Thomas Prestwood Lucas.

Cries from Fiji and sighings from the South Seas. Crush out the British slave trade. Being a review of the social, political, and religious relations of the Fijians online

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Online LibraryThomas Prestwood LucasCries from Fiji and sighings from the South Seas. Crush out the British slave trade. Being a review of the social, political, and religious relations of the Fijians → online text (page 2 of 9)
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only becomes great and influential in proportion to the
influence and poAver of its chief. And what show has tlie
one against the many ? In the national system every
inducement is given and every protection afforded to in-
dividual and family talent and righteous ambition, while in
the chieftain or tribal, all individual effort and aspiration
is lost in the communal and destroyed in the despotic.

The avowed policy of the Englisli Fijian Government,
as related to me by one of its highest officials is — The pre-
servation and protection of the native race by securing to
them tlieir f>ld patriarchal government. By hedging in and
defending the same against tlie crafts and selfishness of
the whites, and by upholding the power of the chiefs.

Such a policy may at first siglit appear philanthropic, but
it is practically fratricidal ! Under existing relations, it
reminds one of the comluct of Joab and Amasa. Appear-
ing before liim in the light of a friend, and greeting him
witli a kiss, as lie grasped him by the beard, " Art tliou in
healtli, my brotlier ?" lie plunged the dagger into his heart.
And while tlie Government are saying to the Fijian,
" Hail, brother !" and frowning upon the whites because
of their grumbling, they, at the same time, are plunging
the dagger of destruction with sure and steady aim into the
heart of the Fijian.

To enable an outsider to see the correctness of the
argument, it is necessary to review briefly the character and
capabilities of the Fijian ; and secondly, the means adopted
by the Government for their carrying out their preservative
and protective policy.


It must be remembered that the Fljians have just
emerged from a state of the deepest moral degradation and
despotic bondage. And this entirely the work of missionary
effort. None can deny this. A man knowingly to deny a fact
must be a fool. Wisdom, philosophy and manly straight-
fonvardness are not in him. He may not like the fact, or
he may not like the actors in the background, but it is
absurdity to deny the fact itself. And in Fiji, it is
patent and palpable to any person who chooses to look
philosophically and unbiassed into the matter. Sir Hercules
Kobinson, in 1875, said, "The great social advances
which have already been made within the last forty years
from savage heathenism, are due to the self-denying and
unostentatious labours of the Wesleyan Church."* History
affirms, and records which cannot be contradicted, show,
that during this present century the Fijians were sunken
more deeply into the slough of degradation than they had
ever been before. And this largely through Englisli in-

About the year 1804, twenty-seven convicts escaped
from New South Wales and landed in Fiji. These men
introduced fire-arms, sunk to the degradation of the natives,
and by their superior knowledge of the arts of civilized
nations, exerted almost a kingly sway over the parts where
they settled. At Mbau and Rewa they allied with the
chiefs, and in return for influence and hospitality, assisted
them, by means of their superior weapons and knowledge,
to increase their rule ; and as a consequence the despotism
* "At Home in Fiji." — Miss Gordon Cummins.


and arrogance of tlieir now more independent and strenytli-
■ened sway. The outcome was an almost absolute despotic
patriarchal sway, overshadowing a reign of terror, and as a
consequence a most degraded and Aile bondage ridden com-
munism. Life was uncertain, sacrificed singly or in
multitudes as occasion dictated. Cruelty in its worst forms
was jn-actised. Law, exce])ting as the caprice of the chiefs,
was almost unknown. A man's hand miglit bo against
every man. and any man's hand might be against him, as
authority or passioni willed. Woman was degraded to a
menial and sold or driven away as policy or fancy dictated.
It was unsafe to leave the Ijorders or precints of one tribe,
•or even township, to pass into the domains of another. If
open warfare was acknowledged, life was sought openly : if
peace was the reign, it needed cliieftain influence and guidal
protection, and too often even then treachery and villany
secured flesli for the oven and a meal for the covetous.
The whole land was but a sum total of habitations of
cruelty. The village had its stone, where the brains of the
victims were dashed out in offering to the gods. One man
would get hold of either arm of the victim, and rushing him
along, dash liis head against the stone, scattering brains
and blood. The township had its tree where innumerable
notches recorded the sacrifice of the slain. The public oven
in the midst of their liabitations for ever raised its polluted
smell to the skies. The chief increased the number of his
wives, thrashing them periodically with his own hand, to
keep them in terror and submission. Strangulation was an
accomplished art. A noose would be thrown over the neck


of the victim, who often passively yielded without a struggle,
A man on either side would grasp the end of the rope (a
roll of native cloth), and placing a foot each, in the armpits,
would simultaneously jmll. The tongue forced from the
mouth, would instantly hang out, and in a moment the
deed was done.

