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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cruise Of The Mary Rose - Chapter 17. The Courage Of Kapiolani
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The Cruise Of The Mary Rose - Chapter 17. The Courage Of Kapiolani Post by :65587 Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3184

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The Cruise Of The Mary Rose - Chapter 17. The Courage Of Kapiolani


"Although the change in Fiji is very great, much remains to be done. It is not more than we may justly say, that cannibalism and the more abominable crimes once common have ceased to exist wherever English missionaries reside, and in most places where native teachers have gained a footing. The kingdom of peace is making daily progress. The gospel has firmly established itself in the heart of Fiji. Thakombau remains firm and consistent in his profession of Christianity, and though certain chiefs rebelled against him, he has dealt as leniently with them as the maintenance of authority and order will allow, and has striven as far as possible to avoid bloodshed.

"It is satisfactory to see the way Captain Erskine, of HMS _Havannah_, speaks of those who have contributed to bring about this state of things. I cannot refrain from touching on a circumstance which he mentions, redounding as it does so greatly to the honour of the wives of two of the missionaries, Mrs Lyth and Mrs Calvert. It occurred while old Tanoa was still alive, and of course long before Thakombau became a Christian.

"A powerful tribe had sent a deputation to Mbau with tribute, and it was necessary to provide them with a banquet, a portion of which must, according to custom, be human flesh. The chief whose business it was to provide for the occasion, not having any enemies, set forth by night and captured a number of women belonging to a village along the coast, who had come down to pick shell-fish for food. Immediately Namosimalua, the Christian chief, heard of it, he hastened to the missionary station; but the missionaries' wives alone were at home. These heroic women, however, resolved to go themselves, and to endeavour at all risks to save the lives of the captives. Accompanied by the faithful Christian chief they embarked in a canoe for Mbau. Each carried a whale's tooth decorated with ribbons, a necessary offering on preferring a petition to a chief. As they landed near old Tanoa's house, the shrieks of two women then being slaughtered for the day's entertainment chilled their blood, but did not daunt their resolution. Ten had been killed; one had died of her wounds; the life of one girl had been begged by Thakombau's principal wife, to whom she was delivered as a slave, and three only remained. Regardless of the sanctity of the place, it being tabooed to women, they forced themselves into old Tanoa's chamber, who demanded, with astonishment at their temerity, what those women did there? The Christian chief, presenting the two whales' teeth, answered that they came to solicit the lives of the remaining prisoners.

"Tanoa, still full of wonder, took up one of these teeth, and turning to an attendant, desired him to carry it immediately to Navindi--the chief who had captured the prisoners--and ask, 'If it were good?'

"A few minutes were passed in anxious suspense. The messenger returned. Navindi's answer was, 'It is good.' The women's cause was gained, and old Tanoa thus pronounced his judgment: 'Those who are dead, are dead; those who are alive shall live.' The heroic ladies retired with their three rescued fellow-creatures, and had the satisfaction besides of discovering that their daring efforts had produced a more than hoped-for effect. A year or two ago, no voice but that of derision would have been raised towards them, but now returning to their canoe, they were followed by numbers of their own sex blessing them for their exertions, and urging them to persevere.

"Captain Erskine, who heard this account from the ladies themselves, and gives it much as I have done, adds, 'If anything could have increased our admiration of their heroism, it was the unaffected manner in which when pressed by us to relate the circumstances of their awful visit, they spoke of it as the simple performance of an ordinary duty.' He continues: 'I could not fail to admire the tolerant tone of the missionaries when speaking of these enormities. Accustomed for years to witness scenes such as few believe are to be seen on the face of the earth, and to combat the wildest errors step by step, with slow but almost certain success, these good men know well that a constant expression of indignation, such as must naturally arise in the mind of a stranger, would not produce the desired effect on the unhappy beings to whose loftiest interests they have with much self-sacrifice devoted themselves. Navindi, the cannibal chief of the fishermen, whose natural disposition they describe as kindly and confiding, was received quite on the footing of a friend, and Thakombau was also spoken of as a man of great energy and good intentions, by whose instrumentality much good might yet be effected among his numerous subjects or dependants. The wisdom of their conduct has been proved. These men have been won over to the truth. When our blessed Lord walked on earth He reproved in strongest language the scribes and Pharisees who knew the law, but not the publicans and sinners who knew it not. Captain Erskine describes the missionaries as engaged in the translation of the Scriptures and other religious works to be completed before a given time--a labour to be carried on in the midst of constant interruptions, to which the members of this mission and their families are liable at all hours of the day. Besides being referred to in cases of quarrels and disputes, the care of the sick and the distribution of medicines are duties which they have undertaken, and carry out with unremitting attention.'

