot is occasionally visited by the natives of the windward islands.

The Sandwich islanders are strong, active, and well made; in height rather above the average of our own countrymen. Their skin is of an olive brown; those who expose themselves much to the sun being considerably darker, whilst the complexion of the nobles is comparatively fair. Their hair is black, and either waving or quite straight. Their countenances are characterized by a fulness of the nostrils, although the nose is not flat; the face is wide, and the eyes bright and black. The women, when young, are unquestionably attractive in their appearance and manners, and retain their beauty page 200longer than most females do in a tropical climate. The chiefs, both male and female, generally attain a remarkable degree of corpulency in their advancing years. Courage is a marked feature in the Hawaiian character; and although war has now been abolished for forty years, and the natives are as peaceful a race as any upon the earth, and as free from all violent crimes, yet their original valour displays itself in all manner of athletic and daring sports. Hence the men make excellent sailors, and are employed in numbers in the American whalers and other vessels sailing from the Sandwich Island ports. Their language is very soft and sonorous, and considerably resembles that of the New Zealanders, by whom it is easily understood. They are fond of poetry, and formerly spent much of their time in telling stories, or chanting songs to the accompaniment of a small drum. Cheerful, light-hearted, and very hospitable to strangers, they are at the same time indolent, and have a distaste for labour forced upon them. Their dwellings are constructed of a frame-work of bamboo covered with grass, and are commonly divided into sitting and sleeping apartments by means of curtains hung from wall to wall. Their furniture is simple, though sufficient for the requirements of a tropical climate; whilst everything both within and without is scrupulously clean and neat. An intense love of the beautiful manifests itself strongly amongst the Hawaiians; and their admiration of personal beauty is extreme in all classes. This taste also manifests itself in their universal use page 201of flowers as coronals, and in the graceful attitudes they are wont to assume.

The Sandwich Islanders were never addicted to cannibalism; even at the period of their first intercourse with Europeans, they appear to have held the custom in abhorrence; human sacrifices were, however, offered to the gods.

They have a custom of giving a feast on the day of the anniversary of the death of those who were dear to them. They also are fond of keeping the bodies of the dead, coffined, but unburied, in their dwellings; telling stories and anecdotes of the departed, and holding imaginary converse with them. Infanticide was formerly very prevalent amongst these people, as indeed it appears to have been throughout Polynesia, previously to the introduction of Christianity. The dog, in heathen times, was a favourite article of food, and hundreds of these animals, together with pigs, were roasted at their feasts and grand religious ceremonies.

The native females of the Sandwich Islands dress in long, loose calico gowns of gaudy colours, preferring yellow or red; some of them wearing a small girdle or gay shawl tied round their waist. They have dark complexions, bright glowing eyes, slender, voluptuous forms, and graceful agile motions. Over their calico gowns they wear silken shawls; with a wreath of yellow flowers, or an ornament made of red and yellow wool round their heads. Nearly all of them go barefoot. The men dress still more simply. They adopt a small covering, called a "malo" round the loins; some page 202wear a shirt with it; others a pair of pantaloons; and a few attire themselves wholly in European garments.

The beautiful helmets and cloaks formerly worn by the chiefs, as well as the heads of some of their large idols, were covered with the red, yellow, and green feathers of a small bird. Another bird, the Melithreptes pacifica, inhabiting the mountainous parts of the islands, has under each wing a single feather of a yellow colour, one inch in length. These birds were caught by means of a sort of bird-lime smeared on poles, and the two precious feathers secured. Of such feathers alone was the "mamo" or war-cloak of Kamehameha I. composed. This invaluable mantle was four feet long, and eleven and a half feet in width at the bottom. Its formation occupied nine successive reigns.

The native taro plantations are kept in admirable order. In the low districts, these plantations are intersected by deep and regular ditches. The hedges are exceedingly neat, and almost elegant; whilst the roads would, for completeness, do honour to European engineers.

