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 3 of 9)
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up a hideous wail, and kept it up for two hours. Soon
after there was little or no sign of grief. And so it is with
English children. Their grief is paroxysmal and to them
for the moment crushing, but it is soon over. And in both
cases it is demonstrative. Whereas the deep crushing
son'ow, or the unassuaged lasting grief so frequently seen
in the more intellectually matured English, is wanting or
almost unknown among the South Sea Islanders.

And so with love. Here they do not seem to be demon-
strative, excepting in polite words. I saw a large number
of the inhabitants of a village return from a journey of
some days by sea. Their boat was laden with food and
other articles. They busied themselves, rather in carrying
their effects into the village, than in saluting their relatives
and friends whom they had not seen for days. A husband
would stop a minute to shake hands (an introduced custom),
with his wife, and each to pass a smile. A little lad of
seven or eight years ran to his mother. Both for a
moment showed their pleasure, the boy in dancing around
and looking up at his mother, the mother in putting her
arms round the lad and pressing him fondly to her breast.
But even this was temporary. I saw no kiss bestowed.
A sniff up the nose takes the place of the kiss in Fiji. A
person presses his nose against another's hand and sniffs ;
this shows respect. He acts the same against the cheek,
and this betokens affection. But, for the most part,
although I inquisitively watched the returning ones
come to their homes, the salutations were common-place,
or a formal shake of the hand. Plenty of talking,


plenty of laughing, but little besides. And so with slight
exception, we find this state of things, little demonstration
of affection, among English school boys. It is stated that
these people have no word in their language for gratitude.
An English boy knows the word, but very seldom, or only
to a limited degree, understands or experiences the depths
of gratitude. A Polynesian expressed great fondness for
a white baby, and so was engaged entirely as nnrse. And
it is well-known tliat English children, from babies
upward, get on far better with the natives than with
white servants. Their sympathies are nearer akin. And
a native will quiet and amuse a cliild where a European
fails. This man was hired for a certain period, and
vowed that when his time was up, he would engage again,
as he could not leave his loved baby. But, alas ! when
the time arrived, his boasting was gone ; and, as if
ashamed of satire on his conduct, he departed unheralded
and by stealth. I was highly amused with a village of
native l)oys. Curious and prying, they came to me, got
me ferns, took my net and caught insects, and carried
some papers I had. Each one wanted to help. And for
every favor I bestowed, or notice I took, the recipient
would say " Tliank you ! " Thank you-s were numerous,
and doubtless as full of meaning as many a one uttered
by the more favoured English boy. Yet many white
people argue that, as the Fijians are so deficient in these
passions, that tliey cannot rise to the spiritual, and that
hence the efforts of missionaries are futile, except to
generate hypocrisy and to foster pride. This, at first


sight, might appear feasible. But a review of the scliool-
boy life, analogous, as we stated, with the Fijian, will
demonstrate otherwise. School boys and Fijians are both
higlily spiritual. They are both easily impressed, and are
not troubled with doubts and inimical pliilosophical creeds.
Both can love up to their capacities, and both can under-
stand the principle of vicarious propitiatoiy sacrifice as the
expression of, and as actuated by, love. Love, the sheet-
anchor of the Christian religion. And while the school boy
has not the capacities, either of intellect or of this noblest
passion, maturely developed, yet he can, and often does,
attain to a consistent profession and possession of true
godliness. And so the Fijian. He has not the capacities
of the educated, intelligent, and experienced Englishman ;
but he has a capacity to understand a plan so simple that
the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.

But a possession of religion necessitates a keen struggle
and continuous effort to retain and increase. And it is
well-known to every observer that profession often belies
possession, and that, through weariness and unwatchful-
ness, even Europeans become lukewarm and careless, while
many altogether fall away. And in judging the Fijians,
allowance should be made for their less developed capaci-
ties, for their numerous temptations, for the hereditary
evil tendencies of their nature, and for their natural puerile
weaknesses. The example of the white people, whom they
know are higher in the social scale, is often most deleteri-
ous. The missionaries teach them, as children should be
taught, with Puritan severity and rule. The Sabbath is


for them in letter, as well as in spirit, a day of rest. But tlie
Europeans largely set a contra example, and so agitate the
minds of these little ones.

