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J. C. F U R N A S 

... a rustic world, sunshiny, lewd and cruel . . . 

Stevenson, Pan's Pipes 

Issued in cooperation with the 


Publishers 'New York 

Copyright, 1937, 1947, 1948, by j. c. FURNAS 
Copyright, 1946, 1947, by CURTIS PUBLISHING co. 


Manufactured in the United States of America 

This Is Helen's 



Individually to acknowledge the obligingness of all the peo- 
ple spotted from Boston to Melbourne who gave material help 
on this book would mean a list of names about the size of the 
subscribers' directory of the New Jersey Telephone Company. 
All are warmly, if anonymously, thanked. 

Formally I should acknowledge courtesies from the U. S. 
Department of State, the U. S. Commercial Company, the 
U. S. Navy, the U. S. Army Air Force, the Royal New Zea- 
land Air Force; from the American Geographical Society, Pan- 
American World Airways, the Union Steamship Company 
of .New Zealand, the Matson Navigation Company. For read- 
ing facilities and other help I am greatly indebted to the New 
York Public Library, the Princeton University Library, the 
Library of Congress, the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Pub- 
lic Library, the Archives of Hawaii, the Carnegie Library of 
Suva, the Mitchell Library, the Auckland Public Library. 

None of the above organizations and institutions has any 
responsibility whatever for anything in the book. This project 
was self-bailing throughout. 

The credit for the photograph of Dr. Wilhelm Solf in the illustrated 
section is Tattersall, Apia. 




1 Misnamed Ocean 12 

2 Misunderstpod People 23 



1 In the Name of His Majesty 200 

2 The Glory That Was Grease 209 

3 The Good Frigate, Grab-bag 224 

4 Destiny's Helpers 244 

5 Fishers of Men 2 59 

6 Unsavory Characters 303 




1 Hurry, Hurry, Hurry ... 412 

2 Faya way's Children 425 



Guide to Pronunciation 490 

Sources Consulted 491 

Index 5 21 
Illustrations between 434 and 435 

The Institute of Pacific Relations is an unofficial and non- 
partisan body founded in 1925 to facilitate the scientific study 
of the peoples of the Pacific area. It is composed of National 
Councils in eleven countries besides the United States. 

The Institute as such and the National Councils of which 
it is composed are precluded from expressing an opinion on 
any aspect of national or international affairs. Opinions ex- 
pressed in this study are, therefore, those of the author. 






the number of books on the subject has probably reached five 
figures, an apology is indicated. Fortunately, it is easy to make. 
Few books on this area have been general reporting rather than 
rhapsody or scientific description. The reporter can include 
both fact and fancy the fancies are symptomatic of much that 
handicaps the South Seas, and Americans need to be well 
aware of all the facts. 1 Finally, material like this, so much of it 
little known to the general public, offers irresistible temptation 
to a writer. For our present and past relations with these islands 
involve happenings that would make the angels simultaneously 
laugh out loud, weep in angry compassion, and stamp their feet 
in vexation with the stupidity of all parties concerned. 

You may never have been nearer the South Seas than the 
screen of the neighborhood movie, and that is very far away in- 
deed, but chances arc high that your son or nephew has re- 

*TMs book will not cover, except sometimes incidentally, certain South 
Sea matters that have been overworked or that retain small current 
significance, such as: the "Bounty" story; the "mysteries" of Easter 

Island statues and stone rains in the Carolines; leprosy; military opera- 
tions of World War IL These omissions do not necessarily mean that 
these subjects were neglected in legwork; for instance, I have visited 
leper colonies and seen something of the next-to-final phase of the 
Pacific war. 


cently been there. His presence on a South Sea Island in uni- 
form meant and means that, for good or ill, the United States 
has become the political and military arbiter of this geographi- 
cal entity, loosely but workably bounded by a line from Hawaii 
to the Marianas, to New Zealand, to Easter Island. 

In population and resources the South Seas are a negligible 
part of the great Pacific world. Yet, as the connective tissue 
of the greatest of oceans, these chains and clumps of islands are 
crucial strategically. That is why so many Americans, Austral- 
ians, New Zealanders, Japanese, Fijians, Solomon Islanders, and 
heaven and hell now know who else, died capturing or recap- 
turing them. The huge, raw, American bases in New Cale- 
donia, Fiji, the New Hebrides, the Solomons, the Society 
Islands, have been abandoned or handed back to friendly pow- 
ers-in-charge. But the United States has held on in Micronesia, 
and the potential American presence will remain all over the 
Pacific as long as our power exceeds that of our Pacific neigh- 
bors and as long as we are vulnerable from the west a factor 
greatly increased in importance since Hiroshima. In these days 
the arm of neither France nor Britain is long or strong enough 
to guarantee whatever decisions are made as to the future 
status of the Pacific. Though nearer the scene, the British 
Dominions have too slim resources and population. 2 The 
United Nations is acting most gingerly regarding its potential 
function in the Islands, doing little more than recognize faits 
accomplis. This or that island may fly the tricolor, the South- 
ern Cross or the Union Jack, but the destiny of this stretch 
of salt water is determined by the world force implied in the 
-words Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Tokio Bay. 

This is admitted by those able to speak without an eye to votes. Said 
that tcmpcrish but valuable palladium of South Seas whites, the Aus- 
tralian Pacific Islands Monthly, (September, 1946) : 'The white com- 
munities of the South Pacific have no hope of survival unless the United 
States assumes guardianship of the South Pacific. Without American 
help what could Australia do against the overwhelming masses of Asia? 
About as much as Australia did in 1942, when the Japanese avalanche 
was rolling southward. This is no reflection upon Australian courage or 
military prowess. The point is that in comparison with the human 
masses in Asia and in North America, Australia simply doesn't count." 


So the South Seas are Uncle Sam's baby. Power over an area 
implies responsibility for it, and responsibility makes under- 
standing highly advisable. 

Understanding has been made difficult for us because we 
have associated with the South Seas some of the most appeal- 
ing and most absurd fairy tales that ever one man told an- 
other. If we are to carry out our responsibilities in a fashion not 
too repugnant to our sense of fair play and political craftsman- 
ship, we must clear away the spun sugar from an actuality that 
is at once beautiful, small, and immeasurably significant. As an 
American citizen you are personally and directly answerable for 
the best interests of 80,000 brown Islanders in Micronesia, and 
indirectly so for those of a couple of million more assorted 
Islanders in the rest of the South Seas. 

During and after the recent war, inexperienced and insuffi- 
ciently briefed Navy officers were sent to govern Pacific islands. 
They usually showed good will but lacked a sense of reality; a 
sociologist who saw it all from the inside wrote: "Americans 
regard natives through the focus of the Hollywood movie pro- 
jector . . ." 8 

Back of that baffled officer on Koror or Manua stand you, 
who, whether you know it or not, hired him to do what he is 
supposed to be doing. Unless Americans comprehend better 
what problems there are like, even a good man will often find 
the merits of his work ignored by an ill-informed public or 
worse, misrepresented by busybodies of both good and ill will 

It is also advisable to try to correct the misapprehensions 
brought home by GIs, The boys were justly annoyed when 
Waikiki Beach, palm groves and coral islands turned out to be 
decidedly not as advertised, and they resented impressions back 
home that Pacific duty consisted of being shacked up with 
Dorothy Lamour in a terrestrial paradise full of ukuleles. Actu- 
ally, few soldiers or sailors saw much of Pacific natives. Those 
who did usually liked them cordially. But the average GI lack- 
ing opportunity for close contact, called them all "Gooks" 

Holm C, Usccm, "Social Reconstruction in Micronesia"; Far Eastern 
Survey, January 30, 1946. 


except the Guamanians, whom he liked on sight and disap- 
proved of them out loud. As a postwar citizen passing on his 
government's policies in the South Seas, he is too likely to 
spread the impression that this region, consisting principally 
of unhomelike pestholes teeming with subhuman Gooks, is 
hardly worth bothering about. The remedy is to know much 
more than the GI knew at the time about the actual who, 
where, when, and why of the South Seas. 

Such knowledge may bring disillusion to stay-at-homes. Yet 
this is no effort to debunk the South Seas in the brash manner 
of the 'twenties. No matter how much rock-happiness they in- 
duced in lonely men in garrison, these islands have a beauty im- 
possible to debunk. The charm of many of their inhabitants, 
the human validity of all, are beyond reach of carping. 

Our current relations out there are anomalous, perplexing, 
and inevitable. No single book could tell the whole, present or 
past. But here is what can be made out by one observer. Under 
the circumstances little of it can be useless. 

A particular usefulness, in fact, lies in the principles to be 
derived from acquaintance with the Islands. This area has been 
a most important laboratory for anthropology* or rather, in 
this connection, for the ethnological branch of anthropology. 
The ethnologist's day is now dawning very brightly indeed. 
Within our time, if he show himself sufficiently flexible and 
eclectic, he may well take over from the economist as the in- 
tellectual bellwether or, with bad luck, Judas goat of the 

That is as much hope as prediction. For,, unless the eth- 
nologist supersedes the economist in a humanizing shift away 
from impersonal formulae in basic human thinking, western 
man will get tragically little out of the forces now available for 
social decency. We are likely, of course, to forestall the neces- 
sity for this shift by blowing our world to hell with atomic 

*" Anthropologist" includes measurers of crania and students of primi- 
tive tongues as well as the individual here meant the student or tech- 
nical and social man working through description and analysis of 


energy or disintegrating it with bacterial warfare and atomic 
byproducts; but, until those threats materialize or dissipate, we 
must act on the assumption that our world will go on. And the 
ethnologist's approach is the best one to hand. 

What that approach is must wait for description until the 
reader has digested a regional sample of the kind of data from 
which ethnology works. This is no textbook, nor is the writer 
in any sense qualified as an ethnologist. But much of what fol- 
lows has been the raw material of ethnology, or offers horrible 
examples of what comes through misconceptions that eth- 
nology can correct, or describes situations for which ethnology, 
with its ancillary sciences, alone promises help. Weighing such 
material in his own right, the layman can express, as an out- 
sider, an unscientific conclusion, a human attitude, based on 
the possibility of using ethnology as a social tool. 

This nonprofessional moral is that it is impractical as well as 
hideous to deal with human persons impersonally; that to pa- 
tronize, sentimentalize about, or try to make a social digit of, 
any man in any cultural framework is the unforgivable sin 
against a nontheological Holy Ghost, So stated, it sounds 
formidable: all it actually means is that the South Seas op- 
posite number of Joe Doakes is as much of a person as Joe, 
though marvelously unlike him. To handle him on any other 
assumption makes him an emotional cripple likely to do him- 
self great damage, and to guarantee aching consciences for 
those responsible for him. 

The past and present troubles of the South Seas are an ex- 
cellent working model of what happens when such ideas arc 
absent. The East Indies, India, Palestine, are now the most 
conspicuous of the dismal dozens of other examples that could 
be adduced. All differ remarkably from the South Seas; their 
clinical histories are all special cases, probably even more com- 
plicated. But all are what they are today because of the same 
general order of strains, some of strictly internal origin, many 
arising out of contact with westerners ignorant of, or imper- 
fectly affected by, the above sentiments. It is always advisable 
to approach a complex matter by first taking a good look at a 
simpler one of similar import. 


In the process be warned of many things: misplaced humor, 
color prejudice, impatience with bungling and, particularly, un- 
due self-reproach. Consider what would have happened if the 
Polynesians, say, had been in a technological position to move 
in on western man. 

During early visits from white men South Sea Islanders were 
often unable to understand why they were so favored. Captain 
Finch, U.S.S. "Vincennes/' reported in 1829 an ingenious 
theory developed by the Marquesans, whose islands had re- 
cently been much frequented by whalers. Observing the greedi- 
ness with which white seamen approached local women, the 
wondering natives concluded that this white race must con- 
sist of men only and that, in order to enjoy heterosexual rela- 
tions, whites had to travel all the way to the Marquesas. In 
their minds no other circumstances could explain the frantic 
value that these strangers set on women and the persistence 
with which they kept coming back. 

Other theories were produced when the first whites were 
missionaries. The Rev. James Chalmers, courageous pioneer in 
New Guinea, wrote a friend: 

The natives thought at first that we had been compelled to 
leave our native land because of hunger . . . "Have you coco- 
nuts in your country?" "No." "Have you yams?" "No." "Have 
you breadfruit?" "No." "Have you sago?" "No." "Have you 
plenty of hoop iron and tomahawks?" "Yes, in great abun- 
idance." "We understand now why you have come. You have 
nothing to eat in Beritani, but you have plenty of tomahawks 
and hoop iron with which you can buy food." 5 

8 Richard Lovett, James Chalmers: His Autobiography and Letters: 
210-11. Cheap iron hatchets (usually called tomahawks in the trade, 
in analogy to such trade items in North America ) and iron barrel hoops 
broken into pieces convenient for working into adzes were often among 
the most popular early trade goods with South Sea peoples , who lacked 
metals. This theory would not have occurred so readily to a Polynesian, 
who did not have the Melanesian's traditional aptitude for ideas in- 
volving foreign supply of crucial items. 


The deduction is intelligent and not inaccurate. Britain actu- 
ally was and is still in the position of lacking sufficient home- 
raised food and importing provisions from overseas in ex- 
change for, among other things, manufactured hardware. 
Further data, of course, corrected mistakes. When missionaries 
arrived with wives, the Marquesans saw that after all whites 
did have women, of a sort; and Islanders taken to Europe met 
beef, potatoes and bakers' goods and acquired the impression 
that white men's foods were great luxuries. To this day canned 
corned beef, canned salmon, ship's biscuit and sugar seem 
gastronomic delights to the Islander. He eats sugar, in fact, 
with an avidity which our culture would label infantile the 
ration for Fijian labor in the local gold mines is half a pound 
per man per day. 

But all problems implicit in white intrusion were not so 
easily resolved. For the last century, in fact, the South Seas have 
known nothing but problems, and they will probably continue 
to do so. For example: the native was puzzled to find that, 
whereas all his people usually believed in and did the same 
things, some whites called missionaries behaved differently 
from, and hated and slandered, other whites called seamen and 
traders. Presently, looking around, he found whites insisting 
that, in some incomprehensible fashion, they had unimpeach- 
able rights of permanent possession to much of his people's 
better lands. Whites tried to bully him into working for them 
on these hijacked lands and, when that was not successful, 
hired or kidnapped outsiders to produce quantities of things 
sent away on shipscoconut oil, cotton, rock, sugar, pearl 
shell far more of each than anybody anywhere could con- 
ceivably use. These non-white alien laborers brought additional 
new ways of doing, which multiplied confusion. Presently came 
a third breed of white, the doctor or official, inclined to scold 
both the missionary and the seaman-trader, sometimes trying 
to check population- and culture-decay, but often doing more 
harm than good. And then came the romantic traveler, baffling 
the native by admiring and often paying for performances of 
the old dances that the missionary had discouraged as shame- 
ful ... 


The native did his best to digest all this. He often succeeded 
in mortising the white man's religion and ethics into his own 
with results that satisfy him, however they might distress the 
Y.M.C.A. The recent war, however, brought another tidal 
wave of emotional and physical displacement. Early Japanese 
victories damaged white prestige, and later white victories did 
not necessarily repair all the damage. Bulldozers scraped whole 
islands raw and whole populations were moved to strange 
places by both Japanese and whites. Native troops did signifi- 
cantly well at white-style warfare, sometimes better than the 
whites in bushfighting. Money in return for labor flooded many 
islands with curious economic consequences. 

World War II was a devastating lesson in the paradox that 
whites, who had suppressed native warfare as uncivilized, 
would fight like demons among themselves at a relative cost in 
lives and goods of which no Islander had ever dreamed. Confu- 
sion was back on the throne. 

Whites are now trying to put things back together, but the 
native has grounds for wondering if such help is anything to 
welcome. Here and there he says out loud that he wants more 
responsibility in whatever reconstruction is achieved. The 
speed with which he has bounced back from his recent trauma 
speaks well for his stability. But more responsibility that is 
a moot question. 

This sort of thing and hundreds of other aspects of a very- 
complicated worldare what we shall consider. 

So far, whether his intentions were good, bad or merely 
selfish, the white man in the South Seas has been little better 
than a nuisance in net effect. It was a great pity, if you care to 
look at it that way, that he ever came bothering the Islands to 
begin with. To heighten the futility of the affair, he got 
pathetically little economic good out of his intrusiveness. 
There is only one thing to be said for the story of how the 
whites arrived and what happened next and next and next 
down to our own time: The facts make it clear that matters 
could have gone no other way. 



Misnamed Ocean 

I heard the pulse of the besieging sea 
Throb far away all night. I heard the wind 
Fly crying and convulse tumultuous palms . . . 
Robert Louis Stevenson 



dull. The Pacific Ocean is physically the greatest thing on 
earth. Astronomers used to wonder if the whole bulk of the 
moon might not have been torn out to leave its great depths 
and distances. Up toward Alaska, down toward the Antarctic, 
it can be as gray and bitter as the North Atlantic. But in the 
region that concerns us, it shows deep silky blues and greens. 
The tepid salt water stretches apparently boundlessly all 
through the South Seas, rich with vegetable and animal life 
that make coral development possible. It builds land here and 
tears it away there. It feeds birds that carry the seeds to 
plant new green life on new islands. Other stretches of ocean 
are beautiful, but no other is so lavish, and none gives the sun 
such extensive opportunity to beguile the human eye with 
color in motion. 

Like human beauty, however, this is based on details dis- 
tasteful to the queasy-minded. A poet finding lyric inspiration 
in the very words "coral reef" must disregard the fact that 
coral reef exposed by the tide smells like a distant decayed 
lobster and looks like a pocked ruin of dishonestly com- 
pounded concrete. Its sharp projections slashing white men's 
soft feet have killed many with septicemia; bits of it lying 



waterworn on the beach precisely resemble battered old bones; 
the strange fish in its pools are often savagely poisonous. 

It is notorious as well that, in calling this the Pacific Ocean, 
Magellan was greatly misled by a fine-weather westward pas- 
sage. Even in the mild South Seas storms can be formidable. 
This ocean is a lady with a tigerish taste for tempting human 
beings to settle on atolls and then unleashing hurricanes that 
annihilate everything people, houses, trees, even the coral 
lumps of the exterior beach. A few generations or centuries 
later she may repeat the performance with equal relish. Con- 
templating the inhabitants of his first atoll in 1769, Bougain- 
ville wrote: 

"I admire their courage if they live without uneasiness on these 
strips of sand which a tempest can bury under water in the 
winking of an eye." Voyage autour du monde . . . II, 11. 

While bowling westward, Magellan's crew was starving be- 
cause the island-rich Pacific flightily refused them any landfall 
promising food. It is no accident that so many famous small- 
boat voyages made by castaways occurred in this ocean, often 
in the idyllic South Seas themselves. Distance and chance are 
cruel hereabouts, requiring high sagacity and endurance in 
emergencies. The Pacific was made not for men, but for far- 
ranging whales and seabirds. 

A good map gives most of the significant details. Others can 
be tucked into the text as we go along. But even the best maps 
omit some important things, or give false impressions on points 
that cartography was never meant to cope with. 

The term "South Seas" itself needs comment, for instance. 
As used here, it means a lopsidedly diamond-shaped region 
with the Samoa group near its center of balance. Its vague 
boundaries are far from the coasts of all continents, sub-con- 
tinents, and most islands unmistakably attached to a continent, 
including only those islands primarily dominated by the cir- 
cumambient presence of the Pacific herself. 1 This area happens 

Tor comparison, see Stevenson, In the South Seas, 168; Keesing, The 
South Seas in the Modern World, 3. 


to include the climates, flora and peoples associated in the 
popular mind with "the South Seas/' Palms, cannibals, mis- 
sionaries, coral reefs, grass skirts, bare-bosomed girls, gin- 
rascally traders, volcanoes, pearls and sharks, are all there 
somewhere, or were there once. Many of them also do or did 
exist in the Philippines, the East Indies and New Guinea; but 
these fascinating places are left out because their scale is too 
large, they are too close to Asia, or their polity is too formal, 2 
to answer the South Seas tradition. New Zealand is included, 
not because she has coral reefs or palms being too far south- 
but because her aborigines were good Polynesians, the tradi- 
tional denizens of the South Seas. Barring New Zealand and a 
few scraps of land slightly too far south, such as Rapa and 
Easter Island., the whole South Seas, as the term is used here, 
lies tidily between Cancer and Capricorn. 

The phrase "South Seas" has a history. It originated in a 
noted misconception. The isthmus of Panama so twists that 
Balboa first saw the Pacific south of him, whereas two-fifths of 
it actually lay to the north. From then on "the South Sea" 
meant the Pacific to most men mentioning it. Even after it was 
known up to latitude 40 N., British privateers and buccaneers 
raiding western South America or cruising after the Manila 
galleon spoke of "our voyage to the South Sea." (Such im- 
mortality of outmoded names is familiar: New Yorkers call the 
Hudson the North River a label unknown on any recent 
map,) Then, with the rise of romancing about glamorous 
Pacific Isles, "South Seas" contracted and grew sticky conno- 
tations. "Pacific" was then used to describe Balboa's discovery, 
while the earlier phrase suffered apotheosis. "Going out to the 
Pacific" means one thing to the hearer, "going out to the South 
Seas" quite another. One is geography and one poetry, or at 
least a stab at it. 

Local names also trip up the new arrival in the Pacific, where 

Skipping New Guinea cuts the subcontinental Melanesian away from 
his Island cousin, which is bad. But there are some limits to what even 
the boldest writer can hope to cover intelligently. New Guinea is re- 
ferred to in this book only when it offers indispensable illustration. 


islands, individually and by groups, have as many aliases as con- 
fidence men. Early discoverers, considering native names mean- 
ingless and unwieldy, gave their finds more familiar titles of 
convenience or prestige. It is confusing that the Friendly Is- 
lands means Tonga, the Navigator Isles Samoa, the Sandwich 
Islands Hawaii; that Kusaie (Carolines) was once Strong's Is- 
land and Chain Island (Tuamotu) is Anaa. Duplication is 
bewildering: Melanesia has a Sandwich Island; and the name 
of Lord Howe, whom late eighteenth century British captains 
revered, appears four times on Pacific charts. During their 
Johnny-come-lately enterprise in the Pacific, the Germans re- 
christened parts of Melanesia Neu-Pomnnern, Neu-Mecklen- 
burg and so forth. Generally the earlier the discovery, the worse 
the confusion. Until the middle of the last century European 
names predominated on maps and logs; after that, for no as- 
signable reason, native names began to crowd out the alien 
ones. Some still stick, however, such as those of the Gilberts 
and the New Hebrides. 

The westerners followed no system in giving names. Pit- 
cairn's Island was called after the midshipman who first sighted 
it; the Society Islands after the Royal Society, sponsors of 
Cook's first voyage; the Marquesas after the wife of the noble 
patron of Mendana's voyages; and Savage Island (Niue) after 
the observed nature of the inhabitants. It is a pity that some of 
the better efforts disappeared. La Nouvelle Cyth&re is excel- 
lent for Tahiti, as Bougainville saw it through an erotic mist, 
and New Zealand would be much better off as Ao-Tea-Roa, the 
Long White Cloud, a bit of Polynesian poetry inspired by the 
sight of her snowcapped ranges from far out at sea. 

Spelling is another vicious hazard. In the early days missions 
had not yet standardized the transliteration of South Sea 
tongues, and it takes some ingenuity to make out that what a 
conscientious sailorman spelled Bonaby is Ponape (Carolines) 
and Whytootackee Aitutaki (Cooks). A missionary records 
fifteen early ways of spelling Fiji, viz.: Beetee, Fegee, Fejee, 
Feegee, Feejee, Feeje, Fidgee, Fidge, Fidschi, Fiji, Feigee, 


Viti, Viji and Vitee 3 quite as bad as the countless ways of 
transliterating Russian. 

The island-peppered appearance of the map is also decep- 
tive. Even from a plane the human eye seldom gets any such 
effect in the South Seas. Islands apparently cheek by jowl 
actually lie far out of eyeshot of one another. Nor do maps 
show their great variety. The only sound generalization about 
South Sea islands is that all, without exception, are surrounded 
by salt water. And the human variety is as great as the topo- 
graphical, including not only Tahitian houris but the sulky 
cannibals of the New Hebrides; not only airy and healthy 
Hawaii but the disease-ridden Solomons; not only the brown 
Polynesians of legend, but big and little dark peoples of ob- 
scure origin, with recent sprinklings of both Caucasoids and 
Mongoloids. A marine battling malaria and jungle-rot on 
Bougainville was just as much "in the South Seas" as if he had 
been sporting with Rarahu in the shade by Loti's pool, Much 
of New Caledonia and Fiji look not at all like the movies, but 
a great deal like Texas or Wyoming. 

South Sea Islands can be classified, but application on the 
spot can be difficult. Weston Martyr's bilious approach is a 
good beginning: 

South Sea Islands are all the same, except that some are high 
and some low. The low islands are coral atolls, very pretty to 
look at from a distance. They can always be counted on to 
provide bad water, bad food, bad mosquitoes, bad smells, 
dangerous navigation, boredom, and coconuts. On the high 
islands there is better water, more to eat, and more disease, 

The Wandering Years, 103. 

Generally, all the islands are somehow volcanic. Though fasci- 
nating in themselves, the slow processes by which, according 
to one or another hypothesis, the islands achieved their present 
shape are of small concern to the traveler, but the distinction 
between atoll and high island is fundamental. An atoll is a ring 
of coral built up hardly above sealevel by coral polyps, en- 
closing a wholly or partly imprisoned shallow salt lagoon -a 
Thomas Williams, Fiji and the Fi/ians, L 


sort of calcareous dimple awash inside and out Its soil is poor- 
ish to poor, but it can support certain vegetation, particularly 
pandanus and coco palms. The whole ring may be dry land, or 
sporadic islets may rise from the water in a sort of necklace 
with a submerged reef for a string. Surf smashes away at the 
seabeach, while the lagoonbeach gets only unaggressive ripples. 

The "uplifted coral" variation is a picturesque affair in some 
cases, but in others, as in Tongatabu ( Tonga ), desperately 
dull. Here the coral platform and wall of the atoll have been 
heaved above sealevel, sometimes making a saucered plateau. 
Breakers gnaw at its edges, undercutting the seaward cliff until, 
in smaller versions, such an island looks like an old-time green 
Pullman hassock resting on a mirror. The smallest of them 
become stemmed and capped like a mushroom and eventually 
break off. Tropical rains may wear gullies inland and leave 
knolls in the coral limestone, very sharply "dissected" as geol- 
ogists say. Any marine who fought on Bloody Nose Ridge on 
Peleliu (Palaus) can tell you what good defensive country 
these limestone knobs are in a stubborn enemy's hands. A 
further rise of the seaor sinking of the landmay flood the 
gullies, making dark, calm creeks among lush islets. 

High islands are the exposed summits of submerged vol- 
canoes or conglomerations of volcanoes, often becoming fan- 
tastically craggy at the top as crater walls break down and 
lighter ash and cinders wash away from the solid basalt cores. 
The fairy tale beauty of Tahiti, Bora Bora (Societies) and 
Rarotonga (Cooks) came about in that fashion. It is very hard 
to believe in the reality of the Tahitian peak called the Di- 
ad&nrie, which looks for all the world like a somewhat disorgan- 
ized crown roast of beef. The windward side of such an island, 
benefiting from cloud condensation on the peaks, is usually 
well-watered, the leeward side correspondingly dry. People can 
do well on such islands, their lives usually concentrated on 
beaches, protected by surrounding coral reef from the great 
ocean rollers. In the larger islands of Melanesia, however, there 
developed hill populations too, differing in various ways from 
the beach dwellers. 


Since coral polyps like their water good and salt, the mouth 
of a fresh-water stream usually means a gap in the reef op- 
posite, and hence a middling-to-good small harbor for shallow- 
draft vessels. Honolulu, Papeete (Tahiti), Apia (Samoa) are 
examples. But all high islands are not so hospitable. Reefless, 
steep-to Pitcairn's has practically nothing to recommend it 
from the seaman's point of view, which is why the mutineers 
of the "Bounty'* chose it for their hideaway. Since volcanoes 
and water behave much the same way the world over, this type 
of island, with promontories like prostrate camels and sharp- 
spined, elaborately buttressed mountains in the background, 
can be seen almost anywhere where plutonic forces have been 
at work near the sea in the West Indies, the Aleutians, the 
Mediterranean. Atolls, however, develop only in waters warm 
enough for coral. 

High in the South Seas can mean very high. The Big Island 
(Hawaii proper) rises 32,000 feet from the ocean floor, its 
upper 14,000 feet majestically above water in a saddled sum- 
mit. But, in illustration of South Seas exceptions, Hawaii is 
not characteristic. The special volcanic habits of Mauna Kca 
and Mauna Loa, sister culminations of the great peak, make 
for colossal oozings of lava, not conebuilding in the grand 
manner. As a result Hawaii is a great flattish hump, most un- 
like Rarotonga. The presence of the world's greatest active vol- 
canic craters on Hawaii is also noncharacteristic. That smoking 
mountain on the backdrop, favorite clich^ of the movie- or 
stage-designer, is rather rare in the South Seas. Smoking peaks, 
some rising straight from the sea like hell-blackened boils, do 
persist in the northern Marianas, the New Hebrides, New Zea- 
land, the Solomons, Tonga and Samoa. But the principal 
Pacific points of volcanic activity lie outside our area, in the 
Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, Japan, Alaska, and on the 
western coast of South and Central America. The typical South 
Seas volcano is content to lie quiescent while rain and wind 
carve its profile. 

People who have never been out that way usually picture a 
South Sea Island as a cozy little scrap of land about as exten- 


sive as the average golf course. True, many are not much larger. 
One of the most enticing is Aguigan, lying off Tinian (Mari- 
anas) a tiny, terraced jewel designed in symmetrical setbacks 
of weathered crag, green as a bed of moss and accessible at only 
one chancy point on its western end; elsewhere the surf leaps 
with sinister enthusiasm at every inch of cliff. But it would take 
several days to walk round the ioo-mile perimeter of Guam 
even if the roads were better. Both Hawaii and Viti Levu 
(Fiji) are rather larger than Connecticut as well as notably 
more habitable, while the Solomons and New Hebrides add up 
to really considerable accumulations of dry land. New Cale- 
donia would stretch from New York to beyond Washington, 

Even atolls can be built on a generous scale. The dog-legged 
length of Kwajalein (Marshalls) lagoon is close to eighty miles; 
Truk (Carolines) lagoon contains 1500 square miles of reef- 
guarded and island-studded water, deep enough to have been 
suspected all through the war of being a principal Japanese 
naval base. Until planes appeared many a South Sea Island 
had never been seen in entirety by the human eye. Some may 
never be so seen. 

The plane does much to enhance the reputation of the 
South Seas for beauty. Unimaginative mariners first viewing 
Tahiti or Nukahiva (Marquesas) from the crosstrees would 
descend and write ecstatic descriptions that sounded as if they 
had just met Aphrodite in person. If they had seen a typical 
atoll from 8,000 feet, they would have been babbling still. It 
lies there like something painted in the moving sea, clean-cut 
as an apple paring, weltering in surrounding color as if it were 
bleeding pigment into the water, water that is royal blue in the 
offing, abruptly darker all round the island, and then shrill 
green just off the beach. The interior lagoon is splotched with 
copper sulphate and squash-yellow and moth-wing purple 
where coral lies wide and close to the surface. Surf and vegeta- 
tion on the narrow land contribute a lathery white and a green- 
ish-brown. Conventional accounts of color in natural objects, 
such as rock scenery in the western States, are usually rhetorical 


lies confirmed only by cheap inks on picture post cards. Here 
the rhapsodizer is in no danger of overplaying, for a Pacific 
atoll from the air is the quintessence of innocent and gracious 
gaudiness. Naturally there would be pearls and bright fish in 
such a lagoon, dancing, singing, and beauty ashore. The con- 
clusion is inevitable, though by no means necessarily sound. 

Planes do disservice, however, in dulling the impact of Pacific 
distances. Johnston Island does not seem so hell-and-gone 
when you drop down on it four hours from Hawaii. To get the 
point one should have made the trip three generations ago the 
other way, in a schooner against the trades for seven hundred 
weary miles of empty water. The plane passenger has no ac- 
quaintance with the personality of the Pacific when he knows 
her only as moir6 silk floorcloth flecked with soapsuds some 
indeterminate thousands of feet below. It is rather like trying 
to consummate a marriage by television. 

For westerners climate is the special attraction of the South 
Seas, and means semi-nakedness, tropical fruits, indolence. 
The Maori in New Zealand and the Hawaiian are the only 
Islanders who ever see snow, and the Hawaiian can touch it 
only if he climbs the upper slopes of Maui and the Big Island. 
Within that limit, temperatures here and there range from 
reasonably cool nights to Turkish bath conditions. The sun 
brutally predominates. Its glare on a coral sand beach is as 
cruel as that on a snowfield, suggesting dark glasses or the 
native's ingenious equivalent of a slitted shade woven of palm 
leaf. The famous trade winds, though not as consistent as 
poets insist, keep tepid rivers of air running over most of the 
islands most of the year, as pleasant a thing as nature ever de- 
vised. And sun and temperature encourage vegetation which 
is as picturesque as it is useful. 

Barring New Zealand, New Caledonia, and some other odd 
bits, palms of some species do, or would, grow on all but the 
most barren rocks in the South Seas. But these simple saurians 
of the vegetable world do not predominate on high islands, 
which tend to develop dense scrub given to thorns, or heavy 
hardwood forest turning, as you near the equator, into lofty, 


lightless, dripping jungle, full of writhing vines and huge pale- 
trunked trees with bony root-buttresses flanging out yards 
wide. What with lichen-splotched trunks and weird habits of 
growth, two out of three island trees look to western eyes as if 
they were diseased. It is easy to understand why South Sea 
peoples were shy of such forests, peopling them with the ghosts 
of the maleficent dead and the less benevolent of their minor 
gods. Too great an accumulation of such growth is definitely 
depressing as you coast along its broody monotony, particularly 
in Melanesia. The best description was written about New Ire- 
land by a man who had never seen the Pacific: 

. . . two long islands of a greasy green, a rheumatic green ... a 
narrow strip of sand only a few yards wide, beyond which noth- 
ing was visible but certain slopes, all covered, from the summit 
to the sea, with landslides of dark verdure . . . strange, rather 
gruesome, islands. Alphonse Daudet, Port-Tarascon, trans- 
lated by Henry James, 117. 

Coco palms prefer the beach or low land behind it, liking 
"to have their feet in salt water/' though they can stand height 
up to a thousand feet. Where the promontories break down to 
low foreshore and beach, the brittle flailing of the coco's 
limber arms and the clean, sandy shade among the ringed 
trunks are a palpable emotional relief light, space and air 
again. In the rising distance inland tradewind clouds are 
massed on the mountains, blocking off the sun, throwing surly 
shadows over valleys and ridges. Even sunlight often fails to 
keep South Seas heights from looking sinister; in fact, the 
higher the sun and the more intense its light, the gloomier the 
mountains are. Only the level light of early morning or early 
evening brings out the composition of the peaks and the dainty 
detail of their wooded skylines. Photography cannot convey 
these qualities. Accuracy of spirit was often greater in the 
steel engravings that illustrated our grandfathers' books. 

This chapter was revised in a room whence you can see a 
humped, furry-green volcanic hill, coco palms and, deep and far 
beyond them, the blue opaque surface of the great ocean that 


floats the Islands. I shall probably never see any of them again, 
though not for lack of wishing. I should like very much to 
land again on Tupae in a greasy copra-surfboat and walk across 
to the lagoon beach and see the young palms writhing in the 
trade wind as foreground for the faraway, preposterous, profile 
of Bora Bora, a towering splotch of dilute India ink. 

It may be just as well that return is unlikely. Nobody in his 
senses, but a Chinese and a scattering of born-to-the-life 
natives, would live on Tupae. But in other islands it would be 
conceivable and, the longer you travel among them, the more 
conceivable it seems. Wrote a lawyer, of all people: 

... it is a noticeable feature that Europeans who have made a 
lengthy stay rarely retire from the group, it is thought from 
choice as well as from force of circumstance. The islands are 
said to take hold of a man softly and so that he does not care. 
Robert Mackenzie Watson, History of Samoa, 13, 

Misunderstood People 

The man of nature, the Naturmensch, does not exist. 

Bronislaw Malinowski, "Culture/' 

Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences 




his present descendant is necessarily a "Native," a term used 
by the English-speaking world when condescending to simpler 
cultures. Originally it was innocent enough, meaning merely 
"born on the spot." The Islander too sometimes has such a 
word; "Maori/' the term applied to themselves by the Poly- 
nesians of New Zealand means much the same thing. But 
white arrogance perverted "Native." Even the French, reput- 
edly politer to subject peoples, use indigene in the Islands 
more as a patronizing noun than as an adjective. The proof of 
the poison lies in the fact that the Islander often heartily dis- 
likes hearing the word "Native" applied to himself. Thus in 
Tonga, the most self-consciously proud of Polynesian island- 
groups, brown skinned medical assistants must be called, not 
"native medical practitioners/' as elsewhere in the Pacific, but 
"Tongan medical practitioners." 

"Native" is difficult to define but profitable to mull over. 
Chinese and Japanese are seldom thus labeled. 1 Since they are 

x The exception occurs in New Caledonia, where Mongoloid laborers 
from Indo-China are sometimes lumped with the island's original 
Melanesians as indigenes for social purposes. 



quite as alien to whites as any of the darker peoples, this may 
show an uneasy sense of respect for their Asiatic home-cultures. 
Or perhaps a warm climate is essential to the word. No book- 
writing amateur ever called Ojibways or Siberians "Natives/' 
but the tourist in Mexico readily applies the word to the resi- 
dents of Taxco. I have heard the same tourist in the West 
Indies call the local negroes Natives in spite of their obviously 
recent origin in Africa. 

Nobody of European stock is ever seriously a "Native." The 
English-speaker may have small use for Italians or Serbs, who 
may strike him as excitable, dirty and of dubious morality. But 
behind them he feels longstanding accomplishment in terms 
that might be consonant with his terms. Color as such cannot 
be significant: many a Scot or Spaniard is as swarthy as many 
a Polynesian, yet neither is a "Native" at home. 2 

Positively, the meaning of "Native" can be approximated. It 
means: Darker. Productive of quaint handicrafts. Given to div- 
ing after coins thrown from a ship's rail. Greedy for beads, red 
calico, silk hats and alcoholic drinks. Suspect of cannibalism. 
Addicted to drumbeating and lewd dancing. More or less 
naked. Sporadically treacherous. Probably polygynous and 
simultaneously promiscuous. Picturesque. Comic when trying 
to speak English or otherwise ape white ways. Or, to define by 
example: a "Native" is what Robinson Crusoe feared had made 
that footprint. When he turned up, Friday was a "Native" 
right enough; so was Melville's Queequeg; so was Tondelcyo, 
who made "mammy palaver" temporarily part of the Amer- 
ican language. The "Natives" are badly spoiled . . . the 
"Natives" are dying out . . . the "Native" dances arc won- 
derful, but you have to get away from towns to see the real 

a On the other hand, I have occasionally heard a British voice, usually 
newly arrived, call South Sea Islanders "niggers." Americans in the 
Islands are seldom guilty of such bad taste, but cannot plurne them- 
selves on it. The American's special situation at home, a national dis- 
grace, makes him sensitively careful about misapplying so explosive a 
word. During the recent war in New Zealand an occasional drunken GI 
got into trouble by trying to shove Maoris off the sidewalk as "niggers," 
It is necessary to explain to New Zealanders that such men were 
probably from the South and knew no better. 


thing ... he 'Vent Native" , . . the "Native" women 
aren't so much, but the "Native" babies are the cutest little 
things you ever saw. . . . 

There is in all this an eagerness to regard one's fellow-men 
as handsomely or grotesquely feral creatures for exhibition in 
zoos. The concept of the white man's burden combines here 
with the essential snobbishness and parochialness of the aver- 
age tourist. It is not pretty/ 

Nor can the word be left at that. In reaction against the 
colonial or globe-trotting snob, the sentimentalist has reversed 
the onus and vested the poor devil of a "Native" with an aura 
of pure moonshine. To him anything "Native" is by definition 
morally, aesthetically or technically superior to anything non- 
"Native," however that would be defined. He shakes his head 
sadly at the privy that whites force the Native to build, not be- 
cause it spoils the view or usually defeats its sanitary purpose, 
but because it is non-"Native" not to defecate on the beach or 
in the bush. He often insists in print that, by sheer loving- 
kindness, he succeeded in making fast friends with the Natives 
and lived among them for months as one of themselves. Never 
mind if experienced and sympathetic scientists deny that such 
a psychological and physical feat is possible 4 - the Nativophile 
says he has done it and for the rest of his life preens himself 
on the accomplishment. 

Reading the resulting books infects the tourist with this atti- 
tude. Some of the consequences are grotesque. American rail- 
roads advertise Red Indian snake dances, and nice old ladies in 
Guatemala City tell you, one after another, that experts can 
actually distinguish the various tribes of Guatemalan Indians 
by the weave and coloration of their garments isn't that mar- 

3 "Kanaka" (French version Canaque) is another word which the Is- 
lander often dislikes and which the courteous white avoids. It originally 
meant "man" in Polynesian dialects; it is now used to distinguish 
natives from whites or other interlopers in Melanesian as well as Poly- 
nesian settings. The connotation is contemptuous and toplofty. 
*"Like most anthropologists, I regard with skepticism the claim of any 
European writer that he has been accepted by natives as one of them- 
selves." Raymond Firth, We the Tikopia, xi 


velous? That simple fact, as familiar as Scotch tartans, affects 
them with a rapture ordinarily reserved for the arcana of 
esoteric mysteries. Something of the same attitude underlies 
the practice of the Hawaiian white who scatters fifty or sixty 
Hawaiian words through his talk only a dozen or so are 
needed for concepts peculiar to the Islands and uses them in 
his tales of ghost armies that his aunt heard marching up 
Nuuanu Valley. He may also tell the malahine that there really 
is a great deal in old-time Hawaiian medicine, and adduce cases 
in which resort to a feahuna cured an old hapahaole wahine of 
both diabetes and erysipelas. Hawaii is the worst sinner in this 
respect, but traces of such self-conscious antics occur in the 
Pacific wherever whites have read "colorful" books about 

These habits would be merely funny if they did not often 
react damagingly on the Islander. Already prone to miscon- 
ceive the place of his island in the cosmos, the native leader 
who finds himself regarded by certain whites as a glory-trailing 
survivor of the Golden Age can develop and worse, try to 
carry out some very strange notions. He falls in with ideas 
about "Natives" which his own knowledge of tradition should 
show him are false. I have heard a famous Maori dance leader 
tell a tourist audience that the Jialca, the old Maori war dance, 
was invented to exercise and develop the warrior's muscles- 
note how every muscle in the body is affected. This was not 
only nonsense anatomically, as the ensuing dance demon- 
strated; it was also nonsense historically. This able lady, how- 
ever, had liked the sound of it when she read or heard it and 
could not resist the impulse to adopt something alien to Maori 
thinking, but comfortingly close to Western ways. 5 

The Nativophile is seldom on trickier ground than when 
admiring "Native" artifacts. Admiration is often justified for 
a piece of delicately striped Hawaiian tapa, an Ellice Islands 

5 "The savage is no scientific hygienist. The Maori was fit because of his 
mode of life; he did not think out his mode of life in order to be fit. By 
interpreting Maori social institutions in terms of this hygienic purpose, 
recent writers have gone sadly astray." Raymond Firth, Primitive Eco- 
nomics of the New Zealand Maori, 37. 


mat, a Maori greenstone mere, all beautiful objects born of 
painstaking skill which often wonderfully emphasize the quali- 
ties of the material. But, as an eminent ethnologist recently 
pointed out, 6 it is false to attribute to their makers what we 
think of as the artistic impulse. 7 The Hawaiian tapa-dyer was 
not exercising personalized creativeness in stamping that pat- 
tern or choosing those colors. She was merely repeating tradi- 
tional patterns and color schemes with timid variations. The 
same holds good for the finest Island sculpture and wood carv- 
ing. To neglect this distinction can lead to confounding a 
Diirer, who was both artist and superb craftsman, with the 
elderly lady who won first prize with her undeniably beautiful 
Fox-and-Goose quilt at the county fair. The proof lies in the 
fact that, once outside his own rigid traditions, the "Native" 
has atrocious taste. Among the white man's artifacts he almost 
invariably chooses lurid junk of far lower quality in mass, line, 
and workmanship than his own productions. Yet a white man 
does not have to be a professional designer to pick the shoddy 
from the beautiful in a collection of "Native"-made objects. 

The strangest effect of Nativophilia, however, is that it pro- 
duces fervent pleas that Native cultures be deliberately isolated 
and encouraged to idiosyncrasy. This merges into the ethnolo- 
gist's museum-complex to be treated later. But even in amateur 
form it is smotheringly full of assertions that to give Natives 
access to pants makes the world less desirable because less 
diverse. It is hard to acquit Nordhoff of sentimentalism in hav- 
ing written: 

There are certain parts of the world like our American moun- 
tains, deserts, and lonely stretches of coast which seem 
planned for the spiritual refreshment of mankind; places from 
which one carries away a new serenity and the sense of a yearn- 
ing for beauty satisfied. Ever since the days of Cook the is- 
lands of the South Sea have charmed the white man explorers, 

^Harry L. Shapiro: Art News, March, 1946 

TLeenhardt made the same point: "[the New Caledonian carver] is not 
a man with full consciousness pf his art, who consecrates himself to it 
with motives of devotion and beauty/' Gens de la grande terre, 33. 


naturalists, traders, and the rough crews of whaling vessels; the 
strange beauty of these little lands, insignificant as far as com- 
mercial exploitation is concerned, seems worthy of preserva- 
tion. And the native, paddling his outlandish canoe or loung- 
ing in picturesque attitudes before his house, is indispensable 
to the scene . . . the native must be preserved if a shadow of 
the old charm is to linger for the enjoyment of future genera- 
tions of travelers [Italics mine]. 

Faery Lands of the South Seas, 196. 

Numerous people considering the South Seas reporters, 
doctors, government officials, professional hotel men have 
told me that transpacific aviation should make it practical to 
set up swank tourist hotels on South Sea Islands, to lend 
atmosphere to which Natives acting quaintly, like Natives, will 
be essential. Fanning Island, New Caledonia, Tutuila (Sa- 
moa), Majuro (Marshalls), have all been mentioned to me in 
that context, as well as better known places like Bora Bora 
(Societies) and Kauai (Hawaii). The one comfort is that, in 
most of these places, it sometimes blows hard enough to push 
even the swankiest cabana into the lagoon. 

Or Native-preserving may be motivated by a pontifical 
jealousy for Native welfare. 8 The most curious example still 
goes on, though somewhat flawed by the recent war, on the 
small Hawaiian island of Niihau, fifteen miles off Kauai. There, 
for generations, a group of practically pure-blooded Hawaiians 
has been kept unspotted from the world by the owners of the 
island. Originally a Scots family, this group migrated to New 
Zealand where it prospered. But its sense of family solidarity, 
centering round a queenly mother, was so strong that it sold 
its holdings as too small to provide well for all the children, and 
sought more room elsewhere. In a ship bought for the purpose, 
stocked with sheep and cattle of the group's own breeding, the 
Family, as it is called, touched at Hawaii in the 'sixties on the 
way to British Columbia or, some say, Oregon. Finding North 
America not to its liking it returned to Hawaii and, for a re- 
puted $10,000 in golda generous price at the time bought 

This can make sense cf. Chapter VII on British policy in the Poly- 
nesian islands fringing Melanesia. 


Niihau from the Hawaiian Crown. There it built a mansion 
and started stock ranching, with the Hawaiians working on 
a semifeudal basis of labor-for-quitrent Again the Family did 
well and used other resources besides to establish itself as one 
of the dominating forces on Kauai, with Niihau kept on as a 
more or less profitable plaything. 

