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as sweet as treacle, and with a pleasant taste. There were,
moreover, several other wild fruits, and useful vegetables. The
little stream, besides its cool water, produced eels and crayfish.
I did indeed admire this scene, when I compared it with an
uncultivated one in the temperate zones. I felt the force of the
remark that man, at least savage man, with his reasoning powers
only partly developed, is the child of the tropics.

As the evening drew to a close, I strolled beneath the gloomy shade
of the bananas up the course of the stream. My walk was soon
brought to a close by coming to a waterfall between two and three
hundred feet high; and again above this there was another. I
mention all these waterfalls in this one brook to give a general
idea of the inclination of the land. In the little recess where the
water fell, it did not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown.
The thin edges of the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray,
were unbroken, instead of being, as is so generally the case, split
into a thousand shreds. From our position, almost suspended on the
mountain-side, there were glimpses into the depths of the
neighbouring valleys; and the lofty points of the central
mountains, towering up within sixty degrees of the zenith, hid half
the evening sky. Thus seated, it was a sublime spectacle to watch
the shades of night gradually obscuring the last and highest

Before we laid ourselves down to sleep, the elder Tahitian fell on
his knees, and with closed eyes repeated a long prayer in his
native tongue. He prayed as a Christian should do, with fitting
reverence, and without the fear of ridicule or any ostentation of
piety. At our meals neither of the men would taste food, without
saying beforehand a short grace. Those travellers who think that a
Tahitian prays only when the eyes of the missionary are fixed on
him, should have slept with us that night on the mountain-side.
Before morning it rained very heavily; but the good thatch of
banana-leaves kept us dry.

NOVEMBER 19, 1835.

At daylight my friends, after their morning prayer, prepared an
excellent breakfast in the same manner as in the evening. They
themselves certainly partook of it largely; indeed I never saw any
men eat near so much. I suppose such enormously capacious stomachs
must be the effect of a large part of their diet consisting of
fruit and vegetables which contain, in a given bulk, a
comparatively small portion of nutriment. Unwittingly, I was the
means of my companions breaking, as I afterwards learned, one of
their own laws and resolutions: I took with me a flask of spirits,
which they could not refuse to partake of; but as often as they
drank a little, they put their fingers before their mouths, and
uttered the word "Missionary." About two years ago, although the
use of the ava was prevented, drunkenness from the introduction of
spirits became very prevalent. The missionaries prevailed on a few
good men who saw that their country was rapidly going to ruin, to
join with them in a Temperance Society. From good sense or shame,
all the chiefs and the queen were at last persuaded to join.
Immediately a law was passed that no spirits should be allowed to
be introduced into the island, and that he who sold and he who
bought the forbidden article should be punished by a fine. With
remarkable justice, a certain period was allowed for stock in hand
to be sold, before the law came into effect. But when it did, a
general search was made, in which even the houses of the
missionaries were not exempted, and all the ava (as the natives
call all ardent spirits) was poured on the ground. When one
reflects on the effect of intemperance on the aborigines of the two
Americas, I think it will be acknowledged that every well-wisher of
Tahiti owes no common debt of gratitude to the missionaries. As
long as the little island of St. Helena remained under the
government of the East India Company, spirits, owing to the great
injury they had produced, were not allowed to be imported; but wine
was supplied from the Cape of Good Hope. It is rather a striking,
and not very gratifying fact, that in the same year that spirits
were allowed to be sold in St. Helena, their use was banished from
Tahiti by the free will of the people.

After breakfast we proceeded on our journey. As my object was
merely to see a little of the interior scenery, we returned by
another track, which descended into the main valley lower down. For
some distance we wound, by a most intricate path, along the side of
the mountain which formed the valley. In the less precipitous parts
we passed through extensive groves of the wild banana. The
Tahitians, with their naked, tattooed bodies, their heads
ornamented with flowers, and seen in the dark shade of these
groves, would have formed a fine picture of man inhabiting some
primeval land. In our descent we followed the line of ridges; these
were exceedingly narrow, and for considerable lengths steep as a
ladder; but all clothed with vegetation. The extreme care necessary
in poising each step rendered the walk fatiguing. I did not cease
to wonder at these ravines and precipices: when viewing the country
from one of the knife-edged ridges, the point of support was so
small that the effect was nearly the same as it must be from a
balloon. In this descent we had occasion to use the ropes only
once, at the point where we entered the main valley. We slept under
the same ledge of rock where we had dined the day before: the night
was fine, but from the depth and narrowness of the gorge,
profoundly dark.