Taught by tlie missionaries,, tliey endeavour to an extent
unprecedented in civilised, nominally Christian countries,
to live as far as knowledge and capacities lead, Christian
lives. Eveiy morning numbers assemble for family prayer.
On the Sabbath, the churches are filled witli devout wor-
shippers. Anxious to see for myself, I attended the native
services. Immediately on the minister and white visitors
entering the church, the congregation, devoutly kneeling,
chanted a prayer, asking for the blessing of the Almighty on
the service, that they might be profited and blessed. After
the opening prayer, they chanted the Lord's Prayer and the
Apostles' Creed. Before the delivery of the sermon, they
chanted the Fourth Cammandment, Remember the Sabbath
Day, &c. The chanting was commenced by the women,
and then taken up and carried on by the men. The wliole
ceremony was most impressive and solemn. I listened to
a natiA'e local jjreacher or teacher, as he urged upon his
hearers, the value of tlieir privileges. " Not long ago," he
said, "we were like people shut up in a dark house — all the
doors barred, and no Avindows. We had no outlook. All
was dark. Prison darkness, which could be felt, surrounded
us all. And we were helpless, lost, and miserable. But
the light shone forth. The doors of the dungeon were
opened. The light shone in upon us. And now we see
the full sunshine of gospel-day. But many of us are
forgetful. We do not embrace this light. We prefer the


darkness. Or we like tlie twilight. Wherefore shoiUd we
neglect such glorious privileges ? And what punishment
shall we deserve if we allow tliis glorious liglit and liberty
to pass from us unheeded ?" I was simply astounded by
what I saw and heard.

Wlule at Mbau, I witnessed a number of mekes or
native dances. The men dance alone. Tlie women like-
wise dance with each other. The movements of tlie body
and of tlie limbs are in perfect symmetiy. Tliey are
extremely graceful and most artistic.

The strangers had to be feasted by the townsjieople. I
counted seventeen pigs, roasted whole, carried past me to
tlie meal. And yet, although there was so much excite-
ment, although it was a public holiday, the week-night
preaching service was attended by hundreds.

When at Ovalau, I received an invitation to attend a
natiA'e missionary meeting. Before the day in question,
the people of the village sent to their minister, and asked
permission for the meeting to be put off for a day or two.
They stated that tliey had not money sufficient for what,
in their hearts, they wished to give. Three steamers, one
a pleasure party steamer, were expected, and they wished
to secure these opportunities, so as to sell coral and curios.
And then they would have money for the missionary
meeting. As desired, the meeting was deferred. On the
morning of the day chosen, I had the pleasure, with three
other visitors, of visiting that village. The chief had made
a feast for strangers. The visiting natives were treated
according to their rank or precedence. A spokesman


regretted that the feast was not more varied or clioice. But
the visitors were most welcome, and lie hoped they would
partake of the good things in the same spirit as that in
which they were given. A suitable reply and compli-
mentary speech was made. The feast began. Fish soup,
boiled fish, ndalo, yams, sweet puddings. Portions were
awarded to the whites. Afterwards the natives feasted
witli a will. After the feast came the missionary meeting.
A native gave a brief address. He stated the good they
themselves had received from the lotu. He drew attention
to the South Sea Islanders still in heathenism ; and he
wound up by urging them all to give liberally.

I expected to see a number of speakers get up with the
object, as is necessary in Eno;lisli. audiences, of inciting to
good works and to liberal gifts ; but I was mistaken. In
a business manner tliey looked at matters. The collection
was at once called. The chief got up, and in a stately
grace, as a child proud of success, put on the plate eleven
shillings. Then others stepped up with offerings. Then
the little girls, nicely decorated with flowers and ferns,
walked up and put their sixpenny and threepenny pieces
on the plate. There was joy among the poor people of
that native village, as, like the' Jews of old, they bi ought
up and poured fortli their gifts into the treasury ; almost
their all. Tlie collection amounted to three pounds nine-
teen shillings and sixpence.

