« PreviousContinue »
by the Journal of an American commander of some celebrity in our naval history. Another circumstance, which gives this part of the globe a particular claim upon our attention, is the American Missionary Establishment at the Sandwich Islands, which was begun in the year 1819, by missionaries from Boston; and which, apart from the praiseworthy religious objects of it, will be of incalculable importance to the United States in many respects. This group of islands, now the most important of all in relation to the civilized world, has long been known as a place of resort for American whaling ships; and, until the establishment of the American mission, the savage inhabitants of them led such a life as would be the necessary consequence of a native ignorance, that was enlightened only just enough to be trained to the most disgusting licentiousness and depravity by an unrestrained intercourse with the profligate part of their civilised visiters.
Since the establishment of the American mission, now about sixteen years, a most material change has taken place in this people, in many respects; and when we state that reading and writing--aye, and printing too--have been introduced by the missionaries, and are now extensively diffused, and that the natives feel the most intense interest in those precious arts, we have said all that an intelligent reader will desire to know, in order to form an estimate of their future prospects. For these advantages, of which the grateful natives are fully sensible, they have been indebted to Americans. Their curiously constructed language, of more than Italian softness, was first reduced to writing by American missionaries, according to a plan originally proposed by an American, and by which their children and adults learn to read in a vastly shorter time than it is possible for us to learn our language. They have their elementary books of all the most useful and necessary kindsprimers, spelling books and reading books; and among these we cannot omit to mention a book of Arithmetic, the study of which is almost a passion with them, and, in the opinion of the missionaries, has done more to excite their thinking powers than has been effected by any other work ever published for their instruction. The Gospels and other parts of the New Testament have been for some time in common use among them--the types set up and the work done by native printers, but, of course, not without the aid of Americans--and, what will more surprise our readers, we have now lying before us two different newspapers, published in the language of the island'; yes, two newspapers, one on a whole sheet and the other on a half sheet, of the large quarto size, and quite as respectable in their external appearance as the average of our own gazettes. Our readers, we are sure, will not be displeased
to have a brief notice of these two journals, the first fruits of what we must call, however strange it may sound to our civilized ears, the literature of the Sandwich Islands !
The names of these journals will be found at the head of this article (Nos. 4 and 5); and their contents are the same with those of our own country; as, European and American news, letters and communications from correspondents, both natives and foreigners-obituary notices of deceased natives and others; an extensive list of vessels arriving at the islands, with statements of their cargoes, &c.; scraps of poetry; scripture extracts, and numerous articles on natural history (in which the natives are much interested), accompanied with wood cuts of the most remarkable animals, engraved, as we understand, by one of the American missionaries.
In their “Shipping List” an American reader will be struck with their mode of writing our difficult names. It is well known, that all the syllables of their language end with a vowel sound, and that they cannot pronounce the harsh combinations of two or more consonants, which occur so continually in the European languages. We accordingly see our English names all softened in conformity with this principle; · NewBedford becomes Nu Bedefoda; Boston is made a word of four syllables, Bosetona ; Nantuckei is Nanetuketa ; Philadelphia becomes Piladelepia ; and Britain, Beritania. The letter s is one of their stumbling blocks; they cannot pronounce it, but always change it into k or t; hence Mr. Ellis, the missionary, was called Elliki. From a similar cause, it is said (though we will not vouch for the fact) that their celebrated prime minister, Bolci, derived his name from an attempt to imitate the sound of the English word Boas (or Dose) the sailors' abbreviation of Boatswain, which was the name of a dog, that was a great favourite with Boki.
We add one further rernark, which is suggested by the subject of language. Our English tongue is now, beyond all question, destined to be the language of commercial intercourse throughout the Pacific ocean and the adjacent coast of America, if not of Asia also. The enterprise and activity of the two greatest commercial powers—England and the United Stateswill defy all competition; and the common language and the commerce of these two powers will mutually co-operate in giving additional interest to that region of the globe. We might also add to this list of countries, where our language is to go hand in hand with our commerce, the coast of Africa, hitherto impenetrable to civilization, but where we at length have a newspaper printed at an American press.
But we must forbear any further observations upon: this point, and return to our principal subject,
The immediate occasion of our attention being directed to these “isles of the sea" has been, what may properly enough be called the late discovery of a new people, inhabiting one of the very smallest of all the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans; we mean Lord North’s Island, sometimes called Johnstone's and sometimes Neville's Island, which is the subject of the little “Narrative” enumerated among the other works at the head of this article. We speak of this as the discovery of a new people, because, though the natives of the island in question had occasionally been seen from ships passing by their shores, and, though there had been some intercourse with them, yet so little known was the island itself, that in our popular books of geography it was generally described as uninhabited; and no particular or authentic information had been obtained of the islanders, until the recent account of them brought home by two American seamen, both natives of New England, who were detained as captives among them for two years, and have lately, after long-continued sufferings and misfortunes, been permitted once more to rejoin their anxious and despairing friends.
Of this little island ând its inhabitants, we shall presently give a very brief account, as the facts have been furnished by the unfortunate captives, whose." Narrative we have just mentioned, and to which we shall again recur.
The region of the globe which comprehends the vast body of islands in question, has been described by some writers under the name of Polynesia ; by others, under that of Oceania, from the French Océanie; and by the eelebrated geographer, MalteBrun, under the name of Oceanica, the inhabitants being called in conformity with that, Oceanians. It extends from about the 95th degree of east longitude to the 110th west, and from the 25th degree of north latitude to the 50th south.
The first English writer, who brought this region under the notice of European readers, was a gentleman, whose name is well known to every mercantile and seafaring man, and to every scholar, in our country—we mean, William Marsden, Esquire, the author of the invaluable history of Sumatra-who, more than fifty years ago, published the first edition of that admirable. work, and is, we believe, still living to witness the importance justly attached to that part of the world, which his sagacity so ably displayed at that early. period, and so long before any other individual had taken the trouble to study it. The same zeal in the cause of science and philanthropy, has continued unabated in him; and it is but little more than a year since he published the new and valuable work, on the general subject of the Polynesian Languages, contained in the volume, under his name, which is at the head of this article,
and to which we shall again refer. Indeed the publications of this able writer are so intimately connected with that quarter of the globe, that we shall be pardoned for interrupting the course of our remarks, in order to advert to a few circumstances in his life and character, which are not so generally known to American readers as they deserve to be, and one of which, for the honour of our race, ought never to be forgotten."
Mr. Marsden was born in 1754, in Ireland ; and was first employed in the service of the English East India Company, at Bencoolen, so long ago as the year 1771. While in that employment (about nine years), he began his investigations into the history of the Malay nation, the most important people of the eastern archipelago. His History of Sumatra, already mentioned, has been translated into other languages; and we have now before us the third edition of the English original. This publication immediately brought the author into notice, and he was soon appointed chief secretary to the Board of Admiralty in England. In 1807, he retired from office, with the usual pension of £1500 a year; and—what is particularly worthy of notice, when disinterestedness and public spirit are not the predominant virtues of the age—this enlightened-scholar and patriot most liberally relinquished the pension, which he had so well earned by his substantial services to his country. The English journals of that day characterized this noble act as "a good example which would not be imitated;" a prediction which has been almost literally verified.”
The general extent of the Oceanic region has been already stated; but so little importance is attached to this part of the globe in our ordinary geographical studies, that few readers acquire any precise notions respecting it. Those persons, therefore, who take sufficient interest in the subject to induce them to obtain accurate views, and to accompany us in our hasty survey
of it, will do well to have before them a good map, or, what is still better, a good marine chart of the Pacific and Indian oceans; of which, we believe, the best extant is the large chart in six sheets, by Norie, published in London, corrected to the year 1835, which is used by the intelligent masters of our whale ships that are continually traversing that whole region.
Upon inspecting the chart, we shall discover within the limits before mentioned, extending many thousand miles in each direction, innumerable islands scattered over an immense ocean, in the midst of which, as Malte-Brun observes, we find
1 We are indebted, for a part of our information, to the Foreign Quarterly Review for 1834. See also the Encyclop. Americana.
2 'Just as we were writing this paragraph, the newspapers announced one new instance of this public spirit in England; but we do not recollect the name of the individual.
a score of extensive countries resembling minor continents, and one of these, New Holland, or Australia, which is well entitled to the name and rank of a continent. To these islands, in order to complete the view, we should add the territory called the Malayan Peninsula, which is also of great extent.
The principal portion of the land, in this region, lies between the 95th and 160th degrees of east longitude, and comprehends territory partly without and partly within the tropics. South of the equator and without the tropics we find the greater part of New Holland and the whole of New Zealand ; but the remainder of the Oceanic region is intertropical, and of this the principal part lies not more than ten degrees from each side of the equator. The whole quantity of land has been variously estimated; while some geographers have reckoned it at 3,500,000 square miles, others have reduced it tó 2,500,000. New Holland by itself is nearly equal to all Europe ; and the several islands taken together present a surface considerably larger than Europe.
Here, then, as an able English writer observes, we have countries greater in extent than China and Hindostan put together. Australia itself is more extensive than the Chinese empire; Borneo, three times the size of Great Britain ; and Sumatra-larger than Great Britain and Ireland put together.3
These regions, "says Malte-Brun, "present in every quarter scenes fitted to move the most frigid imagination. Many nations are here found in their earliest infancy: The amplest openings have been afforded for commercial activity. Numberless valuable productions have been already laid under contribution to our insatiable luxury. Here many natural treasures still remain concealed from scientific observation. How numerous are the gulfs, the ports, the straits, the lofty mountains, and the smiling plains! What magnificence, what solitude, what originality, and what variety !!
It is not within our view, in this article, to speak of the geological character of the Oceanic region farther than to observe, very briefly, that it contains objects of the highest interest, among which may be reckoned a greater number of volcanoes than are known in any other part of the world. The island of Java alone, according to some writers, contains at least fifteen; of which, that of Geté is estimated to bé 8000 feet above the level of the sea ; Sumatra has a number of them ; 5 and the