The Niihau Hawaiians were already Christianized and 
broken to adequate clothing, the only improvements that the 
Family would have desired. To keep their blood pure, their 
morals unaffected by white vices and their temperaments 
docile, these few hundred brown people have ever since been 
virtually isolated by Family ukase. Only a white superintend- 
ent and a couple of Japanese running the Family's sampan 
between Niihau and Kauai disturbed the atmosphere. Quaran- 
tine was enforced with a rigidity that could be comic only to 
the Martian onlooker. Exceptions were made only in cases that 
would have meant secession from Hawaii. Thus, school and 
health inspectors from Kauai County were grudgingly per- 
mitted. The superintendent's son could visit his father once a 
year, provided he applied for special permission each time. 
When the superintendent, the only man on Niihau allowed 
to smoke, went to Honolulu on unavoidable business some ten 
years ago, he saw trolley-cars for the first time. Phonographs 
and radios were forbidden, and a telephone to the mainland 
was never installed. An Hawaiian leaving the island for any- 
thing but grave illness requiring hospitalization could not re- 
turn if the Family disapproved his going. Church services and 
schools, though only up to fourth grade, were conducted in 
Hawaiian alone. A signal fire on a headland was the only way 
to communicate with the Family in emergencies. But the head 
of the Family went over to the kingdom once a year for a stay 
of several months, was welcomed with feudal pomp and rode 
in state in a surrey to the rambling old house. 

Hawaii has always been full of tales about how the Family 
resisted U.S. Army attempts to survey the island and com- 
plained bitterly about warplanes on manoeuvres frightening 
the sheep. Only a few intimate friends of the Family were ever 


taken across the strait. Curious outsiders always found that 
permission to visit Niihau was the one thing in Hawaii that 
could not be arranged if you knew the right people. The one 
man known to have managed it without extreme subterfuge 
and luck was the pilot of a Japanese fighterplane who made a 
forced landing on Niihau during the attack on Pearl Harbor. 
With the aid of one of the Japanese working there he terror- 
ized the island for a short while but eventually, under circum- 
stances which are already the matrix of juicy local legend, was 
erased by a large Hawaiian couple whom he had been bullying. 
The virginity of Niihau was avenged, if not restored. 9 
This arbitrary anomaly under the American flag, however 
benevolently intended, is the reductio ad absurclum of the 
native-quarantined-for-his-own-good. A variant of it, though, 
the attitude that the world is, and should be, "so full of a num- 
ber of things" can affect even presumably sage social scientists. 
Contemplating the Maori's situation in Invercargill, New Zea- 
land, where the "Native" has evidently succeeded brilliantly 
in fusing socially, economically and politically into the white 
man's society, the sociologist Duff winds up by mournfully re- 
gretting that any such adjustment took place. Though these 
Maori are unquestionably happier thus than their fellow- 
"Natives" with less complete adjustment, it somehow offends 
him to see the old ways so thoroughly wiped out. 

A mere restating turns the trick. Mankind needs a spiritual 
sanitarium; therefore certain Polynesians must adopt careers 
as therapeutic lay-figures, taking not what their culture needs 
from among the white man's ways, but doing what will solace 
the troubled white man's spirits. Or, to put it in another way, 
the world is more stimulating and attractive if the Persians do 
things differently from Western peoples; therefore Persia must 
be discouraged from selling oil to the United States and buy- 
ing back soap, Persians being quainter when dirty. 

These approaches and attitudes toward the complex of ideas 

The best sources on Niihau arc Nordhoff, Northern California . , * ; 
Bird, Six Months . . . ; Clark, Remember Pearl Harbor; and my own 
piece in Coronet, January, 1937. 


and emotions involved in the word "Native" have been gone 
into here to avoid confusion later on. Certainly an adult mind 
cannot regard the world as a freak show in which the fat lady 
must be contrasted with the living skeleton. And with that the 
capital N can be dropped. Since no better word is available, 
native will be used throughout the following. Understand it 
henceforth as meaning "Descendant of the ethnic stocks found 
in possession by the white discoverers of any given island." 


Savagery has been, for the reading public of the 
last three centuries, a reservoir of unexpected pos- 
sibilities in human nature; and the savage has had 
to adorn this or that hypothesis by becoming cruel 
or noble, licentious or chaste, cannibalistic or hu- 
mane, according to what suited the observer or the 

Bronislaw Malinowski, The Sexual Life of Sav- 
ages, 537 

I remember a ship news photographer scouting for subjects 
on a liner making port at San Francisco from the Islands. On 
the forward well deck he caught sight of our Fijian passenger 
well muscled, cocoa-brown, wearing a tweed jacket and wrap- 
around skirt with a scalloped hem, his head like a frizzy black 
basketball, bare feet apparently twenty inches long and on his 
face the standard Fijian expression of dignity mixed with 
geniality. The photographer's astonishment was so intense that 
for several seconds he made no motion toward his camera. 

"What," he demanded of the nearest bystander, "is that 
barefoot boy with cheek of tan?" 

This reaction to a first look at the most picturesque of South 


Sea Islanders was a good one. A full answer to his question 
would acquaint the reader with much that is significant about 
Islanders, for the Fijian is the nearest thing to a least common 
denominator of the Island peoples. Still, it would omit or in- 
sufficiently illustrate many a crucial detail; so we must discuss 
many other Islanders and hope to avoid both confusion and 
inaccuracy. For one reason or another, all are peoples well 
worth acquaintance. 

Of course, there is not now and never was any such thing as 
a typical "South Sea Islander/' Differences among these 
peoples' appearances and ways of doing are as numerous as re- 
semblances, although they all originally had some features in 

All South Seas peoples barring occasional albinoswere 
darker than the average among whites discovering them. All 
lacked draft animals, none knew the wheel or the propelling- 
oar. All lacked any supply of metals, though some knew of 
metal and occasionally secured a fantastically valued bit of iron 
or copper from floating wreckage. Unfamiliar with the nature 
of the stuff, however, they might try to plant a few of the white 
man's iron trade spikes to grow more of the precious things. 
All lived principally on vegetable foods and derived most of 
their scanty animal proteins from fish rather than from the 
scarcer hog, dog or rat. All wore fewer clothes than was cus- 
tomary among whites. None had developed writing, relying on 
memory for record, 10 All somehow recognized private prop- 
erty, but none knew of sole freehold in land. And in practically 
all cases the basis of government was the prestige of rank and 
traditional ways rather than formally ascertained consent of 
the governed. 

Contrasts were so striking, however, that the South Seas 
were early split in three on a basis partly geographical, partly 
racial The result naturally did not make scientific sense but 
has persisted for convenience: Polynesia (Greek for Many Is- 

w Engravcd plaques from Easter Island led some students to believe that 
a form of writing had developed there. Recent inquiry makes it un- 
likely. Cf. Peter H. Buck, Vikings of the Sunrise, 236. 


lands); Micronesia (Little Islands); Melanesia (Black Is- 
lands ) . Many Islands would just as well have fitted the whole 
area in fact, "Polynesia" was so used a hundred years ago. 
Guam (Marianas) and Babelthuap (Palaus) in the Little Is- 
lands are much larger than Rarotonga (Cooks) or Tongatabu 
(Tonga) in the Many Islands. Scattered along the fringes of 
the Black Islands are groups of probably Polynesian lighter- 
colored peoples. Also, even in the inaccurate sense in which 
the word is applied to negroes, the Melanesian is seldom 
black; rather, dark with a purplish tinge. 

And the boundaries of these divisions merge dismayingly. It 
is more tidiness than ethnic clarity that draws the line between 
the Micronesian Gilberts and the Polynesian Ellices. The east- 
ern part of Melanesian Fiji is demonstrably shot through with 
Polynesian infusion from Tonga, while the Melanesian Loyal- 
ties off New Caledonia show marked traces of Polynesian im- 
migration. These divisions, like other abstractions, are useful 
tools only when used most broadly. You cannot even say that 
Melanesia consistently differs from the others in possessing 
malaria the disease is lacking in Melanesian New Caledonia 11 
and Fiji as well as in Polynesia and Micronesia. Merely take it 
that Polynesia means the eastern half of the sprawling dia- 
mond of the South Seas; Micronesia the northeastern quad- 
rant; Melanesia the southwestern quadrant, where islands are 
bigger and the climate more depressingly tropical. A check list 
of island groups thus categorized by a recognized authority is 
appended. 12 

^Amateur speculators developed the theory that the universal presence 
of the scrubby, gnarly jaiaouh tree (a cousin of the Australian eucalypti) 
kept New Caledonia malaria-free. But this is poor ecology Fiji lacks 
niaouli and malaria too. 

12 Felix M. Keesing, Native Peoples of the Pacific World, lists as follows; 
I have supplied the more common aliases: 

Polynesians inhabited; Societies (Tahiti, Raiatea* etc, 
Hawaii (Sandwich Islands) Includes both Society and 

Samoa (Navigator Isles) Georgian groups of Cook.) 

New Zealand Ellices 

Tonga (Friendly Islands) Wallis and Home 


Such cataloguing, however, perniciously encourages a blup 
ring of perceptions. There was and still is plenty of distinction 
between the New Zealand Maori and his distant (in both 
senses) Polynesian cousins in Hawaii. Ever since Prince Lee 
Boo's time the outgoing, politic, smiling inhabitants of the 
Palaus have been temperamentally different from their Micro- 
nesian neighbors in Yap, only a few hundred miles away. In 
Melanesia cultural splinterism makes the area a miniature 
universe in itself, practically as fantastic as its larger prototype. 

It is hard for a western man to appreciate the isolation of 
any of these island peoples. When whites found him, the Is- 
lander's geographical knowledge seldom ranged over a radius 
of more than a few hundred miles from his village beach, 
practically never beyond the immediate group. (The exception 
would be the triangular intercourse in war, diplomacy and 
trade among Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. ) Only dimly did legends 
of long-ago voyages tell him that there might be other and 
different lands far away. There he lived, ringed by the horizon- 
wall, his culture gradually developing by internal momentum 
into something more and more sharply differentiated from 
that of others. The Samoan had even forgotten that he orig- 
inally came from somewhere else. But this isolation was not 
altogether a matter of salt water. Even on large Melancsian 
islands each miniature tribe might be sharply different from 
the people in the next bay sharply and most intriguingly dif- 

Much as the ethnologist deplores such an attitude, con- 
noisseurs of the topsy-turvy have wandered entranced through 
Melanesia. One tiny culture had grown so nonaggressivc that 

Tuamotu (Paumotus, Low or Melanesians inhabited: 

Dangerous Archipelago) New Hebrides 

Marquesas New Caledonia (Loyalties in- 

Easter Island (Rapa-nui) eluded) 

Micronesians inhabited: Solomons 

Gilberts (Kingsmills included) Bismarcks (New Ireland, New 

Marshalls Britain, etc.) 

Carolines (Palau included) Fiji 
Marianas (Ladrones) 


the necessary executive functions of chiefs were considered a 
degrading bore. In another women were leaders and providers 
while men were creative-minded and gossippy aesthetes. A 
third had no notion that sexual intercourse directly caused 
pregnancy a man returning from a year's absence would be 
delighted to find his wife nursing a new baby or that eating 
and nourishment are associated. Another group knew the facts 
of life but considered that, if a wife had intercourse with her 
husband within a day of entertaining a lover, the resulting 
child would be the husband's anyway. On Ugi (Solomons) it 
was customary to kill one's own children young and purchase 
children nearer adulthood from neighboring tribes, which gave 
the advantages of a family without the trouble of rearing. The 
men of Dobu, off eastern New Guinea, were so hyper-sus- 
picious that they escorted their wives when they went to 
defecate in the bush a matter in which Islanders are usually 
prudish to make sure that the trip was not a pretext for adul- 
tery. And they had so little notion of honest dealing that they 
attributed performance of a contract in good faith to the 
efficacy of magic spells worked on Party B by Party A ... 

Yet these are not deliberate travesties of human behavior 
created by a sardonic minded angel. Instead they are human 
behavior, demonstrations of how flexible human potentialities 
are. Much as the Islanders varied, they were merely exhibiting, 
as we do also, the astounding variety of institutions, emotions 
and deviations that human beings always manifest Further, 
these examples show once and for all that a society can exist 
with considerable satisfaction to its members when some of 
its key assumptions signally fail to make objective sense 
which should cheer us about our own culture. Some of what 
follows may dismay those unaccustomed to looking squarely 
at nonwhite ways of doing; but remember Surnner's testy 
dictum that anybody likely to be shocked by reading about any 
folkways, of whatever sort, had better not read about folkways 
at all. 

To repeat for emphasis: These were human beings. When 
you pricked them, they did bleed. Their talent for living often 


impressed hard-headed as well as romantic observers. The ways 
that they developed in isolation usually worked harmoniously 
and well under their peculiar circumstances. Either conde- 
scension toward or hysterical idealization of them is pointless 
bad taste. 

Yet none of them had the objectivity that you and I need in 
order to consider them intelligently. Before the whites came 7 
they were as committed to their own ways as Puritan Salem; 
probably even more so, for they lacked Salem's obscure fer- 
ments. Vestiges of this self-centered parochialism are still 
among them. Years ago American Samoa was having trouble 
with coconuts, its economic mainstay. The U.S. Navy brought 
a coconut expert down from Honolulu; he found what was 
wrong, and explained cause and cure to a great meeting of 
local chiefs. A high talking-chief responded for several quarters 
of an hour in the prolix, stately tradition of Samoan eloquence, 
devoted to conventionalities, reserving significance for the last 
sentence. He thanked the Navy, the Territory of Hawaii, the 
Government in Washington, the President and the good Lord 
for their kindness in sending this great and wise man to help 
them, promised that the event would be recorded to all eternity 
in song and dance among the Samoans, and so forth and so on 
and so forth . . . He said that no Samoan would dream of 
doubting the great and wise man's ideas of coconut culture. 
"But," he finished, "in Samoa we don't handle coconuts that 

Every culture likes its own way best. The Islander, with so 
little opportunity to know that other people's notions could 
differ from his, was particularly set in his ways. 

. , . neither noble savages nor inhuman brutes, but men, 
Tawney, preface to Raymond Firth, Primitive Economics of 
the New Zealand Maori, xvii 

What the Islanders were like before whites came pestering 
them is not easy to make out. Evidence from early explorers is 


fragmentary, and usually from untrained observers. Evidence 
from early missionaries is distorted by pious sensibilities and 
the need for lively propaganda to attract funds from home 
congregations. Later evidence, though useful, is flawed by the 
fact that many details altered subtly or grossly from the very 
beginning of white contact. Evidence from present day natives 
is warped by their understandable tendency to romanticize 
their ancestors in reaction to white arrogance. Besides, Amer- 
icanizing trends in Hawaii, Anglicizing trends in Fiji, Frenchi- 
fying trends in Tahiti, necessarily produced confusing results. 
Everywhere the white's physical, social and emotional poisons 
poisons only to the native, like a blood transfusion from an 
incompatible donor affected the native variously, depending 
on whether missionary, whaler or official had the upper hand. 
So it will be well to remember that from here on there is at 
least one glaring exception to every statement made. 

Physically, except for more or less skin pigmentation, Is- 
landers have varied about as much as mankind in general. 
Some Melanesians run short and most have mashed-in faces 
and heavy brows, but others are taller, with aquiline profiles. 
Frizzy hair and smallish eyes give them notions of personal 
beauty at variance with ours Malinowski's friends in the 
Trobriands regretfully let him know that they found whites' 
large eyes, prominent noses, and lank hair, most unattractive. 
The GI was baffled enough by his first Polynesian beauties, 
but it was nothing to his feeling when, shovelled ashore in 
Melanesia, he was shown a local woman, dark, stringy, pendu- 
lous-breasted, as a "real South Sea Islander." 

Micronesians varied from the shortish, stocky, red-brown 
Palau to the long-vanished Chamorro type that the Spaniards 
found on Guam, tall, heavily muscled and richly dark of skin. 
In general the Micronesian looks more clearly Mongoloid than 
do the others. 

Polynesians, the South Sea Islanders of cheap legend, are 
quite light enough to tan. A Samoan who customarily wears a 
shirt shows a V of sunburn at the throat when he strips. Light- 
ness of color was attractive in Polynesia, so aristocratic or 


vainer women kept out of the sun as much as possible. The 
modern Hawaiian still cannot understand why white men and 
women at Waikiki insist on burning themselves as black as 
possible. The contrast between the commoner and the noble- 
women of Tahiti (Societies) the latter were periodically 
bleached in the shade of Tetiaroa islet was so marked that one 
of Wallis 7 midshipmen mistook them for members of a differ- 
ent race. 

Both Polynesian and Micronesian probably have much 
"white" blood, presumably sharing Caucasoid strains still pres- 
ent in India. While moving spasmodically eastward along the 
Asiatic and Pacific islands, they picked up local admixtures 
that darkened skins, thickened lips and sometimes slanted 
eyes. 13 

Nor is the Melanesian a "nigger." It shouldn't matter any- 
way, but for the record, his relationship to the African is prob- 
ably almost as remote as ours. His build is also deceptive. 
Though not usually big or bulky, he has marvelous wind and 
is sturdy enough to have been the laboring mainstay of South 
Sea plantations for four generations. 

The Polynesian is husky in any terms, tending to a big- 
footed, ham-handed, heavy-muscled, fast-reflexed type that 
makes an ideal football player. The Polynesian handshake feels 
as if produced by a combination vice and boxing glove; I have 
seen a six-foot Polynesian of middle age solve an entanglement 
of the bumpers of two cars by lifting the rear of one car un- 
assisted, apparently thinking nothing of it. In apparent para- 
dox, however, the Polynesian younger man has always looked 
a trifle womanish. 'The young men at a little distance," wrote 
Mrs. Wallis of Stewart Island, "resembled very pretty girls, 
and so at first we thought them." When filming Moarza in 
Samoa, Flaherty had to revise his projected story because no 
native, old or young, had a face strong enough for the original 
plot. Gauguin noted this androgynism, as did La Farge: 

w ". . . the Polynesian race originated from a tri-racial mixture of some 
sort of white or Caucasoid stock with Melanesian-Negroid and Mon- 
goloid elements-" Hooton, Apes, Men and Morons, 144. 


". . . the girl form passes into the young man's . . . with- 
out a break/ 7 The impression may arise partly from body hair- 
lessness whites are the world's hairiest people the melting 
Polynesian eye, and the great grace with which all Polynesians, 
men included, handle themselves. 

Throughout the Islands aristocrats usually run larger than 
the local average; this difference in size helped early visitors 
form their theory that chief and commoner were of different 
breeds. Chiefs could be gigantic. A towering, fat, but powerful 
arii 14 (or alii or a r ii or ariJh", depending on the particular Poly- 
nesian dialect) might weigh 400 pounds. His sister ran simi- 
larly to tallow, well over six feet, weighing in the same division, 
with arms like tapered watermelons and breasts like basket- 
balls. Fat was honorific beauty. Lucatt, the early Tahitian 
merchant, felt distressed when a slender high chieftainess was 
prepared for marriage by being sent to Tetiaroa to gorge for 
months and return deliciously hog-fat. James Jarvis described 
the early Hawaiian chief tainesses: 

". . . their flesh hung in deep folds about them; their walk was 
a majestic stagger; but their carriage was lofty and betokened 
an innate pride of birth and rank." 

History of the Hawaiian Islands, 46 

One such giantess broke the cabin sofa in Kotzebue's ship 
merely by sitting down on it; she wore seaman's boots and her 
ankle was eighteen inches round. But this was not fat without 
strength. A Tahitian great lady picked up the ailing Wallis 
bodily and "lifted him like an infant over such wet and dirty 
places as they came to in their way/ 7 Another Tahitian high 
chieftainess personally stole the ship's anvil from the Spanish 
"Aguila" in 1772. So, when you read of a white man enjoying 
the favors of an Island "queen/ 7 his bedfellow was probably 
not at all the slim brown enchantress you have in mind. It 
must have been like having an affair with a lady whale in full 

This upper-class hugeness, probably hereditary because of 

"This term identifies the top ranks of Polynesian societies. 


class inbreeding, is sometimes attributed to special diet for 
upper-class children assisted by incessant massage, at which 
Islanders are very skilful. It still survives here and there. When 
two Tongan princes recently announced their intention of 
each marrying a Tongan noble girl, a local white man declared, 
after hasty calculation, that the double marriage would add up 
to just under half a short ton. Fat is still attractive in Poly- 
nesia: Beaglehole reports of Vavau (Tonga) : 

"The average village man's idea of a woman who is beautiful 
emphasizes . . . that she should be fat in every part of her 
body ... a woman . . . whose buttocks and feet are small 
is looked upon with small favor by the idealists/' Pangai, 85 

Polynesian women have not lived up to Hollywood in other 
respects. A flat, broad, nose was often considered a mark of 
beauty, so mothers solicitously mashed children's noses to suit. 
Heavy tattooing, ritually important and sometimes piquant, 
gave in extreme forms a somewhat long-underwearish effect. 
Shapeliness of breasts seldom survived motherhood in Samoa 
because children were allowed to hang on the breast while 
suckling, a stretching process that might go so far that the 
mother could throw the breast over her shoulder and let the 
child nurse from behind. Today even the smaller specimens 
of Polynesian womanhood show that their ancestresses must 
have been on the heavy-set side, with thick ankles and ill- 
defined waists. 

Variations in average good looks seem to have been marked 
for, though Hawaii was never noted for pretty girls, those of 
Samoa, the Marquesas and Tonga were severally advanced as 
superlative. The writer's own impression is that today the 
average is higher in Micronesia than anywhere else. 

How to account for the legend of South Seas beauty is not 
too puzzling. A French Navy officer disappointed in the sirens 
of Tahiti in the 'seventies put his finger on it: 

"Poets have sung the Tahitian girl whom they never met 
Navigators celebrated her. After a long voyage, that is excus- 
able/ 7 Henri Rivi&re, Souvenirs de la Nouvelle-Cal^donie, 50 


This tradition was founded by very dubious witnesses, seafar- 
ing men with their judgment warped by six months or a year 
of seeing no women at all. Or, if they had touched at Patagonia 
or Tasmania on the way out, the last women they saw would 
have been those acknowledged to have been the most spectral 
hags on earth. Bear in mind also that seamen are notorious 
liars when recounting adventures, and that the eighteenth 
century's ideas of beauty were not ours, at least below the neck. 
Hardbitten Benjamin Morrell, sealing- and sandalwood- 
skipper, drew the bow very long indeed when celebrating 
"Young William's Group" (probably somewhere in the 
middle Carolines) : 

"The chief's wife then gave me a little garland of wild flowers; 
and as if this had been a preconcerted signal, two lovely fe- 
males, naked as they were born, darted from a neighboring 
thicket, each with a similar token of affection, which they of- 
fered me with the most bewitching grace conceivable. Heaven 
forgive me, if my wicked heart did violence to any one precept 
of the decalogue! These girls were about sixteen or seventeen, 
with eyes like the gazelle's, teeth like ivory, and the most deli- 
cately formed features I have ever met with. In stature they 
were about five feet, with small hands, feet and head, long 
black hair, and then those eyes, sparkling like jet beads swim- 
ming in liquid enamel! They had small plump cheeks, with a 
chin to match, the lips of just the proper thickness for affec- 
tion's kiss. Their necks were small, and I believe that I could 
have spanned either of their naked waists with both my hands. 
' Their limbs were beautifully proportioned and so were their 
busts. Imagination must complete their bewitching portraits; 
I will only add that the shade of their skin was a light copper 
color." Narrative of Four Voyages, 12. 

Such a spate of adjectives, applied even to Micronesian 
girls, who often are very delicately made, cries out for check- 
ing by visual evidence from early times. Little worthy of the 
name exists. Photography was not available. The artists whom 
explorers usually took along to record peoples and places did 
well by topography, but their drawings of natives are always 


too iiiuch influenced by examples then fashionable among 
European drawing-masters. Whatever the Tahitian model may 
have been like, she cannot have so closely resembled a Romney 
portrait of Lady Hamilton. The modern full-blood Samoan, 
Hawaiian, or Tongan, girl is a beauty no oftener than one ex- 
pects among wliites. Apparent exceptions almost certainly 
have a touch of white or Chinese. Grace of movement, beauty 
of eye, great charm of manner are often there. But in both 
Polynesian and Melanesian women features run coarse, tend- 
ing toward the masculine, the complementary androgynous 
touch that Gauguin noted. Moerenhout tried to attribute to 
arduous labor the fact that the part-white women of Pitcairn's 
were "un peu honimasse"; but the same is true of those in is* 
lands where neither sex toils unduly. 

Older men in Polynesia and Micronesia, however, make 
good on the brilliant good looks popularly associated with the 
South Seas. A Sanioan chief with broad, plump, shoulders, 
cropped gray head, crisp mustache and an air of genial and 
self-respecting dignity is as fine looking a human being as ex- 
ists. The effect is of a very distinguished European tinted light 
brown; his juniors of equal rank, pushing middle age, present 
a most diverting variety of recognizable white types. I have 
occupied myself during the prolonged speeches of a Samoan 
Icava ceremony by identifying famous faces in the chiefs sit- 
ting at their posts in the circle: Roscoe Turner, James F. 
Byrnes, Gifford Pinchot, J. A. Krug, Admiral Byrd, the late 
Senator Penrose. In a gathering of Fijians I have met both 
Dante and Professor Einstein, the latter bewilderingly to the 

In many ways the Fijian is the most satisfactory Islander to 
look at. He must certainly have been so in the old days. His 
wife, not bad-looking when young as looks go in the Islands, 
then wore only a fringe of dried vegetation, long or short ac- 
cording to age. He wore somewhat less, but for ceremonies 
decked himself out in garlands and necklaces of whale teeth 
sawed into clawlike segments. Extravagant heads of hair were 
the pride of both their hearts. A high chief with a skilled hair- 


dresser would have a coiffure three feet in diameter singed off 
so neatly that it looked like a coverless medicine-ball. Dyes of 
various colors originating in the bleaching effect of lime used 
to discourage liceturned the whole mass strawberry blond, 
or henna red, or black and white in streaks and stripes. Mis- 
sion influence repressed the wilder of these coiffures and the 
fantastic beards attached; but today you can still see a Fijian 
bicycling down the road with his flaring red thatch in gratify- 
ing contrast to his rich brown skin. 15 

The simple and natural life of the islander beguiles me; I am 
at home with him; all the rites of savagedom find a responsive 
echo in my heart; it is as though I remembered something 
long forgotten; it is like a dream dimly remembered and at last 
realized; it must be that the untamed spirit of some savage 
ancestor quickens my blood. Stoddard, Summer Cruising in 
the South Seas. 

Nobody is sure how the Melanesians got to their muggy, 
lovely, jungle-heavy islands that lie like a crescent of shaggy 
outworks to protect the long coasts of Australia. To rehearse 
scientific speculation on the subject would be tedious. But 
things are clearer with the Micronesians and Polynesians on 
the spattering of smaller islands farther out. 

Our elders formed romantic speculations about these settle- 
ments. Accidental resemblances in a few words and details of 
custom prompted some to identify the brown Islanders with 
the lost tribes of Israel, those peripatetic hardy perennials. 
Misguided geology led others to assume a huge Pacific con- 
tinent that gradually sank, leaving the Islanders surviving on 
isolated peaks. Moonshining with a theosophical tinge made 
them vestigial remnants of a former world-wide culture. But 
by now responsible opinion is well agreed that they got out 
there much as our ancestors got from Europe to America by 

"The military authorities ordered close clips for the heads of Fijian 
soldiers, which produced a temporary fashion of disapproving the old- 
time huge-headedness. By now, I am gratified to remark, heads of hair 
are coming back in Fiii 


sea. So far as known the details are quite as intriguing as any 
lost continent of Mu. 

Perhaps 2,000 years ago their progenitors left the fringe of 
large islands along southeastern Asia and, perhaps pushed from 
behind by Melanesians or Indonesians, struck out for more 
peaceful dwelling places. They took to sea in gigantic canoes, 
with freeboard built up by adz-dubbed plank bored along the 
edges and lashed together with coconut fibre (sinnet). Some 
carried traditional South Sea outriggers against capsizing; the 
more spectacular were two-hulled, with deckhouses on the 
connecting spars amidships. They had sails of matting and 
paddles worked by crews of as many as a hundred men; special- 
ists bailed, trimmed the sails, coxed, and so forth. In skilled 
hands such craft were thoroughly seaworthy 18 and these men 
were stunning seamen, else they could never have populated 
the islands. Since any vessel that combines speed with sea- 
worthiness is beautiful, they must have made a splendid sight 
when under way. The early explorers left exhilarating descrip- 
tions of deep-sea war canoes on parade, the leader dancing on 
deck and calling time, twenty paddles a side slashing the water 
with the precision of a Rockette chorus, the crew's throbbing 
song punctuated by the regular whack of recovered paddle 
blades on the gunwale. 

The mere map of the Pacific honors both craft and men. 
Raiatea (Societies), Savaii (Samoa), Rarotonga (Cooks) are 
suggested secondary swarming points whence, as centuries 
passed, fresh expeditions colonized still more distant scraps of 
land. It is 2,700 miles, broken by only a few hard-to-find atolls, 
from Raiatea to Hawaii; 2,500 from Raiatea to New Zealand; 
2,600 from Samoa to Hawaii. From the presence in Polynesia 
of the sweet potato (Icumara in Maori) ethnology argues that 
the Polynesians also made the west coast of South America, bo- 
tanical home of that plant. Last year, however, a Danish party 
succeeded in reaching the Tuamotu from Peru on an old 

w ln 1935 de Bisschop, a French amateur sailor, built such a vessel in 
Honolulu and, with a crew of one, took her under sail alone to France 
via the Cape of Good Hope. Cf. Eric de Bisschop, Kaimiloa. 


Peruvian-style balsawood raft under sail, which suggests that 
the contact may have gone the other way. In any case, contact 
between Polynesia and America was slight. 

These Polynesian navigators had neither compass nor sex- 
tant, and their assignment was much more difficult than that 
of the similarly ill-equipped Vikings who made North America 
with easy stages at Iceland and Greenland. Knowledge of how 
and why they launched on these thousands of miles of naked 
water comes from surmise skilfully applied to old charts, gene- 
alogies, and customs. It is known that they were provisioned 
with coconuts for both drink and food and, where tabu per- 
mitted, with green stuff that would last a while, coconut-fed 
chickens, prepared breadfruit and taro. They could catch fish 
and seabirds en route. Such resources, eked out by rain water 
on occasion, will take determined men a long way; in 1861 a 
native of Rakahanga survived eight weeks in a small double 
canoe blown off its course, finally coining ashore in the Ellices 
1,500 miles away. 

They steered by the stars, which they knew uncannily well, 
by the steady trade winds and the trend of the swells. Mi- 
grating birds gave them hints of faraway islands; the golden 
plover, a poetic-sounding fowl with a poetic function, played 
such a role. The long-tailed cuckoo probably showed the way 
to New Zealand. For shorter-range bearings the canoes might 
carry land-homing birds to be released experimentally like 
Noah's dove. These seamen could pick up the scent of land 
far out at sea; they watched for cloud masses forming over in- 
visible high islands and for the confused waters that develop 
to right and left as the swells check and bend against an un- 
discovered shore. The picture of what was practical is so in- 
geniously brilliant that it is a pity some Polynesianophiles 
occasionally belittle the old navigators' achievements by ascrib- 
ing to them psychic powers. 17 

17 Harold Gatty, The Raft Boofc, written by the famous flier who is an 
expert on Pacific navigation, standard equipment on life rafts during 
the recent war, leaves no room for skepticism about Polynesian naviga- 


As to why the Polynesians went colonizing, the causes were 
probably overpopulation of islands already settled, squabbles 
between chiefs with the weaker party migrating, a warrior's 
general sense of adventure. Americans should not need ex- 
planation for the explorer-pioneer's impulses. Like our pio- 
neers, they took along the germs of livelihood roots, seeds, 
food animals to make the new home like the old one. The 
practical omnipresence in the Islands of coconut, breadfruit, 
taro, sugar cane, sweet potato, yam, ti, banana, fcava, paper 
mulberry (for bark cloth, i.e. tapa or siapo), means they were 
intentionally imported. The same holds good for fowls, hogs, 
dogs and rats for meat supply. 

The sea seemed to bring out the best in the brown Islanders. 
In their ships they probably reached the acme of their skill in 
construction. Even the semi-Melanesian Fijian, a timid deep- 
water sailor when whites first saw him, made splendid deep- 
sea canoes for which the Polynesians of nearby Tonga eagerly 
bartered women and military service. They had room for up 
to 200 men and could knock off close to twenty knots under 
a triangular matting-sail as big as the main-topsail of a full- 
rigged ship; or so seamen who saw them swore. English navi- 
gators came home from the Marianas with eye-popping tales 
of asymmetrical sailing canoes that would make similar speed; 
Woodes Rogers took one home with him to England to 
demonstrate. The Solomon Islander's stately war canoe, its 
soaring black prow studded with inlaid pearl shell, was just as 
beautiful as the Maori's equivalent, which had the loveliest 
of cunningly spiraled fretwork in stem-covering and lofty stern- 
piece. The largest of these, hewn with stone tools out of a log 
so big that only one added strake of freeboard was needed, ran 
no feet without the ornamental bow- and stern-pieces. 

This patience and skill were also expressed elsewhere. The 
Fijian was engineer enough to build a thirteen-span wooden 
bridge over the Rewa River; he also dug a canal to shorten the 
trip from Bau to the Rewa mouth. Everywhere the islands 
developed elaborate irrigation systems for wet taro, and to this 
day the stranger marvels at the relics of the old-time New 


Caledonian's terracing of whole mountainsides in projects half 
a mile long and hundreds of feet high. The Samoan house, a 
great oval basket upside down on posts, light and sturdy 
enough to be moved bodily on occasion, is often thatched with 
leaves that make it look crude and shaggy outside; but look 
aloft inside and the eye never wearies of the fascinating struc- 
tural beauty of its ribbing and bracing, not a nail in the job, all 
lashed together with intricate patterns of varicolored sinnet. 
There is equal fascination in the smashing black-red-and-white 
designs on the rafters of the Maori's meeting house and in the 
grave harmonies, apparently as simple as tittattoe, of the tufeu- 
tuku panels on the walls. 

But such architecture was not necessarily functional. The 
windowless Hawaiian grasshouse, with a door so low that the 
tenant crawled in, was damp, insect-ridden, and stuffy. Even 
the Samoan house had grave drawbacks. It did not keep out 
insects, a real health hazard in filariasis-ridden Samoa; it was 
not hurricane-proof; its pebble floor, though dry enough, 
caught bits of food impossible to clean out; it precluded 
privacy among its dwellers. The New Caledonian was probably 
worst off, in a beehive-shaped affair with only a low curtained 
door and a smudge burning all night to discourage mosquitoes. 
In any case, it was all flimsy stuff. There are no ruins of South 
Sea chiefs' mansions. Only temples, tombs and foundations 
were made of things that did not need renewing every few 
years. 18 So a South Seas village, in Cook's time or our own, has 
a flavor of permanent camping out, a charming Hooverville- 

Island diet was foreshadowed in the things that the mi- 
grating Polynesian took with him. On the poorest atolls he ate 
little but fish he always had to be a crack fisherman pan- 
danus, and coconut for drink when green, for food when ripe. 
On high or uplifted islands, where humus made richer soil, 
he did a great deal with taro, the starchy root of a plant akin 

will stand until scientists finally make up their minds what was 
the purpose of the accumulations of stone-capped pillars on Guam and 
Tinian and the why of the cyclopean masonry in* the Carolines. 


to Jack-in-the-pulpit Old Hawaii figured that a forty by forty 
foot taro patch would feed a man for a year. Baked or boiled, 
it is fair eating for a hungry man; fancied up it is very good. 
Cooked, pounded, and fermented, it is familiar to tourists in 
Hawaii as poi, which those who like it like very much indeed. 
Modern nutritionists find it rich in high-quality food values- 
Hawaii exports it in cans to California as baby food. 

Breadfruit was seasonally generous too. An acre of these 
beautiful, middle-sized trees with deeply cut leaves would feed 
a dozen persons eight or ten months of the year. This was the 
item that convinced explorers they had found the earthly para- 
dise. Enormous balls of practically ready-made food apparently 
growing without cultivation startled the descendants of white 
men who had always toilsomely dug their daily bread out of 
cold and stubborn dirt. "Where all partake the earth without 
dispute/' sang Lord Byron, "and bread itself is gathered as a 
fruit." The talented noble lord had been tripped up, like 
many after him, by the misnomer applied by discoverers. When 
cooked it is never eaten raw the stuff is not at all like bread, 
rather like a huge, waxy piece of roast chestnut with a slight 
raisinish flavor. Most whites like it much better than taro. The 
Melanesian relied heavily on sago r the pith of a palm-like tree. 
Most Islands got more starch it was all high in carbohydrates 
out of yams, sweet potatoes and various varieties of bananas. 
Greens might appear as bits of seaweed, very tasty with their 
reek of salt and iodine, or as taro-tops, which are marvelous 
when cooked with cream pressed from ripe coconut 

Pig, dog or chicken was eaten in quantity only at feasts, 
great occasions when everybody gorged for days and the village 
was denuded of supplies, perhaps after collecting resources for 
the doings for three or four years. On many islands the com- 
moner went for months without meat, for hogs and dogs ate 
the same things as people and were expensive luxuries, appear- 
ing frequently only before chiefs. Great feasts were stagger- 
ingly colossal and so were the appetites of the eaters. A spread 
for "King" Cakobau of Fiji a hundred years ago took 200 
people a whole morning merely to arrange; it included seventy 


large turtles, a wall of fcava-root seven feet high and thirty-five 
feet long, and a breastwork of 35,000 yams. 

Some Melanesians had vessels in which to boil their pro- 
visions, for they were fair potters, working without the wheel, 
merely building up the clay by guess. But they also often used 
the South Seas earth oven, and Polynesia had nothing else. 19 
It was efficient enough. A deep hole was paved with large, 
heated stones and the items to be cooked were wrapped in 
leaves and put in. Then water was poured over them and all 
was covered with stones, earth and leaves to steam until done, 
much the same as in a clambake. 

The consequences on pork, fish fresh from the ocean, 
bananas, taro and suchlike could obviously be mouth-watering. 
But qualifications intrude here, too. You must think of most 
of the above as eaten cold or lukewarm, for the South Seas 
peoples do not share our notion that hot food is particularly 
tasty. Even when trying courteously to supply western-style 
food, the Islander cannot quite realize that a stone-cold fried 
egg is not as good as a hot one. Use of sea water as a dip the 
Islands usually lacked salt also cooled things off. And the 
pork was often preferred in a condition that you and I would 
find distastefully half -raw. It also sounds distressing that much 
fish was eaten raw. But actually, though it can be insanitary, 
raw fish, marinated Island-style in lime juice, eaten with coco- 
nut cream and salt-water, is a great delicacy. The Islander car- 
ried it even farther and ate small fish as caught, alive and 
wiggling. That does not sound appetizing. But reflect that 
South Sea Islanders can seldom learn to eat cheese, any more 
than you could ever stomach the New Caledonian's menu 
recorded by Lemire: roast flying fox (a huge fruit-eating bat) , 
big white grubs dug out of a rotting tree stump, and uncleaned 
pigeon guts stewed with rice. 

Except for relative lack of high-class amino acids, the Island 

^Lack of suitable clay in Polynesia is usually given as the reason for this 
technological handicap. But the Maori did not develop pottery on 
reaching New Zealand, which has good pottery clay; and I have myself 
seen rough but practical experimental pottery made of clay found in 
Tahiti by whites looking round for ideas. 


diet was good, far better than what many an Islander prefers 
to eat today. But in other aspects of physical welfare, however, 
he was not originally as well off as romance would have it in 
sanitation, for instance. Hogs and dogs had the run of the 
place, eating what they could pick up, of which there was 
usually a good deal. The village was neat, its gravel plaza 
meticulously weeded, the grass kept short, house-terraces swept 
daily, mats stacked and laid up neatly within, but by western 
standards this picture of serene tidiness was not actually clean. 
The Maori were one of the few Island peoples to develop 
efficient latrines, though in their colder climate they needed 
them less. Elsewhere defecation took place in the bush or on 
the beach below high-water mark. Presumably, vigorous tides 
carries faeces away, but even now, with whites legally requiring 
over-water latrines, that smell from the beach is not all sea- 
weed, Fiji provided a fine example of neatness combined with 
poor sanitation on the key islet of Bau where all filth was de- 
posited on top of the high central hill, whence frequent rains 
sluiced it down all over the living area. Spitting and hand- 
wrung nose-blowing went on everywhere as freely as on the 
porch of an Arkansas general store daintier people might spit 
under a lifted pebble or the corner of a mat. Clothing never 
knew the disinfectant effect of soap, which the Islands did not 
have. Besides, tapa cloth, made by pounding wet strips of 
paper-like inner barks together, disintegrated after very little 
washing. Some Melanesians had a generalized and lively horror 
of washing of any sort, but as a rule the South Sea person was 
bathed once or twice a day, in fresh water by preference. Again, 
however, soap was lacking, and the bath was followed by 
anointing with coconut oil, often rancid and sometimes per- 
fumed as an antidote with sandalwood or flower petals. 

Such matters were probably worst in New Zealand where 
the Maori, traditionally committed to oiling the skin but lack- 
ing coconut oil, used fish- and whale-oils in a state of high 
redolence. The Micronesians of Kusaie (Carolines) valued 
fishy odors and used fish oil to perfume coconut oil as a cos- 
metic. And most Islanders had verminous heads. Even the 


gods were so troubled; Rehua, a Maori deity, provided food for 
unexpected human guests with birds that fed on the vermin 
harboring in his long hair. Between friends or lovers, reciprocal 
louse-gathering, the lice eaten as found, was a useful and 
sociable custom. To judge from their eagerness for fine-tooth 
combs in trade, the Tahitians thought pediculosis a minor 
evil, and the Fijians first used tobacco as a delousing fumiga- 
tion. But the New Hebrideans valued lice as tasty bits and were 
outraged when the early Spanish explorers, thinking it a favor,, 
shaved their frowsy heads for them. 

Whence, then, the universal impression in books that the 
Islander was charmingly clean? It began with eighteenth* 
century navigators who, relatively, were correct in so testifying. 
Two centuries ago white standards of cleanliness were low at 
best: the vermin and stenches of the great towns of Europe 
would have sickened the average Polynesian. We have learned 
the rudiments of decency too recently and too imperfectly to 
afford Pharisaism. Nor did such standards as there were appeal 
to seamen who, in that day, were mostly top shy of water even 
to learn to swim as a safety measure. FoVsle Jack, pursuing a 
Maori girl reeking with fish oil, probably smelled even worse 
than she did. But it took even early seamen aback when the 
Easter Islanders were seen first to drink out of a spring and 
then, following rigid local usage, jump in and wash all over 
in the same water that the next comer would swallow. 

Still the Islander probably had less need for sanitation than 
Western man. No cleanliness would have suppressed the mos- 
quitoes that often infected him with filariasis the parasitical 
disease of the blood and lymph systems of which elephantiasis 
is the extreme form. And yaws, though fly-borne, has nothing 
directly to do with filth. His other diseases were boils and 
ulcers and fungous skin ailments that often covered him with 
scurfy scales but would probably not have been checked by 
Lifebuoy baths. Until the white man brought the germs, he 
had no contact with sputum-transmitted tuberculosis or ex- 
crement-transmitted typhoid. Nor was his sense of srnell de- 
fective. He merely did not have our ideas of what smells in- 


One of his skin diseases was sometimes said, unreliably, to 
be caused by overindulgence in Icava ('ava in some islands, 
yaqona in Fiji) the important and ceremonial South Sea drink. 
It is made from the root of a pepper shrub and traditionally 
chewed so the chewer's saliva converts part of its starch into 
sugar. 20 Then it is spit into a bowl, mixed with water, strained 
elaborately with hibiscus fibre and served in a coconut shell 
cup. This milky-chalky infusion was the social core of many 
Island societies, notably Fiji and Samoa. 21 The intricate detail 
of serving, with hand clapping, calling of special ceremonial 
names., preparation only by significant persons, dramatized the 
whole system of Samoan prestige. A slip in reciting a chief's 
Jcava-name or the wrong order in presenting the cup could 
cause bloody wars. For the white guest these ceremonies would 
probably still be dull even if he understood all the speeches 
and legendary references, but the chiefs follow the procedure 
like an audience at an absorbing play. The drink is dull too, 
tepid, remotely spicy, mildly tingling on the tongue, surely the 
least positive of all human indulgences except chewing gum. I 
have seen Jcava kept going in a dishpan for the crew below 
decks on an inter-island vessel in Fiji; in that container its 
color was dismally appropriate. 

Old South Sea hands maintain that too much fcava leaves 
the head clear but temporarily paralyzes the legs. They get 
mildly fond of it. Suva, capital of Fiji, has a Icava-saloon where 
local businessmen drop in at midmorning on the theory that 
the stuff is cooling. I have never had enough to feel either 
cooled or paralyzed, and do not know how many gallons are 
required for such effects. 

Old, large or undried roots are variously said to produce the 

s Fiji originally grated Jcava-root; later chewing was taken over from 
Tongan example. Now, with white ideas of sanitation seeping in, grat- 
ing or pounding have pretty well replaced chewing. 
21 The relative importance of Icava varied from group to group. Hawaii 
and Tahiti had it, but not very conspicuously. The Maori did without 
it, though a cousin-plant was indigenous in New Zealand. New Cale- 
donia ignored the presence of the proper plant in the bush. (Maurice 
Leenhardt, Gens de la grande terre, 88.) 


strongest brew. Personally I prefer the theory of Ratu George 
Cakobau of Fiji that, since Icava is usually drunk sitting cross- 
legged, an attitude to which white joints are not accustomed, 
the paralyzing effect would be arrived at with or without Icava 
after several hours. It seems to be an efficient diuretic and, I 
have it on good authority, is effective as a bush medicine 
remedy for gonorrhea. German drug firms used to import it 
in small quantities. The Indian in Fiji drinks it to some extent, 
but raises it principally for sale to the Fijian himself. Experi- 
ments made by GIs in mixing it with gin are said to have pro- 
duced high exhilaration. Manuia/ 

"Ah, those M'tezo! Incurable heathen! He had given them up 
long ago . . . They filed their teeth, ate their superfluous fe- 
male relations, swapped wives every new moon, and never wore 
a stitch of clothes . . . How they attached themselves to his 
heart, those black fellows! Such healthy animals! . . . And 
the Bumbulis, the Kubangos, the Mugwambas! And the Bu- 
langa . . , Really, the Bulanga were the worst of the lot. Not 
fit to be talked about. And yet, somehow or other, one could 
not help liking them . . ." 

Norman Douglas, South Wind, 44 

Nobody has explained why the Islander did not develop 
fermented drinks. He used fermentation to process both 
taro and breadfruit, so he knew of it, and even the Tasmanian, 
least developed of human beings, had a kind of eucalyptus 
beer. Island ti-root and sugar cane, both with high sugar con- 
tent, are admirable raw materials for alcohol, as the whites en- 
thusiastically discovered in no time. But even the Micronesian's 
murderous palm toddy, a spontaneous fermentation of palm 
sap, may have been the white man's idea. 

The Islander had an impressive range of vices, however, if 
"vice" consists of indulgence in noxious but enjoyable be- 
havior. Looking into the personal lives of the people of the 
Palaus ; a sociologist told me, completely cured him of notions 
about innocent savages. Such notions, always tendentious non- 


sense, need correcting but should not be over-corrected. The 
reader might compare the following with what he knows of 
the vices of his own culture. 

