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 8 of 9)
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doctor and to be put on the sick list ; whereas, perhaps, and
certainly under tropical skies, there is not a more patient,
quiet, industrious worker than the Chinaman.

The question of importing white labour is most difficult.
White men are ambitious, and the working man would
as a rule, rather starve on nothing than work for four
instead of five shdlings a day. Then, again, the market
question must in future seriously disturb the sugar
industry of Fiji. There is now such a sugar craze that
the rivalry between companies and interests in Mauritius,
Queensland, and other sugar producing countries will
lead to a large fall in the price of sugar. The manu-
facture of beetroot sugar also enters into competition-
A broker assured me a few days ago that sugar selling a
short time ago at £31 per ton had dropped several pounds
pel ton, and, as demand and supply act and react upon each
other, when the supply is over the demand, prices drop ;
and the large creation of the industry in Queensland
and Fiji, in addition to those previously established in
other countries, and which have hitherto satisfied the


demand, must — and especially as it develops — lead to a
surplus supply. And, as the weakest first go to the wall,
Fiji and Queensland must be the first to suffer.

In the interests of all parties, it behoves the Fijian
Government to regulate the sugar industry, by not allow-
ing large monopolies of land, by encouraging other
industries, and by legislating wisely with a view of right-
ing all classes of peoples.

As matters stand at present, they are most unsatisfac-
tory. The sugar companies holding mills are a cause of
strife instead of a blessing to the country. They get
their commodities from the Australian colonies or direct
from England, and so do not, by trading, benefit Fiji.
In fact, they stand in a position that, excepting the
actual cost of the sugar-cane, and a small percentage of
Fiji labour, they bring little or no money into Fiji.
On the other hand, they are continuously harvesting
money and sending it abroad, draining the country.
Again, they made an agieement with the small planters for
a supply of cane for ten years, at the price of ten shillings
a ton. Labour then rose in price, and so the planters
gay they cannot sell, without ruin, for the money. Then,
again, the planters reckoned on raising three crops of
cane in two years, but the sugar companies, on the
advice of experts, leave the cane some months in the fields
to mature, and hence the planters look upon this as
an injustice — the keeping their lands idle so as to secure
a better article and at no higher figure for the seller.
But, farther, it is reckoned that at present rates and with
all drawbacks the planters may make £2 (two pounds)


per acre per annum out of their land. But small planters
consider this insufificient to pay them for outlay, cost of
living, and their own supervision. And what must it be
as, after a short time, the land will need deeper ploughing
or manuring ? And amid all the exigencies of the case —
the rising of wages, the dearness of provisions, the falling
in prices for sugars, and other difficulties, what guarantee
has the grower for comparative comfort, to say nothing of
the great probabilities of losing all his little capital and
settled home?

I was informed for a positive fact that a high govern-
ment official, who had been largely instrumental in
securing the establishment of colossal sugar companies,
had acknowledged that, instead of a benefit, they had
brought a bear into the country. Be this as it may, the
fact remains that by them the resources and wealth of the
country is largely drawn upon, and exported to other lands
instead of benefiting the country itself. It is necessary
to profit by received lessons. In the time of the
American war a cotton mania seized upon the people, and
for one year, when they could obtain 4s. a pound, the
growers did very well, and the cotton was doubtless the
finest in the world. But when the war ceased and
cotton could again be run into the English markets at
Is. 4d. (sixteenpence) a pound, then the Fijian growers
were ruined.

Little attention has been as yet given to agriculture,
but there is a quantity of beautiful grass all the year
round in Fiji, and cattle appear to thrive well. Pigs,
also, as is well known, flourish in Fiji, and yet the whites