Before actually seeing this country, I found it difficult to
understand two facts mentioned by Ellis; namely, that after the
murderous battles of former times, the survivors on the conquered
side retired into the mountains, where a handful of men could
resist a multitude. Certainly half a dozen men, at the spot where
the Tahitian reared the old tree, could easily have repulsed
thousands. Secondly, that after the introduction of Christianity,
there were wild men who lived in the mountains, and whose retreats
were unknown to the more civilised inhabitants.

NOVEMBER 20, 1835.

In the morning we started early, and reached Matavai at noon. On
the road we met a large party of noble athletic men, going for wild
bananas. I found that the ship, on account of the difficulty in
watering, had moved to the harbour of Papawa, to which place I
immediately walked. This is a very pretty spot. The cove is
surrounded by reefs, and the water as smooth as in a lake. The
cultivated ground, with its beautiful productions, interspersed
with cottages, comes close down to the water's edge.

From the varying accounts which I had read before reaching these
islands, I was very anxious to form, from my own observation, a
judgment of their moral state, - although such judgment would
necessarily be very imperfect. First impressions at all times very
much depend on one's previously acquired ideas. My notions were
drawn from Ellis's "Polynesian Researches" - an admirable and most
interesting work, but naturally looking at everything under a
favourable point of view, from Beechey's "Voyage;" and from that of
Kotzebue, which is strongly adverse to the whole missionary system.
He who compares these three accounts will, I think, form a
tolerably accurate conception of the present state of Tahiti. One
of my impressions, which I took from the two last authorities, was
decidedly incorrect; namely, that the Tahitians had become a gloomy
race, and lived in fear of the missionaries. Of the latter feeling
I saw no trace, unless, indeed, fear and respect be confounded
under one name. Instead of discontent being a common feeling, it
would be difficult in Europe to pick out of a crowd half so many
merry and happy faces. The prohibition of the flute and dancing is
inveighed against as wrong and foolish; - the more than presbyterian
manner of keeping the Sabbath is looked at in a similar light. On
these points I will not pretend to offer any opinion, in opposition
to men who have resided as many years as I was days on the island.

On the whole, it appears to me that the morality and religion of
the inhabitants are highly creditable. There are many who attack,
even more acrimoniously than Kotzebue, both the missionaries, their
system, and the effects produced by it. Such reasoners never
compare the present state with that of the island only twenty years
ago; nor even with that of Europe at this day; but they compare it
with the high standard of Gospel perfection. They expect the
missionaries to effect that which the Apostles themselves failed to
do. Inasmuch as the condition of the people falls short of this
high standard, blame is attached to the missionary, instead of
credit for that which he has effected. They forget, or will not
remember, that human sacrifices, and the power of an idolatrous
priesthood - a system of profligacy unparalleled in any other part
of the world - infanticide a consequence of that system - bloody
wars, where the conquerors spared neither women nor children - that
all these have been abolished; and that dishonesty, intemperance,
and licentiousness have been greatly reduced by the introduction of
Christianity. In a voyager to forget these things is base
ingratitude; for should he chance to be at the point of shipwreck
on some unknown coast, he will most devoutly pray that the lesson
of the missionary may have extended thus far.

In point of morality, the virtue of the women, it has been often
said, is most open to exception. But before they are blamed too
severely, it will be well distinctly to call to mind the scenes
described by Captain Cook and Mr. Banks, in which the grandmothers
and mothers of the present race played a part. Those who are most
severe, should consider how much of the morality of the women in
Europe is owing to the system early impressed by mothers on their
daughters, and how much in each individual case to the precepts of
religion. But it is useless to argue against such reasoners; - I
believe that, disappointed in not finding the field of
licentiousness quite so open as formerly, they will not give credit
to a morality which they do not wish to practise, or to a religion
which they undervalue, if not despise.