Tobacco was lacking when whites arrived. But betel nut 
chewing had spread into Micronesia and Melanesia from 
southeastern Asia and the blood-red spittle produced is still 
all over those regions. Betel is the nut of an insubstantially 
slender palm, and is chewed with lime and the leaf of a pepper- 
plant. Chewing it turns the lips a lurid raw-meat red and the 
teeth brownish-black, but it probably does the chewer little 
more harm than chewing of tobacco, which is no pretty habit 
either. 22 

Many Polynesians were desperate gamblers. Like the notori- 
ous Jim Smiley, they would bet anything on anything. The 
missionary's insistence on suppressing native games grew out of 
the native's inability to play without betting; a modern mission- 
ary has mourned to me over the fact that his Tahitian charges 
stay interested in healthy athletic contests only a few months 
if gambling on them is not allowed. In the old days competi- 
tion in foot racing, boxing, wrestling, surfriding, canoe racing, 
swimming, target practice with spear, bow or sling, produced 
wagers of ornaments, weapons, food supplies, and, more seri- 
ously, canoes, wives and one's personal freedom. Western 
psychiatry tends to regard feverish gambling as a presumptive 
symptom of serious maladjustment. With due qualification, 
that is worth thinking of as a possible sign of unsuspected 
strains in the presumably well-adjusted Island world. Other de- 
tails also imply that all was not altogether well in the Islander's 
much-admired character. 

Little is known about homosexuality in the prewhite days 
except that it was widespread and not greatly frowned on. The 
Polynesian's worst enemy never accused him of lacking virility; 
but virility did not rule out "queerness." The Hawaiian chiefs 

^Though the seamen lie encountered early were probably mostly to- 
baccochewers, the Islander did not take to the habit as a rule. I am 
told, however, that the upcountry Fijian occasionally mixes tobacco 
with betel. 


kept boys for purposes that horrified the missions; so did Tahi- 
tian chiefs, sending them for cosmetic bleaching along with 
the women. Youths in New Caledonia were much given to 
mutual sodomy. There was transvestism here and there. Boas, 
the great anthropologist, was of the opinion that homosexual- 
ity is a normal development among domesticated animals, such 
as cattle, sheep and men; the subject can be let go at that. 

Cannibalism is the vice if vice it be oftenest associated 
with the South Seas. Polynesianophiles deny indignantly that 
it existed in Hawaii or Tahiti and imply that it was missing 
all over Polynesia; whereas, though dead in the islands just 
named by the time whites arrived, it was extremely lively in 
New Zealand and the Marquesas, known in the Tuamotu, 
sporadic in Tonga and Samoa. In fairness, however, Melanesia 
was the focus of man-eating and, for our purposes, Fiji does 
for a sample. In the nineteenth century Fiji was notorious as 
the Cannibal Islands par excellence; in several senses Fiji is 
middle ground between Polynesia and Melanesia; and in tech- 
nical progress it probably excelled any other island group. 
Cannibalism in so advanced a setting is a striking example of 
the strange things that people insist on doing. It is specially 
striking in the Fijian, who is one of the toughest and most in- 
telligent of Islanders and certainly the most likeable as well. 

Whatever caused this taste for man-meat, it was not lack of 
animal protein in the diet. It is impossible in any case to corre- 
late this factor with intensity of cannibalism in the Islands. 
Apologetic Fijians encouraged whites to surmise that the pur- 
pose was to restrict population; or that they killed and ate 
strangers to prevent epidemics, or to keep the race genetically 
pure. Sympathetic scientists supplement these implausible 
ideas by pointing out the magico-emotional factors involved: it 
was rousing revenge to cook and eat one's fallen enemy and 
might endow the eater with the mana of the dead foe, 23 mo- 
tives that can appear wherever cannibalism does, Nevertheless, 
the Fijian seems also to have cannibalized for gastronomic 
reasons. He lited man-meat, and so would you probably, if you 
rnana, sec p. 79. 


had been reared to it. So did his distant cousins in New 
Caledonia, who had a song for opening the annual war season: 
"This is the time when men are fat/' advising warriors to kill 
only plump enemies with shiny skins. 24 

Ordinarily, however, only the aristocratic Fijian male feasted 
on bokolo (man-meat) . Great men recorded the hundreds they 
had eaten. The chief might reserve for himself the corpse of 
a specially hated enemy and take several days over it, starting 
with heart, liver or tongue; or he might smoke the liver and 
hands and hang them in his house to be nibbled at gloatingly 
whenever he fell to brooding again over the ancient wrong 
thus avenged. Whatever their rank, women never were al- 
lowed bokolo; many South Sea tabus tended to deny great 
delicacies even to women of high rank. What cut was favored 
varied widely. Lockerby thought boiled intestines most popu- 
lar, but others said that, like the Marquesans and New Cale- 
donian priests, Fijians particularly relished broiled or boiled 
hands. Whites or negroes would do for eating, though they 
were considered badly tainted with tobacco and salt. Some- 
times captured boys were castrated to fatten up like shoats 
against a great future feast. Oven-steaming or boiling was the 
usual method of cookery but raw man might not be disdained, 
as when Endicott found a Fijian buck eating a victim's brains 
out of his shattered skull as if they had been coconut meat. 

The thing sounds more gastronomic as it develops. After 
battle, slain enemies were sent to friendly villages as Lord 
Covert of Shooting-on-the-Rise might send a basket of game to 
friends in town. If the bodies grew a little high in transit, no- 
body minded. The Fijian liked fish and turtle fresh, but he 
took bokolo well-tainted without qualms. White witnesses 
saw corpses brought in for feasts so putrescent that they could 
not be picked up without falling apart and had to be made 
into puddings; the graves of the new-buried were watched for 
weeks lest neighboring villagers sneak over and exhume 
grandpa. As cannibalism goes, these details are not notably 

further backing, cf. C. G. Seligmann, The Melanesians of British 
New Guinea, 542; 548 ct seq. 


lurid: The Marquesan too might eat an enemy raw, if bagged 
too late in the day for cooking; in Dobu the female vulva, in 
New Guinea the penis split and broiled, were delicacies. 

What whites call an orgy meaning hysterical singing and 
dancing culminating in erotic excesses often went with the 
Fijian cannibal feast. But man-eating never quite degenerated 
into the straightforward gluttony of a barbecue. The meat was 
somehow tabu, unsafe to handle, so there were special cannibal- 
forks, sole recorded use of the fork in the South Seas. Still, 
when the chief felt an urge for bolcolo, he was as regardless as 
a Roman emperor ordering oysters from Britain. His retainers 
might kidnap women fishing off the reef at the next village 
for, though a woman could not eat bolcolo, she could be 
bolcolo and often was. Failing that, he ate his own people, 
starting with commoners who were in his black books. He was 
no more temperate about the revenge-aspect, for he might have 
prisoners trussed up and cooked alive. At least one pre-white 
chief cut the forearm from a living prisoner and cooked and 
ate it while the still-living victim looked on. Nice fellow as the 
Fijian now is, and apparently always was in quieter moments, 
he unquestionably leaned toward imaginative torture. A victori- 
ous war canoe would sail home with enemy children hung by 
the heels gradually braining themselves against the mast as 
the ship rolled. A recalcitrant prisoner would have his hands 
pinioned and a sheaf of dry coconut frond tied to his shoul- 
ders, and then, with the dry leaves set on fire, he would be 
turned loose to run like a screaming torch wherever his agony 

Cannibalism sometimes sounds comic to people reared on 
jokes about boiled missionary; to others it is shocking. 25 In its 
own time and place it was neither, being merely a pressure- 
releasing institution as intimately bound up with the com- 
munity as saloons were with the old-time Sierra mining camps. 
Bokolo meant hurray-for-our-side, it meant Thanksgiving 
turkey, it meant an occasion combining New Year's Eve with 

SB Stevenson said all that can be said to cushion the shock of cannibalism: 
In the Sooth Seas, 107-9. 


a burlesque show. And, as mentioned before, it had punitive 
functions too. When the Marquesans, lacking fresh enemies, 
sent the butcher's gang looking for "long pig" in their own 
valley, bad actors were usually knocked on the head first. 

Non-cannibal Polynesia used human sacrifice in the same 
way. 26 The bodies were not burned but left to rot, or sometimes 
buried after the ceremony, in the high place before the god. If 
the ceremony required more killings than there were overt bad 
actors, however, the more lowly innocent were chosen. This 
helps grimly to show how closely-knit and monolithic Island 
societies were. Not in war, but in prosperous peace, an unlucky 
individual could be called on any time to be wantonly killed for 
the good of the community. The Fijian chiefs new canoe was 
launched over rollers consisting of living men to be crushed to 
death by its weight. The principal posts of his new house were 
set in pits deep and wide enough to contain a man in addition. 
Earth was filled in over timber and living creature alike. The 
commoner never dreamed of objecting, but merely crawled 
down into his cylindrical grave and docilely embraced the post. 

So it went in the Islands. The curve of the roof one lived 
under, the post at which one sat for a ceremony,, the charm one 
said before going fishing, the social rank to which one was en- 
titled, were no less cut and dried than the requirement that, if 
chief and wizard willed it so, their men might come for you 
without warning or trial, smash the back of your skull, 
wreath you with flowers and lay you, stiff and naked, face down 
and buttocks up, where you would do the most good. 

While vices are in question it would be pleasant, but untrue, 
to record that Polynesians eschewed torture for animals as well 
as for their enemies. Hawaiians killed clean in battle or took 
prisoners for slaves; but, when collecting dogs for a feast, they 
let them lie moaning for days with muzzles tied up and forelegs 
broken and tied over their backs. When Polynesians acquired 

theorists consider that human sacrifice indicates that cannibal- 
ism was previously practiced. Thus, the Tahitians gouged out the eye, a 
recognized cannibal dainty, of the human sacrifice and offered it to the 
high chief. 


horses, their insistence on riding them when badly galled and 
their neglect to water them sickened, and still does sicken, out- 
siders. Hawaiian women flocked to see cattle slaughtered as a 
good show. Melanesia was no better. The Trobrianders singed 
hogs alive as lingeringly as possible in order to enjoy their 
screams. South Sea missionaries have accomplished little, and 
I can find no indication that they ever tried very hard, to en- 
courage humanity toward animals among their converts. You 
cannot sit in a Samoan village fifteen minutes without hearing 
the yelps of a dog being stoned for fun by an amusement-seek- 
ing child whose elders pay no attention. But here again re- 
proachful whites must step warily. The S.P.C.A. is quite a re- 
cent innovation, and even an amateur casuist can find in our 
culture cruel traditions, bastardy laws, for instance, that leave 
us little pride in our humanity. 

Whether war was a South Seas vice depends on what you 
think of war in general and of war as an emotionally rewarding 
game in particular. Game it was, students agree; serious, danger- 
ous, destructive, but primarily social sport. 27 Distinction in war 
increased the mana of the individual aristocrat. Often a boy 
could not be acknowledged as a man until he had brought 
home a personally-collected head. He had a wide choice of 
enemies on whom to demonstrate his and his people's prowess, 
for as a rule, feuds in one or another degree of exacerbation 
existed among all Island political units. Before whites came, 
there was no such thing as a group of islands under one political 
head, and petty wars between subdivisions were chronic, vivid, 
and highly stimulating to the adrenal glands. 

This particularismus was most extreme in Melanesia. Lan- 
guage was one reason. A Polynesian from Tahiti could talk with 
all his immediate neighbors, and even understand something 
of cognate Samoan, Maori or Hawaiian. But in most of the 

ST ". . . when the competition becomes so intense that the game be- 
comes lethal ... we have what may be properly called warfare . . . 
Killing the opponents was only incidental, and was only considered 
proper if it was done in an accepted way. The difference between a 
game and a war Is primarily technological." Chappie and Coon, Prin- 
ciples of Anthropology, 616. 


Black Islands a village in Bay A could not make out ten words 
of the gibberish spoken in Bay B, though it might be only a few 
hours' walk distant. New Ireland boasted nine different groups 
of languages, each split into widely differing dialects peculiar 
to small groups of hamlets. But even hamlets with the same 
dialect were sporadically at war, or at least never at anything 
resembling peace. The Melanesian had no notion that a power- 
ful chief might consolidate and keep order in territories more 
extensive than he could see from his hut door. A single sizable 
island would be a political world to itself, full of jangling 

"For a parallel to the political morcellement of Melanesia, we 
may look through the world in vain. Every petty tribal unit 
. . . was at perpetual war with its neighbors. Every stranger 
was an enemy, whom it was a virtue to slay." Amherst and 
Thomson, Solomon Islands, xxiii 

And slaying that stranger kept the game going, because his 
people were in honor bound to see that a member of the slaying 
tribe, no matter whether personally guilty or not, was duly 
slain in compensation. That called for reverse retaliation, and 
so ad infinitum, in true Hatfield-McCoy style. The story was 
not dissimilar in Polynesia, though the units might be larger, 
a chief of high descent and great mana sometimes controlling 
a whole island. Even so, either might have as many difficulties 
as an early king of mediaeval France in keeping vassal chiefs 
from warring on him or among themselves. 28 

As fighting, these Island wars were not too dreadful. There 

'"The exceptions to this universal bellicosity are hardly numerous 
enough to record. The Moriori of the Chatham Islands off New Zea- 
land, descendants of the refugees from the last and most vigorous Poly- 
nesian migration into New Zealand, had renounced war and no longer 
manufactured or used lethal weapons; they settled disputes by ordeal 
of battle with long staffs, ceasing when blood was drawn. Alexander 
Shand, The Morion, 32. The Melanesians of the Laughlan Islands off 
New Guinea were in similar case, with only a few old spears covered 
with smoke hanging in their huts as reminders that their ancestors too 
had been fighters, H. H. Romilly, The Western Pacific and New 
Guinea, 131. 


would be an ambush or a rush on a village or a brief stand-up 
fight, one side breaking after a few men were killed. A few 
enemy corpses would be hauled away and eaten, if it were 
cannibal country; elsewhere heads would be taken as trophies* 
Much energy was expended in frenzied prebattle ceremonies 
and in resounding boasts afterwards. In cases where enemy 
forces confronted one another openly, Homeric-style challenges 
and single combats might precede the brief melee. 

But chiefs were relatively safe, not only because they had to 
be unusually expert in fence and dodge, but also because to 
kill one was dangerous. The enemy who did so was a marked 
man for life r a dead chief being a keen disgrace to his people, 
Tahitian sea battles between fleets of war canoes, however, 
seem to have been fairly desperate. Probably even more lives 
were snuffed out when, after a Tahitian force had chased the 
enemy warriors from the field, they sought out the bush hide- 
outs of the foe's women, old people and children and massacred 
them until the sport palled. For though a game, this was not 
necessarily a sporting game. Even the Maori, reputedly chival- 
rous, liked a good juicy massacre on occasion. Destruction of. 
the enemy's coco and taro plantations was part of the pro 
cedure. Fortifications bulked large in Fijian, Tongan and Maori 
wars, and Rapa, far south of Tahiti, was as striking a nest of 
fortified hilltops as the country round Auckland. In attacking 
such places investiture or treachery were much more popular 
than storming. 

South Seas weapons helped keep matters relatively bloodless. 
Thrown or slung stones, spears with stone, wooden or bone 
points, clubs, wooden or stone daggers, can eventually pile 
killings one on another to the point of massacre, but require 
more effort than firearms. Melanesia alone used the bow in 
war; to the Polynesian it was a mere sporting toy. 29 Nowhere 
did the South Seas use it for seriously massed firepower, in the 
style of the mediaeval English. 

20 Caillot makes the Polynesians of the Gambiers an exception. (His* 
toire de la Polyn&ie orientale, 407.) Tonga had acquired the war-bow 
from Melanesians in Fiji. William Mariner, Tonga, passim. 


There was some body armor. The Gilbert Islanders, whose 
lances, bills, and swords edged with razor-sharp shark's teeth, 
were certainly the dirtiest weapons in the Pacific, had heavy 
and effective paddings of coconut fibre; the Hawaiian version 
of this turned small shot when Cook fired at a mat-girded 
warrior at Kealakekua Bay. But the Hawaiian chief also made 
himself militarily absurd by going into battle wearing a singu- 
larly Greek-appearing helmet made of nothing stouter than red 
and yellow feathers. Weapons had often become clumsy relics; 
Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) tells of an old Maori chief at 
an exhibition of Fijian war dancing with clubs, who spat on 
the ground and said that anybody taking such a weapon and 
such a style of fence into a Maori m<Iee would have found 
himself dead, cooked, and eaten, before he knew where he was. 

But the Islander was not usually inept with the arms he had. 
His handiness with a thrown stone cracked many an early sea- 
man's skull. Reliable witnesses swear that Melanesians were 
accurate with slung stones up to 200 yards, and their recorded 
accuracy with spears is highly respectable. The Maori, toughest 
of South Sea warriors, were devils at close quarters with short 
clubs, particularly the beaver-tailed or fiddle-shaped mere, with 
which they reputedly could take off the top of an enemy's 
skull as dexterously as an Englishman opens his breakfast egg. 
But the Islander's only weapon with the diabolical quality in 
which whites have specialized was the Melanesian spear- or 
arrow-head of human bone, poisoned by steeping in vegetable 
juices, septic mud or, they say, the insides of a festering corpse, 
all with incantations to match. Whether spell or treatment 
were more important, numerous seamen, missionaries and 
bluejackets died of lockjaw after being struck by such a New 
Hebridean arrow. 30 Nor, though South Seas war was relatively 
harmless by civilized standards, should it be concluded that the 
players were not savage about their game; in Tahiti: 

^H. H. Romilly, The Western Pacific and New Guinea, 92, et seq., is 
skeptical about the poisoning. So is Codrington, The Melanesians, 
507-12. Most of the evidence comes from an era before general ac- 
ceptance of the germ theory of disease. 


"When a man had slain his enemy, in order fully to satiate his 
revenge and intimidate his foes, he sometimes beat the body 
flat, and then cut a hole with a stone battle-ax through the 
back and stomach and passed his own head through the aper- 
ture . . . with the head and arms of the slain hanging down 
before, and the legs behind him, he marched to renew the 
conflict." William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, I, 310. 

Stripped to a G string, face daubed black or red, drunk with 
the mass-excitement of pending battle and the hysteria of pre- 
battle dancing, the South Seas fighting man was nobody that 
the average European without a gun would care to meet. 

Sometimes, besides, he fought for keeps. Being taking pris- 
oner usually meant slaverynot a harsh slavery, as such things 
go, for often he could marry a free enemy-woman and have free 
children. But in cannibal islands he would spend his captivity 
wondering when a shortage of more recent captives would get 
him eaten; and at best slavery meant separation from relatives, 
landlessness, namelessness, all social horrors to the Islander. 
The Maori would send water to the thirsting garrison of an in- 
vested fort to keep premature surrender from spoiling the fun. 
But elsewhere, if warring chiefs were thoroughly exasperated, a 
defeated community or faction might have to choose between 
annihilation and forced migration by agreement. 

"After battle the vanquished were hunted like game. ... A 
chance for life on the open sea was preferable to almost cer- 
tain death on shore/' Peter H. Buck, Vikings of the Sunrise, 

"Here is neither toil nor care. Man stretcheth forth his hand 
and eateth without parsimony or anticipated cost." John 
Ledyard, A Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage, 119. 

Books usually imply that the South Sea Islander was a hospi- 
table gentleman of leisure with nothing more pressing to do 
than fish and dance for his own amusement. I remember a 
witty white man attributing the current high birth rate in the 


South Seas to the fact that procreation is one of the few im- 
portant human activities usually accomplished lying down. 

As it happens, however, the Islander was not exactly lazy. 
The things he accomplished make that plain: That Maori 
canoe was hollowed out of a log no feet long and a good eight 
feet in diameter with only fire and easily-dulled stone tools to 
fell and dub it out with. The log itself had to be manhandled 
to a stream big enough to float it to the seashore. Tongan 
chiefs' mausoleums were built, and still stand, in three or four 
terraces as big as a tennis court, each faced with coral flags the 
size of a card table. Or consider the statues of Easter Island, 
freestanding busts on a scale suggesting a primitive Gutzon 
Borglum, again wrought with stone tools, sweat and patience, 
Lazy men could not leave behind them so many monuments 
of a character that would make an Irish railroad gang go on 

The Land of the Doasyoulikes, where the little roast pigs ran 
round crying Eat me! may exist somewhere, but not between 
the tropics in the Pacific. Taro, yams, tumaras (sweet potatoes) 
had to be planted with no better tool than a heavy pole with a 
stilt-style step toward the pointed end. Breadfruit also had to 
be planted, and required some care. Coconuts had to be husked 
on a stake set in the ground, which takes strength as well as 
skill, or climbed after if wanted for drinking how long would 
it take you to get up an eighty-foot trunk swaying in the trade 
wind? In some places women, in others men, did the heavy 
gardening, but whichever it was, the other sex might look 
after fishing, canoemaking, housebuilding and a dozen other 
activities necessary even in paradise. True, the climate made 
pointless extra labor for clothing, fuel and insulating construc- 
tion. Certain foods did grow spontaneously. But there was 
much work, with the canoe and human back as sole carriers. 

White observers erred about native laziness primarily be- 
cause the native did his jobs in unfamiliar rhythms. He worked 
hard to finish a specific task, then laid off several days until the 
next job came round on the calendar. During those days he 
looked very lazy indeed. He also did what was necessary in the 


early morning and the late afternoon and took his ease during 
the heat of the day, which was sensible, but affronted the ener- 
getic white man bustling past his hut at high noon. The chief 
was foreman of the community, depended on for initiative and 
supervision, so the commoner lacked individualistic enterprise; 
but when the big man spoke, the little man jumped and stayed 
on the job until authority was satisfied. Accustomed to work- 
ing in gangs, he was uncomfortable toiling alone and would 
organize working parties to swap chores around, making a 
social occasion of something that the observing white man 
thought should be soberly endured. He was often inefficient, 
due to the waste motion implicit in superstitions and tabus, 
but he expended a very considerable number of foot-pounds 
in the course of any given year on things other than dancing 
and visiting. And sometimes he had the psychological drive of 
the chief's example, for work was an honorific activity in many 
islands, and chiefs could pride themselves on their skill in 
canoebuilding as much as in arms. The final touch to the mis- 
conception was added by white contact with natives already 
disorganized and discouraged by western influences. Says 

"Most or all of the observers who had commented on the shift- 
lessness or incapacity for steady industry on the part of the 
Maori have seen him after he has come under the persistent 
influence of our European culture . . . the old native set of 
values had been replaced, the objects of economic interest 
were different, much of the old communal organization had 
been broken down, the authority of the chiefs and more par- 
ticularly of the priests had been lessened, the stringent rules 
of tapu had been lifted." Raymond Firth, Primitive Eco- 
nomics of the New Zealand Maori, 

Granted that the Maori, due to climate perhaps, were the 
"workingest" of all Islanders, that criticism of white conclu- 
sions holds good to some degree everywhere. 

In personal skills the Islander put most western men to 

Tapu is the Maori cognate of the more familiar tabu; the Hawaiian 
cognate is Icapu. For discussion of tabu in general, see pp. 80-81. 


shame; he had to be as versatile as the American pioneer, be- 
cause division of labor had hardly begun in his environment. 
There might be experts in some things, but the average com- 
moner needed to be able to build a practical hut and canoe, 
have an uncanny knowledge of the ways of fish and birds, 
handle plants like a nurseryman, make and repair stone and 
wooden tools and weapons, all in the day's work. Thus he was 
far more at home in his world than we, who cannot make as 
well as drive an automobile, and can only call the serviceman, 
over the telephone, which we could not repair, when some- 
thing goes wrong with the oil burner. 

His techniques, however, were not always well-advised. 
Knowing little of fertilization and crop rotation, he usually 
stuck to "slash-and-burn" agriculture clearing and burning a 
patch, exhausting it, then clearing and burning another. While 
the rich wood ash lasted, plants grew well. But fire destroyed 
humus, and the subsequent growth in the abandoned area was 
sometimes grass or low scrub that would let nothing else grow 
to reconstitute the soil in fallow. As Island populations in- 
crease, this can be a chronic headache for the white administra- 
tor. It appears that "civilized" man is not the only person who 
may wreck his environment by exploiting it. 

The Islander's lack of clothes has been exaggerated almost 
as much as his laziness. In a climate far cooler than his north- 
ern cousins ever knew, the Maori bundled up in "flax"-kilts 
and cloaks which, though hardly stifling, kept off wind and 
rain quite well. Tahitian and Marquesan women wore sizable 
kilts of tapa and a sort of mantle over shoulders and breasts; 
if Polynesian topsides had not been usually somewhat covered, 
there would have been no point in the custom of respectfully 
stripping to the waist in presence of a chief. But there are no 
rules here. The Gilbertese girl wore only a short fringe on a 
string round the bulge of the hips. That was enough, for in 
many of the Gilberts it was death for a man to touch such a 
garment, even when the owner was not wearing it. And down 
in Melanesia the tendency to wear little became a tendency 
to wear just about nothing at all. 


In some Black Islands either men or women went literally 
stark, or with only a narrow belt concealing nothing strategic. 
In deference to Mrs. Grundy it might be tabu to look at the 
genitals of the other sex, and both men and women were taught 
postures calculated to minimize exposure. In worse case were 
the New Hebridean women whose sword-shaped genitals- 
shielding leaf was hung from a waist belt and pulled through 
from the front but not attached in back, so the poor dears 
could never take a free stride for fear of their modesty coming 
adrift. In contrast Erromangan women wore ground-sweeping 
skirts on special occasions. But the Melanesian average was no 
more than a short, bulky, grass skirt for women; for men, limb, 
neck and perhaps nose ornaments, and a "pubic leaf" or penis- 
wrapper which, like the mediaeval codpiece, rather emphasized 
than concealed the location and dimensions of the chief end of 
man. This arrangement produced the standard Island joke 
among Frenchmen: that one pair of gloves would fully clothe 
ten New Caledonian warriors. The original idea, it is surmised, 
was to protect a sensitive organ from scratches as the owner 
pushed through saw-edged grass or thorny scrub. Its historical 
function was to scandalize missionaries. But it was no good 
for fund-raising propaganda, since it could not be described, 
still less illustrated, in literature to be distributed in Sunday 

". . . the most delightful feature [of the hospitality of the 
natives of Raiatea (Societies) c. 1910] . . . was that it was 
due to no training, to no complex social ideas, but that it was 
the untutored and spontaneous outpouring of their hearts." 
Jack London, The Cruise of the Snark, 210 

One function of a book like this is to correct misconceptions 
as to laziness, nakedness or whatnot with as good temper as 
possible. Island hospitality particularly needs such attention. 

The romantic tradition is that the Islander, approached with 
good will, was a smiling cross between the Good Samaritan 
and the host of Liberty Hall. His treatment of guest-strangers 


is often made to sound almost weak-minded. Nothing could 
be worse misconceived. Far from being weak-minded, the 
brown Islander was hospitable to excess when it suited his 
book, but when it did not, he could be as standoffish as a fine 
lady or as dangerous as an ogre seeking babies for breakfast. 
No hypocrisy is implied. He probably felt hospitable on most 
occasions when he was acting so. A human being with good 
practical reasons for being generous or benevolent usually ex- 
periences the corresponding emotions. As for the Melanesian, 
he was seldom hospitable at all in any such sense as his cousins 
to north and east. Significantly, Melanesia had few beach- 
combers. The ship-jumping sailor, the runaway convict from 
Australia, and later the lotus-hungry romantic, usually avoided 
this area. 32 You didn't fool with the Black Islands. Their idea 
of a proper farewell for a ship's boat with which they had been 
trading was a sudden shower of arrows from the cover of the 
beach-fringing bush. 

The milder Islander's motives for hospitality were several 
and, from his point of view, sound. To be discourteous or re- 
fuse a favor might lead to retaliation by black magic; the 
rudely-treated stranger might be endowed with nobody knew 
what supernatural powers. The Islander also felt that practically 
all human intercourse must somehow involve gift exchange 
a matter to be elaborated presently. The main motive how- 
ever was, paradoxically, the feeling that a stranger is by defini- 
tion an enemy who may be rightfully plundered and killed. All 
this sounds very crass; but it does not mean that the patterns 
of Island hospitality were not pleasant for both host and guest. 
The psychology from which human institutions develop has 
about as much to do with the amenities of the eventual in- 
stitution as the obscenities of birth have to do with the attrac- 
tiveness of the beautiful young lady resulting twenty years 
later. Nobody but the obsessive or the cynic keeps Freud's 

^Cf. Thomson, The Fi/ians, 234, The author of Isles of Illusion, an 
autobiographical work well worth reading for the clinical feel of Mela- 
nesia as well as for the author's neuroticisrn, is one of the few cases of 
a man's trying to eat lotus in the New Hebrides. He had little notion 
how to set about it, 


theories of family life constantly in mind when going home to 
Christmas dinner. 

To clarify the stranger-enemy theory: Island societies tended 
to be a succession of self-maintained equilibria in vacuo. A 
member of a tribe known to exist across the bay might be either 
a chronic enemy to be killed if caught straying or a tolerated 
partner in a long-standing economic give-and-take. Either way 
he had a recognized niche. But the unaccountable stranger- 
white explorer or missionary or native castaway drifted from 
another group had no such niche and was assumed to be 
mysteriously dangerous. This is said to hold good among pre- 
literates in many parts of the world. 33 It certainly held good 
in the Pacific. Malinowski's Kula-voyagers knew that they 
faced death if they landed anywhere but at islands where they 
had established relations. Stevenson wrote of the Tuamotu 
in 1890: 

"Even to this day in certain outlying islands danger lingers; 
and the civilized Paumotuan dreads to land, and hesitates to 
accost his backward brother/' In the South Seas, 202. 

The Fijian had a proverb about the necessity for killing people 
"with salt water in their eyes/' meaning those come ashore 
from the high seas in distress. No amount of well-meant white- 
washing by sympathetic historians can conceal the fact that its 
implications were often carried out. 

Death might not always result, however. The castaway 
could be stripped and enslaved. Or stripping and surveillance 
might be a temporary precaution lest newcomers prove treach- 
erous; on departure they were given back the same or equiva- 
lent equipment. A fast-thinking castaway might succeed in 
throwing himself on the mercy of a powerful chief or a mem- 
ber of his immediate family much like Captain John Smith 
and Pocahantas. But all those were exceptions to a grim rule 
which, unpleasant as it sounds, made sense in the pre-white 
Pacific where long-range pleasure parties hardly existed. An 

^Cf . Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Pacific, 222, 345; Chappie 
and Coon, Principles of Anthropology, 343. 


unexpected canoeload of outlanders pretty certainly portended 
raid or conquest. In any case such strangers came from an out- 
landish place with inagic formulae alien and hostile to the 
visited tribe. Also it was known that the advent of strangers 
might mean sweeping epidemics and, to the Islander; sickness 
usually spelled sorcery, domestic or foreign. The Savage Island- 
ers ascribed to the danger of epidemics their rigid practice of 
killing not only strangers, but even their own people who had 
been away from the home-island. Romilly found the same ra- 
tionalization in the Solomons. Not that these explanations 
should be taken as gospel, for the reason the native gives to ac- 
count for a custom is acknowledged frequently to be enrone^ 
ous when the custom has outlived the situation that created 
it. The native often talks like the subject of posthypnotic sug- 
gestion who, asked why he performs the suggested act, gives a 
plausible but obviously false reason. 84 

Thus, for various reasons, the outsider approaching the 
serene, palm-shaded beach of a South Seas village was, other 
things being equal, in very hot water indeed. Even when able 
to protect himself and full of friendly intentions, he had to be 
constantly on guard against thievery a matter that caused 
infinite trouble to white explorers. 

Exceptions usually meant that things were not equal. The 
stranger or party of strangers might possess obviously formi- 
dable mana, 85 that is, be too dangerous to attack. They might 
offer economic advantages which would vanish if they were 
killed or driven away. When killing thus became impractical 
or ill-timed, the Islander was in a troublesome quandary. To 
obviate the necessity for precautionary murder he developed 
ingenious social dodges. For instance, he fused the stranger 
into the community (which considered itself a group or groups 
of interrelated people) by adopting him as blood brother and 
supplying him with ceremonial tokens of this adoption, such 
as food, shelter, women and ritual gifts. It was a clear case of 

w Cf. Chappie and Coon, Principles of Anthropology, footnote, 357;, 
Raymond Firth, Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori, 62. 
explanation of mana, cf. p. 79. 


kiss-him-or-kill-him. We retain vestiges of such feelings in 
vaguely hostile reactions toward "foreigners" in the lump, and 
in such customs as giving distinguished visitors "the keys of 
the city." 

In Polynesia the process of disinfecting a stranger often re- 
quired him to be singled out by a native of equal social stand- 
ing who exchanged names with him. Taio (vaguely "friend") 
was the Tahitian word for this adoptive brother. Then, on a 
scale reflecting the presumed importance of the visitor, dances 
and games took place, feasts were prepared, women supplied. 
Alien Islanders acquainted with similar ideas at home under- 
stood what was going on and took it at its own value. The smil- 
ing faces, the presents of food and clothing, the nods and becks 
of pretty girls trotted up for selection, were just part of the 
initiation, like riding the goat. But the uninformed white in- 
truder often missed the point, and wrote home that these 
people were miraculously generous and most appreciative of 
the charms of his seaworn person. The Islander also knew that 
such a reception might cloak later treachery, and kept his eyes 
open. The white would be self-righteously outraged when he 
woke to find a presumed tribal brother standing over him with 
a club. Cook called Tonga the Friendly Islands because of the 
particular cordiality of his welcome there; he died unaware that 
the hospitable Tongans had been prevented from highjacking 
his ships only by disagreement among the chiefs as to the best 
time and tactics. 

For a practical illustration, take early white contacts with 
Tahiti. The English navigator, Samuel Wallis, brought the first 
whites and the first ship that Tahiti is known to have seen. 
While his ship's boats were sounding for an anchorage, the 
natives put out in canoes with tentatively hostile gestures that 
were brushed away. After the ship anchored within the reef, 
they attacked in force with showers of stones and spears an- 
swered, of course, with cannon- and musket-fire that quickly 
routed them. This was enough of a trial of strength. Obvi- 
ously this formidable vessel and these outlandish people had 
marvelous possessions and tremendous mana, and would be 


better friends than enemies. The tone changed in a twinkling 
and the Englishmen were received ashore with a dramatic 
hospitality that made Tahiti a proverb. When Bougainville 
arrived in another Tahiti harbor a few months later, news of 
Wallis had spread so impressively that no hostilities were at- 
tempted. His apparently spontaneous reception produced 
memorable passages in his account of his voyage and memo- 
rable results in white thinking about the South Seas: 36 

"All came crying tayo . . . The canoes were filled with women 
whose pleasing faces need concede nothing to the majority of 
Europeans and, for beauty of body, could rival any. Most of 
these nymphs were naked, for the men and old women with 
them removed the loincloths in which they usually wrapped 
themselves. At first they made from their canoes little teasing 
gestures . . . The men, simpler, or else freer, made matters 
clearer; they urged us each to choose a girl, follow her to shore, 
and their unequivocal gestures showed the fashion in which 
we were to make their acquaintance." Voyage autour du 
monde, II, 29. 

Other attitudes, however, appeared when the odds were dif- 
ferent. The ship's cook sneaked ashore alone with a girl, only 
to have his clothes stripped off the moment he landed; the 
treatment he got was so terrifying that, though later turned 
loose with his girl to enjoy himself, he was too nervous to 
consummate his desires. 

When the ship sailed the natives' farewell could be highly 
dramatic, with colossal weeping and gashing of head and bosom 
with shark's teeth a demonstration of grief such as whites 
would hardly expect on the Day of Judgment. That too was 
flattering, except that Polynesians were, and still are, marvel- 
ously ready with tears and wailing. I have seen two-thirds of 
the native crowd down at the wharf for the departure of an 
interisland boat from Vavau (Tonga) bathed in sociable tears. 
The Islander and no doubt it is good mental hygiene values 

^Cf. VI. Fayaway's Children. Where standard translations of French 
texts quoted were available in English, the writer uses. them. Where 
they do not, he apologetically does his own translating. 


emotion for its own sake and wallows in the opportunity for 
a good cry. 

Historians as well as romantics maintain that white brutality 
usually started trouble between whites and Islanders. There is 
dismal truth here. Crews and skippers too were often callous 
scum, and in too many instances behaved in ways well calcu- 
lated to provoke resistance followed by brief and bloody mas- 
sacre. 87 But there is more to be said than that. Superstitions of 
which whites could not possibly know might enter the picture. 
For instance, a vessel calling early at the Bay of Islands in New 
Zealand got on well with the local Maori. They were fascinated 
by the skipper's watch, which they took to be a private demon. 
Just before sailing the skipper had the bad luck to drop the 
watch overboard, a fact of which the Maori were aware. When 
within a few weeks they were decimated by a savage epidemic, 
it was locally attributed to the presence of the ticking demon 
out there under the waters of the Bay. So, on the Island prin- 
ciple that revenge on any white was revenge on all whites, the 
crew of the next ship to call was massacred without provoca- 
tion. Trying to account for the fact that the New Caledonians 
were polite to Cook, their first discoverer, but savage toward his 
successors, Leenhardt concluded that the natives thought Cook 
and his crew were their ancestral spirits visible in the flesh, 
belonging to the community. Cook stayed within the bailiwick 
of one village and got along well, but whites coming later tried 
to wander afield and were attacked to keep them from carry- 
ing the advantages of their divinity and great possessions to 
enemy villages. 

Consider the complications of Island tabu 88 and reflect on 
the many probable occasions when, with all possible good will, 
some hapless sailorman violated local sensibilities and was 
killed for his ignorance. His mates would see no reason for not 
retaliating. Then add the principle of kiss-him-or-kill-hirn. Even 
so hearty a believer in the theory of the white man's guilt as 
Corney grants that the Tahitian attacks on Wallis were of 

-'"Cf, IV, The Interlopers, for some unpleasant details, 
in, see pp. 8,0-81 for discussion of tabu. 


native initiative. J. C. Beaglehole adduces pages of evidence to- 
prove whites invariably guilty, but he often achieves the con- 
trary effect: 

For instance when de Quiros reached the Polynesian island 
that he called Gente Hermosa, 39 the natives came out singing, 
in numerous canoes, seized on a line over the bow of the ship's* 
launch and tried to tow her ashore, even grappling for her 
anchor. They would not let go until they found that the cold 
bright sticks with which the whites threatened them cut their 
hands when grasped at. This sounds, not like hospitality as. 
Beaglehole thinks, but like preparation for seizing and plunder- 
ing strangers. When Tasman first touched New Zealand,. 
Maori canoes rammed a boat that put off from the ship and! 
clubbed several of her crew to death; there was no hint of 
provocation. Even Beaglehole admits that this looks bad. In 
this respect Melanesia and Micronesia seem both to have been 
worse than Polynesia. Says Romilly of the Melanesians: "They 
sometimes may attempt a stranger's life out of pure curiosity." 4 *' 

Apologists stubbornly maintain that such apparently unpro- 
voked attacks were in retaliation for previous white brutality 
that because Navigator A massacred the people of Tarafu 41 int 
1723, their great-grandchildren attacked Navigator B in 1784. 
This is plausible but inapplicable to any of the previous ex- 
amples or to others at islands where, so far as is known, no* 
white vessel had put in before. The apologist retorts that early 
Spanish ships must have landed there without getting back to 
report, which is sheer gratuitous assumption. Any reasonable 
jury acquainted with the kiss-or-kill theory of strangers would 
have to conclude that, when shooting started in the early days,, 
at least a portion of whatever blame is pertinent might often 
attach to the innocent native. It might even conclude that 
blame is pointless. It is a miracle that more slaughter did not 

W B. G. Corney (Tahiti, I, 222) thinks this was Swain's Island, off 

"Also cf. S. W. Reed, The Making of Modern New Guinea, 78. 
^Tarafu is an imaginary island created for convenience in generaliza- 
tion. It seems to have a predominantly Polynesian flavor. 


occur oftener when violent whites who wanted provisions and 
women and did not much care how they got them met natives 
who considered strangers fair game as far as safety permitted. 

All this distresses westerners reared in the Christian tradi- 
tion of hospitality for its own generous sake a tradition not 
so well-honored among us as theory envisions, however. But the 
westerner can never know when his own taken-for-granted 
values shock the Islander: 

For a small thing, white men's neglect to shave their armpits 
struck the Tahitian as disgusting. For a very large one, the 
western attitude toward distribution of goods struck him as 
appallingly inhumane. Within very wide limits, no matter how 
incompetent or sluggish he might be, a Polynesian never lacked 
minimum food and shelter so long as a relative of his, and that 
theoretically included the whole community, had a piece of 
taro and a roof. This was not communism, as early observers 
thought, but a wide application of the principle of mutual 
back-scratching among blood relatives. The Tongans were 
startled and amused when Mariner and his mates finally worked 
up courage to ask how they were supposed to eat when not 
specifically invited to partake: 

[The chief] "inquired how food was obtained in England; and 
when he heard that every man purchased the necessary sup- 
plies for himself and his family, and that his friends . . . only 
partook by invitation ... he laughed at what he called the 
ill nature and selfishness of the white people; and told Mr. 
Mariner . . . that he had nothing to do when he felt himself 
hungry but to go into any house where eating was going for- 
ward, sit himself down without invitation, and partake with 
the company . . . After this, when any stranger came into 
their houses to eat with them, they would say jocosely 'No! 
we shall treat you after the manner of the Papalagis; go home 
and eat what you have got and we shall eat what we have 
got!' " William Mariner, Tonga, I, 70-1. 

The Samoan was aghast when, as the white man's charity was 
explained to him, it came out that whites permitted the exist- 
ence of a class called "the poor/' The situation of "the poor" 


could not be made real to him because he could not conceive 
of denying subsistence to any member of the community: 

" 'How is it?' he will always say. 'No food! Has he no friends? 
No house to live in/ Where did he grow? Are there no houses 
belonging to his friends? Have the people there no love for 
each other?' " George Turner, Nineteen Years in Polynesia, 

. . . until one has dismissed from one's mind the notion of 
government such as Europeans conceived it, one must always 
misunderstand the South Seas. Memoirs of Arii Tamai, 7. 

Note that these arrangements are always in terms of friends 
or relatives, which is why adoption into the community was 
necessary. Within any political unit Island sense of kinship was 
practically limitless. That is the key to most island societies. 
They were organized by ancestry, the given individual's pedi- 
gree being his greatest social, political and economic asset, 
roughly determining his place and arranging mutual support 
between him and all his actual or presumed relatives. The re- 
sult is best described as aristocratic collectivism. Private prop- 
erty existed in women (with qualifications), tools, housing, 
food, sometimes in land and useful trees. But private rights 
were always subject to overriding by the community, rather 
like our willingness to see government confiscate anything 
needed in war or disaster. In some degree the principal chief 
and underchiefs were trustees holding all land for the tribe or 
village; the chief's identification with community interests was 
so complete that he often spoke of it all as "my land." So, to 
the confusion of the early white, might anybody else in the 
tribe. Society and the individual were so confounded that a 
Maori recounting tribal history would say: "I captured such 
and such a fort" in referring to an action fought ten genera- 
tions before he was born. 

Upper-class hegemony, exercised by the ablest man of the 


highest ranking family strain, 42 by no means always the eldest 
son of the deceased predecessor, sometimes gave way in 
Micronesia to a council of heads of families. In Melanesia such 
prerogatives varied from something like despotism to honorary 
feebleness. Among Maori and Samoans the system was noth- 
ing like as dictatorial as among Tahitians, Marquesans and, 
notably, Hawaiians. The former usually discussed problems in 
councils of higher-ranking chiefs with decisions arrived at in 
Quaker meeting style. Anybody who observed due deference 
could speak; in the less dictatorial islands this applied even to 
commoners. Then the top chief gave the community decision, 
accurately stated and seldom questioned, much like a president 
consulting his cabinet. 

Though it may disappoint the liberal sentimentalist, there 
was no such thing as a vote to determine popular sentiment. 
But there is little reason to doubt that, since the great chiefs 
prestige would make most agree with him and since the chief 
depended to some extent on his people's good opinion of his 
judgment, majority sentiment, if it could have been ascer- 
tained, was probably reflected. The chief assigned community 
work, saw that it was accomplished, handled relations with 
neighboring peoples, often commanded in war, and was in 
general father-foreman-pilot of the community. Even when, 
if he proved incompetent, his administrative functions were 
delegated to a highborn deputy, he might retain the magical 
mana 43 that was the supernatural prop of the tribe and would 
still lead ceremonies intended to foster it. 

Social distinctions were often sharp to the point of brutality. 
The slave was nobody. The expert (tohunga, Icafmna or what 
not in Polynesian) in tool-making, canoe- or housebuilding, 
magic or tattooing, usually inherited his craft or knowledge 
from wellborn forefathers and had high social standing. The 

somewhat metaphysical terms, Maurice Leenhardt (Gens de la 
grande terre, 149-51; 198-9) has a fascinating discussion of the way in 
which Island societies were controlled by the emotions appropriate to 
the family rather than to politics as we know them. 
""Again for discussion of mana, see p. 79. 


black magician rated below the beneficent physician and well 
below the priest, who might also be a high chief. 14 

In more tyrannical islands the chief could ride a very high 
horse indeed. Cook saw a Tongan commoner killed with one 
blow of a club for stepping too close to a great man. A Mar- 
quesan chief told Captain Fanning that any of his people who 
hindered the ship's watering-party were to be killed out of 
hand. The chief's sons had the run of nonnoble women, a right 
frequently exercised. Since letting consequent children live 
would pollute the lordly strain, they were usually killed at 
birth. When the captain of the "Aguila" found some Tahitians 
skulking in the chains obviously bent on pilfering, he asked the 
chiefs on board whether he or they should punish? Requested 
to do it himself, he had the offenders flogged, not severely in 
terms of the time, but no eighteenth-century naval flogging 
was a joke. Two lady chiefs protested that the punishment was 
too mild: one turned to kicking the culprits remember her 
probable size and strength and the other had to be restrained 
from attacking them with a club. 

No matter how valiantly he fought in war, no Polynesian or 
Micronesian could rise from the ranks; he stayed in the niche 
into which he was born. In Hawaii he prostrated himself when 
a chief passed; in Fiji he cowered and tama-d, that is, uttered a 
special charm to show respect; in Tahiti he stripped to the 
waist. An early Fijian chief punished retainers who had broken 
a prized glass demijohn by making them eat the broken bits; 
this chief was a notoriously bad lot, but nobody questioned 
his right to enforce such an order. When H.M.S. "Havannah" 
demonstrated her big guns for "King" Cakobau of Fiji and he 
wearied of firing at a rock on shore, he suggested using as 
target a canoeload of his own people in the offing. 

Even religion respected social rank. Hawaiian chiefs all be- 
longed to a special religious lodge. The Maori cult of lo, a 
Supreme Being in whom students see analogies to the western 
God, was so well kept from the commonalty that it did not 

specialists could rate very low, however; e.g., barbers in Tonga. 
Cf. William Mariner, Tonga, II, 96. 


even know lo existed. A chief outrageously abusive of power 
might be overthrown and killed, usually by a conspiracy headed 
by an ambitious understudy; or his people and their new head 
might merely go away to settle elsewhere. But that happened 
too seldom to check his power in the up-to-boiling-point stages. 
The most fantastic token of his prestige was the upper-class 
language, common in Polynesia, a special vocabulary to neglect 
which was deadly insult; it was most inadvisable to use the 
common word for canoe or tree in addressing a chief. 

This socio-political structurewhich worked about as well 
as a big farm operated by a strong-minded old father and his 
sons' families was bolstered by mana and tabu, two Island in- 1 
stitutions the Island names of which have become scientific 
terms for similar notions found around the world. Libraries 
have been written about them, so a brief description cannot be 
altogether accurate. 45 

Best quotes Williams' Maori Dictionary defining mana as: 
"authority, control, influence, prestige, power, psychic force, 
effectual, authoritative, having influence or power, to be ef- 
fectual/' That will do for a starter, but it underemphasizes the 
supernatural angle. Mana was "what it takes/* with some 
aspects of the Latin virtus. It was an attribute accorded by the 
gods to man or tribe; it was the personal force, applied through 
spells, that enabled the wizard to blast a tree, smash a stone or 
kill a man at long range. With it came victory, health, wealth, 
and prestige. The chief had more of it than others, which is 
why he was chief. His ancestors had passed it on to him, some- 
times by an actual ceremony, as when Elijah endowed Elisha 
with his cloak. This mana of the chiefs, partaking of, but not 
necessarily coextensive with, that of the tribe, was what pro- 
cured him obedience. Obviously it was a great cohesive force. 
Chief, tribe or wizard could lose mana by defeat in war or by 
anything else that led to loss of prestige, or indicated that the 
favor of the gods had receded or departed from his doings. 

