« PreviousContinue »
Yē, (pronounced yèng)
The resemblances are certainly remarkable; they are not, however, yet ascertained to be very numerous; and no affinity is found between the numerals of the two languages.
By this new view of one of the American languages we are again compelled to re-examine our former conclusions respecting them, before we can with certainty make a general classification of them, with a view to apply the results to the solution of the great problem of the connection between the inhabitants of the two continents, and their connection respectively with the intermediate people of the South Sea Islands.
Here we should conclude our remarks on the subject of the South Sea Islands, but for our purpose of giving some account of the handful of human beings that reside upon the little island before mentioned, and which originally drew our attention to this curious and interesting subject. Our account of it must be brief.
The little spot in question, called Lord North's Island, is now rendered interesting to us by the two years' captivity of our countrymen, whose simple Narrative is among the works enumerated at the head of this article, and who have again reached their native shores, covered in every part except their hands and faces, with marks of a part of their sufferings, in the indelible tatowing, to which they were compelled to submit -a most painful, and in hot climates, most dangerous operation. The island, which, according to the estimate of the two captive seamen, is about three quarters of a mile long, and half a mile wide, as we have before observed, just rises a few feet above the level of the ocean, on whose surface it appears like a mere speck of earth, a mere lighting place for human beings, out of sight of all other land, and containing three or four hundred miserable, half-famished savages, who have never seen any other country, and have only had occasional intercourse with other people, when European ships have casually passed through those seas. It will be found on the charts in about 3° north latitude, and 131° east longitude; but those readers, who may not happen to have access to good marine charts, will have a sufficiently correct idea of its geographical position, by knowing that it lies south westerly of the Pelew Islands, and about half
way between that group and Gilolo, one of the Molucca or Spice Islands.
This island has been described as uninhabited in works of authority; but the more accurate works on the navigation of those seas describe it, correctly, as having inhabitants, who sometimes come off in their canoes to visit a passing ship. No white man, however, had been upon the island, before the two seamen and their captain and surviving companions."
The simple and unpretending “Narrative” just published by one of these men, Horace Holden, gives a minute account of the manners and customs of this people, who may be justly called a newly discovered nation, because nothing has before been known of them, except the mere fact of there being such a people. The voyage and disasters, which led to our knowledge of them, are full of interest.
The newspapers have already informed the public that the ship, to which the seamen in question belonged, was a New England whale ship, the Mentor, owned by an eminent merchant of New Bedford, William R. Rodman, Esq. This gallant ship's company, consisting of twenty-two persons, equipped for the pursuit of that gigantic game of the ocean, so strikingly described in the well known language and imagery of Burke when he was displaying the enterprise and spirit of New Englandmen—this gallant ship's company left their native land in the month of July, 1831, animated with the hopes naturally excited by their noble and perilous enterprise, and little anticipating the reverses they were destined to experience.
In the course of the following summer, they were driven, by long-continued storms, upon the Pelew Islands: where, upon the ship's striking, ten of the crew immediately took to the boat, and were almost instantly swallowed up in the furious sea, and disappeared for ever. The remainder of the ship's company saved themselves upon one of the reefs which surround those islands, and many miles from the shore. In this desolate condition, they were obliged to pass the dreary night; sustaining life by taking a single eel, a few crabs, and a species of snail. At daylight they were discovered by some natives of the islands, and after being severely treated, they escaped from their hands in the ship's boat, and steered for the land, which they ascertained to be one of the Pelew Islands. Here, after some very rough and unceremonious treatment at first
, they met with a more humane reception, and staid several months, hoping from day to day to be taken off by some passing ship. The particulars of their residence there will be found
See Horsburg's India Directory.
in the “ Narrative;" but one little circumstance, which we do not find in the book, will amuse the reader.
It happened, that among the few articles saved from the ship, was a copy of Bowditch's Navigator; an article of as little use as we can conceive any one thing to have been at that place. But the ingenuity of the females, who also have their passion for ornaments, tore out the leaves of the book, and making them into little rolls of the size of one's finger, wore them in their ears, instead of the tufts of grass which they usually employed to give additional attractions to their native charms. We cannot forbear adding one extraordinary incident which occurred to them on their landing among the Pelews, which we extract from the Narrative:
“Just at the time when the servant of the prophetess brought out the materials for our repast, we observed, at a little distance, a singular looking being approaching us. His appearance was that of a man of sixty. His hair was long and gray, unlike that of the natives. His legs, arms, and breast were tatowed. His step was firm; his motions indicating that he felt himself a person of not a little importance. His teeth were entirely gone, and his mouth was black with the use of the kabooa. Judge of our emotions, on hearing this strange being address us in broken English! His first exclamation was —“My God, you are Englishmen!" He immediately said, “You are safe now;" but he gave us to understand, that it was next to a miracle that we escaped being killed on the water.
