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Polynesian Researches





Any ship or vessel entering the harbour of Huahine, for the purpose of trading or procuring refreshments, shall be protected by the laws and regulations of the place; for which protection a fee of four Spanish dollars, or an equivalent, shall be paid to the chief governor, or governess, as the case may be, before any trade shall commence, or refreshments be supplied.—N. B. This regulation does not refer to the small vessels or boats belonging to the islands; but should any such vessel or boat arrive from his Britannic Majesty's colony of New South Wales, or Van Diemen's Land, without a regular license, or register, she will be seized, and the people confined, until an opportunity offers of sending them back, or a conveyance be sent for them; and should they prove to be prisoners of the crown of Great Britain, the colonial government will pay any reasonable remuneration for their maintenance, and a salvage will be paid by the owner of the vessel (should the same have been piratically taken) for retaking her.


Should any seaman desert from his ship, he shall be immediately apprehended and taken on board, and the person apprehending him shall receive four dollars, or an equivalent, before he is given up, which of course the commander or master of the ship will stop out of his wages.


Should any seaman desert about the time of the ship's sailing, and succeed in secreting himself until she is gone to sea, he will, as soon as found, be put to work on the page 210 roads, or other public employment, until an opportunity offers to send him off the island.


As many disturbances and much distress have been caused, by people being landed among the Society Islands without the smallest means of support; such a practice is hereby forbidden under a penalty of forty dollars, or an equivalent, for every person so landed, to be paid by the master, or commander, or person so landing him or them.


No person is to be landed for the purpose of remaining after the ship or vessel that brought him has left, without the permission of the governor of the place at which he is desirous of remaining.


Should the governor give his permission to any person to remain on the island for the recovery of his health, during the absence of the ship, it is expected that the master or commander will furnish him with any reasonable supply for his support, as many seamen have been left in the greatest distress from the neglect of this precaution: be it known, that a recurrence of it will cause a statement to be made of the case, to the government to which the vessel belongs, that the master, or commander, or other person so offending, may be proceeded against on his arrival there, as the laws of his own country direct on that behalf.


As soon as any ship or vessel appears within a reasonable distance of the reefs, a pilot will be sent to conduct her in; and when she leaves, he will, in like manner, take her to sea, for which service he is to receive six Spanish dollars, or an equivalent.


All masters, commanders, and other persons, residing on, or visiting, this island, are charged strictly to observe these regulations; and as it is the duty of any and all of his Britannic Majesty's subjects, to enforce the laws of their own country, so it will be to give all advice and assistance in securing offenders against them, and stating their name, and other particulars, to the government of New South Wales, or to the secretary of the admiralty, should the case refer to a person belonging, or likely to return, to Great Britain, with the name of the person, the ship, and the place to which she belongs.

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The above regulations for ships entering the harbour of Huahine, having been submitted to me, I deem them just and equitable, and have transmitted a copy of the same to my government, together with this flag, red above, white in the middle, and red below, proposed for the Georgian and Society Islands.

Given under my hand on board H.M. ship Satellite, at Raiatea, this 17th day of March, 1829.

I. LAWS, Commander.

The people have always felt more difficulty in the enforcement of those regulations which refer to subjects of other governments residing among them, than to the natives of their own islands. The sentencing of such sailors as may desert from their ships, or may be found on shore after their vessels have sailed, to hard labour on the public roads or quays, is probably the most effectual plan they could have adopted to deter seamen from the very frequent practice of forsaking their vessels.

The promulgation of an official printed code among the inhabitants of these islands, not only formed an epoch in their history, but introduced a new order of feeling and action in their civil relations, as a community governed by laws which they had deliberately and unitedly adopted. Perspicuity and plainness had been studied in the framing of their laws, and in several instances we should have preferred even greater explicitness. The public administration of justice, under the former system, had been exceedingly unceremonious and simple; and although the change now introduced had rendered it rather more complex, it was neither intricate nor perplexing. In several of the islands, I believe, court-houses have been built. There were none, however, in Huahine when I left, page 212 though I have since heard that they were erecting one for the chief judges.

