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Polynesian Researches

Concerning Seamen who may leave their Vessels

Concerning Seamen who may leave their Vessels


The captain, or master of the vessel, who shall turn one of his crew on shore, without the consent of the governor of the district, is criminal. He shall pay thirty page 208 dollars; twenty to the king, six to the governor, and four to the man who shall conduct the seaman back to his ship.


The man who shall forsake his ship, and hide himself on shore, shall be immediately apprehended. The man that finds and apprehends (each deserter) shall receive eight dollars, if he was taken near at hand; and fifteen dollars, if brought from a distance.


The person who shall entice any man belonging to a ship, so that he abandon his ship, and the man who shall hide or secrete him who shall so abscond, shall be tried, and (if convicted) his sentence shall be to make fifty fathoms of pathway or road, or to build eight yards of stone pier or wall.


A seaman who shall have concealed himself on shore, and who shall be found after his ship has sailed, shall be brought to trial, and his sentence shall be to make fifty fathoms of road.

One of the greatest sources of annoyance to the natives, and inconvenience to foreigners, has been the conduct of seamen who have absconded from their ships, or been turned on shore by the masters of trading vessels. To prevent as much as possible seamen from leaving their ships, this law was enacted; and by subjecting to a punishment with hard labour, both the deserters, and those who may favour their desertion or concealment, it is adapted to answer the end proposed.

A Copy of this law, with an English translation printed on the same paper, is given by a person whom the government appoints for that purpose, to the master of every vessel entering any of their harbours. The regulation is so just in its nature, and so salutary is its tendency in regard to those who visit the islands, as well as the community on shore, that the most ready acquiescence in its requirements may be reasonably expected.

page 209

The harbour laws, or regulations, enacted in 1829, are not less important to public justice, than in reference to the security they are designed to afford; and as they point out the sources of evil to which the people are exposed, as well as the objects intended to be secured, their insertion may be advantageous.