Arrivals in Huahine—Support of the Mission—Formation of the Tahitian Missionary Society—Place of meeting—Speech of the king—Formation of a Society in Huahine—Establishment of the Mission in Raiatea—Description of the district of Fare—Erection of dwellings—Preaching in the native language—Indolence of the South Sea Islanders—Means adopted for the encouragement of industry—Cotton plantation—Disappointment in returns—Arrival of Mr. Gyles—Introduction of the art of making sugar, &c.—Visit to Tahiti—Sugar plantations and mills in the Leeward Islands—Introduction of coffee from Norfolk Island—Culture and preparation of tobacco for exportation.
Shortly after our arrival in Huahine, a large boat belonging to Mahine, the chief of the island, two others belonging to Messrs. Orsmond and Williams, and a fleet of canoes, brought down from Eimeo a number of chiefs and people belonging to Huahine, Raiatea, &c. They had gone to Tahiti many years before, for the purpose of assisting Pomare in the resumption of his authority, had witnessed and participated the change that had taken place, and had afterwards prolonged their residence, in order to enjoy the advantages of instruction, until a Mission should be established in their native islands. Their arrival was welcomed with joy, and we were happy to receive their countenance and co-operation in the prosecution of our work. An excitement, highly beneficial in page 262 its tendency, was awakened in the minds of the people; who, influenced by the example and advice of their friends from Eimeo, attended in great numbers daily at the schools, and were seen in the chapel, not only on the Sabbath, but whenever it was open for public worship. Numerous applications were also made for spelling-books, of which, with others of an elementary kind, a supply had been printed in Eimeo.
When the whole of the Missionaries reached Huahine, it was proposed in the first instance to form only one station in the Leeward Islands; and that those of us who had but recently arrived from England, should unitedly prosecute the study of the language, with such assistance as Messrs. Davies and Nott could render us, until we should be able to perform divine service among the people, and conduct the affairs of a distinct station. The acquistion of the language engaged our constant attention; and we not only devoted some hours every day to its study, but met together two or three times a week, to receive instruction, and facilitate our improvement.
We had not been many weeks at Fare before Tamatoa, the king of Raiatea, with his brother, and a number of chiefs from Raiatea, Tahaa, and Borabora arrived. They were exceedingly anxious that some of our number should at once remove to their islands. Mai, the king or chief of Borabora, who was alos at Huahine, had before written to the Missionaries, reminding them that Jesus Christ and his apostles did not confine themselves to one place, but visited different parts, that as many as could might receive their instructions. The necessities of the people were so obvious, the prospects of usefulness so extensive, and the request page 263 of the chiefs so urgent, that, although unwilling to be deprived of the assistance of their seniors, in the acquisition of the language, Mr. Williams and Mr. Threlkeld felt it to be their duty to accompany Tamatoa, and the chiefs who were with him, to Raiatea. They purposed to attempt their civilization, the establishment of schools, and, with the assistance of pious and intelligent natives, their instruction in the use of letters, and the first principles of religion; while they were cultivating such an acquaintance with the language as would enable them more fully to unfold the great objects of their Mission. They represented distinctly the disadvantages under which they should commence public instruction, from their very partial knowledge of the language; but the chiefs always replied, “Never mind that, you possess enough now to teach us more than we know, and we will make it our business to teach you our language.” The visitors from Raiatea were supported in their application by a number of chiefs belonging to the same island; who, after residing some years in Eimeo, had now removed to Huahine, and were desirous of returning to their own possessions in Raiatea and Tahaa, yet did not wish to go unaccompanied by some of those, from whose instruction they had derived advantage.
It was always a matter of regret with the Missionaries, that the expenses of the establishment in the islands should be sustained altogether by the parent Society; and in order to diminish this, they had from time to time disposed of the fruits of their own industry, to the captains of vessels touching at Tahiti; or they had sent small quantities to New South Wales, receiving, in return, such articles as they were most in need of. page 264 The greater portion of the inhabitants having now embraced Christianity, they availed themselves of what appeared to them the most suitable means for impressing the minds of the converts with the principle laid down in the Scriptures, that it is the duty of those who enjoy the gospel, not only to maintain, but also to extend it. It appeared to them that both these ends might be answered most appropriately and effectually, by establishing among the natives a Missionary Society, auxiliary to the London Society, rather than by calling upon them, immediately after their conversion, to support the teachers labouring among them. Such a measure might, while they were but partially acquainted with the true nature and design of Christianity, have induced some, who were perhaps halting between two opinions, to infer that the Missionaries were influenced by motives of pecuniary advantage, in their endeavours to induce them to receive Christian instruction.
The inhabitants of the islands knew that many of the supplies which the families from time to time received, were sent by their friends in England, and procured by the voluntary contributions of those there, who had first sent, and subsequently maintained, the Mission; and it was thought that it would be better that their contributions towards the support of Christianity, should be combined with those of the contributors to the Missionary Society; that the supplies for the teachers might still be drawn from this source, while at the same time the natives would be contributing towards the support of their own instructors, and yet identifying themselves with British Christians in their efforts to propagate Christianity throughout the world.page 265
The plan was proposed to the king, and at once approved by him; it was also mentioned to several of the leading chiefs, by whom it was favourably received. Auna told me that the king one day said to him, “Auna, do you think you could collect five bamboo canes of oil in a year?” He answered, Yes; and the king said, “Do you think you could appropriate so much towards sending the world of God to the heathens?” Again he answered in the affirmative; and the king again said, “Do you think those that value the gospel would think it a great labour to collect so much yearly for this purpose?” Auna answered that he did not think they would. “Then,” said the king, “think about it, and perhaps we can have a combination, or society, for this purpose.” The king found several chiefs favourably disposed; the Missionaries also proposed it to others; and, as it met with general approbation, the approaching month of May was appointed for the establishment of the association.