import bacon and salt pork, paying twopence per pound
duty. Taro (ndalo) and yams, similar to our potato,
can be cultivated, and at a high remuneration ; yet the
whites almost entirely trust to the natives for the supply,
or else import potatoes. Cocoanuts might be grown to a
much greater extent than at present, as nuts or copra
would always find a good market. Bananas and pine
apples could be grown in any number, and a trade
secured with the colonies by employing small, fast
steamers, specially built for carrying such fruits, and with
the least destructive loss. Poultry might be bred in large
numbers, and so supply to a great extent the necessary
change required, from the continuous use of imported
tinned meats. Fish swarm in the rivers and seas, but
are neglected as an article of diet. Maize might be
grown in much larger quantity than at present. In fact,
the white people generally do not pay the careful and
scientific attention to diet which they ought to do. They
live too artificially considering the climate ; they seek to
follow the luxurious diet of the Australian colonies — meat
three times a day — and that meat too often tough, fresh-
killed beef, or haggard, shrunken, sea-sick, half-starved
mutton. When this is not available all sorts of tinned
beefs, mutton, kidneys, salmon, &c., have to do service.
Vegetable production is neglected, and the scarcity or
absence of such is a serious item. Fruits — such a natural
diet in Fiji — are too often plucked before ripe, and thus
give rise to dysentery, a sort of low fever, and other ail-
ments. While staying at an hotel shortly after my arrival
I indulged in a large Fiji orange. It was quite sour.


I afterwards went to the shore for a walk, and examination
of sea-side treasures. Gradually I felt myself losing
power and strength. The sun was more oppressive to me,
than at any other time while in the islands. I was in
a burning heat, and, although I had only proceeded about
half a mile, it was with the greatest difficulty that I got
back to quarters. For two days I was unfit to get about,
or to collect specimens, and, no doubt, all owing to my
eating an unripe orange — ^the proper way, we are told, to
eat fruit in Fiji ! Some time afterwards, in the garden
of a native village, I was able to feast upon any number
of luscious, ripe oranges, and with no ill effects. The
matter of diet is noticeable more especially among tlie
children. They grow up winey, puny, pale-faced — thin,
weak, and fragile — and not so much because of the
climate as because of the diet. I observed one such
youthful hope. His daily routine was —

Breakfast — Fries or stews, vegetables, preserved fish,
jam and bread (not bread and jam), and a finish up
with bananas and oranges.
Lunch — Soup, stewed rabbit, cold meats, sweets, jam

and bread, bananas, and oranges.
Dinner — Soup, hot joints, prepared meats, tarts, jam

and bread, tea, bananas, and oranges.
And, between meals, a walk of perhaps two hundred

yards, a loll, and a nap.
But, of course, for persons arrived at maturity, must be
added their beers and grog, and we must not forget the
billiards and card-playing, and accompanying late hours.
On the other hand, look at the natives. They live


chiefly on a vegetable diet, undisturbed in digestive
activity by beers and grog. At times they vary this
diet with pork, poultry, and fish. They go to
rest early, and rise with the dawn of day ; and, probably,
a finer race of men physically cannot be found on the
face of the earth. They are roundly developed,
without obesity. Their muscles stand out in bold
relief. Their digestion is excellent, and they are
jocular, jolly, and void of dull cares. No liver com-
plaints appear to cause nervousness or harassing
anxiety. They eat well, they sleep well, and they look
the pictures of happiness.

It is astonishing how rapidly severe wounds heal.
Nearly all the natives exhibit long scars, chiefly on
the muscles of the back and shoulders, less often on
the legs and arms. These were self-inflicted, or inflicted
by the person's consent. They were bantered or dared
into thus hacking themselves — bantered to prove them-
selves game to bear the suffering, and like children,
without moral courage, afraid of being laughed at.
They are acute enough to select the fleshy parts of the
body. But it is a wonder how they avoid cutting or
wounding the various arteries. They not only cut
open, deep, and long gashes, but also keep open the
same by irritants. Thus the wound heals slowly,
granulating from the base and forming broad, conspicuous
scars, which, ever after, proclaim to all, their pluck and
power of endurance. Certain it is that the punish-
ment which they thus undergo would kill many
English people — yet these islanders are not even laid up.