Violation of tabu was supposed always to be the primary 

^An excellent and compact authoritative discussion is: Linton and 
Wingert, Art in the South Seas, 12-1 3. 


cause of any mana-decreasing event. So here goes for tabu, and 
a thorny subject too: In a sense this was Island legislation an 
array of don'ts, largely traditional, sometimes temporarily im- 
posed, intended to keep the community on good tferms with 
the supernatural and so running smoothly. The temporary type 
could make practical objective sense, as when a chief effected 
a closed season by tabu on overexploited fish or fruits. But the 
bulk of these restrictions, never written down, traditionally 
known to all, were valuable only because they fostered a sense 
of orderly relation with the universe. Such was the denial of 
pork to Hawaiian women; of canoes to Marquesan women; 
the tabu on touching the head of a Maori chief, or standing 
higher than an Hawaiian chief, or taking cooked food in a war 
canoe. Any ethnological text has hundreds of examples that, 
for all their social importance in their own context, are arbi- 
trary to the point of whimsicality. Many were rationalized by 
reference to superstitions, but that probably occurred only 
when outsiders questioned things; left to himself, the tabu 
observer had little occasion or impulse to ask why. 

For violations penalties were supposed to be automatic, ill- 
ness or accident visiting the violator or a close relative or, in 
serious cases, the whole community. For breaking a tabu dam- 
aged mana, and mana alone kept people safe and prosperous. 
Crops would fail, storms Wreck houses, enemies raid the vil- 
lage, if breach of tabu went unexpiated. The violator was a 
reeking source of ill fortune to all round him, so it is not 
strange that, if detected, he might be indignantly knocked on 
the head, which put a highly realistic sanction on observance. 
There was also the breaker's devout belief that the conse- 
quences would be illness or death, which often caused him to 
fall ill and die of sheer credulity. Most people knew most 
tabus, but there was always a chance of one hidden by the chief 
or wizard who imposed it, so the cautious Tongan daily per- 
formed rnoemoe, a magical act of blanket penance for uncon- 
scious offenses. 

Anybody who went to Sunday School should be able to sup- 
ply numerous Biblical parallels. Students trace some consistent 


patterns in the details, one built round a conviction that 
women pollute things, another, particularly in Polynesia,, mak- 
ing tabu mean "holy" rather than "forbidden/ 7 hence "crucial" 
and "dangerous" to profane persons consider the history of 
the Ark of the Covenant. Because he infected with tabu-ness 
whatever his foot was set on the Tahitian chief always went 
abroad on the shoulders of a retainer; "King George only rides 
on a horse/' said Pomare II; "I ride on a man." In fact, the 
thing was rather like an electrical charge, most risky to come 
in contact with unless one were spiritually insulated. 

Like a legal code, any set of tabus left gaps to our way of 
thinking. Tonga applied no sanctions to feud killings, nor to 
rape, unless the lady were married or greatly one's social 
superior. But then the Islander considered it strange that 
whites applied no rules to who eats what, when and with 
whom. Our food tabus, of which we have many, are merely 
matters of unenforced public sentiment often disguised as 
matters of institutionalized good taste. The soft-minded some- 
times insist that all Island tabus worked out to the sanitary or 
social good of the community, a thing obviously absurd. What 
specific benefit came of making Marquesan girls swim when a 
.canoe would have been handier? But now and again such a 
benefit occurred accidentally, as in the related case of Island 

Like others of his craft, the Island wizard planning to witch 
a man to death preferred to start with something intimately 
connected with him hair, spittle, excrement, a finger-nail par- 
ing, or a bit of food he had nibbled. So the Islander was trained 
from childhood to keep such things away from others; he never 
knew when a wizard would want raw material to kill him with. 
He excreted either privately or where water would wash away 
traces; he burned or hid leftover food. Hawaiian chiefs had 
special retainers carrying spittoons into which their spittle was 
collected for safe disposition. The net effect was, aesthetically 
if ineffectively, close to what would have been done with 
wastes if they had understood modern sanitation. 

Beyond such happy accidents, the use of Island magic lay in 


peace of mind. Western man, having had some success in con- 
trolling his environment, goes on the theory that there is 
mechanical cause and effect in everything and that, if he knew 
still more along lines already plotted, he could eradicate dis- 
ease and, in general, make the sun and moon stand still at com- 
mand. The Islander, with much less scientific knowledge, con- 
fronted by illness, earthquakes, accidents, the hazards of war 
and agriculture, of business and love, was better at home in 
the universe if he considered all such things affected, and often 
controlled, by supernatural powers which a man who had 
enough mana could himself control. 

Kahunas, expert in magic white or black, probably believed 
in their own powers themselves. They worked the weather and, 
if floods came, attributed them to counterspells cast by enemy 
wizards; wars might be fought for such reasons. They detected 
criminals by one or another ritual ordeal; the most picturesque 
was that of the New Caledonian sorcerer who would sit urinat- 
ing drop by drop while running through the names of possible 
suspects the name coinciding with the last drop was the 
guilty man's. That was only one way in which a wizard with a 
grudge could affect social measures, only one of the reasons 
why he was a power in the land. Usually hand and glove with 
the chief, he cast the community omens, thereby affecting 
policy. He advised when to plant and when to reap; he selected 
human sacrifices. Priesthood and wizardhood, often related, 
were usually family affairs, a given genealogical line passing 
requisite lore and mana on from the present expert to the 
bright boy in the next generation. Some islands even had 
schools of divinity and magic with specialized curricula. In 
New Zealand the equivalent of the aspirant's doctorate disser- 
tation was to kill a man by remote control sometimes a slave, 
sometimes a relative selected by the professor, sometimes the 
professor himself, if he were old and tired and particularly ad- 
mired his pupil. 

So the Land of the Doasyoulikes had rigid discipline, grim 
sanctions and high personal responsibility for misdoing. 
Whether this added up to law as we understand it is an issue 


for metaphysicians. There certainly were no notions of equality 
before the law. Penalties or rather expiations for tabu break- 
ing varied according to the social standing and prosperity of the 
breaker. Customary Island procedures still baffle white judges. 
For instance, pigs paid over by a Samoan delinquent to his vil- 
lage are eaten joyously by the very chiefs who set the number 
to be paid. Early in the German period in Samoa, one of the 
three highest Samoan chiefs came to the governor complain- 
ing that native magistrates installed in his country were guilty 
of the audacity of fining his close relatives that, he said bit- 
terly, was not fa'a Samoa. 

The Island chief was usually wealthy, or at least commanded 
valuable goods and services. He had several wives as a rule, 
partly because he needed numerous hands to increase his 
wealth by making tapa or fine mats, and partly to cultivate the 
lands reserved for him out of community holdings or held in 
his family line. He needed such resources because he was par- 
ticularly obligated to generosity, since he was responsible for 
seeing that ceremonial feasts and gifts to friendly neighbors 
were impressive enough to uphold tribal mana. If worsted in 
ceremonial exchange of presents, the tribe could never hold up 
its head again. This takes us into gift exchange and so into 
Island economics. 

"... the spirit of Polynesian hospitality. Give and receive, re- 
. ceive and give, not for the material benefit, but for the sake of 
one's honor." PETER H. BUCK, Vikings of the Sunrise, 195. 

It is already clear that early observers erred in calling Island 
economics communistic in either a classic or a Marxist sense. 
In classic communism gift exchange would have been absurd 
since, where everybody has equal title to everything, a gift is 
meaningless. Yet gift exchange was as fundamental to Island 
life as breathing. Malinowski authoritatively emphasizes its 

"Whether we have to deal with the widespread fallacy of the 
primitive Golden Age characterized mainly by the absence of 


any distinction between mine and thine; or whether we take 
the more sophisticated view, which postulates stages of indi- 
vidual search for food, or of isolated household catering . . . 
in none of these can we find even a hint of the real state of 
affairs in the Trobriands; namely, that the whole tribal life is 
permeated by a constant give and take; that every ceremony, 
every legal and customary act is done to the accompaniment 
of material gift and counter gift; that wealth, given and taken, 
is one of the main instruments of social organization, of the 
power of the chief, of the bonds of kinship, and of relation- 
ships in law/' Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 167. 

For the rest, take Keesing: 

"By native custom, a person who is given a 'gift* is expected to 
return in due course something of equivalent value to the 
giver. Instead of using a bank, the native remembers his debits 
and credits in terms of such reciprocal giving. Natives fre- 
quently pass over such 'gifts' to the newcomer in ceremonious 
fashion, usually not asking for anything in return. It is from 
this custom that the tradition has grown up of the 'generosity' 
of the South Sea Islanders." Native Peoples of the Pacific 
World, 66. 

The principle was so prevalent that, as Mariner noted with 
astonishment, even periodical tribute to chiefs was considered 
a gift. No tax officer saw that the amounts were proper; fear 
of getting into the chiefs bad books took care of that. The 
Tongan house carpenter expert, working hard for somebody 
else's comfort, got no pay as we think of it. Instead he and his 
gang were well fed during the job and expected a substantial 
mass of gifts when it was well advanced. If the amount were not 
adequate to his dignity, he left the house unfinished and never 
came back. Since all such experts had a trade-union-style tradi- 
tional compact never to touch another man's work, the nig- 
gardly client was left with two thirds of a house and worse, a 
great loss of marza, until he could make his peace. 

In New Ireland an adulterous lady traditionally receives a 
specified sum of shell money never mind the matter of Island 


money for the momentfrom the Tertium Quid and hands it 
to her husband. The adultery does not grieve him, but lack of 
the appropriate return money-gift would. 

What to us is inter-community trade the Islands thought of 
as gift giving. Seacoast Maori had fish that inland Maori 
wanted, inland Maori had birds potted in grease that seacoast 
Maori wanted. So, at logical seasons, the Seacoasts made the In- 
lands a handsome present of fish and expected in return an 
equally handsome mess of birds. It was not barter at all. There 
was no bargaining, no specification of so many fish equal a bird 
all was left to the sense of fitness on both sides. We ourselves 
retain bits of such a system on a personal basis. Mrs. Jones 
takes Mrs. Smith a pie out of today's baking,, so Mrs. Smith 
feels in honor bound to reciprocate with a jar of strawberry 
jam when she puts up a batch. 

The difficulty of intelligent dealing with unknown peoples 
is shown in the early white man's complaint that Islanders 
never said thanks, accepting invaluable bits of hoop iron with- 
out a word. As Harrisson points out, the Melanesian does not 
say thanks because no gift makes him feel thankful. On the 
contrary, to receive a valuable present reduces his prestige until 
he can return something of equal, or if possible, greater, value. 
All his holdings of hogs and ancient mats may not suffice. To 
refuse a gift dangerously insults the giver, to accept is to carry 
,a nagging social debt until it is made good. So his feelings are 
rather like those of a man who has had the Queen of Spades 
slipped him in a game of Hearts. 

Polynesia never developed much intertribal trade and had 
nothing resembling money. On Tikopia, a relatively untouched 
Polynesian island, Firth found the natives throwing away 
money given them by ship's crews as useless. But some Mela- 
nesian peoples were warm traders well on the way to money 
that is, using prestige-bearing things as permanent media of 
exchange without primary regard to their practical uses. Here 
and there extratribal trade was important, as when a seaside 
tribe preferring to cook in fresh water would swap salt water 


for fresh with an inland tribe with opposite tastes; sometimes 
a people making pottery or shellwork would swap with another 
for pigs or sago. 

But here is the Island touch, though still recognizable 
among us the prime motive of accumulating goods was not 
their usefulness, but the prestige attaching to' great possessions. 
The Trobrianders had competitive displays of the year's yam 
crop; the fact that the crop was nourishing was secondary to its 
prestige-value. They never minded in the slightest when an 
oversupply rotted and had to be thrown away; in fact they 
used spells to cut down appetite so they would have more food 
to show off. Money, also accumulated for prestige, appeared 
as specially-worked shells, dogs' or human teeth, useless but 
potentially exchangeable against things in general. The mint 
might consist of a certain tribe that paid for imports by collect- 
ing and laboriously working certain shells into accepted shape. 
Magic spells, pigs for feasts, even white man's money when it 
appeared, all had fixed exchange value against such currencies. 

The most famous and certainly the queerest Island currency 
is Micronesian the great stone "money" discs of Yap, im- 
ported by immense effort from the Palaus to be propped up 
outside the village clubhouse in ostentatious display of wealth. 
Many of them are too big to be moved except by the joint 
efforts of many people. These could be treated like gold re- 
serves. Once a particularly huge disc was lost overboard in 
transit and, though it was somewhere at the bottom of the sea, 
the village that had planned to import it still used it as an 
asset that could be pledged as security. 

Again this sounds like parody, but worse follows. Some 
Melanesian peoples had arrangements that look like simple 
versions of instalment buying. Others, exploiting deferred pay- 
ments, developed a trick remarkably like check-kiting. After 
studying the famous Kula-ring of ceremonious exchange, 
Malinowski concluded that, whereas the actual function of the 
process was a salutary swapping of useful goods, the partici- 
pants had no idea of accomplishing any such thing. Their 
motive was the enhancement of prestige by periodically com- 


ing into possession of certain highly valued ornamental tokens 
that gradually worked round the circle of islands concerned. 

Value set on the useless was as conspicuous in Melanesia as 
in New York. The Samoan reckoned wealth in fine mats, which 
at least could be worn, but Melanesia's valuable mats might 
be ragged, ancient things, hung in smoke for generations until 
they dripped soot. The New Hebridean knocked out the 
upper teeth of pigs so the lower-jaw tusks could grow painfully 
through the upper lip, recurving into successive circles as long 
as the unhappy animal lived the more rings, the more prestige 
a tooth carried. Some cultivated specially valued breeds of hogs 
that produced frequent hermaphrodites. For, expanding the 
Polynesian idea that gift exchange was necessary to mam, the 
Melanesian based his whole system on ostentatious display 
and exchange. He had nothing of the miser, but much of the 
plutocrat, in him. He wanted heaps of taro, numbers of hogs, 
piles of well-sooted mats because, by giving feasts with them 
or presenting them to others, he demonstrated his success as a 
man. He sometimes believed that the quality of his quarters 
and women in the next world depended on his economic stand- 
ing in this one a notion worthy of the Mormons. He had no 
truck at all with The-rank-is-but-the-guinea's-stamp^A-man's- 
a-man-for-a'-thata point of view peculiar largely to western 
man in fairly recent times. 

Ethnologists know even stranger examples of social climb- 
ing by display of wealth, but even this sounds unpleasantly 
like a Westchester country club in 1928. A propos, in some 
Melanesian societies, the men's clubhouse where bachelors 
and often husbands slept and gossipped evolved into a sort of 
Masonic lodge, in which higher ranks were obtained by gifts to 
superiors. Here wealth directly entered politics, for the lodge 
was congruent with the male population. Social standing 
among men did not exist outside it. It ran along with, rather 
than determined, rank by birth, which also existed. That is, 
those of lower birth did not have the same facilities as aristo- 
crats for seeking higher rank by ostentatious giving, though if 
a commoner had a windfall, there might be exceptions. 


I have often been struck by the confessed inability of experts 
to claim understanding of Island life. The higher you go, the 
farther away from the amateur, the enthusiast and the roman- 
ticist, the more doubt your man expresses as to his "under- 
standing" natives. One with excellent ethnological training 
and fourteen years of sympathetic experience with one Island 
people told me that he did not yet have the hang of their atti- 
tudes and probably never would have. A brilliant native leader, 
asked how many whites understood his people, gave me two 
names, after some thought, one confidently of a dead man, 
one hesitantly of a man still alive. 

For examples of what baffles experts, take the Island prin- 
ciple that a white man owes gifts to a native who has accepted 
his assistance. The skipper of an early bche-de-mer ship in 
Fiji doctored a native whose hand had been blown off by the 
explosion of his own trade musket. Discharged as cured, the 
native claimed that the skipper owed him another musket in 
compensation for permitting treatment. Refused the musket, 
he burned the skipper's drying shed in revenge. The Maori 
used similarly to demand utu (compensation of an eye-for-an- 
eye nature but not necessarily punitive) from missionaries for 
taking medicines as prescribed. Dr. Lambert seems to have 
been quite brusque with a New Guinea native who, only a few 
years ago, demanded twenty-five sticks of trade tobacco for 
having let the doctor treat his injured hand. Somewhere in 
these mystifying goings on, which the plaintiff obviously 
thought perfectly just, is another queer ramification of gift 
exchange mingled with the revenge principle. But I doubt if 
any white man could ever trace the exact connection or if any 
native could ever convey them to him. 46 

Even the late Elsdon Best, who certainly knew more about 
the Maori than any other white, confessed himself unable to 
fathom the Maori custom of muru, which had vague counter- 

*I am sure there is over-simplification in Roberts' explanation (Popula- 
tion Problems of the Pacific, 134) : "for the custom with the sick was 
to let them slide, and if a stranger saved the life of a sick person, then 
it must be for some advantage to himself, argued the native/' 


parts elsewhere in the islands. To the outsider it looked this 
way: "... a man smitten by sudden calamity was politely 
plundered of all he possessed . . . the principle under which 
the wounded shark is torn to pieces by his fellows." 47 To the 
insider it was somehow a means whereby relatives of an ag- 
grieved person or community exacted compensation for injury 
-utu again. In a clear case, a Maori man caught philandering 
would be swooped down on by his wife's relatives, stripped of 
all his movable property, food included, perhaps have his house 
burned. The motivation of getting their relative's own back is 
here fairly plain, though of course those food supplies and that 
house were also needed by the lady thus avenged. 

But the plundered transgressor would also have felt offended 
if there had been no muni raid it signified that he was im- 
portant enough in the community to have his misconduct 
worth taking notice of. From here on things get complicated. 
A man incapacitated by a serious accident would be rnuru-d 
because his carelessness had deprived the community of his 
services. The relatives of a dead man might be muru-d because 
they had no business letting a useful member of the com- 
munity die. During a fire the neighbors flocked round and 
rescued valuables, not for the owner, but to confiscate them 
in rnuru for allowing this threat to common safety: ". . . in 
many cases/' says Best helplessly, "one cannot possibly apply 
the term evildoer to the sufferer." 48 Yet to the Maori it was 
unquestionably quite fair. The best one can say for this over- 
extension of a highly social principle is that it kept anybody 
from gathering great stores of the things that made up Maori 
wealth. A conspicuously prosperous man would be frequently 
muru-d on such slim pretexts as that he was remotely related to 
somebody miles away who had broken a leg last week. 

After all, it was in New Zealand that Samuel Butler got the 
hint for Erewhon, the place where criminals were considered 
invalids and invalids were considered criminals. 

47 William P. Reeves, New Zealand, 62. 
**Best, The Maori, I, 360. 


". . . the ancient society of Tahiti had plenty of vices, and was 
a sort of Paris in its refinements of wickedness; but these had 
not prevented the islanders from leading as happy lives as had 
ever been known among men/' Memoirs of Arii Tamai, 

Even the Islander's erotic life, his best-known and presum- 
ably simplest aspect, is not easy to explore. The details will not 
shock us as they did our grandfathers. They are not necessarily 
as charming as romance has made them, but it is important to 
make it clear that these people were neither high-minded free 
lovers nor rabbits. Much significance which probably was not 
there at all has been read into this aspect of Island behavior. 

The Islander was nowhere promiscuous. No known society 
ever was completely so. 49 All Island peoples somehow or other 
recognized that adultery injures the spouse, whether impor- 
tantly or not, and sternly prohibited intercourse with some 
categories of actual or presumed relatives. Though most gen- 
erously permitted premarital affairs, these too were subject to 
tabus based somehow on incest. The early white observer, un- 
aware of such complications and given wide privileges himself, 
made unholy errors in describing what he thought he saw. 
Firth's description of the Polynesians of Tikopia is clarifying; 

"Though sex intercourse between young people is common, 
. . . morals are not easy- a differentiation which many white 
people who have acquaintance with natives do not perceive. 
Proposals are frequent, but by no means all are accepted. There 
is a great deal of personal choice exercised, and as a result a 
considerable amount of unrequited desire, which finds expres- 
sion in anger and recrimination, or a more purposeful outlet in 
slanderous songs, or even in suicide. The crudity and violence 
of passion in this little community gives the lie to the popular 
notion of the idyllic love life of the unsophisticated savage." 
We the Tikopia, 513. 

Take that with you the next time you go to a South Seas movie. 
Virginity was obviotisly rare. Many Island peoples consid- 

* 9 Cf. Bronislaw Malinowski, "Culture," Encyclopaedia of Social 


ered sexual intercourse necessary to a girl's physical develop- 
ment. In the outer Tuarnotu, it appears, a shy girl may still be 
raped into compliance for her own good by a group of boys, 
which puts a semimoral aspect on the thing. And there was 
much of the attitude of which Don Luis de Barreda wrote to 
the Duchess of Medinia Sidonia: "[The Tahitians] think 
meanly of being virgins and resent being twitted with it." 50 

Yet sometimes virginity was highly important The Samoan 
taupo sacerdotal virgin of the village, delegated to perform 
social honors for her people was obliged to remain intact 
until her marriage, which usually carried political import. Her 
steadfastness was proved in public defloration performed some- 
times by hand, sometimes with a stick; the blood-spotted tapa 
bearing proof of trauma was shown around or flown as a flag 
over the village, presumably in token that that was some record 
for that vicinity. The Maori had a somewhat less striking ver- 
sion of the taupo. In Tikopia young chiefs demanded virginity 
of the girls they chose. If such a highborn Don Juan found that 
he had been forestalled, he might order the girl to start swim- 
ming and never come back, and she meekly obeyed. His de- 
flowering of a virgin was matter for boasting he wore a 
smudge of the resulting blood on his forehead next morning 
in token of triumph. There were even unpleasant shadows of 
the notion that virginity was a marketable commodity, and it 
took little contact with whites to set Tongan mothers bringing 
virgin daughters on board white ships to trade for first honors. 
The price was a broad-ax at first; competition soon brought it 
down to an old razor, a pair of scissors or a large nail. 

Nobody has yet satisfactorily accounted for the apparent fact 
that pregnancies seldom resulted from Island young folks' 
carnalities. The Islands' impression is that, if a girl does not 
favor the same boy too consistently but spreads her affections 
round sociably, risk of pregnancy is low; Dr. Mead's Samoans 
took pregnancy as proof that the girl had been too constant. 
For lack of better, Malinowski and Pitt-Rivers take this theory 
^B. G. Corney,^ Tahiti, II, 471. 


seriously. But Firth found that Tikopian young people prac- 
tice coitus interruptus to avoid premarital pregnancy, though 
feeling obligated to neglect it after marriage. Pregnancy was 
the signal for marriage, as in many Island societies; the girl 
usually wanted marriage, the boy did not, so intercourse might 
t>ecome a contest of seductive strength. Thus in a manner of 
speaking the Islands institutionalized the shotgun wedding, 

In these contexts, however, "marriage" is a misleading term. 
In Micronesia rules were stiffer than elsewhere, female adultery 
justifying the husband in killing the culprit, and premarital 
promiscuity being frowned on. But in Melanesia and Polynesia 
there was little tendency to regard married fidelity as a the- 
oretical good for most members of the community. 61 Presum- 
ably marriage ended the period of premarital "experiment/' 
to use the white theorist's owlish term Judge Ben B. 
Lindsay might have invented this system. After marriage 
usually a sort of common-law consent celebrated by both fami- 
lies with prestige-enhancing gift exchange there was notMng 
to prevent an uxorious Islander from confining his attentions 
to his wife or wives. In many cases female jealousy might 
achieve that result, as the philandering husband gradually 
found a quiet life worth self-control. But divorce was usually 
very easy indeed, a mere mutual agreement to terminate the 
relationship. 52 And, low as observance of the Seventh Com- 
mandment may be among whites, it was probably lower still in 
the Isles of the Blest. With utter realism Melanesian women 
in Dobu recommended keeping one's husband venereally ex- 
hausted in precaution against temptations to stray. 

Double standards crop up in the Islands: Wife-lending was 
a common politeness toward guests even in monogynous soci- 
eties, but the line between that and the wife's pleasing herself 
was definite. An Islander might prostitute his wife for trade 

^The Maori may have been something of an exception. Cf. Raymond 
Firth, Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori, 106. 
* 2 Tonga, Mariner insists, was noted for intra-marital devotion and, 
though divorce was simple, in his time two-thirds of married women 
were faithful. He considers this in sharp contrast with such gayer islands 
as Hawaii and Tahiti. Tonga, II, 170. 


goods, but she was seldom permitted to enter business on her 
own initiative. Said Moerenhout of the Tahitians of his day: 

"What [husbands] required was that their wives should not 
spontaneously dispose of themselves of their own accord." 
Voyage aux iles, II, 64. 

In Hawaii and Tahiti, a man wanting to sleep with another 
man's wife had to ask leave of her husband, but refusal was 
considered mean or even insulting. The discarded wife of a 
Samoan chief could not remarry, for that injured her former 
spouse's dignity, so she usually attached herself to the village 
guesthouse for the accommodation of visitors. 

There were other checks to infidelity, besides a jealous wife's 
taking a stick to an erring husband or an outraged husband's 
beating an erring wife into unconsciousness or death in which 
matters the community took no formal interest. In Dobu an 
injured husband might climb a coco palm and throw himself 
down as a suicide; that solved his problems and obligated his 
relatives to take physical or economic revenge on his wife's 
relatives. A Polynesian commoner caught in flagrante delicti! 
with an aristocratic lady was probably a gone goose, not on 
moral grounds but because he might pollute the lofty strain 
with commoner blood. 

Here is an old human problem. No set of rules about who- 
sleeps-with-whom can ever match the vagaries of human de- 
sire; so explicit or implicit double standards, breaches of 
accepted custom, emotionally damaging strains and most un- 
pleasant feelings inevitably result. The Islands had not solved 
the sex problem; in some ways they had complicated it even 
more clumsily than western man. 

The Micronesian men's clubhouse, for instance, usually con- 
tained unmarried girls bought or kidnapped from neighboring 
villages to solace bachelors and, if required, married men. Thus 
to use a girl from one's own village was shameful, but no onus 
attached to playing such a role away from home. When Ha- 
waiian women were slow to conceive, they joined in erotic 
dance-games got up to fertilize the barren only married people 


took part, say apologists, as if that helped from the western 
point of view. As chance in the game developed the appro- 
priate mood in any pair, whether spouses or not, they went 
into the darkness to settle matters. Hawaii was specially im- 
aginative in the matter of incest tabus, which were relaxed for 
high chiefs brothers married sisters, and sons inherited their 
fathers' wives. The Hawaiian punalua, a relationship giving a 
husband presumptive rights over all his wife's sisters and she- 
cousins, with converse rights for the other sex, was made 
famous by Morgan, the early anthropologist, who considered 
it a definite stage in progress toward monogamy. Traces of a 
similar institution appear elsewhere. For some obscure bio- 
logical reason the Marquesas had more men than women, so 
polyandry made practical sense; but the Marquesans rational- 
ized it as necessary because Husband One was usually a chief 
and barred from work, Two was of high enough birth to make 
work shameful, 53 and, without Three and Four, who would 
support the household? 

And, as previously indicated, rape was not serious in the Is- 
lands. It automatically followed capture in war. Even mission 
influence could not alter this attitude. As recently as the 
'eighties the native-made but mission-bolstered legal code of 
Raiatea (Societies) carried the following scale of fines: murder 
$155; smuggling liquor $50; rape $10. 

It is risky to say that the Islands could not take erotics as 
seriously as whites. In apparent contradiction, much of their 
speech, ceremonial life, and amusements centered almost ob- 
sessively around sex. Intercourse and all associated with it were 
either juicy jokes or lustily engrossing games, as in the talk of 
barracks, lumber camp and forecastle. Many a stately-sounding 
Maori place-name would be unprintable in translation even 
more so than the French voyageurs" surviving designation for 
the Grand Teton mountains in Wyoming. The Hawaiians 
gave pet names to all parts of the body of the well bora, 
genitals included one queen's were called "the frisky one." 

is one of the numerous exceptions to the previous statement that 
work could be honorific for chiefs. 


But there is significance in Fortune's grave explanation of the 
Dobuan custom of barring adolescent boys from their parents' 
house to prevent possible incest with their sisters, which en- 
abled them to have premarital affairs with girls outside the 

'There is not necessarily love in it as we understand love. The 
youths sleep with the girls in the first place because it is the 
custom to deny them houseroom at home/' Sorcerers of 
Dobu, 29. 

That is the strangest reason for carnality adduced since the 
lady in Sylvia Scarlett went bad because she was afraid to sleep 
alone. Many an escape-seeking white man in the Islands has 
been forced pathetically to record his reluctant discovery that, 
jolly a bedfellow as she was, his little brown girl never quite 
got the idea of how he felt about her and wanted her to feel 
about him. 64 Only that still-to-be-born science, a supracultural 
psychiatry, can determine whether this love without overtones 
is emotionally superior or inferior to our hard-breathing sort 
of thing. 

In any case, Tahiti put on the capsheaf. The data are slim 
and masked by either missionary squeamishness or apologetic 
omissions; but what the old accounts boil down to is fascinat- 
ing and disquieting: The Arioi of Tahiti were a religious lodge 
dedicated to travel from village to village to sing, dance and 
encourage orgies; an itinerant brothel de luxe with aesthetic 
and religious overtones. Members renounced parenthood, be- 
ing sworn to kill all children born as a moral duty. 55 They 
toiled not, neither did they spin, and membership was a high 
honor. The highest born of both sexes were admitted. Ne- 
ophytes went through elaborate novitiates and were tattooed 
by stages betokening the attaining of successively higher 

B4 Cf, Alec Waugh, Hot Countries, 139-40 for a comically back- 
handed statement of this difficulty. 

^Apologists maintain that abortion and infanticide were necessary be- 
cause pregnancy and care of children interfered with the lady Ariofs 
duties as entertainer in both senses. Cf. Peter H. Buck, Vilcings of the 
Sunrise, 85. 


grades. The assertiveness and prestige of this highly organized 
cult and the flagrant antisocialness of its principles are tough 
nuts for the functional anthropologist to crack. 

Privacy in intercourse, though mildly valued, was not easy 
when the whole household husband, wife or wives, chil- 
dren, other people's children, aunts, uncles, cousins and visit- 
ing relatives slept in a single-roomed hut, often with a night 
light to keep off evil spirits. But these things are different 
among a people all of whose lives are lived with little more 
privacy than in an army barracks. When Bougainville's men 
got ashore in Tahiti, each household offered a girl; if the white 
stranger evinced willingness, the hut immediately filled with 
sightseers eager to observe the newcomer's technique. The nar- 
rator of the voyage was not at all sure that the boys refused to 
fall in with local expectation of open covenants openly arrived 
at. Cook's men found curious a Tahitian performance for their 

"A young man, near six feet high, performed the rites of Venus 
with a little girl about eleven or twelve years of age before sev- 
eral of our people, and a great number of the natives, without 
the least sense of its being improper or indecent, but as ap- 
peared, in perfect conformity with the custom of the place. 
Among the spectators were several women of superior rank, 
particularly Oberea, who may be said to have assisted at the 
ceremony, for they gave instructions to the girl how to per- 
form her part, which, young as she was, she did not seem to 
stand much in need of/' Three Voyages, I, 56. 

Many western men would attend such a show, but few would 
expect great ladies -to take such interest in front of their 
guests. 56 

The mixture of venery with gift exchange naturally confused 
the white sailor. The ghosted account of Cook's second voyage 
tried to qualify the white's first impression of Polynesian 
round-heeledness, only to make still more errors. Tahitian 
society, it concluded, exhibited a bottom class of prostitutes, 

may well have been an Arioi show. Cf . J. A. Moerenhout, Voyage 
aux iles du grand ocdan, II, 131. 


but also higher classes of women who were approachable de- 
pending on rank and whether they were unmarried. Actually,, 
the Islands had no prostitution proper when the whites arrived. 
Their set of values could not spawn that dingy institution. 
True, the commoner-girl who favored Jack ashore from the 
"Dolphin" or "Endeavour" expected something nice perhaps 
a piece of red cloth or a comb 57 not as payment, but as a gift 
expressing his share of the relation. True also, she was more 
easily swayed in favor of a sailor who let her know in advance 
that something so valuable was what he had in mind. But her 
motives for obliging him would be inquisitiveness about white 
men, a feeling that to accommodate one would increase her 
prestige and, principally, social duty. 

Under white influence the Islands did develop genuine 
prostitution and it was not pretty. But these girls were not mak- 
ing a living by fixing up sailors or anybody else and, as Cook 
noted, were not socially outcast for so doing. Even in those 
parts of Melanesia where erotic morality was pretty stiff and 
social onus attached to what looked like prostitution, it was 
in a fashion alien to our ideas. In some parts of the Solomons 
compulsory prostitution was the penalty for a woman's break- 
ing exogamy tabus, the chief sharing her earnings; but as soon 
as she accumulated enough valuable goods to become a good 
match she was married off, the entire community, including 
her new husband, being obligated by custom never to refer to 
her unfortunate past. That sounds either most humane, or like 
a happy realism determining that, since the lady's transgression 
put her outside the pale of propriety, the chief and she might 
as well make a good thing of it. 

Another point that Cook missed was the social distinction in 
this department of guest-cherishing. His writing that "the fa~ 

BT In this respect the Trobrianders' attitude, says Malinowski, . . . "im- 
plies that sexual intercourse, even where there is mutual attachment, is. 
a service rendered by the female to the male. As such it has to be repaid 
in accordance with the rule of ... give and take which pervades tribal 
life, . . . Above all, it would be erroneous to draw any parallel with 
forms of prostitution in higher cultures." Sexual Life of Savages, 319; 


vours of ... women of the better sort are as difficult to be 
obtained here as in any country whatsoever" 58 is misleading. 
At her husband's or father's request many an Island chieftain- 
ess threw herself at an explorer-captain with an ardor that 
astounded him at the time and would certainly not have been 
imitated by a royal duchess at home. A Tahitian chieftainess 
proved willing to accommodate one of Cook's officers in con- 
sideration of the sheets off his bunk. For, in the Islands, ship's 
officers were great chiefs entitled to women of equivalent rank; 
whereas the high-class lady, aware that she was reserved for her 
peers, had nothing to do with foremast hands or even petty 
officers. Thus what happened could look like lower-class 
prostitution without actually being any such thing. The ugliest 
aspect of prostitution a woman flouting a principal moral 
tenet of her culture for economic gain was not present at all. 
The social position of Island women has already been sug- 
gested while other matters were discussed. It was generally 
lower than that of men, but with significant inconsistencies. 
In Polynesia the most highly born might share rule with 
the highest chiefs. In Samoa, for instance, the first high 
chief known to have temporarily combined all the necessary 
"names" for nominal hegemony over the group was a woman. 
Women of lower ranks had important and arduous work, 
though a less active voice in affairs. But sanctions and restric- 
tions were the rule. Missionaries united in bewailing the de- 
grading, beast-of-burden status of Melanesian women, and 
with good cause. The wives of a dead Fijian chief were in 
honor bound to let themselves be strangled to accompany him 
to the other world. 59 If rescued by missionary pleading, or 
more often by a ransom in trade goods, they bitterly upbraided 
their rescuers. Though Polynesians were often slack about 

68 Three Voyages I, 421. 

^Thomas Williams (Fiji and the Fi/ians, 165-8) has a long description 
of a Fijian wife-strangling that, in spite of his prejudices, gives an im- 
mediate feeling of the real emotional values of the situation. In some of 
the New Hebrides, e.g. Aneityum, women were similarly strangled as 
escorts for a dead child who had been specially loved. (George Turner, 
Nineteen Years in Polynesia, 372.) 


exercising the right to kill an unfaithful wife, Micronesians and 
Fijians were not. One such chief, having killed his wife for 
unspecified reasons, was assailed by a missionary with graphic 
descriptions of the tortures of hell: 

"After a pause, he inquired: Is ray wife in hell?' I feared she 
was. He seemed gratified . . ." Thomas Williams, Fiji and the 
Fijians, 504. 

Williams also tells of a runaway wife, seeking shelter in a 
near-by village and pursued by her husband's emissary bearing 
a whale's tooth, the ceremonious gift necessary for opening 
negotiations about sending her back for discipline. The in- 
habitants of the village of refuge, reflecting that she would 
probably be killed on reaching home, thriftily decided to kill 
and eat her themselves. 

It is difficult not to overstate such matters in either direc- 
tion. Even harsh Melanesia showed loopholes and exceptions, 
where rules against philandering were often honored in the 
breech, even as among us. Frigidity was probably less frequent 
in these women than with us. Malinowski found the Trobriand 
women great devotees of Priapus and contemptuous of white 
men's techniques. The Island woman could break loose on 
great occasions, when a plethora of food and drumming and 
dancing gave the signal. Then, jiggling in rhythm with the 
whole overstimulated community, she could watch her chance 
and dive into the bush with the nearest man she had her eye 
on. This was risky but very often done. Howeverand this 
emphasizes the great hold of convention on these people in 
particular even in erotic frenzy her impromptu partner could 
not come from one of the social divisions to which she was 
sexually tabu. 

According to her lights she was a good mother, carefully ob- 
serving prenatal and postnatal tabus, nursing her child long, 
seeing that it was properly fed into the smooth machine of 
village life. 60 In some islands, such as Fiji, the tabu system gave 

"'Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa, is the classic on Polynesian 
child-rearing, possibly somewhat prettified. 


her an admirably eugenic three years between pregnancies, her 
husband solacing himself with unmarried girls or other people's 
wives. She had at command various devices for terminating 
unwanted pregnancies, some mechanical and probably danger- 
ous, some concocted from old wives' herbs, the effectiveness 
of which is disputed. 61 Both parents would be very fond of 
children as such. Playing with toddlers was an adult Islander's 
idea of the world's finest pastime, and fathers readily took over 
child watching when necessary. The gift of one's child to an- 
other was joyfully received, or even asked for before birth. 
Violent tempers sometimes endangered the child's limbs or 
life but, from our point of view, the Islanders generally spoiled 
their children, and very good it probably was for their small 
psyches if, that is, they survived to be reared. For infanticide 
was general, taken as much for granted as a western couple's 
right to contraception. 

Child killing certainly helped to keep down population on 
islands with limited resources. Island women occasionally told 
missionaries that they disposed of newborn babies to save the 
trouble of rearing them or because suckling spoiled the breasts. 
Whatever the reason they could have been more humane 
about it, for burying alive was common. In some islands chil- 
dren could be killed only the first day; elsewhere, notably on 
Hawaii, parents could do so with impunity at any age. As an 
additional population check, infant mortality was undoubtedly 
very high, sanitary conditions being what they were. The 
Maori, for instance, isolated a parturient woman in a flirnsily 
constructed shack, with perhaps only a few branches set up as 
windbreak, where she gave birth on the ground, no matter 
what the weather, and then stayed there with the baby for 
three days. 

It is again plain, as in their treatment of animals, that Is- 
landers had small sense of suffering in themselves or others. 
Their cripples were objects of ridicule or contempt, even of 

*Cf. R. F. Fortune, Sorcerers of Dobu, 239-40; S. M. Lambert, A 
Yankee Doctor in Paradise, 47. 


blame for not being "good" men, else calamity would not have 
overtaken them. Useless old people might be killed by their 
own families and duly wailed over afterward. Williams swore 
that the Tahitians used to throw old people into pits and let 
them starve or suffocate. It was better all round when the old 
gentleman would decide his time had come and, by some 
miracle of mind over matter, die on schedule of no assignable 
cause. If he failed to bring it off, his family might smother or 
bury him alive out of a feeling that it was unbecoming to live 
on after determining to die. Such things set western teeth on 
edge, but our intelligence can never be sure that we are justified 
in our elaborate efforts to keep the old alive as long as possible, 
instead of deciding for them whether their lives are worth liv- 
ing. Here the Islander, connoisseur of the more obvious ad- 
vantages of living, may have been as sensible as he was callous. 
In any case, the Island physician could have done little for 
the old. Island medicine had no geriatrics. The physician was 
primarily a wizard, bound to the principle that malevolent 
magic sometimes involving spirits caused all serious ailments 
and nonviolent deaths. His patient was equally convinced. He 
was something of a surgeon with a sharp-edged flake of ob- 
sidian, a shark's tooth or a razor-edged splint of bamboo, and 
he was an adept, if often damagingly violent, masseur. But his 
mana exercised in counter-spells was his mainstay and his 
cures were numerous. How much that means is for the science 
of psychosomatics to determine. His reliance on specifics, 
mostly vegetable, and his neglect of asepsis put him about on 
a par with most western physicians before the germ theory of 
disease. He had at least one idea that laymen will applaud: 
when putting his patient on a diet, he had to observe it him- 
self if it was to be effective. But he was in no sense a scientist 
and had no faculty of research. Some modern physicians pro- 
fess to be impressed by the Island doctor, but it is difficult not 
to suspect them of overgenerosity toward picturesque col- 
leagues. Plenty of things in Island life are admirable beauty 
of setting, comradely effort, love of children, high skills, splen- 


did dignity, beautiful manners. But why let admiration slop 
over into the fatuous? 

On the whole, in that category of human endeavor called 
"the arts and sciences/' the Island world was spotty but re- 
spectable. Its talent for engineering and its lovely, patient 
miracles of handicraft have been touched upon. Its instru- 
mental music was stirring but limited, confined largely to per- 
cussion with feeble aid from such things as three-stopped 
nose-flutes, wooden Jew's-harps, a one-stringed fiddle with the 
open mouth of the player for sounding box, perhaps rude 
Pan's pipes. Its singing was magnificent. Its dancing, if often 
indecorous, was also stunning. When the Maori got to pound- 
ing the earth with their great horny feet in the halca (war 
dance) , the ground shook and people miles away could hear 
the beat of foot and voice defying the foe. When Fijians 
staged a great meke (dancing festival), the precision of their 
synchronization and the happy aptness of their symbols im- 
pressed even salt-rimed sea captains as superlatively fine. Some 
islands had a sort of theatre, with comic pieces about the 
guests, and legends acted out in song and pantomime. We 
shall never know just what they were like until the ghost of 
James Cook comes back to tell us. 

To judge from his language, the Polynesian at least had fair 
literary equipment. He lacked abstract words but knew a wide 
variety of expressions for subtle aspects of natural objects: one 
term for "the color of the underside of a wave as it approaches 
the beach"; another for "the moment when the moon rises 
before the sun has set/' Obviously this was a great vehicle for 
poetry and much was written, or rather composed and handed 
down via the miraculous Island memory. Missionaries, and 
then ethnologists, recorded many poems. Those qualified to 
study them in the original claim high merits for them. But it 
is a grave question whether most special students of Polynesian 
are competent judges of literary values. As literature their 
translations, on an average, though no doubt faithful to sense, 


are dismally dull, relieved only by occasional obscenity, and 
cast doubt on the translators' skill in letters. The same holds 
good of prose legends. Even Sir George Grey's classic collec- 
tion of Maori myths is no great pleasure to read, scholar 
though the translator was. Padraic Colum, who made a long 
and earnest effort to get some quality into Hawaiian myths, 
finally concluded that these "long and monotonous stories told 
in the old days" 62 must have derived their value as entertain- 
ment, not from intrinsic values, but from the extravagant skill 
in gesture and intonation of the native story-teller. And the 
average little book of South Sea legends is either kittenishly 
handled by its maiden-lady author, or as bald and confused as 
the Indian legends that infuriated Mark Twain in Life on the 
Mississippi. Here is a sample from a New Zealand source: 

"According to tradition, the name Tikitere is derived from a 
particularly sad, yet romantic episode in the history of a *hapu' 
or sub-tribe of the Arawa people who lived in this district. A 
lovely maiden of high rank named Huritini was given by her 
people to be one of the many wives of a renowned warrior, also 
of rangatira rank, as a reward for his great efforts in battle 
against neighbouring tribes. Huritini conceived the idea that 
Rangiteaorere, her chieftain husband, was treating her with 
contempt and failing to pay due honour to her rank. In Maori 
eyes this was an insult and a reproach to her people as well as 
to herself, and one night she put an end to her unhappiness by 
jumping into one of the boiling pools, now called Huritini in 
her memory. When her act was discovered it was exclaimed 
Taku tiki e tere nei.' Literally translated, 'Alas, our beloved 
tiki (first daughter) has floated away forever/ Thus through 
the passage of time the commemoration of this sad incident 
has clung to the locality, but has been abbreviated to 'Tiki- 
tere/ " 

Nevertheless Stevenson, a master of language who had a reason- 
able acquaintance with one Polynesian tongue, thought highly 
of Samoan poetry and legendary material. The outsider can 
only take the beauties of Island literature on the word of ex- 

Tadraic Colum, At the Gateways of the Day, xix., 


perts and regard with a very bilious eye the white enthusiast 
who, without knowing any Island idiom well, yet tries to tell 
him how marvelous the old chants and narratives were. 63 

There can be no skepticism about the fact that, when it was 
worth their while, most of these people could be great virtuosos 
in dignity and courtesy. Generations ago Dana's stranded Ha- 
waiians on San Pedro beach were "the most interesting, in- 
telligent and kindhearted people I ever fell in with/' 64 Of 
Polynesians the Earl of Pembroke, himself attested a great 
gentleman by the College of Heralds, said "nearly every one 
from the highest to the lowest is a gentleman or a lady/' 65 The 
great Dr. Johnson swore that, when the pair had a light behind 
them, he could not distinguish Omai, the Tahitian commoner 
whom Lieutenant Furneaux brought home with him, from a 
peer of the realm which, considering what a snob the Great 
Cham was, is most impressive. The people these men spoke of 
are long since dead, but their descendants show the same quali- 
ties to a convincing degree. 

But the Islands were not the Land of the Doasyoulikes. 
That misconception arose because the Island peoples did so 

B8 If samples of poetry-translation are needed, here are two from au- 
thentic early sources: 

Above is Te-ao-uri, A dwelling remote is the island 

Below is Te-ao-tea, Tiapa, 

All encompassed by the birds A land whence appears well Mau- 

As they look toward the eastl piti, 

Grandson of Piho (splash and Unequalled among thousands of 

shout) of the seaweed girdle, lands. 

Gird on thy girdle of seaweed, Easy is the access to Tuanai; 
Porapora of the silent paddle, Elevated is the rock Tauraurau, 
Paddling is thy diversion. The eating place of Ouboure; 

Teuira Henry, Ancient Tahiti, Where the point of land meets 
123. the coral reef. 

Cease to weep, great Ipo, 
Here is beautiful Maupiti, 
O the waters of Atirno, 
Ane also at Maupiti. 
William Ellis, Polynesian Re- 
searches, I, 202. 

"R. H. Dana, Two Years before the Mast, 1 37. 
"Earl of Pembroke, South Sea Bubbles, 281. 


many things that western culture prohibited. Another crucial 
misunderstanding needs clearing up: The Islands had no tradi- 
tion of social criticism, no scope for the impulse to shatter the 
world and remold it nearer to the heart's desire. All, like For- 
tune's Dobuan, took ''all established custom as the order ac- 
cording to which the universe was created/' 66 It sounds, and 
was, stagnant compared to our tradition of challenging, tinker- 
ing with, mistrusting and yet relying on, the established order. 
But there were compensations in lack of emotional wear and 
tear. The Islander had few agonies of decision. It was prac- 
tically never necessary for him to consider, "Does doing this 
now and in this manner make as rtiuch sense as perhaps doing 
it differently at another time, or perhaps not doing it at all, or 
doing something else that gets at the same end differently? 
And am I sure that I desire that end anyway?" That is prob- 
ably the crucial difference between the white man and the 
pre-white Islander. No wonder the damage was immense when 
the white man appeared offering astounding new choices. 