The following vivid sketch of the system of "tabu," from the pen of Mr. Hopkins, will convey an idea of this singular custom, once so prevalent in the Sandwich Islands, and, indeed, throughout the various groups inhabited by the light-coloured or Polynesian race: he says, "One of the great instruments used by both king and priests for maintaining their power and their revenue was the system of 'tabu.' It was a consecration of any object, or page 203person, or period of time, for some exclusive purpose; and it was enforced with sanguinary penalties. There were permanent tabus, as of the king's fishponds, and bathing-places; there were long-continued tabus, not taken off, in some cases, for many years; and there were shorter tabus, existing a week, or a single day. Sometimes a whole district, or an entire island, was placed under tabu, during the continuance of which it was excommunicated, no canoe or person being allowed to approach it. In the tabu season, if it were strict—for there was a lighter, as well as a more stringent kind—every fire and light was to be extinguished; all avocations were suspended; on that wave which all the people, young and old, of both sexes, loved so much, no canoe might be launched; and in it none might bathe. No one might be seen out of doors; and, as the purpose of the tabu would be frustrated by any sound emitted by any animal or bird, to prevent such a catastrophe, the mouths of the dogs and pigs were tied up; and as for the poor garrulous fowls, after having had their eyes bandaged, they were, by way of further precaution, put under a calabash, and their quietus made in double darkness. Such a tabu was a living death: the silence of an Indian 'dhurna' was not so depressing."

In the neighbourhood of Waimea, in Hawaii, are the remains of the once famous "heiau," or principal temple of idolatrous worship throughout the islands. On the first step of the mountains that rise into the interior to so grand a height, is a spot which is composed of the débris of later eruptions. Here page 204stand the mouldering ruins of that great temple, in which formerly the idolatrous rites of a cruel and barbarous religion were celebrated. This "heiau" must have consisted either of two departments, or of two distinct temples, built and occupied at different epochs. About forty feet from the beach is the site of the first temple, which is marked by a mass of rude, unhewn stones, in front of which are the remains of two small stone houses, which had been respectively the residences of Kamehameha I. and King Liholiho. At an elevation of about 200 feet above these ruins, stand the remains of the second temple, which are more perfect. This building appears to have been about 150 feet in length, and about 100 in breadth. Three walls of loose stones, about twenty feet in height, form the inner sides and the two ends, while the outer side, at the edge of the steep, seems to have been open to the sea. The interior is divided into several compartments, in one of which the god Kaili, to whom this temple was especially dedicated, and a number of inferior deities, stood exposed to the view of the people. Only a single pedestal now remains, on which it is well known formerly stood the principal god of Kamehameha I., Punkohula, whom that celebrated warrior carried about with him in all his warlike expeditions. The spaces at the ends appear to have been occupied by priests, and are divided into narrow chambers, or gloomy cells, from whence the priests issued only when the whole area of the ground department of the temple was filled with the worshippers of the idols, before which they practiced page 205their abominable rites, and at whose altars they offered their sacrifices of human victims. Beneath the temple, a projecting rock marks the spot where Kamehameha sacrificed to his god the famous chief Keoua, who had disputed with him the sovereignty of the island.

In the month of January, 1779, Captain Cook's two vessels, the "Resolution" and the "Discovery," cast anchor in Kealakekua Bay, on the east coast of the large island of Hawaii. Nothing could exceed the kindness and hospitality which was shown by the simple islanders to these white visitors, whom they regarded as supernatural beings, and their ships as floating islands. To Cook himself they paid divine honours, worshipping him as the god Lono; and it is said that upwards of 15,000 natives and 3000 canoes were gathered together in the bay upon this occasion. The King Kalamopua, attended by his chiefs, and by Kamehameha, visited Captain Cook in great state. They came off to the ship in three large double canoes, with all barbaric pomp. In the first canoe were the king and the royal retinue. They were attired in their brilliant cloaks and helmets of feathers, the king's being entirely yellow, and shining in the bright sun like gold. In the second boat came the high priests, bringing with them hideous idols. The third canoe was filled with presents of pigs and fruits. The king threw over Cook's shoulders his own cloak, placed his own helmet on his head, and put into his hands the fan, which is the insignia of royalty, besides presenting other cloaks of great value and beauty.

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A sad mistake was committed shortly afterwards, by the Europeans taking the wooden fence which surrounded the top of the "heiau," or sacred temple, for fuel, carrying it, along with the numerous idols attached to it, on board the ships' boats. Other causes of dissatisfaction on the part of the visitors took place. They treated the natives in a severe and arbitrary manner, and at the same time the whole island was heavily taxed to provide the large supply of necessaries the two ships' companies required.