I wag highly amused at the result of medical advice in a
disabled English islander. The medical adviser stated
that his patient wanted more vegetable diet, and ordered
him, whenever he got the chance, to indulge freely in salads
and green stuff ; a glass of spirits to aid digestion. I had
the pleasure or pain of dining with this said gentleman,
and was somewhat amused to see the onslaught which he
made on the lettuce, onions, sliced beetroot, etc. In the
course of the afternoon I found him helplessly helpless, in a
half-comatose state, unlike drunkenness, and unlike the
symptoms of a fit. I learned that he had followed the
doctor's instructions to the letter, and really sought to cure
his sluggish liver by the salad and grog prescription. As he
was on the verge of a fit, and as I expected a case, I certainly
thought that at last doctors were copying lawyers, in
making work for each other.

No doubt Fiji is an enervating climate, and the
European should have periodic change, either in a
good sea voyage, or by a visit to the colonies or
to England. But, as a whole, the evils of the climate
have been greatly exaggerated, and many of the ailments
consequent on diet and drink are blamed on the climate.
Oftentimes the air is damp and much rain falls, but
the temperature generally ranges from 78 deg. to 84 deg.,
rarely sinking to 68 deg. or rising to 90 deg. ; and in
the day the sun dispels the dampness, and at night breezes
from the sea cool the air. Such a climate should not
tell seriously upon Europeans, with ordinary care, and
attention to diet and clothing. Meat once a day, and varied
by poultry, fish, and game, would be sufficient to give


tone and energy, while a liberal, varied vegetable and
ripe fruit diet should give muscle and strength. Absti-
nence from intoxicating liquors is specially needful in
the tropics, as, where life lives so fast, man has no
strength to waste in exchange for the pleasurable sensa-
tions produced by alcoholic stimulants. l!^ot as an old
Scotchman put it to me. He witnessed my buying a
flask of whisky. " Yes," he said, " you will require
some of the needful to stay the inner man when on
your hunting expeditions. As it was, I found my speci-
mens of spiders, bugs, beetles, etc., needed it more than
myself, and so I unselfishly divided it among them.
Taken as a whole, Fiji is a beautiful place for a wealthy
Australian to winter. It has numerous drawbacks,
social and political, and it is certainly not the place for
a man with a little capital to go to, if he expects to sit at
ease, waited upon by black labour, and to make a rapid
fortune. But, with all its disadvantages, a family with a
little capital, and capable of honest work and thrift, can
doubtless make a comfortable living in a small way. A
limited number of storekeepers and little traders can here
find scope ; and small farmers, in keeping banana,
cocoanut, and orange plantations, or in growing pine-
apples and other fruits and vegetables, should make a fair
business. But while labour is so uncertain, and while
government is so feeble, the fewer the better, the white
people who risk to lose a fortune in Fiji.

Many of the Government laws need reforming. A
very beneficial law, and a wise one, is that the natives


shall not be supplied with or treated to alcoholic stimu-
lants, excepting under a penalty of fifty pounds (£50).
But the feeble policy, either of fear or of fawning to the
chiefs, comes in, and a clause provides that a permit may
be given by the Government to a chief. Of course, if
they are afraid or jealous of the chiefs, they could not
adopt a better plan to get rid of them ; but such policy is
feeble, and ill-becoming the representatives of her Majesty
the Queen. An amusing and yet sad illustration of the
jumbling together of evil and good regulations occurred
just previously to my visit. A man who was friendly
with a chief, and had received favours from him, gave this
chief, when visiting him, some drink. The report got
abroad ; the man was brought up and fined the fifty
pounds. Now, it is stated that the chief told hia host
that he had a permit, and so the host, perhaps by this
thrown off his guard, had to suffer through the permits
being one part of the law. Another most foolish clause
permits natives to fetch alcoholic liquors if they carry a
written order. But a person was fined the fifty pounds
a short time ago for selling to a native, because — so report
guarantees — there was no date uiion the written order.
Now the wisdom which does not know, that the allowing
children to play with matches, has often led to a fire and
the burning down a house, is not the wisdom needed to
give laws to Fiji, under the name of the British Crown.
And are not Government, in forbidding Europeans to give
natives drink, and yet allowing natives to go for the same
and to carry it away, but playing a childish game? Is it
really a fact, that the Europeans are become so enervated,


that they cannot order their own liquors or go for the
little at a time themselves ? Let the sale or gift of
alcoholic drinks to the natives be punishable with the
severe penalty of £50, but let the chiefs also enjoy the
blessing, and do not let the law be a dead letter, by giving
the carriers of drinks the opportunity to take a little drop,
even under the onus of stealing what does not belong to