Mr. Nott came over to Afareaitu for the purpose of completing the plan. On the 23d of April, in the same year, Messrs. Nott, Davies, Orsmond, and myself, held a meeting with the king, at our house; when the principles upon which the society should be formed, and the rules by which it was proposed to regulate its proceedings, were considered, and, on the following day, finally adjusted.
The 13th of May, 1818, being the anniversary of the parent institution in England, was fixed for the establishment and organization of the native society. The king and chiefs met at Papetoai, and it was a delightful and interesting day to all who were present.page 266
At sunrise we held a prayer-meeting in the English language. The natives held one among themselves at the same hour. The forenoon was appropriated to worship, in English; at which time a sermon was preached by Mr. Henry, one of the senior Missionaries; and in the afternoon the services were entirely in the native language.
The chiefs and people assembled from most of the districts of Eimeo, and a number of strangers from Tahiti, residing at Papetoai, were also present. The extension of the Redeemer's kingdom had been the topic of discourses in the native congregation on the preceding Sabbath, and had in some degree prepared the minds of the people for entering more fully into the subject. The public services on this occasion were to commence at three o'clock in the afternoon; but long before the appointed hour, the chapel was crowded, and a far greater number than had gained admission, still remained on the outside.
Three or four hundred yards distant from the chapel, there was a beautiful and extensive grove. To this spot it was proposed to adjourn, and thither the natives immediately repaired, seating themselves on the ground under the cocoa-nut trees. At three o'clock we walked to the grove, and on entering it beheld one of the most imposing and delightful spectacles I think I ever witnessed in the islands. The sky was clear, the smooth surface of the ocean rippled with the cool and stirring breeze. The grove, stately and rich in all the luxuriance of tropical verdure, extended from the beach to the very base of the mountains, whose gradual ascent, and rocky projections, led to the interior. The long-winged and interwoven leaves of the trees formed a spreading canopy, through which a straggling page 267 sunbeam occasionally found its way, and among whose long and graceful leaflets the breeze from the ocean, sweeping softly, gave a degree of animation to the whole. The grass that grew underneath appeared like a rich carpet, spread by nature for the ceremony; pendulous plants, some verdant in foliage, others rich and variegated in blossom, hung from the projections of the rocks, while several species of convolvulus and climbing plants were twined round the trunks of the trees, ornamenting the whole with their large and splendid pink blossoms. Near one of the large cocoa-nut trees, whose cylindrical trunk appeared like a natural pillar supporting the roof, there was a rustic sort of stand, four or five feet above the ground, on which Mr. Nott took his station. Before him, in a large arm-chair provided for the occasion, sat Pomare, supported on the right by Tati, chief of Papara, and on the left by Upaparu, the king's secretary. A number of chiefs, with the queen and principal women of the islands, sat around; while thousands of the people, attired in their gay and many-coloured native or European dresses, composed the vast assemblage, each one having come, as to a public festival, in his best apparel. Pomare was dressed in a fine yellow tiputa, stamped on that part which covered his left breast with a rich and elegant scarlet flower, instead of a star. Most of the chiefs wore the native costume, and the females were arrayed in white native cloth, and yellow cocoa-nut-leaf shades, or bonnets with wreaths of sweet-scented flowers round their necks, or garlands of the same in their hair. The services commenced with singing, in which many of the natives joined. A solemn prayer was offered, after which page 268 Mr. Nott delivered a short, animated, and suitable discourse, from the Eunuch's answer to Philip, Acts viii. 30, 31. As soon as this was concluded, Pomare addressed the multitude of his subjects around, proposing the formation of a society.
