Изображения страниц

with the jargon of his non-existing system, and his affected metaphysics, yet there they are, in great profusion, poetic images of surpassing vividness and beauty, moral truths of everlasting moment, breathings of a gifted soul inspired and lifted up with the love of the good and true. In conclusion we will only say, that, he who does not make acquaintance with the mind of Coleridge loses much, and that he, who takes it for his guiding spirit, suffers much harm; — that it is bad to follow and call him master in philosophy, but good to honor him and have much sympathy with him. G. P.

ART. W. — Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, read at the Twenty-fifth Annual Meeting, held in the City of Utica, October 8th, 9th, and 10th. 1834. Boston: Crocker and Brewster. 8vo. pp. 176.

IN the year 1820, the first Christian Missionaries were sent to the Sandwich Islands to try, on a large scale and in a conspicuous station, the experiment of converting Heathen and Savages to the Religion of Christ. The eyes of the civilized world have been upon them ; all wishing them success, and some auguring the happiest result from their labors, while others predicted their ultimate failure. The mission has within the last two years met with considerable reverses; and the occasion seems to be a fitting one to examine the course of proceedings of the missionaries and to lay before our readers an account, as we trust impartial, of all that they have accomplished, and all that they have attempted, but have failed to accomplish.

In order, however, to appreciate the task which they had to perform, the obstacles which opposed their operations, and the causes which favored them, it will be necessary to take a hasty view of the state of morals, civilization, and intelligence, and the general form of society in the Sandwich Islands at the time the missionaries arrived there, before we proceed to the history of the mission.

From the account given by Captain King, who accompanied Cook on his voyage of discovery, we infer that the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, at the time he visited them, had thrown off one of the most disgusting and hideous features of barbarism, that is, they had ceased to be cannibals ; but they still retained the practice of immolating their prisoners, and this practice was not abandoned for half a century afterwards; the morals of the people were very low, thieving was very common, the women were not chaste, and the immoderate use of a drug, called ava, is described as producing effects very similiar to those arising from intemperance in the use of ardent spirits. Tamehamaha, sometimes called the Napoleon of the Sandwich Islands, prepared the way for an advance in civilization by uniting the whole group under one government; but, as the islands became more known to the civilized world, and were annually visited by an increasing number of foreign vessels, much was done to render the morals of the people more corrupt than at first. From various causes the population has continued to decrease ever since the first discovery ; so that it is now only about 150,000, whereas it was estimated by Captain Cook to be 400,000. This effect, however, is not to be wholly ascribed to the intercourse of the inhabitants with foreigners; the crime of infanticide, according to the reports of the missionaries, prevails to a shocking extent, and would probably prevent at least the increase of population. In the Island of Cuba, where the same crime is common among the African slaves, it is found that, with all the vigilance a master can use to prevent the occurrence of it, the number of slaves on a plantation seldom or never increases. When we take into account, also, the numbers in the Sandwich Islands who perished in the wars of Tamehamaha, and the ravages of a pestilence which is described by the natives as having destroyed vast numbers, the diminution of population may in a great degree be accounted for by crimes or circumstances independent of foreign residents. The morals of these islands at the time of the arrival of the first mission were frightfully bad. Sunk in the depths of ignorance and barbarity, obtaining an easy subsistence from the almost spontaneous productions of the soil, requiring little or no clothing, enervated by their climate and living in indolence, they had readily fallen into vices which had been introduced to a great extent by foreigners, many of whom are not less depraved, and but little more civilized, than themselves. The picture presented by the missionaries is one from which even the boldest philanthropist might shrink in despair. Theft, adultery, murder occurring almost daily, the aged and the diseased exposed and abandoned to die of famine and exhaustion, infants trodden living into their graves by their mothers, and the distillery pouring out its poisonous stream, only increase the amount and the horrors of crime. One of the most remarkable features in the social system of these islands is the existence of an aristocracy, — as proud, as exclusive, of as high pretension and as undisputed power, as any nobility that exists on earth; and, as far as we can perceive, of as pure blood. The chiefs of the Sandwich Islands appear to have almost unlimited control over the people; they take possession of the fruits of their labor; they command their services; and their power is submitted to apparently without a murmur. On the contrary, they appear to be regarded by the common people with reverence and admiration. The great influence of the chiefs will be found to have had an important bearing on the success of the mission. Of most of the arts of civilized life they appear to be utterly ignorant. Their agriculture is limited principally to the culture of taro; and, although the soil and climate of the islands appear to be fitted for a great variety of productions, no attempt is made to take advantage of it. Their habitations are low thatched huts, consisting of only one room in which the whole family live together day and night. With less enterprise and less call for ingenuity in obtaining their subsistance than the North American Indians, they also appear, in consequence, more ignorant and degraded, though perhaps not inferior in the native powers of mind. The chiefs, as a body, are better informed, more intelligent, and approaching far nearer to civilization, than the mass of people. It seems important also to say a word respecting the foreigners whose influence appears to have been very important with regard to the labors of the missionaries. As a class, it would be absurd to attempt to characterize them, since they present all the varieties from the intelligent, enterprising, and wealthy merchant, or agriculturist, down to the lowest, most degraded, and vicious inmate of the forecastle of a whaling-ship. Of the former class, the resident foreigners, Mr. Bingham speaks in a letter dated at Oahu, May Sth, 1833, as follows. “If the impression has gone abroad, through whatever channel, that the merchants at Honoruru” (the chief commercial VOL. XIX. — 3D s. vol. I. No. II. 28