The open licentiousness of the whites, and especially of
many of the Government officials, should be stopped by
law. As it is, owing to the small salaries given, the
imagined drawbacks of the climate, the distance from
home, and for other reasons, Fiji has to be satisfied with
an all-round inferior class of Government officials. Many
are seekers of employment, who failed in the Civil Service
examinations in the old country, and who, in answer to
friendly influence and numerous solicitations, are dotted
down on to this out of the way colony. Of course there
are some few exceptions, and where the Government
servant lives and behaves as a gentleman ; but the
general conduct is pompous, affected, uncivil, and domi-
neering, as far as they dare, to the whites, and especially
so to the natives. Many of them are better adepts at
their beers, and at billiards and cards, and at late hours,
filthy conversation, and swearing, than' they are at their
business. But, be this as it may. Government cannot inter-
fere with a man's private life, excepting by removing or
degrading him, if his habits prevent his attention to busi-
ness. But, in Fiji, where the British Government have
agreed to act, as guardian and protectorate to the natives,


drunkenness should be most severely punished, and the
open licentiousness, in keeping concubines of the Poly"
nesian women, should be stopped. In a free land the
government are not justified in interfering with a man's
private and domestic life ; but in a Crown colony, specially
instituted for the safeguard of the natives, it becomes an
imperative duty to stop the evil example of open licen-
tiousness. Why should an impudent, selfish fop, if even
he may come of a good family, be allowed to set a most
debasing example of animal sensualism, before the native
races, and openly and boastfully ? and why should he be
relieved from the honourable relationships of marriage
and allowed to overflow the country with half-caste and
illegitimate children ? The thing is most monstrous ;
and, as if to countenance and legitimize such practice
the chiefs are allowed to do the same. At the council
lately held one chief, shocked by such Hberties being
granted, spoke of the matter, and was quietly answered,
it was the ancient custom of the country. But wherefore
has England come, to enable the chiefs to live at ease, to
drink fire water, and to brutalize their women in sensual
concubinage ? Is it to permit rakeish young good-for-
nothings at home, to fly into a Moslem's fools' paradise ?
Certainly not ; such is a disgrace to England's flag, and
the sooner the law steps in the better.

The tax of £1 per head to be paid by the natives may
be looked upon as an equivalent to a house and land tax.
But here again the freedom of the native is interfered with.
As a bondman, he is compelled, under the power of the
chief, to grow vegetable products, which are to be collected,


sent to Government stores, and sold ; the natives to be
debited at the small sum of £1 per man, and the
remainder, if any, to be handed over to the chiefs. Now,
it very often^ happens, that the produce goes to decay, or
depreciates in value before Government sell it. The result
is an injustice to the natives, who have to supply another
consignment. Again, when an overplus is paid, instead of
being distributed equally among the contributing villages,
it is largely shared with the chiefs, lieutenant of the town,
and other officials, and so the poor natives may really often
pay twice or thrice the value of their pound in kind for taxes.
Provided £ 1 (one pound) per head is paid, why should Govern-
ment interfere with the liberty, communal and individual,
and compel each district to keep the public garden, and to
waste an amount of time, as the whim or caprice of the
public gardener may suggest, in growing produce for taxes ?
The Wesleyan missionaries obtain a large free-will offering
for the maintenance of foreign missions in coin, and by
simply appealing to the good instincts of the people. If
righteous, certainly levy a poll-tax of £1, but, so long as
it is paid, do not render the burden heavier by red-tape
interference ; and, when paid, secure to the natives advan-
tages commensurate with the value received. Let them see
it is an impost for their own good, and no doubt it wiU be
willingly forthcoming, and without the interference and
injustice as at present.

In a Crown colony, and offering such a number and
variety of difficulties as Fiji does, it behoves the English
Government to secure, and to send:out the best political
and statesmanship talent obtainable ; and such talent


should receive its rightful remuneration. Moreover, the
Civil Service should not be a mere playground into which
to send inferior class youths. All offices should be well
filled and well paid.

