The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1
The Vewa Mission
The Vewa Mission.
From England to the Friendly Islands.
We had a most agreeable voyage to Auckland in the good ship "Artemesia," and, after a pleasant sojourn there of five or six weeks, re-embarked in the "John Wesley." A run of seven days brought us to Tongatabu, were we parted with Mr. and Mrs. Vercoe, who went at once to reside at Hihifo, on that island. After spending two or three days, and calling on King George, we went on to Haabai, stayed a day or two with Mr. West's pleasant family, and then repaired to the District-Meeting at Vavau. Amid the lovely scenery of this island we passed five weeks, while the vessel took Mr. Amos to visit the outer islands. We were much pleased with the large and orderly and devout congregations we saw at all these places. Christianity has evidently made a great change in these people. After having seen Feejee and felt the contrast, we look back on Tonga as a comparatively Christian and civilized land.
School at Ovalau.
The return of the "John Wesley" was the signal for our departure, and we parted from our kind host and hostess with no small regret; and on the 9th of July, 1854, hailed the shores of Feejee with strangely mingled feelings. At Lakemba, we spent but a few hours, took up Messrs. Lyth and Polglase, and proceeded to Vewa, to attend the District-Meeting. And here our wanderings ended, for this has been our Station for the year, with Mr. Calvert: though we have paid short visits to Nandy and Bua on the Vanua-Levu, and the large and beautiful isle of Ovalau, where Mr. Binner, the schoolmaster, is located. He lives at Livuka, where the white men reside; and though they obstinately reject the truth, and choose to live after the dictates of their own wicked hearts, yet, among their wives and children, Mr. Binner is very useful. We spent a morning in his school; there were a hundred and ten children present, nearly all half-castes. The instruction is conveyed through the medium of Feejeean, (for that is their mother-tongue,) and evidently is an exercise for their intellectual faculties, and not a mere test of memory.
Murder at Nandy.
Mr. and Mrs. Fordham, our fellow-voyagers, are stationed at Nandy, with Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Waterhouse. We heard the other day of the opening of two new chapels in that Circuit, and of the general spread of Christianity in that dark neighbourhood. While we visited them, a woman was murdered, because they expected the death of her husband, and feared the interference of the Missionary if the strangling were delayed till the usual time. The murder of their unborn children is fearfully common throughout the group. The degraded condition of the women is one of the saddest features of Heathenism in this land: they are given away in marriage to whomsoever the Chief pleases, without any concern for the wishes of the woman; if she has taken the liberty of giving her heart to some one else, and will not submit to the will of the Chief, she runs away to another town, from which the Chief and his party will probably attempt to bring her by force; and here is a frequent source of Feejeean wars. But, worse still; they lend them to ships for some paltry consideration, and give or sell them to foreigners living among them to abuse at their vile pleasure. The influence of Christianity does away with the worst of these evils; but it will require time and instruction to raise these poor creatures to their proper level.?
H.M.S. "Herald," and Captain Denham.
H.M.S. "Herald" was at Ovalau in November last; and as we were there at that time, we had the pleasure of spending a day on board with Captain Denham, and were charmed with his urbanity and kindness. They have thoroughly surveyed that island, and the surrounding reefs and waters; and went back to Sydney by way of Solomon's Isles. We are now expecting their return. Captain Denham came up to Bau in one of the ship's boats, and visited Thakombau, and stayed a few days at Vewa.
Progress of Events.