The village was so poor, that the cocoa-nut trees had to
be tabooed (forbidden) to pay the Government taxes. The
English were anxious to taste the young nuts. But no ;


they were forbidden. No one dared to climb. At last, a
bonny-looking young woman said, " I can manage it for
you." And so she ran to the chief. In a few minutes
she returned, and stated that, in lionour of the white
guests, the taboo was taken from one tree. Permission given,
a native looked up, and judging of the nuts as they grew,
selected the tree with tlie finest fruit. He crawled and
climbed with the most perfect ease — a far better gymnast
than any English actor. In a few minutes, nuts were
thrown down, unhusked, opened, and the guests refreshed
by the beautiful cool milk. Such was tlie hospitality, and
such the liberality we witnessed in a poor village. Poor in
this world's goods ; but rich in gifts and graces too often
lacking in more refined and more higlily favoured commu-
nities. And like instances might be nmltiplied.

One tliousand and seventy teachers, and two thousand
and ninety-seven scliool teachers, are distributed among
the various towns and villages. These men are supported
by the natives, and get a salary of twelve to twenty
shillings a quarter. And often the towns are too poor to
pay even that moiety. And yet, such is tlieir love of
the work, that they remain at their posts, even though
poor, rather tlian be led away by promise of higlier wages.

In 1875 it was proposed to open a mission in New
Britam. The matter was laid before a number of Fijian
teachers. Nine volunteered to go. Seven of tliese were
married. The British Consul interfered, considering it
his duty to explain to tliem the dangers they were


running. He sought to dissuade them from their enter-
prise ; but they were not to be moved from their purpose.
They stated that they knew the difficulties and dangers, and
if they got killed, well ; if they lived, well : Go they must.
One of the wives was tlien urged not to go — not to risk
her life. She answered : " I am like the outrigger
of a canoe — where the canoe goes, there you will
surely find the outrigger." And they went. Four were
murlered by the cannibals for the ovens. And yet the
gaps were soon filled up, and fresh teachers continued to
volunteer. When we remember that the Fijians are
naturally cowards, we are astounded at the valour and
heroism. No forces of civilization could work such
wonders. Their lives in their hands, and the club and the
ovens awaiting them ! Yet they go. Love to enemies.
Christian philosophy. Heavenly purity. And to-day
some 3000 more or less tamed cannibals witness to the
self-denying love of the white missionary, and of these
men in the New Britain Mission.

Altliough naturally of strong passions, considering their
surroundings, their weaknesses, and their temptations, these
people keep remarkably moral and temperate. They not
only abstain from intoxicating drinks, but many of them
have joined a " Blue Ribbon " movement to abstain from
the Yangona and tobacco. This Yangona is a native drink, of
which they are very fon !, and whicli simply renders the
legs helpless, without affecting the head, other than with a
pleasurable satisfied sensation. In travelling by boat from
Suva to the Rewa River, the wind was against us, and tlie


two natives, Kandavu boys, had to pull the whole distance
of twelve miles. A gentleman in the company had taken
bottles of beer for the whites, and had considerately
provided bottles of tea and milk for the natives. Seeing
beer, they were suspicious, and the one persistently refused
to drink the tea, Avhile the other was with great difficulty
persuaded to swallow a portion. They were assured that
the tea had been specially provided for them, but the
bottles of beer made them fear treachery or a practical
joke. And I was agreeably surprised and astounded to
see how the one refused any drink at all, lest he should
err, even, working liard as he was, under the discomfiture
of a tropical sun.

For a people, and this chiefly owing to tlie missionaries'
teaching, they are most circumspect as regards the
Europeans. The young women by their own regulations,
are only allowed to go out two and two. Those whites who
set the disgraceful example of living in concubinage, liave
to appropriate imported Tongan, Samoan, or Rotumah
women. While a Fijian prostitute is most rare. I only
heard of one confirmed case of an Euglisli girl being seduced
by a Fijian. And tliis was one of terrible retribution, and
occurred some little time ago. A young Englishman
visited Kandavu, and tliere lived prodigal and rakish.
Some time after, he was commissioned to get labour boys.
He went again to Kandavu, and, as an inducement, promised
wives, and among them the hand of his own sister. To the
astonishment of every one, in a very short time he returned
with a number of the boys. Some months afterwards, the


young man's family found that the daughter had been
seduced, and furthermore by a Fijian. The man openly
aclcnowledged his guilt, gloried over his revenge,
stating that it was the avowed agreement of the boys, to
accept the labour bonuses, so as to gain an opportunity to
be revenged on the young man, for seducing women of
their township. And he dared the friends to bring the
matter forward before the Crown authorities. They thought
and adopted the wiser and more discreet plan of silence,
and sent the girl away to Sydney.