And the Islander had other advantages. The man who fitted 
into his small niche in his small world possessed great security. 
He would never go hungry. If the chief's son raped his wife, or 
tabud his pigs for his own lordly use, it was at worst a tempo- 
rary annoyance, sometimes a kind of honor. He was deathly 
afraid of the dark, of ghosts, of wizards, instead of the poor- 
house, but they were probably little on his mind by daylight. 
The chances of his being killed in battle or drowned in an 
upset off the reef or taken by a shark were not high enough for 
a healthy man living outdoors to brood over. His all-important 
prestige did not obsess him in most of the Islands, though, if 
he had an emotional weak spot, that was certainly it. And 
though his life sounds dull to us, it was not so for him. 

Nobody had ever infected him with the idea that life could 
be dull, or anything else than just living as other people lived. 
Besides, he had an enviable ability to take things big on oc- 
casion. When he feasted, he gorged for days. When he went 
on a tear, such as in observances of the death of an Hawaiian 
^R. F. Fortune, Sorcerers of Dobu, 15. 


high chief, he combined Saturnalia with the sack of a medi- 
aeval city. When he felt sad he sluiced tears while the feeling 
lasted, and then pretty well forgot about it. When he cursed, 
he instructed the object of his ire to perform a variety of tabu 
infringements specially connected with sacrilege and the canni- 
balizing of relatives: a sample from Tonga: 

"Dig up your grandfather by moonlight and make soup of his 
bones; bake his skin to cracknel; devour your mother; dig up 
your aunt and cut her to pieces; feed on the earth of your own 
grave; strike your god; chew the heart of your grandfather; 
swallow the eyes of your uncle; eat the grisly bones of your 
children; suck the brains of your grandmother; dress yourself 
up in the skin of your father and tie it on with the entrails of 
your mother . . ." William Mariner, Tonga, I, 238-9. 

The least that such a curse proves is that Islanders did not lack 
imagination and energy. 

To varying degrees the present Islanders still have much in 
common with these ancestors. They were anything but our 
kind r and people who try to tell you that they were just like 
ourselves, only more natural, are abysmal asses deceiving either 
themselves or you. Nevertheless they sum up as something 
quite pleasant to contemplate, if the spectacle of humans vege- 
tating does not ruffle your western-nurtured habits of mind. A 
great many people liked and still like them. Whether you do 
or not is not important. Like them or not, you have them on 
your hands; and the obligation to do right by them has noth- 
ing to do with personal tastes. 



Hawaii and the Hawaiians have today a dangerous 
number of sentimental friends. 

Ernest Beaglehole, Some Modern Hawaiians 



the South Seas for American encroachers, military or private, 
pious and otherwise. To cover Hawaii in some detail will make 
American readers more at home in other parts of the area 
though, in some ways, Hawaii is not too good a sample. Its 
people were neither the most prepossessing, the most vigorous, 
nor the most self-respecting, of South Seas natives. Whites 
usually found them personally likeable, however gay, malle- 
able and gullible. And they did manage, poor devils, to experi- 
ence most of the untoward consequences that white intrusion 
forced on the South Seas. Their history is a sort of elementary 
survey-course in the whole subject. 1 

Never mind identifying the first white discoverer of Hawaii. 
Misty tales of early white castaways, bits of broken sword 
found on the Big Island, Spanish charts showing islands in the 
latitude of Hawaii, are insignificant. Spanish vessels on their 
prescribed course westward from Acapulco to Manila may well 
have glimpsed Hawaii at some time during the two centuries' 
of their practical monopoly on transpacific navigation. The 

a To be precise, blackbirding and unsuccessful warfare against the whites 
were the only two standard items with which the Hawaiian Islands 
were not favored. 



peaks of the Big Island are visible very far at sea and, rigidly 
as Spanish skippers followed sailing orders, weather or naviga- 
tional error could easily have thrown them far enough north for 
such a landfall. If one were made, however, the cautious Span- 
iards kept mum about it and it had little effect on either Span- 
iards or Hawaiians. Hawaii was unknown to the western world 
when Captain James Cook anchored his two ships off Waimea 
on Kauai in 1778 and was duly offered a young chief tainess to 
sleep with. The curtain had gone up again on the always 
chancy drama of an Island people meeting their first whites. 
The several accounts of this voyage combine with testimony 
available in native accounts collected later by missionaries. 2 

The natives of Kauai were clearly as astounded by this visit 
as Cedar Rapids would be if a party of Martians in a space-ship 
landed on the roof of the Quaker Oats plant In fact, the im- 
pression must have been even deeper. Cedar Rapids is vaguely 
aware that there may be Martians and space-ships, but the 
people of Kauai had no previous data to prepare them for these 
huge floating structures teeming with beings who might be 
men or gods, had holes in their skins into which they thrust 
their hands, and talked gibberish among themselves with every 
air of understanding one another. 

Yet the native reaction was sensible. Reconnoitring canoes 
reported these floating islands rich in marvelous things, in- 
cluding iron. A reputable chief ashore, who claimed that the 
despoiling of strangers was his specialty, tried to exercise that 
function at once and was shot and killed in thq attempt. 
Others, made more cautious, boarded with a show of friendli- 
ness and began snatching up every reasonably portable object 
in sight, particularly if it were of metal. Cook's men, already 
used to Polynesian light-fingeredness, tried to be open-minded 
about it, pointing out that a mixed lot of Europeans unexpect- 
edly exposed to gold and diamonds of which metal and cloth 
were Polynesian equivalents would probably also turn sneak 
thieves. This attitude was commendable, though it showed 

3 Cook called his discovery the Sandwich Islands in compliment to the 
Earl of Sandwich, his patron at the Admiralty. 


small knowledge of Polynesian concepts of property. As such 
thievery went, these new Polynesians behaved no worse than 
most, and were quite polite, even asking permission to spit on 
the deck. Friendly relations were quickly set up and the ships 
soon had wood, water, vegetables and women. 

Obsessed with cannibalism, Cook's men looked out sharply 
for it here. They need not have troubled for, whatever they had 
once done, the Hawaiians no longer ate men. Language diffi- 
cultiesmost of the whites spoke Tahitian, cognate with Ha- 
waiian but not identical may account for the official report 
that an Hawaiian assured some sailors that strangers venturing 
ashore would certainly be eaten. It is harder to discount the 
item among the presents brought on board which a ship's 
surgeon swore was a baked human arm. Yet the weight of evi- 
dence the other way is so heavy that this learned verdict must 
be ignored. 

Pleased with so handy a supply depot between the South 
Pacific and the theoretical far end of the Northwest Passage, 
the ships also visited Niihau, the small dry island west of 
Kauai 3 In both places Cook tried to keep venereal cases away 
from women. The attempt failed, for when he anchored 361 
days later at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, 300 miles away, 
V-D was already there ahead of him, the first item out of 
Pandora's box of troubles for Hawaii. 4 

The following year Cook's ships refreshed at the Big Island 
after an arduous northern voyage. Identifying Cook as the high 
god Lono, who had sailed away from Hawaii in the dim past 
promising to return some day, the chiefs and people were 

S C. II, The Ingredients; "Natives." 

A lt also gives an index of the vigor of Hawaiian eroticism. Kauai is sixty- 
five miles of boisterous open water against the trade wind from Oahu; 
that in turn is a long and difficult voyage, still against the wind, from 
the Big Island; Kauai's isolation was great enough for it to be culturally 
distinct from the rest of the Islands, with some sounds differently pro- 
nounced and local vegetables unrepresented elsewhere (William Ellis, 
Narrative of a Tour Through Hawaii, 29-30). Communication be- 
tween Kauai and its windward neighbors cannot have been too fre- 
quent, yet this plague spread with a speed that can only mean great 
goings on every time a canoe made a windward trip. 


moved to lavish veneration, provisions and women on the 
visitors. They let Cook set up an astronomical observatory in a 
temple-area, no doubt mistaking instruments and observations 
for matters of supernal magic, and cautiously swallowed their 
bewildered resentment when the god's followers proved igno- 
rant of how, in Hawaiian terms, guests should behave. These 
awesome strangers violated tabus right and left with impunity. 
As more whites came and did the same, the damaging lesson 
began to sink in Pandora's second contribution. 

The average Hawaiian commoner was well accustomed to 
seeing the hogs and taro that he had worked to raise snapped 
up by his chiefs, and probably saw little wrong in the fact that 
it was the same chiefs who got most of the iron, red baize, 
and other trade goods that Lono & Company produced in 
return. But the ships' appetite for supplies was insatiable, and 
the chiefs themselves can hardly have been displeased when 
Lono departed, shaking out the white wings of his floating is- 
lands and leaving behind the raw material for many a turgid 

Unhappily one of the floating islands sprung a mast in a 
storm and both ships returned for emergency repairs. This 
time the natives were glum and Cook tactless. After several 
small jarring incidents, a ship's boat was stolen. Cook resorted 
to a well-tried expedient; he blocked the bay with guard boats 
and kidnaped a chief as hostage against the return of the miss- 
ing property. 5 At other Polynesian islands, when something 
important was stolen or natives were hiding deserters, the kid- 
naped chief would shed buckets of tears, so would his people 
ashore, and in a short time, the men or the pilfered items were 
restored. This time, however, while Cook was ashore ensnaring 
his chief with blarney, the crew of a guard boat shot and killed 
another chief who was trying to run the blockade. Things 
came to a scuffle in which Cook was killed, probably by an 

B George Gilbert, one of Cook's lieutenants, vouched for the efficacy of 
this proceeding elsewhere; it was, he wrote, "certainly the best method 
that could possibly be taken in these cases to prevent bloodshed." 
Walter Besant, Captain CooJc, 130. 


iron trade dagger forged by his own smith. As musket fire and 
grapeshot retaliated, numerous natives followed him to the 
other world. An eventual truce enabled his officers to secure 
Cook's remains a few bones and a few pounds of flesh and 
to learn that the boat, broken up for its nails, was already un- 
returnable. The mutilation of CooFs body was evidence, not 
of cannibalism, as was suspected, but of the honors custom- 
arily done the remains of a great chief. The ships then sailed 
to continue surveying the North Pacific, leaving Hawaii as- 
sured that, whatever else white men might be, gods they were 
not. The Hawaiians seem to have borne little resentment- 
Polynesia seldom applied to the conduct of great chiefs any- 
thing that we should consider nice moral criteria. 

Polynesianophiles, of course, call Cook an insensitive villain 
who got what he deserved. Others blame Hawaiian fickleness 
and treachery. The curious missionary position was that his 
death was the penalty for cynically letting himself be wor- 
shiped instead of denouncing paganism and trying to convert 
the Hawaiians. Pompous companions of his former voyages 
claimed it would not have happened if they had been there to 
coach him. Actually, his death was probably just a case of the 
pitcher going to the well once too often, as when a renowned 
mountaineer finally misjudges a snowbridge over a bottomless 
crevasse. In view of how arbitrarily powerful the eighteenth- 
century man-of-war captain was, it is a marvel that Cook got 
on so well so long with so many kinds of strange brown folk 
of whose language he knew only a smattering, and whose cus- 
toms and sensibilities were a closed book to him. Both the 
monuments that commemorate him in Hawaii are well de- 
served. He certainly did not deserve the ignominious error of a 
learned Japanese whose pre-Pearl Harbor book on Micronesia 
mentions the great English navigator, Thomas Cook. 

The Hawaii and Hawaiians that played backdrop and chorus 
in this drama differed considerably from the modern islands and 
their people. There were no vast fields of sugar cane and pine- 
appleno pineapples, in fact, since whites had not yet brought 
the plant from the West Indies. The variety of plants, includ- 


ing sugar cane and animals acclimatized by early Polynesian 
immigrants, was nothing like so wide as the range of exotics to 
be introduced by western man guava, orange, lemon, coffee, 
mango, eucalyptus, algaroba, prickly pear, numerous grasses, 
mongoose, niynah, Norway rat, horse, cow, sheep, goat, bee, 
mosquito, flea, cockroach, scorpion, and toad. Most of these 
have gone wild and some now dominate whole landscapes. 6 
The same process is starting today on Guadalcanal, where 
zinnias, sown for ornament around officers' quarters, are going 
weedily wild down the adjacent slopes. On the leeward sides of 
the Islands irrigation has created shady greenery where previ- 
ously nature kept things arid notably in Honolulu, the glare 
and dust of which greatly irked the wives of early missionaries. 
But the climate, rather cooler, and all the better for it than in 
much of the South Seas, is still the same. Hawaii, said a local 
wit, has the climate that Southern California advertises. 

Though indubitably Polynesians, the natives had detailed 
originalities, many of which vanished or went underground 
under white attrition. They tattooed only sparingly and often 
kept hogs for pets. Specially ingratiating swine might remain 
members of the family when full-grown, sometimes sleeping 
with the children under the same tapa. Anybody who has ever 
known pigs socially should have a sneaking sympathy with 
this. 7 They had unique games, one consisting of distance slid- 
ing, belly-bump, on long narrow sleds down specially prepared 
slopes of slippery glass. Chieftainesses played it and it would 
have been worth a voyage round the world to see a rotund 
Hawaiian "princess" hurtling downhill on so insubstantial a 
vehicle. If the old legends are true, even goddesses played; 
Pele, goddess of fire and volcanoes, vengefully pursued a 
famous chief-slider all over the Islands when he bested her in 
a challenge match. 

Hawaiian dances, now largely relegated to side show wrig- 

*Sea gulls, introduced to become harbor scavengers, were unsuccessful, 
nobody knows why. 

Tahiti even had a special heaven for pigs' departed souls. William 
Ellis, Polynesian Researches, I, 77. 


gling or faint imitation by young Honolulu matrons, are said 
by experts to have been highly significant and beautiful. The 
spectator of contemporary efforts by the archeologically- 
minded to revive the more dignified hulas can sometimes see 
that high aesthetic quality may have been shown. 8 In any case, 
they were socially important and not at all spontaneous; we 
can erase the mental picture of the carefree native tearing off 
a hula out of sheer /oie de vivre. 

"The ancient Hawaiians did not personally and informally in- 
dulge in the dance for their own amusement . , . left it to be 
done for them by a body of trained and paid performers . . . 
the dance was an affair of premeditation, an organized effort, 
guarded by the traditions of a somber religion . . . these chil- 
dren of nature, as we are wont to call them, in this regard were 
less free and spontaneous than the more advanced race to 
which we are proud to belong." R. W. Emerson, Unwritten 
Literature of Hawaii, 13. 

Hawaiians were good shipwrights, making great dugouts 
from the huge logs that occasionally drifted from the Pacific 
northwest to Hawaiian beaches, tapping their own mountain 
forests for big trees only when such flotsam was unavailable. 
Their artificial fishponds and irrigated taro terraces were excel- 

8 As frequent guest of King Kalakaua, Stevenson probably had adequate 
opportunity to see authentic hulas under genuine auspices. He called 
them "surely the most dull of man's inventions, and the spectator 
yawns under its length as at a college lecture or a parliamentary de- 
bate." The context shows great liking for native dances in the Gilberts, 
so this is no case of inability to appreciate. (In the South Seas, 301.) 
Seventy years earlier, however, young Otto von Kotzebue wrote admir- 
ingly that the pre-missionary hula gave "an impression of pure nature" 
which, though obviously romantic nonsense,, was intended to be highly 
complimentary. (A Voyage of Discovery, I, 337.) Over the last genera- 
tion ballyhoo, from both show business and reverent devotees of the 
Hawaiian past, has totally obviated any chance of intelligent balance on 
the subject. How the recent hula would impress the uninstructed white 
mind in any but the tent show version is well shown in a letter home 
from a nice young lady visiting Honolulu in 1917: ". . . the hula- 
hula, the old court dance . . . visitors desire to see it, but ... it is 
neither graceful nor pretty." (M. L. Crawford, Seven Weeks in Ha- 
waii, 48.) 


lent engineering, 9 but their handicrafts, except their tapa, were 
inferior, it is generally agreed, to those of other Polynesians. 
So, as hinted previously, was their level of female beauty. Said 
Cook, who knew Tahiti and Tonga well for contrast: 

". . . neither remarkable for a beautiful shape nor for striking 
features ... if any of them can claim a share of beauty, it 
was most conspicuous among the young men/ 7 Three Voy- 
ages, II, 246-7. 


". . .no women I ever met with were less reserved. Indeed it 
appeared to me that they visited us with no other view than to 
make a surrender of their persons." Three Voyages, II, 398. 

They were also strangely unconcerned about the whites* de- 
structive powers. When the ships bombarded the shore to 
avenge Cook's death, with huts flaming and puzzled natives 
dying in puzzled heaps: 

"... the women of the island, who were on board, never of- 
fered to leave us, nor discovered the smallest apprehensions, 
either for themselves or for their friends ashore . . . some of 
them, who were on deck when the town was in flames, seemed 
to admire the sight and frequently cried out that it was maitai, 
or very fine." Three Voyages, II, 398. 

These were probably commoner-women, with inferior sense 
of stake in the general welfare. For Hawaii was notable, even 

". . . along the whole narrow bottom [of an Hawaiian stream-gorge] 
and climbing often in terraces the steep hillsides, you will see the little 
taio patches, skilfully laid so as to catch the water directly from the 
main stream, or from canals taking water out above. Such a taro patch 
oftencst contains a sixteenth, less frequently an eighth, of an acre. It 
consists of soil painfully brought down from above, and secured by 
means of substantial stone walls, plastered with mud and covered with 
grass, strong enough to resist the force of the torrent. Each little patch 
or flat is so laid that a part of the stream shall flow over it without 
carrying away the soil; indeed, it is expected to leave some sediment 
And as you look up such a valley you see terrace after terrace of taro 
rising before you, the patches often fifty or sixty feet above the biawl- 
mg stream, but each receiving its proper proportion of water." Charles 
Nordhoff, Northern California, Oregon and trie Sandwich Islands, 77. 


in Polynesia, for social stratification and upper-class despotism 
in an organization so close to European feudal precedents that 
it was called a "satire on ... the courts of Europe/' 10 Each 
large island was partitioned among ranking chiefs who allotted 
land in fief to lesser vassals. They in turn developed under- 
vassals who let land to commoners as tenants-at-will to culti- 
vate and harvest, paying indeterminate dues in kind. Protection 
from hostile raids was set against labor on demand, an arrange- 
ment that seems to have worked out no better for the common 
man's security here than in the confusions of eleventh-century 
France. One principal difference was that the commoner was 
not formally bound to military service though, if he knew 
what was good for him, he joined his lord's war parties 
promptly. Nor was he bound to the land serf -fashion, though 
he seldom renounced a weak or overtyrannical lord to take up 
with another, since that exiled him from his closer relatives, 
who bulked so large in the Polynesian's emotions and econ- 
omy. Nor were fiefs hereditary, so the death of aq, over-chief 
meant a destructive scramble to redistribute power and pres- 
tige; nor was there a nominal or actual overlord of the whole 
group of islands. 

Theoretically the chief was solicitous of his people's wel- 
fare because his military strength and supplies depended on 
their affection and prosperity. Malinowski saw fit to admire this 
aspect of ancient Hawaiian polity, but David Malo, a principal 
native source for pre-white Hawaii, did not: 

". .* . only a small portion of the kings and chiefs ruled with 
kindness; the large majority simply lorded it over the people." 
Hawaiian Antiquities, 87. 

The whole arrangement was dangerously arbitrary. The com- 
moner possessed few rights to curb irresponsible exactions on 
his food supply, his time or his life. 11 Cook certainly got the im- 

10 J. J. Jarves, Kfana, 72. 

n Queen Liliuokalani's autobiography tries to maintain in the teeth of 
evidence that her unspoiled ancestors never exploited their vassals. 
Some of it is worth quoting because it sounds so much like a white 
southerner explaining how the old South was good to its negroes: 


pression that things could be ruthless: while he lay off Waimea, 
a chiefs double canoe coming out to see the new wonder ran 
down and sank several commoners' canoes that happened to be 
in the way. The tabu against standing higher than a chief was 
so rigid that, if a chief went below on board, all commoners on 
deck instantly dived overside; and the list of possible tabu 
breaches calling for summary death in connection with chiefs' 
persons reads like an eighteenth-century penal code in Europe. 
This vigorous, ruthless chieftainship was well illustrated in mis- 
sionary times in the person of Kuakini (John Adams) 7 governor 
of Hawaii: 

". . . with an iron will, fearing neither man nor monarch, prone 
to call out a thousand men to build a causeway, or a darn for 
enclosing fish, or to cut sandalwood in the mountains or to 
build a large church-edifice , , . he would occasionally make 
a tour of the whole island, sending messengers before to com- 
mand the natives to build him large houses at all places where 
he would spend a night ... to prepare large quantities of 
fish, fowl, eggs, poi, potatoes etc. against his arrival. When he 
swept around the island, his attendants would number two- or 
threescore of men, women and children, all to be fed by the 
people where he lodged ... he would sometimes encamp 
for a month, consuming almost all the eatables within a radius 
" of two or three miles." Titus Coan, Life in Hawaii, 227-8. 

Yet a solicitous chief could, and often did, do well by his 
people and, much as the system encouraged exaction and war, 
it worked without the island-wide famines that sometimes oc- 
curred in Tonga and the Marquesas. The fecundity of taro plus 
possibly superior Hawaiian industriousness kept the population 
teeming in spite of infanticide and frequent battles. Cook esti- 
mated 400,000 Hawaiians in 1778. Subsequent students revise 

". . . it has been at times asserted by foreigners that the abundance of 
the chief was procured by the poverty of his followers . . . Nothing 
could be more incorrect . . . The chief, whose retainers were in any 
poverty or want would have felt, not only their sufferings but, further, 
his own disgrace . . . My father was surrounded by hundreds of his 
own people, all of whom looked to him, and never in vain, for sus- 
tenance. Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's jQueen, 3. 


that downward, but seldom below 300,000. The Hawaiian 
Islands did not again support so many people until 1924. Nor 
must it be assumed this mistake was common among mission- 
ariesthat the Hawaiian commoner was miserable. He some- 
times, taking advantage of discontent, had the privilege of 
going to war against a tyrant behind a rebel chief, and most of 
the time he seems to have managed to be a jolly and good- 
natured sort. Since he knew of no possibility of running a 
society in any other way, he probably took the disadvantages 
and advantages of the Hawaiian system as natural, world-with- 
out-end elements in his environment, like the dangers of fishing 
and the refreshment of coconut water. 

There the Islands lay on New Year's, 1778 Niihau, Kauai, 
Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, Hawaii the trades 
sluicing rain on the windward slopes, Pele sporting with her 
cronies in the incandescent surf of Halemaumau crater, the 
naked brown babies playing on the black sand beaches and 
learning to swim almost spontaneously. Sacrifices some hog, 
some human were rotting together in the temples, the 
kahunas were setting bones, applying simples and occasionally 
praying a man to death; periodically the drums boomed for 
some feast or other. Possessed like all Polynesian cultures of 
some strikingly genial aspects, spontaneous, adventitious, or- 
ganic, with a bold and leisured beauty that did not preclude 
blood on the temple stones, it had developed by processes still 
imperfectly understood and was following its own tendencies 
along lines determined by vegetable materials, stone imple- 
ments, lush vegetation. 

January brought the white man. After that there was no 
longer much validity in the chiefs splendid cloak of yellow 
feathers or in the bones of his ancestors in the caves that pit 
the cliffs of Kealakekua Bay. 

"Some Hawaiians, however, seemed to doubt the propriety of 
foreigners coming in to reside permanently among them. They 
said they had heard that in several countries where foreigners 


had intermingled with the original natives, the latter had soon 
disappeared/' William Ellis, Narrative of a Tour Through 
Hawaii, 235. 

After Cook the Islands, richer by syphilis, gonorrhea and 
some odd hardware, were left alone for seven years. Some at- 
tribute this to a reputation for unbridled savagery consequent 
on the killing of so world-famous a man. The point is dubious, 
the reputation ill-deserved. The Hawaiians were among the 
most supine of South Sea peoples in the face of white infiltra- 
tion. After a few experiences of what haole 12 cannon and mus- 
kets could do, they renounced violent resistance; their most 
signal anti-white military exploit was the forcible suppression 
without fighting of a handful of filibustering Russians on 
Kauai. They used white weapons largely against their own 
people, without much effort to see what powder and shot 
would do to pants-wearing interlopers. Such conduct would 
have made a Maori or a Marquesan blush. 

The China trade brought the first important return of the 
haole. As early as 1785 British and American fur traders, en 
route from the Northwest coast with sea-otter pelts to trade in 
China, started putting in for provisions at Lahaina and Hono- 
lulu, which last port thus began to develop from prewhite 
obscurity. China proved to want not only furs but also sandal- 
wood for an incense base and fancy cabinetwork; and sandal- 
wood grew wild on Hawaiian mountains. Thus it paid as 
supplement to a China-bound cargo in exchange for the tea, 
silks, porcelains and ginger that brought such stunning prices 
in Boston and London. For their sandalwood the Hawaiian 
chiefs got rum, guns, shirts, beads, mirrors, hardware, clocks, 
beaver hats, textiles, even ships. The commoners got little or 
nothing; they merely cut the trees and transported them to the 
shore for the chief's account. High-pressure salesmanship soon 
extended heavy credits to the chiefs payable in sandalwood by 
the picul, the Canton price running from a dollar and a half to 

^Haole originally meant outsider in Hawaiian and applied to negroes 
and orientals as well as whites. Since the first outsiders were almost ex- 
clusively white, it came gradually to mean white alone. 


twelve dollars a picul, according to quality. 13 To amass the pay- 
ments, commoners were sent into the hills day after day, while 
crops suffered and the unwonted monotony and arduousness 
of such labor depressed the nation's spirits. Kamehameha I 
made some efforts to conserve the sandalwood supply in 
Hawaii, characteristically by way of a monopoly in his own 
favor. But his death took off the lid and the tree was practically 
exterminated, though as late as 1864 it was still found at the 
rate of three tons a year. Until sugar developed, it was the 
Islands' most considerable export. 

The culminating foolishness was the purchase, by Kaine- 
hameha II (Liholiho) of ''Cleopatra's Barge," former private 
yacht of Benjamin Crowninshield of Salem, Mass., probably 
the most luxurious vessel afloat at the time, for some $50,000 
worth of sandalwood. No matter how faithfully the commoners 
chopped and hauled, the chiefs stayed deep in arrears. In 1826 
Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, U.S.N. who flits in 
and out of Pacific history without ever quite living up to his 
memorable Welsh name came to Honolulu in the U.S.S. 
"Peacock" to put the screws on chiefs who had owed American 
traders too much too long, a total at the moment of 14,000 
pfculs. His deal included a promise from the king and chiefs to 
tax each male Hawaiian one picu! of sandalwood or four Span- 
ish dollars, the proceeds to be applied on the debts. To sweeten 
his drudgery, a man could also cut half a picul on his own ac- 
count. Boki, native governing chief of Oahu, became a legend 
in 1828 by trying to cover his debts with a two-ship expedition 
after sandalwood in the New Hebrides. The smaller vessel 
eventually got home in very bad shape without any cargo. The 
larger, carrying Boki, was never reliably heard of again. Her dis- 
appearance was presumed to be connected with native careless- 
ness about smoking near gunpowder. 

Sandalwooding left its mark. The hunt foi it destroyed a 
good deal of timberland, as the natives lazily burned the forest 

"The picul was the weight a man could carry on his back Jiandily. At 
Manila in the early nineteenth century it was approximately 140 
pounds. (William Endicott, Wrecked Among Cannibals, 25.) 


to detect stands of it by the smell. But far more destructive was 
the fact that the trade attracted whites, whose very presence was 
subversive. Besides, they brought for trade the tools of western 
war and the men who could handle them. Kamehameha, an 
energetic high chief in the Big Island, apparently realized ahead 
of his rivals what firearms might mean in native warfare and 
built up, by piracy and trading, the first Western-style arsenal 
in the Islands. In 1804 he commanded 600 muskets, fourteen 
small cannon, forty swivel guns and some twenty small sailing 
craft more or less armed, as well as white retainers to operate 
them and train Hawaiians in their use. When he invaded Oahu 
in the crucial phase of an imperialistic war of conquest, seven 
renegade whites marched with him as gunners and advisors. 
The most conspicuous were John Young and Isaac Davis, 
British seamen who had been spared in a native attack on an 
unscrupulous American trader and her tender. Both married 
into high native society and ranked as chiefs themselves; a 
granddaughter of Young's became queen of Hawaii and social 
prot6g6e of Queen Victoria. Several other such ambitious 
beachcombers founded hapa-haole (half-white) families still 
highly regarded in the Islands; one was an American assigned 
by Kamehameha I to shoot and salt wild cattle for trade to 

Kamehameha's rivals also had tame white men and guns, 
but not in comparable numbers. So he succeeded bloodily in 
his ambition to consolidate the whole group. Only Kauai man- 
aged to hold out, though even there Kaumualii, its "king," had 
to make a gesture of homage. Some local historians call this 
Kamehameha I "the Napoleon of the Pacific"; which, consid- 
ering the relative scale, is about as if Tom Prendergast were 
labelled "the Bismarck of the Americas." Many scholars profess 
great veneration for his memory as a national hero of Hawaii. 
I confess that I can see little difference between him and half 
a dozen other megalomanic chiefs who rose to hegemony in 
the South Seas in consequence of white infiltration. His wars 
were waged strictly for power and prestige, Hawaiians in gen- 
eral receiving only incidental benefits. Hobbs maintains, quite 
plausibly, that his monolithic imperialism, which obviated 


the necessity for chiefs to do well by their people, broke down 
whatever reality there had been in chieftain paternalism. 

Yet Kamehameha was a brilliant opportunist, as able a Poly- 
nesian as the white man ever saw. Vancouver, who plied him 
with self-righteous good advice in the 1790'$, reported him as 
shrewd, covetous, composed and by no means unlikeable. His 
portraits exude character, almost humor. 14 He consented to an 
abortive British offer to send him teachers of the white man's 
religion, no doubt thinking its magic essential to the manufac- 
ture of broadcloth and ordnance, and made a vague request for 
a British protectorate over the Islands that was to plague diplo- 
mats for the next two generations. After that, the story is, lie 
flew British colors until, during the war of 1812, Americans 
pointed out that the United States might take it amiss as un- 
neutral; so, impartially mixing the Union Jack with American 
stripes, he concocted a flag that remained the Hawaiian colors 
until the kingdom was extinguished in 1893. 

His warehouses were full of a pack rat's collection of costly 
junk from Europe and America. His own dress was of nankeen, 
broadcloth and cambric. But he was capable of selectivity 
among white notions. When he sent a ship of his own with 
sandalwood to China and she returned at a loss attributed to 
high port dues, he had port dues explained to him and quickly 
instituted them high ones too. When Captain Cleveland 
landed the Islands' first horses in 1803 as a present for him, he 
saw them through their paces and granted they were a good 
way to get to places in a hurry; but concluded that in a place 
like Hawaii, their feed would be more than they were worth. 
His subjects disagreed; from then on Hawaii was horse-mad. 
The same strength and dexterity that made them great surf- 
riders made them splendid, if brutal, horsemen and -women. 
Long before the missionaries arrived to be shocked, the Hawai- 
ian wahine (female) was riding astride like a she-centaur. 15 

14 The heroic statue of him in Honolulu is strictly an imaginary por- 
trait, an idealization of the generalized Hawaiian chieftain. 
^Amateur gynecologists have suggested that this intemperate hard rid- 
ing when in an interesting condition had something to do with the 


As ships multipliedwhalers first made Honolulu in 1819 
Pandora's box spilled calamities wholesale. Not even Kame- 
hameha the Great could have succeeded, if it had occurred to 
him to try, in teaching his people enough new things quickly 
enough to stave off the virtual destruction of their culture. 
Every year more whites stayed ashore, poisoning the place with 
alien habits, virtues and vices. 

Hawaiians drank rum greedily, having no more notion than 
the Red Indian that possessing a bottle did not necessarily 
mean getting drunk. An escaped convict from New South 
Wales is usually credited with bringing distilling to Hawaii, 
using an iron pot for the retort, a gun-barrel for the worm and 
a mash of ti-root, which is high in sugars. The product, hot as 
fire, was olcoleliao, the literal meaning of which is still less 
decorous than the usually given "iron bottom/' 16 Native 
women, Kotzebue reported in 1816, drank as hard as the men; 
he was startled when John Young excused himself from at- 
tending a royal Iiula because his Hawaiian wife was too drunk 
to be left safely alone. The best Kotzebue could say for the 
result was that these inebriated Hawaiians were "most cheer- 
ful and affectionate/' 17 not murderously quarrelsome like sea- 
men. Children learned to smoke as soon as they could walk. 
As fresh infection came ashore with each ship, venereal diseases 
burrowed deeper into the population. Western epidemic dis- 
eases apparently struck first in 1804, with something horribly 
devastating that may have been cholera. Vancouver was even 
sure that, in the thirteen years between his first sight of the 
Islands as a lieutenant of Cook's and his return in 1791, the 

calamitous post-white decline of the Hawaiian birthrate. Riding astride 
for women was one of the Hawaiian ideas that the respectable white 
community took over in the mid-century. In a voluminous divided 
skirt the Hawaiian-born lady was straddling her steed two generations 
ahead of her mainland cousin. 

10 Usually shortened to oJce nowadays. Properly aged, it is about as good 
as good Bourbon. This is hard for the casual visitor to Hawaii to test. 
A sound piece of Island advice runs: "Don't drink any oke you can 
buy/' The best of it ten years ago was moonshined during prohibition 
and carefully kept and aged by solicitous Island families. 
l7 Otto von Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, II, 192. 


girls' attractiveness had gone off. But then, George Vancouver 
was thirteen years older. 

Even more ominously, traditional ways were losing prestige. 
Castoff seamen's frocks and secondhand broadcloth coats were 
garments of choice, along with tattered shirts, never washed, 
for the natives had not been accustomed to launder tapa 
garments. In such clothes in such a climate they sweated like 
pigs. This started well before missionaries arrived to teach them 
that white men's clothes were more righteous than brown 
men's half-nakedness. The chieftainess who, in the old days, 
would have rolled up in tapa for a big ceremony now substi- 
tuted white man's textiles, the more costly the better. One 
such lady was wound in seventy-two yards of fine cashmere, 
half orange, half red, so that her arms stuck out horizontally 
and her attendants carried half the bolt as a hundred-foot train 
behind her. Even the local grass house deteriorated as the goats 
and cattle that white men introduced ate off grasses formerly re- 
served for thatch. The old games were neglected in favor of 
cards, which gave a better gambler's run for time consumed; 
Kotzebue found much of the population of Honolulu stretched 
on the ground playing whist day and night. 

The missionaries, still to arrive, are often accused of break- 
ing up the old Hawaii. Much they certainly did in that direc- 
tion and would have liked to do still more. But the breakup was 
well on its way before they appeared to accelerate it. True, some 
of the old life probably continued, relatively unflawed, on 
Kauai, Niihau, Molokai and in the back country of the Big 
Island. But Kamehameha's conquests had taken the starch out 
of the old regimes and, Louis XlV-style, concentrated all sig- 
nificance on him and his court, where white influences came 
most heavily to bear. When the old man died in 1819, full of 
years, conquest and fame of a sort, the ruin of his race was 
virtually, if not actually, complete. 


How sad it is to think of the millions who have gone to their 
graves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell. 

MARK TWAIN, Roughing It. 

The old gentleman's successor, a son named Liholiho whom 
history styles Kamehameha II, was conventionally huge and 
reputed able to drink a bottle of rum at a draft. He did not last 

His achievement of being the first Hawaiian king to see the 
outside world was the death of him. With his principal wife, 
who was also his half sister, and a small retinue, he went voyag- 
ing halfway round the world to London to see King George 
and other educational objects. On the way the party were 
badly swindled but, once government became aware of their 
presence, were shown a good time with splendid presents and 
visits to the theatre. Their hotel bill, which emphasizes cider 
and oysters more than spirits, indicates that they even managed 
to stay sober much of the time. Before a royal audience could 
be arranged, however, Liholiho and his consort died of measles, 
The queen went first. There in cold and dirty London her at- 
tendants laid her out Island-style, barefooted, bare to the waist, 
a flower lei on the cold, dark headthough they were not 
Island flowersand carried her to the dying king to show him 
that his lady's dignity had been reverently attended to. 18 

Short though his reign was, however, Liholiho left his mark 
wide and deep on Hawaii. He officially shattered the pre-white 
island culture by jettisoning the tabu system and the worship 
of the old gods, the main interlacing fibres of its structure. 
Causes seem to have been partly the past forty years of white 
attrition, partly vague rumors of Tahiti's idol-burning under 
missionary influence, partly a movement among powerful 

M Boki, the chief who later made that fatal sandalwooding voyage, kept 
his suzerain's engagement with George IV and, during the conversation, 
asked if it were wise for Hawaii to encourage the missionaries who had 
recently appeared there. The King, probably as immoral a creature as 
England afforded at the time, replied: "Yes, they are a people to make 
others good. I always have some of them by me/' Voyage of the 
Blonde, 67. 


chieftainesses to rid Hawaiians of tabu restrictions. During 
much of the period when the decision was made, Liholiho 
seems to have been drunk and perhaps unusually suggestible. 

The women's part in this is nothing remarkable in Polynesia. 
Hawaiian chieftainesses, though never paramount, sat high in 
council, acted as regents for young heirs and received such 
honors as prostration from commoners and the death penalty 
for inferiors who crossed their shadows. But tabus did not ap- 
ply equally, so rifts in the old order leading to new regulations 
would probably mean gain for women; they had already been 
clandestinely eating tabu foods with white men when their 
own men were not present. This explanation may be more 
rational than what actually occurred. Social revolutions seldom 
spring from clearly assignable causes. But there was a flavor of 
women's rights about the proceedings as Kaahumanu, one of 
old Kamehameha's widows, took a leading part in persuading 
her stepson to the awesome step of breaking tabus. 

The culminating occasion was a feast, at which the king ate 
in public with his women, a thing as repugnant to old Hawaii 
as swine's flesh was to the Sepoys of the Mutiny. Apparently 
terrified, yet exhilarated, by the royal boldness, his retainers 
took up the cry of "The tabu is broken" and proceeded to 
destroy all handy idols, the symbols of the old ways, with their 
lofty crests, gaping teeth and candid genitals. The court and 
the adjacent villages seem to have been ripe for such action, 
but not all Hawaiians were. Tabu flouting cost Liholiho a short, 
sharp war with a minority of hard-shell vassals who renounced 
him as a blasphemous overlord; part of their insurgency prob- 
ably came from an ambition to pull down the upstart Kame- 
hameha dynasty, only two generations in the saddle and no 
more august than several other noble strains. Liholiho's forces, 
headed by a redoubtable old war chief, were victorious. The 
rebels' loyalty to their insulted gods was greater than that of 
their gods to them. 

No dramatist could invent better action-symbols of the 
effect of white infiltration on South Seas cultures. Racine 
would have written five stately acts about it. Yet, as hinted be- 


fore, there is a special element here. Nowhere else in the South 
Seas did the framework of tradition collapse under a self- 
administered kick before missionaries arrived. In Tahiti, for 
instance, no natives reached the idol-burning point until after 
fifty years of white influence, including almost twenty years 
of missionary effort. Such an impression is difficult to state 
intelligibly, but there remains a suspicion that somehow Ha- 
waiian culture had more sap than pith. 

On their arrival in Hawaii, only a few months after the tabu 
war, the missionaries saw no mystery in this spontaneous icono- 
clasm. The hand of the Lord had obviously overthrown Dagon 
in prelude to the saints' assault on Satan's Polynesian strong- 
hold. To anybody asking why the Lord had not similarly 
favored hard-pressed English missionaries in Tahiti instead of 
letting them agonize for so many years, the answer would have 
come pat: He moves in a mysterious way. They broke into holy 
cheers when they heard the news. In jealous hindsight, a 
Catholic mission historian later pointed out that it may not 
have been anything to cheer about: ". . . we doubt that 
agnosticism, religious indifference and an unwillingness to 
bear any restraint are dispositions of the soul favorable to the re- 
ception of the truths and commands of the religion of 
Christ/' 19 

At any rate, whether with good omens or bad, here the 
Yankee mission was in 1820, staring at the Big Island over the 
bulwarks of the brig "Thaddeus" of Boston. Among other 
presents the missionaries brought with them for King Liholiho 
a fancy and specially inscribed Bible from the American Bible 
Society, which apparently was unaware that His Majesty could 
not read English, or indeed any other language. 

This missionary expedition had been some while in prepara- 
tion under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign 
Missions (ABCFM), a non-denominational but predomi- 
nantly Congregationalist and Presbyterian body with head- 
quarters in Boston. Talent had been recruited among young 
and zealous parsons and laymen, wives of due godliness had 
lfi Father Reginald Yzendoorn, History of the Catholic Mission, 21 


been found for those lacking the helpmeets that the Board 
considered necessary, and liaison provided in the persons of 
several Hawaiian youths who had drifted to New England and 
been educated for the purpose in a special school at Cornwall, 
Conn. This sensible measure, assuring the mission of sympa- 
thetic interpreters and teachers of the language, brings up one 
of the standard missionary legends, that of Henry Obookiah 
(orOpukaia) : 

Kamehameha the Great had determined to send one of his 
sons for a Yankee education under the wing of a Captain 
Brintnall of New Haven. A couple of wellborn boys of the 
prince's own age were told off to go as companions. The prince 
never sailed, but the companions did. Brintnall is said to have 
paid them little attention on reaching home. Presently one of 
them was found on the steps of Yale College weeping bitterly 
because he and his people were ignorant and nobody was doing 
anything about it. Kindly and learned Christians took him up, 
along with his crony, Thomas Hopu. The interesting presence 
. of the pair is supposed to have greatly stimulated the idea of a 
mission to Hawaii, the founding of the Cornwall school which 
was to include a Tahitian, a Marquesan, a Malay and several 
American Indians and recruiting for the mission. Hopu sur- 
vived to sail on the "Thaddeus," presumably briefed for maxi- 
mum usefulness in English, Christianity and sanitation. Oboo- 
kiah died of civilization and is now buried in the hilly old 
Cornwall graveyard, probably still wondering at the snow that 
clogs the dark conifers in this strange country. 

King Liholiho's behavior was hardly that of a man who was 
wax in the Lord's hands, and certainly did not bear out the 
theory that his tabu breaking had been of heavenly inspiration. 
Negotiations for permission for the mission to land and pro- 
mulgate the Gospel were disquietingly slow. The king's ex- 
plicit objections are said to have been that he liked a number 
of wives and these militant whites might try to persuade him 
against that comfortable custom; and that the British, whom he 
considered Hawaii's sponsors in the white world, would dis- 
like his according privileges to white Jcahunas from another 


country. The Rev. Hiram Bingham, arch-zealot of the mission 
but no f ool, also surmised that, having shed all his old moral and 
religious hampering restrictions, the king was in no hurry to risk 
having to assume another set. John Young is said to have put in a 
good word for the missionaries. The upshot was grudging per- 
mission for the newcomers to operate on a year's probation on 
the Big Island and Oahu. Presently they were permitted to 
erect dwellings according to their own taste, the first relaxa- 
tion of a ruling imposed on all haoles by Kamehameha I. The 
camel's nose was now inside the tent, 

Liholiho required that the mission's doctor stay handy on 
the Big Island, his principal seat. Here appears a great tactical 
advantage for the white; his system of medicine was new to the 
natives and sometimes more effective than that of the kahunas. 
The white man's bedside manner contrasted favorably with the 
kahuna's stern absorption in herbs, spells and massage, and 
white therapy speedily gained a high reputation, easily ex- 
ploitable for diplomatic and religious purposes. 20 

The decision to bring wives and families along was another 
piece of tactical luck. The theory was that examples of the 
Christian-western-white household would move the heathen 
to imitation. This is dubious, for Yankee industry and rigidity 
can hardly have seemed attractive in the happy-go-lucky at- 
mosphere of the Nuuanu Valley. But though the mission did 
not know it, the presence of women on the scene had always 
been a known South Seas token of amicable intent. When anti- 
mission haoles tried to persuade Liholiho that these interlopers 
were harbingers of foreign conquest, he asked why, if conquest 
were their object, had they brought women and children? And 
among the child-loving natives the children were a great molli* 
fying influence in their own right. 

The wives' skill with the needle was a third asset. Gigantic 
chieftainesses early descended on them with demands for gowns 
made haole-style. They had little notion of the amount of work 

^In recent parallel, American military forces in the Solomons found 
that a fine avenue to friendly relations with the natives consisted in en- 
couraging their women to come for treatment to military doctors. 


involved in cutting out and stitching, nor in view of their 
peremptory natures, would they have cared much if they had. 
But to propitiate these demanding barbarians would be a great 
stroke in the Lord's service, so Mrs. Bingham, Mrs. Chamber- 
lain, Mrs. Holman and the rest toiled day and night turning 
bolts of cambric into garments that must have presented en- 
gineering difficulties like those of making a circus tent. 21 They 
demurred only at sewing on Sunday, a tabu-like idea that the 
chieftainesses understood. The ladies also made ruffled shirts 
by the dozen for exigent chiefs, and even turned tailor, 
constructing broadcloth suits for them with their husbands' 
Sunday clothes as patterns. 

That was wearing in itself, but the ladies often had other 
reasons to wish themselves back home in Connecticut or upper 
York State though, dutifully, they seldom complained. It was 
dismaying when a cordial chieftainess, returning from her 
morning swim, would drop in stark naked to chat bare, brown 
and bulging. To the credit of the natives I find only one case 
in which an Hawaiian offered amatory violence to a mission 

n Out of this welter of stitches came the Jiololcu, the traditional post- 
white dress of Hawaiian women, which many whites adopted and often 
wore until a generation ago. Legend says that the original pattern was 
the long-sleeved, high-necked, yoked Yankee nightgown. Since the 
models that the chieftainesses saw first must have been the mission 
ladies' daytime gowns, legend is probably wrong. According to a likelier 
legend, the short train which the Jioloku developed came from the up- 
in-front-and-down-behind effect produced by putting a sackish garment 
over the tremendous bellies of these chieftainess-customers they were 
delighted with it, it appears. (Hawaii with Sidney A. Clarlc, 114.) To 
modern eyes the Jiololcu looks graceless; but the latter nineteenth cen- 
tury, clear up to Charmian London's time for that matter, thought it 
becoming. NordhofFs attitude is typical: "It is a little startling at first 
to see women walking about in what, to our perverted tastes, look like 
calico or black stuff nightgowns; but this dress grows on you as you be- 
come accustomed to it; it lends itself readily to bright ornamentation; 
it is eminently fit for the climate; and a stately Hawaiian dame, march- 
ing through the street in black Jiololru . . . with a long necklace or lei, 
of bright scarlet or brilliant yellow flowers, bare and untrammeled feet, 
and flowing hair, ornamented often by a low-crowned felt hat, com- 
pares very favorably with a high-heeled, wasp-waisted, absurdly-bon- 
neted, fashionable white lady/' Northern California, Oregon and the 
Sandwich Islands, 31. 


ladythis was a "vile heathen priest" 22 who seems to have been 
smitten by Mrs. Thurston. The lady was rescued well in time 
and, for all one knows, the heathen's motives may have been 
mostly curiosity. 

As always happens, the mission children picked up the lan- 
guage much faster than their elders. That was calamitous, for 
Hawaiians disputing or merely joking would say things to each 
other that westerners would hardly chalk on fences even if they 
had the ingenuity to think of them. Hence an early decision, on 
advice of expert veterans from the London Missionary Society 
in Tahiti, to segregate mission children from the natives. A 
generation ago the stricter Hawaiian whites retained an impres- 
sion that it was a little low to learn to talk native. Early insula- 
tion was so successful that, when sent to school in the States 
at thirteen, young Sereno Bishop was shocked and startled by 
his schoolmates' dirty talk. 

Children were thus sent home for education until the mis- 
sion founded Oahu College, now a high-ranking preparatory 
school. Segregation was undemocratic and possibly un-Chris- 
tian, but only thus could the little Judds and Thurstons be 
saved from learning the facts of life and some of its more in- 
triguing fictions in liquid Polynesian. The principle cut both 
ways too, for, though the mission taught English to chiefs to 
facilitate their dealings with whites, it long refused that privi- 
lege to commoners so as to keep them from corruption from 
sailormen whom the Rev. Mr, Bingham called "an ungodly 
class of profane abusers of our noble English." 