He began by referring them to the ages that were past, and to the system of false religion by which they had been so long enslaved, reminding them very feelingly of the rigid exactions imposed in the name of their imaginary gods, for they were but pieces of wood, or cocoa-nut husk. He then alluded to the toil they endured, and the zeal and diligence so often manifested, in the service of these idols. To them the first-fruits of the field, the choicest fish from the sea, with the most valuable productions of their labour and ingenuity, were offered; and to propitiate their favour, avert their displeasure, and death, its dreaded consequence, human victims were so often slain. While referring to these dark and distressing features of their idolatry, the general seriousness of the assembly, and the indications of remorse or horror in the recollection of these cruelties, appeared to accompany and respond confirmation to his statements. In striking contrast with them, he placed the mild and benevolent motives and tendency of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the benefits its introduction had conferred: alluding to the very fact of their being assembled for the purpose which had convened them, as a powerful illustration of his remarks. He then stated the obligations they were under to God for sending them his word, and the partial manifestation of gratitude they had yet given. After this, he directed their attention to the miserable situation of those whom God had not page 269 thus visited, and proposed that, from a sense of the value of the gospel, and a desire for its dissemination, they should form a Tahitian Missionary Society, to aid the London Society in sending the gospel to the heathen, especially those in the islands of the surrounding ocean; explaining the kind of remuneration given to the proprietors of ships, and the expensiveness even of sending Missionaries. “The people of Africa,” said he, “have already done so; for though, like us, they have no money, they have given of their sheep, and other property. Let us also give of the produce of our islands,—pigs, or arrow-root, or cocoa-nut oil. Yet it must be voluntary, let it not be by compulsion. He that desires the word of God to grow where it has been planted, and to be conveyed to countries wretched as ours was before it was brought to us, will contribute freely and liberally to promote its extension: he who is unacquainted with its influence, and insensible to its claims, will not, perhaps, exert himself in this work. So let it be. Let him not be reproved; neither let the chiefs in general, nor his superiors, be angry with him on that account.” Pomare on this occasion seemed anxious to impress the minds of the people with his desire that they should act according to the dictates of their own judgment, and not form themselves into a society, simply because he had recommended it. As he drew to the close of his address, he intimated his wish that those who approved of the proposal he had made, should lift up their right hands. Two or three thousand naked arms were simultaneously elevated from the multitude assembled under the cocoa-nut grove, presenting a spectacle no less imposing and affecting, than it was picturesque and new. The page 270 regulations of the society were then read, and the treasurer and secretaries chosen. By this time the shades of the evening began to gather round us, and the sun was just hidden by the distant wave of the horizon, when the king rose from his chair, and the chiefs and people retired to their dwellings, under feelings of excitement and satisfaction. There was so much rural beauty and secluded quietude in the scene, and so much that was novel and striking in the appearance of the people, momentous and delightful in the object for which they had been convened, that it was altogether an interesting meeting.
Mahine, and the Leeward or Society Island chiefs, who had been present at the formation of the Tahitian Missionary Society, were desirous that Huahine, although it had not been equally favoured with facilities for receiving the gospel, should not be behind any of the Windward group in the efforts of its inhabitants to sustain and to propagate it. In a few months after their arrival, therefore, they proposed that a society, upon the plan of that established in Eimeo, should be formed in Huahine, in aid of the parent society in London. We were anxious to aid in the accomplishment of their design; and a day was fixed, on which a public meeting was to be held for its formation. In the forenoon of the 6th of October, 1818, Mahine, and the Missionaries of Huahine, Tamatoa, and those of Raiatea, Mai, and numbers from Borabora, repaired to the chapel, followed by crowds of the people. The place was soon filled, and a far greater number remained outside than were assembled under the roof. In order that as many as possible might hear, directions were given to take down on of the ends of the house; this page 271 was soon done; so that those who could not gain admission, were enabled to hear.
Temporary verandas or coverings of cocoa-nut leaves had been attached to the side of the house next the sea, widening it five or six feet, and on the other side it was also thrown open. A sermon was preached in the forenoon, and in the afternoon the people were addressed by Mahine, Taua, and other leading chiefs, on the advantages they had derived from the gospel, the destitute state of those who had not received it, and the obligation they were under to send it; proposing, at the same time, that each person, so disposed, should annually prepare a small quantity of cocoa-nut oil, which should be collected, sent to England, and sold, to aid the Society, which had sent teachers to Tahiti, in sending them to other nations.
Those who had been at Eimeo, and many of the inhabitants of Huahine, appeared interested in the details that were given of the condition of other parts of the world, and the efforts that had been made by Christians in England to send them the means of instruction. The presence of the chiefs of the different islands, with numbers of their people, the former devotees of their respective national idols, and the adherents of the different political parties, who had often within the last twenty years met for battle on the shores of Huahine or Raiatea, together with the novelty of the object, and the excitement of feeling which such a concourse of people necessarily produced, rendered the meeting exceedingly interesting, though to us it was less so than one subsequenly held in Fare, and that which we had attended in Eimeo.page 272
The Haweis having conveyed the Missionaries to their respective stations, taken in cocoa-nut oil, and such other productions of the islands as were marketable at Port Jackson, left Tahiti, and touched at Huahine, on her way to the colony of New South Wales. Messrs. Williams and Threlkeld had availed themselves of the visit of the Active, in the month of September, to remove with their families to Raiatea, and form a new station in that large and important island. Tamaota the king, and his brother, accompained them, while the rest of the cheifs and people of that island followed in their boats and canoes. In the Haweis, which left Huahine early in December, 1818, Mr. Hayward, from Eimeo, proceeded on a voyage to Port Jackson, and Mr. and Mrs. Orsmond to Raiatea, while Messrs. Nott, Davies, Barff, and myself, remained at Huahine.
Our temporary dwelling was scarcely rendered comfortable, by partitioning the different rooms with bamboo-canes, and covering them with Tahitian cloth, when it was necessary to prepare for the erection of a printing-office, the supply of books brought from Eimeo being found unequal to the increasing demand. Mr. Nott was also revising, for the press, the Gospel by John, and Mr. Davies had the Gospel of Matthew ready. This rendered it expedient to examine the district, that we might select the most eligible place for the erection of our permanent dwelling, to which we purposed to attach the printing-office.