At length, in consequence of some petty act of theft on the part of the natives, a canoe was fired into from the "Discovery;" a chief of high rank was knocked down and ill-treated by the seamen, whom the natives, with showers of stones, drove back to the water. The ship's pinnace was afterwards taken and plundered, but the chief who had been ill-used exerted his authority and restored the boat, expressing his regret at the affray. During the darkness of the night, however, one of the "Discovery's" cutters, which was moored to a buoy, was stolen; and Cook, resolved to recover the boat, determined to secure the king or some of the royal family on board his ship until it was restored. For this purpose Captain Cook landed, but the people having already had their suspicions aroused, objected to the king's going farther. Whilst the king was hesitating, a man came running up with the intelligence that some of the whites had fired into a canoe on the other side of the bay, and killed a chief. At this intelligence the natives began to arm themselves with stones, clubs, and spears. Cook turned to walk page 207towards his boat, when a native attacked him with a spear, and he at once shot him with his doublebarrelled gun. A general mêlée followed. The men in the boats fired upon the natives, who, in their turn, threw volleys of stones and spears. As Captain Cook turned to speak to the people some one stabbed him in the back with a wooden dagger, and at the same moment a spear was driven through his body. He fell into the sea, and never spoke afterwards. Thus fell the greatest of all maritime explorers, in the zenith of his fame. It is much to be deplored that so valuable a life should have been thus unnecessarily sacrificed through an error of judgment, and the want of tact and precaution in dealing with these people, who, it must be remembered, were at that time savages and heathens, and had received much provocation and injury from the Europeans, in return for their hospitality and generous welcome.

The native accounts say of this tragic occurrence, "That when the crowd which was about Cook and the king heard of the death of Kalimu, the chief who was shot in the canoe, they became clamorous for revenge; and one of the people, with a short dagger in his hand, approached the captain, who, fearing danger, fired at him with his gun. A general contest began, and Cook struck a chief named Kalaimano Kahoowaha with his sword. This powerful warrior seized him with one hand to hold him, not with any idea of taking his life, for, supposing him to be the god Lono, he believed him incapable of death. Cook being about to fall, cried page 208out, which dispelled the chief's belief in his divinity, and he therefore killed him. The seamen in the boats fired upon the natives, many of whom were killed, and guns were also discharged from the ships. The king and his chiefs then fled inland, taking with them the bodies of Cook and four of his companions who had been slain. The king presented Cook's body in sacrifice: the flesh was afterwards removed from the bones, in order to preserve them, and the flesh was burnt. Three children, whose names are still recorded, found the heart, and mistaking it for that of a dog, ate it." Some of Cook's bones, and other remains, were eventually returned to the ship, wrapped in fine native cloth, and covered with a cloak ornamented with black and white feathers; his ribs and breastbone, according to the natives, were retained and worshipped by the priests. These were preserved in a small wicker basket, completely covered over with red feathers, which in those days were so highly valued; they were kept deposited in a temple dedicated to Lono, where religious homage was paid to them, and from thence they were carried annually in procession round the island by the priests, to collect the offerings of the people for the support of the worship of the god Lono, whom many still imagined Captain Cook to be, and reverenced his bones accordingly.

As yet no suitable monument has been erected on the spot where the great navigator fell; a few copper plates, with inscriptions punched upon their, being all that record the scene of the death of Cook on the shores of Hawaii.

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At the period of the discovery of these islands, in 1778, by Captain Cook, Kalamopua reigned as king of Hawaii. At his death he left the eastern portion of his dominions to his son Kiwalao, and the western to his nephew Kamehameha, who afterwards became the most famous warrior and king whose deeds are recorded in the native annals. Kiwalao, excited by his chiefs, entered the territory of Kamehameha, and being met by his rival, was totally defeated, after a contest which lasted for eight days, and which ended by Kamehameha becoming master of the whole island. Soon afterwards he defeated Kahekili, king of Maui and several of the other islands in the western part of the group.

In 1786 the unfortunate La Pérouse anchored his two frigates in the straits between Maui and Molokai; but he remained there only two days, and consequently obtained but little knowledge of the islands or their inhabitants.

In 1793 Vancouver, after visiting the west coast of North America, returned to the Sandwich Islands, whither he had been during the previous year, bringing with him some horned cattle and sheep, which proved a new source of wealth to the inhabitants. These he presented to Kamehameha I., and before leaving obtained a promise from the king confirmed by a "tabu" upon the new stock, that not one should be killed for a space of ten years, which promise was faithfully kept. The increase of these animals was, however, so rapid that they became troublesome to the natives, breaking down their fences and destroying their taro plantations, so that page 210they were driven to the mountains, where the cattle still roam about in a wild state in great numbers, and form a valuable national property in Hawaii.

Vancouver again visited the Sandwich Islands in 1794, and was well received by the king, to whom he gave guns and ammunition. With the aid of these, and the services of two American sailors named Young and Davis, who had previously fallen into his hands at the time of the capture of a trading vessel and the massacre of her crew, Kamehameha eventually succeeded in subduing all the remaining islands, and making himself master of the entire group. As soon as the king was firmly established in his dominions he made great changes in the ancient system of government which had hitherto prevailed. He appointed Young as governor of Hawaii, and Davis had large posscssions bestowod upon him; and these two individuals became not only distinguished chiefs, but the king's most important councillors and advisers.

