« PreviousContinue »
terminated; many resolutely met the death they preferred, to the renunciation of their ancient faith. Some few escaped by flight to the recesses of the lofty mountains, where they still live in seclusion, faithful to the gods of their ancestors.
« « Ambition associated itself as usual to fanaticism. King Tajo, not content with seeing, in the remains of his people, none but professors of the new faith, resolved on making conquests, that he might force it on the other Society Islands. He had already succeeded with most of them, when a young hero, Pomareh, king of the little island of Tabua, took the field against him. What he wanted in numbers, was supplied by his unexampled valour and his superiority in the art of
" He subdued one island after another, and at last Tahaiti itself, and, having captured its king, offered the zealot murderer of his innocent subjects as a sacrifice to their manes. Subsequently, he subjected to his sceptre all the islands which had hitherto remained independent, and, as sovereign of the whole archipelago, took up his residence in Tahaiti. He left to the conquered kings the government of their islands, requiring from them a yearly tribute in pigs and fruit.
*« Peace was thus restored to Tahaiti and the whole archipelago. Pomareh was a wise and mild ruler. He left his subjects undisturbed in their new religion, although he did not profess it himself. The Missionaries, limited to their powers of persuasion only, found, however, means to retain the people in their doctrine, so that the refugees of the mountains preferred remaining in their retreats, to finding themselves objects of hatred and contempt amongst their countrymen. At length, Pomareh himself, with his whole family, yielded to the arguments of the Missionary Nott, allowed himself to be baptized, and died as a Christian in the prime of life, in consequence of an immoderate indulgence in the spirituous liquors which he had obtained from the ships of his new brethren.
«« True genuine Christianity, and a liberal government, might have soon given to this people, endowed by nature with the seeds of every social virtue, a rank among civilized nations. Under such a blessed influence, the arts and sciences would have taken root, the intellect of the people would have soon expanded, and a just estimation of all that is good, beautiful, and eternally true, would have refined their manners, and ennobled their hearts. Europe would soon have admired, perhaps have envied, Tahaiti: but the religion taught by the Missionaries is not true Christianity, though it partially comprehends some of its dogmas, but ill understood even by the teachers themselves. A religion, the introduction of which requires force, cannot, for this very reason, be genuine Christianity.
“ It (the religion taught by the Missionaries) has put an end to human sacrifices, but infinitely many more human beings have been sacrificed to it, than ever were to their heathen gods.
<« The elder Forster estimated, as we have already mentioned, the population of Tahaiti at one hundred and thirty thousand souls at least. Allowing that he over-calculated by even as much as fifty thousand, still eighty thousand remained: and as the present population exceeds not eight' thousand, so nine-tenths must have disappeared. Ardent
spirits, introduced by the Europeans and Americans, and the diseases with which these nations have infected the natives, may indeed have much increased the mortality; but a number of islands in the South Seas are visited by them, where no diminution of population is observed. There is no account extant that small-pox, or the plague, ever raged here; it was therefore the bloody introduction of the religion of the Missionaries” (called, by Kotzebue's Translator, the bloody persecution instigated by the Missionaries) “which performed the office of the most desolating infections. I am ready to believe that these good people were themselves shocked at the consequences of their
proselytism, but they have completely consoled themselves,” &c.'
Vindication, pp. 17-19.
We shall compress into as few words as possible the counter facts. No ship with English Missionaries ever approached the shores of Tahiti till 1797, the year in which Kotzebue represents them as having at length succeeded in establishing their religion by force of arms. No native became a convert till the year 1812, fifteen years afterwards. No such person as King Tajo ever existed, the character as well as the name being purely imaginary; nor is there any account among the natives of an attempt on the part of a King of Tahiti to invade the Society Islands. There is no island known under the name of Tabua in the Pacific. Pomareh, its supposed king, (by whom must be meant Pomare II., who was the individual who allowed himself to be baptized) was born in Tahiti; of which island, at the time of his birth, his father, Pomare I. was king, and to whom he quietly succeeded. The elder Pomare, instead of being sacrificed by • the young hero' his son, died suddenly as he was very quietly proceeding from the shore of Pare towards the Ship Dart, then leaving the harbour; and he bequeathed, with his sceptre, his idols to his son and successor, by whom they were worshipped until idolatry was abolished in 1815.
