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 6 of 9)
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respectable ?

As far as experience teaches, man all over the world is
born in sin and shapen in iniquity The animal, or instinc-
tive, is naturally selfish. And it is only philosophy which
can raise him above these low degradations. And it is
only the Christian philosophy which in any degree can
purify his heart, as well as raise his moral trme and
character. Now, the English have been trained in this
philosophy for generations, and yet we see the most glar-
ing vice, the most clever frauds and wholesale SAvindles,
the most loathsome and debasing national drunkenness.
Civilized society is one continuous struggle for the pre-emi-
nence. Thousands make haste to lie rich by grinding down
their dependents and fellows. White lies, and especially in
trade, are fashionable. And looking at the professing
Christian community — those who, in tlieir respective
churches, profess to have turned their backs upon the
world and its fashions — where are the consecrated millions


for carrying the gospel to every nation, and people, and
tongue ? Where are the hundreds of thousands spent
rigliteously in giving employment to, and in relieving the
wants of, tlie poor, the destitute, and the sick, and in
raising the people generally, socially, morally, and intellec-
tually. So strong is the animal selfishness of man, that
with rare exceptions, the Christianity of eighteen centu-
ries has produced a race, who put a small coin on the-
collection plate, or who, after a sensational or emotional
speech, may dole out a half-crown or a guinea in support
of the grandest objects ever brought before their notice.
The English owe everytliing to Christianity ; and yet, how
faults abound !

But turn to Fiji — behold Melanesia. Naturally sunken
to murder and cannibalism and the lowest degradation !•
In the stone age. But Christianity comes in, and the
Fijians and islanders where the glorious philosophy is
carried, give up their murder and cannibalism. Some
may still lie, some may cheat. The lying and cheating
and thieving is most prevalent in tlie white settlements.
This is acknowledged even by the police authorities. In
my journey inland, I left my belongings loose in the
canoe, and often unguarded, yet I lost nothing. But in
the settlements, these children imitate bad white men.
Nevertheless a very large proportion are seeking to obey
the moral law. Look at the Sabbath in these islands of
Polynesia, where the gospel has penetrated, a larger per
centage of the black population keep the Sabbath, and
worship in the sanctuary, than is the case with the white
men. And in the matter of barter, these blacks are but


as cliiklren, only lately having any civilized ideas at all of
commercial relations and of relative value. And what an
example the white man sets ! On my inland journey I
had to buy rations of biscuits. I received double the
number for my money, the furthest inland, and where the
item of carriage was vastly the heaviest. And repeatedly
as it is well known, the whites get a heavy price for poor
articles and give a mere nothing for valuable returns. In
one instance a man beginning with a bag of salt, and
bartering for yams, at length by trading, obtained huudreds
of pounds worth of curiosities and goods during his visits-
to some hill tribes. And naturally the blacks, seeing that
the whites only look upon such dealings as smart business
tact, retaliate. And as they begin to understand the
value of things, and to recognise the commercial acumen,,
they naturally seek to imitate. But as a whole, while in
Fiji, I found the dealings of the blacks more righteous,.
and less grasping arid unfair, than those of the whites.
In judging these children in intelligence, let him that is-
without sin, cast the first stone. It is too often as a
gentleman proved in Fiji that those to complain are the-
greatest sinners. A Chief was grumbling that the
Government had not discovered and punished a white-
offender for assault and violence. But answered the white
man, they instituted enquiries and could not find the'
criminal. Yes, he replied, we know all about it. It did
not suit them to find out. If it had been a black fellow,
he would soon have been discovered and punished. The-
wliite men are only deceivers and liars. After furtlier dis-
cussion and only likely to lead to high words or feelings,.


the white man replied. When people live near and see
a bad example continuously before them, is it any Avonder
that they copy and do likewise. Now if I lived here I
might imitate the bad example and should then l)ecome a
liar and a rogue. And what besides can you expect from
the whites, who you say have so acted, and who live so
close to yourself. The chief was noted as a black leg and
a scoundrel, and at once perceived the home thrust, and
with a loud laugh was glad to close the conversation.