In the spring of 1819 this remarkable man died, and was succeeded by his son Liholiho, then in the twenty-fourth year of his age, under the title of Kamehameha II. In the following year the first Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii: they were sent out by a society in the United States, and met with the most encouraging reception from the king, who had already caused the greater part of the idols throughout the islands to be destroyed. From this period a new era dawned upon Hawaii; the king embraced the religion of the missionaries, and made considerable progress in various branches of page 211learning. Indeed, so much curiosity was awakened in his mind concerning the civilized countries from which the ships came that visited his island kingdom, that he resolved on paying a visit to England, and on 27th November, 1823, Kamehameha II. embarked on board the "Aigle," together with his favourite wife Kamamalu, his prime minister, three chiefs, and several servants. They reached Portsmouth the following May, and proceeded to London, where they took up their quarters at Osborne's Hotel. These interesting visitors excited much wonder in the metropolis, and were received at an interview by George IV. Unfortunately, however, both the king and queen died in London; and the British government appointed the "Blonde" frigate, commanded by Lord Byron, to convey the rest of the party, together with the remains of the royal pair, back to the Sandwich Islands.

After the arrival of the "Blonde" with the survivors of the party, the succession to the throne was determined in favour of Kauikeouli, the brother of the late king, a youth only twelve years of age. He was accordingly proclaimed king, and his mother declared guardian of the kingdom during her son's minority. In 1833 the regent died, upon which the young king, then aged twenty, assumed the entire government of the group under the title of Kamehameha III.

Mr. Hill thus describes a visit he paid to King Kamehameha III., at Honolulu. He says, "The gate leading to the palace stood wide open as we approached it; and, upon entering, we found about page 212an acre of pleasure-grounds, with a walk up the centre bordered with the fine deep-green foliaged 'kokui' and 'koa' trees. After mounting some steps, we were met before the door of the palace by several of the native chiefs belonging to the household of his majesty, by whom we were led into a large hall, which we found decorated with taste, and in the European style. Upon a table in the centre stood a large vase, and on the walls hung portraits of celebrated personages. In other parts of the room were miniature copies of several of the works of the great Danish sculptor, Thorwaldsen. Here were already assembled several Russian officers, and other aspirants to the same honour as ourselves; and after some little arrangements had been made for our entrance into the presence, we were led to the throne-room, forming the left wing of the little palace. Here we should have been much struck with the European air of everything around, had we not been prepared for this, after what we had already seen. This state apartment was about the dimensions of, and decorated in the same manner as, one of our middle-class drawing-rooms. But near to one of the side walls appeared an appropriately decorated arm-chair for a throne. On the left of this stood the king, and next to his majesty his near relative and heir to the throne, Prince Alexander, a fine youth about twenty years of age; and next to him again, Mr. Young, the prime minister, and then several other of his majesty's ministers. On the opposite side of the throne stood, first the queen, and next the prime minister's wife; then, one after page 213the other, all the dusky ladies of the court, reaching full round this wing of the room. Nothing could exceed the benign and modest countenance of Kamehameha III., when all the strangers stood in front of his throne. The ceremonies commenced with the presentation of the Russian officers, the captain of whom read an address to his majesty, but which, being in the Russian language, had to undergo several translations before the business of the day was proceeded with. It was first rendered into French by the Baron Giesmar, and next from French into English by Mr. Wylie, the 'minister of foreign relations;' finally, Mr. Judd, 'minister of finance,' translated it into the language of the country and the court, in which accent it reached the royal ear. Upon the conclusion of the address, the king returned a very suitable and gracious reply, which also had to undergo the threefold translation. Amongst other passages of the royal speech was the following: 'On a small scale, I am endeavouring to do, with the blessing of God, what Peter the Great of Russia did on a large scale. The success I have met with encourages me to go on; and I count upon the sympathy and good-will of all friendly nations.' After the presentations had taken place the purely official ceremony resolved itself into a levée; and, in about an hour's time, the visitors all bowed to the king, and retired."