During tlie old regime, wviwan was powerless before a
Chief, but now that Christianity has enlightened the people
the matter is changed. Only a few days previous to my
visit, a Avoman of Christian profession fought bravely with
her fists, and beat off a very high chief and Government
official, who sought to tamper with her. In fact, the
Chiefs are the greatest sinners, I eing placed in power by
the Government, and armed witli ])rivileges (a permit to
drink alcoliolic drinks, to have many wives, &c.), which act
deleteriously to the small capacity intelligence. A little
power is dangerous, and puffs up weak intellect, and so the
ill-awarded powers damage the holders morally, socially, and
physically. But worst of all, the poor people have to suffer-
Thus when all things are taken into consideration,
it must be acknowledged that Christianity has done a
great deal for Fiji. And often in spite of bad examples,
where better should have been expected. Out of about
120,000 natives, the Wesleyan body have an attendance of
some 100,000, and a membership of 35,000. And although


there are black sheep among them as in every flock, yet
many of them are earnestly striving to live better lives and
to be true Christians.

Fijians, as schoolboys, have not highly developed me-
chanical minds. Their wants are few and simple, and
so the brain in this particular direction has not been led to

Again like schoolboys they are highly inquisitive, and to
a fault. Perhaps this is now tlieir worst national failing.
They seem uneasy and unhappy until they can satisfy their
curiosity. A storekeeper commissioned one of them to
take eight business letters to Suva, a distance of a few
miles. The man asked to be told the contents of each.
He was curtly denied, but assured they were not about
himself. He refused to take tlie letters. The two natives
who accompanied me in my tour inland, asked a planter
why I collected ferns, insects and bii'ds. To make tea in
Sydney, was tlie planter's jocular reply. Scarcely knowing
whether it was so, or whether it was a joke, they asked no
further, but simply sought to read from his countenance,
what they were uncertain of in words. But though
extremely inquisitive, their inquisitiveness in only childish,
and a mere superficial explanation and comprehension
will satisfy their curiosity.

The Fijians are of a keen nervous temperament. They
seem to live very near the spirit land. Their gods in the days
of heathenism were spirits. It has been suggested in scientific
circles, that as the human brain becomes more developed,
second sight or impressions from the spirit world would be


more easily aud often perceived. But here facts disprove
theory. Among the Fijians we get a far more keen per-
ception, through nervous influences, than we do in more
refined advanced intellects. Even the Australian abori-
gines could foretell the advent of a ship days before
sighted. A young Fijian student, anxious to become a
successful teacher, studied liard. He got some disease
which those around him could not understand. His head
was very hot, and he experienced great pain. Lassitude,
and so to speak, a giving up the ghost, a resigning all
energy and struggle after life, came on, and he apparently
died. He was gone so far as only to give a breath every
two or three minutes. Wlien all believed him to be gone,
and were preparing to jierform the last ceremonies, he
suddenly rose up and said: " I thought I was gone ; but
I liave come back again to urge you all to be watchful and
earnest in prayer." He then dropped back and died.
Another teacher, apparently in good health on the Thurs-
day or Friday, said : " I must get all things in order — I
shall preach my farewell sermons on Sunday ; give tickets
and arrange clmrch matters on Monday ; for on Tuesday
I shall stretch all sail and fly away." He carried out these
intentions. On Tuesday he ate a hearty breakfast, and,
after breakfast, lay down and died. A little lad lay on his
mat poorly. " Father," he said, " what day is it to-day ?"'
" Wednesday ! " " Oh, well," he said, "on what day shall I
die ? I would like to die on Sunday." When Sunday morning
came, he appeared better, and likely to recover. " Father,"
he said, '* what day is it to-day ? " " Sunday ! " " Oh, father.


