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There are those still living who can remember with what prayerful anxiety the effort was firiy made to introduce Christianity into the South Sea Islands,—with what intense interest the fathers and founders of the London Missionary Society followed the “Duff" across the seas, and watched the evolutions which progressively marked that memorable period, with what deep-tried patience and perseverance the first Missionaries prosecuted the work they had undertaken,—with what difficulties and unfruitfulness their faith, and the faith of the churches, whose messengers they were, had to struggle even for years ;—and also with what inexpressible satisfaction the glad intelligence was received, of the triumph of religion over the gross and degrading rites of pagan idolatry. Since then, the great work has been going forward in the various islands of the Pacific. Not only have the churches of Britain and America continued to supply this interesting field with holy and devoted labourers; but from the native converts themselves have teachers been raised up, and, under the direction and sanction of the Missionary brethren, been sent forth, to locate themselves in the midst of tribes yet savage and unsubdued, and teach them the simple lessons of the Christian faith. And BO rapidly has Christianity spread from island to island, that now, as we learned from the man of “ Missionary enterprise,” in most of these lovely islands, the idols of the heathen have been laid low; and the cross of Christ, by its attractive power and glory, has drawn thousands to its foot in humble prostration and adoring worship. The scene described by him, is still before us: groups of islands dotting the bosom of the ocean,-each rising above, and extending beyond the other in the lovely picture, with its well-built cottages, and neat, yet spacious sanctuaries, and each inhabited by a renovated and happy population-all industrious and sober-all educated and pious. Physically and inorally, a very epitome of the millennium-all nature lying in beauty, and man standing up in the likeness of his Maker's image.
Is it to be believed, then, that this lovely scene has been marred? that it has been visited by some rude and withering blast, which has blighted and laid waste some of its fairest spots ? It is one of the happy fcatures of the present state of the church, that of nothing is she more jealous than of her Missions. Are the churches of Britain and America then aware, that their stations in the South Seas are positively in danger ? The subject has been whispered, but have the facta soen published and widely circulated ? Has the intelligence which has reached this country, and wh, b has, no doubt, reached our transatlantic brethren, rung a peal in the ear of the church of Christ in both lands, such as to render it impossible that Christians can be indifferent to what is going forward in those distant islauds of the sea ? The facts having been recently given to the world, through the communications of a foreigner, we dare not be silent.
We hold in our hand a pamphlet, forwarded to us by a friend, compiled from the journal and letters of Daniel Wheeler, of Shoosharry, near Petersburgh, a minister of the Society of Friends, who, believing himself “ called in the love of the gospel to pay a religious visit to some of the South Sea Islands and New South Wales;" and who, having been * furnished with the needful certificates" from his own Society, sailed from the Motherbank, off the Isle of Wight, in the Henry Freeling, (a vessel purchased purposely for the occasion,) on the 15th of March, 1834.
From Tahiti, to which we have been accustomed to look with more than ordinary interest, ho writes :
“ There are so many aggravating circumstances which contribute to lessen the desire of the people for religion, that the present prospect of things here is truly discouraging; added to which, the landing of spirituous liquors is permitted or winked at, from the English traders to the colonies of New South Wales, and ships in the whaling employ, with those from America, which are much more numerous than those of the British. Hopeless, indeed, [humanly speaking) appears every attempt to Christianize the natives of those islands, who are labouring under, and exposed to, these disadvantages, which must ever obstruct the free course of the gospel.
“Although great exertion is made and promoted by the Missionaries here, to stop this overwhelming torrent of iniquity, yet their measures are often abortive, and can never be effective, unless co
opcrated with on the part of the masters of the shipping. Notwithstanding that the disuse of spirituous liquors is rigidly enforced at Tahiti, and no person is allowed to have it in their houses, or if the breath of any of the natives smell of it, a severe fine is imposed; yet this bane of the human race is still to be purchased on shore, and the supply is kept up by the American ships, clandestinely landed at times, amongst the supposed empty casks which are sent on shore for
“How dreadful and appalling the consideration, that the intercourse of distant nations should have entailed upon these poor, untutored islanders, a curse unprecedented and unheard of in the history of former times : that one-fourth of the whole population is miserubly affected with a distase brought amongst them, and kept up by the licentious crews of their shipping. * Will not, shall not the Lord visit for these things ?