And the English criminal escapees, educated in English
ci'S'ilization, but punished for more or less heinous or trivial
infringements of the laws regulating the same, made matters
ten thousand times worse, by the powers they gave the
chief and tlie fearful examples tliey set before the natives.
Numbers of wives and numbers of children seemed to be
their cliief aim, and to-day villages of half-castes cry from
Fiji, against the wrongs inflicted on helpless heathen by
civilized (?) Englishmen.

A gentleman assured me tliat when in 1S52 lie landed
at Levuka, he dared not walk a mile along tlie shore, nor
dared he to go at all towards the interior.

But missionaries went witli tlieir lives in their hands,
and excepting in one or two instances, and that largely
through their own temporary forgetfulness or neglect of
ordinary caution, were preserved alive. They went lierald-
ing the gospel of Christianity, they lived self-denying
Christian lives. The power of Heaven came down upon
the natives — tlie mercies of tlie Most High overtook the
people, and the lion became the lamb — tlie murderer and
adulterer, the humble truster and believer in Jesus.
And what was the final outcome. Tribe after tribe
accepted the lotu (Christianity), threw away their deadly


weapons, ceased their broils, learned to live in ipeace, filled
the churclies and the schools, buried their taste for man
eating, and sought with all their powers to learn and to
practice the religion of Jesus. And all this before civiliza-
tion could come in to the aid. What was it that modified
the terrors practised by Thakombau in his later years,
and which effectually at last broke down his tyranny and
vileness ? Answer, the gospel of Christianity. And tliis
he acknowledged as he lay dying. " Faith ! Wonderful
faith ! Saved by faith !" He then exerted himself and
prayed aloud with wonderful fervour and power ; and
laying back, quietly passed away. A white man who
stated that the Fijians had not brains enough to compre-
hend and to live Christianity, said, " But I must acknow-
ledge Thakombau was a Clu-istian." Missionaries reduced
the language to a written form, and taught the people
reading and writing. Missionaries taught the j^eople liow
to sing. Their war songs and national ditties are the
veriest doggerel, and are poured forth with a strain in a
a tone something between grunting and a snoring. But
the missionaries composed hymns (the Wesleyan hymn
book contains 168), and taught the natives the old country
tunes, and now they can sing with a power and pathos,
which would send a thrill through any English congrega-
tion, and which would put many a choir to shame. I had
a most pleasing and affecting instance of the same. I was
travelling by boat from Rewa township to Mbau. The
journey was along a tidal river, and partly by sea, eight
hours. The wind was favorable, and as we sped along to


my astonisliment and pleasure, tlie boat's crew struck up a
hymn in Fijian: —

All hail the power of Jesu's name,
Let angels prostrate fall ;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.

I could not speak Fijian, and they could not speak
English, and there was no interpreter. Yet I knew the
tune and recognized the metre, and felt the influence and
spirit of the song. Our spirits were as one, as animated
by the inspiration on those Fijian waters, I joined in the
song, and impelled them on in energy and earnestness.
And although our words were different, our language was
the same, as the angels on their wings wafted our song' to

My feelings as I went back in thought, may be better
imagined than expressed. Savages, and the offspring of
cannibals, and the near relatives of sacrificed cannibal
victims, going in peace and assurance to their old and
hereditar}' enemy, Mbau, and singing songs and praises to
the King of Peace. Men wliom I would not be ashamed
to count as friends and brethren. And all this transfor-
mation, the result of missionary entei-prize.