"I wish that people in England knew of the efforts made by the priests of Rome to impede the progress of the pure gospel. Their mode of proceeding is very clearly described in a few words by Captain Erskine. He says, 'There are two French Roman Catholic missionaries stationed at Lakemba, but, as at Tongatabu, it is to be feared that their presence will tend rather to retard than advance the improvement of the natives. The practice of this (Roman Catholic) mission, in availing themselves of the pioneer-ship of men of a different sect, for the purpose of undermining their exertions, cannot be too severely reprobated. Being very irregularly furnished with supplies from their own country, these two are sometimes dependent for the common necessaries of life on the Wesleyans, for whom they entertain the strongest dislike, and who cannot be expected to treat them otherwise than as mischievous intruders; nor are their privations in any way compensated by success in their objects.' He describes a visit to the fortress of Bea, in Tonga, where two Roman Catholic priests reside, and which is inhabited partly by Roman Catholics and partly by heathens. 'The appearance of the people in this fortress was not such as to impress one favourably, compared with the others of their countrymen we had seen. They were more scantily clothed, and apparently less cleanly in their persons and houses, a natural consequence of living in a more confined space; and the absence of that cordiality which we everywhere met with from persons connected with the Protestant missions was very apparent. I heard also among the younger officers of pockets picked and handkerchiefs stolen, showing a more lawless state of life, and a retention of their old habits, which were so obnoxious to their early European visitors.' The priests complained to Captain Erskine of the way the missionaries spoke of them, on which he says, 'It is perhaps sufficient to remark that, even if the Wesleyans were guilty (which I do not believe) of all the improper conduct attributed to them by M Calinon, it has been occasioned entirely by the obtrusion of the Society to which he belongs into ground previously occupied by others, who would undoubtedly, had their efforts remained unopposed or unassisted, soon have numbered the whole of the population among their fellow-worshippers.'

"The priest also wrote to Captain Erskine, repeating his accusations of intolerance against the Wesleyans, and expressing his fears that their efforts to disparage him would be renewed on their departure, and the flight of the pope from Rome, of which they had heard, represented as the downfall of the Catholic Church.

"The captain says, 'I thought it right to answer his letter, as I could exonerate the missionaries from any charge of having attempted to prejudice us against the Roman Catholic priests, nor did I believe that they would make use of any unfair argument against their faith, founded on the political position of the pope.' I must also express my conviction that the charge against the Wesleyans made by the priests of adopting as proselytes all who offer without examination is quite unfounded. The putting away of all but one wife--no small sacrifice on the part of a people who have practised polygamy for ages--is always insisted on as a first step, and regular attendance on religious worship is also expected. Among the older Christians I saw every evidence of their having adopted the new faith from conscientious conviction, and the chiefs of the highest distinction are probably better read in the New Testament than any of the English met with among the islands.

"Captain Erskine also bears testimony to the character of other missionaries. Describing the work at Samoa, he says: 'The first circumstance which must strike a stranger on his arrival, and one which will come hourly under his notice during his stay, is the influence which all white men, but in particular the missionaries, exercise over the minds of the natives.

"'No unprejudiced person will fail to see that had this people acquired their knowledge of a more powerful and civilised race than their own, either from the abandoned and reckless characters who still continue to infest most of the islands of the Pacific, or even from a higher class engaged in purely mercantile pursuits, they must have fallen into a state of vice and degradation to which their old condition would have been infinitely superior. That they have been at least rescued from this state, is entirely owing to the missionaries; and should the few points of asceticism which these worthy men, conscientiously believing them necessary to the eradication of the old superstitions, have introduced among their converts, become softened by time and the absence of opposition, it is not easy to imagine a greater moral improvement than will then have taken place among a (once) savage people.

"'With respect to those gentlemen of the London Mission, whose acquaintance I had the satisfaction of making in Samoa, I will venture, at the risk of being considered presumptuous, to express my opinion, that in acquirements, general ability, and active energy, they would hold no undistinguished place among their Christian brethren at home. The impossibility of accumulating private property, both from the regulations of the Society and the circumstances surrounding them, ought to convince the most sceptical of their worldly disinterestedness, nor can the greatest scoffers at their exertions deny to them the possession of a virtue which every class of Englishman esteems above all others, the highest order of personal courage.' (See Note.)

"But I need not quote further from Captain Erskine, nor from other unprejudiced writers, to convince you, and through you your friends, of what has been accomplished through the instrumentality of missionaries. You will have many opportunities of judging for yourself. There is, however, another subject to which I would urge you to draw attention, that is, the attempts made by French priests of the Church of Rome to counteract the efforts of the missionaries. You know what has been done at Tahiti. You hear from Captain Erskine what is doing at Tonga and Fiji. The same attempts are being made at Samoa and elsewhere, wherever English missionaries have pioneered the way, and there are good harbours, but not otherwise. This almost looks as if their designs are political as well as religious, and that the object of those who send them is to establish French posts across the Pacific, so that in time of war they may have coaling stations and harbours of refuge in every direction. As they have by means of these priests a party in each group, they will never want an excuse for interfering in the affairs of the islands whenever they may have occasion to do so.

"But I must tell you more of many other islands brought under Christian instruction. Savage Island offers a notable example of what can be done in a short time. Captain Cook gave it that name, on account of the savage appearance of the inhabitants. When Williams first visited them in 1830, they appeared to be in no way improved. Several at length were induced to visit Samoa, where at the training college they gained so sound a knowledge of Christianity, that in 1846 two of them were well fitted to impart it to their long-benighted countrymen. They narrowly, however, escaped with their lives, and some time elapsed before they could gain the confidence of those they came to instruct. When visited by the Reverend A Murray in 1852, about two hundred converts had been made, and many others had learned to look at the teachers with affection. Unhappily that very year several of the natives were killed by the crew of a man-of-war which had called off the island, because one of them had stolen a carpenter's tool, and among them was the chief who had protected the missionaries on first landing. Still they were already too well instructed to wish to return evil for evil, and with simplicity complained that the punishment was rather severe, especially as the innocent suffered, though not altogether undeserved. From this time forward, under their native teachers, the people made great progress in their knowledge of religious truth, and so rapidly were numbers added to the Church, that in a few years not a heathen remained on the island. It was not indeed till quite lately that an English missionary was placed on the island, and he found five large churches built, one of which was capable of holding more than a thousand people; and many young men were anxious to be trained, that they might carry the gospel to other lands. I might give you a similar account of the way Christianity has been introduced into many other islands, and small groups of islands in this part of the Pacific; but I have a very different one to give of the western part, or of those islands which form what is called Melanesia. They consist of five groups, and not only do the inhabitants of each group speak different languages, but frequently those of neighbouring islands.

"We will begin with the large island of New Caledonia, on which the French have lately formed a convict establishment. To the south of it is the Isle of Pines, and to the east the three islands of Mare, Livu, and Uea, forming the Loyalty group. At Mare and Livu chiefly, Christianity has made progress, and Protestant missionaries have for some years been residing on them, while the people of Uea have gladly received the word; but the Isle of Pines has been stained with the blood of several native missionaries; and not only did the savage people reject the offer themselves, but they impeded its progress on New Caledonia, by threatening all who became Christians, till the French arrived and put a stop to the promulgation of Protestant truth among the people. Altogether, the influence of Romanism has been most pernicious in these islands.

"To the north-east of them are the New Hebrides, the most southern of which is Aneiteum; next Tanna, Eromanga, Fate, Malicolo, Espiritu Santo, and many others. The next group is that of Banks' Island, with Santa Maria, and many small isles. The Santa Cruz group is the fourth in the list; and to the north-west of them the Solomon Isles, consisting of many large islands, make the fifth group. The London Missionary Society have made every effort to carry the gospel to the inhabitants of the two first named groups, and in some instances successfully.

"It was at Eromanga that the devoted missionary John Williams fell, with his young companion Mr Harris, struck down by the club of a chief. This sad murder did not prevent the Society from making further efforts to send the gospel to the benighted inhabitants. Those efforts have been blessed, and among the converts was the chief who committed the deed, and who gave up to a missionary the very weapon with which the fatal blow was struck. On Aneiteum, English missionaries are located, Christian Churches have been established, and, with few exceptions, the whole of the population have in name become Christian.

"These five groups are now called Melanesia. They have for some years past been regularly visited by the energetic Bishop of New Zealand, who has induced young men from most of them to accompany him in his mission vessel to New Zealand, where at the Auckland training college they are prepared to carry back the gospel to their savage countrymen. A missionary bishop has lately been appointed to superintend the work, which, if carried on in the spirit with which it has been commenced, must with God's blessing prosper.

"These islands were long noted for the deeds of blood committed on their shores, for the number of vessels cut off, and both white and native missionaries murdered, and the natives have been looked on in consequence as of the most fierce and sanguinary character. That they deserved it in a degree there is no doubt; but at the same time it is very certain that their conduct towards foreigners was caused by the unjust, cruel way in which they were treated by the crews of vessels which came to procure sandal-wood on their shores. These men shot them down, cheated them, and ill-treated them in every possible way, sometimes carrying off chiefs and people from one place to exchange them as slaves for sandal-wood in another. Over and over again natives have been shot both on board vessels and on shore by the traders. Such was the cause of the death of the lamented John Williams and young Harris. A trading vessel had touched at Eromanga a short time before their arrival, her crew having shot several natives, among whom was the son of a chief, who afterwards confessed that it was in retaliation he had instigated his countrymen to the attack, and had himself struck the fatal blow.

"But time will not allow me to give a further description of this portion of the Pacific. I have as yet told you nothing of the Sandwich Islands, or, as they are now called, the Hawaiian Islands, with their capital Honolulu, in the isle of Oahu, and their late sovereign, King Kamehameha the Fourth. They consist of several large and beautiful islands: that of Hawaii (Owhyee), containing two mountains, Mouna Kea and Mouna Roa, said to be eighteen thousand feet in height, and by far the most lofty in the whole Pacific. The inhabitants are a fine and handsome race. Their religion was one of gross superstition, and so overloaded with restrictions, constantly increasing, and curtailing the liberty of all classes except the priests, that the chiefs and people at length became utterly weary of it. Even when visited by Captain Vancouver in 1793, some of the chiefs requested him to send them instructors in the Christian faith,--a prayer to which little attention appears to have been paid.

"It was not till the year 1820 that the young King Rihoriho, who had ascended the throne established by his victorious father, no longer believing in the power of his idols, and weary of the restraints of the old religion, at one stroke broke through the hitherto sacred taboo and the entire system of priestcraft.

"Just before this eventful time it had been put into the hearts of Christian men in the United States, who formed the American Board of Missions, to send missionaries to the long-known savage murderers of Captain Cook. A band of devoted men, admirably selected, arrived on the 30th March, 1820, in sight of Mouna Roa. They were received in a friendly way by the king and many of the chiefs, and three stations were soon occupied by them and their families.

"Two years afterwards, Mr Ellis, of the London Missionary Society, was invited to come from Tahiti to aid in the work, which he was happily enabled to do. He came accompanied by some native Tahitian teachers, who were of the greatest assistance to the missionaries. He remained until the ill-health of Mrs Ellis compelled him to return to England. The king of the Sandwich Islands and his excellent queen, after they had become Christians, paid a visit to England, where they soon died from the measles, which they caught on landing. King Rihoriho, who had assumed the title of Kamehameha the Second, was succeeded by his younger brother, the islands being well governed in the mean time by his mother and one of his chiefs.