In the Island of EIMEO, Mr. Wheeler attended a very large meeting in the Missionary chapel, (occupied by the Rev. Alexander Simpson,) and addressed tho natives at considerable length. The Queen and her party, with all the principal authorities and judges from Tahiti, as well as those of the island, were present. And though they remained to the last, several of the people went out, when mention was made of strong drink. Mr. Wi's address on this occasion is truly searching and solemn.
At HUAHINE (the scene of Rev. C. Barff's Missionary labours) he found a state of things which, though not at all to be compared with that of some other islands, was sufficiently affecting. He says :
“ Things in many respects are much better regulated at Huahine, than in other places which we have visited. But what can be expected, while these poor islanders are exposed to the temptations and diseases brought amongst them by the notorious crews of the shipping, whose vicious practices cannot fail to subvert and banish every virtuous feeling ;-whose example only teaches them to sin as with a cart-rope, and who are like a swarm of destructive locusts that eat up every green thing wherever they come.
“ In the course of the time we were together at his (Mr. Barftos) house, the circumstance of the females coming so freely on board the Henry Freeling was mentioned, and the fears that I entertained on their account; but he said, “ Your's is called the PRAYING SHIP,- which is the reason of their venturing on board as they do.' However pleasant and satisfactory it is to know the reason why our decks are so crowded with this description of female visitors ; yet we find, to our great regret, that the practice of others in going off to the shipping is carried on to greater extent than their Missionary is aware of.”
At BOLABOLA Mr. W. found, that there “is a little remnant of serious natives yet remaining, wlio have hitherto stood firmly against the practices of those in authority;" but that the principal chief, and many of the people, have relapsed into their former idolatrous practices, and then informs us :
“ The intoxicated state of the people has latterly deterred ships from calling here, not only from a fear of receiving damage, but on account of the few supplies to be obtained. Such vessels as do come, are mostly American, and generally hove off and on at a distance, to dispose of rum, in exchange for what the islanders can furnish.”
At Oahu, in the Sandwich Isles, Mr. W. had an interview with Kuakini, governor of the island of Hawaii, during which he showed him “what must inevitably be the dreadful result, if measures are not speedily taken to check the desolating scourge of RUM, with which the AMERICAN SHIPS are deluging those much-to-be-pitied islanders ;" but received the reply, “ the king is fond of it!" and was told, that " that the merchants (who are all AMERICANS) take good care to supply the king with moucy, and every other thing that he wants. By this plan they have him so coinpletely in their hands, as to succeed in persuading him that it is to the interests of the islands to allow the free use of spirits ! ”
In various parts of the FRIENDLY ISLES he found the people under proper restraint and religious control; but in reference to TONGATABOO he says :
“ 'The generality of ships anchor off the heathen settlements. Here they can dispose of their rum, muskets, and gunpowder; and here the mercenary chiefs make a trade of supplying them with any dumber of wretched females, for the sake of foreign articles. One of these very chiefs, however
It is not meant that this disease is the effect exclusively of illicit intercourse; it is gonoratod by habits and modes of living to which the natives were hitherto unaccustomod.
inhuman and barbarous he may be, made a very affecting complaint to us, when with him, of his own accord, that his people were dying and wasting away, from disease brought among them by the shipping! What a horriblo fact! What a dreadful stain upon a peoplo who call themselves Christians!"