We were desirous of securing the advantages of garden-ground and water; but in seeking these, we avoided obliging the natives to remove from any of those spots which they had already appropriated page 273 to their own use. In this there was not much difficulty, the whole district was before us, and but few places, except in the vicinity of the shore, had been selected by the people, who were waiting till we had made our choice, that they might build as near our dwelling as would be convenient.
We explored the district carefully, but often found the brushwood, and interlaced branches of the trees, so impervious, that, without a hatchet, we should have penetrated but a short distance from the winding paths trodden by the natives. The soil was good throughout; and, as the people had chosen the most eligible places along the shore, we fixed upon a small elevation near the junction of two clear and rapid streamlets, about a quarter of a mile from the entrance of the valley of Mahamene. It was at this time a complete wilderness, overgrown with weeds and brushwood. We commenced preparing it for the site of our dwelling; and when cleared, it was a most delightful spot.
A stream rolled at the bottom of a steep bank, about twenty yards from our house. Two or three aged and stately chesnut-trees growing on the margin of this bank, extended their branches over the steam and the bank, casting around a grateful and an inviting shelter from the noontide sun.
Immediately behind this spot, Matoereere, a black rock, the loftiest mountain in the island, towered in majesty above the surrounding hills. The lower part of the mountain appears basaltic; the central strata are composed of a vesicular kind of volcanic rock, while the upper parts are a large kind of breccia. It is verdant to its summit, which is of a beautiful conic shape, supported by a perpendicular page 274 rock. The inferior hills, on one side, were not only verdant, but to a considerable extent clothed with shrubs or trees, while a degree of sterile whiteness marked the basaltic and volcanic rocks on the other. These gave a richness and picturesque appearance to the landscape, which was greatly heightened by the lofty mountain in the centre. Often have I seen the mists and clouds resting on its sides, or encircling its brow, while the sunbeams have irradiated its summit; and it has appeared, especially when seen from a distance,
“As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm.”
On the northern side of the valley, and near the foot of Matoereere, we proposed to erect our dwelling and the printing-house. Mr. Davies selected a spot between this place and the sea, on the same side; and Mr. Orsmond fixed upon one near the southern border of the harbour, and on the opposite side of the valley of Mahamene, which was spacious, fertile, well watered, and sufficiently high to be secure from dampness.
The people readily erected the frame of our house and the printing-office, which was put up much in the same manner as that had been which we occupied in Eimeo; but, as it was intended for a more permanent abode, it was finished with greater care. It had but one floor, excepting, that over the printing-office there was a kind of loft for drying the paper. The front was boarded with materials brought from Port Jackson. The walls at the ends and the back were plastered with excellent coral lime; and both the printing-house and dwelling were floored with bread-fruit boards, page 275 split or sawn by the natives; the windows in the bed-rooms, sitting-rooms, study, and printing-house, were glazed; and, what was a new and strange thing to the natives, our kitchen, in which was a stone oven, fire-place, and chimney, was included under the same roof.
Cooking-houses were usually detached from the dwellings of the chiefs and foreigners, but we attached it to our house, that Mrs. Ellis might avoid exposure to the sun, and heat of the middle of the day, whenever it might be necessary to superintend the dressing of our food. The partitions separating the different apartments were framed, wattled with thin sticks, and plastered; and although we found the labour of building oppressive, we were amply compensated by the comfort we subsequently enjoyed. The house was finished early in 1819, became our residence shortly afterwards, and continued so until we embarked for the Sandwich Islands.
Building houses, and avocations of a similar kind, were regarded as secondary objects; our main efforts were directed to the acquisition of the language. Whatever besides we had been able to do, we considered ourselves wholly inefficient, until we were capable of delivering our message to the inhabitants in their own tongue. We had many difficulties to encounter, and were obliged to pick up the greater part of the language from the natives, who, unacquainted with our speech, could only explain to us the meaning of words and phrases by their own: thus their explanations often increased our perplexity. My intimate acquaintance with all that had been printed, afforded me great facility in prosecuting the study of Tahitian. In less than a year, I was able to converse with the people on page 276 common topics, and preached my first sermon in Tahitian in the month of November, 1818.
I was much affected on giving up myself to Missionary pursuits, on leaving England, and on reaching the islands, but I had never so deeply felt the responsibility of my situation, and my insufficiency for the work, as I did on the day when I delivered my first native discourse. The congregation was large, the chiefs and Missionaries were present; and, at the appointed time, I commenced the services with reading and prayer, exercises in which I had occasionally engaged before. I had selected for the text what appeared a most suitable passage with which to commence my public ministry: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” I Tim. i. 15. I was enabled to conclude the service with less difficulty than I expected, and was happy to have an opportunity of declaring, though very imperfectly, truths that were able to make those to whom they were delivered, wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. In continuing my labours, I found it necessary, on account of the peculiarities of the native language, to write out most of my discourses, and commit them to memory, before I could venture to address them to the people.