station of the Sandwich Islands) “are far worse than the merchants in the other parts of the world who make no pretensions to religion of any kind, and whose objects are gain and pleasure, it is an impression that ought to be corrected.” Mr. Bingham then goes on to speak of numerous instances of kindness which the missionaries have experienced, both from these residents and from masters or supercargoes of trading vessels; he states, that “our intercourse with many has been pleasant,” that they have “not unfrequently contributed to our means of support, and that, about the close of the last year, about two thousand dollars were raised by subscription for building a schoolhouse for the children of foreigners, whom Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone of our mission are now instructing, and where, since the 10th of January, we have been allowed to hold meetings for public worship in the English language, and where Mr. Deill,” (the Seamen’s preacher) “has commenced his labors with not only our approbation, but that of the gentlemen concerned in the building.”* Upon the whole, however, there seems to have been no great friendship or intimacy between the foreigners and the missionaries; the suspicions of the King were excited against the mission previously to its arrival, as Stewart asserts, by the foreign residents; and their opposition is not unfrequently referred to as defeating its objects and diminishing its influence. From the sailors, and even in some instances from the masters of trading vessels, the missionaries received great ill-treatment, their resolute and effectual opposition to the prostitution of the women having gained for them, in many cases, a most honorable persecution. The life of the resident missionary at Lahaina was once threatened by a gang of infuriated wretches from one of the whaling-ships. Nor were the foreigners insignificant in numbers ; it was not a chance vessel that now and then made trouble by touching at some one of the islands, nor a foreign settler here and there incorporated into the nation and lost in the numbers; the view given by Reynolds, in his “Voyage of the Potomac,” will sufficiently show the importance of these islands to foreigners, and the numbers who resort to them.

“These islands,” says he, “must always be places of interest in the Pacific Ocean, lying as they do between the tracks of vessels bound to China and the East Indies from the coast of California and the whole of South America. They are also important as places of refreshment for whalers, after their long and hazardous cruise to capture the leviathan of the ocean. All these circumstances tend to render the Sandwich Islands of peculiar interest to the navigator of the Pacific. What would the laborious whaleman do, after toiling five or six long months upon the boisterous Japan sea, in his daring pursuit, fatigued and out of fresh provisions, had he to toil his way to the coast of South America for refreshments and necessaries 7 At the Sandwich Islands they muster in numbers, and find wherewith to refit them once more for the dangers of their hazardous profession. Here too, the Northwest trader, after toiling and chasing the otter and seal on the bleak coast of America, finds a pleasant retreat in the winter months near at hand. Wessels bound across the Pacific, now a track so common, can often find the means to repair the disasters of the seas, without being compelled to put back, perhaps thousands of miles, or prosecute a voyage rendered dangerous by unforeseen events.”

* Missionary Herald, Vol. XXX. p. 111.

Of the foreign residents, Mr. Reynolds remarks,

“The foreign residents, as may well be supposed, are composed of people of all nations, the English and American predominating; . and though there are a number of very respectable individuals settled at Oahu with commercial views, yet it is not to be denied, and no one can regret it more than we do, that the white population, generally speaking, are of the very worst order; among whom every thing like that decent restraint, which civilized society imposes upon its members, is at war with their vicious propensities, and of course resisted by them to the extent of their power.”

Immediately before the arrival of the Missionaries at these islands an event of great importance to their success took place. This was no less than the abandonment, on the part of the King and the people, of the religion of their fathers. The idols were overturned and destroyed, the temples laid in ruins, the tabu withdrawn, the sacrifices and all religious rites abandoned, and worship no longer offered to divinities of any sort. The news of this event had not reached the United States when the first Missionaries sailed. And when they arrived at Owhyhee this joyful intelligence was the first that saluted their ears, assuring them that one most important portion of their contemplated duties was already accomplished, as it seemed, by the hand of God.

The circumstances which favored the missionaries, and the obstacles which opposed them, may then be summed up in a few words.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »