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 4 of 9)
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cultivation of ndalo (together with yams, their staff of
life), the Fijians note that it requires for growth, good
allmnal soil, continuous wet, and plenty of air and room.
And so a native, where he cannot utilise natural swamps,
■will search the mountain stream until he finds a portion
of the bank where he can, by means of small boulders and
stones from the brook, build a series of terraces, over
which a portion of the waters may slowly trickle. With
great care and neatness he builds up these terraces, finish-
ing with small stones, and capable of retaining a necessary
proportion of rich soil. And, at a proper distance apart, he
plants his ndalo roots, from which, in due course, he
obtains an abundant harvest. And furthermore, he learns
the wisdom of giving the ground a rest, and so shifts the
scene of his operations, and periodically chooses new

I saw some wide moats, which reminded one of the old
Britons of two thousand years ago. It appears that these
were dug out as defence works. They were fairly wide,
deep, and for some three or four feet filled with mud and
shallow water. In this mud were implanted stakes, with
their sharp ends upwards, and so thickly together, as to
leave no room for stepping between. I had always been
led to believe that the ancient British moats were filled with
water, but on seeing the Fijian, the question arises, was


tliat feasible ? The enemy, or a large proportion, could
easily swim across such a narrow obstruction ; but they
could not cross, and especially with naked feet, a planta-
tion of sharp stakes, spikes upward, and hidden and
rendered more slippery and disagreeable by a tliickness of
soft mud and shallow water.

We liave seen that tlie professed policy of tiie Govern-
ment is to preserve the native race. This object is most
noble and christianlike, if it be really intended. But
actions spealv louder than words ; and, from the acts of
the Government, only two inferences can be drawn —
either that the expressed policy is a mere blind, or tliat
the governing body is not competent to carry out its own

We have endeavoured to show that the patriarchal
government is deterrent to a people's advancement, antl,
in fact, to a people's civilization. It destroys the indivi-
dual manhood, by rooting out tlie very foundations of
independence, liberty, ambition, and wealth. And yet, the
Government who profess such a vast anxiety for the
preservation and protection of the natives, frames string-
ent laws for the maintenance of the })atriarchal rule. And
this rule is, in some respects, under tlie new reqime, more
grinding tlian uiuk'r their own old tribal sway. Tliere were,
in the olden times, some restraints on tlie powers
of a chief. He could — excepting as in Thakombau's
or similar cases, where, by extra trilial and other
means, he had obtaincil a more than solid footing
— be at any time cluldx'd ; (ir his people could leave
him and go and join another trilie. But now the


English, as if afraid of an independent or straightforward
policy, raise the chiefs and sub-chiefs and crush the
people. They have the old power retained to them, and
fortified by the backing of the British Lion. They can
crush their people, and, though there may be nominal
redress, yet red tai)eism rendei's it of little or no effect. A
native, if he feels liimself aggrieved, has to come before
the British Government through the very chief by Avhoin
he is aggrieved. And justice then is very tardy, or not
forthcoming at all. It seems as if the chiefs kept the
Government in fear ; or it may be tliat the cliiefs
are pampered so as to save the trouble of dealing
directly with the })eople.

A company wants 20<) men. It opens relations with the
chief and the Government ; and the 200 men, as slaves,
have to go, leaving wives and liomes, whether tliey will it
or no.

A man fell in love with a girl — a rare tiling in Fiji,
where marriages are arranged b}' the friends. He had to
go to the lieutenant of the town — a petty sub-chief, and
had to pay a triHe to get the application registei'ed, and, if
there were no lawful objection, the marriage licensed.
The lieutenant, at the instance of a higlier chief,
refused the license. There was no lawful objection;
but the chief either fancied the woman himself (a
chief may have more wives than one), or he had a
grudge against the i>oor man. Amazed, anil at a loss
to guess the reason, the man wrote to the chief,
asking wliv lie should interfere, and to allow him what was
his rinhtful due — the license. The chief, in anger, had him


seized and sent to a town some miles away as a prisonei'.
After a time, the man returned home. On re-entering tlie
village, lie was again seized by the cliief and kept a
jprisoner — the chief saying the man was in his jurisdiction,
and not under that of the Englisli Government. Tlie
Government were communicated with, but they took }io
action. Slavery ! Cotild anything be more vile ; and the
man a peaceable British subject. Is it come to this, after
our glorious fights for freedom, that our Gracious Queen
has to rule over slaves? And yet tliis feeble British
■Government allowed the man to be kept a prisoner by a
petty poA\erful. impudent chief.

Slaves ! Yes, the people are slaves. Lest the white man
should put upon them, they are not allowed to work of
their own free will. They belong to tlie patriarch or chief,
who must not be oft'endeil ; and so, if they desire work,
•or if planters or others wish to liire labour, they must go
to the chief or slave-holder. The law states that if a native
wish to work, he must register his name on a public notice
list ; he must obtain the consent of his tribal chief ; and
he must obtain the consent of the Government. AVhat a
vast red tapeism, and need it be wondered, that it is a
barrier, almost impenetrable, to the unsophisticated native.

But the man is to his town cliief and tribal chief, pro-
perty, and what is to compensate them for the loss
stistained, tor the time he may be away. The planter nee^l
to make this right by a bribe or present. Supposing all
these preliminaries, after many delays and repeated official
rebuffs, be sttrmounted, tlien the man goes for a certain
wage and for a brief period only. It niny lie a month,


three months, six months, or even a year, according to
circumstances. If, out of his own district, further for-
malities have to be met, tlie man has to go before a
magistrate, and various difficulties and obstructions liave
to be removed. After doing his term of service, he may
engage again, provided tlie gauntlet be run as before.
And, after all this toil and working, he has to give a
portion — at tlie lowest, one-tenth — of his wages to the
chief, and submit to the begging of his friends, for to rid
himself of most of the remainder.

When desirous of taking a native canoe and a couple of
men for a tour of the river, 1 had to apply to the chief of
the town. He was very pompous, and stated that his de-
sire was to assist me, but he could not spare the time that
day ; he would see to it on the morrow. A secretary, wlia
was writing letters to tlie council of chiefs, then sitting,
said to him : " We must make commission out of this."
" No," lie said. " Tliis man is a doctor of medicine. He
has not come to buy or to sell ; but he has come to study
science. We know nothing of science, and he wants to
tind out the cure for diseases, and how to benefit us. You
shall not malce anything out of him. He shall pa}^ the
two men one shilling a day each and rations, and I myself
will lend him a canoe. I thouglit I liad certainly got hold
of a most sensible and liospitable chief, and shook liands
with him most cordially. Next day he spent the morning
in getting the boys and the canoe, and we at lengtli started.
The boys were everytliing that could be wislieil. They
worked willingly ; they climbed trees of their own accord
whenever tliey sighted a new plant or fern ; they took the-


g-reatest care of my belonging's ; tlicy explaiu(?d as well as
possible by signs, places, and matters of interest ; warned
me of dangers, and assisted generally in the collecting of
natural history objects. Tliey appeared happy and free,
chatting merrily, and laughing and singing the whole day

On my return, after eleven days' absence, I paid each of
them the sum agreed upon, and made each of them a pre-
sent of tobacco for general good lieliaviour and assistance.
Next day the chief, with several attendants, visited me.
They had blackened their faces, and endeavoured to make
tluM'r visages look terrible. I was informed by an intei-
preter that the chief Avanted the money for the boys and
the boat. I answered that I had paid the boys themselves.
" Xo ! 'No ! You were to pay the chief. The bargain
was with him. He gave you the boys. And, moi'e-
over, he wants ten shillings for the loan of the boat."' T
explained that such an item was never mentioned, and the
alleged reason of the chief's liberality. Remonstrance was
useless. The interpreter then stated that the chief would
send for his policemen and have me arrested. On hearing
this, my anger was fairly aroused, and I told him, in
satire, to duck himself in the river — so contemptible
did I consider his double-dealing. The whole affair
ended in the boys coming forward with the money, and in
my having to pay the ten shillings for the boat. Two days
afterwards, this same chief came and endeavoi'ed to excuse
liimself, blaming misunderstandings to the interpreter.
After a time, putting his hand over his heart, he said : " I
cannot be right until we liccome friends, and shake hands :


ami so I hod to Forgive and be friends ; glad to find, even in-
tliis man, wlio was everywliere spoken of as a villain, some-
effects of missionary example and teaching. As it was,,
tlie matter was legally entirely against me. I had not been
used in free England, or in equally free Victoria, to pay
the slave-Iiolder, and so I made a mistake, and paid the-
let-out-on-liire slaves. And I was really liable by English
hiw, and could liave been sued to Suva, tlie capital, and
made tri pay tlie cliief, the full amount due for
both boys. These latter, influenced by missionary teach-
ing, got me out of tlie difficulty by paying tlie chief
themselves. But how galling — paying the price of their
own labour, and trusting, if perhaps they might have a
moiety returned. And this law is administered so as to pro-
tect and preserve the native race ! Truly, protect them from
drinking the sweets of liberty : }ireserve them intact, in
l)ody and estate, to their hereditary holders.

The following practically proves the [)ower of the chiefs,
and the position of the English Government: — A chief,,
wisliing to obtain an object of value, levied a contribution
from his people of ten shillings per head. The levy was
paid. Soon afterwards he saw a fine boat, upon which lie-
also set his heart. He sent round to demand another ten
shillings levy. One of the towns was too poor to pay this
levy. They waited upon him. and stated that they coukl
not pay. He appeared to acce[)t their excuse. Shortly
afterwards, an application was made to him for labour..
He sent the men from the offending town. On the com-
pletion of the work, the chief received the payment in full.
The men, on their return, applied to him for their share.-


He only laiiglied at them, and reinhided them that tliey
woiihl not pay the ten shillings levy, and so now he had
paid it for them. Aggrieved, the men appealed to the
Englisli Government ; but this milk-and-water body was
too timid or too cautious to interfere. Moreover the Govern-
ment officials aided tlie political leaders, by liaving the
news of the complaint lodged, made known to the chief.
He immediately acted with promptness, and had the
offenders arrested. They weie sent to a distant town, and
detained for some tliree months. An English pliilanthro-
pist let it be known to tlie chief, that if the men were not
released, he woukl openly hght the Government on their
behalf, and so tliey were released. But alas, for the stain
on tlie British flag, that outrage on British subjects has
never been riglited or avenged. Justice has been
withheld. And in numbers of other and similar instances,
England's flag of liberty has thus been trodden underfoot
by these feeble representatives of the British crown.

The Government affirm that tlie Fijians would not be
satisfied unless governed by their own chiefs. Why, then,
did they ask to be annexed under the British Throne ? If
the Fijian chiefs are to govern Fiji on the patriarchal
system, then what necessity is there for England to govern
as a Crown colony? What absurdity to run two lines of
Government, and so diametrically opposite, at one and the
same time ! The policy of the Government states, we must
make laws to preserve the natives intact, and to protect
tliem from the designings of the whites. Glorious philan-
thropy ! Worthy the highest commendation ! But does
if protect or jireserve ? It tlirows around them a cloak of


preservation and protection, but wliat are tlie d("stnu-
tive and deadly agencies which are concealed within I
The people, before a superior race, do need })rotec-
tion to hold their own. And judged from the past,
and from the various developments of the slave trade, they
need protection agai)ist intrigue and villany on the part of
some of the Avhitos. For again and again, unprincipled,
selfish whites have, by bribes and promises in times past,
got and retained natives wrongly. But it is the height of
folly, in seeking to avoid an evil, to fly from one extreme
to the other. In protecting a man from the oppressor, do
not rob liini of liis liberty by yourself manacling his chains.
Yet this is practically what the English Government are
doing. In protecting the Fijians, they cut off liberty and
make voluntary laljour a uon-potest. If I want a servant,
I must get the permission of chiefs, sometimes townships,
and friends, and Government. And so, if a Fijian is
anxious to come into my employ, he must obtain the same

It is urged in favour of the Government policy, that the
drafting men off" to plantations and mills would depopulate
the native villages, and thus at once scatter the peoi)le anil
prevent their natural increase. But is this theory valid ?
At present, in many villages, the women largely do the
field labour. The men nniy assist at times ; but, for the
most part, they take things easy. Again, a very few weeks
in the year are sufficient for all purposes of agriculture.
Their food is simple ; their wants are few ; and, at present,
a large number of men are often away for days or weeks
together, let out on hire by their chiefs; also on the


Government lands, fanning ont the native taxes. But whj'
is it indispensal)le tliat the survivorship of the peo})le
should be dependent on the maintenance of tlie patriarchal
bondage. The natives cannot rise under such a bondage,
since individuality is crushed in the communal. And,
if this weaker race cannot rise, before and in the
presence of a superior race, they must in time become extinct.
It is thus the slieerest foil}' to imagine that patriarchal
rule and communal life, on present village sites, are abso-
lutely necessary to the protection and preservation of the
race. If such really were the case, then tlie Government
would be sacrificing the people, in allowing as they do,
such a number to leave for longer or shorter periods. Their
own actions in this matter belie their announced belief.
But is it necessary that the free and righteous service of
the men, further from or nearer to their liomes, should
really destroy their social and family life ? At the present,
the people are decreasing in numbers. Many foolish laws
prevent tlie increase of population. A man is so restricted
in marriage choice. He has to get so many people to con-
sent. Marriage is, Avith rare exceptions, simply an
alliance planned <iut I)y relations, or by the tribe. And,
altogether, there is a growing disinclination to marriage
on the part of the male population. The women also, as a
rule, object to the trouble of many children. Wives will
often leave their Jiusliands for months, or even years.
Abortion is freely practised, and not scientifically ; but in
such a manner as to damage and make prematurely old
the constitution and health. Diseases introduced by the
whites and labour lioys liave. and are still, lessening the

58 CRIES i-uoM i-i.n.

numbers. And so we see really that village life does not
keep up the population. I was informed in official circles
that about 7000 able-bodied males were liired out to work.
How many of tliese are married ? Are not the greater
number ])ractically living as unmarried ? For where is the
family life to such as are married, while the husbands are
on the plantation, if the wives and cliildren remain in the
distant township. The great remedy is that already the
right of tlie Fijians — personal freedom. Will freedom tlien
decimate the numbers ? If a man be free to engage his
services, in any plantation or homestead distant or near to
liis own township, need that prevent Ins family life? If
the law have any [)ower or supervision at all for the pro-
tection of the native race, would it not be wiser in all ways
to enact that the Fijian, as a free man, might engage
himself as a labourer : but tluit it be essential for him to
take witli him a wife, and that such couple lie provided
with hut, and allowed a portion of lantl on which to culti-
vate their necessary vegetable provisions. It is not the
village, but the individual, married lite which enlarges a
nation. Thus, marriage and individual exertions would
be encoui'aged. But, as it is at present, married life is
discouraged, and all })arties discontented.

The labour traffic has for some time occupied the
attention of the British nation. It is nothing more nor
less than a veritable British slave trade. What means the
old song,

'• Britons never shall be slaves."
Where is all the glory of British liberty, battled for and
obtained l)y Wilberforce, IJuxton, and a host of others '^'


Where is the brightness and graiuleuv of the British flag,
whicli tlie Queen of tlie Seas displayed befoi-e all natioi:s and
peoples, " Destruction to slavery and to the slave trade
for ever." Who are those who stand in the places of the
heroes of the past, and who fear to speak out the national
watchword, '-England and liberty?" Is there no national
honour left? Is England to be cowed by any and every
opposing nation, while she herself descends to imbrue her
hands in the shed blood of the accursed slave trathc ?
Rise up ye spirits of the departed and weep for your sons L
Lament ye sages^ for England is once more a slave-holding
nation I

The reasons which have led to this are the desire of
aspiring British subjects to possess large estates, and the
difficulty of making those estates pay, excepting by work-
ing them at a labour price low enough, to allow competition
with similar estates and industries in other countries.

It is urged that Europeans cannot Vfork in the open air,,
and ill the sugar-fields of the South Pacific Islands. And^
moreover, competition is so gioat that it is asserted the stigar
industry could not be carried on in Fiji or even in Queens-
land, if current wages, as obtained among Europeans, had
to be paid. The planters cry out : '• We must hare labour,,
and we must have cheap labour. We have vested
interests.' Thus the labour industry, as European, is
eftVctually closed. The climatic influences, as against stich
a hiliour in Fiji, are very greatly exaggerated. The tem-
perature averages 70 to 80 degrees for several months in
the year, and tip to 85 or 8() degrees, occasionally reach-
ing 90 de"-rees in the other niniUbs. The nights, in most


parts of tlie group, are cooled by sea breezes. The rainfall
varies. At Suva, tlie capital, it averages 110 inches per
annum ; while up the Eewa, in the sugar countr}'^, it even
in one part reaches 19<) inches. Now the heat is greatly
below that of Australia in the summer, and there is not
the cold of Australia in the winter. The rainfall is largely
iluring night, and tlie sun soon dries the vegetation.
Even in Fiji, English mechanics, as carpenters, boat-
builders, and others, work liard for long hours, and out of
doors, and yet enjoy very good health. English overseers,
and others in authority, liave to superintend the labour in
the fields, and yet suffer little in consequence. The men
in the Englisli ironworks and foundries have to work
harder, and to be exposed to a far higher heat. They
have likewise to be subjected to the dust and fumes,
occasioned from their w^rk. They have not the fresh
island air to restore lost vigour ; and they are unavoidably
■subjected to sudden changes of temperature, especially in
the outside chills of an English winter. And provided
that caution were exercised as to the hours and time for
cleaning the canes, which would require a comparative
small percentage of tlie whole time and labour, doubtless
Europeans could be enqiloyed. In England, agricultural
labourers used to get only nine shillings a week ; they can
now obtain twelve to fifteen shillings, and, if the proprie-
tors of }ilantations and sugar-mills can pay the black man
or coolie two shillings a day, he could probably, Avith e({ual
profit, pay an industrious Englishman, who would do
double the work, four sliillings per diem. But whether or


not tliis might be effected, and tliousands of the half-
starving Londoners be thus provided for, it has not been
(hme ; and tlic cry has been urged, " We must liave clieap

As noted before, the Fijians are averse to working on
their own lands, and for foreigners. And further, having
always led an easy life, unless they want to obtain some
commodity, they do not care to work at all. Tliis, no
doubt, in j)ast years led to many irregularities, the white
people thinking it essential to their interests to obtain
Fijian servants, and tlius, by stratagem, obtaining and
detaining such service. And so the English Government
stepped in and interfered, but, in legislating, went to the
other extreme, thus damaging both white man and black.
They, in seeking to prevent irregularities on the part of
the whites, put an almost effectual barrier against the
employment of Fijians, excepting as slaves lent out by
their chiefs, and that with circumscribed restrictions.

!N^o doubt, as it is now, the larger number of white
people having a stake in the country, would, if it were in
their power, force the Fijians to perform the necessary
manual and menial labour. This would be highly wrong.
These natives have land, they have food, and tlieir wants
are few ; and white men liave no right to consider them
as property, or bond-slaves, or servants. Service should
certainly be encouraged ; but service under a j^atriarchal
bondage is not service, but slavery. The patriarchal rule
should be sajjped, and then each man, as a free, independ-
ent JBritisli subject, should be encouraged to do something.
But, as it is now, the Fijian revolts against work, which is


to him of little vantage. And it is only because his mental
capacities are not awakened into the keen-sightedness of
Englishmen, that in any case he submits to work at all.
And thus the whites, judging the natives as lazy and
repugnant to work, and seeing their own interests suffer-
ing in consequence, condemn him most severely ; and too
many treat him as a dog, and not as a brother.

The Fijian Government, and, through them, the Englisli
■Government, liave legalised the labour traffic. Queensland
also has taken her share in the same. Certain regulations
are enacted, ostensil)ly to prevent irregularities, and to give
the traffic an air of respectability. But tliose who make
the regulations have not the power to enforce, onLy in part :
^nd they have not the means or the power to regulate
matters in the land of purchase, and even on the voyage.

To form a correct judgment as to the righteousness of
the traffic, I will make a comparison between tlie old slave
trade and this legalised labour traffic : —


1. Coast tribes hy war or kid- 1. Coast tribes, by war or kid-

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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 4 of 9)