The harbour of Papiete, where the queen resides, may be considered
as the capital of the island: it is also the seat of government,
and the chief resort of shipping. Captain Fitz Roy took a party
there this day to hear divine service, first in the Tahitian
language, and afterwards in our own. Mr. Pritchard, the leading
missionary in the island, performed the service. The chapel
consisted of a large airy framework of wood; and it was filled to
excess by tidy, clean people, of all ages and both sexes. I was
rather disappointed in the apparent degree of attention; but I
believe my expectations were raised too high. At all events the
appearance was quite equal to that in a country church in England.
The singing of the hymns was decidedly very pleasing, but the
language from the pulpit, although fluently delivered, did not
sound well: a constant repetition of words, like "tata ta, mata
mai," rendered it monotonous. After English service, a party
returned on foot to Matavai. It was a pleasant walk, sometimes
along the sea-beach and sometimes under the shade of the many
beautiful trees.

About two years ago, a small vessel under English colours was
plundered by some of the inhabitants of the Low Islands, which were
then under the dominion of the Queen of Tahiti. It was believed
that the perpetrators were instigated to this act by some
indiscreet laws issued by her majesty. The British government
demanded compensation; which was acceded to, and a sum of nearly
three thousand dollars was agreed to be paid on the first of last
September. The Commodore at Lima ordered Captain Fitz Roy to
inquire concerning this debt, and to demand satisfaction if it were
not paid. Captain Fitz Roy accordingly requested an interview with
the Queen Pomarre, since famous from the ill-treatment she has
received from the French; and a parliament was held to consider the
question, at which all the principal chiefs of the island and the
queen were assembled. I will not attempt to describe what took
place, after the interesting account given by Captain Fitz Roy. The
money, it appeared, had not been paid; perhaps the alleged reasons
were rather equivocal; but otherwise I cannot sufficiently express
our general surprise at the extreme good sense, the reasoning
powers, moderation, candour, and prompt resolution, which were
displayed on all sides. I believe we all left the meeting with a
very different opinion of the Tahitians from what we entertained
when we entered. The chiefs and people resolved to subscribe and
complete the sum which was wanting; Captain Fitz Roy urged that it
was hard that their private property should be sacrificed for the
crimes of distant islanders. They replied that they were grateful
for his consideration, but that Pomarre was their Queen, and that
they were determined to help her in this her difficulty. This
resolution and its prompt execution, for a book was opened early
the next morning, made a perfect conclusion to this very remarkable
scene of loyalty and good feeling.

After the main discussion was ended, several of the chiefs took the
opportunity of asking Captain Fitz Roy many intelligent questions
on international customs and laws, relating to the treatment of
ships and foreigners. On some points, as soon as the decision was
made, the law was issued verbally on the spot. This Tahitian
parliament lasted for several hours; and when it was over Captain
Fitz Roy invited Queen Pomarre to pay the "Beagle" a visit.

NOVEMBER 25, 1835.

In the evening four boats were sent for her majesty; the ship was
dressed with flags, and the yards manned on her coming on board.
She was accompanied by most of the chiefs. The behaviour of all was
very proper: they begged for nothing, and seemed much pleased with
Captain Fitz Roy's presents. The Queen is a large awkward woman,
without any beauty, grace or dignity. She has only one royal
attribute: a perfect immovability of expression under all
circumstances, and that rather a sullen one. The rockets were most
admired, and a deep "Oh!" could be heard from the shore, all round
the dark bay, after each explosion. The sailors' songs were also
much admired; and the queen said she thought that one of the most
boisterous ones certainly could not be a hymn! The royal party did
not return on shore till past midnight.

NOVEMBER 26, 1835.

In the evening, with a gentle land-breeze, a course was steered for
New Zealand; and as the sun set, we had a farewell view of the
mountains of Tahiti - the island to which every voyager has offered
up his tribute of admiration.