The establishment of schools, the reducing to writing, and a regular grammatical system, uncultivated and oral languages, and the translation of the sacred Scriptures, have ever been acknowledged as important, if not essential parts of a Missionary's duty; but the promulgation of the gospel by the living voice has always been considered by us as the primary, and, wherever page 277 practicable, the best means of converting the heathen; and though the other departments of labour have not been neglected, this has been regarded as the first great duty of a Missionary—according with his very designation, the principal design of the institution under whose patronage he is engaged, the practice of the apostles and first Missionaries, and the spirit as well as the letter of the Divine commission, whence he derives his highest sanction, and anticipates greatest success. Preparation for this service has therefore been regarded as demanding particular attention.
After our arrival at Huahine, in addition to the preparation of their dwellings, Messrs. Nott and Davies had been employed in preaching to the people, and preparing the Gospels of Matthew and John for the press. In the schools, Mr. Barff had been much engaged, and Mr. Orsmond, prior to his removal to Raiatea, had assisted in the instruction of the people, not only of Fare, but also of the adjoining districts.
The indolence of the South Sea Islanders has long been proverbial, and our minds were not less affected on beholding it, than those of other visitors had been. We were convinced that it was the parent of many of their crimes, infant-murder not excepted, and was also a perpetual source of misery. The warmth of the climate, the spontaneous abundance with which the earth and the sea furnished, not merely the necessaries of life, but what was to the inhabitants the means of luxurious indulgence, had, no doubt, strengthened their natural love of ease, and nurtured those habits of excessive indolence in which they passed the greater portion of their lives.
These habits, so perfectly congenial to their page 278 uncultivated minds, to the fugitive manner of life, mirthful disposition, and rude state of society that prevailed among the islanders, appeared one of the most formidable barriers to their receiving our instructions, imbibing the spirit and exhibiting the moral influence of religion, and advancing in civilization. All classes were alike insensible to the gratification arising from mental improvement, and ignorant of the enjoyments of social and domestic life, the comforts of home, and the refinements and conveniences which arts and labour add to the bestowments of Providence. The difficulties we encountered resulted not less from the inveteracy of their idle habits, than from the absence of all inducements to labour, that were sufficiently powerful to call into action their dormant energies. Their wants were few, and their desires limited to the means of mere animal existence and enjoyment; these were supplied without much anxiety or effort, and, possessing these, they were satisfied.
During the early periods of their residence in the islands, our predecessors often endeavoured to rouse them from their abject and wretched modes of life, by advising them to build more comfortable dwellings, to wear more decent clothing, and to adopt, so far as circumstances would admit, the conveniences and comforts of Europeans. While the inhabitants continued heathens, their endeavours were altogether unavailing. The people frequently said, “We should like some of these things very well, but we cannot have them without working; that we do not like, and therefore would rather do without them. The bananas and the plantains, &c. ripen on the trees, and the pigs fatten on the fruits that are strewed beneath them, page 279 even while we sleep; these are all we want, why therefore should we work?”
“They knew no higher, sought no happier state,
Had no fine instinct of superior joys.
Why should they toil to make the earth bring forth,
When without toil she gave them all they wanted?
The bread-fruit ripened, while they lay beneath
Its shadows in luxurious indolence;
The cocoa filled its nuts with milk and kernels;
And while they slumbered from their heavy meals,
In dead forgetfulness of life itself,
The fish were spawning in unsounded depths:
Unplanted roots were thriving under ground,
To spread the tables of their future banquets!”
They furnish a striking illustration of the sentiment, that to civilize a people they must first be christianized; that to attempt the former without the latter, is like rearing a superstructure without a foundation. A change in their views and feelings had now taken place, and, learning from the Scriptures, that idleness, and irregular and debasing habits of life, were as opposed to the principles of Christianity, as to their own personal comfort; they were disposed to attend to the recommendations of their teachers in this, as well as other matters.
Industry, however, soon languishes, unless nurtured by more powerful motives than the effects of abstract principles upon partially enlightened and ill-regulated minds. To increase their wants, or to make some of the comforts and decencies of society as desirable as the bare necessaries of life, appeared to us the most probable method of furnishing incitements to permanent industry. It was therefore recommended to them to erect for themselves more comfortable dwellings, and cultivate a larger quantity of ground, to meet the page 280 exigencies of those seasons of scarcity which they often experienced during the intervals between the bread-fruit crops. We also persuaded them to use such articles of our clothing as were adapted to their climate and habits, and to adopt our social and domestic habits of life. This not only required a considerable addition of personal labour, but a variety of articles that could not be supplied on the islands, and must be obtained through the medium of commerce with Port Jackson and England; and they could only procure these articles, in a degree equal to that in which they multiplied the productions of the soil, so as to be able to exchange them for the manufactured goods of civilized countries.
None of the spontaneous productions of the islands were available for purposes of barter or exportation. The sandal-wood of the Sandwich Islands, and the pine-timber of New Zealand, produced, without effort on the part of the inhabitants, being valuable commodities, and, given in exchange for the articles conveyed by foreign vessels to their shores, afforded great inducements to commercial adventure, and furnished the natives of those countries with facilities for increasing their resources and their comforts, of which the Tahitians were destitute. Whatever articles of export they could ever expect to furnish, must be the product of their own industry; this we were desirous to direct in channels the most profitable, such as were best suited to their means, and congenial to their previous habits. We therefore recommended them to direct their attention to the culture of cotton, one variety of which appeared to be an indigenous plant in most of the islands. Several valuable kinds of cotton having been at page 281 different times introduced, were also growing remarkably well.