As to the question of hypocrisy, levelled at the blacks,
who profess Christianity. In fair play, it should be remem-
bered that these people have just emerged from the lowest
degradation. It should also be remembered as before
stated, that in intellect and mental capacities they
are on an average with the English public schoolboy.
Why then judge severely. I was once at a meeting of a
religious body, where there were some children, who had
professed sorrow for sin, and a desire to lead new lives. Tlie
service was somewhat tiresome and heavy — and two or
three of these children began to play with a handkerchief,
folding it up as a doll and in other ways trifling and
forgetting the sanctity of the service. But shall I there-
fore at once damn these children ! Because they Avere
inexperienced and so not on their guard, and. because the
flesh was weak and the intellectual faculties feeble, am I
to say that those children had no desire to live a good
life ? Rise from this, a step higher, and compare self —
who never wanders in church — who is never frivilous —
who, in fact, has kept the moral law to the letter ! There


is none righteous — no, not one. But judsfe these Poly-
nesians by the spirit of their intents and conduct, and in a
very large percentage it will be found that they are often
a pattern to more highly favoured nations. Their feeble-
ness, as children, is against them. Like children, they
often lack moral courage to stand satire, and too often,
under the satire and bad example of the whites, they forget
their religion, and backslide. And as to the charge of
ingratitude : As mentioned before, the more refined pas-
sions are not perfected in children ; neither in Fijians.
And the expression of tlie same in adult Europeans
depends largely upon the constitutional temperament.
Some are emotional and demonstrative ; others are philo-
sophical and cold. Some are thoughtful and reflective ;
others are flighty and superficial. But taking civilized and
Christianized people all round, how often, comparatively
speaking, do we find real gratitude ? Politeness and
refined acknowledgment often give the lie to the feelings
of the heart. And it still too frequently is, as it was
eighteen centuries ago. Ten lepers were healed, and one
returned to give thanks ; but where wei*e the nine ? Let
the philosopher look at the Fijian, then at the English
public school-boy, and then at himself ; and let him who
is blameless, ever thankful and righteous before God and
man, blame and denunciate the Fijian.

14. Often, in this labour traffic, blood is shed. Num-
bers of cases never come to light, being, in the mutual
interests of all concerned, hushed up.

One young man in the trade related to me an instance
in point. He said : "I don't like the missionaries ; they


are no good." Somewhat surprised, I asked why. " Be-
cause," he said, '' I was in a boat's party, and we visited a
distant part of the coast, from where we were anchored, to
buy four boys on a Sabbath. Tlie people of the missionary
village, near where we anchored, were highly indignant
with us for trading, and on the Sabbath. In the evening
of the day, we were rowing in a boat for the shore, towards
the Christian village, when we were met by a party who
fired at us, wounding me in the leg. And we were obliged
to return to the ship to bind the boys we had got, to pre-
vent them jumping overboard ; and we had to sail away
to prevent an attempt at rescue. Now," he said, " what
was that for missionary teaching?" I think my readers,
unbiassed, will say, " Serve the traders right." They had
by foul means — buying from a chief — got possession of
four of the islanders. They had openly made light of, and
trangressed the keeping, of the Sabbath. And now they
were adding insult to injury by making for the Christian
village to get hold of more labour men. Trading and
seeking to decoy or kidnap on the Sabbath evening. Was
it any wonder that these poor fellows, believing to defend
their sons and neighbours, and angry because of the trans-
gressing of the Sabbath, should have recourse to arms.
But such is not Christian teaching. Nevertheless, many
would urge that, as a nation or a village, they would be
justified, even on the Sabbath, in repelling the man-
stealers. Probably other tactics might have been adopted
successfully ; but what will not a man do when excited,
on the spur of the moment, to defend himself, and those
near and dear to him, from danger. .Atall events, the


white men were the aggressors, and under England's flag.

This young man stated that on all voyages, as a rule,
one or more lives were lost by firearms. He said : " I
went through the love of adventure, and I have been
engaged in it for some years ; and it is, to all intents and
purposes, truly the slave trade. In it, he had been
wounded three times — once in the foot and twice in the

Another labour man on his death bed regretted his evil
deeds, and only desired " to live to publicly expose the
villainous slave trade."