The island of Rarotonga, he found in a state of unparalleled prosperity. And how does he account for this fact? “Because," he tells us, " there is no harbour for shipping here,—those circulating mediums of vice, and disease, and wretchedness,—the curse of the human race upon these fertile isles, wherever they go!"
The full extent to which those lovely islands, with their population, have suffered, it is impossiblo to conceive. Imagination cannot paint it. It is too horrible to be described. Mr. Wheeler was an eye-witness, let us hear him,
“ The island of Bolabola is one that has suffered most of any by the introduction of spirits, as it has caused the people to distil their bread-fruit, and every kind of food capable of producing spirit. I can never forget the abject, wretched state of those people, with scarcely a rag to cover them, in want of every thing, and nothing to purchase with ; every thing consumed in buying or converting into spirits, and the famished appearance of their more than half-naked children.”
Nor has New Zealand been preserved from these deadly influences. Mr. W. says :
“ In the northern parts the population has fearfully decreasod, owing in part to war, but principally to disease, which is, in innumerable instances, no doubt, the consequence of unrestrained licentiousness, and the use of spirits. The profligacy of the ships' companies who resort to the bays of New Zealand is almost beyond credit. Masters, officers, and seamen, here, with few exceptions, indulge in the most shameless inmoralities. Disease has penetrated far into the interior of the country, and by its ravages diminishes the already small number of inhabitants. Multitudes of the most abandoned characters who have either deserted from the ships, or have found their way over from the adjacent colonies, are scattered along the coast, and by their influence, of course, assist in debasing the natives by whom they are surrounded."*
It is more than painful—it is truly heart-rending to contemplate, even at this distance, such demoralising and devastating effects,—and to have the fact forced upon us by such a body of evidence that such effects are the consequence of the intercourse of the natives with the crews of vessels visiting their shores. And can we wonder that an enlightened and pious traveller, such as Mr. Wheeler ap. pears to be, should “rejoice to hear of any cause that would reduce the number of shipping, which visit these islands for supplies and to refit?" The moment he states his reason, all astonishment vanishes. He affirms :
“They (that is the shipping) only tend to diminish their population, by bringing spirituous liquors amongst the people, and by keeping alive a disease, the ravages of which are destroying whole families, both old and young, to an extent little contemplated in England, and truly painful and distressing to be an eye-witness to, and which greatly aggravated by the use of ardent spirits. Surely something will be done to stop this desolating scourge of the human race. It is the suffering case of an afflicted injured people, and calls for the attention, and that speedily, of the legislature of every country, but particularly of England and America, hich are the nations principally implicated in this dreadful traffic. Scarcely a ship arrives but what has for sale rum, muskets, and gunpowder, for all of which the natives are extremely eager; and many of these are denominated Temperance Ships,' and yet are engaged in producing madness among the natives, by furnishing the means of intoxication, and then in supplying them with weapons of destruction to complete their misery."
* This is powerfully confirmed by the testimony of a pious and excellent Missionary, containcil in a letter recently addressed to a friend in this country, and most unexpectedly yet most opportunely forwarded to us. The Missionary thus writes :
my knowledge of the ungodly Europeans in New Zealand, I do not hesitate to say, that their example in encouraging drunkenness and fornication, fic., tends more than anything else to counteract our Missionary operations. When European and other shipping touch at the harbours, their crews are like a pestilence among the natives. Oh what blood-guiltiness stains the consciences of seafaring men who have visited the islands of the South Seas! It should be known that intemperance, practised by Europeans, is an obstacle to Missionary enterprise. In the Bay of Islands there are several grog-houses, and the natives and our own countrymen yield to the inebriating draught; and many have come to an untimely end. More than ten Europeans bave been buried in our burying-ground on this station, who have come to an untimely end by intoxication! Yet the English community here, for the past seven years, has not amounted to two hundred individuals."