I shall go to-day. When the sun is at the full I shall pass
away." And so he did — died on Sunday at noon, A
woman in a distant village sent for a teacher, to see her,
as she felt she must die. She waited until the teacher
arrived, received his sympathy and offices, and directly

An old man expected his son to come back from a
journey. He fidgetted at his delay, stating that he was
to die on Monday night ; but he must first see his son
and say farewell. His son did not come on Monday, and
so he said : " Well, he will be here to-morrow ; so I will
wait and see him, and then die on Tuesday evening." His
son did come ; he said farewell, and died on the Tuesday

And these are not solitary cases. They seem to get an
impression, and, unless very strong influences counteract,
the impression acts so on the nervous system as even to
destroy life. Just as the Frenchman, condemned to death,
agreed to be bled to death in preference to dying at the
hands of the executioner. He saw an array of surgical
instruments, was then blindfolded, scratched on the arm,
and water allowed, in imitation of blood, to trickle over
the limb, faster and freer, until the poor victim sank in
death — life destroyed or unhinged by nerve influences.
And so with these children of nature — all the South Sea
and Australasian aboriginals. But whence do they receive
the impressions. The presence, in his garden or camp, of
a certain plant said to be a death scavenger, has been


known to cause the death of the unfortunate finder.
Death-struck — bewitched — frightened out of existence.

The mind of a Fijian is highly philosophical. It is so
in two aspects — the argumentative and the deductive.

He is pre-eminently a child of Nature. His communings
are with Nature. He learns from Nature. He copies
Nature. He knows almost every wild flower of his district,
and can tell the stranger where each kind grows. He has
studied their uses. From some he obtains his food, which
is chiefly vegetable. From some he obtains his material
for clothing, for rope and twine for fishing and other nets,
and for all his primitive requirements. Among them he
discovers his angona, wherewith to cheer and delight his
lieart, and he finds medicines for the various diseases to
which he is subject. In argument, he draws his lessons
from Nature's pictures. Speaking of a profession of
Christianity, one of them compared a noisy and open pro-
fession to a mountain torrent. The still undemonstrative
profession, he compared to the silent spring. Now, he
said, to speak a fable, " The spring, which poured forth
silently, complained to the mountain torrent about the
great noise it made. See, said the spring, I go quietly on
my course, carrying water to the sea ; but you spend your
strength largely in roaring, foaming, hissing, and dashing
among the rocks." And so the spring remonstrated, and
many agreed that so much noise and show was not good.
But, by-and-bye there came a long drought, and then the
spring was dried up ; but the mountain torrent still rolled
on. The silence of the spring proved its feebleness. It


was not noisy in its flow because it had not the volumes of
water ; and hence, when the drought came, it soon dried up.
So, he said, it is with religion. If a person have a great
volume, he must be expressive and demonstrative. He must
be seen and heard. But if there be not much religion in liis
breast, there is no volume to demonstrate, and so the flow is
still ; and when adversity and trial, as drought come, then his
soul dries up.

Their public addresses — religious or otherwise — their
tribal and other debates, are all illustrated by the same
lines — the pencillings of Nature. And, from these, the
speakers draw analogies or impress lessons.

The Fijians are highly artistic. They take great pains
with their hair, and, on special occasions, that of a chief
will be got up in the most artistic fashion. Tliey adorn it
most tastefully with flowers and ferns. They plant the
most beautiful flowers in their gardens and around their
homesteads. The various species of hibiscus do not appear
to be indigenous, at all events to the southern Fijis, as
they are never found wild. They are always and only
found in inhabited or deserted villages ; and it is a puzzle
as to where and how they obtained them generations ago.
Some are found in Asia, others in New Guinea. Did the
Fijians obtain them thence ? Ferns are often planted,
and grow over the entrances of their houses. Their
churches are often neatly decorated with cowry shells and
other ornaments. Of old, their clubs and spears were
elaborately and curiously carved, and that with tools the
most meagre and primitive. Neat patterns are printed on


their native cloth, and pretty, thoiigli simple, designs on
their rade pottery.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and Nature is
the uncivilised people's great teacher. Hence, in the

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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 3 of 9)