"The missionary stations were increased in number, many schools were established, and the natives began to understand the truths of the gospel, and to accept its offers, when there came a rude interruption from an outbreak of heathen chiefs, set on by their priests. After some severe fighting the rebels were defeated, and the insurrection completely put down. Christianity and civilisation once more again made progress; but the missionaries had to contend with opposition not only from the heathen natives, but from so-called Christian strangers, who were furious at finding that they could no longer indulge in the gross licence in which in former days they had been accustomed to revel. Not only were they insulted by masters of whalers, but the American missionaries complain that they were ill-treated by the commander of one of their own men-of-war, and by all his subordinates. From such sources have arisen the numerous calumnies current against the missionaries in the South-Sea."

(See Note 2.)

"In about ten years from the landing of the first missionaries one-third of the population were under instruction, and there were no less than nine hundred native teachers; but even at that time, and much later, there were many heathens, and vice and immorality were very prevalent among professing Christians. Still among all classes there were notable examples of true piety, and ardent zeal for the propagation of the truth. The excellent queen-mother, Kaahumanu, by her precept and example did much to advance the cause of religion. I must tell you of another native lady, Kapiolani, the wife of Naike, the public orator of the kingdom, by whose courage and faith one of the most terrible of the old superstitions of Hawaii was overthrown. The old religion was coloured by the awful volcanic phenomena of which these islands are the theatre. The most fearful of all their deities was Pele, a goddess supposed to reside in the famous volcano of Kilauea. Here, with her attendant spirits, she revelled amid the fiery billows as they dashed against the sides of the crater. To the base of this volcano the old heathenism, driven from the rest of Hawaii, slowly retreated, though the priestesses of Pele several times ventured even into the presence of the king, to endeavour by threats of the vengeance of the goddess to induce him to support the faith of his fathers. These impostors still exercised considerable influence over the uneducated masses.

"Kapiolani, bold in the Christian faith, resolved practically to show how utterly powerless were these supposed fiery gods. After a journey of a hundred miles, as she neared the side of the mountain, a prophetess of the supposed goddess met her with warnings and denunciations of vengeance. But undauntedly she persevered, and as she stood on the black edge of the seething caldron she addressed, in words of perfect faith, the anxious bystanders watching for the effects of Pele's wrath: 'Jehovah is my God: He kindled these fires. I fear not Pele. If I perish, then you may believe that she exists, and dread her power. But if Jehovah saves me, then you must fear and serve Him.' As she spoke, she cast with untrembling hand the sacred berries into the burning crater, quietly waiting till the spectators should be convinced that no result was to follow. Thus she succeeded in breaking through the last lingering remnant of the long-dreaded taboo; and while the priests and priestesses were compelled to support themselves by honest labour, their votaries abandoned their heathen practices, and in many instances sought instruction in the new faith.

"The examples I have given will show you the mode in which Christianity has spread over the isles of the Pacific. But there are still numberless dark spots to which the gospel has not been carried, and in all, the Churches still require the support, strengthening, and instruction which in general white men can alone afford."


Note 1. "Journal of a Cruise among the Islands of the Pacific," by Captain J Elphinstone Erskine, RN, page 100.


Note 2. The _Quarterly Review_, 1853, in noticing accounts of voyages in the Pacific, after quoting the favourable testimonies of some writers, thus refers to others: "There is one circumstance which produces a very painful impression: it is the extreme unfairness which has been brought to bear against the missionaries and their proceedings, even by reporters whose substantial good intentions we have no right to controvert. Surely their work was one which, whatever exception we may take against particular views or interests, ought to have excited the sympathies, not only of those who belong to the religious party, as it is commonly called, but of all who do not take a perverse pleasure in contemplating human degradation as a kind of moral necessity. The object of these devoted men was to redeem the natives from no mere speculative unbelief, but from superstitions the most sanguinary and licentious. Even those who were careless as to the great truths which the Polynesians had to learn, must feel, upon reflection, that merely to unteach the brutal and defiling lesson of ages of darkness was to confer a priceless blessing. Every prejudice should surely be in favour of the men who have by general confession accomplished the first and apparently most laborious part of this task; instead of which a large class of writers find a species of satisfaction in thinking nothing but evil."

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