« FöregåendeFortsätt »
not much, if at all, too great.” By a survey of the first missionaries, and a census of the inhabitants taken in 1797, the population was estimated at sixteen thousand and fifty souls. Captain Waldegrave, in 1830, states it to be much less.
The island of Otaheite is in shape two circles united by a low and narrow isthmus. The larger circle is named Otaheite Mooé, and is about thirty miles in diameter; the lesser, named Tiaraboo, about ten miles in diameter. A belt of low land, termi. nating in numerous valleys, ascending by gentle slopes to the central mountain, which is about seven thousand feet high, surrounds the larger circle, and the same is the case with the smaller circle on a proportionate scale. Down these valleys flow streams and rivulets of clear water, and the most luxuriant and verdant foliage fills their sides and the hilly ridges that separate them, among which are scattered the siniling cottages and little plantations of the natives.
[The following remarks, by Mr. C. S. Stewart, in relation to these islanders, are worthy of the enlightened mind of the author, and forcibly contrast the former with the present state of the people :
“ If the aspect of the people in general, and the animated declaration and lively sensibility, even to tears seemingly of deep feeling, of those who have a full remembrance, and who largely share in their own experience of the evils of heathenism, are to be accredited, the islanders themselves are far from being insensible to the benefit and blessing of the change they have experienced; and would not for worlds be deprived of the light and mercy they have received, or again be subjected to the mental and moral darkness and various degradation from which they have escaped.
“ Yet there are those who have visited the South Seas-men bearing the Christian name, with a reputation for science, and holding stations of honour who have affected to discover a greater degree of depravity and more wretchedness at Tahiti and Raiatea than was known in the reign and terror of idolatry; and have ventured to proclaim to the world, that Christianity has here, for the first time in eigh- . teen hundred years, had the effect of rendering the inhabitants vindictive and hateful, indolent and corrupt, superstitious and unhappy, and more pitiable in all their circumstances than when fully in a pagan state! and that the wars introduced and encouraged by the messengers of peace have nearly exterminated the race !
“ Whence the data for such a sentiment could have been drawn must for ever remain a mystery, at least to all who, like ourselves, have had the advantage of a personal observation in the case."]
Where all partake the earth without dispute,
In the year 1787, being seventeen years after Cook's return from his first voyage, the merchants and planters resident in London, and interested in the West India possessions, having represented to his majesty that the introduction of the bread-fruit tree into the islands of those seas, to constitute an article of food, would be of very essential benefit to
the inhabitants, the king was graciously pleased to comply with their request : and a vessel was accordingly purchased, and fitted at Deptford with the necessary fixtures and preparations for carrying into effect the benevolent object of the voyage. The arrangements for disposing the plants were undertaken, and completed in a most ingenious and effective manner, hy Sir Joseph Banks, who superintended the whole equipment of the ship with the greatest attention and assiduity till she was in all respects ready for sea. He named the ship the Bounty, and recommended Lieutenant Bligh, who had been with Captain Cook, to command her. Her burden was about two hundred and fifteen tons; and her establishment consisted of one lieutenant, who was commanding officer, one master, three warrant officers, one surgeon, two master's mates, two midshipmen, and thirty-four petty officers and seamen, making in all forty-four; to which were added two skilful and careful men, recommended by Sir Joseph Banks, to have the management of the plants intended to be carried to the West Indies, and others to be brought home for his majesty's garden at Kew: one was David Nelson, who had served in a similar situation in Capain Cook's last voyage; the other William Brown, as an assistant to him.
The object of all the former voyages to the South Seas undertaken by command of his majesty George III., was the increase of knowledge by new discoveries, and the advancement of science, more particularly of natural history and geography: the intention of the present voyage was to derive some práctical benefit from the distant discoveries that had already been made; and no object was deemed more likely to realize the expectation of benefit than the bread-fruit, which afforded to the natives of Otaheite so very considerable a portion of their food, and which it was hoped it might also do for the black
population of the West India islands. The breadfruit plant was no new discovery of either Wallis or Cook. So early as the year 1688, that excellent old navigator Dampier thus describes it :-“ The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree, as big and high as our largest apple-trees; it hath a spreading head, full of branches and dark leaves. The fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a penny loaf, when wheat is at five shillings the bushel ; it is of a round shape, and hath a thick tough rind; when the fruit is ripe it is yellow and soft, and the taste is sweet and pleasant. The natives of Guam use it for bread. They gather it, when full grown, while it is green and hard ; then they bake it in an oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black, but they scrape off the outside black crust, and there remains a tender thin crust; and the inside is soft, tender, and white, like the crumb of a penny-loaf. There is neither seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure substance like bread. It must be eaten new; for if it is kept above twentyfour hours, it grows harsh and choaky; but it is very pleasant before it is too stale. This fruit lasts in season eight months in the year, during which the natives eat no other sort of food of bread kind. I did never see of this fruit anywhere but here. The natives told us that there is plenty of this fruit growing on the rest of the Ladrone Islands; and I did never hear of it anywhere else."
Lord Anson corroborates this account of the bread-fruit, and says that while at Tinian it was constantly eaten by his officers and ship's company during their two months' stay, instead of bread; and so universally preferred, that no ship's bread was expended in that whole interval. The only essential difference between Dampier's and Cook's description is, where the latter says, which is true, that this fruit has a core, and that the eatable part lies between the skin and the core. Cook says also that its taste is insipid, with a slight sweetness, some. what resembling that of the crumb of wheaten bread mixed with a Jerusalem artichoke. From such a description, it is not surprising that the West India planters should have felt desirous of introducing it into those islands; and accordingly the introduction of it was subsequently accomplished, notwithstanding the failure of the present voyage; it has not, however, been found to answer the expectation that had reasonably been entertained. The climate, as to latitude, ought to be the same, or nearly so, as that of Otaheite, but there would appear to be some difference in the situation or nature of the soil, that prevents it from thriving in the West India islands. At Otaheite, and on several of the Pacific islands,
“ The bread-tree, which, without the ploughshare, yields
The unr-ap'd harvest of unfurrow'd fields,
is, to the natives of those islands a most invaluable gift, but it has not been found to yield similar benefits to the West India islands,
On the 23d December, 1787, the Bounty sailed from Spithead, and on the 26th it blew a severe storm of wind from the eastward, which continued to the 29th, in the course of which the ship suffered greatly. One sea broke away the spare yards and spars out of the starboard main-chains. Another heavy sea broke into the ship and stove all the boats. Several casks of beer that had been lashed upon deck were broke loose and washed overboard; and it was not without great difficulty and risk that they were able to secure the boats from being washed away entirely. Besides other mischief done to them in this storm, a large quantity of bread was damaged and rendered useless, for the sea had stove in the stern and filled the cabin with water.