The Fijian reminded me of the public school boy of
England of old. Youths, from fifteen to seventeen years
of age, would exercise a species of terrorism over the small
boys. Friendships among tlie lads were easily made, easily
broken. Deep feeling among the young was transitory
and flashing, and made little appreciable difference in their


lives and habits. Sorrow was momentary, love was childish,
shallow and fickle. The cares of life did not burden or
trouble the youthful mind. Sufficient for the day was the
evil thereof. The real philosophy of things was as yet a
distant viewed theme. A kind of communism was virtually
acknowledged, so that when any boy obtained a parcel of
cakes and good things, he was regularly besieged by beggars,
and accounted a mean fellow and a glutton if he did not
divide the spoil. In a word, the mental capacities and
ideas were only developed to a limited extent. The boy of
sixteen thinks differently and views things in a very
different light to what a man of forty does. Yet the boy
of sixteen could comprehend the spiritual and understand
the great truths of Christianity and the moral law. His
brain powers are not developed to the extent they would be
at the age of forty. And hence he could not think and
judge at sixteen as lie would at forty.

As far as I could judge, the mental capacities of
the Fijians are on an average, and their ideas had
developed equally, with those of ordinary English school-boys
foom fifteen to seventeen. They are specially restricted in
mathematical mind. But they can count up to a hundred
thousand, having to count thousands of yams at the great
feasts, and as tribute. They have to calculate slowly the
simplest monetary transactions. They can appreciate a
rise in value, but cannot comprehend the reason for a fall
in the money market. For some time everything was
offered in barter for sixpence, until European competition
led on to a shilling. And now a native will ask one


shilling for a dozen or so of lemons or oranges, while
another will ask no more for a large basket full. A man
with a sovereign and wanting commodities, will go to a
shop or store, and first of all change his gold for twenty
shillings. If the article he requires cost sixpence or three-
pence, he will again change a shilling for these smaller
coins. He thus gains confidence, and will slowly and
cautiously pay in each separate coin, as he receives the
article of equivalent value. If a native be sent for change
for a five pound note, he will almost assuredly return and
declare that the change is not correct. He gets puzzled
in counting it, or possibly he may drop a coin, just as a
thoughtless English boy might do. If the Englishman,
who gave the cliange, is firm and confident that he gave
the exact amount, and especially if he can bring corrobora-
tive proof, then the bearer of the cliange must explain and
resolve the difficulty, or be accounted by his fellows as a
thief and a rogue. These errors so often occur, that many
of the whites, judging severely, count all the Fijians as
thieves and lazy rascals, whereas the error is oftener than
not, through the lack of intelligence.

Like English schoolboys, the Fijians are full of merri-
ment, and are likewise extremely loquacious. Give them
biscuits, and a whole company will laugh and talk in the
loudest and utmost confusion. I had but to enter a native
village, show my butterfly net and its object, and my collecting
box with the specimens pinned out, and amidst greetings of
the loudest laughter, and most extreme signs of pleasure
and approbation, all would essay to assist me in my natural


history search. And the young women especially, on cap-
turing a grasshopper or a spider, would triumphantly bring
the cajjture, the whole company simply screaming with

Like the schoolboys again, they are terrible beggars.
Share and share alike is not always satisfaction. A man
with a poor shirt will fancy a better one, which his neigh-
is wearing, and proposes an exchange, which it is neither
custom or etiquette to refuse. A man may earn a pound,
when this one fancies something, and that one needs some-
thing, until the poor fellow's pound disappears in shillings,
scarcely leaving one or more for his own use. And as a
further analogy to the public school boy ideas, tlie chief as
the dux, monitor or prefect, over the small boys or fags, may
and do come on the man for the tit-bits or lion's share. A
chief's rights by custom and law are ten per cent. And
thus it is, that the patriarchal communism destroys all
individual ambition among the Fijians. And without indi-
vidual ambition and emulation, there is no stimulus to
personal effort, either physical or mental, beyond what is
enforced by the communal, or beyond what may be suggested
by the requirements of the hour. Hence a Fijian with
plenty of food, with little necessity for clothing, passes his
life in an indolent dream. For, owing to his governmental
laws and customs, he is neither fired with the ambition of
amassing property, nor with the desire to rise in the social,
mental or political scale, beyond the place where birth and
circumstances have placed him. If he wants a new hand-
kerchief for a sulu, or if lie desires to buy bread, or a knife,