In the official report of the Fiji Government for the
last year — occur some passages thus —

Shots were fired over the head of two recruits who were
attempting to «scape from the boats of the Lord of the
Isles, and a female native who was in the bush was
alleged to have been killed.' '" Curio," the boat steerer,
and two Fijians from the Taviuni were killed at Santo,
and on enquiry before a Deputy of the High Commis-
sioner, the strong presumption appeared, that the incen-
tive arose out of Curios tampering with native women !'
' A second case of the foolish use of firearms took plac«
on board another vessel. In this instance, though several
native women were greatly frightened by it, it was satis-
factorily established that it was improbable ( ! ! ) that any
more serious result had been occasioned.'

Now these three reports put the thing very mildly.
The use of firearms simply to frighten a few native women!
Perhaps one woman killed ! Simply Curio's tampering
with the native women !


At all events, it tloes allow that with all the legislation,
with all the supervision, lives were lost by violence.
Murder was committed. The poor captives did try to
escape. And no doubt this is and has been oftener the
case than otherwise.

And to render the thing much more terrible and dan-
gerous, a bounty has been giren in the shape of a musket
— and the wages of the men have been paid by a musket,
an axe, and a few minor trifles — and so a number of fire-
arms have been gradually introduced into the recruiting
grounds, until the natives have felt strong enough to
attack inland tribes, and even to fight the man stealer
and pirate.

But doubtless many die from violence after capture,
and the matter is hood winked. One sailor without shame
acknowledged to killing a labour boy off New Caledonia.
Two of these boys were talking and insolent. The one
told his mate not to do what he was told, as the white
man would not dare to touch him. Hearing this and
understanding, the sailor ordered him to fill up the cracks
between the boards with tar and oakum. He feigned to
attempt. The sailor showed him how he wanted the work
done and again ordered him to do it. He blankly refused.
With that, the sailor daubed the tar brush across his face.
She black immediately flew at him, seized a piece of wood
and struck at him. He warded off the blow, but received
a sacond on the thigh which knocked him down. Re-
covering himself, he wrested the piece of wood off the
black, and belaboured him with it, and in doing so, knocked
him backwards on to the side of the vessel. The fall


broke his back. Perceiving the state of affairs, the white
man shot his antagonist dead. The matter was reported
to New Caledonia, but a plea of self-defence was argued,
and a high official said, you did the proper thing, if you
had not succeeded, he would have had your blood.

The above speaks for itself. If it had been a bona fide
master and man engagement, the servant would not have
been insolent, and the master would not have been insult-
ing. As it was, it was simply one example, of evils insepa-
rable from the veritable slave trade. But, in this instance,
they were pushed to extremes.

As to the labour yessels : Only a short time ago, one
was stopped by the Government as un seaworthy ; and
another I saw myself specially prepared for the trade, was
simply a fraud and a swindle. But another evil presents
itself in this slave trade which did not in the olden time.
As one of the notes of the Fiji Government report states :
" Two cases of time-expired labourers being landed at the
wrong spot were reported during the season." Then it
adds : " How difficult it is, from the ignorance of the
expirees, to guard against this mistake." Of course it is ;
and the wonder is that so many ever do get back. Now,
is it possible for men who perhaps have never been to sea
before, or, at all events, rarely far from their own village
to tell after three or more years the exact spot of coast
where their native village is situated. But the Govern-
ment report does not, we think, give the outcome of this
mistake — the probability of being killed or eaten ; or, if
this fate be escaped, the chances of a perpetual slavery for
life. Now, who in their sober senses can call this traffic


a righteous commercial dealing. Thousands are obtained,
transported, and subjected to bondage. A large number
die in the getting ; a large number die during the voyage ;
a very large proportion die on the plantations ; many die
by violence vphen again transhipped to their own group of
islands ; and few, comparatively speaking, return home
safe and sound to their race and kindred.

