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god Tairi ; this god he supposed to have great power, and to require his most devoted service.
The history of the first part of the political life of Tamehameha, has not yet been brought to light. What motives, other than the promptings of his restless and ambitious spirit, first induced him to wage war, and then to continue it till he had acquired universal dominion, we have no means of explaining. It is known, however, that a great battle was fought in the year 1780, on the plains of Mokuohai, near the place where Captain Cook was killed, which lasted seven or eight days, and was contested with great obstinacy on both sides, till at length Tamehameha succeeded in killing the king, routing his party, and securing a complete victory. Prodigies of valor are said to have been exhibited in that battle ; Tamehameha's god Tairi was elevated on the field, and surrounded by its priests, with this image before their eyes Tamehameha, his sisters, and friends fought with desperate bravery, and undaunted confidence. This battle decided the destiny of Hawaii ; from that day the old dynasty of kings was at an end, and Tamehameha was the sole monarch of the country. In due time the other islands submitted to his authority, and he reigned king of all the Sandwich Islands till the time of his death, a period of nearly forty years. The fact of his reigning so long over such a people, is a proof not less of his prudence and wisdom, than his surprising ascendency to power is of his talents and valor.
When the vessel, which took out the Missionaries, approached Hawaii, the first intelligence that came from the shore was the death of Tamehameha. He had died the year before, in 1819, and was succeeded by his son Rihoriho. It was further added, that idol worship was abolished by the new king, the idols ordered to be destroyed, the old tabu system broken up, and, in short, that the ancient religion of Hawaii was abrogated by a royal mandate. All this, incredible as it was, proved to be true; and in Rihoriho we have the phenomenon of a savage prince, strictly educated in the most superstitious rites, not orly deserting the religion of his ancestors, but using his power to abolish it. This is the more remarkable, as one of the last injunctions of Tamehameha was, that his son should cling to the religion of his fathers, and render due homage to those gods, who had so long been the protectors of his family and the nation. Rihoriho heeded not this admonition, for he was hardly clothed with the regal authority, before he ordered the idols to be destroyed, the
temples pulled down, and the priesthood dissolved. So violent a measure could not fail to be met with opposition, and some of his revolting subjects took up arms in defence of their gods, and assembled in battle against the forces of the king. They were overcome and put to flight, however, after a severe and bloody conflict, and they at length capitulated and yielded to the king's decree. Rihoriho was successful in putting down the insurrection, and, what was more surprising, in suddenly bringing the great mass of the people into his own views; and the old idolatry received a shock, from which it had no power to recover. His most important ministers and friends favored his designs, and when his mother, Keopuolani, was consulted on the subject, she said to the messengers; • You speak very properly, our gods have done us no good, they are cruel, let the king's wish and yours be gratified.' It does not appear, that any harsh means were resorted to in carrying this decree into effect, nor that devotees were disturbed in their old modes of worship; toleration was allowed, but the example of the king and chiefs was more effectual, than any code of penal laws. The idols were tumbled down, and treated as senseless stocks and stones. Priests and priestesses, sorcerers and fanatics, the usual instruments of a gross superstition, still remain and practise upon the fears of the people. These artifices will have their effect for a time, but a single glimpse of light from a better system will scatter such delusions, when the mind has once escaped from the dark bondage of a wretched idolatry, and will prepare the way for a reception of rational ideas.
The causes of so astonishing a change in that most deeply rooted of all intellectual habits, the religion of a people, cannot perhaps be fully ascertained, without a better knowledge of the history of the times, than has yet come to us. A few of them, however, are obvious. They grew necessarily out of the frequent intercourse of the natives with foreigners, and the notions imbibed by some of the more intelligent among them, respecting the customs of other countries. The old idolatry was a most oppressive burden; it harassed the mind with incessant fears of the anger and destroying power of the deities; it exacted practices not more absurd, than cruel and subversive of the order and happiness of society; it even demanded human sacrifices. The tabu system, so universal throughout all the Polynesian islands, is the most terrible instrument of human tyranny, which has ever been known; no other parts of the
world, no other stages of society, have exhibited anything like it, whether regarded in the nature of a political or religious engine, and whether as operating on the opinions, the fears, or the conduct of the people. On a former occasion we have explained the nature, and looked into the causes, of this extraordinary institution.* The following is an account of its operation at the Sandwich Islands.
· During the existence of the tabu, or days of prohibition, no person except a chief, or priest, must presume to eat a cocoa nut; no female must eat pork; males and females must never eat with each other, or even from the same dish; and if by any means a man was found upon a tree, or on the mast of a vessel, or in any other place over the king's head, his life was forfeited to the gods. The same was the case with a man who by accident placed his hand over the king's head.
• Besides the tabu above described, which were perpetual, there were others embracing certain days in the year, when no fishing canoe must be seen in the water, nor any man out of his house. At this time also the priests, taking some image with them, usually went from island to island collecting the taxes for the gods. The penalty for breaking tabu was death.