" This person was by birth an Englishman, and had been on the island about twenty-nine years. He told us that he had been a hatter by trade, and that his name was Charles Washington; he had been a private in the British naval service, on board of the Lion man of war. Cruising in those seas, he had, while on duty, been guilty of some trisling offence, and, apprehending that he should be severely punished for it, had left the ship, and taken up his residence upon the island. He seemed to be contented with his situation, and had no desire to return to his native country. He had attained to great celebrity, and was the sixth chief : nong them. His authority seemed great, and he exercised it with e. emplary discretion.”
A residence, however, in such a place soon became insupportable to the survivors of the ship's company, and they determined to quit it; an arrangement was made with the natives, who assisted them in making a large boat, as well as they could, for the purpose; and, leaky as it was, they set sail in it, with three Pelew Islanders in the place of three Americans, who were kept as hostages. Their expectation was to fall in with some of the islands to the southward, and to obtain at the European settlements the means of ransoming themselves. But during their voyage in this crazy boat, they experienced bad weather, lost nearly their whole stock of provision by a heavy sea, and at last, after being on the ocean a fortnight, reduced to skeletons and debilitated beyond belief, VOL. XX-NO. 39.
they discovered land. Their joy at this event, however, was soon embittered by sufferings exceeding any before experienced.
As soon as they were in sight of the land—which proved to be Lord North’s Ísland, called by the natives Tobee or Tobia fleet of canoes made towards them, filled with savages, who displayed the most brutal ferocity, and to whom, in their feeble state, they fell an easy prey.
We have not room for particulars of their treatment during their stay at this island. The captain and a part of the crew had the good fortune to obtain their release in about two months afterwards ; but the two seamen Holden and Nute, were compelled to remain there two years. The “Narrative” gives a particular account of their adventures, and of the manners and customs of the natives, who seem to be in a lower and more miserable state than any that have yet been visited in the Indian or Pacific oceans.
The island produces no food but cocoa-nuts and a species of roots resembling yams; and of these there is such a scarcity, that many of the natives die of famine; it being their unnatural custom, as soon as any one becomes enfeebled by want of food, to turn him off from among them and let him perish.
There are no animals in the place, except small lizards and a small species of rats; but these have something sacred about them, and cannot, ordinarily, be used for food. Now and then a straggling sea-turtle finds his way to the island; but this animal also is sacred, and the meat is served out in minute pieces, under the direction of their priests or sorcerers. The Americans endeavoured to induce them to take fish, which they might have done; but their indolence and stupidity could not be overcome by any persuasion.
The condition of these miserable islanders would, if our space admitted, give rise to the most interesting reflections. The situation in which we find this little band of human beingsplaced on a spot of earth in the midst of a boundless oceanhaving never seen any other inhabited land than their own little domain-in a state of society not having numbers or territory enough to afford room for what we should call wars between different nations, but yet not free from collisions and actual conflicts between different clans or families and individuals-having some regulations which we may properly call laws, and punishments for crimes, all founded upon the master principles which the Creator has implanted in the bosoms of his children, even the most unenlightened--these, and a thousand other reflections, crowd themselves upon the mind on contemplating the case of these islanders, themselves but a mere fragment of the millions, whose condition is hardly better than their
It was our original intention to make some remarks upon the Oceanic Islands in relation to the subject of national and commercial intercourse—availing ourselves of the materials contained in Mr. Southard's able Report ; but our limits do not permit it. In that important paper, the reader will find a greater fund of information on those subjects than is to be obtained (as we believe) in any other book extant. We rejoice that the subject is in his hands, and that it has been brought before congress; and we earnestly hope they will adopt the suggestion of equipping an exploring expedition to the Pacific and Indian oceans, for the purposes of commerce as well as of science. Those persons who may read that report will, we are sure, be astonished at the vast amount of American capital and lives employed in the whale fishery alone; to say nothing of other branches of trade, which are daily growing in importance.
But, apart from the mere question of interest, as is justly and forcibly urged in the report, Americans owe something to the general cause of science. Our ships of war and our merchantmen at present navigate those seas by English and other foreign charts, imperfect and faulty, it is true; and yet, as we conclude from the statements accompanying the report, none of those imperfections and faults have been corrected under the authority of the American government, notwithstanding the numerous materials we might obtain by means of our extended navigation, particularly from our whalers, and the science of our naval commanders, if they were only permitted to bring into exercise those talents which we know them to possess.
We submit one other consideration to those whose duty it may be to attend to the subject. It appears from the Narrative of Holden, that three Americans were left in the Pelew Islands as hostages for the ransom of the ship's company; other cases of this kind have occurred; and who can say, how many of our shipwrecked countrymen, at this moment, stand with aching eyes, anxiously looking from the shores of many an unfrequented island to discern some friendly sail on the boundless waters before them! In the name of humanity, let the country no longer delay in discharging a solemn duty to those who have a right to its paternal assistance and protection.'
Since this article was written, the hostages left at the Pelew Islands (or the two that remained) have been recovered, by an amicable arrange-, ment made with the native chiefs, and have been taken away by the United States' sloop of war Vincennes. An exploring expedition has also been authorized by congress.