Recent events in Feejee are full of interest, as they are likely to exercise an important influence on its political history, and on the spread of religion. A year ago to-day, Thakombau, the notorious Chief of Bau, embraced Christianity, with many of his people. He has since been remarkably consistent, sparing the lives of his enemies when they were completely in his power, sending back the bodies of those slain in war, decently wrapped in mats, to be buried by their friends, constantly striving after peace, and urging all to become Christians. He had been brought very low by the revolt of many of his towns; and his most formidable enemy, the King of Rewa, was boasting that he would soon eat him, when death stopped the boaster's mouth. Ratu N'Gara, this King of Rewa, had been building a temple, making presents to the Priests, and trying in every way to please the gods, that they might give Thakombau into his hands. The Mission had just been re-established: he had again heard the truth, had refused to receive it, preferring to put his trust in lying vanities. God would not be mocked, and took him away in his sin. Many in Rewa have since embraced Christianity, and they have made peace with Bau. The Popish Priests are there; but the people seem to think that system little better than their old Heathenism; and, by the last accounts, have deliberately preferred Protestantism. King George's visit, so long expected, is now paid, and is likely to contribute much to the settlement of affairs in Feejee. A canoe which he sent to Ovalau was fired upon without provocation by a party of natives and half-castes, instigated by Mara, a Chief who has rebelled against Thakombau. George called on him to explain; he refused, resisted, and the town of Kambah was attacked and burnt; but the Chief escaped. He is following him up, while he does his utmost to save life and prevent fighting. The result of the whole, up to the present, is, that several towns have hastened to make peace with Bau, and to embrace Christianity, as the security for peace. But these matters are still pending; and, while we anxiously watch the progress of events, we wonderingly admire the manifestations of God's wisdom, in promoting his own cause by all means.
Extract from the Journal of Mrs. Wilson,
Addressed to Her Father, the Rev. Peter M'owan.
Jan. 27th, 1855.—We have just heard of the death of Ratu Ngara, the ruling Chief of Rewa, and one of the heads of the party against Thakombau; perhaps, for determined hostility, the head. Nothing could save him. Mr. and Mrs. Moore did their very utmost, by suitable food and medicine, to arrest the disease; but his own obstinacy and folly combined to hasten this fatal catastrophe. He persisted in laying aside the warm covering which had been given him, and lying in the draught in the very crisis of his illness. He has gone to learn, as we fear, in the everlasting endurance of His wrath, that page 31 verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.
Feb. 11th.—On Friday night we received news that Mr. and Mrs. Moore, and their two little ones, had arrived in Bau, houseless, homeless, and almost without clothing, their new wooden house having been reduced to ashes, and they having escaped in the dead of the night, in their night dresses. It appears to have been set on fire by some ill-disposed persons. We had all been rejoicing that day in the prospect of peace between Rewa and Bau; for messages had been exchanged, and peace-offerings accepted. All the Bau and Rewa flags had floated in the breeze, native drums had been beaten all the day long, and our nicely-toned Vewa bell had rung in honour of the glad occasion. But evening fell and brought its dolorous news, warning us to rejoice with trembling. But, though this is a drawback and discouragement, yet it is only like the shade in the hopeful picture which the Rewa Mission presents. We view it as the last impotent effort of diabolical rage and malice to hinder that which he cannot now hope to prevent,—the overthrow of idolatry in Rewa, and the establishment of the worship of the true God.
At the death of Ratu Ngara, though an exceedingly powerful Chief, but two women were strangled, and only three little fingers cut off. Some few burnt their faces and their bodies; but when Mr. Moore and Mr. Calvert spoke to some women who had fixed a day on which they were to cry and burn their persons as a sign of respect for the dead, and requested them not to do so, but to mourn as Christians, they replied that people would say they had no love for the dead. "Tell us," said the Missionaries, "do you feel love to the dead when you do such things?" "No, indeed," answered they, "but much hatred and anger that he should cause us such pain in mourning for him." Thus they were persuaded not to follow the custom. On the Sabbath after Ratu Ngara's death, twenty women and two men lotued: there was to have been a general lotu; but Mr. Moore's misfortune will delay it for a week. The seed of life has truly been sown in tears; but not the less certain or joyous will be the harvest.
While the Chief was ill, many intimated that Mr. Moore's medicine was killing him, and threatened, that, if he died, the Missionary's life should be the forfeit; so the week after was a time of fear and peril. But God was their shield, and made even their enemies to be at peace with them. Then, on the night of the fire, they did not know, for some time, whether they would not be clubbed the next moment; for a party of blackened men with spears and clubs seized Mrs. Moore, and forcibly dragged her from the burning house. They proved to be friendly; but their kindness certainly assumed a suspicious aspect. Of course, we have all contributed what we could to supply their necessities until stores can be procured from the colonies. The people saved some boxes, but only for themselves; so that Mrs. Moore has the mortification to see her nice things worn and spoiled by these greedy Heathens.