Soon after we reached Huahine, a number of those who accompanied us from Eimeo, with some of the chiefs of the island, united in clearing and fencing a large piece of ground, which they planted with the best seeds they could procure, and called aua vavae, cotton-garden. The females were the most active in this work. Whether they were more anxious than the other sex to obtain foreign articles of dress, and the conveniences and the comforts of domestic life—or whether, feeling more peculiarly their obligations to Christianity, and desiring to take the lead in the introduction of those habits which they had been taught to consider as the necessary result of its principles, and the accompaniments of a Christian profession—it is unnecessary to determine; but they laboured diligently and perseveringly, cutting down in the mountains wood for the fencing, employing their own servants to transport it to the shore, clearing away the brushwood, enclosing the ground, digging the soil, planting the seed, watching with constancy its growth, and carefully gathering the cotton.
In order to encourage and direct them by our example, Messrs. Barff, Orsmond, and myself, having obtained permission from the owners of the valley in which we resided, employed natives to clear away the trees and bushes with which it was overgrown, for the purpose of planting it with coffee, sugar cane, or cotton. On this we also bestowed personally many an hour, desirous not only to afford those who were inclined to follow our advice, and cultivate the earth for articles of commerce, the encouragement of our counsel and page 282 direction, but to demonstrate the practicability of accomplishing, by means within their power, what had been proposed.
The directors of the Missionary Society were fully sensible of the necessity of introducing a regular system of industry among the islanders, in order to their assuming and maintaining a station amongst Christian or civilized nations; and felt that the interesting and peculiar circumstances of the people at this time, required something beyond the inculcation of the principles of Christianity, and instruction in the use of letters. They justly inferred, that, unless habits of industry were introduced, and civilization promoted, the people, if they did not absolutely return to all the absurdities, superstition, and cruelty of paganism, would develop but partially the genius and spirit of Christianity, and exercise very imperfectly its practical virtues. The state of feeling, also, that prevailed among the inhabitants at this time, predisposed them readily to attend to any recommendations of the kind; and the great deference they now paid to the counsel of their teachers, presented an opportunity more favourable than had ever occurred before, or was likely to occur again.
Influenced by these considerations, the Directors sent to the South Sea Islands Mr. Gyles, a gentleman who had been many years manager of a plantation in Jamaica, and who, being well acquainted with the culture of the cane, and the manufacture of sugar, was furnished by the Missionary Society with the necessary machinery and apparatus for introducing this branch of industry. Mr. Gyles was engaged for four years, during which time it was supposed he would be able, not only to commence page 283 his operations, but to proceed so as to convince the kind and chiefs what might be done, and also to improve the natives in the art of cultivating cane, instruct them in the process of boiling, &c. and leave them capable of carrying it on by themselves. He reached Tahiti in August, 1818, and shortly afterwards removed to Eimeo, where the began to erect the machinery, and enclosed a considerable tract of ground in the fertile and extensive valley at the head of the beautiful bay of Opunohu, usually called Taloo Harbour. Circumstances detained the king at Tahiti for many months after Mr. Gyles's arrival in Eimeo, and retarded very materially the progress of the undertaking. Sugarcane was, however, procured from the gardens of the adjacent districts, and sugar made in the presence of the natives, who were delighted on discovering that an article, so highly esteemed, could be made on their own shores, from the spontaneous product of their soil.
But the advantageous and expensive arrangements of the Directors, for the purpose of introducing these important branches of commerce and productive labour, although not entirely frustrated, were in the first instance rendered to a great degree unavailing, by the unfounded reports of unprincipled and interested individuals, who beheld the advancement of the people in knowledge and civilization with any other feelings than those of satisfaction.
Early in the year 1819, the captain of a vessel, the Indus, whom purposes of commerce led to Tahiti, informed the king that Mr. Gyles's errand to Tahiti was merely experimental; and that, should the attempt to manufacture sugar succeed, individuals from the distant countries, possessing influence page 284 and large resources, would establish themselves in the islands, and, with an armed force, which he would in vain attempt to oppose, would either destroy the inhabitants, or reduce them to slavery. These alarming statements were strengthened by allusion to the present state of the West Indies, where Mr. Gyles had been engaged in the manufacture of sugar and the culture of coffee. This device was employed for a short time with success against the establishment of the Mission among the Sandwich Islands; where the king and chiefs were told, that though foreigners first went in a peaceable and friendly manner to the West Indies, they subsequently went with all the apparatus of war, attacked and defeated the inhabitants, hunted the fugitives with blood-hounds, finally exterminated them, and remained masters of the islands.
Though the inconsistency of this statement with the defenceless manner in which the Missionaries had come amongst them, would have been self-evident to an enlightened mind,—being supported by an incontrovertible historical fact, it was remarkably adapted to operate powerfully upon an individual but partially informed, and exceedingly suspicious of every measure that might permanently alienate the smallest portion of territory, or lead to the establishment of foreign proprietorship, and consequent influence, in the islands.
This view of the enterprise led Pomare to decline rendering that assistance which was expected, and the want to which retarded the progress of the work. The necessary labour required from the natives was paid for at a remarkably high price, and often difficult to obtain on any terms.