or a lamp, or a similar trinket, lie will dive for coral, or
searcli the reef for shells, and these he will offer for sale to
ships' crews or to white visitors. Others will sell bananas
or cocoa-nuts, while others again will work at manual
labour. But their needs satisfied, they are uncertain as to
their continuance as servants. Further, Fijians are proud,
and partly through pride, and fear of being satired by their
kinsfolk, even as school boys would act, they are exceedingly
diffident at working within their own township or tribe.
As children, they have little moral [courage, and cannot
bear ridicule or satire. But many, away from their native
village, are willing and ready to work, and prove able and
efficient servants.

Much has been said of the advancing and increasing
capacities of mankind. It is urged that the stone age men
are of vastly smaller capacities than are those of [these
civilized times. And some naturalists go so far as to
tabulate a Homo pygma?us, as precedent to the Homo
sapiens. In the South Seas we get the man of the stone
age ; we see others passing into the iron age. How, then,
do their capacities appear in relation with those of polished,
refined Europeans ? On the whole I believe the capacities
of mankind to be equal, that is in striking an all-round
average. And doubtless, this has been the case from the
beginning. I measured the heads of a boat's crew of
Fijians (eight men), round the temples. They measured
22^ to 25^ inches. Now this is a good English average*
The circumference thus measured, bore relation to the size
and weight of the whole body. It was not a key to the


mental capacities, but it was tlie key to tlie nerve or brain-
centre capacities. The man with the smallest liead was
quite a genius for music, and was the precentor in tlie
Ciiurch of his native township, but he had the smallest body.
Tlie brain-centre capacities are developed according as they
are exercised or called into play in active life. They cannot
all be developed largely. The calling any particular centre
or centres into large development means a diminishing or
cramping the development of others. In the South Sea
Islanders of the stone age, the pliysical factors are from
generation to generation being called into play. Hence they
are largely developed, fine muscles, strong limbs, &c.
Particular features are most highly intuitioned. Riggling
through the bush with snake-like fleetness and quiet ;
climbing trees with the agility of a monkey ; using
the bow and arrow, or aiming Avith the ponderous club ;
resisting tlie influences of the weather in an almost nude
condition ; the powers of swinmiing and diving ; the arts
of rude navigation. But all these powers call up a certain
and that a large amount of the brain capacity. Then in
the mental arena, the native is intuitioned as a child of
nature. He notices the products of nature, studies their
uses, uses their similes in argument. Thus his capacities
are drawn upon both physically and mentally up to the
extent of those capacities. But when he passes on from
the stone to the iron age, he draws less on particular
capacities, the rude arts often so highly perfected, cease to
be a necessity, and so become lost. But in place of these
non-utilized capacities, he can begin to learn reading,


writing, and tlie simple rules of arithmetic. And as
generations pass, as shown by the negroes, the people
might become more highly and intellectually developed, by
a continued training in that direction, but at the loss of
physical prowess or rude astute perfections of former days.
In a word, the capacities of the people are the same in the
latter generation as in the former, but the relative develop-
ment of the various capacities are shifted. And doubtless
this has ever been the case with mankind. The physical
capacities of the wild man are developed far beyond those
of the scholar or the civilized man ; but tlie mental
capacities of the scholar or civilized man are far more
highly developed tlian those of the untutored savage.
Nevertheless on tlie average, the sum total of their re-
.spective developments indicate a like amount, on the
average, of all-round nerve or brain development, size for
size, according to the relative projtortions of the body.
There is no increase of brain matter necesssary to the
development of intellectual capacities. It is simply
developed to the full in tluit particular direction in preference
to others not tuitioned into play.