DECEMBER 19, 1835.

In the evening we saw in the distance New Zealand. We may now
consider that we have nearly crossed the Pacific. It is necessary
to sail over this great ocean to comprehend its immensity. Moving
quickly onwards for weeks together, we meet with nothing but the
same blue, profoundly deep, ocean. Even within the archipelagoes,
the islands are mere specks, and far distant one from the other.
Accustomed to look at maps drawn on a small scale, where dots,
shading, and names are crowded together, we do not rightly judge
how infinitely small the proportion of dry land is to the water of
this vast expanse. The meridian of the Antipodes has likewise been
passed; and now every league, it made us happy to think, was one
league nearer to England. These Antipodes call to one's mind old
recollections of childish doubt and wonder. Only the other day I
looked forward to this airy barrier as a definite point in our
voyage homewards; but now I find it, and all such resting-places
for the imagination, are like shadows, which a man moving onwards
cannot catch. A gale of wind lasting for some days has lately given
us full leisure to measure the future stages in our homeward
voyage, and to wish most earnestly for its termination.

DECEMBER 21, 1835.

Early in the morning we entered the Bay of Islands, and being
becalmed for some hours near the mouth, we did not reach the
anchorage till the middle of the day. The country is hilly, with a
smooth outline, and is deeply intersected by numerous arms of the
sea extending from the bay. The surface appears from a distance as
if clothed with coarse pasture, but this in truth is nothing but
fern. On the more distant hills, as well as in parts of the
valleys, there is a good deal of woodland. The general tint of the
landscape is not a bright green; and it resembles the country a
short distance to the south of Concepcion in Chile. In several
parts of the bay little villages of square tidy-looking houses are
scattered close down to the water's edge. Three whaling-ships were
lying at anchor, and a canoe every now and then crossed from shore
to shore; with these exceptions, an air of extreme quietness
reigned over the whole district. Only a single canoe came
alongside. This, and the aspect of the whole scene, afforded a
remarkable, and not very pleasing contrast, with our joyful and
boisterous welcome at Tahiti.

In the afternoon we went on shore to one of the larger groups of
houses, which yet hardly deserves the title of a village. Its name
is Pahia: it is the residence of the missionaries; and there are no
native residents except servants and labourers. In the vicinity of
the Bay of Islands the number of Englishmen, including their
families, amounts to between two and three hundred. All the
cottages, many of which are whitewashed and look very neat, are the
property of the English. The hovels of the natives are so
diminutive and paltry that they can scarcely be perceived from a
distance. At Pahia it was quite pleasing to behold the English
flowers in the gardens before the houses; there were roses of
several kinds, honeysuckle, jasmine, stocks, and whole hedges of

DECEMBER 22, 1835.

In the morning I went out walking; but I soon found that the
country was very impracticable. All the hills are thickly covered
with tall fern, together with a low bush which grows like a
cypress; and very little ground has been cleared or cultivated. I
then tried the sea-beach; but proceeding towards either hand, my
walk was soon stopped by salt-water creeks and deep brooks. The
communication between the inhabitants of the different parts of the
bay is (as in Chiloe) almost entirely kept up by boats. I was
surprised to find that almost every hill which I ascended had been
at some former time more or less fortified. The summits were cut
into steps or successive terraces, and frequently they had been
protected by deep trenches. I afterwards observed that the
principal hills inland in like manner showed an artificial outline.
These are the Pas, so frequently mentioned by Captain Cook under
the name of "hippah;" the difference of sound being owing to the
prefixed article.