No investigations or trials have ever taken place with “closed doors,” but all causes are tried in open court. In some of the islands, the bell-man goes round the district, to give public notice before any trial takes place. Their places of justice have usually been the governor's house, or the open air, frequently the court-yard in front of the chief's dwelling, an open space in the centre of the settlement, or near the sea-beach. A wide-spreading tree, or clump, is usually selected, and under its shade the bench is fixed, and the trial attended. The hour of sun-rise is usually chosen, as they prefer the coolness of the morning to the heat of noon.

Important as this change in the civil constitution was to all the great interests of the people, there were doubtless many who were either insensible of the advantages that would accrue to themselves and their posterity, or were unable to appreciate their value. There were others, however, among different ranks in society, who thought and felt differently, and occasionally exhibited the high sense they entertained of natural and acknowledged rights, and the security they expected from the laws they had adopted. Many illustrations of this remark might be adduced, I shall only cite one that occurred in the Society Islands, and I simply relate it as a fact, without offering any comment. I was absent at the time it occurred, and it was regulated entirely by the natives themselves, without consulting or even acquainting the Missionary who was there.

In the autumn of 1822, the queen of Tahiti, the widow of Pomare, visited Huahine. Her attend page 213 ants, who followed in her train from Tahiti, requiring a piece of timber, she directed them to cut down a bread-fruit tree growing in the garden of a poor man on the opposite side of the bay, near which her own residence stood. Her orders were obeyed, and the tree was carried away. Teuhe, the owner of the spot on which it stood, returning in the evening to his cottage, saw that the spoiler had been there: the stump was bleeding, and the boughs lay strewed around, but the stately trunk was gone. Informed by his neighbours that the queen's men had cut it down, he repaired to the magistrate of the district, and lodged a complaint against her majesty the queen. The magistrate directed him to come to the place of public justice the following morning at sun-rise, and substantiate his charge: he afterwards sent his servant to the queen, and invited her attendance at the same hour. The next morning, as the sun rose above the horizon, Ori, the magistrate, was seen sitting in the open air, beneath the spreading branches of a venerable tree: on a finely-woven mat, before him, sat the queen, attended by her train; beside her stood the native peasant; and around them all, what may be termed the police-officers. Turning to Teuhe, the magistrate inquired for what purpose they had been convened. The poor man said, that in his garden grew a bread-fruit tree, whose shade was grateful to the inmates of his cottage, and whose fruit, with that of those which grew around, supported his family for five or seven months in every year; but that, yesterday, some one had cut it down, as he had been informed, by order of the queen. He knew that they had laws—he had thought those laws protected the poor man's property, as well as that of kings and chiefs; and page 214 he wished to know whether it was right that, without his knowledge or consent, the tree should have been cut down.

The magistrate, turning to the queen, asked if she had ordered the tree to be cut down. She answered, ‘Yes.’—He then asked if she did not know that they had laws. She said, ‘Yes;’ but she was not aware that they applied to her. The magistrate asked, ‘If in those laws (a copy of which he held in his hand) there were any exceptions in favour of chiefs, or kings, or queens.’ She answered, ‘No,’ and despatched one of her attendants to her house, who soon returned with a bag of dollars, which she threw down before the poor man, as a recompense for his loss.—‘Stop,’ said the justice,' we have not done yet.' The queen began to weep. ‘Do you think it right that you should have cut down the tree without asking the owner's permission?’ continued the magistrate. ‘It was not right,’ said the queen. Then turning to the poor man, he asked, ‘What remuneration do you require?’ Teuhe answered, If the queen is convinced that it was not right to take a little man's tree without his permission, I am sure she will not do so again. I am satisfied—I require no other recompense.' His disinterestedness was applauded; the assembly dispersed; and afterwards, I think, the queen sent him, privately, a present equal to the value of his tree.