March 22d.—Mr. Moore arrived from Ovalau and Rewa yesterday; he brings good news of the progress of religion at Rewa. Two of the "eyes of the land," old men to whom the land belongs, and who are consulted by the ruling Chief on all occasions, have bowed in worship to the true God. One of their Chief Priests announced a dream which he had had. He saw the gods of Rewa and the neighbourhood sitting together low down, and he saw, also, the God of the lotus, very great and high,—so high that he saw only the lower parts: His head was hidden in the clouds. "This," said he, "is the great God, the only true God." Did not He whose throne is high and lifted up, and around whom are clouds and darkness, send this dream to lead on this Heathen Priest, and through him the people of Rewa, to the truth? Another told them that the gods had met together, to consult what was to be done about this new page 23 religion. "It grows and grows, and rises and rises," said they: "what shall we do." They agreed they would not hinder it; but they had better wait and see the result. At a meeting of the Chiefs of the people, to decide whether they should embrace Popery, or Christianity as taught by our Missionaries, they determined that all should follow the religion of the Missionary,—"and as for the few who will not lotu, we will eat them" Remember that this resolution was carried at an assembly of Heathens, who wished to express, in the strongest way they could, the firmness of their resolution. A young lady of very high rank, the niece of the late King, lately professed Popery; and no doubt the Priests congratulated themselves on so important a convert, for she is married to the present young Chief. But short has been their rejoicing; she says she will give it up and worship with the Missionary, and that she only lotued with the Priest for waekata kata,—literally, "hot water," i.e., tea. If matters go on in this way, I should think the Abbe Mathieu will have to run away, and confess himself foiled.
The Tonguese fleet made its appearance yesterday in our waters. There are about forty canoes, most of them large, carrying one hundred men, it is said.
March 14th.—Mary Wallis, the chier lady of Vewa, visited the baby to-day. Were I to speak the plain truth, I should call her the chief beggar of Vewa, for she is inveterate. For example, she came three days after baby's birth to beg a dress; that is, new print for one, as she has had several lately. Mrs. Calvert thought it necessary to refuse her. She then asked to see baby, but that was impracticable, for I was too weak to be disturbed; so, to keep her in good temper, Mrs. Calvert gave her a large bundle of dalo that was in the room. Dalo is an edible root of a species of areca; she accepted it, and asked whether it would not be good for her to have the little bundle too. My lady got it, and went away without the slightest perceptible gratitude. This is the lady who, when her husband died, resolved to starve herself; but Mrs. Wallis (see "Life in Feejee") saved her life by persuading her to eat.
June 8th.—The proceedings of the Tonguese have caused important changes in our prospects, and they seem to have been used by Providence in a remarkable manner to bring down the pride of the lofty, and to raise the low, so that all might be prepared for peace.
Mr. Wilson, who can now preach to the natives in their own tongue with comfort, has been at Vungalai, to be present at the giving of offerings to ratify peace between that town and some neighbouring ones, with whom it had been at war. In this way several of the minor differences and grounds of quarrel between towns have been lately settled. Their petty wars have kept the people poor, by preventing the cultivation of the land. The paths being forsaken through fear, become so overgrown by the luxuriant vegetation, that they are almost lost.
King George of the Friendly Islands, and his little son, eleven years old, dined with us last week. He has come to see Thakombau, and take home a canoe which the Chief gave to him, when in the islands before. By a train of un-avoidable and unforeseen circumstances, he has been brought into collision with the enemies of Bau, and has conquered several towns, while others have hastened to submit themselves. As the unvarying advice of both George and Thakombau to all is, that they should become Christians for the maintenance of peace, it seems as if all things were tending to the advance of religion. George is a sensible, intelligent, thoughtful man, who values human life, and does not rashly engage in an enterprise without considering the result of his actions.
London: Printed by James Nichols, Boxton-Square.