Morever, by the traffic, diseases are intercommunicated,
and thus the physical prowess of the race is lowered and
degenerated. A Fijian chief remarked a short time ago :
" The English are killing us. We are all dying off, and
will soon be gone. They bring diseases, measles, hooping
cough, and contagious diseases ; and they introduce Poly-
nesians, who bring in and give us other (notably skin)
diseases ; and we are all dying." And when it is remem-
bered the tliousands who died from measles, and the hun-
dreds cut off this very year by hooping cough, and the
damage to many by contagious and skia diseases intro-
duced, is it any wonder that he so cried ?

The numbers who die, and are thus prevented returning
home, naturally opens the eyes of the various islanders. It
too often causes suspicion of foul play ; so that now it
takes a long time for a labour vessel to recruit. The boys
are not so easily caught with chaff ; and the large intro-
duction of firearms leads them to be more independent ;
while the wrongs inflicted, directly or indirectly, by the
whites lead to retaliation. So that, during the last few
years, we have continually been horrified by the ncAvs of
terrible massacres of white men.

But further : This slave trade, as that of old, by


the muskets given and earned, and, at times, by actual
assistance from tlie whites, enables certain tribes or
ambitious chiefs to fight against and lay desolate large
numbers of peaceable villages. And such devastation is
followed by wholesale murder and cannibalism.

The following, Avhich appears in tlie July papers of this
year, proves the above assertion : —

" By the arrival of the schooner George Noble from the
Gilbert Group, news has been received of a brutal outrage
which has been committed on the natives of I^ai Monte
Island, by a chief named Abaniama and his followers. A
number of the Nai Monte islanders are said to have been
killed in the conflict, and the stores of English traders
seized. The crew of a British schooner, belonging to
Auckland, have assisted the chief of the Abamama in the

And it is chiefly to prevent such outrages that philan-
throjjic Britain ought to throw a protectorate over the
South Sea Islanders.

Again, in the papers of August Gtli, 1884, we liave
another terrible revelation :

" The mission schooner Ellengowan arrived at Port
Moresby to-day, bringing news from New Guinea to I'^th
July. On the 9th July, the schooner met with H.M.S.
gunboat Swinger, at anchor at an island off East Cape.
The Queensland labour vessel. Forest King, was there,
and had been inspected by tlie Swinger's officers, and her
papers passed, no interpreter being obtainable. On the
mission boat coming alongside with an interpreter, it was
found that out of fifty men and boys on board, sixteen


had escaped in the night by swimming. The magistrate
reported this to the commander of the gunboat, who sent
the second lieutenant with a crew to take the vessel a
prisoner to Cooktown. It is reported that thirty-eight
natives have been shot by the crews of the labour vessels
on the main land. Besides the Forest King, the Clara,
Hojjeful, and Lizzie had been there. A village had been
burnt, and a canoe capsized, and the occupants captured.
From one vessel twenty-four natives had attempted to swim
ashore, three of whom were drowned. In all cases, even
where the natives have voluntarily shipped, the engage-
ment was understood to be for three moons only. The
Swinger towed the EUengowan for three days round Milne
Bay and the Engineer Group, and then proceeded alone
to Metape, New Britain, to join the H.M.S. Diamond.
The natives, so far, had proved friendly, but were suspi-

A Queensland labour vessel, and not Fijian. But all
one system ; only up to the present time under a more
lenient supervision in Queensland than in Fiji ; and so less
vigilance exercised to give matters a legal, respectable
appearance. And the papers passed by a man-of-war !
And how often are the ship's papers passed, and villany
legalised, by the Government agents ; bribery accomplish-
ing what impudence cannot. But even the irregularities
which the Fijian Government do stop, all prove the same
nefarious dealing. And how can we expect otherwise than
nefarious dealings in a nefarious traflfic ? What irregula-
rities, almost in a sentence ! Village burned ; people cap-
sized out of a canoe, and captured ; the labour boys


swimming ashore when the relieving man-of-war and
interpreter came to the rescue. Why then, and not before ?
What had been the kind and amount of force used to
detain them ? For it must be apparent to the most casual
observer that these poor fellows embraced the first oppor-
tunity that offered for regaining their liberty. But more
casualties — natives drowned ; natives shot ; natives de-
cewed ; and, on other islands, the natives hitherto friendly,
but now becoming suspicious. And was it any wonder ?
This labour vessel, without any interpreter, and so with-
out the means or power to barter, had got together a
number of ignorant, wild savages. How could she do this,
excepting by kidnapping and entrapping ?