On the death of Kamehameha III., which took place in December, 1854, he was succeeded by his nephew, Prince Alexander Liholiho, then twentyone years old: a good and excellent prince, a scholar page 214and a gentleman; who reigned under the title of Kamehameha IV. In 1856 he married a lady in every way qualified to make him an efficient helpmate, the Queen Emma, whose amiable disposition, unostentatious piety, and devoted charity, render her an ornament to her sex. The death of their only son in 1862, an intelligent and promising child, at the age of five years, so affected the king that he never recovered the shock; and his health gradually sinking, he died on the 30th November, 1863.

The present sovereign of the Sandwich Islands is King Kamehameha V., formerly Prince Lot, who succeeded his brother on November 30th, 1863. He has given his subjects a new constitution, better adapted to their state of civilization and their national ideas than the very democratic one established by his uncle Kamehameha III. in 1852. Under the present constitution, the chamber of nobles and the chamber of representatives are convoked every two years, and it is their duty to make the laws and to vote supplies.

In the summer of 1865, Queen Emma, the widow of Kamehameha IV., arrived in England on a visit to Lady Franklin, and with the purpose of interesting the friends of English Church Missions in the welfare of her own people. It was her husband who invited the planting in his dominions of a branch of the Church of England. He also translated the Prayer Book into the native language, and wrote a preface to it, which the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge have published as one of their tracts. Queen Emma is partly of Hawaiian and page 215partly of European race; her father being one of the native chieftains, and her mother granddaughter of John Young, one of the friends and advisers of Kamehameha I. During her stay in England this amiable and excellent lady has endeared herself to all those who have become acquainted with her; and, as a widowed queen, she received the sympathy and recognition of Her Majesty, whom she visited at Windsor.

The Hawaiian flag is composed of coloured stripes, having the union jack of Great Britain quartered in the corner. The government is represented by consular agents in Great Britain, France, Chili, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Russian settlements on the Amoor.

This little kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands is steadily increasing in commercial prosperity, and the statistics of its exports of sugar, coffee, and other produce show a marked progress. The foreign population of English, Americans, Germans, and French is yearly becoming augmented. The native population being inadequate to supply the demand for labour, the government has lately sent out a commission for the importation of coolies; and a line of steamers is about to be established between San Francisco and China, calling at Honolulu, which will thus bring the Sandwich Islands within six weeks' voyage from England.

Horses have multiplied since their introduction with wonderful rapidity. The table of inland revenue for 1860 gives 27,663 horses returned for taxation, to which may be added 2781 mules. page 216Mr. Hopkins, in his highly interesting book on the Hawaiian Islands, says, "There is almost a plague of horses in Oahu, and their abundance has encouraged a passion in both sexes for furious riding, dangerous in itself, and to one part of the community very detrimental. It is not to be wondered at that a people whose former delight was in war, who would fight without armour, and make a single battle last eight days; who, at the present time, for their pleasure plunge down waterfalls, swim amongst the breakers that burst over the reefs, and fight sharks in single combat, should seize on a new muscular excitement with animation, and ride the last hobby nearly to death." The women ride astride in the same manner as the men, and are passionately fond of galloping fearlessly over the country.

Speaking of the great changes the intercourse of Europeans has effected amongst these people, more especially since the gold discoveries of California have caused a large trade to spring up between that country and the Sandwich Islands, Herr Gerstaecker says: "Coming to the Sandwich Islands, and expecting to find here nearly a wild South Sea Island—to roam about through thick groves of cocoa palms and other fruit trees, with the halftamed inhabitants, beautiful and interesting in their natural and happy life—what did I find on the very spot where I had fancied a luxurious tropical vegetation?—bowling-alleys, billiard-tables, livery stables, tap-rooms, and faces as sober and dull as any I could have wished for in a large European or American city. Then came a theatre; and page 217soon afterwards an American circus was opened, where the native ladies spent much of their money, formerly devoted to dress, on the horse riders."

Newspapers in both the English and native (Kanaka) language are published at Honolulu, and a good library is established. Education has also made considerable progress, as there are between forty and fifty Protestant schools, with over 12,000 scholars, scattered throughout the islands, besides a large number of Roman Catholic schools. The present bishop of Honolulu, Dr. Staley, was consecrated at Lambeth by the archbishop of Canterbury, and went out to these islands in 1862, with a staff of three other clergymen, at the express desire of the late king, and with the concurrence of our gracious queen; who, to mark her interest in the movement, consented to become sponsor to the young prince, whose public reception into the church had been postponed until the arrival of the bishop at Honolulu.

Being the apex of that area now traversed by the commerce of Australia, California, and China, as well as a great resort for whaling ships, the port of Honolulu is now acquiring considerable importance, as the principal mercantile resort in the North Pacific.

* For a fuller account, see "The Sandwich Islands and their People." Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.