These messengers of God's word had little concern in any 
case with the equalitarianism that we consider democratic. 
They felt like this on first viewing their converts-to-be: 

"Some of our number with gushing tears turned away from the 
spectacle. Others with firmer nerve continued their gaze but 
were ready to exclaim, "Can these be human beings? How 
dark and comfortless their state of mind and heart! How im- 
minent the danger to the immortal soul, shrouded in this deep 
pagan gloom! Can such beings be civilized? Can they be 

aa Hiram Bingham, A Residence, 125. 


Christianized? Can we throw ourselves upon these rude shores, 
and take up our abode, for life, among such a people, for the 
purpose of training them for heaven?" Hiram Bingham, A 
Residence, 81. 2S 

Further neglecting the scriptural injunction to be no respecters 
of persons, standard missionary tactics called for converting 
chiefs first. The chiefs* example would lead to mass conver- 
sion among followers, and sometimes to wider influence for the 
mission. Besides, having on the whole wider acquaintance with 
white ways, chiefs were more inclined to listen, and took it for 
granted that they should sit at the first table when the bread 
of righteousness was served. In asking the mission for spelling 
books, in fact, Liholiho stipulated that learning be withheld 
from commoners lest school distract them from their task of 
cutting sandalwood to pay his debts. 

Sermons in the Yankees' halting Hawaiian were never so 
well and so respectfully attended as when the local chief sat 
by the preacher enjoining silence and attention. When starting 
their career on windward Oahu, the Rev. and Mrs. Emerson 
were blissfully astonished to see the first service in their new 
grass-roofed chapel attended by teeming hundreds, crowding 
the place to bursting and frantically trying to jam inside when 
it was obviously a physical impossibility. An elderly native lady 
with one leg had hopped nearly four miles to be present. The 
Emersons* awed impression that a thirst for the waters of life 
had infected the whole population was rudely changed, how- 
ever, when a skeptical veteran colleague found that the local 
chief had announced to all his people that every man, woman 
and child had better be inside that chapel that Sunday or very 
definitely else. 

Liholiho was eager to learn reading, that handy white man's 
secret, but by and large he seems to have been little better than 
bored with what the mission conveyed to him of what it con- 
sidered Christianity to be, He suffered grace before meat if 

23 That passage is notable, not only for its compassionate contempt for 
the native but also as evidence of the standing tendency of mission- 
aries to take their emotional and physical hardships big in print. 


missionaries were present; but when reproached for lukewarm- 
ness, he cynically offered to strike a bargain, promising eventual 
reformation in return for five years more of pleasing his lustful 
soul. On another occasion he refused to attend a mission service 
on the unimpeachable grounds that he was too drunk; he was 
recalcitrant about banning hulas on Sunday; and went to his 
death, to say the least, well short of being a professed Christian. 

Slightly lesser chiefs, however, listened better. Old Kau- 
mualii, 'Icing" of Kauai, who alone had managed to hold out 
even halfway against Kamehameha I, favored missions partly 
because the mission brought him back his son George, a Corn- 
wall School boy, partly because he was jealous of the mission's 
having gone first to the Kamehameha dynasty on Hawaii, His 
Christianity was edifyingly strenuous. One story has him read- 
ing the Hawaiian Bible held out of water with his left hand 
while swimming streams; another, continuing his prayers with 
Socratic meekness even after his principal wife, who disliked 
new ways, threw a calabash at his head. There was Kalani- 
moku, Liholiho's victorious general, who stole a march on his 
countrymen by experimentally getting baptized in 1819, along 
with Boki, his younger brother, by the chaplain of a visiting 
French man-of-war. While returning from England with the 
bodies of Liholiho and wife, Boki broad-mindedly made it 
double by accepting another baptism from the Protestant chap- 
lain of H.M.S. "Blonde." There was Kapiolarii, a very high 
chieftainess, who pluckily testified to her conversion by going 
to Kilauea crater and defiantly eating Pele's tabu ohelo-berries 
an invaluable public demonstration of the impotence of the 
old gods. 

But the turning point came when Kaahumanu knuckled 
down to Jesus. Heading the movement to break tabu was only 
one of this formidable chieftainess' distinctions. She had begun 
as an important heiress taken by Kamehameha when only 
thirteen and, though he took more wives later, was so highly 
valued that a specific tabu stipulated death for any other man 
having intercourse with her. One unlucky young chief paid 
the penalty. 


Her temper seems to have been as tempestuous as her his- 
tory. In her preconversion phase, a missionary chronicler 
loaded her with these epithets: ". . . haughty, filthy, lewd, 
tyrannical, cruel, wrathful, murderous/' At Kameharneha's 
death she became principal regent for Liholiho and, on Liholi- 
ho's death, headed the regency for his small son, so distinguish- 
ing herself as ruler that the post of female vice-king (kuhina. 
nui) was written into the first formal Hawaiian constitution. 
With another of Kamehameha's former wives she was co- 
admiral of a fleet of canoes that helped greatly in subduing the 
tabu rebels in 1819. When Liholiho got possession some say 
by treachery of the person of old Kaumualii, Kaahumanu was 
told off to marry him, to tie the royal dynasty of Kauai firmly 
to the Kamehamehas. To make doubly sure, she simultane- 
ously married one of the old man's sons. 

To convert her would be like getting Cardinal Richelieu on 
your side. At first she scoffed insultingly, receiving mission visits 
lying on her vast belly as she played cards with her suite, greet- 
ing mission ladies with a disdainfully crooked little finger. But 
the solicitude with which missionaries tended her during a 
serious illness softened her gigantic heart. Then the mission 
unwittingly played an ace by showing her a little book printed 
in her own language first fruit of the printing press fetched 
along as a mighty weapon for the Lord. Reducing Hawaiian 
to Roman characters had been a thorny and tedious task, even 
though previous work of the sort in Tahiti had shown the 
way. 24 Now all that toil proved its worth. Kaahumanu dropped 
cards for letters and, being intelligent, was soon reading flu- 
ently. To her credit, she was the first powerful chief to insist 
that the mission start teaching commoners to read as soon as 
the chiefs had learned. 

When eventually baptized, she backed the mission in its 
every measure; was in fact often out ahead of her preceptors in 

^One of the worst troubles came from the confusion in Hawaiian pro- 
nounciation between K and T. Choosing to spell Kauai thus instead of 
Tauai, for instance, was arbitrary; and the Hawaiian kapu (tabu) now 
used throughout the Islands for Keep Off signs could just as well have 
been tapu. 


schemes to foist Christian morality on her people. In her view, 
the only penal code that Hawaii needed was the Ten Com- 
mandments literally enforced. She used to dandle female mis- 
sionaries on her colossal lap, like a great dog expressing at once 
affection and superior strength. "She is tall, stately and digni- 
fied/' wrote Mrs. Judd of this star convert, "often overbearing 
in her manner, but with a countenance beaming with love 
whenever she addresses her teachers/ 725 Hawaiians took en- 
thusiastically to wheels and Kaahumanu, who as a heathen 
queen had been carried in litters, paid her post-iSzo calls in 
a light-blue handcart with upholstered cushions, sitting back- 
ward where the tail gate should have been, her calves and feet 
dangling in the dust kicked up by the retainers who pulled 
the contraption. 

She died clutching the first complete copy of the New Testa- 
ment in Hawaiian, her last words as edifying as a tract, at least 
in the missionary version. The early paganism, the late piety, 
and the masterful qualities above all, make hers a strange and 
pathetic career, if a woman with the body of a porpoise and 
the temperament of a buck sergeant can be pathetic. 

With this strategic conversion, the camel had his whole neck 
inside the tent. But there would be many struggles and heart- 
burnings before, seventy years later, he could climactically 
stand up and walk off with poles and canvas. The interim situ- 
ation was well summed up for the Rev. Mr. Bingham: Travel- 
ing on Kauai with some "untutored natives/' he took occasion 
to point out some of the beauties of that loveliest of the Ha- 
waiian Islands, went on to bring God into the matter and 
finally asked them who it was that created this beautiful world 
and men too. 

The untutored natives said they did not know. Mr. Bingham 
said that he knew his God had created both the world and him- 
self, and what did they think of that? The untutored natives 
said that they did not know whether this haole god had any- 
thing to do with them it was the haole god he was talking 
^Laura F. Judd, Honolulu, 4-5. 


"Yes/* said good Mr. Bingham. "And is he not yours also?" 
"No," said the untutored natives. "Our gods are dead." 26 

"What!" cried the convert. "Are you going to respect a taboo 
at a time like this? And you were always so opposed to taboos 
when you were alive!" 

"To other people's/' said the missionary. "Never to my own." 
Robert Louis Stevenson, Something In It. 

Within eight years of arriving, the Rev. Mr. Bingham, proud 
of his record of having once prayed for an hour and a half hand 
running, was preaching in a pole-and-thatch tabernacle in 
Honolulu to congregations of 2,000 natives. On the Big Island 
in the 'thirties the Rev. Titus Coan's congregations were so 
huge that, in order for all to get under one shed, the natives 
packed in as tight as they could stand, men on one side, women 
on the other; then, at a signal, all sat down simultaneously. 
Within sixty years over 70,000 Hawaiians had been baptized. 
It had been well worth while to persist in spite of Kaahumanu's 

This great success, still alive in Hawaiian congregations 
throughout the Islands and in Hawaiian-backed missions in 
Micronesia,, was unmistakably the fruit of devotion and zeal. 
Though missionary hardships in Hawaii were never as severe 
as those encountered later in Melanesia, they were not neg- 
ligible. No sneers can impugn the steadfastness of those who 
endured them. The mere trip from an outlying island to attend 
the annual Conference in Honolulu would have daunted m^ny. 
The Hawaiian-manned schooner would be packed to the rails 
with seasick natives, pigs, children and dogs; the rough Island 
channels often combined with contrary winds to make the 
voyage last ten or twelve days. When you woke in the morning 
you often found the helm lashed, all hands asleep, sails slat- 
ting, and nothing to prevent disaster in a sudden squall. The 
Rev. Mr. Coan's self-admiring tales of hard riding over lava 
fields and fording streams in spate via a life line of devoted 
^Hiram Bingham, A Residence, 143. 


natives up to their chins in roaring water are not only true but 
a tribute to his rugged virtues. One of his predecessors on the 
Big Island, the Rev. Mr. Goodrich, often made his circuits 
"barefoot and Hawaiian trails are stony for lack of boots that 
had failed to turn up in the last load of supplies from Boston. 

All these men could have made small but easy livings with 
high prestige as pastors at home. Real self-sacrifice was in- 
volved in their staying in Hawaii to save heathen souls. (The 
emotional tensions that made them insist on doing so are an- 
other matter, but this is no textbook of psychiatry.) Their 
wives stuck with them, got seasick on the schooners, cooked in 
chamber pots borrowed from sea captains for lack of more ap- 
propriate utensils, held up gracefully or grimly against vermin 
and short supplies of flour and sugar, taught school, held sew- 
ing classes and prayer meetings in the teeth of staggering dis- 
couragements, kept house with inquisitive natives milling 
underfoot day and night Considering their frailer physical 
endowment and the handicap of frequent childbearing, these 
women undoubtedly deserve equal credit with their husbands. 

White prestige in the Islands had always been high; as the 
stubborn missionaries won over a few high-ranking chiefs, their 
prestige rose level with that of ships' captains, and even be- 
yond. The commoner was flattered, perhaps stirred, when the 
white Jcaliuna finally got round to telling him that any native, 
of whatever social stratum, had a soul of which Christ was 
solicitous. Nothing in his pre-white culture had ever led him 
to consider himself important to anybody. 

Preaching was hampered by the Hawaiian vocabulary, which 
had no equivalents for the indispensable Christian metaphors 
of solicitous father and erring children; those emotional situa- 
tions were lacking among Polynesians in any western sense. 
Foreign words and tedious interpretation had to fill such gaps. 
But other innovations came more easily. The New England 
Sabbath, forbidding cooking, working, dancing, playing, an 
obvious equivalent of the old-time la tabu (tabu day), was 
readily accepted. 27 

w Says Beaglehole, an authority on social Hawaii: "... a religion based 
on ten tapus was easily understandable by a mind nurtured in a way of 


By thus supplying genuine social and emotional needs, the 
missionary effort justified the money and labor that it de- 
manded of converts. Other aspects were less admirable. The 
missionaries unshamedly used quite worldly considerations in 
recommending Christianity to the native, as the Rev. Mr, Ellis 

"They immediately endeavoured to give a different turn to the 
conversation by saying: 'What a fine country yours must be 
compared to this! What large bales of cloth come from thence, 
while the clothing of Hawaii is small in quantity and very bad. 
The soil there must be very prolific, and property easily ob- 
tained . , / I informed them that the difference was not so 
great between the countries as between the peoples. That, 
many ages back, the ancestors of the present inhabitants of 
England and America possessed fewer comforts than the Sand- 
wich Islanders now enjoy; . . . but since they had become 
enlightened and industrious, and had embraced Christianity, 
they had been wise and rich; and many, there was reason to 
hope, had after death gone to a state of happiness in another 
world; . , . They said perhaps it was so; perhaps industry and 
instruction would make them happier and better, and, if the 
chiefs wished it, by and by they would attend to both/' Nar- 
rative of a Tour Through Hawaii, 64-5. 

As mission influence grew in political weight, expediency be- 
gan to play a large part in native thirst after righteousness. 

"By fraud, by even giving up much-loved sins, and by ready 
knowledge of the Scriptures, many managed to become church 
members, because by it their importance was increased, and 
their chances of political preferment bettered." Histoiy of 
the Sandwich Islands, 149. 

life where the multitudinous observation of tapus gave one secular and 
religious satisfaction . . . the native was used to gods that were all- 
powerful and all-dreadful, sometimes benign, sometimes ruthless. He> 
best of all, could appreciate the severity of proselytizing Protestantism, 
as a sign and symbol of its power and prestige." Some Modem Hawai- 
ians, 18. 


So in many Stateside communities it is still advisable for the 
life insurance salesman or Chamber of Commerce politician to 
turn up regularly in a well-considered church. 

Nor were missionaries above using calamities in terrorem. 
The Rev. Mr. Coan makes much in his memoirs, and surely 
did so in his sermons, of a native village in the Big Island 
that remained stiff-necked under exhortation, and was duly 
wiped out by a lava flow from Mauna Loa. This demonstration 
of divine displeasure failed to soften the villagers, who merely 
rebuilt nearby; so the smallpox epidemic of 1853 attacked them 
alone in the whole district of Puna. Mr. Coan then struck 
while the iron was hot: 

"I visited this scene of sorrow and desolation, gathered the 
stricken remnant of the sufferers, spoke words of condolence, 
and encouraged them to come with their sins and sorrows to 
the Saviour. They seemed subdued, welcomed their pastor, and 
were, I trust, 'saved as by fire/ "Life in Hawaii, 81. 

You and I may think it an unmitigated shame that whites 
brought smallpox to the South Seas. The missionary knew that 
in this also God had His own good purposes. 

But he was never clear where Christianity left off and the 
strictly secular tenor of white men's ways began. The New 
Testament does not mention bonnets, frame houses, and in- 
dustrious habits as essential to salvation. Yet from the begin- 
ning, the ABCFM mission went on the principle that western 
customs must go hand-in-hand with the Gospel. In view of St. 
Paul on matrimony, Christian marriage was firmly insisted 
upon. In a few months of 1828 the Rev. Mr. Richards married 
over 600 couples at Lahaina; instead of "I do," the grooms, 
whose English came from seamen, often responded "Aye, aye/ 7 
In addition to these blessings on unavoidable carnality, a 
strange mixture of exhortations appeared: leave off adultery; 
cover the body; go tee-total; swallow the Scripture kiver-to- 
kiver. Since the three Rs, needlework and singing classes were 
fundamental in Yankee education of the period, the Hawaiians 
were put through them all. Many were astoundingly quick at 


arithmetic. Mrs. Coan somehow acquired a bull fiddle from a 
ship and, though she had never before touched such an instru- 
ment, succeeded in teaching native converts to play it. 

Though mats, calabashes and tapa were not exactly found 
inimical to Christianity, it was easily conveyed that somehow 
pots, pans, and carpets were superior. The natives already 
thought so, as their trade purchases showed. In 1828 Mrs. Judd 
recorded with approval that Liliha, Boki's headstrong consort, 
owned a crimson sofa, a center table, a mahogany secretary and 
enough colored silks to clothe her forty "maids of honor/' 28 
Presently Mrs. Judd was teaching Kinau, Icuhina nui after 
Kaahumanu, how to make bread, cakes and pies. Poi and fish 
were surely healthier diet, but then nobody had any such ideas 
in nutrition, and how could you be Christian and not eat pie? 
By 1836 Kekauluohi, a high chief tainess, was giving a "Chris- 
tian tea party 7 ' for chiefs and missionaries at which numerous 
white man's comestibles appeared in recognizable form, and 
tunes were played on a barrel organ which the captain of a 
French man-of-war had presented to the hostess. Consider the 
lilies of the field . . . without staff or scrip . . . where moth 
and rust do corrupt . . . Kekauluohi listening beamingly to 
the treadling tunes of her barrel organ was not a tenth as 
ridiculous as her preceptors. 29 

So the Gospel, of a sort, rained on the chief and dripped on 
the commoner until, somehow or other, it moistened most of 
the population. But the process was not smooth. Other kinds 
of white ways offered too much hindrance. Sandalwooders, 
whalers, and men-of-war brought thousands of white men with 

^Civilized objects were not always used correctly: when the chieftain- 
esses of Honolulu gave a Jiaole style dinner for Captain Finch, U.S.N., 
the mission ladies checking the table arrangements were taken aback by 
the sight of a large white chamber pot set at each place. (J. J. Jarves, 
Scenes and Scenery, 66.) Number, size and beauty of chamber pots re- 
mained an important matter among Hawaiians for generations. 
^Naturally the mission did not carry the principle of stimulating the 
acquisition of this world's goods to damaging excess. Excessive per- 
sonal ornament among commoners was frowned on, since the money to 
buy gay textiles and gewgaws would very likely be earned not so much 
by industry as by carnally entertaining sailors. 


a rival complex of customs, profanity, rum, cards, tobacco, 
prostitution, and late hours, a school of behavior to which the 
native took all too kindly. The Rev. Mr. Cheever called 
Lahaina, prominent Hawaiian whaling-haven, "one of the 
breathing holes of hell/' 30 No doubt it looked so to him, and 
moral morbidity was probably present in quantity. Yet the old 
accounts sound as if this were not exactly the same as con- 
temporary big-seaport vice in London, New York or San Fran- 
cisco. One feels that the Hawaiian wahine, however much she 
slept and drank with Jack ashore, however freely her husband 
or brother pimped for her, managed to be less shattered about 
it than her opposite number among the slack-jawed slatterns 
of the Barbary Coast. The stews of Lahaina probably looked, 
smelled, and acted better than those of Limehouse or the Five 
Points. According to the natives' original moral standards, 
voluntary sexual intercourse with strangers was nothing to 
fret oneself about, and much of that attitude probably survived. 
In the early 'sixties, it was estimated that two out of three pro- 
fessional prostitutes in the Islands were at least nominally mar- 
ried. No doubt they had a good time on the whole. 

To missionaries, however, that would be farfetched, so they 
crusaded against vice in familiar Yankee style as soon as 
they could command support from zealously Christianized 
chiefs, usually women. The mission decried tobacco so loudly 
that natives had the impression that "Thou shalt not smoke" 
was one of the Ten Commandments. Known drinkers, lechers, 
gamesters, were either denied baptism, with its social ad- 
vantages, or excommunicated if their conduct was too flagrant 
after baptism. The crew of U.S.S. "Dolphin" were not the only 
seamen rioting and threatening violence to missionaries when 
they found that, for fear of a pious chieftainess' strong arm, no 
girl in town would accommodate them. Convicts working out 
sentences for adultery built the first road on Maui, and the 
chiefs' constables, searching huts for sinners, made life in the 
ports quite exciting. 

Temperance societies imitating those in the States prospered, 
^Henry T. Cheever, Life in the Sandwich Islands, 65. 


for the natives were, and still are, fond of meetings and parades. 
In 1843 Mrs. Judd was delighted with a i ? 4OO-strong procession 
of the Honolulu children's "cold-water army" carrying banners 
inscribed "Down with Rum!' 7 All chiefs took the pledge in 
1842. So, when the missionaries tendered a dinner of thanks 
to Admiral Thomas in 1843 for having restored native sover- 
eignty (meaning missionary ascendancy) , the affair was strictly 
cold-water. One officer guest mentioned that lack of stronger 
drink had given him stomach cramps. The not too unsympa-- 
thetic Mrs. Judd was tempted to get him a glass of wine from 
the medicine chest. But "there sat our sovereign and chiefs, 
and I would not set wine before them for a kingdom/' 31 In 
1832 Kamehameha III still dared drink wine in Mr. Bingham's 
presence at dinner on U.S.S. "Potomac"; but at the return 
dinner he gave for the ship's officers, he apologized for lack of 
wine in a whisper: "The missionaries don't like it 7 ' 32 

Spasmodic and sporadic results came from these crusades 
against ungodly doings. 33 But some chiefs helped scoffing 
whites to sabotage the war on sin. Nahienaena, sister of Kame- 
hameha II, found a mission education insufficient armor 
against the flesh and the devil; she died young, but had enjoyed 
herself immensely in the meantime. Kamehameha III himself, 
piously reared under Kaahumanu's converted eye, went magnif- 
icently off the rails when the old lady died and, from then 
on, suffered memorable fits of backsliding. Boki misbehaved 
sadly at intervals, even setting up a saloon called the Blonde 
Hotel (probably in memory of Lord Byron's ship, not of a 

81 Laura F. Judd, Honolulu, 125. 
^J. N. Reynolds, Voyage of the . . . "Potomac/ 7 413. 
^Mr. Coan's description of Hilo under efficient prohibition in 1849: 
"Whale ships are now in, and our streets are all alive with sailors . . . 
No man staggers, no man fights, none are noisy and boisterous. We 
have nothing here to inflame the blood, nothing to madden the brain. 
Our verdant landscapes, our peaceful streets, our pure cold water, and 
the absence of those inebriating vials of wrath which consume all good, 
induce wise commanders to visit this port, in order to refresh and give 
liberty to their crews." Letter to the American Seamen's Friend 
Society, quoted in Henry T. Cheever, The Island World of the Pa- 
cific, 335- 


lady) and starting a system of licensed prostitution in Hono- 
lulu. And Kuakini, governor of the Big Island and a sort of 
subking in his own right, backslid in later life, was more than 
suspected of bootlegging rum to those able to pay two dollars 
a bottle, and, when the mission told converts to stop growing 
tobacco, pronounced: "Listen to your teachers. But do as I 
tell you. I tell you to plant tobacco." 34 Though he had an ex- 
cellent previous record as vice hunter, Kuakini was excom- 
municated for such capers, a courageous step on the mission's 

The old games, inextricably involved with gambling, were 
prohibited. So, for obvious reasons, were hulas. So was flower 
wearing, which seemed extreme even to the Rev. Mr. Cheever; 
still, wearing a certain flower in a certain way is a recognized 
Polynesian signal that the wearer needs a bedfellow. Obviously 
the mission had bitten off more than it could chew. In prewhite 
days tabu breaking had meant death, exile or mysterious illness; 
breaking a missionary-inspired tabu meant merely hard labor 
and imprisonment or a fine. So it is not surprising that, of 522 
Hawaiian offenses booked in the late 'thirties, adultery ac- 
counted for 246, seduction and lewdness for ninety-nine; of 
427 police cases involving natives in Honolulu in 1846, the 
charges were adultery or fornication in 253, evenly divided be- 
tween men and women. 35 It disheartened the mission consider- 
ably when pressure from godless whites secured elementary 
legal rights for sinners, curbing the constables' former freedom 
to force their way in at any time if a certain hut were suspected 
of harboring sin. 

Even the Hawaiian youths educated at Cornwall were dis- 
appointing. Young George Kaumualii was useful for a while as 
a foot in the door on Kauai, but wound up as unsuccessful 
rebel against the Kamehamehas, with bullets whistling round 
Mr. Bingham's scandalized ears. Another went to the Cali- 
fornia gold fields in 1850. None turned out really well. Every 

81 Titus Coan, Life in Hawaii, 228. 

^Quoting these figures, Jarves duly points out .that they probably repre- 
sent a small proportion of the actual transgressions occurring. 


year more Hawaiian youngsters went to sea on haole ships 
3,000 were said to be thus away at one time to come back 
exuding vices. Recognizing this menace, the missions began 
to entertain whaling captains and to inveigle their crews into 
seamen's chapels. Now and again a captain actually promised 
to read the Bible to the hands and renounce Sunday whaling, 
much to the detriment of his owners and his own 'lay 7 ' in the 
voyage. 36 The missionaries cross-examined returning Kanaka 
hands as to whether such pledges were kept. 

Even 'converts who managed to stay on the books were not 
too satisfactory. They might understand that a practicing 
Christian could not do so-and-so, but seldom acquired much 
idea of what the mission took to be the higher spiritual values 
of the Gospel. There were exceptions to this. Stevenson, who 
was nicely discriminating in Christian values, maintained that 
Hawaiian native teachers whom he met in the South Seas were 
often Christian in a higher sense than most white communi- 
cants. But, from any but a Pharasaical point of view, Mrs. 
Judd's admiring picture of her prize Hawaiian convert is not 
edifying. She quotes a portrait of a dead native wife written by 
the sorrowing haole widower who, it appears, had made a 
pass at the girl, been rebuffed, and then married her: 

"Nothing could persuade her into evil . . . Her unqualified 
exemption from all bad habits, so prevalent among her people, 
was truly remarkable. She never used tobacco, nor gave her 
consent to its use in her house. In fact, she persuaded me from 

36 Though whaler and mission were usually at loggerheads for obvious 
reasons, relations were sometimes friendly and useful. Captain Allen of 
the Maro, who first exploited the Japan ground in 1820, was a good 
Quaker and a good friend of the missions. (Hiram Bingham, A Resi- 
dence, 134.) Time and again badly needed supplies of flour, paper, ink 
and prunes came to Hawaii in the holds of whalers owned by pious men 
on whom the ABCFM had put pressure. Whaling captains often con- 
sented to take home to Yankeeland the missionaries' children sent 
home for the schooling that they could not yet get in the vineyard 
where their fathers labored. There were "temperance ships" too, re- 
nouncing the daily issue of free rum; some of these, though willing to 
economize on board, hypocritically carried trade rum for bargaining 
with the natives. 


its use 7 as she did from other idle and vicious habits, which a 
single and careless man is apt to contract. She never went into 
the streets to see people pass; never romped or went to 
festivals, other than religious ones, or school celebrations. She 
detested gewgaws and finery and would never consent to my 
getting her more than decency required . . . She looked back 
with peculiar horror on the degradation of her ancestors . . . 
She could never excuse anyone for licentiousness or wicked- 
ness of any kind on the plea of ignorance; her reason being a 
simple and forcible one, viz.: there was not a Hawaiian but 
had had the same advantages of education with herself, and 
that she always knew better/' Honolulu, 162-3. 

This quite unfamiliar version of the tale of the white man 
who marries the South Seas maiden would make a good plot 
for W. Somerset Maugham. 

* * * 

Honolulu . . . has long been familiar with demonstrations of 
puerile excitement and folly. Hiram Bingham, A Residence, 


How the missionaries, presumably engrossed in saving souls 
and specifically instructed not to intervene in native politics, 
came to preponderant power is still to be told. The facts are 
damning. The Honolulu water front early knew Mr. Bingham 
as "King Hiram/' Within a generation of the first landing of 
missionaries, five of his colleagues had resigned to enter native 
government. Thenceforth the bullying man-of-war captain, 
intriguing foreign consul, or corner-cutting trader, found him- 
self dealing, not with confused Polynesians, but with per- 
sistent and self-righteous Yankees zealously guarding what they 
took to be the natives' best interests. These white policy mak- 
ers and watchdogs Judd, the mission physician, Richards, 
former preacher at Lahaina naturally did not renounce the 
company or influence of their former colleagues or curb their 
instincts toward pious authoritarianism. The implications 
would be equally clear if five members of the Soviet legation 
in London were successively to resign, swear allegiance to the 
throne and be installed in the government. 


Yet this was no conspiracy; some such development was in- 
evitable as Hawaiian chiefs learned to regard missionaries as 
vehicles of prestige and good things. The Hawaiian had no 
notion of salutary cleavage between church and state. He was 
not even aware that a distinction existed. In his society re- 
ligious and political sanctions merged at the top in the hands 
of chiefs who were part priests, and priests who, as sources of 
omens 7 were part political advisors. So when Christianity ap- 
peared, the missionary being white, knowing white ways and 
becoming opposite number of the former Icahuna, the chiefs 
naturally turned to him for steering. 

The Rev. Mr. Richards' first moves on taldng office in 1838 
were to lecture the chiefs on political economy much he 
probably knew about it himself and draw up a fundamental 
code of law in the western style, so that erring whites could be 
called to account in the manner to which they were accus- 
tomed in police courts at home. The first clause of his code is 
explicitly Mosaic: ". . . no law shall be enacted which is at 
variance with the word of the Lord Jehovah/' That was a 
triumph; but Mr. Richards was not too brilliant a success as 
king's minister, Dr. Judd did better in his task of bringing 
order out of the inchoate Hawaiian nation's fiscal confusion. 
Port dues, customs duties, and purchases on credit brought in 
cash and goods on a basis strange to Polynesia, the chiefs of 
which had always used resources on hand as needed, and de- 
manded more from commoners at will. In this sort of matter 
whites could give genuine help, as when Commodore Wilkes, 
finding lack of small change a nuisance in the Islands, had 
Spanish dollars cut into quarters and eighths. 

On the whole Brookes is probably right in the verdict: "Cer- 
tainly none of these [missionary! officials was a big-caliber 
man"; 37 nor well trained for his job, it might have been added. 
True, missionaries occasionally tried to recruit expert lay talent 
from the mainland before consenting to handle law or finance 
themselves. Yet their reluctance to dabble in government was 
not perfervid. They assumed, probably correctly, that God's 
^J. I. Brookes, International Rivalry, 181, 


emissaries would advise native rulers more scrupulously than 
the white merchants, skippers and beachcombers who would 
otherwise be called on. Beyond that was something deeper 
and, however well rationalized, more powerful. In that day 
Yankees had yet to lose their traditional leaning toward gov- 
ernment by the righteous through the ministers of congrega- 
tions. An hierocracy founded and governed Massachusetts 
Bay and Hartford and, though subversive new notions had 
crippled hierocracy in the States, pious Yankees transplanted 
to Hawaii found it easy to acquiesce when events threatened to 
invest them with political power. It was tempting, this un- 
sought opportunity to become judge in Israel. The Rev. Mr. 
Bingham made no bones about it: 

"The state, deriving all its power from God, both rulers and 
subjects being bound to do God's will, and its chief magistrate 
being emphatically God's minister, ought to be, and in an im- 
portant sense is, a religious institution." A Residence, 278. 

To Thomas Jefferson such words from an American would 
have been close to treason; to John Endicott self-evident 
truths. In Honolulu no objection was likely from people whose 
opinion King Hiram respected. Besides, the thing was prac- 
tical. The more the chiefs came under the thumb of mission- 
connected advisors, the easier it was to get laws written and 
enforced against sin. In Kaahumanu's regency, formal appoint- 
ments were not needed. That stern nestler in Abraham's bosom 
did little without making sure that her actions pleased her 
preceptors' God. After her death, the regency for young Kame- 
hameha III was most respectful of missionaries. As the young 
king entered on active rule, events pushed him into making 
parsons his official aides. 

The bitterness with which the water fronts assailed this de- 
velopment went far to assure missionaries that, in advising 
native government, they were doing right. They had long felt, 
with justification, that the frontier-like growth of secular in- 
fluence in Honolulu, Lahaina and Hilo was ominous in both 
quantity and quality, bad for missions and natives alike. 


"Honolulu was a hard-looking old camp in those days/' wrote 
the reminiscing Rev. Sereno Bishop. 38 As early as 1823 the flat, 
dry, ugly r jerry-built settlement had four "mercantile houses/' 
three Yankee, one run by New Yorkers, selling piece goods, 
hardware, crockery, hats, shoes, ship's chandlery and rum to 
any customer able to pay in sandalwood or Spanish dollars. By 
1827 two dollar-a-day "hotels," two billiard parlors and a dozen 
bars were operating. Whalers began to use Honolulu as a port 
of deposit, landing oil for reshipment to the States and going 
back for more, instead of wasting time in the long voyage 
round the Horn. There was also a small but growing trade in 
hides, wool and tallow which whites on Kauai and the Big 
Island produced by shooting wild cattle and sheep and flaying 
and boiling them down. 89 Other small items were edible fungus 
gathered for the China trade and pulu, the down of large ferns, 
which made good pillow stuffing. In 1820, just after the mis- 
sionaries landed, a United States commercial agent was in- 
stalled at Honolulu to see that American interests got fair 
play. Every year more whites settled down to exploit Hawaii 
in any fashion suggested by ingenuity and hope. Some of these 
interlopers, such as the Spaniard Marin, the Frenchman Rives 
and numbers of English and Americans, were years ahead of 
the mission. 

Consuls, merchants and barkeepers seldom saw eye to eye 
with Jehovah on what was good for the Islands. Bradley says 
that, since they thought of themselves as exploiting transients, 
they were regrettably "indifferent to local problems and to the 
welfare of the population/' 40 They wanted whalers well sup- 
plied, not only with spars and canvas but with rum and girls; 
they sold the rum, and could sell the girls finery in exchange , 
for their earnings; they wanted the chiefs to spend freely on 
drink and luxuries at sucker prices. The mission did its best 

S8 Sereno E. Bishop, Reminiscences, 35. 

These animals were descendants of the stock put ashore in the very 
early days by Vancouver and others. Kamehameha I tabud cattle for 
ten years in order to ensure their propagating well. 

*H. W. Bradley, The American Frontier in Hawaii, 82. 


against such profitable activity, getting prostitution prohibited, 
warning natives that they were being swindled. The profit- 
minded also wanted to buy land for warehouse- and groggery- 
sites and later for plantation experiments, preferring to pay as 
little as the inexperienced native owner-chief would take. 

The chiefs sometimes sold, but only according to their tradi- 
tional lights which assumed that, as in grants to native vassals, 
the holder could be ejected at will. That infuriated white pur- 
chasers fancying themselves in full title. In such disputes the 
mission often backed the chief, maintaining that Hawaiian 
feudal custom was good law in Hawaii and Stateside land laws 
were not. No wonder that, often with consular backing, the 
water front loudly protested against "missionary meddling." 

The history of this head-on clash of God and Mammon 
bristles with special pleading, rationalization, irresponsible 
accusation, downright lies and unedifying finagling on both 
sides. That the missionaries meddled is unquestionably a true 
bill, whether or not their doing so was justified. In 1825 the 
Rev. Mr. Ellis roundly denied never did minister of the 
Gospel lie more gallantly that the mission ever had or ever 
would mix in Island government. Dibble, an early missionary- 
historian, grudgingly admitted the fact. A generation later the 
Rev. Mr. Cheever was ebulliently indiscreet: 

"As to the charge of meddling with government, we think it 
would have been much better for the nation had it been truer, 
and had missionaries much earlier been concerned in the 
councils and laws of the kingdom . . . We hold it to be as 
much the duty of ministers nowadays to instruct kings and 
governors in the law of God ... as it was the duty of the 
Jewish prophets of old ... and in this sense, we take it, the 
missionaries at the Sandwich Islands have meddled . . ." 
The Island World of the Pacific, 212-13. 

In the first decades, before the water fronts grew too strong, 
the mission could keep the chiefs in hand and defy criticism. It 
also sought to perpetuate its influence by educating the rising 
generation of chiefs in a special school, the pupils of which, in 
the 'thirties, included practically everybody who should hence- 


forth sit on the throne of Hawaii, But the mission was not well- 
advised to try to enlist commercial enterprise on Jehovah's side. 
In 1833 there came to Honolulu a group of young Yankees 
with Boston capital the rumor that they were financed by the 
ABCFM is probably not true to establish a mercantile busi- 
ness on "purely Christian principles 77 as "a pattern card of 
mercantile morality/' 41 Guiding spirit of this Ladd & Company 
was one J. A. Brinsmade, a former theological student who 
taught a missionary Bible class in Honolulu. He handled much 
of the mission's business affairs and probably used mission in- 
fluence in getting a needed royal land concession on Kauai to 
start the first important sugar plantation in the Islands. Much 
to the displeasure of dispossessed small local chiefs, an annual 
$300 to the crown secured the company a large tract devoted 
to sugar, coffee, and bananas worked by Hawaiian labor. 

While this project was still in the betwixt and between stage, 
Brinsmade and Richards, the pregnant lecturer on political 
economy, grew grandiose. The complaisant government ac- 
corded Ladd & Company vague grants to "all unoccupied and 
unimproved land 77 in the Islands as basis for a scheme to per- 
suade European capital and immigration to "develop as 
promptly as possible the civilization and resources of the Sand- 
wich Islands/' The mission was heartily behind it all, appar- 
ently believing that, if economic power were in the hands of 
the godly Ladd & Company, guided by the godly Richards, 
Mammon would become a great ally of the Lord. Off to Europe 
went Brinsmade to float this new South Sea Bubble. He actu- 
ally did get a grandiloquent contract with a Belgian group, but 
when the push came, no cash was forthcoming. All Ladd & 
Company ever realized was a series of lawsuits. The Lord got 
nothing but increased enmity from Honolulu mercantile inter- 
ests, indignant at seeing missionary influence over government 
used to promote a semimonopoly of the Islands' economic 

In the same period foreign governments turned aggressive, 
threatening the mission through the government that the mis- 
^Manley Hopkins, Hawaii, 281. 


sionaries tutored. France was first. Allegedly at the suggestion 
of Rives, the stowaway swindler, the newly founded Societ6 
de Picpus despatched a couple of French Catholic missionary 
priests to Hawaii. In that day the word "Popery" was still a 
live and snorting bogey and the reaction of King Hiram and 
his retainers was violent. Jarves recorded that: 

"One of the oldest and most intelligent ladies on the mission 
said to me that she had rather reside among the cannibals and 
licentious savages of the Marquesas than in a community of 
Roman Catholics; she actually thought herself safer among 
the former than the latter. Another was afraid to send her 
children to the United States, for fear they would become 
Papists . . /'Scenes and Scenery, 202. 

The missionaries tried later to maintain that they were not 
responsible for what happened to those missionary priests. This 
is disingenuous. Kaahumanu, then all-powerful, was obviously 
infected by her preceptors' feeling that Catholics were the 
Devil's own. The missionaries' records show that some of their 
number preached against Catholics in public and advised chiefs 
against them in private; and that they put into the chiefs' 
heads the handiest objection, that Catholics were idolaters, as 
the images in their chapels proved. Wrote the Rev. Lowell 

"During my morning discourse, ... I alluded to the senti- 
ments and practices of Roman Catholics . . . stated that a 
Roman Catholic priest had just come to this place and that it 
was my manao [thought] that it would be pono [good, right] 
for him to return in the same vessel in which he came/ 7 -Mary 
D. Frear, Lowell and Abigail, 109. 

Reynolds recorded with what reluctance King Hiram trans- 
lated for Kamehameha III Commodore Downes' lecture on 
tolerating people of conflicting faiths. In 1831, the General 
Meeting of the mission made it clear that, though the Lord 
had doubts about the ethics of persecuting Papists, he had 
none about the advisability of deporting Catholic wolves in 
sheep's clothing. When Kaahumanu took the high hand with 


Catholics, King Hiram protested perfunctorily, but there was 
no mistaking his satisfaction when she expelled idolmongers 
regardless. Though they wriggled and lied in a most undigni- 
fied fashion, the reverend fathers were finally got on board a 
vessel that landed them, in very bad temper, at San Pedro, 
California, the nearest spot under Catholic influence. 42 

There was trouble about that with the French government. 
There was worse in the late 'thirties when, Catholic infiltrators 
having reappeared, the native government not only tried to 
deport Catholic priests, but also imprisoned and mistreated 
Catholic converts. This was probably legal, since Hawaii as yet 
had no freedomof-worship clause in a bill of rights, but it was 
most indiscreet. At the time the French were feeling their oats 
in the Pacific and using mishaps to French missionaries as pre- 
texts for serious intervention in several island groups. Perhaps 
tardily realizing as much, the mission helped to rescue the 
jailed converts and persuaded Kamehameha III to decree re- 
ligious toleration for Catholics in June, 1839. 

Discretion came too late. "L/Art6mise," sixty guns, as formi- 
dable a vessel as Honolulu had yet seen, was already on her 
vengeful way, fit again after knocking a hole in her bottom on 
a similar errand at Tahiti. Though toleration had been official 
for three weeks when she arrived, Captain La Place was not to 
be mollified by words on paper. He landed men, celebrated a 
mass ashore under guard, and demanded a $20,000 cash guar- 
anty that Catholics would be persecuted no more. 

In that time and place the sum was enormous. La Place had 
no instructions about taking over Hawaii, but he was known to 
be jealous for his country of growing American influence there, 
and obviously desired occasions for encroachment. The mis- 
sion went hat in hand to local merchants to raise the wind for 
the government. The water front had been pleased to see the 
Catholics appear, considering them a likely spoke in King 

missionaries were suave enough to lend the priests some Hawaiian 
texts to study the language from. "This," says Manley Hopkins with a 
cultivated grin, "was very liberal; but there is a great charm in having 
one's book read, even by our adversaries." (Hawaii, 221.) 


Hiram's wheel; in fact, three water front Americans, including 
the U.S. commercial agent, had had their children baptized 
Catholics as an anti-Bingham gesture. But when the chips were 
down r the prospect of the French taking over bodily was also 
alarming. So the money was raised and "L/Art6mise" departed 
with her loot on board. 43 The image-worshiping, Bible-sup- 
pressing, Pope-dominated enemies of righteousness remained. 
By approaching the natives on a more equalitarian basis than 
the ABCFM believed in, they acquired quite a respectable 
number of converts. 

Ten years later there was another French demonstration. 
Not only were Catholics again being mistreated, claimed Ad- 
miral de Tromelin, but high duties on liquors were ruining the 
Hawaiian market for French brandy. Both he and the mission 
knew that those duties were supposed to make hard liquor in- 
accessible to the bulk of the natives; but the mission found 
itself in the curious position of quoting figures to prove in 
rebuttal that local consumption of brandy was increasing. They 
revenged themselves by well-aimed sarcasm at French bad 
taste in coupling one kind of water of life with another. Still, 
sarcasm and statistics alike were feeble against the grinning 
broadsides of "La Poursuivante" and "Le Gassendi" this last 
the first warsteamer that Honolulu had seen. When the chiefs 
proved argumentative, de Tromelin seized and looted the fort 
of Honolulu. Within a few years French pressure on the Is- 
lands, still harping on Catholics and brandy, was so strong that 
the king made an abortive effort to hand the Islands to the 
United States as preferable to France. By then, as it happened, 
international diplomatic exchanges had pretty well removed 
the practical possibility of the French doing to Hawaii what 
they had earlier done to Tahiti and the Marquesas. But 'chan- 
celleries could not disguise the black eye that mission prestige 
had again suffered. Having tied their worldly fortunes to the 
Hawaiian government, the missionaries had to share the reper- 
cussions of that government's weakness, 

"To their credit, the French returned the money seven years later, still 
packed in the same cases. 


They had fared better when the English grew violent in 
1843. Th-is trouble stemmed from a land tangle closely affect- 
ing the pocketbook of the mission-scorning British consul. 44 
He and his side made things sound so inflammatory that 
H.M.S. "Caiysfort," under Captain Lord George Paulet, "a 
pleasant-looking young man with a fresh complexion, blue eyes 
and chestnut hair curling all over his head/' 45 was ordered from 
Valparaiso to remedy matters. Paulet seems to have been 
formally courteous to missionaries, but went far out of his way 
to insult rival consuls and American merchants, and outraged 
the mission in practical effect by harsh demands on the native 
government. On missionary advice, Kamehameha III plain- 
tively surrendered his sovereignty, the theory being that Paulet 
only needed enough rope to hang himself. Paulet landed men, 
ran up British colors and enlisted natives in a militia sworn into 
Queen Victoria's service. Among his administrative changes 
was the abrogation of laws against fornication except when 
committed in public streets, which definitely identified him as 
a limb of Satan. At Hilo the mission was strong enough quietly 
to undo everything the moment the "Carysfort" sailed away 
again. But Honolulu had months of British bayonet rule and at 
least some of the water front rejoiced at seeing the psalm sing- 
ers' noses out of joint. Herman Melville, clerking in Honolulu 
at the time, was hotly to assure the world in print that the 
British had been justified throughout 

Neither Jehovah nor Whitehall agreed with him. Unwilling 

* 4 This was an English seaman-trader with previous Hawaiian experi- 
ence, named Richard Charlton, of whom Hopkins, his countryman, 
said: ''he seems to have the faculty of acting in the most injudicious 
manner conceivable upon every occasion/' (Hawaii, 241.) Moerenhout, 
however (Voyage auxiles II, 499), says he heard nothing but good of 
Charlton's work in Hawaii as controlling influencer of English seamen 
ashore. In any case, he must have been a man of imagination. When 
sailing from England to assume his post, he shipped with him as 
potentially profitable merchandise a mixed cargo of donkeys and jew's- 
harps. No doubt some of the donkeys were ancestors of those innocent 
and shaggy beasts now prevalent on the west coast of the Big Island, 
known locally as "Rona nightingales." 
"Titus Coan, Life in Hawaii, 106. 


for ports so important to American whalers to be in British 
hands, Washington protested sharply. John Bull was already 
nervous about Uncle Sam in re Texas and Oregon. But, before 
instructions could reach the Pacific from England, Rear-Ad- 
miral Thomas, Paulet's senior, arrived at Honolulu in H.M.S. 
"Dublin" and formally repudiated his lordship's doings. The 
king was reinstated in a ceremony still commemorated by the 
name of Thomas Square in Honolulu. In demure triumph the 
flag hoisted in place of the Union Jack bore the missionary 
symbol of dove and olive branch and "The Lord reigns, let the 
earth rejoice," wrote the Rev. Lowell Smith, missionary. 

Score a round for heaven. Two years later, however, the mis- 
sion itself dealt its influence a heavy blow. The land tenure 
problem was still troublesome, not only to entrepreneurs but 
also to pious Yankees disturbed by the Hawaiian commoner's 
small share in real property. A dozen of the highest chiefs held 
the bulk of Hawaiian land; the total of holders, large and small, 
was barely 600. The mission associated thrift, sobriety, and in- 
dustry, virtues still scarce among their converts, with the small 
farms that God-fearing folk held in fee simple in New Eng- 
land. So they persuaded king and chiefs to abolish feudal 
suzerainty in favor of freehold, a move that, their Catholic 
rivals agreed for once, would do great things for the average 
Kanaka. It took years to sort out conflicting and tenuous rights, 
but in the end the government proper held 1,500,000 acres, 
the king personally owned around 1,000,000 acres, the high 
chiefs divided another 1,500,000, and the commoners' share 
was some 30,000 acres. Though small in area, this consisted al- 
most wholly of the most fertile lands in the kingdom, whereas 
the bulk of the large holdings was arid or mountainous waste, 
the best of it useless without elaborate irrigation. 

