Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Art. I.-1. Journal of Voyages and Travels by the Rev. Daniel Tyer

man and George Bennet, Esq. Deputed from the London Alissionary Society to visit their various Stations in the South Sea Islands, China, India, &c. between the Years 1821 and 1829. Compiled from original Documents by James Montgomery. In Two

Vols. 8vo. pp. xxiv. 1134, Plates. Price 1l. 168. London, 1831. 2. Polynesian Researches, during a Residence of nearly Eight Years

in the Society and Sandwich Islands. By William Ellis. Second Edition, enlarged and improved. In four Volumes. Small 8vo.

Price 11. 4s. London, 1831. 3. A Vindication of the South Sea Missions from the Misrepresent

ations of Otto Von Kotzebue, Captain in the Russian Navy. With
an Appendix. By William Ellis. 8vo. pp. 162. Price 3s. 6d.

London, 1831.
IF
F it be true, as M. Malte Brun remarks, that the islanders of

the South Seas are already better known to us than the inhabitants of Sardinia and Corsica, it is not less true, that they are,

in

many respects, more worthy of being known. Much as has been written respecting them, further information and additional testimony cannot be regarded as superfluous, since there are some persons who affect to disbelieve, others who malignantly misrepresent the great moral revolution which has taken place in those islands; and falsehoods, repeatedly detected and exposed, are re-issued, and find willing utterers in Quarterly, Edinburgh, and Westminster Reviewers. Besides which, the work is still in progress; and human nature, in those islands, may be considered as undergoing a most interesting process of experiment, every stage of which merits a watchful attention. In the old countries, society has long been

VOL. VI.N.S.

M

stationary, one generation transmitting its likeness to the next with almost the uniformity of a mould, but the finer lines of which have seemed to become weaker and coarser with every impression. In Sardinia, in Naples, in Austria, in China, men are now, what their ancestors were ages ago,-subdued to the passiveness of machines, worked merely by animal fear or animal passion, condemned to intellectual imbecility by the double despotism of the feudal and the sacerdotal system. In those countries, nothing is progressive, except the work of depopulation and decay. A book of travels describing them a hundred years ago, supplies almost as faithful a description of their present condition, as the report of a tourist fresh arrived; and the testimony of any one competent observer passes for credible evidence of the fact. In the Islands of the Pacific, on the contrary, every thing is in transition; and it has already become difficult to recognize in the Tahiti of the present day, with its reformed manners and Christian civilization, the New • Cythera' which charmed, by its impure voluptuousness, the imagination of former voyagers. 'A chapter would have been * wanting in the history of our species,' Mr. Montgomery remarks, in the Introduction to the volumes he has so ably edited,

or, at best, the contents of it would be exceedingly deficient, if the authentic information furnished by resident Missionaries, . and collected by the late Deputation, were not now rescued from

oblivion and put upon record, in such publications as Mr. • Ellis's Polynesian Researches and the following Journal.'

In a few years', he adds, all traces of the former things which are now done away, would have been for ever obliterated. The old, who still remember them, would be dead : the rising generation, of course, are brought up in the knowledge of those better things which are regenerating society throughout all the Christianized islands. This, then, which would have been expedient under any circumstances, has become necessary at the present time, when the grossest fictions are invented, industriously circulated, and in some instances eagerly received, to bring the Missionaries and their labours into contempt.'

It is a trite remark, that there is nothing so credulous as incredulity. How easy and greedy a credence do those yield, who are seeking for reasons to disbelieve! By what rational law of evidence is it, that the concurrent testimony of a number of respectable witnesses, our own countrymen, having all the means of information, and of unimpeachable integrity,—shall at once be annulled and overturned by the unsupported assertions of an unprincipled, ill-informed foreigner, actuated by the meanest prejudice against Great Britain, as well as by the most virulent antipathy to the Protestant faith? -a man who could not by possibility know any thing about either the bistory or the present condition of the Islands from personal observation, being totally ignorant of the language, and having for only a few days touched upon their shores! Yet, upon such testimony, testimony which, in any court of justice, would be held insufficient to convict a felon, the most malignant charges against the English and American Missionaries have been complacently received and propagated; and this by writers affecting philosophic liberality, judges in the court of literature ! How is this to be explained upon any other principle, than that of the perversion of understanding induced by infidelity, such as the Jews were charged with by their inspired Prophets : “ Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.

We have had occasion, more than once, in former Numbers of our Journal, to advert to misrepresentations of a similar character. Our readers will have in recollection the charges insinuated against the American Missionaries at Hawaii, in Mrs. Graham's catchpenny quarto, founded upon the Voyage of the Blonde; and the general attack upon Christian Missions with which it was followed up by Mr. Barrow in the Quarterly Review. They will recollect the forged letter purporting to be written by Boki, a chief of the Sandwich Islands, which, after the proofs of its spuriousness had been pointed out, (the pretended writer being unable even to speak English) Mr. Barrow persisted in holding up as genuine on the alleged authority of Lord Byron. They will also remember Mr. Orme's manly defence of the Missions, and his dignified appeal to their calumniatort; the more distinct refutation of those charges furnished by Mr. Stewart in his Journal, and by the writer of an able article in the North American Review; and the distinct contradiction given by Lord Byron to Mr. Barrow's assertion, that the opinion of the Captain of the Blonde was in favour of the authenticity of the pretended letter of Boki. Mr. Ellis, in vindicating the Missions from the injurious misrepresentations to which some of Captain Beechey's statements have given rise, has thrown some further light upon this letter and the real source of the Captain's information. We regret that we had not the following

• Hab. i. 5. Acts xiii. 41.
+ Eclectic Review, 2d Series, Vol. XXVIII. p. 477.