On this point Mr. Wheeler prefers a most serious charge against our American brethren. Having fallen in with several American vessels, under the designation of TEMPERANCE SHIPS, he says:
“I could not but view these with satisfaction, and with a degree of thankfulness, as likely to contribute, by their example, to the welfare of the islanders. But, alas ! I now find, with horror and surprise, that the word temperance applies only to the ships, and not to their crews, * none, probably of whom are members of a Temperance Society, but are merely bound by articles that the voyage shall be performed without any spirits being on boaril, except as medicine, if needed, and that their sobriety only exists because they cannot get the liquor; when on shore and unbound by thesc articles, they arc lamentably, in many instances, notorious for drinking to excess, and their immoral conduct at this place, makes me shudder for the awful and woeful consequences both as regards themselves and the daughters of Tahiti.”
And, then, with a tenderness and an emphasis which ought to affect every heart, he adds :
“If my friends at home could witness for themselves the state of many of the islands in thesc seas, which we have visited, lamentation, and mourning, and woe, must inevitably be their portion. It is a fact, incontrovertible, that those called • Temperance ships,' have landed larger quantities of spirits on some islands than any other class of ships. On nearly every island the population decreases, and the dreadful ravage made by disease is much aggravated by the use of spirits."
England and America are thus implicated in the most serious charge. Not only are they guilty of having introduced ardent spirits into those islands, as an article of traffic,--and of having induced habits of intemperance among the people; not only instrumental of spreading disease and wretchedness, and even extermination itself, but, what is infinitely worse, of teaching the natives to throw off all moral restraint--set at nought the authority and remonstrance of their teachers, and abandon the pure and self-denying religion of Christ. A more serious charge could not be laid to the two nations. Nor can we justify ourselves. Had we done our duty, such facts as havo been here adduced, could not now have been brought up. Whether we plead guilty to the charge or not, guiliy we are held, even by the natives themselves. They exonerate themselves, and hold us to be the offenders! After Mr. Wheeler bad finished his address, in the Missionary chapel at Eimeo, on the evils of intemperauce, in which he warned the people of its certain consequences both here and hereafter, one of the principal chiefs made an effort to reply,“ but was deterred through fear of giving offence :" yet he did not conceal either his feelings or his sentiments. For afterwards, he told the missionary, Mr. Simpson, what he wished to say to Mr. Wheeler, “ on behalf of the natives of these islands and himself” and it may be denominated
A MESSAGE TO GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA:
“ I hope he will go to Britannia, and beg the people to have mercy on us ; and then
go to America, anel beg the people there also to have mercy on us ; because it was these countries that sent this poison amongst us ! !"
This must have entered Mr. Wi's conscience like an arrow. England and America are the culprits. Before Heaven we stand condemned. Whatever may be the real amount of intemperance and vice which now prevails,—whatever the personal degradation or social misery,—whatever tho civil discords and hostilities, and, above all, whatever the apostacy from the faith, all is to be laid to our account. Great God !-we acknowledge our sin ; and, under a sense of it, desire to bo humbled at thy feet!
But can such statements be substantiated ? Would that there were no other authority to adduce, no other witnesses to call! But we have other and equally explicit testimony. The following will carry with it no little weight :-
“ While at the Navigators, I heard of two vessels having been taken at islands on which the people were still heathen. In the one case all the crew, and in the other the greater part of them, fell victims to the excited feelings of the natives. In both instances, however, the English were the aggressors. In the one, a chief's son was thrcatened with death, and in the other the drunken captuin and crew were in the act of dragging the chief's wife on board their ship. A short time after this disastrous event, a man-of-war visited the island, when sixty of the inhabitants were killed.
"On arriving at Raiatea, I was perfectly astounded at beholding the scenes of drunkenness which prevailed in my formerly flourishing station. There were scarcely a hundred people who had not disgraced themselves ; and persons who had made a consistent profession of religion for years had been drawn into the vortex !