The medical service should be revised. At present the
chief medical officer is often not available, inasmuch as
he has to steer so many of the offices of State. He
receives a name for skill, but of what avail is a name, if
the personage be hampered with political offices and
duties ? The pay given to medical officers — of whom
there are ten for all the Fijis — is absurdly sulall, and so it
cannot be expected otherwise, than that youths without
experience or practice, would for the most part be the only
gentlemen available under such circumstances.

One small piece of terrorism, a disgrace to England
and to the profession, came under my notice. A chemist,
as chemists sometimes will, placed a stethoscope to the
chest of a man, and gave a bottle of medicine. He
received a sharp letter, telling him not to repeat such
practice, or he would be deported ! So far, so good. But,
not content with this, patients were ordered not to give
him their prescriptions to maiie up, under the pain of
having those prescriptions torn up ; and a club for which
he put up medicines was threatened to be left without
medical attendance, unless they transferred their patronage
to another chemist. The man was simply persecuted and
hounded, until he took to drink in his anger and despera-
tion. Such meanness ill becomes the medical profession.
There is "great need of a thorough reformation in this
line, and registered medical practitioners should have free


scope to practice, separate from Government influence in
Fiji as a Crown colony.

Sir Arthur Gordon, it appears, started witli the belief
that it was essential to Fijian life, and to the safety of
the English colonists, that the chiefs should be kept in
power. Hence they were appointed to offices under the
English Government, but politicians, as well as phi-
losophers, know that two governments, and on different
lines of policy, cannot run parallel and smoothly together.
A man and bis wife, even though joined in matrimony,
cannot rule their household wisely and successfully if
their policies clash, and unless they rule as one. Partners
cannot make a business succeed, if their views and acts
contradict each other. And so the English Government
and the Fijian chiefs cannot rule side by side in full
authority. Consequently, too often through fear, or
through mistaken policy, the English Government give
up their position, and leave matters in the hands of the
chiefs, who, it is thus hoped, will consolidate the people to
British rule ; and by this policy the patriarchal bondage
is upheld, and the people are, in truth, socially and
politically slaves. A most absurd issue of the Govern-
ment tactics was witnessed a few weeks ago. It appears
that a native Fijian to be allowed to work for Europeans
must exhibit his name on a public roll before his fellow-
townsmen. He has then to get the consent of the various
chiefs, and lastly of the Government. A number of
hands were required for labour. The Government sent a
messenger to Kandavu. Knowing his way about, this
able young man, by a promise of a pound a


liead prosent linunty, soon projurod the hands. By
dint of management and making it worth their
wliilo, lie obtained the consent of the chiefs. The
boys were sliipped and landed at Suva. All
appeared ready, but upon the Government incpiiry,
Were these men registered as seeking for employment .'' the
answer was, no. Then send them all back, as the Govern-
ment cannot allow such an irregularity. But, though
not registered, at the seeking of Government, and with
the consent of the chiefs, the boys wished to come, and
iiave come. Send them back at once, was the imperative
reply. The men on the beach met the Government
recruiter, and stated their repugnance to going back
under the circumstances, and asking to be allowed to take
any work in Suva ; but no, although British subjects
they were denied British liberty, and the poor fellows, as
sheep, had to be marched back, so to speak, after
inspection, to please the whims of a red tape, facetious
( government.

Here, then, is an anomaly — British subjects sla\-es on
British soil ! What is the remedy ? A righteous, bold
and inde])endent policy. Let the Fijian, as the Briton,
and himself a British subject, be free. Let the inde-
pendent power of the chiefs gradually wane. Let the
British Government, as supreme, perform their duties,
but righteously. Let the offices under Government be
elective and periodic, so as to allow the natives to put in
their best men. Let the Fijian commoner, as the English
husbandman, be at liberty to take work in his own
neighbourhood, without the interference or )"»ermission of


his town or tribal chief ; let him, \vith propor safeguards,
he free to take work at a distance from home in his own
or neighbouring islands, provided he takes with liim ]ii.->

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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 8 of 9)