The Missionaries, from their first arrival in 1797, were exposed to the greatest hardships and dangers, owing chiefly to the machinations of their own worthless countrymen. 'Some
desperadoes of Europe,' says Turnbull, ‘at that time residing ' among the natives, instead of assisting these worthy men in
their forlorn situation, took a malicious pleasure in counter"acting their efforts on all occasions, misrepresenting their
views, and endeavouring to stir up the natives to outrage and • violence. These hardships they bore with patient resignation, till, ten years after the first arrival of the Duff, they were obliged to flee the island, in consequence of the desolating wars then raging between Pomare and the rebel chiefs of Tahiti, both parties being pagans, and the victors offering the vanquished in sacrifice to their gods. These must be the wars which Kotzebue describes as a bloody religious persecution, carried on by the Christian king, Tajo, the 'zealot murderer of
his subjects,' at the alleged instigation of his supposed Christian teachers. The immediate occasion of the destructive and protracted war, which ultimately compelled the Missionaries to quit the island, was the refusal on the part of the chiefs of Attehuru to give up the national idol, which the king wished to transport to the district of Taiarabu. Pomare, defeated by his rebel subjects, took refuge in the island of Eimeo, where, of all the Missionaries, Mr. Nott alone remained : his colleagues had all left the islands, in 1809, for Port Jackson.
It was during his exile from his native island, that Pomare first evinced a contempt for the idols of his ancestors, and a disposition to listen to the instructions of the Missionaries. Towards the close of 1811, the Missionaries who had retreated to Port Jackson, returned to Eimeo, to recommence their labours in that island. They were received by Pomare with warm demonstrations of joy; and it soon became evident, that adversity had subdued his spirit and softened his heart. He eventually professed his belief in the true God and the Lord Jesus Christ; shortly after which, two chiefs arrived from Tahiti, inviting his return to resume the government of his hereditary dominions. His departure in this critical state of mind was, at the time, much regretted by the Missionaries, who remained at Eimeo, as it deprived him of the instructions of his teachers, and exposed him to a severe ordeal. The chiefs of Tahiti were far from unanimous or cordial in their allegiance; and many of Pomare's allies and relatives, who ascribed all his reverses to the respect he had shewn towards the foreigners, declared that he must not expect his affairs to be retrieved, since he had despised and forsaken the gods of his fathers. The king, however, notwithstanding the strong inducement to defection, or at least to politic dissimulation, remained stedfast. In 1813, two of the Missionaries ventured to revisit Tahiti, in consequence of hearing that some of the inhabitants had renounced idolatry, and professed to believe in the Christians' God. About the same time, the first place for Christian worship ever erected in Eimeo, was publicly opened; when thirtyone natives professed their wish to abandon their superstitions, and worship Jehovah. In the autumn of 1814, after an absence of two years, during which he had vainly endeavoured to reestablish his authority, Pomare returned to Eimeo with a large train of adherents, all professing to be converts to Christianity. They were followed by numbers of fugitives, who, in the civil war which had afresh broken out between the hostile tribes, had sided with the vanquished party, and by numbers who, having secretly embraced Christianity, feared the vengeance of the idolaters. Now, indeed, the contest began to assume the
character of a religious quarrel; but the Christians, instead of being the authors, were the victims of the aggression. The following is the account of the events which ensued, given at the time by the Missionaries on the spot.
«« The idolatrous chiefs of Pare, and the chief of Hapaiano, got some of the chiefs of Matavai to join them in a conspiracy against the Bure Alua, (or Christians,) and it was proposed to cut them off entirely, root and branch. But, thinking themselves unequal to the task, those of the new religion being already formidable, both in number and respectability, they acquainted the chiefs of Atahuru and Papara with their views, and invited them to join. These, though their ancient rivals and enemies, came most readily into the measure, and prepared to unite with them without delay; and, on the night of July 7th, these combined forces were to fall, without mercy, on those who had renounced heathenism, and exterminate them; but some of the parties being rather dilatory, and secret intelligence having been conveyed to the party whose ruin was determined upon, and they happening to be that evening, most of them, together by the sea-side, they quickly got on board their canoes, and set sail for Éimeo, where they arrived, and were safely landed the following morning. The disappointed chiefs then quarrelled among themselves; and the Atahuruans, &c. fell upon the Porionu party, that is, upon the party who had invited them. They fought; the Porionu party were defeated, and a number of men killed, among whom was one of their principal chiefs, and a promoter of the war.