Commoners were to have title to lands that they had been 
cultivating as tenants. It sounded fair and progressive and was 
certainly generous of the chiefs. But untoward consequences 
are still conspicuous in the Islands. Many commoners neg- 
lected to complete their titles by registration; others, blarneyed 
by whites with cash glittering in hand, sold for a song, squan- 


dered the proceeds, and found themselves thenceforth landless, 
less secure than when the chiefs had exploited, but also pro- 
tected, them. Though Hawaiian legislatures took care of the 
interests of chiefs who failed to comply with necessary registra- 
tion formalities, commoners of similar carelessness had little 
recourse. Thus many an Hawaiian was ripped loose from the 
land and started on the proletarian career still prevalent among 
his descendants. The vast noble or royal estates, on the other 
hand, became parts of the great sugar and pineapple planta- 
tions that now dominate the Islands' economy. A great deal 
of the land in these great developments is held on long lease 
from the government or the estates of chiefs' descendants, 
many of whose daughters married white men and so managed 
to keep their lands together. Yet the mission had meant so 
well! Damage to the objects of their solicitude came from in- 
ability to see that what was a good idea in the neighborhood of 
Mt. Greylock might not necessarily be so in the neighborhood 
of Haleakala. Again as in the case of Ladd & Company, it was 
demonstrated that parsons were poor social and economic 

The crowning error was in allowing haoles to buy land on 
the same freehold basis as natives. That set merchants and 
planters inevitably on the upbeat. Within a short while enter- 
prising whites were experimenting with wheat, sugar, potatoes, 
rice, coffee, cotton, silk and well-organized ranching. Some of 
these trials paid wheat and potatoes boomed when pioneer 
California became a handy and greedy market. Gold-rushed 
San Francisco even sent dirty shirts for laundering to Hono- 
lulu. In witness of mainlanders' new closeness to the Islands, 
Calif ornians planned filibustering expeditions of small calibre 
to relieve the Kamehameha dynasty of the cares of sovereignty. 
From the mid-century on, the economic pulse of the Islands 
unmistakably quickens and, in spite of severe ups and downs, 
beat more and more strongly up to the depression of the 
1930*8. It is clear, at least chronologically, that the Great 
Mahele, as Hawaiians called the new land program, set off tjie 
whole process. 


Simultaneously missionary hegemony tended to weaken. 
Dr. Judd, ablest missionary-politician, was ousted as scapegoat 
of the 1853 smallpox epidemic, which killed 3,000. In 1850 
there had appeared stiff evangelistic competition from the 
Mormons, failures at first, then doing extremely well under the 
leadership of George Q. Cannon. Much of this success was 
due to tact in telling the Hawaiians that Polynesians were 
descendants of the lost tribes of Israel whose adventures the 
Book of Mormon celebrates in so prolix a style. No words 
could magnify the devotion involved in Cannon's feat of trans- 
lating Joe Smith's great work into Hawaiian. By now Catholics, 
Mormons, Adventists, and Episcopalians together outnumber 
the Hawaiian Church that the Yankee mission founded. 

Anglicanism appeared under august auspices. Kamehameha 
III who, sot and vacillator though he was, had been an ally of 
the mission most of the time, died in 1855; his successor, 
Kamehameha IV, was somewhat Anglophile himself 46 and 
married Emma Rooke, hapa-haole granddaughter of John 
Young, who was zealously so. Their accession meant growing 
English influence, marked by an invasion by a Church of Eng- 
land mission complete with a real, live bishop. With Queen 
Emma ecstatically clutching a prayer book, the missionary 
monopoly on royal piety was broken. The same period saw 
gradual abandonment of the old policy of teaching only Ha- 
waiian in Island schools, with its implication of discouraging 
contact between natives and invading whites. 

Nevertheless King Hiram's successorsthe old gentleman 
went home to retire in the early 'forties had a sublime con- 
fidence. When the ABCFM decided in the 'fifties that the 
Hawaiian church was old and strong enough for support gradu- 
ally to be withdrawn, the missionaries on the spot welcomed 
the decision as an accolade. Happily they constituted them- 
selves pastors of self-supporting Hawaiian congregations, or- 

4Q The king was also plainly anti- American. The reason was, says an old 
and probably true story, that when he and his brother were traveling 
with Dr. Judd in the States as young princes, they were mistaken for 
negroes on a railroad train and insulted. Cf. J. I. Brookes, Inter- 
national Relations, 215. 


dained numbers of native pastors and considered themselves 
rewarded as good and faithful servants. They or their predeces- 
sors had been sent to win Hawaii to Christ, and lo, they had 
done it. 

Perhaps they had. At least they had made Hawaiians one of 
the world's most literate peoples, albeit in an obscure dialect; 
trained them to wear clothes; to sing; and to go through the 
motions of Congregationalism. Some Yankee missionary 
churches still stand, brown-skinned natives still worship in 
them, other such natives have gone forth on funds raised by 
such congregations to preach the same Gospel successfully in 
Micronesia. But, though they won their war with heathenism, 
the missionaries lost their war with sin. The Rev. Mr. Palmer, 
modern clerical commentator on Hawaii, does not hesitate to 
say that the way the ABCFM pushed the Hawaiian mission 
out of the nest was "premature and it resulted disastrously/' 47 

The principal mark that the mission left on the Islands, in 
fact, is economic. It engineered the Great Mahele which its 
sons and countrymen exploited. Some sons continued the good 
fight; King Hiram's boy, for instance, was the heart and soul 
of the Micronesian mission. But many more, heirs to Yankee 
shrewdness as well as Yankee self-righteousness, followed the 
ward politician's maxim of "if you can't lick 'em, jine 'eni," 
and whored after strange gods among the money changers. 
They entered mercantile houses, intermarried with Mammon's 
minions, leased land, experimented with imports and crops, 
and prospered exceedingly. The ill-informed are wrong in ac- 
cusing the missionaries of stealing the natives' land. But it is 
true that the core of the efforts to exploit Island resources, 
which pushed the native aside, consisted of the progeny of mis- 
sionaries. Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, peerless in 
Hawaiian finance and industry, are all missionary names. 48 So 

* T TJfie Human Side of Hawaii, 43. 

^Of the "Big Five" the mercantile agencies that control most of 
Hawaiian business only two were not American in origin. Theo. H. 
Davies & Company was founded by an Englishman; American Factors 
was originally German as Hackfeld & Company and was taken over as 
alien property during World War I, bought in by predominating Big 


were Thurston and Dole, key names in the proannexation 
revolution of 1893. Other names from mission rolls still stud 
any modern list of men in Island politics and business. 

". . . that curious pinhead kingdom of the Pacific." W. R. 
Bliss, Paradise of the Pacific, 7. 

As the world spun fast down the ringing grooves of change 
in the 'sixties, Hawaii was not exempt. Just before the Civil 
War coal oil began to threaten whaling, chief stay of the Ha- 
waiian economy. Then C.S.S. "Shenandoah" burned Yankee 
whalers all over the Pacific; a few years later Arctic ice crushed 
most of the remains of the right whale fleet, never to base on 
Honolulu again. After that the Islands had to look inward for 
a living. 

They found it in sugar. Artificial demand mushrooming dur- 
ing the Civil War expanded Hawaiian cane production,, and 
the aftermath taught Island sugar planters two valuable les- 
sons: It paid constantly to seek out improved varieties of cane 
to plant as well as better methods of harvest and manufacture. 
And really juicy profits depended on getting under, over, or 
around the tariff barrier between the Islands and their markets 
on the West Coast. All through the reigns of Kamehameha V 
and Kamehameha VI, sugar interests kept putting pressure on 

Five interests. In 1874 Nordhoff described the process, familiar in most 
colonial histories, wnereby the agency-firms came into firm control of 
Hawaiian sugar raising: "If a sugar planter has his land and machinery 
heavily mortgaged at ten or twelve per cent; if then he sends the prod- 
uct to an agent in Honolulu, who charges him five per cent more . . . 
if besides all this the planter buys his supplies on credit and is charged 
one per cent a month on these, compounded every three months until 
it is paid, and pays almost as much freight on his sugar from the plan- 
tation to Honolulu as from there to its final market it is highly prob- 
ably that he will, in the course of time, fail . . a good deal of money 
has been made, but not by the planters ... so many planters are in 
need of money, which they borrow in Honolulu, with the understand- 
ing that they will submit their product to the management of agents 
there." Charles Nordhoff, Northern California, Oregon and the Sand- 
wich Islands, 58-61. 


the throne and on American consuls. In 1876 under Kalakaua, 
the desired deal was consummated, a reciprocity treaty admit- 
ting Hawaiian sugar to the States tariff free, in return for a 
guarantee that naval base privileges at Pearl Harbor, on which 
the U.S. Navy had long had its eye, would not go to any other 
power. That presaged completion of what whalers had started 
the absorption of Hawaii by Uncle Sam; and it ensured what 
would change the face of Hawaiiprimacy of sugar in the Is- 
land economy. Insects had smothered cotton, coffee was a dis- 
appointment, rice could not compete as an export, beef would 
not pay shipping costs to the mainland, silk, wheat, potatoes, 
sisal, rubber, had variously petered out. But, if you had the 
enterprise to fertilize and irrigate intelligently, sugar fairly 
spurted out of the Islands' lowlands. 

The fact that sugar was a hand-labor crop produced the next 

Island population-decline was already acute, and nobody 
knew where expanding sugar would get more hands to cut 
more cane. Disease and possibly emotional disintegration 49 had 
so depressed the birth rate and increased the death rate that in 
the 'seventies only 56,000 souls inhabited the Islands. The 
missionaries deplored this gradual massacre, but perhaps here 
too God was working mysteriously. The invaluable Cheever 
wrote in 1850: 

". . . none need be sorry for the occasion that has called forth 
... so convincing a success, which will be none the less real 
and true though, in the mysterious providence of God, the 
whole native race expire just as it is Christianized." The Is- 
land World of the Pacific, 214. 

He sounds like the mediaeval saint who ran a ferry across the 
Rhine and used forcibly to baptize passengers in midstream, 
after which he drowned them overside to make sure they went 
to heaven before they could defile their newly cleansed souls. 
Others were not so philosophical about depopulation. Never 

A8 Cf. V, Their Gods Are Dead for further discussion. 


mind the next world; in this one kings wanted subjects to pay 
taxes and planters wanted labor. Immigration was the only an- 

That was all the clearer because what natives were left did 
not distinguish themselves as toilers. The prewhite Hawaiian 
had led a pretty industrious life, but strictly in his own way, 
which was not geared to white ideas of efficiency. From sugar's 
point of view, the place had always been practically unin- 
habited since the 'forties, when Ladd & Company's manager 
complained of "the complete worthlessness" of Hawaiian 
labor. The Hawaiians, wrote Crawford, "preferred to stand by 
while this new civilization rushed along y not because of indo- 
lence, but because they had not made the necessary cultural 
adjustment. Not to be in the main current of progress did not 
greatly worry them, and does not now." 50 There had been ex- 
ceptions; both the Mormons on Oahu, and some sugar planters 
on Maui and the Big Island apparently succeeded in getting 
reasonable industry out of Hawaiians. But their secret, what- 
ever it was, did not spread. The Hawaiian did splendidly in 
jobs that he liked, such as seaman or cowpuncher, which of- 
fered small emergencies in quantity, or a chance to ride horses. 
But he did not care for long hours of slogging with a cane 
knife through a choking, sun-baked thicket of cane. That job 
has never appealed to anybody able to avoid it. So there was 
more than dwindling population behind the movement to 
bring outsiders to the Islands. 

Steered by white advisors still, though men directly from the 
mission were scarcer among them, successive royal govern- 
ments imported labor on mass contract, with sanctions derived 
from Yankee apprenticeship and maritime laws which would 
strike us as harsh and arbitrary, though they were nothing out 
of the way then. Islanders from the Gilberts, Tahiti, and Samoa 
proved as unsatisfactory as their Hawaiian cousins. So govern- 
ment ships under white command raided Melanesia for black- 
birded labor. None too scrupulous methods persuaded 
Tannese, Erromangans, Mallicolans to toil in Hawaii for a pit- 
"Paradox in Hawaii, 29-30. 


tance B1 an unsavory example of one breed of South Sea Is- 
lander exploiting another. In the 'sixties somewhat more 
ethical enterprise imported Chinese and Japanese, the Chinese 
predominating for a generation, the great flow of Japanese 
waiting until the late 'eighties. The Islands were gradually 
flooded with Orientals, plus odds and ends of group-imported 
Scandinavians, Russians, Portuguese from Madeira and the 

Thus culminated the process that began when whites 
brought exotic trees and shrubs to crowd indigenous vegetation 
off the landscape. In the end lands were practically all under 
white control, tilled by small yellow strangers cultivating and 
harvesting sugar cane, which prewhite Hawaiians had consid- 
ered merely a vegetable confection with leaves useful for 
thatch. The Hawaiian did not resent it as much as some others 
would have done. He, and more notably she, mingled readily 
with Portygee, Chinaman and Jap when the Jap was feeling 
sociable and founded a progressively hybridizing race noted 
for both sturdiness and ethnic variety. Modern white Hawaii 
takes pride in the relative lack of race prejudice in the Islands. 
The sentiment is admirable but in white mouths, impertinent; 
all the haole did was to shovel different races successively to- 
gether and pay no more attention. 

Though the rise of sugar is the prevalent fact, the Islands 
showed interesting strains between the decline of missionary 
influence and annexation. For instance, the English bugaboo 
frightened hypersuspicious Americans in Honolulu. As annexa- 
tion to the United States grew more imminent, the nervous 
Yankee contended more and more vehemently that if Uncle 
Sam did not, England would. There was just enough historical 
fact behind this to alarm such fleeting visitors as Mark Twain. 

The Islands had always prided themselves, a bit snobbishly, 
on being a special concern of Beritani as near as Polynesians 
could get to pronouncing Britain. Vancouver had been mentor 
of Kamehameha the Great. Liholiho, seeking British patron- 
age, had come home feet foremost but in charge of a peer of 
61 Cf. IV, 6, Unsavory Characters. 


the realm. Admiral Thomas had "restored the life of the na- 
tion." Queen Emma had not only imported the Church of 
England but also been entertained by Queen Victoria as a 
royal, if dusky, cousin. A principal street in Honolulu is named 

Modern Honolulu still has a haunting resemblance to an 
English colonial capital; look closely and it disappears like a 
blur in vision, but relax and there it is again. Something about 
the way business is done, the reticences of the powers that be, 
the tone of commercial architecture, the "Ltd." on firm names 
. . . The most popular visitor to the Islands during this tran- 
sition was the royal Duke of Edinburgh as commander of 
H.M.S. "Galatea," who enjoyed himself hugely ashore and, 
reputedly, left behind him several hapa-haole youngsters. Lord 
Charles Beresford, then a young officer of his, nearly caused 
an international incident by stealing the official sign from out- 
side the American consulate and nailing it up over a disrep- 
utable Chinese shop. 

Yet most of this muttering about British influence was 
mere shadow play. Several times the United States had made it 
clear that European adventures in Hawaii would be taken as 
seriously as French adventures in Mexico. However strategic in 
the Pacific, Hawaii was not worth Britain's while to the extent 
of marked strain with the United States; and the States were 
entrenched in the Islands more solidly than even clever men in 
Honolulu always realized. 

True, the white colony had always been mixed. Mexican 
cowboys taught Hawaiians cowpunching, hence the Hawaiian 
deep-seated saddle and word for cowhand, paniola, a kenning 
for Espanol; the Island way of loading cattle aboard ship by 
swimming them through the surf is said to have originated 
along the Gulf of California. A well-received ranching family 
on Maui belonged originally to the Polish gentry, come by 
way of New Zealand, where an immediate ancestor was a hero 
of the Maori wars. Back in 1824 Kalanimoku had a Prussian 
armorer-blacksmith; both the leader of the Royal Hawaiian 
Band, established in 1872, and the founder of Hackfeld & 


Company, a principal Island mercantile agency, were Ger- 
mans. A Frenchman held key portfolios in the cabinets of the 
'sixties. The British, if you counted Scotchmen, were a prin- 
cipal minority. But all non-Americans banded together had no 
genuine hope of displacing the Yankees. 

The natives, however, had better, if slim, chances. For fifty 
years they resisted with increasing energy. Signs of articulate 
Hawaii-for-the-Hawaiians feeling appeared in the 'forties while 
the missionaries were still in the saddle and the native govern- 
ment was subserviently celebrating the Fourth of July. As mis- 
sionary influence waned, nativist feeling coagulated around 
the royal-noble-hapa-haole-rancher-Americanophobe pole of 
the Hawaiian solution. The other pole attracted the sugar- 
mercantile-agency-missionary-American interests. In terms of 
power, this second complex of interests represented the haves 
and was customarily labeled the "missionary" interest. Though 
both camps showed anomalies and queer shifts of small 
splinter-groups, that was the rough line-up thirty years after 
the Great Mahele opened the way to white greediness for land. 
. This nativism was real. For all superficial Christianization, 
old ways and beliefs persisted as a submerged stratum of be- 
havior, parallel with or subtly undermining liaole ways. Tabu 
sites along inland trails were likely to receive furtive offerings 
of tapa, fruit, or leaves left by cautious wayfarers doing what 
their grandfathers had always done at the same spots. The 
kahunas' magical powers, particularly in medicine and praying- 
to-death, were little discussed but considerably respected, even 
among Sunday-pious communicants. 52 When Kamehameha 
V's queen died, natives revived the old fantastically protracted 
and orgiastic mourning period. Such survivals are familiar else- 
where, as among negroes in the West Indies and the Black 
Belt. So there is no cause for wonder in the fact that Princess 
Ruth, educated in the missionary school for chiefs, quelled an 

^Haole residents of the Islands were not immune. I have heard of a 
Deep South-born parson of a certain Island church still enough im- 
pressed by tales of the menuhene (Hawaiian 'little people") to go 
hunting some troublesome specimens in the parsonage basement with 
a specially constructed net. 


eruption of Mauna Loa in the 'seventies by traveling very 
modernly via steamboat to the Big Island to perform rites to 
propitiate Pele. Surviving photographs of this bull-voiced 
chieftainess make it conceivable that her face could stop a lava 
flow dead in its tracks. 

Western-style governmental devices offered another vent for 
nativist feeling. In one form or another, representative as- 
semblies persisted through various changes in constitutions. 
Though property qualifications kept many natives from voting, 
the bulk of the electorate was usually Hawaiian and, under the 
later kings, legislative debate was ominously concerned with 
efforts to avoid white-type governmental exactions. Direct cash 
taxes, however small, were difficult for natives to pay; they 
were often levied on horses and dogs, in which natives exces- 
sively delighted; and one legislative session so hotly deliberated 
whether to repeal taxes on bitches that it went into history as 
the Female Dog Legislature. Though the grievances aired were 
often childish, feeling behind them was serious; and Polynesian 
long-windedness and legislators' hopes of re-election con- 
tributed to a formidable body of native sentiment, often organ- 
ized in the form of secret or benevolent societies. In support, 
along came little newspapers printed in Hawaiian edited by 
opportunistic whites or hapa-haoles to appeal to the nativist. 
And there was a steadily stronger seepage into cabinets of 
white or half-breed men insisting that Hawaii was a sovereign 
state and could be master in her own house; a palpable fiction, 
but pleasant hearing. 

The high tide of nativism coincided with the reign of 
Kalakaua, Hawaii's Merry Monarch. He was no Kamehameha 
the last of them died in King William C. Lunalilo, a popular 
hard drinker and victim of tuberculosis but his blood had 
ranked very high in prewhite Hawaii. His accession was con- 
tested by Queen Emma, widowed consort of Kamehameha IV. 
American influence rallied behind Kalakaua and, with consid- 
erable suspicion of dirty work, elected him. The resulting riot 
roughed up the legislature and damaged the government build- 
ing; American and British marines from warships in the harbor 


calmed the mob and seated Kalakaua firmly on the throne. In 
due return, he took a large hand in negotiating the Hawaii- 
United States reciprocity treaty that first put sugar firmly on 
its feet in the Islands. 

Later he was to disappoint the respectable. His life and 
times are worth lingering over for reasons serious and other- 
wise. He was a large, convivial, and dignified alumnus of the 
mission school for children of chiefs, rather resembling Joe 
Louis with a mustache and sideburns. Most of his predecessors 
had been fast men with a bottle, sometimes with unhappy 
consequences; Kamehameha IV, for instance, killed his secre- 
tary while drunk. But Kalakaua could not only outdrink any- 
body; he could walk away with what he drank. Stevenson 
wrote home: 

"... a very fine, intelligent fellow, but . . . what a crop for 
the drink! He carries it, too, like a mountain with a sparrow on 
its shoulders. We calculated five bottles of champagne in three 
hours and a half (afternoon) and the sovereign quite present- 
able, although perceptibly more dignified at the end." 
Letters, III, 99.** 

This mid-Pacific King of Yvetot traveled widely, first to 
Washington for the reciprocity treaty, later round the world. 
His white suite found him a troublesome charge. In San Fran- 
cisco a spread-eagle oration of welcome predicting Hawaiian 
hegemony over all Polynesia infected him with an idea that 
was later greatly to embarrass all rational Hawaii. His reception 
in Japan moved him to propose, without consulting his ad- 
visors, a marriage between an imperial prince of Japan and 
Kaiulani, the pretty young heir presumptive to the Hawaiian 
throne. By the time he reached Siani he was deep in a feeling 
that white men's goods and ways did not give them a monopoly 

^Mrs. Isobel Strong Field maintains that the king's extraordinary 
capacity was due to his always taking poi mixed with milk before a 
drinking bout, which insulated his stomach-coat against too quick ab- 
sorption of alcohol. (Tin's Life IVe Loved, 165.) He may have done so, 
but no such insulation would be proof against so much in so short a 
period. The bulky majesty of Hawaii undoubtedly had a head like a 
Russian lumberjack. 


on power and splendor. In Italy he allowed himself to be 
hijacked by an Italian adventurer named Moreno, a former 
hanger-on of his, who had been entrusted with seeing that 
several hapa-Iiaole youths got a good military education in that 
country; the only thing that rescued the king from Moreno's 
clutches was his discovery that Moreno had been representing 
the boys as royal bastards. 

He returned very proud of having been the first king to cir- 
cumnavigate the globe, and thenceforth was. given to absurdly 
grandiose gestures and unqualified commitment to nativist do- 
ings. He was not the first Hawaiian king to fail to make any 
sense out of the white theory that a king could reign but not 
rule; but, having been greatly attracted by the claims to divine 
descent of the Japanese imperial house, he was the first and last 
to make efforts to have himself deified. He bought a $20,000 
battery of Austrian field guns and had himself a lavish Euro- 
pean-style coronation at which, like Napoleon, he crowned 
himself and his spouse with jeweled crowns costing $10,000 
apiece. His predecessors had built a stately royal palace and 
government building, and a large hotel for tourists and visiting 
bigwigs. Under Kalakaua appeared horsecars, a small opera 
house performances in which were infrequentcontaining a 
huge box surmounted by a royal cipher, and a telephone sys- 
tem installed ahead of most mainland cities. Once a dirt- 
streeted frontier village dominated by the great coral-built 
missionary church as a French Canadian village is dwarfed by 
its parish church, Honolulu was now a capital with archi- 
tecture and gadgets to prove it. 54 

But his most fantastic caper was his "Primacy of the Pacific" 
policy in which he was encouraged by Walter Murray Gibson, 
w Nordhoff swore that, in the mid-'seventies, Honolulu looked like 
nothing so much as a New England country town: "The white frame 
houses with green blinds, the picket-fences whitewashed until they 
shine, the stone walls, the small barns, the scanty pastures, the little 
white frame churches . . . you have only to eliminate the palms, the 
bananas, and other tropical vegetation . . . the incorrigible Puritans 
who founded this bit of civilization . . . sought from the beginning to 
make New England men and women of these Hawaiians." (Southern 
California, Oregon and the Sandwich Islands, 22-33.) 


a renegade Mormon who dominated his cabinets in the mid- 
eighties. 55 At the time Tonga, Samoa, the Gilberts and Caro- 
lines had not yet been formally taken over by white powers. So 
Kalakaua, master of an annual personal revenue round $35,000 
and a subject population about as large as that of present-day 
McKeesport, Penna., proposed to make Hawaii suzerain of 
Oceania. He began with Samoa, then and later a hot bone of 
contention between Germany, Britain and the States. The 
rivals, particularly Germany, were not amused when the liapa- 
haole editor of a Honolulu nativist paper appeared in Samoa as 
envoy extraordinary indeed from His Hawaiian Majesty to 
negotiate confederation of the two island groups. His presence 
was presently re-enforced by the arrival of H.H.M.S, "Kaimi- 
loa," a small copra-steamer crudely converted into a popgun 
man-of-war at an alleged cost of $50,000, manned by a few 
whites and a great many unruly boys from Hawaii's reform 
school. The embassy stirred up all three native factions in 
Samoan politics, signed a treaty with one of them, and highly 
irritated the chancelleries of the world. After six months, hav- 
ing drunk everything in sight and exhausted their funds, the 
wavery and headachy complement of the "Kaimiloa" weighed 
anchor, a half-Samoan sailing master having been borrowed to 
make sure the ship would make port* 

Kalakaua's yearning to assert Polynesian values appeared in 
darker ways. Greatly attached to Masonry the craft had long 
flourished in Hawaii- he founded the Hale Naua, a native 
fraternal order admitting both sexes, patterned somewhat on 
Masonry and named after the ancient chiefs' secret society. It 
took much of its ritual from the days of Jcahunas and blood 
sacrifice; it also had a weird "scientific" aspect, aiming to re- 
establish heathen cosmogony, medicine and ethics. Many ac- 
cused Kalakaua of reviving old religious ceremonies, rebuilding 
an ancient heiau (temple) and dedicating it with tlie sacrifice 
of a hog instead of a man. One enemy quoted him directly: 

"I have seen the Christian nations and observed that they are 
turning away from Jehovah. He represents a waning cause. 
"'Cf . IV, 6 ? Unsavory Characters for full account. 


Shall we Hawaiians take up the worship of a god whom for- 
eigners are discarding? The old gods of Hawaii are good enough 
for us/' Rev. S. E. Bishop in Hawaiian Gazette, Feb. 11, 
1893; quoted in W. F. Blackman, The Mating of Hawaii,, 88, 

He certainly sponsored the old hulas on a scale and with a lack 
of decorum that struck the godly with blank horror. Gossip 
even said he revived that old aristocratic group-game which, as 
one modern source chastely puts it, was like Post Office only 
more serious. 56 

The gossips are practically all dead now, and distinguishing 
fact from fiction in Honolulu is more difficult than anywhere 
else in the world. Plainly, however, Kalakaua reached back on 
deliberate principle into the existent substrata of prewhite 
values in order to reassert the Polynesians' right to live in Poly- 
nesia as seemed good to them; the same thing that has been 
done to great applause by the Irish, for instance. In spite of 
the king's telltale megalomanic traitsthe order he founded 
was called the Star of Oceania, thus taking in the whole of the 
Pacific islands it is possible to ask what was wrong with this 
objective except impracticality? 

You are not to picture a pompous, drunken, cult-ridden 
caricature. Practically everybody who met Kalakaua, whether 

BO Emerson probably best surmounted the difficulties of describing Ha- 
waiian erotic games without crossing the hawse of the postal authorities. 
"The ula JciJu was so called from being used in a sport which was much 
patronized by the alii class of the ancient regime . . . forfeits were 
pledged, the payment of which was met by a performance of a dance 
. which not unfrequently called for liberties and concessions that 
could not be permitted on the spot, or in public, but must wait the 
opportunity for seclusion . . . kings and queens were not above par- 
ticipating in the pleasures of this sport . . . King nor queen could 
plead exemption from the forfeits incurred, nor deny to another the 
full exercise of privileges acquired under the rules . . . The payment 
of these extreme forfeits was delayed until a convenient season, or 
might be commuted on grounds of policy, or at the request of a loser, 
if a king or queen by an equivalent of land or other valuable posses- 
sion. Still, no fault could be found if the winner insisted on strict pay- 
ment of the forfeit. The game of Jcilu was often got up as a compliment, 
a supreme expression of hospitality, to distinguished visitors of rank, 
thus more than making good the polite pfirase of the Spanish don 'all 
that I have is yours/ " Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, 235-6. 


friendly to his schemes or not, found him urbane, outgoing, 
and perceptive in his own way. A true Polynesian gambler, he 
loved poker, that most universally appealing of white inven- 
tions. Legends of his poker parties at his Waikiki beachhouse 
persist how he won a pot from Glaus Spreckels, the Cali- 
fornia sugar magnate who was muscling into the Islands with 
royal approval, by saying "I have five kings/' laying down four 
from his hand and pointing to himself as the fifth. His admir- 
ers considered that he remained kingly even when, at a party, 
he borrowed a guitar from the orchestra and sang a contempo- 
rary comic song: 

Hokey, pokey, winky, wum 

How d'ye want your Waters done? 

Boiled or with their jackets on? 

Sang the King of the Sandwich Islands! 

Isobel S. Field, This Life I've Loved, 175 

For all that his realm could not afford them, his court func- 
tions seem to have tastefully mingled ceremony, luxurious 
eating and drinking, and great gaiety in the ballroom. Up to 
his death in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1891, this was 
The First Gentleman of the Pacific. 

But expense was expense. Raising cash to promote Poly- 
nesian prestige and his own pleasure led Kalakaua far from 
political discretion. His advisors or intimates were partly glib 
adventurers like Gibson and Moreno, partly local whites, some 
honest, some not, with an occasional financial adventurer like 
Spreckels, Too few of these hangers-on could see much wrong 
with malodorous money-making schemes which obligingly ap- 
peared when the treasury was low, such as a proposition from 
the Louisiana Lottery which, ejected from the States, was will- 
ing to pay high for peace, quiet, and a mailing address. An even 
less savory tale involved an enterprising Chinese bidder for a 
government opium monopoly who was somehow bilked of a 
huge sum which he swore he had personally handed to the 
king as a solicited bribe. There were all-too-plausible stories 
about how the king used the royal frank to smuggle in quanti- 


ties of liquor for a local dealer who, in turn, supplied royal 
canvassers with free election-gin. 

Such facts and rumors convinced the sugar-missionary- 
respectable element that Kalakaua was really getting out of 
hand. In an armed uprising in 1887 they forced on the king a 
new constitution making his cabinet directly responsible to the 
legislature and imposing other restrictions. The adventurers 
immediately left office. Two years later an armed revolt in the 
interests of an increased royal prerogative was led by a fiercely 
mustached youth named Wilcox, one of those whom Moreno 
had taken to Italy to learn the art of war. Quelled by the loss 
of six respectable lives, the ringleaders claimed on trial that 
they had had royal sponsorship; a native jury acquitted them on 
the convenient juridical principle that "the king can do no 
wrong." The "missionaries" were not likely to forget such go- 
ings on. Kalakaua probably died just about in time. 

He is embarrassing for those who prefer to see in him a 
Polynesian statesman. There are and always were Polynesian 
statesmen, but this was not one. He had been round the world 
and seen the white man's power; his inability to grasp the dis- 
crepancy between his schemes and his strength verges on the 
pathological. Yet it is understandable that many looked back 
on his reign as Hawaii's Golden Age. No labor problems, be- 
cause government let sugar bring in Orientals ad lib.; no floods 
of tourists to infest Waikiki; no apprehensions about what 
Washington would do next in the way of sending carpetbag- 
gers to Honolulu. Plenty of young officers to dance with at 
balls on or for American, British, French, or Russian warships; 
plenty of game Island horses to ride; long visits with hospitable 
relatives and friends on plantations and ranches; and the never- 
to-be-recaptured thrill of steamer day, when a whole month's 
bag of letters and newspapers gave the stimulating illusion of 
being in touch with the great world. Though "missionaries" 
fought "the royal crowd" and vice versa, they mostly spoke to 
one another; in fact, many of them were closely related. When 
the invitations came from the Palace, both factions went 
dressed fit to kill, the "missionaries" to pay their respects with 


the dignity due their positions, the "royal crowd" to have a 
marvelous time. The Chinese, who got out of the cane fields 
as soon as possible, proved competent shopkeepers and serv- 
ants. 57 Most of the Hawaiians lived in odd corners on fish and 
poi, a healthy diet, and were said to be perfectly happy. One 
hopes it pleased them to see how thoroughly the haoles were 
enjoying themselves in the Kanakas' lovely islands. 

None of it belonged on a group of volcano summits pro- 
truding from the Pacific Ocean. The whites' colonially lavish 
manners and Kalakaua's miniature pompthe slightly thread- 
bare uniforms and royal relics are piously preserved in 
Honolulu museumswere intrusions. "King" itself was no 
Polynesian concept; crown and medals were imposed from 
outside, just like codified law, court trials, budgets, cabinets, 
standing corps of guards and all the rest of the anomalous 
paraphernalia by means of which Hawaiian royalty blundered 
and stumbled its way to extinction. In his own time and place, 
Ka Moz, the highest chief, hog-fat, bone-lazy and tree-tall, 
whose shadow it was death to cross, had been anything but 
ridiculous. It is easy condescendingly to describe Kalakaua's 
picturesque little court as comic opera. Actually it was the dis- 
sonant and troubling, if definitely minor, type of tragedy that 
sets one's teeth on edge. 

"Do nothing unrighteous, but as regards the [Hawaiian] prob- 
lem, take the Islands first and solve the problem afterwards." 
Alfred Thayer Mahan to Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in 
Pules ton, Mahan, 182. 

So Kalakaua died and was gathered to his fathers, who were 
probably all feasting in hell as chiefs should, and Liliuokalani, 
his sister, succeeded. Adept like Kalakaua in the Hawaiian 
school of hymn-inspired music, she is still remembered as com- 
poser of Aloha Oe, In her own day she was, according to the 

BT Blackman quotes figures showing that the Chinese in 1889 nac ^ 57% ^ 
wholesale spirit licenses; 62% of retail merchandise licenses; 84.7% of 
victualling licenses; 20.6% of butcher licenses. (The Making of Ha- 


point of view, patriot, martyr, Jezebel, stubborn fool or sadly 
misguided woman. 

This bulky, proud person, mildly reminiscent of Kaahu- 
manu, depicted her ancestors as the kingmakers who put and 
kept the upstart, Kamehameha the Great, on the throne of 
Hawaii Nef. She had collaborated with her brother in nativism 
more cordially than mere loyalty implied, and retained his 
kind of advisors as far as the new constitution permitted, per- 
haps sometimes farther. 

To start her off in hot water, the lottery- and opium-schemes 
stayed disquietingly alive. Going her brother one better the 
queen, supported by nativists, presently drafted and planned 
to promulgate by fiat a new constitution disfranchising whites 
and making her ministers responsible directly to her. At least 
that was the public impression, probably not inaccurate, of 
what she had in mind. Here was Hawaii-for-the-Hawaiians 
with a vengeance. The reaction of respectable nervous systems 
still mindful of 1889 was necessarily violent. There was ex- 
cited'talk of revolution long before rebellion actually occurred. 

The queen had already done enough to make her seat on the 
throne most precarious, and reaped the reward in gossip about 
her private life. In 1891 the death of her husband, a long, 
weedy, former merchant-seaman named John Dominis, robbed 
her of a restraining influence. Yet the monarchy had survived 
previous storms and might have survived this, if events in the 
States had not made it imperative for sugar to pull the throne 
down. The McKinley tariff of 1890 had wiped out the com- 
petitive advantage of Hawaiian over other foreign sugars in the 
American market, on which the Island sugar industry was 
inextricably dependent. There was talk of shifting to the Aus- 
tralian and New Zealand markets but, though a fair amount of 
sugar had been going that way, no realist considered this a 
hopeful expedient. The most powerful forces in the Islands had 
either to get the new tariff revised in favor of Hawaii, a most 
improbable scheme that would spell bankruptcy if delayed too 
long, or somehow get Hawaii inside the States' tariff barrier. 
That meant annexation. 


The idea was nothing new. In the 'fifties, Kamehameha III, 
trying to stave off French pressure and apprehensive of Cali- 
fornia filibusters, had negotiated a treaty of annexation with 
the United States which his death immediately afterward 
abrogated; its chances of ratification were slim anyway, since it 
granted Hawaii immediate statehood. From then on American 
consuls and ministers in Hawaii steadily peppered the State 
Department with reports about the advisability of taking over 
Hawaii to keep some other power from doing so, or for strategic 
reasons, or just because the idea appeared to be in the cards. 
". . . annexationist opinions/' Brookes wrote drily, "were a 
curious mixture of the concepts of republicanism ('manifest 
destiny') , and the American tariff policy." 58 In the 'sixties regu- 
lar steamer service between Hawaii and the Coast had tied 
things closer; after reciprocity, mainland capital had been at- 
tracted into the Islands' sugar-sustained prosperity. An- 
nexation had never been consummated, however, because 
reciprocity enabled Honolulu to reap the benefits of attach- 
ment to the States without the inconvenience of having to 
stop doing things in Honolulu's own peculiar way. 

In 1893 the American Minister to Hawaii was a raggedly 
bearded Down East Republican named John L. Stevens. 
Former newspaper-partner of James G. Elaine (Harrison's first 
Secretary of State) he was, like his great friend, a warm mani- 
fest-destineer. As crisis built up in Honolulu, drilling going on, 
Committees of Safety forming, Stevens went half out of his 
mind with opportunistic excitement. Though the complete 
story can never be known, he was indubitably close to this re- 
spectable insurgency "we [the revolutionists] knew the 
United States Minister was in sympathy with us," wrote San- 
ford B. Dole demurely. 59 When the insurgents struck, nobody 
was less surprised than Stevens, or more eager to see the 
monarchy overthrown as prelude to annexation. Nor, as Cleve- 
land's message to Congress stated later, was he "inconveni- 
ently scrupulous as to the means employed to that end." 60 

His own despatches witness that the presence at Honolulu 
^International Rivalry, 213. 
BD Memoirs of the Hawaiian Revolution, 74. 
^Presidential message, Dec. 18, 1893. 


of U.S.S, "Boston/ 7 one of the crack White Squadron cruisers 
that formed the nucleus of the New Navy, was a deterrent to 
rebellion. At the moment of the outbreak the "Boston," with 
Stevens on board, was taking a pointless little cruise to the 
Big Island, a coincidence that he never succeeded in explain- 
ing. Then, as soon as the "missionaries" had openly revolted, 
here were Stevens and the "Boston" back again, landing ma- 
rines ostensibly to protect Americans and their property but 
also to "assist in the preservation of public order" as Captain 
Wiltse's orders to the leathernecks ran. Liliuokalani witnessed 
their inarch up the street and concluded that the U.S. Navy 
was finishing what the "missionaries" had begun. The marines 
set up their posts, not round American-owned residences and 
warehouses, but in places well calculated to overawe the 
queen's supporters. Stevens countenanced running up the 
American flag on the pretext of forestalling precautionary ac- 
tion by the British or Japanese. There was no counterdemon- 
stration, though the rebels as yet were ill-organized. Hastily 
they formed a provisional government and despatched to 
Washington a delegation to negotiate annexation. The head 
of the new government was Judge Sanford Ballard Dole, a mis- 
sionary's son of integrity and ability who, with his long white 
beard and noble eyes and forehead, was probably the hand- 
somest Iiaole in the Islands. 

The whole thing sounds like Theodore Roosevelt in his "I 
took Panama" mood. In Washington a hastily drafted treaty 
of annexation went to the Senate for ratification. But, neat as 
their timing had been so far, the PCs new nickname for the 
"missionaries," abbreviating Provisional Government now 
slipped a cog. Cleveland had defeated Harrison in the 1892 
elections; Inauguration Day, 1893, came along before the 
Senate had acted on Hawaii. Cleveland, a doggedly honest 
man given to decisive gestures according to his lights, sniffed 
cautiously at the treaty, withdrew it and sent a personal repre- 
sentative to Hawaii to check up. His position seems to have 
been that, though annexation might well be a good thing for 
strategic reasons, he preferred to arrive at that end with some 


The frustrated PGs naturally accused him of political spite; 
or referred this action to the machinations of an English-born 
Honolulu merchant, Theo. H. Davies, a power in sugar and 
imports whose firm is still one of the Big Five of Hawaii. He 
was guardian of Kaiulani, the heiress-presumptive to Liliuoka- 
lani, child of a Scotsman and an Hawaiian high chieftainess 
a young woman charming enough to have received a nice 
little poem about herself from Robert Louis Stevenson. Davies' 
loyalty to his ward's interests and distaste for American rule 
apparently moved him more than the profits that annexation 
promised his sugar interests. When the revolution struck, he 
and Kaiulani, in England at the time, hastened to Washington 
in a theatrical but well-aimed effort to turn sentiment in favor 
of the Hawaiian royal house. They met the Clevelands, and the 
princess' charm may well have had some effect on the presi- 
dent-elect. Certainly Davies' appeal issued in Kaiulani's name 
when she landed in New York would have been effective with 
a far uglier context: 

"To the American people: Unbidden I stand upon your shores 
today, where I thought so soon to receive a royal welcome . . . 
I hear that Commissioners from my own land have been for 
many days asking this great nation to take away my little vine- 
yard . . . they would leave me without a home or a name or a 
nation. Seventy years ago America sent over Christian men 
and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii ... we 
learned to love and trust America. Today three of the sons of 
those missionaries are at your capital, asking you to undo their 
fathers' work . . . Today I, a poor, weak girl . . . am strong in 
the strength of seventy million people, who in this free land 
will hear my cry, and will refuse to let their flag cover dis- 
honour to mine/ 7 Mary H. Krout, Hawaii and a Revolution, 

The presidential emissary carrying plenary powers to Ha- 
waii, James H. Blount, former Chairman of the House Foreign 
Relations Committee, was to become one of the best-hated 
men in Island history, a distinction greatly to his credit. Stevens 
greeted Blount as his ship docked, to say that the Provisional 


Government had prepared him a nice house, servants ? and 
carriage for which he need pay no more than was convenient. 
Blount declined the offer; he also declined the competing royal 
carriage sent to fetch him under care of the queen's chamber- 
lain. His first official act was to haul down the American flag 
and substitute the Hawaiian; the "Boston" sulkily failed to 
salute the substitute. All the way he courteously resisted PG 
blandishments, insisted on asking questions of the PCs' oppo- 
nents. The PGs, recalling that Blount had been a Confederate 
colonel, began to mutter that no unreconstructed rebel could 
be fair to Hawaii, which had stoutly supported the Union in 
the Civil War. He had already opposed reciprocity in the 1883 
session of Congress. Eventually he reported to Cleveland that 
the thing had been a put-up job and the United States had 
sadly overreached itself when its armed forces were permitted 
apparently to countenance the rebellion. 61 

^Needless to say, this was not the interpretation of these happenings 
favored in Hawaii. In the "missionary" version, Blount was a prejudiced 
imbecile, Stevens never overstepped his authority in the slightest, the 
presence of the marines had nothing to do with the success of the re- 
bellion. This point of view is well expressed, if anybody wants to look 
it up, in The Hawaiian Question, Charles L. Carter; The Real Hawaii, 
Lucien Young, who was a lieutenant on the "Boston" at the time; 
American Expansion in Hawaii, Sylvester K. Stevens; Memories of the 
Hawaiian Revolution, Sanford B. Dole; Hawaii and a Revolution, Mary 
H. Krout. The author's position here is based on not only his own best 
judgment after examining the recorded facts, but on the opinions of 
such eminent scholars in American history as the Beards and Nevins. 
As usual, when a case is glaring, the best evidence of culpability comes 
from the culprits: Carter admits that Stevens had offered the marines 
for the use of the cabinet against Liliuokalani, when it looked as if 
they themselves would head the rebellion; and that a popular refer- 
endum would probably have given a slight majority in favor of the 
queen and against the "missionaries," "owing to a dangerous element 
of low whites who had the right to vote and who in recent years had 
acquired great influence over the Hawaiians/ 7 Stevens admits that " 
Wiltse's orders to the marines exceeded the tenor of the Minister's 
request for their presence ashore; that it was to shelter the PG govern- 
ment that he consented to have the American flag raised over the gov- 
ernment building; and that the departure of the "Boston" for the Big 
Island was in some sort the signal for the PG revolt (Picturesque Ha- 
waii, passim). 


Cleveland put his sentiments into acid writing: 

"The control of both sides of a bargain ... is called by a 
familiar and unpleasant name when found in private transac- 
tions ... I mistake the American people if they favor the 
odious doctrine that there is no such thing as international 
morality . . . and that even by indirection a strong power may 
with impunity despoil a weaker one of its territory/' -Robert 
McElroy, Grover Cleveland, 65. 

and then let the treaty rot. Still furious nine years later, the 
great Captain Mahan considered this glaring evidence that 
Cleveland had been unfit to govern. In Honolulu, when 
Blount sailed back to the mainland, the Royal Hawaiian Band 
played him, Georgian and former Confederate, off with 
Marching Through Georgia. The PGs insisted it was just a 
natural mistake on the part of dear old Henri Berger, German- 
reared bandmaster. 

Treaty or not, they were still in power and working hard to 
consolidate, by means of 1,200 militia, rigid control of the 
press, and fine and imprisonment for anybody heard speaking 
against them. In a few weeks they were de facto and to spare. 
Presently pame a new American Minister, Albert S. Willis, to 
put Humpty Dumpty back together again, a thankless task. 

Willis was instructed to obtain from Liliuokalani general 
amnesty for the rebels in return for American countenance in 
regaining her throne. The lady was in no mood for conditions 
touching her resumption of sovereignty. Once back on the 
throne, she told him, she would see all the rebel ringleaders 
executed as traitors; with relish she mentioned beheading. The 
most Willis could get her to concede at first was exile and con- 
fiscation of property, which would have cut a heavy swathe 
through the Honolulu business district. 62 In time she gave in 
and promised amnesty with grim reluctance. 

queen's autobiography tried hard to make all this a combination 
of verbal misunderstanding with misrepresentation. It makes much of 
the contention that beheading was not an Hawaiian custom. Yet, ac- 
cording to Sheldon Dibble (History of the Sandwich Islands, 103), 
beheading was used as penalty for tabu infringements in Liholiho's 


Willis's troubles should then have been over; but astute and 
cool parties in the PG government knew their strength and his 
weaknesses. When he suggested that they step down, they re- 
plied at polite length in a masterpiece of argument that boils 
down to: No, why should we? When he bluffed by getting 
American warships in the harbor to make ostentatious prep- 
arations for a landing in the queen's behalf, the PGs refused 
to scare; they knew that he would never dare ask American 
forces to open fire on American born or derived kinsmen in 
order to restore a dark-skinned native to any throne anywhere. 
Mainland newspaper reports overfavorable to the PGs had 
been especially poor preparation for any such move. Of corre- 
spondents on the spot, two were patently irresponsible women 
with little sense of the obligations of their job. The rebels gave 
Mary H. Krout the use of the royal throneroom as an office. 
Kate Field submitted all her despatches to the rebel cabinet 
for approval; her biographer points out happily that most of 
them passed without alteration. There is also reason to believe 
that some American naval officers, overfriendly to the PGs, let 
the rebels know they had little actually to fear. 

Between a vengeful-minded woman and a smugly arbitrary 
faction sitting on a fait accompli, Willis could do nothing. 
That is precisely what he did. While the mainland was dis- 
tracted with the panic of 1893 and the subsequent depression, 
the PGs went blandly on setting up a republic in Hawaii, 
with Dole as president. The queen stayed under surveillance 
in her private house in Honolulu. Little Kaiulani presently 
died in Scotland, where the climate is especially unkind to 

Two years later a miniature nativist revolt killed one fine 
young fellow among the PGs and implicated the queen. She 
was convicted of conspiracy, but her sentence was remitted. In 
1896, there was a diplomatic stir when the British opened 

time. The whole idea of treason in any western sense would, of course, 
have been alien to pre-white Hawaii. The conquered rebel chief was 
either knocked in the head as a sacrifice or sent home unharmed to lick 
his wounds in Coventry. 


negotiations with the PGs about leasing Necker Island for a 
cable station, the matter being dropped when Washington 

The moment William McKinley was nominated as Re- 
publican candidate for president in 1896, the PG Secretary of 
State was closeted with him at the behest of Henry Cabot 
Lodge, ardent expansionist. When McKinley beat Bryan, 
Hawaii assumed that annexation was settled. A new treaty 
went before the Senate in 1897. But it took the Spanish War, 
during which Hawaii was a fine staging base for operations in 
the Philippines, to settle the matter by way of a joint resolu- 
tion of both houses. The American flag run up at the annexa- 
tion ceremony was the same one that tactless Mr. Blount had 
had hauled down five years before. And sugar stocks boomed 
gloriously on the Honolulu stock exchange. 