Matters continued in this state until the month of May, 1819, when a national assembly of the chiefs page 285 and people from Tahiti and Eimeo met a Papaoa, in the district of Pare. The Missionaries from the several stations assembled at the same period, for the purpose of commemorating the anniversary of the Tahitian Auxiliary Missionary Society.
Before they returned, the king informed them, that, apprehensive of unfavourable results from the reports already in circulation among the chiefs and people, he could not consent to the prosecution of the manufacture of sugar, &c., excepting on a very limited scale. Pomare was not hasty in forming his decision on any matter of importance, and by no means precipitate in his measures; but on this occasion he appears to have been altogether uninfluenced by that temperate deliberation, and judicious policy, which he generally manifested in matters tending to improve the condition of the people, and increase the national resources.
The Missionaries also appear to have been so strongly influenced by the king's communication, that, instead of endeavouring to remove his objections, by persuading him to allow the trial to be fairly made, and then to act accordingly, they deemed it expedient, that so far as they, or the Society by which the machinery had, at great expense, been sent out, were concerned, it should be at once discontinued. Accordingly, on the 14th of May, “in order to satisfy the king, and quiet the minds of the people,” they advised Mr. Gyles “to return to New South Wales by the first conveyance.”
Shortly after this decision, communications from England required a general meeting of the Missionaries from the several stations; and Messrs. Williams, Barff, and myself, went up from the page 286 Leeward Islands to Tahiti and Eimeo. By the same conveyance Mr. and Mrs. Nott removed to Tahiti, where Mr. Nott has since laboured in Matavai, or the adjacent district of Pare. We were detained there about a fortnight; during which period we received from Mr. Gyles much information on the culture of the plant, and the manufacture of sugar. Before we left, Mr. Gyles very obligingly had a quantity of cane bruised and boiled, that we might not only understand the theory, but witness the process of grinding canes, boiling the juice, and granulating the syrup, so as to introduce it among the inhabitants of the Leeward Islands.
Our business at Tahiti being finished, Messrs. Barff, Williams, and myself, with a number of natives, sailed from Eimeo about noon, on the 12th of August, in an open boat belonging to Mr. Hayward. Before the sun had set, we had nearly lost sight of the island; and when the night gathered round us, we found ourselves in the midst of the vast Pacific, in a very small and fragile bark, without compass or nautical instrument, or any other means of directing our way than the luminaries of heaven. The night, however, was cloudless, and
“Star after star, from some unseen abyss,
Came through the sky, till all the firmament
Was thronged with constellations, and the sea
Strown with their images.”
The interval between the close of the evening and the dawn of the following day was pleasantly spent; and soon after sun-rise, on the morning of the 13th, we were gladdened by the sight of the lofty mountains in Huahine, which were seen page 287 above the line of clouds that rested on the western horizon. About five in the afternoon of the same day, Mr. Barff and myself were restored to our families; thankful for the guidance and protection we had enjoyed on the voyage, and the merciful care which those we left had experienced during our absence.
The facility with which the manufacture of sugar might be carried on by the people, and the certain market it would always find in Port Jackson should they be able to furnish more than their own necessities required, induced us not only to recommend it to the natives, but also to plant with sugarcane the ground already cleared and enclosed.
The proprietors of the cotton garden watched the progress of the plants with care and anxiety, accompanied probably with some of those golden dreams of future emolument which frequently operate very powerfully on the minds of individuals commencing an enterprise, which, although in some degree uncertain as to its results, yet promises, upon the whole, an increase of wealth or enjoyment. Unhappily for them, the ground they had chosen was unsuitable, and many of the plants were not productive. The first crop, however, was gathered, the seeds carefully picked out, and the cotton packed in baskets. When a ship arrived, they were eager to dispose of it, expecting far more in return than the warmest encouragement in its culture had ever warranted. Their estimate of its value had been formed according to its bulk; and when it was weighed, and they saw a large basket-full weigh only two or three pounds, and a proportionate price offered, they were greatly disappointed. They brought back their page 288 cotton, and hung it up in their houses till another ship arrived, when it was again presented for sale; but being again estimated by weight, little if any more was offered for it. Some sold what they had collected, others were so disappointed, that they seemed hardly to care what became of it. This circumstance, together with the length of time and the constant attention that a cotton plantation required, before any return could be received, greatly discouraged them, and prevented their continuing its culture. They chose rather to feed a number of pigs, or cultivate the vegetables in demand by the shipping, dispose of them when vessels might put in for refreshments, and receive at once in exchange, articles of cloth, &c. than wait till the crops should be gathered, and experience so much uncertainty, or meet with such annoying disappointments in the amount of their returns.
Mr. Gyles, on his way to the colony of New South Wales in the month of August 1819, spent some time at Huahine and Raiatea; and we gladly availed ourselves of his visit, to make further inquiries relative to the object for which he had come to the islands. Some spare machinery and boilers, sent out by the Society, were also left at Huahine. Assisted by the natives, we subsequently erected a rustic mill; and, when the cane in our plantation was ripe, commenced our endeavours to convert it into sugar. The cylinders for crushing the cane were perpendicular: an ox was trained to draw in the mill. He was yoked to a lever on one side of the central roller; a number of natives, pushing at another on the opposite side, turned the mill, and pressed the juice from the cane. The natives were surprised at the page 289 quantity of jucie from a single cane, as they had never been accustomed to see it thus collected, but had generally broken it in small pieces, and, by masticating the cane, extracted the juice.