The Atahuruans, and those of Papara, being joined by Taiarabu, burnt and plundered the whole of the north-east part of Tahiti, from the borders of Atahuru to the isthmus. The question about religion seemed quite forgotten ; and the different parties fought to revenge old quarrels, that happened many years ago. Some time after, the Taiarabu people quarrelled with those of Papara and Atahuru, fought with them, but were defeated and driven to the mountains."' Vindication, pp. 32, 33.
Subsequently to this event, the pagan chiefs sent messengers to the refugees in Eimeo, inviting them to return; and Pomare resolved, at the head of his adherents, again to make the attempt to recover his authority. He sent a flag of truce and proposals of peace, and was at length allowed to land. Negotiations were in progress for the adjustment of all differences, with every shew of amity, when, on Sunday, Nov. 12, 1815, ““ the heathen party, taking advantage of the day, and of the time when the king and all the people were assembled for worship, made a furious, sudden, and unexpected assault, thinking they could, at such a time, easily throw the whole into confusion. They approached with confidence, their prophet having assured them of an easy victory. In this, however, they were mistaken. We had warned our people, before they went to Tahiti, of the probability of such a stratagem being practised, should a war take place; in consequence of which, they attended worship under arms; and, though at first they were thrown
into some confusion, they soon formed for repelling the assailants : the engagement became warm and furious, and several fell on both sides.
• « Soon after the commencement of the engagement, Upufara, the chief of Papara, (the principal man on the side of the idolaters,) was killed: this, when known, threw the whole of his party into confusion, and Pomare's party quickly gained a complete victory. The vanquished were treated with great lenity and moderation ; and Pomare gave strict orders that they should not be pursued, and that the women and children should be well treated. This was complied with; not a woman or child was hurt; nor was the property of the vanquished plundered.
«« After this, Pomare was, by universal consent, restored to his former government of Tahiti and its dependencies ; since which, he has constituted as chiefs in the several districts, some who had for a long time made a public profession of Christianity, and had, for many months, attended the means of instruction with us at Eimeo.
““ In consequence of these events, idolatry was entirely abolished, both at Tahiti and Eimeo; and we had the great, but formerly unexpected, satisfaction of being able to say, that Tahiti and Eimeo, together with the small islands of Tapuamanu and Tetaroa, are now altogether, in profession, Christian Islands. The gods are destroyed ; the maraes demolished; human sacrifices and infant murder, we hope, for ever abolished ; and the people, every where, calling upon us to come and teach them.”
• These quotations, written at the time, by individuals on the spot, and who could have no inducement to attempt to deceive, will satisfy every candid mind, that Christianity was not introduced to Tahiti by force, and will fully exonerate the Missionaries from the malicious accusation brought against them. Ib. pp. 34, 35.
Thus, the only war which has taken place in Tahiti, since any of the natives have embraced the Christian religion, occurred nearly twenty years after the date which Kotzebue assigns to the forcible establishment of Christianity in that island, and originated in a treacherous and unprovoked aggression of the idolaters.
But we have yet to notice the most diabolical part of Kotzebue's charge; that which ascribes to the religion taught by the Missionaries, and to the bloody persecution which they are accused of having instigated, the incredible and absurdly exaggerated depopulation of these islands. In the year 1797, when the first missionaries arrived, the period subsequently to which Kotzebue represents nine-tenths of the inhabitants to have been destroyed, the total population of Tahiti (including Taiarabu) did not amount to 17,000. The fallacy of the premises on which Forster rested his calculation, is satisfactorily pointed out by Mr. Ellis. His computation was founded on the number of fighting men present with the fleet of canoes collected at Pare in 1774, who, he was told, all came from two districts; and he multiplied what he supposed to be the average