• When a sacrifice was wanted, and no criminal could be found, they imposed a new tabu of such a nature as to present a strong temptation to some person or persons to break it; perhaps it was laid secretly, and then whoever should be so unfortunate as to break it, was immediately seized, by persons on the watch, and hurried away to the altar.
• A foreign resident has told us, that on one of these days of restriction, he saw a canoe sailing out in front of several houses, and upset by the surf. One of the men afterwards appeared to be drowning. An old man of tender feelings sprang from his house to save the sinking man. In an instant he was seized by the servants of the priests, carried to the adjacent temple, and there sacrificed. In the mean time, the man apparently drowning jumped into his canoe, and rowed away.' Life of Keopuolani, p. 15.
These are the outlines only of the system; it descended into the particulars of daily intercourse, and made every individual more or less wretched with fears of imaginary evil, or with actual privation and suffering. This drove them to the worship
* See North American Review, No. 43, for April, 1824. Vol. xviif.
of imaginary gods, to ceremonies and sacrifices, to the construction of images and temples, and to the reverence and support of a deluded priesthood. The entire scheme was a burden hard to be borne, imposing a severe task upon the people, exhausting their means for a useless purpose, forbidding many innocent enjoyments, and perpetually doing violence to some of the strongest sympathies of the human heart. Now it could not escape the more intelligent of the natives, that the foreigners among them were a superior race to themselves; that they followed their own inclinations and were prosperous in their affairs, and yet gave no heed to the gods of Hawaii, had no apprehensions of their anger or influence, and despised alike their power and their worship. This was an argument that a savage could understand; it came down to his senses, feelings, interests, and it had its effect. It worked its way insensibly, and when the young prince Rihoriho came to the throne, he was prepared to act from the convictions it had produced. That the stubborn pature of Tamehameha should have resisted its appeals is natural enough; his was not a mind to be moved by accidents, or from which strong impressions were easily to be eradicated; from his infancy he had reverenced the religion of his country; to his god Tairi he ascribed his successes; he had reigned forty years protected by the gods of his native island, and it was not for him to desert the religion of his fathers, or believe that a better existed in the world. The young king's principal advisers, however, were on his side. Karaimoku, his prime minister, and the most remarkable man probably, after Tamehameha, whom the Sandwich Islands have produced, was forward in promoting the measure. He acted as general of the king's forces in quelling the rebellion. And we have seen that the king's mother, also an important personage, readily consented, on the ground that the gods were cruel, and had done no good.' Thus was the revolution accomplished, and idolatry abolished by the government. It is supposed, moreover, that the chiefs were influenced by the intelligence repeatedly received, respecting the changes introduced by Pomare, king of the Society Islands, in consequence of the long residence of the English Missionaries in his dominions.
But without looking farther for causes, it is enough to know, that such was the extraordinary state of things, when the Missionaries from the United States arrived at Hawaii. However it was brought about, the event was auspicious for them, and the
hand of Providence seems to have prepared the field for their labors. When they applied for permission to settle on the different islands, as religious teachers, some of the chiefs were opposed to the plan, but it met with the full approbation of Karaimoku, and the king's mother. The king finally said, · Let them remain a year, and we shall know what to do.' The year passed away, the Missionaries gained in favor, and from that time to this they have been pursuing their labors with zeal and fortitude, and with a success adequate, we believe, to their most sanguine expectations.
It was deemed a fortunate circumstance, that the Rev. William Ellis, an English Missionary, who had resided six years at the Society Islands, joined our Missionaries in the beginning of the year 1822. This gentleman had made himself master of the Tahitian dialect, which so closely resembles the Hawaiian, that he was able to converse with the natives, and in a short time to speak to them in public. His services at that time were of great importance, in assisting the Missionaries in constructing a grammar of the language, and in preparing elementary books suited to the instruction of the natives. His experience, also, made him a most useful counsellor, and enabled him to apply the means of instruction and influence with more effect, than those who had but recently begun the work. The American Missionaries uniformly speak with marked respect and kindness of this gentleman; and those who knew him while in this country during the past year, will respond a not less cordial testimony to his worth, his amiable character, and his sincere devotedness to the cause in which he was engaged.*
As the Missionaries received an accession to their numbers from the United States, in April, 1823, it was thought expedient to extend the sphere of their operations. With this view a Deputation was appointed to explore the island of Hawaii, to ascertain the best places for missionary stations. The gentlemen appointed
* An account of the doings of the Missionaries in the Sandwich Islands, may be found in the successive numbers of the Missionary Herald, beginning with the seventeenth yolume, and coming down to the present time. Other particulars are also contained in an interesting little tract, entitled à Memoir of Keopuolani, late Queen of the Sandwich Islands, written on the spot by one of the Missionaries. This queen exhibits a remarkable instance of the power of instruction on a strong mind, grown up to maturity in ignorance and superstition. She was the wife of Tamehameha, mother of Rihoriho, the late king, and also of Kauikeouli, the young heir apparent, now ten years old.