A trading captain brought a small cask (of ardent spirits)
Of course Mr. W. speaks only of the ships and crews which came within his own observation.
on shore, and sold it to the natives. This revived their dorinant appetito, and like pent-up waters, the disposition burst forth, and with the impetuosity of a resistless torrent carried the people before it, so that they appeared maddened with infatuation. I could scarcely imagine that they were the same persons among whom I had lived so long, and of whom I had thought so highly."*
Nor is this the sum of even Mr. Williams' testimony. At a public meeting in this metropolis, he thus expressed himself :
“Only think, what would be the effect upon your missionary stations, if every ship that visited them carried pious captains, officers, and men ! Instead of which they come to our beautiful islands, looking forward to the gratification of every vile passion, and at times there is an inundation of wickedness brought upon us by them. Some time ago a captain visited our island, and procured a number of native females, whoin he took on board his ship, and carried then fifteen miles off. The native authorities followed him, and demanded their restoration, but instead of giving them up, he actually loaded a cannon, and fired five balls at the chupel and settlement !"+
Iinpressed and pained with these facts, (as well they might) the Directors of the London Missionary Society addressed the following letter in 1833, to the Board of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society :
“Dear Sirs,—You will doubtless have seen, from some of the publications of the London Missionary Society, the demoralization produced at soine of the islands of the South Seas, by the increased use of ardent spirits, large quantities of wbich have been imported by our countrymen and Americans, and hawked about the settlements, as well as sold in barrels. Recent accounts from the South Sea Islands are, in reference to this subject, most cdiscouraging. Our brethren state that the besetting sin in Tahiti, at present, is drunkenness; that it had produced the greatest mischief in the churches; and this state of things, which fi!Is the Directors with the greatest distress, is attributed greatly to Anuerican and British sailors, who have established a number of grog-slups ou shore for retailing spirits, and who have induced the chiefs to beconie traffickers in rum.
“ The extent and disastrous operation of this immoral habit, has led the Directors to devise and apply the most suitable remedies; and, among others, they have instructed me to make this communication to you, directing your attention, at the same time, to the baneful influence of seamen on Foreign Missions, and inviting your prompt and efficient exertions, especially in behalf of scamen visiting the South Sea Islands, that they may become instructed, reformed, and improved, and go forth to other countries, as interesting samples of the British Nation,—tho BRITISH CHARACTER.
“I am, my Dear Sirs,
“ Your faithful Friend and Servant,
“J. ARUNDEL, Home Secretary." But what is to be done? The evil exists; how is it to be remedied? It has been suggested, that every thing possible should be done “ to put a stop to a traffic, which entails so much wretchedness and evil.” But this would not reach the case. It might restrict the evil, but not remove it. The natives have most unliappily contracted a taste for strong drink, and have been taught to
couvert even their bread-fruit into ardent spirit by distillation." Suppose then the traffic were to cease, and every merchant were to abandon the trade, the natives have now, to a great extent, the means of supply within themselves. Besides, there is another source from which this deadly liquid may be obtained. “ Though the use of ardent spirits is forbidden in some islands, and though destroyed when found, yet there are too many who carry on the trade in an underhand manner." It is supplied also from the various ships who visit the islands, not excepting those which are denominated TEMPERANCE SHIPS! What a foul blot on the national character of the two countries! “Tell it not in Gath."
It appears, then, that the great source of the evil lies with those “ who go down to the sea in ships, *- with British and American sailors,--that their intercourse with the natives, has been the cause of the wide-spread misery in these islands. As soon as an English or an American ship conies in sight, insicad of hailing, or being gratified by its approach, the missionary deprecates and dreads it. The conduct of the seamen sickens his very heart, and stands as the most formidabile obstacle, and most painful trial in lis path. How is this? How is it, that the seamen of these
Missionary Enterprises, by the Rev. John Williams, pp. 465 and 405, 406. + In addition to this we have tho concurrent testimony of both Church and Wesleyan missionaries, and equally affecting intelligence from other parts of the world.