A letter from the first mate of a labour vessel, and for
five years in the labour trade, says : " There has never
yet been a true book written on ' the slave trade.' I say
I have been in the trade a long time, and know that what
they call the ' labour trade ' is nothing but the old ' slave
trade^ as they bribe them into the boat under false pre-
tences. Often tliey jump into the water to try and swim
ashore, for which they are caught and put in irons. Auck-
land, New Zealand. — (Signed) Thomas C. Kerry."

Shortly after the above occurrences, we read again :
" The labour scliooner Ethel was ordered back from the
South Seas by the Government agent on the ground of
illegally recruiting, firing on the natives, ill-using the
passengers, &c." In fact she had been out for some months
on this diabolical mission before she was thus ordered

Such like recitals might be multiplied. They speak for


themselves. Philosophically and righteously, only one
judgment can be deduced. England's flag has been stained,
torn down, and trampled upon, by these impudent slave
traffickers of the South Seas.

Future Policy, or the Remedies.

It is easy, comparatively, to mark out national faults
and failings, but it is a difficult matter to suggest and
create reforms. Where various and varied interests have
to be taken into consideration, and where these interests
appear more or less to clash, then it needs collective
wisdom and experience to steer the State barque safely
over all the shoals and quicksands which threaten to

We have in the South Pacific a number of beautiful
islands, peopled by races who, in intelligence and know-
ledge, are on a parallel with the English public schoolboy.
These races, by nature, have sunk to the lowest animalism,
degradation, and vice. Since humanity, as a whole, is a
common humanity, it behoves philanthropic and civilized
nations, if possible, to seek to raise and reform these
peoples. It is only possible to reform such fallen people,
or, in fact, any morally and socially sunken people, by the
means of two powers — fear or love. The former may
change the surface, but only the latter can touch the
heart. The gospel of civilization is helpless to succeed
by means of the forces of love. Selfishness is specially
the characteristic of the civilization of the nineteenth
century. Commercial competition is too keen to be the
pioneer of love, and the pioneers under the flag of


civilization are, for the most part, commercial adventurers.
They have no powers or forces by which to apply the
influences of love. It is against selfish interests to
crucify nature and self, by the disinterested propoundings
and exhibitions of love. Self suggests to profit upon the
ignorance of the savage, by keeping him in the dark as
to even a knowledge of the fair value of goods, judged
according to the circumstances of the case, and the
relations of the parties interested. Men, as civilized
commercials, are not very likely to invest their thousands,
for the elevation and advancement of the heathen South
Sea islanders. From a civilized and worldly view it
would not pay, and, in the wisdom of this world, a man
so to invest his thousands would be a fanatic and a fool.

It would be but idle words, to urge the savage to
imitate commercial civilized ways, and to give up cannibal
and other evil practices. He would not see the wisdom
of the argument. He would not see the advantages to be
gained. He would see no good motive, but only fear and
selfishness in the civilized man thus addressing him.

Moreover, a great proportion of the pioneers of civiliza-
tion, being adventurers, have little character or position
to lose. Excepting in murder and cannibalism, they are
too often greater blacklegs than the barbarians them-
selves, and hence any oratory or recommendations from
such to reform, would be simply lost on the hearers.

CiviUzation may conquer barbarians by fear ; but it
is powerless to impose rule and dominion over such
savages excepting by force. It is powerless to pioneer.

This is well iUustrated on the squatting stations in


Queensland. One gentleman, who had bought a station,
was continuously being annoyed by raids made by the
AustraHan aboriginals on his cattle. At last matters
came to this issue : he must either lose all or else kill
the blacks. Conscience would not allow him to do the
latter, and so he had to sell his station at a loss.

Another gentleman sought to show his good intentions,
by giving parties of blacks a couple of bullocks whenever

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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 6 of 9)