After boiling it some time, we added the temper, or mixture of lime and water; and when we supposed the quantity had been sufficiently reduced, directed the natives to remove it to a suitable vessel for cooling, the progress of which we watched very anxiously, and, ultimately, had the satisfaction of beholding fine-grained crystals of sugar formed from the liquid. The natives were delighted and astonished; and although our surprise was not less than theirs, our satisfaction was more chastened; for, notwithstanding we had succeeded so well in our first attempt, we considered it more the result of accident than skill, and were by no means confident that, in a second effort, we should be equally successful.
We were, however, sufficiently encouraged to recommend the people, notwithstanding their disappointment in regard to the cotton, to direct their attention to the culture of sugar, since they had no longer any cause to doubt the practicability of procuring, from their respective plantations, sugar for their own use, or for barter with shipping. Our advice was not unheeded; several of the chiefs were induced to cultivate the cane; the mill we had erected became a kind of public machine, to which they brought their produce; and although, in some instances, we failed in procuring good sugar, in time the people were so well acquainted with the process, as to be able to boil it themselves. The Missionaries in Raiatea also erected a mill more efficient than the one we had constructed in Huahine, cultivated a quantity of page 290 cane, made sugar themselves, and taught the inhabitants of the island to do the same.
Sugarcane grows spontaneously in all the South Sea islands, and more than ten varieties are indigenous. It has been stated, that the best canes now cultivated in the West Indies, are the kinds taken thither by Captain Bligh. In their native islands they grow remarkably fine. I have frequently seen canes as thick as a man's wrist, and ten or twelve feet between the root and the leaves. The irimotu, a large yellow cane, and the to-ura, of a dark red colour, grow very large, and yield an abundance of juice, but the patu, a small lightred, long-jointed cane, with a thin husk or skin, contains the greatest quantity of saccharine matter. Some of the sugar manufactured by Mr. Gyles was of a very superior quality; and if hired labour were less expensive, or the people more industrious, it might be raised with facility in considerable quantities. The return, however, is distant, and the crops are less productive than many other articles that might be cultivated in the islands, especially unconnected with the distillation of rum from the refuse of the juice, or the molasses of the sugar. This is probably the only plan that would render it profitable; but to the use of rum, the present chiefs, of the Leeward or Society Islands, are averse; its introduction since embracing Christianity, they have been able to prevent; and it will be matter of deepest regret, if either they or their successors should favour its distillation on the islands, or its importation from abroad. Next to idolatry, and the diseases introduced by foreigners, it is the greatest scourage that has ever spread its desolations through their country, and we cannot deprecate in terms too strong; the page 291 conduct of those who now visit these shores, and who, insensible to any other consideration than that of avarice or vice, spare no pains to introduce ardent spirits among the people, and promote its use.
But although these circumstances have hitherto operated against the general culture of the cane, the chiefs and some of the people make sugar for their own consumption, and have occasionally supplied captains of ships, who have wished to replenish their sea-stock. In this respect, although the attempt of the Directors to introduce extensively its cultivation, has failed in the first instance; the natives have, nevertheless, acquired, from Mr. Gyles's residence among them, an acquaintance with the process of manufacturing this valuable article of commerce, which, it is presumed, will prove to the nation an important and a permanent advantage.
The Haweis, in returning to the islands in the spring of 1819, touched at Norfolk Islands, formerly an appendage to the colony of New South Wales, and I believe re-occupied since that period. From this island the captain brought away a number of young coffee plants, which, on his arrival in the islands, were distributed among the different stations. The tender plants were once or twice removed, and all perished, excepting those in my garden at Huahine, which I was happy to succeed in preserving. The climate was favourable to their growth, and they appeared to thrive well. After four years, each tree bore about forty berries, which when perfectly ripe were gathered, and sent to the several stations. They were planted, and have since flourished, so that in every island the coffee plant is now growing, and it may be cultivated page 292 to almost any extent. The chiefs are fond of coffee as a beverage, and, with the people, will doubtless raise it for their own use; and as it requires but comparatively little attention, probably it may be furnshied in a greater abundance than either sugar or cotton.
The tobacco plant is another exotic, common now in all the islands: it was introduced by Capt. Cook, and has since been grown by the natives merely for their own use. Mr. Williams encouraged its cultivation to a considerable extent in the island of Raiatea, and the natives were taught to prepare it for the market of New South Wales, in a manner that rendered the Raiatean tobacco equal to any brought into Sydney. A lucrative branch of industry and commerce now appeared open to the enterprising and industrious inhabitants, when a heavy duty, which, according to report, in order to favour its growth in New Holland, was laid upon all taken into the port of Sydney, prevented their continuing its culture with the least expectation of profit. It was therefore in a great degree abandoned. The information, however, which the inhabitants received from the individual whom Mr. Williams employed to instruct them, not only in its growth, but in the methods of preparing it in the different forms under which it is offered in the markets, was valuable; and though no very advantageous results have hitherto followed, it may hereafter be productive of good.