The whites complain that the Fiji man is lazy and many
call him or look upon him as a dog, fit only for eating and
sleeping and [causing trouble. But after all, they act ;js
the whites themselves would under the circumstances, only
ten times better. If the whites had all their wants
supplied, if personal possessions were an impossibility, and
if work brought little reward, they certainly would not
work. The marvel is not, why so many Fijians decline


work, but how it i? that so many do work. They have
little need to work, theyjhave little reward for work, they
are often snubbed and treated as dogs, perhaps not
molested, but sneered at and snubbed, and satire is worse
than cuffs to tlie Viti man, by those for whom they do
work. What wonder then, that so many prefer the easy
trading and the independence, to the heavy manual labour,
and the too often servile bondage ! Yet because of this
state of things, rendered worse as we sliall shew shortly, by
the Government, the blacks are spoken of badly, and held
in contempt by the whites.

The patriarchal communal system in two ways specially
makes against the natives seeking to work or to amass
substance or wealth. When any work among themselves
is required to be done, all the men of a village or tribe will
be ordered out by the chief to assist in that work. When
in Eewa, I saw an instance of this. The chiefs were about
to return from a council which had been held. All hands
were set on to clear the village paths of weeds and grass.
It was ludicrous and most amusing to watch a company of
some 300 men, in schoolboy fashion, some with spades,
some with hoes, and others with any implement, even to a
stick or knife, whichever they could command, seeking to
clear the few weeds from a narrow road, of some ten or
twelve feet wide, for a distance of less than a quarter of a
mile. They set about it without any apparent order or
definite plan. Each one struck at a weed wherever he
might fancy, and this large band of able-bodied men, so
pompous in ceremony, would accomplish less real work than


two or throe sturdy Englislinien could have done in the
same time. And tliat in a mucli more slovenly manner.
But this to the Fijian mind is the correct method of
working, and hence for a European to ask him to perform
manual labour, and not himself and all hands join in, is
almost, if not quite, an insult to the native ideas. And
further, the communal system, which teaches them to beg
from and to give to one another, leads them on to try the
same with the English. The natives are however beginning
to learn that the English will not thus part with their
property. And that they for value requiie equivalent value.
But yet the idea is rooted in their minds by ti-aditiou and
custom, that goods should be in common. And if work
should be communal and goods communal, why should they
alone be asked to work, and for the benefit alone and the
amassing wealth alone to the white man. Trade is now
stepping in, but yet the natives, where they think they
can succeed, will beg. And it is only by satire or by return-
ing the compliment that they can be made to desist. I stayed
one night and was hospitably entertained at a native village,
one of the latest to lotu, and until comparatively recently un-
safe to visit. I was in the most cool manner asked for ray
watch. I nodded my head, laughed, and answered, " To-
morrow." Tlie joke pleased and I was troubled no further.
An Englishman living near related to me a most amusing
experience. He visited a chief, who professed very great
friendship and regard. But this man and his people proved
most irrational beggars. The more he gave, the more they
begged. This, viewed from the standpoint of the English


scliool boy, was only natural. As children, tliey were glad
to get hold of the white man's, to them, curios. He found
himself in a fix, not deeming it policy, under the circum-
stances, to refuse the polite demands. His only remedy
was to imitate the traveller in his relations with the Indian
chief. That chief who protected and acted as a great friend
to the traveller would periodically relate, how that in his
dreams, the great spirit had awarded him various valuables,
possessions of the white man : and the traveller had in
policy to present him with them. At length, when the
dreaming became frequent and unbearable, he met the
Indian with a like complaint. He liad dreamed, and the
great spirit had directed that the best piece of land and of
large dimensions should be given to the traveller. On
relating this to the chief, his face witnessed the angered
and restrained feelings within his breast, when he answered,
" Take them, my friend, but let us have no more dream-
ing." And so the white man belaboured in Fiji, turned
round, gave no breathing time, but rapidly asked for every-
thing he saw in the possession of one after another. He
was never again subjected to begging in that township.
The joke was too practical.

Fijians again, as English school boys, do not appear to
know depths of sorrow or love. The finer heaven-like
passions are not strongly developed. They may and do
have paroxysms of sorrow, but they are neither lasting nor
deep. A woman in a native village Avhich I visited had
shortly before lost her child A gentleman, who hap-
pened to be present at the time, told me that she set .

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Online LibraryThomas Prestwood LucasCries from Fiji and sighings from the South Seas. Crush out the British slave trade. Being a review of the social, political, and religious relations of the Fijians → online text (page 2 of 9)