I Ibid. Vol. XXIX. pp. 462-471. "I have no hesitation in saying ', writes his Lordship to Mr. Ellis, ' that I do not believe Boki either wrote or dictated that letter. It is not his manner of expressing himself; and you are aware that he can scarcely form his letters. I do not mean to say that the letter did not come from the Islands, but it certainly was manufactured by some other person.'

paragraph before us, when we reviewed the Voyage of the Blossom, in which, however, it was easy to detect, beneath the mask of candour, a spirit of prejudice and detraction.

• I wish', says Mr. Ellis, • I could congratulate Captain Beechey on having been more fortunate in the sources of his information, on his second visit to the Sandwich Islands, when he speaks of the disastrous consequences resulting from the demand made on the time of the natives by the Missionaries, and states, that "the chiefs lost their influence, the subjects neglected their work;" and tells us of the ridicule of the Missionaries, and opposition to their plans, manifested by Boki and others, &c. I can readily believe that Captain Beechey was told all this, and a great deal more. But surprise mingles with regret, that he should have been so far imposed upon, as to make the pages of his book the record of what his better judgement might have convinced him was too childish to be seriously believed ; such as the statement that the young king's trappings, viz. the "sword and feather belonging to the uniform presented to him, from this country, by Lord Byron,” had been prohibited by his preceptor, under the impression that it might excite his vanity; and that his (viz. the young king's) riding, bathing, and other exercises had been restricted. Had Captain Beechey extended his inquiries a little further, he would easily have learned that these were not facts; and that attendance at the schools had never been other than voluntary on the part of the natives.

But the communications made to Captain Beechey, of the effects of the influence of the Missionaries, in the alleged neglect of cultivation and diminished authority of the chiefs, and the statements contained in a certain letter from the Sandwich Islands, to which the forged signature of Boki was attached, -resemble each other so strongly, in many respects, as to force on the mind the conviction that both sprang

from one source. Most readers will recollect, that the editor of a leading literary journal, in this country, was so far imposed upon by the speciousness of this letter, as not only to give it circulation, but to “ pledge" himself “ for its genuineness." I received a letter from Boki, in the native language, about the same time; and when I wrote å reply, I sent out to the Missionaries the Review, containing what had been published here as his letter, requesting that I might be informed whether he had ever written or signed it; and though his probable melancholy fate will prevent my receiving his own reply, the annexed extract from the monthly publication of the American Missionary Society, will shew that I had not misjudged in pronouncing that the letter was a forgery :-—" When the letter reached the Sandwich Islands from England, it was shewn to Boki by the Missionaries, and he was unable to read it. They made, therefore, a translation of it into his native tongue; and Boki, after having perused it, appended a certificate, in which he affirmed that the letter was none of his. This translation, with the original certificate, written by Boki, in the Hawaiian language, is now at the Missionary rooms.” It cannot but give the Editor of the Quarterly Review satisfaction, to learn that the state of things in the Sandwich Islands was not such as that letter, if authentic, would have led his readers to suppose ; and it must occasion

as much

[ocr errors]

him regret, that he should inadvertently have aided in its circulation.' Vindication, pp. 156-159.

We know not whether this is the language of an amiable excess of candour or of merited sarcasm; for there is not the slightest reason to believe that the Quarterly Reviewer regrets any thing but the detection of the forgery. Mr. Ellis proceeds to notice an article in a recent Number of the Edinburgh Review, of which Captain Beechey's work has furnished the occasion, but which may truly be said to be the limbo of all the * calumnies cast upon the South Sea Missions by their most inveterate enemies.'

It is due to Captain Beechey to observe, that it is not to be inferred that the representations of the Reviewer, though placed in so near a connexion with his work, are supported by his authority. The writer of the article, indeed, quotes a passage which the Captain has too inconsiderately penned; but he must bear alone the responsibility of all the gross violations of justice which the comment contains. These are so very evident, that, as in many other cases of a similar kind, the slander corrects itself. What but feeling of an infatuated animosity could lead any writer of the present day to tell the British public, that the inhabitants of Tahiti are still “

savages and barbarians as ever, or rather that they are worse

“ that the only effect of the change produced amongst them has been to degrade Christianity to the level of the most brutish idolatry, without making one step towards raising these miserable idolaters to the rank of Christians "—that “ drunkenness is universal- that “ Otaheite, in fact, may be described as one vast brothel-with many other imputations, as opposed to truth as they are to benevolence.

To follow the writer through these assertions, distinctly, would be to travel again over the whole ground which I have trodden in the preceding pages. I shall content myself with asking him, in reference to one of his assertions, if he has never heard that the knowledge of reading is possessed by the majority of the population, and that the New Testament is translated and widely circulated amongst the people? If he has read of these effects of Missionary labour, to say nothing of others, will he, in the face of such facts, declare that the Tahitians have not made “ one step towards raising” themselves to the rank of Christians ?" Or is reading, in the opinion of his school, one of the “ viceswhich the natives have borrowed from civilization, by which it is dishonoured? As to the rest of his charges, if the reader is satisfied with the testimonies which I have adduced from Captain Beechey himself, and others who can be suspected of no partiality towards the natives, I am confident that I have thrown over the character of the Christian portion of the community, a protection from which the envenomed shafts of the Reviewer will rebound upon himself.

• In taking my leave of these critical opponents of the Missions, I cannot but remark, that it is not very flattering to the pride of this world's philosophy, to see those who hold themselves up as the cor

« PreviousContinue »