That the Pas had formerly been much used was evident from the piles
of shells, and the pits in which, as I was informed, sweet potatoes
used to be kept as a reserve. As there was no water on these hills,
the defenders could never have anticipated a long siege, but only a
hurried attack for plunder, against which the successive terraces
would have afforded good protection. The general introduction of
firearms has changed the whole system of warfare; and an exposed
situation on the top of a hill is now worse than useless. The Pas
in consequence are, at the present day, always built on a level
piece of ground. They consist of a double stockade of thick and
tall posts, placed in a zigzag line, so that every part can be
flanked. Within the stockade a mound of earth is thrown up, behind
which the defenders can rest in safety, or use their firearms over
it. On the level of the ground little archways sometimes pass
through this breastwork, by which means the defenders can crawl out
to the stockade and reconnoitre their enemies. The Reverend W.
Williams, who gave me this account, added that in one Pas he had
noticed spurs or buttresses projecting on the inner and protected
side of the mound of earth. On asking the chief the use of them, he
replied, that if two or three of his men were shot their neighbours
would not see the bodies, and so be discouraged.

These Pas are considered by the New Zealanders as very perfect
means of defence: for the attacking force is never so well
disciplined as to rush in a body to the stockade, cut it down, and
effect their entry. When a tribe goes to war, the chief cannot
order one party to go here and another there; but every man fights
in the manner which best pleases himself; and to each separate
individual to approach a stockade defended by firearms must appear
certain death. I should think a more warlike race of inhabitants
could not be found in any part of the world than the New
Zealanders. Their conduct on first seeing a ship, as described by
Captain Cook, strongly illustrates this: the act of throwing
volleys of stones at so great and novel an object, and their
defiance of "Come on shore and we will kill and eat you all," shows
uncommon boldness. This warlike spirit is evident in many of their
customs, and even in their smallest actions. If a New Zealander is
struck, although but in joke, the blow must be returned; and of
this I saw an instance with one of our officers.

At the present day, from the progress of civilisation, there is
much less warfare, except among some of the southern tribes. I
heard a characteristic anecdote of what took place some time ago in
the south. A missionary found a chief and his tribe in preparation
for war; - their muskets clean and bright, and their ammunition
ready. He reasoned long on the inutility of the war, and the little
provocation which had been given for it. The chief was much shaken
in his resolution, and seemed in doubt: but at length it occurred
to him that a barrel of his gunpowder was in a bad state, and that
it would not keep much longer. This was brought forward as an
unanswerable argument for the necessity of immediately declaring
war: the idea of allowing so much good gunpowder to spoil was not
to be thought of; and this settled the point. I was told by the
missionaries that in the life of Shongi, the chief who visited
England, the love of war was the one and lasting spring of every
action. The tribe in which he was a principal chief had at one time
been much oppressed by another tribe from the Thames River. A
solemn oath was taken by the men that when their boys should grow
up, and they should be powerful enough, they would never forget or
forgive these injuries. To fulfil this oath appears to have been
Shongi's chief motive for going to England; and when there it was
his sole object. Presents were valued only as they could be
converted into arms; of the arts, those alone interested him which
were connected with the manufacture of arms. When at Sydney,
Shongi, by a strange coincidence, met the hostile chief of the
Thames River at the house of Mr. Marsden: their conduct was civil
to each other; but Shongi told him that when again in New Zealand
he would never cease to carry war into his country. The challenge
was accepted; and Shongi on his return fulfilled the threat to the
utmost letter. The tribe on the Thames River was utterly
overthrown, and the chief to whom the challenge had been given was
himself killed. Shongi, although harbouring such deep feelings of
hatred and revenge, is described as having been a good-natured

In the evening I went with Captain Fitz Roy and Mr. Baker, one of
the missionaries, to pay a visit to Kororadika: we wandered about
the village, and saw and conversed with many of the people, both
men, women, and children. Looking at the New Zealander, one
naturally compares him with the Tahitian; both belonging to the
same family of mankind. The comparison, however, tells heavily
against the New Zealander. He may, perhaps be superior in energy,
but in every other respect his character is of a much lower order.
One glance at their respective expressions brings conviction to the
mind that one is a savage, the other a civilised man. It would be
vain to seek in the whole of New Zealand a person with the face and
mien of the old Tahitian chief Utamme. No doubt the extraordinary
manner in which tattooing is here practised gives a disagreeable
expression to their countenances. The complicated but symmetrical
figures covering the whole face puzzle and mislead an unaccustomed

Online LibraryCharles DarwinThe Voyage of the Beagle → online text (page 41 of 51)