Liliuokalani, who had once publicly acknowledged the 
validity of the PG government, again raised her voice in pro- 
test against annexation. Few listened. The one impressive note 
of dissent came from a retired politician named Cleveland, 
writing to Richard Olney: 

"Hawaii is ours. As I look back upon the first steps in this 
miserable business, and as I contemplate the means used to 
complete the outrage, I am ashamed of the whole affair." 
Robert McElroy, Grover Cleveland, 73. 

The constitution that the PGs had set up had had striking 
features besides its basic provision that annexation to the 
United States was part of the fundamental law of the land. 
Some sections of its bill of rights would have curled Mr. Jef- 
ferson^ hair almost as tightly as the Rev. Mr. Bingham's ideas 
on the relations of church and state: 

"Article 2; All men are free to worship God according to the 
dictates of their own consciences; but this privilege shall not 
te so construed as to justify acts of licentiousness or practices 
inconsistent with the peace or safety of the Republic. 
"Article 3: All men may freely speak, write and publish their 
sentiments on all subjects; and no law shall be enacted to re- 
strain the liberty of speech or of the press; but all persons shall 


be responsible for the abuse of such rights. Provided, however, 
that the Legislature may enact any such laws as may be neces- 
sary to restrain and prevent the publication or public utterance 
of indecent or seditious language." 

At least annexation abrogated this extraordinary document. 
But it would be another fifty years before Hawaii caught up 
with the prevalent sentiments of the mainland on formal 
human rights. 

Liliuokalani lived on, comfortably embittered. In 1910 the 
Territorial courts finally ruled out her claim to income from 
crown lands confiscated by the Republic. But, before her death, 
World War I persuaded her to display the flag of the govern- 
ment that succeeded the usurpers, and even to appear on the 
same platform as Judge Dole at a Red Cross rally. 

"Honolulu ... a civilization which, if not very distinguished, 
is certainly very elaborate/ 7 W. Somerset Maugham, The 
Trembling of a Leaf, 208. 

With annexation the pertinence of the case history of Hawaii 
might have ended. But as it has turned out, modern Hawaii is 
worth accounting for in its own right. 

The Islands were annexed as a small but solid going con- 
cern dominated by vigorous men accustomed to self-righteous 
power. The United States Constitution had never envisaged 
integrating highly organized communities into the Union as 
either States or Territories; as in the previous case of Mormon 
Utah, there were embarrassments on both sides when the thing 
was tried. In fixing the status of Hawaii Congress was con- 
siderate; to quell Hawaiian uneasiness about "carpetbaggers," 
for instance, it was provided that the Territorial governor, 
though appointed from Washington, should have resided in 
the Territory for at least five years. And President McKinley 
was tactful; President Dole of the superseded Republic of 
Hawaii became Governor without even moving out of his 

That looked promising. But the PCs were too parochial for 


friction not to arise. The suspicion, sometimes expressed before 
annexation, that faraway Washington might not have Island 
interests sufficiently at heart soon proved well founded. The 
PGs suggested confidently that Congress should exempt Ha- 
waii from the provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act; else 
how could the plantations maintain their labor supply? In 
Honolulu it was obvious that a right-minded government would 
consent, whatever California might think about it; so Honolulu 
was grieved when Congress failed to agree. Further disappoint- 
ment came when the strains of the early twentieth century cut 
off fresh Japanese labor from the cane fields. 

Still annexation also gave the manpower-hungry planters 
new cards because the poor man's empire that the States ac- 
quired from Spain offered several likely sources of labor within 
United States jurisdiction. Porto Ricans were tried first. 
Though sturdy, they proved unruly. Filipinos were far better; 
thousands of them were brought in on short-term contracts 
and sugar was easy in its mind again. Well into the nineteen- 
thirties it was largely the Little Brown Brother who cut the 
cane that sweetened the coffee of that portion of the American 
public using Hawaiian sugar. 

There was another early shock when the first Territorial 
legislature contained a nativist and "antimissionary" majority 
for "Home Rule." The forces that had made even PGs admit 
in 1893 that a plebiscite would vote for retaining the throne 
and independence were still strong. But the PGs 7 heirs quietly 
infiltrated local politics with discreet use of power, and no 
such scandal occurred again. The Islands rather quickly re- 
verted to Big Five-controlled economic development. 

The new Territory acquired two new industries pineapple 
and tourists, both comfortable sources of mainland funds with 
which to pay for mainland supplies. This reliance on other 
climes for the necessities of life had begun long ago when 
missionaries sent home for flour and calico instead of using 
taro and tapa, and suppressed schemes to distill in the Islands 
the 1 rum that sailors on liberty bought so greedily. By now the 
Islands that once fed 300,000 Hawaiians pretty well import 


six-tenths of what they eat beef is the only item in which they 
are nearly self-supporting -and practically all their apparel, 
building material, furniture and production goods. The same 
factor-corporations that control the plantations are importing 
agents and own shipping-lines, thus taking the underwriter's, 
carrier's and salesman's cut coming and going. 

Before Pearl Harbor the armed forces fretted over how awk- 
ward it would be if Hawaii were cut off by enemy action or 
dearth of shipping from mainland ports, and tried to get at 
least more green stuff raised on the premises. Such efforts came 
to little until 1941. Honolulu has the impression that some of 
the ruling influences preferred not to see alterations in the 
pattern that tied the Islands so firmly to well r controlled pro- 
cedures. So these tropical paradises import practically all their 
oranges, some fish, and most of the curios they sell; and prac- 
tically everything produced goes eastward in bags or cans. Even 
the girls in the stiffly regulated pre-Pearl Harbor Honolulu 
brothels were imports from the coast on six-month tours of 
duty, with the police prohibiting local talent from such em- 
ployment. 63 In practically suppressing both commercial fish- 
ing and controlled brothels, the recent war made inconsistent 
changes in this situation. But it is not likely that, as ties be- 
tween the Islands and the mainland grow daily closer, the 
fundamentals of the picture will ever change. 

James D. Dole, a relative outsider, though a distant cousin 
and admirer of Sanford B., first showed Hawaii, not that pine- 
apple would grow there that had long been knownbut that 
the mainland would pay well for it in cans. This crop did not 
compete with sugar, preferring higher and drier lands, so 
Dole's company went as far as it liked and was not taken over 
by the Big Five until the great depression gave the easy op- 
portunity. The other two large Island pineapplegrowers are 
mainland canning corporations that get along quite harmoni- 
ously with Island interests. Pineapple has been good for the 
Islands. It put otherwise useless land to work, increased gross 

idea was not original. Mediaeval Avignon tried it. (Sumner, 
Folkways, 530.) 


income for ships serving Hawaii, gave the Islands much free 
publicity in the skilful and glamorous advertising that sold 
canned pineapple to the mainland public; it even improved the 
appearance of the place. Cane is a frowsy, sprawly crop, rather 
like gigantic crab grass, which looks worse the nearer you get; 
whereas nothing can be handsomer, close up or far away, than 
the sweeping precise rows of gray-green pineapple plants against 
the red soil of an upland plantation on Lanai or Oahu. 

The tourist industry began earlier but developed more 
slowly. Back in the Kamehamehas' time the government built 
an expensive hotel in mid-Honolulu for visiting firemen and 
the occasional pleasure traveler of the day; the cost made a 
small scandal that ruined a couple of political reputations. In 
1892 a visiting Frenchman noted that the attractions of the 
volcano and a bland winter climate were building up a small 
but steady tourist business. But it took an outsider, the late 
Alexander Hume Ford, to turn it into something with cumula- 
tive momentum. This energetic mainlander, journalist and 
precocious playwright of The Little Confederate, struck the 
Islands looking for dramatic material in 1910 and stayed to 
make a career of promoting them. Witnessing his amateur ef- 
forts in the midst of apathy, Jack London wrote of the Island- 
ers: "They are poor boosters/' 64 Twenty years later, so well did 
Ford's work bear fruit, nobody in his right mind could have 
said such a thing. 

Surfriding, a sport then practically dead among natives, 
practiced only occasionally at Lahaina, was what particularly 
caught Ford's eupeptic eye. He had practically to revive the 
art singlehanded. But in a short time he had the hang of it, 
was teaching it to others, and begging from the estate of Queen 
Emma the site of the now famous Outrigger Club on Waikiki 
Beach, international headquarters of surfriding on both boards 
and canoes. Whether intentionally or not, Ford had here a 
natural for advertising art. The surfrider was the best piece of 
visual promotion since His Master's Voice. That bronzed 
Kanaka standing precariously godlike on the forward rush of 
^In Charmian London, Our Hawaii, 7. 


a Waikiki comber has been worth millions to the Islands evei 
since. 65 

Promotion also had climate, palms, active volcanoes, .hula- 
dancers and tropical fruits to work with. As better steamers 
came on the run, as veterans of the Spanish-American war 
and articulate visitors like the Londons told the mainland how 
lovely the Islands are, a truth that neither cynicism nor over- 
selling can mar, things began to move. In due season Waikiki, 
that cluttered strip of sand which disappoints so many, was 
endowed with the kind of fame that attaches to the Folies 
Bergeres, the Pyramids, the Cheshire Cheese, the Jungfrau 
and Old Faithful. The place had come a long way from being 
a mere seaside suburb where Hawaiian royalty relaxed in seclu- 
sion. With neon lights, souvenir joints, sit up lunches and 
cottage colonies, Kalakaua Avenue may not look as much like 
Coney Island as hand-wringing Jcamaainas 66 say it does, but the 
spiritual resemblance is strong. 

In the 'twenties the tourist business was far enough along 
for an overenterprising California press-agent to convince the 
powers in the land that big time publicity was worth spending 
money on. In this period grandiose steamers were built for the 
California Hawaii run, since doing noble service as transports 
in the recent war, and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, that pink 
pavilion of princely delights, was built smack in the middle of 
Waikiki. Tourist revenue helped force more and better roads 
and interisland plane service. When the Japanese struck Pearl 
Harbor from the north, they flew over one of the world's best 
organized places-to-go. The only thing for which the Hawaiian 
Tourist Bureau cannot provide in normal times is an eruption 
of Kilauea to order. 

Yet perhaps ungratefully, perhaps with good taste, the 
modern haole is not always pleased with the tourist He sus- 

also organized the Pan-Pacific Institute to make Honolulu the 
intellectual and informational center of the Pacific littoral, an objective 
which, though by no means wholly achieved, was intelligent. 
^'Old-timer" in modern Hawaiian jargon; original meaning "child oi 
the land." 


pects that his cash-dripping visitor, whether Hollywood star 
or vacationing schoolmarm, is unreliable, slightly ridiculous, 
and probably vulgar. The upper levels of established haole 
society send their sons to conservative mainland colleges, have 
been long accustomed to ample incomes suavely spent, and 
are still marked with missionary respectability and Anglophile 
snobbishness. They pay the bills for press-agentry through sub- 
sidiary corporations, but they themselves could never have 
created such ballyhoo about their patrimony. Nor do they 
fancy the prospect that, if the tourist business is still to pay, 
Hawaii will have to furnish more and better second-class ac- 
commodations and cater to two-week flying trippers demand- 
ing more than Waikiki affords. The outer Islands, hitherto 
little touched by tourists, are fated to resort development. That 
will show the vacationing visitor a great many beautiful things, 
but it will also occasion gnashing of teeth among the better 

Another kind of outsider, the plantation worker, presented 
one of the Islands' more curious problems by refusing to stay 
an outsider. As soon as the children of successive waves of such 
immigrants were processed by the universal free education that 
is a credit to Hawaii, they would have nothing to do with 
plantation jobs. As annexation made further recruiting more 
difficult, sugar growers launched on schemes to make the hands' 
life more attractive. A plantation had always been a little world 
in itself, lodging and rudimentary social services thrown in 
with the meagre wages, so there was a tradition to work with. 
By the mid-thirties most of the slatternly old shacks were gone. 
The characteristic, though not universal, picture was a neat 
company village with fresh paint, some plumbing, free athletic 
facilities, free movies, free medical services, free baby clinics. 
Even the company store, that handiest instrument of extortion, 
sold at competitive prices and often permitted outsiders to set 
up shop next door on company land. 

To management's bewilderment, however, this guarded 
lavishness and lavish it looked by comparison often got the 
plantations denounced for subversive paternalism. Nor did it 


stop the drift away from cane labor. The field hand, of what- 
ever origin, had imbibed too much of the American idea. He 
did not want secluded paternalism for his children; he wanted 
them to do something that seemed to him and them better 
than swinging a cane knife. True, he was healthier, better paid 
and fed than he would have been on similar work in Colorado 
or Louisiana. But he didn't like it and when, at the instance 
of either his own leaders or mainland organizers, he tried to 
form a union through which to express discontent, there was 
always bigger trouble with the boss, and sometimes the Na- 
tional Guard, than he could cope with. For years his only re- 
course was to get off the plantation in his own person or that 
of his children. So the Chinese, Portuguese, Koreans and Jap- 
anese who once provided the sweat for sugar now do most of 
the Islands' storekeeping, gas pumping, taxi driving, clothes 
pressing, table waiting, as well as schoolgoing. 

Of the thousand effects of World War II on Hawaii, all 
tending somehow to knit the Islands more closely to the main- 
land, none was more important than the capitulation of Island 
management to the organization of Island labor. The Wagner 
Act began the process. But it was the armed forces' need of 
steadily working hands and centralization of labor responsi- 
bility that completed it. Both sugar and pineapple are now 
thoroughly organized by the C.I.O., in the shape of the Inter- 
national Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. The 
A.F. of L. is much stronger than it was in scattering trades. To 
the mainlander that may not sound very striking, but to any- 
body who knows the Islands at all it is as epoch-marking as if 
Andrew Mellon had suggested the Internationale as the 
national anthem. 

One conspicuous result is the elimination of plantation 
"paternalism." The Hawaiian Pineapple Company led the way 
in 1946, putting company housing in the hands of a body of 
outside trustees who collect rents and otherwise act as land- 
lords, setting up a cooperative doctoring program on an actu- 
arial basis, generally dropping the old tradition of see-what- 
the-boss-does-for-you. The sugar companies followed suit in 


1947 as one sequel of a prolonged strike notable for the fact 
that, though both sides wanted such "perquisites" eliminated, 
neither could resist the temptation to use them as a bargaining 
point. Why the unions want paternalism extinguished is clear 
enough. But the employers' willingness to see it go is obscure, 
since for years it was the backbone of their personnel policies. 
Actually, this shift in attitude is a fruit of U.S. social policies 
since 1933. Every year more and more headaches piled up as 
various Washington agencies insisted on differing estimates of 
the cash value of "perquisites/' Every time a new union con- 
tract was to be negotiated, wrangling over the same issue added 
confusion to a situation already aggravated enough. Gradually 
the employers had come round to feeling that the whole 
tangled business was more trouble than it was worth. A main- 
lander could have told them that twenty years ago. But in the 
Islands lessons sink in with semi-Bourbon slowness. 

The Island employer and the lower Echelons of Island union 
leaders are, and will be for a generation, well below even the 
mainland level of labor relations. But eventually here is a 
rash prediction the Islands' tradition of centralization and 
situation-freezing will probably win out, and the holding 
company-factors will find unionization an asset from the point 
of view of management. As many a mainland employer al- 
ready knows, it simplifies matters to deal with a monolithic 
union. That amounts to a sort of informal N.R.A. Hawaiian 
union leaders now have in mind a campaign of gradual attri- 
tion to break up the firm control of the "Big Five" over the 
Islands' production of export crops. But they may find in the 
long run that they have instead introduced the very mechanism 
that will enable the Big Five to stay snug in the citadel while 
conceding the outworks. 

The unions will probably have to insist on a certain amount 
of "featherbedding," for instance, always a defensive tactic. As 
war made labor scarce in the Islands, the plantations had 
frantically to mechanize their operations. They succeeded so 
well with harvesting machinery that it is no longer true that 
the field hand with the cane knife is absolutely indispensable. 


Tons of cane gathered per man-hour increased amazingly, de- 
mand for unskilled labor slacked off for keeps, need for semi- 
skilled or skilled labor skyrocketed, and total numbers on 
agricultural pay rolls dipped sharply. There is no good reason 
why they should ever increase again. A further dip is likelier. 
With Hawaii as isolated as she is, precluding much migration 
to outside labor markets, this permanent diminution in the 
plantations' demand for help is a serious thing in a community 
now half a million strong. Post-war dislocations have post- 
poned this effect. But as matters tend to seek their level, Ha- 
waiian labor, which was being coaxed into the fields ten years 
ago, will find itself in a less favorable bargaining position. That 
is just one of the elements that make the aforesaid private 
N.R.A. likely in the Islands. 

Much of that parallels similar developments on the main- 
land, and so ties in with the likelihood that Hawaii will soon 
become the forty-ninth state. 

To have taken Hawaii into the sisterhood of the Union be- 
fore the recent war would have meant admitting a privately 
owned principality thirty years behind the times in economic 
organization. Though the matter had been perennially 
broached ever since 1900, the Big Five passively resisted state- 
hood, preferring the insulation of Territorial status. But they 
changed their minds hastily when New Deal controls classed 
Hawaiian sugar in a status inferior to mainland-grown sugar- 
just what happened when the McKinley tariff made annexation 

Such discrimination would certainly never have occurred if, 
instead of a mere nonvoting Territorial delegate in Congress, 
Hawaii had had a couple of senators and a couple of repre- 
sentatives swapping votes in the cloakrooms. The cry that, 
even as a Territory, Hawaii was an integral part of the Union 
and no stepchild, developed into an intensive campaign to in- 
sure the future with statehood. A local plebiscite taken shortly 
before the war showed two-to-one in favor. That was not en- 
tirely due to Big Five publicity campaigns either, for a good 
many people in the Islands had always felt that, if the powers 


that were didn't want statehood, it must be a good thing. Now 
there seems to be a corresponding feeling among some of the 
same people that, if the Big Five want it so badly, it must be a 
bad thing. But by and large, Island sentiment, whether among 
management of Island business, Island labor or Islanders in 
general, is united behind the project, which may well come 
to pass before this book reaches the bookstores. Necessary 
legislation passed the lower house in the Congress of 1947. 

World War II robbed uneasy mainland legislators of the 
one plausible reason why Hawaii should not become a state 
the presence there of too many Japanese of dubious loyalty. 
The point was not ill-taken. The largest single ethnic group 
in the Islands, the Japanese stuck by themselves more rigidly 
than other groups, insisted on special, privately supported 
schools teaching their children Japanese and heaven only knew 
what else, and even set up a Young Men's Buddhist Associa- 
tion with close connections in Japan. Honolulu, as well as 
Congress, was chronically nervous about so many apparently 
confirmed outlanders having so many children who would 
automatically become U.S. citizens with votes. Shrill states- 
men objected to the possibility of U.S. senators named Yama- 
moto. ... 

The war-record of Hawaii's Japanese changed all that. The 
F.B.I. has officially announced that no act of sabotage by a 
local-born Japanese was detected during the entire proceedings. 
Older Japanese, many precluded by law from citizenship, dis- 
tinguished themselves in civilian war activities. The younger 
men in uniform hung up a record for gallantry in action equal 
to that of any men who ever fought under the Stars and 
Stripes. By miraculous inspiration the War Department neg- 
lected the grudging precedent of World War I, when Jap- 
anese were used only as garrison troops in the Islands. Two 
combat units of Hawaiian Japanese were activated and sent to 
Italy, where they dived into German fighting, in one of the 
most grueling theatres of war, with a pluck and skill that made 
them immortal. Other local Japanese, assigned to intelligence 
and hide-out hunting in the Pacific theatre, were equally loyal 


and brilliant in less dramatic circumstances. Japanese names 
grimly predominate in Hawaiian lists of war dead. True, these 
boys were on a spot and knew it. They were watched most 
suspiciously until they proved themselves. But neither fear nor 
time-serving could account for the dash and integration of 
their performance, and it grew steadily clearer that the Ha- 
waii-born Japanese U.S. citizen was unexpectedly close to being 
as good an American as anybody else. When Hawaii does be- 
come a state, it will be more than anything else the doing of 
the tough, stocky, indefatigable Nisei who fought in the rubbly 
hell of Cassino. 

That is an unmistakable compliment to the degree to which 
Hawaii has avoided racial strains. It was never true, though the 
Jhaole still piously tells the outsider so, that racial friction has 
never existed in the Islands. The Chinese, who used to be 
played up before the war as everything admirable that the 
Japanese were not, are now targets of considerable backbiting. 
It is said they made too much money out of the war, their 
syndicates (hui ) are buying into or undermining haole busi- 
ness, they will bear a lot of watching ... all in a vein un- 
comfortably cognate with the situation of the Chinese in 
Tahiti or, if you like, that of the Jew in Berlin twenty years 
ago. And there are few signs that the marked social cleavage 
between the Iiaole and everybody else that always characterized 
the Islands, and was bridged only by the best-accepted and 
usually chief -descended Hawaiians is yet starting -to break 
down. But on the whole a mutual tolerance admirably pro- 
moted by Hawaii's public schools and encouraged by the local 
tradition of intermarriage between ethnic groups has kept 
trouble to a gratifying minimum, certainly less than most 
mainland communities would have shown under the same 

Hawaiians, Portuguese, Chinese, Porto Ricans, Koreans, 
even Japanese to an increasing extent, mix gloriously, though 
not always by formal marriage, into a conglomeration of stocks 
that, anthropologists predict, will result in a new, vigorous 
and quick-on-the-uptake type of average resident of the Ha- 


waiian Islands. The partnership notices in Honolulu news- 
papers customarily read like these samples: 

Jimmie's Light Lunch, lunchwagon business, located at Heeia, 
Kaneohe, Oahu; partners, James C. Crawford, Dorothy Pactol, 
Bernice Kauhana, Mary Wong Chong . , . 

International Construction Company, general contracting 
business, located at 939 Hauoli Street, Honolulu; partners, 
Harry H. Y. Kim, Hilario C. Hoomanawanui, Francis I, Sato, 
Kershaw A. Weston ... 

All that is far enough from the hushed, cool business palaces 
in which the Big Five ponder the problem of keeping the 
economic keys of the Islands decently in haole hands. But the 
insulation between the two categories of people is wearing 
steadily thinner, and the hybrid Islander is the clue to what- 
ever the future of the Islands may be. 

Anthropologists consider that the Hawaiian strain in these 
people will not be lost, but rather will contribute markedly to 
their physical endowment and cultural patterns. One hopes 
they are right. There is some dignity in that sort of survival. 
The Polynesian came of at least a three-way ethnic mixture. 
Even from the point of view of the hysterical race purist, there 
is no tenable reason why he should not be thrown back into 
the stockpot as an ingredient in a new formula. Many of his 
comrades in this experiment could use the broad shoulders 
and heavy musculature of the Hawaiian as well as the smiling 
nonchalance and the hedonistic values that will form part of 
the background of successive generations of steadily hybridiz- 
ing children. Thus the Hawaiian may not die out, but be born 
again. Certainly there is no dignity in the alternative artificial 
survival of the Hawaiian as a half-pauperized, specially privi- 
leged member of a minority, in the Islands he once dominated. 

As of now, the native's balance sheet is necessarily depress- 
ing. The number of fullblood Hawaiians has shrunk below a 
twentieth of the population. Of haole contributions to living, 
the Hawaiian has made important use of clothes he likes gay 
garments church and fraternal organizations, alcohol which 


is bad for him tobacco, and education. That is, he is as literate 
as the rest of the Island's admirably .literate local-born people. 
Intensive, large-scale agriculture has pretty well passed him by, 
of which he is probably glad. So far no effort to homestead 
him back on the land has worked too well He is forbidden to 
alienate title to such holdings, so he usually leases his modest 
allotment of fertile soil to a big plantation which does most of 
the work more efficiently than he could alone, harvests and 
sells the crop and pays the owner a share that, combined with 
odd fishing and perhaps a small taro patch, keeps him alive, 
cheerful and relaxed. It amounts to what Crawford called 
"merely absentee landlordism on a small scale/' 67 Yet the 
dominating haoles, inclined to keep Hawaiians for pets, are 
patronizingly eager to give them opportunities. As early as 
1924 Adams found that 36% of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian 
men were in "pref erred occupations" compared to 26% for 
Chinese and Japanese. 

Many Hawaiians are by no means unwilling to trade on the 
Iiaole's sentimental patronage. The missionaries contributed to 
this when they taught their converts white man's music. The 
original native music, though by no means simple as per- 
formed, was so primitive in organization that the missionary 
erroneously concluded that the native knew nothing of music 
at all. Since Christianity implied mass worship and that im- 
plied hymns, the mission early translated Yankee hymns into 
Hawaiian and taught the appropriate tunes to brands about to 
be snatched from the burning. Whether converts or not, 
Hawaiians took to haole-style singing with the enthusiasm of 
a Chautauqua audience and developed their own music on 
the haole diatonic scale. Sailors' songs contributed; an unmis- 
takably Spanish influence came by way of the Mexican vaqueros 
brought in for cattle ranching. But you need be no trained 
musician to perceive that the singing of the Hawaiian chorus 
that serenades your ship as you land in Honolulu is just a new 
and most intriguing version of the way they attack In the 
Sweet Bye-arzd-bye in an Iowa country church. The influence is 
^Paradox in Hawaii, 174. 


still there, though less identifiable, in the stunning choir of 
Kawaiahao church. In less formal contexts, the "Hawaiian" 
music that the mainland first met in Aloha Oe has very little 
to do with the sounds that entertained the grandfather of 
Kamehameha the Great and a great, great deal to do with 
Moody and Sankey. "Hawaiian" instruments are also exotics. 
They say the Portuguese brought the guitar, which became the 
steel guitar when a nail was run up the vibrating strings. A 
miniature guitar became the ukulele. 68 

It need astound nobody previously acquainted with what 
"natives" do with white man's things that this world-wel- 
comed style of popular music should stem from the nasal 
carolings of bleak Yankee housewives filtered through instru- 
ments brought by crossbred and underprivileged Iberians. In 
Hawaiian music folk- or tin-pan-alley tunes from the mainland 
are often taken over, coming out, still hauntingly recognizable, 
as in the close affinity of The Cockeyed Mayor of Keaunalcafcai 
with Casey Jones. 

This music could have been pure gain for the Hawaiian in 
fractional recompense for all the haoles robbed him of. Actu- 
ally it is often the means to further degeneration, since it helps 
to produce the class of professional Hawaiians which is now 
the single most distressing aspect of the remains of Kame- 
hameha's people. Hawaiian music from Hawaiian musicians is 
the keystone of Island tourist ballyhoo, the universally recog- 
nized signature of the whole grass-skirt-bottom-wriggling- 
beach-at-Waikiki complex. Still, more than musicians is 
needed. Languorous isles completely equipped with trade 
winds, palms, and private baths must have several varieties 
of picturesque natives to match. For those eligible the assign- 
ment is no empty honor. Fat Kanaka women had always sold 
leis 09 on the streets of Honolulu, but now it is a solid business, 
said normally to take in $200,000 a year, with a trade associa- 

word is Hawaiian for flea, literally "jumping louse/' presumably 
in token of the player's briskly shifting left-hand fingers. 
60 Flower-wreaths used in complimentary greeting and as general orna- 
ments; the word also applies to wreaths of shells and feathers. 


tion to control prices. At prices charged in wartime Honolulu 
and after, it must have been a million. And the "beach-boy/' 
looking startlingly child-of-nature, was hired by Waikiki hotels 
to teach guests to surfride, massage them in the old Hawaiian 
way, and, when not otherwise engaged, clown enthusiastically 
on the sand. 

Such a person is an embarrassing object. His success and that 
of professional Hawaiians in general, hula-dancers and hula- 
teachers, musicians, singers, guides, was so marked that even 
Jiaole residents of Honolulu this is true most notably among 
mainland born white-collar immigrants came to swallow the 
implications of tourist ballyhoo almost as readily as the tourists 
themselves. Their womenfolk actually take hula lessons, and are 
ever after prone to kick off their shoes after dining with a few 
friends and go to slithering on the living room rug. The con- 
temporary hula, luau 70 , and Hawaiian make them pine fot the 
old days before Captain Cook landed. They might as well dine 
in Mexico City on chicken enchiladas, learn to sing La Cuca- 
racha and feel themselves in tune with the pre-Cortez days 
when priests tore out steaming human hearts in the war-gods' 

Professional Hawaiianism occasionally combines with Kala- 
kaua-like nativism to produce something even more troubling. 
I remember a middle-aged Hawaiian who made a career of 
building and living in a prewhite style house, reverting to poi 
eaten strictly from a calabash, wearing the malo and admitting 
tourists to see a real live Hawaiian living as in the old days. 
The interior was stuck full of inscribed visiting cards of in- 
dustrialists, admirals, film stars, chief stewards off ships, and 
others who the proprietor had been given to understand were 
important. He had a smooth, fluid patter competently describ- 
ing in excellent English every detail of the establishment, 
the pseudopoetic phrase "in the olden times" pat at the end of 
every other sentence: ". . . everything just the way it was in 
the olden times. Everything was an art then and I am an 

TO Native-styIe feast, including poi and roast pig, at a price, hula girls 


artist the way they were in the olden times ... I have read 
books and done research and I give lectures about the way 
things were in the olden times . . ." The last time I saw the 
place, he had ready to hang up at the roadside a wooden sign 
lettered "Nature's Kingdom" in pink painted shells. Yet the 
man's craftinanship was superb; better, to judge from old 
accounts, than much of his people's prewhite work; and he 
was unquestionably clinging, primarily from emotional causes, 
only secondarily for a livelihood, to the cultural heritage that 
the haole shattered. 

As Adams' figures showed, however, many a native has a 
constructive and useful place in the modern Islands. He is 
often a policeman, skilled craftsman or seaman; as previously 
noted, he makes an admirable cowhand in the important Ha- 
waiian beef industry, if handled on a sernifeudal basis. In spite 
of vestigial remnants of incongruent ways of doing and of 
artificialities in his environment, his future looks far better 
than it did when, in the 'eighties, interloping populations first 
outnumbered him. The adjustment was unnecessarily brutal, 
but the worst of it is over now, and he is certain to survive as 
significant flavoring in a sturdy new race. This last may be 
a judgment on the missionaries. The thing that has made this 
kind of survival certain has been the Hawaiian's easygoing and 
enthusiastic eroticism, which the missions did their very special 
best to eradicate. 

There is what happened to Hawaii, an account necessarily 
telescoped. Many residents of the Islands will not like it. But 
then few of them ever have liked anything objective written 
about themselves, as responsible writers have found to their 
sorrow ever since the mid-century. Some used shrinkingly to 
apologize to their Island friends in advance. Hawaii is too 
small, too self-conscious, and too vulnerable to afford objec- 
tivity about itself. There was a tale, which I hope is true and 
is certainly true in spirit, of a Honolulu haole encountering a 
newspaperman on the day of Pearl Harbor and barking at him 
indignantly: "I suppose the mainland papers will exaggerate 


The intention here, however, was not to concentrate on 
special angles of Hawaii. Remember this is a laboratory sample. 
Acquaintance with Kamehameha helps in understanding 
Pomare of Tahiti, Cakobau of Fiji, George Tubou of Tonga; 
Kalakaua's nativism helps explain the processes that still seethe 
in Samoa . . . No two South Seas peoples are alike. But 
pressures on them were often identical and many of the con- 
sequences were sadly similar. 



In the Name of His Majesty 

Having all these fine ships and clothes, and know- 
ing all about engines and glass and the like, what- 
ever makes you white people come out here, where 
we have so little to give you? 

Fijian chief to Stonehewer Cooper, 
The Islands of the Pacific, 106 


ask themselves what on earth they are doing there anyway 
not always an easy question to answer. History offers little 
coherent help except to hint that the western world intruded 
originally because of faulty geography and persisted because 
of some false, some sound, assumptions sparked by ill-directed 

Magellan, first to sail these waters, was sound enough; he 
was demonstrating that East Indian spices could be secured 
by sailing through the American barrier. But his only discovery 
in the South Seas proper was the Marianas, 1 so pointless at the 
time that a century and a half elapsed before Spain did any- 
thing about them. Mendana, sent out from Peru in 1567, 
sought rich kingdoms on the Inca-Aztec pattern and found only 
the Solomons. They did not fit specifications, though their 
name commemorates their discoverer's baseless assertion that 

was the final name of the group comprising Guam, Rota, Tinian r 
Saipan and the long tail of volcanic islets north toward Japan. Impressed 
by the rig of the natives' splendid sailing canoes, Magellan first called 
them the Islands of Lateen Sails; after experiencing the expert light- 
fingeredness of the natives of Guam, he changed it to the Islands of 
Thieves (Ladrones). 



they were the former site of King Solomon's mines. Miners 
brought along, just in case, had said they thought gold might 
be found there and three hundred and fifty years later were 
proved correct. 

Navigation was still so primitive that, though the explorer 
could tell roughly how far north or south he was (latitude), 
east and west (longitude) were still a mere mathematical trap. 
So, though the Solomons group is hundreds of miles long and 
well over a hundred wide, Mendana could not find it again 
when he tried to found a colony there thirty-eight years later. 
Instead, in the first appearance of whites in Polynesia, he 
stumbled on the Marquesas and then on the Santa Cruz group, 
where he grandiloquently and elaborately set up his colony. It 
disintegrated under quarrels and disease almost as soon as 
founded. One of Mendana's associates, de Quiros, tried again 
in 1605 from Callao, found the New Hebrides, which he mis- 
took for a continent, and made another abortive settlement. 
JLuis de Torres, in charge of one of his ships, first navigated the 
hazardous passage between Australia and New Guinea called 
Torres Strait. These far-sailing Dons intrigue romantic- 
minded students, but that was the sum of their accomplish- 

Thenceforth Spanish exploring energy flagged. Though the 
west coast of South America was an excellent take-off area for 
Pacific discovery, Spain used her arrogantly claimed new 
ocean only as a highway. Yearly a great galleon sailed from 
Manila for Mexico, using Guam as seamark, working north to 
pick up favoring winds for California, then south to Acapulco. 
There her silks and spices from the Asiatic trade of Manila 
procured Mexican silver for the eternally silver-hungry East; 
her return trip was made in low north latitudes below Hawaii. 
On these routes Spanish skippers discovered, but made little 
stir about, several Micronesian islands. Making a stir would 
have been difficult if they had wished to; their reports disap- 
peared into the royal archives, for jealous Spain wanted out- 
siders to know as little as possible of the Pacific. 

There was good reason. Outward- or homeward-bound, the 


Manila galleon made a rich prize. Periodically English raiders 
braved Cape Horn and scurvy to try to intercept her. During 
a hundred and fifty years several actually succeeded in this 
hunt for a square-rigged needle in an oceanic haystack. Their 
tales were good reading but their discoveries scanty they had 
no time for exploration and their presence was significant' 
only to the annoyed Spaniards. They did contribute to the 
task of investigating the Pacific, however, through excessive 
loss of human life. Anson sailed from England with five ships 
in 1740; he made Tinian (Marianas) for badly needed supplies 
with only his flagship left and barely enough survivors of all 
five to work her. He took the galleon right enough; but he also 
demonstrated that, even under brilliant command., cruising 
this ocean from European bases was hardly practical unless 
navigation and marine hygiene greatly improved. The odds 
were appalling: a scholar's compilation of French voyages South 
Sea-wards up to Bougainville's time shows 168 ships sailing, 
only 117 returning. 

It could be done, given luck as well as skill. In 1615 
Schouten and Le Maire, a pair of brash Dutchmen, grew res- 
tive under the Dutch East India Company monopoly which 
forbade potential competitors in the spice trade to enter the 
Pacific by either the Straits of Magellan or the Cape of Good 
Hope the only known ways. They set out to find a third, and 
did, at least technically: Le Maire's name sticks to the strait 
that led them round Cape Horn, Schouten's to a group of 
islands once conspicuous in war news. The Company, skeptical 
of their technical excuse, jailed them when they made the In- 
dies, but en route they had become mildly immortal by dis- 
covering something that was probably Tonga and contributing 
to the delineation of New Guinea. 

The king Dutchman among Pacific navigators, Tasman, 
whose name remains in Tasmania and the Tasman Sea, was 
a Company man based on the Indies, which simplified prob- 
lems immensely. His complications, and his fame, came from 
looking for something that was not there. Geography then 
taught that the known world was badly out of balance, the 


masses of Asia-Europe and North America being countered 
only by Africa and slender South America. Yet the world 
was obviously stable; hence there had to be a still undiscovered 
Great South Continent in Atlantic or Pacific. De Quiros had 
already been looking for it; for hundreds of years exploring 
captains were ordered to find what science insisted on adum- 
brating, all being successively disappointed. But their searching 
did a great deal to tape out the greatest of oceans. Thus, in 
16423, Tasman found not only Tasmania and New Zealand; 
he also went home north-about and was the first white man to 
lay eyes on Fiji. 

He came near leaving his and his ship's bones in Fiji, which 
still has a nasty name among sailors for sneaky reefs, fickle 
winds, and treacherous currents. When captains of steamers 
and motor vessels feel that way in waters now fairly well 
charted, the reader should try to imagine what navigating them 
was like without charts, in vessels fundamentally at the mercy 
of wind, wave, and current. By modern standards Tasman was 
a sketchy navigator; science had not yet developed the compli- 
cated, accurate gadgets and tables that lighten the task. But he 
and his predecessors and successors among first-class Pacific 
discoverers must have had most sagacious instincts and dia- 
bolical skill in seamanship. Small as they were by modem 
standards, their ships drew so much water and loomed so high 
that they were death-traps in any but expert hands, when pick- 
ing their way through unknown island groups. The few sen- 
tences in an old book that tell how Tasman shot the reef in 
Fiji when there was no other chance of safety are the more 
stirring for their brevity. One lookout peering from the bow, 
another at the masthead, the skipper himself often going aloft 
when things were thick, two hands heaving the lead with 
interminable apprehension, the crew twitching at their sta- 
tions as the leadsmen called shoaler and shoaler figures, the 
whole ship whispering through the water and seeming herself 
to shrink from the not-so-distant sound of invisible breakers 
that sort of thing, routine for days on end, makes it clear 
how plucky and competent such captains as Tasman were. 


The great period of Pacific navigation began in the middle of 
the eighteenth century and was galvanized by rivalry between 
France and England. The Spanish were asleep, waking only 
momentarily after Wallis, Cook, and Bougainville, in a feckless 
effort to settle Tahiti. The Dutch were realistically confining 
their energies to exploiting the already known-to-be-rich East 
Indies. But Britain and France were at semi-permanent odds 
in America and India, and the attrition of their friction soon 
shredded away Spain's claim to the whole South Sea. Small 
and large considerations like the China trade, the strategic ad- 
vantages of the Falkland Islands, the possibilities of trade with 
the western coast of South America, drew jealous attention to 
the desirability of shortening routes to the Pacific. The legend 
of the Great South Continent, which would be a lordly prize, 
was supplemented by equally hoary hopes of a short cut into 
the great ocean, a Northwest or perhaps Northeast Passage 
that would ease by thousands of miles and months of high 
hardship the known ways of getting from Bordeaux or Bristol 
to Canton or Callao. An old-time Spanish sailor named Juan 
de Fuca had found something quite like this strategic strait 
generations before. In the seafaring thought of the time this 
idea was as pivotal as that of a canal through Central America 
was in the nineteenth century, affecting international policy 
for generations before the job was actually carried out. 

So emphasis shifted from raiding to exploration. Com- 
modore Byron, a former lieutenant of Anson, was sent in 1764 
to forestall the French in the Falklands and to smell out possi- 
bilities in the Pacific. When he succeeded in getting home 
again without proving much, one of his officers, Samuel Wallis, 
was sent out again to prove more. The French were close be- 
hind: the Sieur de Bougainville, a gallant young veteran of the 
French wars in Canada, set out on an assignment similar to 
Wallis'. By extraordinary coincidence both made previously 
unknown Tahiti within less than a year of one another. With 
British luck, Wallis was first. Bougainville also saw much of 
the New Hebrides and rediscovered the long lost Solomons so 
far from where Mendana had thought they were that he was 


not at all sure of the identification; his name lives in Bougain- 
ville Island of evil memory and in a lovely flowering vine. Cap- 
tain Carteret, in command of Wallis' consort, was early 
separated from him and came home with other independent 
discoveries of some importance. 

These voyages so encouraged British interest that Wallis 
was hardly home before James Cook, already noted for a skil- 
ful survey of Newfoundland waters, was sent to follow up. 
King of seagoing discoverers, this country boy had gone to sea 
through the hawsehole, learning sailoring in the tricky English 
coastwise coal trade, and was the essence of self-made man. 
Tall, big-nosed, grave, magnificently reliable, he had the mind 
of an engineer, the temperament of a born commander, and the 
painstakingness of a laboratory researcher. The wealthy young 
English scientist, Joseph Banks his name remains on both a 
peninsula in New Zealand and a group of Melanesian islands 
sponsored Cook's appointment to the new Pacific expedition 
and emphasized faith in his man by going along. The scientific 
occasion for the voyage was to advance techniques of naviga- 
tion by observing at Tahiti a transit of the planet Venus across 
the sun; Point Venus, near Papeete, is not named, as one might 
think, for the principal obsession of the natives. Another 
motive may have been to see what a very well-thought-out ex- 
pedition could accomplish toward making the Pacific a chart- 
able reality. 

Thus the chosen vessel was no warship but a slow, sturdy, 
capacious, utterly seaworthy, shallow-draft collier, the very sort 
of craft in which Cook had learned his trade. She carried sev- 
eral kinds of chronometers for cross-checking in the search for 
sounder methods of determining longitude; her officers made 
incessant observations and calculations for comparison. Re- 
searching the problem of keeping seamen healthy on long 
voyages, Cook's ships always carried experimental provisions 
aimed at preventing scurvy sauerkraut, dehydrated vegetables, 
and something called "portable soup." Routine in airing, fumi- 
gating, clothes drying, messing, was as rigid as that of a modem 


Nobody knew about vitamins then. Scurvy was as often con- 
sidered a matter of sea air or dampness as of diet; but the 
Admiralty wanted everything tried out, as lime juice had been 
tried shortly before on the West Indies station. By thus tak- 
ing all possible precautionsand by shipping fresh provisions 
wherever possible en route Cook made three prolonged and 
valuable voyages without losing as many men as probably 
would have died ashore in the insanitary stews of England. He 
showed for all time that forethought, discipline, equipment, 
and seamanship could make a voyage from England to the 
Antarctic to Bering's Strait almost as practical as his old run 
from Newcastle to London. 

In fresh discoveries he did little better than some rivals: 
New Caledonia, the Cook group, and Hawaii alone fall to his 
exclusive credit. But his three voyages made New Zealand and 
Australia realities instead of vaguely glimpsed terrae incognitae, 
laid the Great South Continent to rest along with St. Bran- 
don's Isle, and surveyed the Societies, Tonga, the New Heb- 
rides, the Marquesas, the coasts of Northwest America and 
Siberia. He was as much at home poking into the Antarctic 
ice as, in his better-known phase, watching brown-skinned 
ballets perform in Tonga. Sailing with and trained under him 
were half a dozen young officers who later added brilliantly 
to his unfinished work Vancouver and Bligh were Cook's 
men. His reputation grew so high that both American and 
French armed vessels in the Revolutionary War had orders not 
to molest, but rather to aid, his ships if encountered. That 
confused brawl on Kealakekua beach killed a man who prob- 
ably knew his business better than Columbus and Eric the Red 
put together. 

This does not derogate his successors, rival or friendly. The 
French were on New Zealand, finding the Maori tough, almost 
as soon as Cook. The Frenchman la Perouse was the first white 
to investigate Samoa and Maui (Hawaii) ; it was just hard luck 
that smashed his ships on a Melanesian reef; the explanatory 
bits were not found for forty years. His countryman d'Entre- 
casteaux, sent to look for him, made great contributions. In the 


next generation French surveyors, such as Duperrey and 
Dumont-d'Urville, did more than Englishmen to fill in de- 
tails of the Pacific. East Indiamen and Australian convict- 
ships routed to China by unknown waters often came home 
with news of new islands. As routine, ships headed Pacific- 
wards on whatever errand, were ordered to look about them 
within reason. Highly valuable results came of Edwards' un- 
lucky voyage to find, arrest, and fetch home the mutineers of 
the "Bounty" and from Blights second voyage to take bread- 
fruit to the West Indies uneventfully successful this time. 

This is in sharp contrast with Spain's ordering her captains 
to stick to sterile known courses between the Philippines and 
Mexico. Even the Russians, not a traditional seagoing people 
but seeking to bolster their colonial venture in Alaska, were 
active in a neglected chapter of Pacific history. Krusenstern 
and Kotzebue were expert island-finders. For a while their 
backers bade fair to make California and Hawaii subject to St. 
Petersburg. But Russia proved a flash in the pan; of these voy- 
ages nothing lasted but Russian names on a few out-of-the-way 
scraps of land: like Lisiansky Island in the chain northwest 
of Hawaii, and Suvarov Island (mispronounced Suwarrow 
through Germanized transliteration) in the Manihikis. 

The political map of the Pacific dispels forever the notion 
that finders-keepers means anything internationally. If it did, 
Spain would have a South Seas empire consisting of the 
Marquesas, Solomons, New Hebrides, Marianas and Carolines; 
the Dutch would rule Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand. 
The French would have no foothold in the Pacific at all. Seek- 
ing mineral wealth, the Spaniards were never close to the gold 
of Fiji and New Zealand. Seeking empire, the French acquired 
only a chain of South Pacific bases of which they never made 
aggressive use. Looking principally for profit and the glory of 
God, with small thought of sovereignty, the United States did 
rather better than the French. Always drawing back from re- 
sponsibility in the Islands, the British got more and richer 
holdings than anybody else. For there was much more to Island 
history than merely sending in a boat's crew to run up a flag 


and utter solemn words in the name of his Most Christian or 
Imperial or Britannic Majesty. The chain of the humdrum 
and the brilliantly accidental in Bligh's career is typical: Wallis 
found breadfruit in Tahiti; West Indies planters wanted it for 
cheap slave-food; for this prosaic assignment Bligh picked the 
wrong man as master on his ship; so, turned loose in a small 
boat, he was forced to sail slap through Fiji in what amounted 
to an important rediscovery of a major group. 

Other discoverers' objectives failed to match the net of their 
discoveries. Cook's third voyage, which found Hawaii, was 
officially "to determine the position and extent of the west 
side of North America; its distance from Asia; and the prac- 
ticability of a northern passage to Europe/' Vancouver was on 
the same mission. Kotzebue's idyllic experiences in the Mar- 
shalls were mere distractions from the interests of Russian 
enterprise in Siberia. These men noted down Tahiti, Tonga- 
tabu and Hawaii primarily because their presence made a voy- 
age to Puget Sound or Kamschatka healthier by supplying 
fresh pork and greens. Their advantages as refreshing points 
explain why the early navigators often took out sheep and 
cattle as presents for Island chiefs. Time and again the exac- 
tions of European vessels depleted provisions to the danger 
point in thickly-populated Islands; herds of semiwild cattle and 
sheep on the unused uplands would not only solve that prob- 
lem but give seamen a better diet. Pleasant as it was to visit the 
Islands, the European's* basic purpose was to connect more 
efficiently with China in order to make profits out of tea and 
silk. So mankind discovered a multiple paradise by trying to 
make money. There must be a more fitting way, but that is 
how it happened. 

The Glory That Was Grease 



by 1800: query, what to do with it? The first responses affected 
only its margins. Loss of the American colonies deprived Brit- 
ain of a place to send inconvenient people; Australia was made 
a substitute. Thenceforth malefactors not quite deserving 
hanging were sent to Port Jackson "Botany Bay" in long- 
lived error, now called Sydney. That founded the port destined 
to be the prime commercial depot of the South Seas, easily 
outstripping San Francisco, Honolulu, Papeete, Suva, Auck- 
land, Valparaiso. The reason is obvious and geographical. 
More islands lie within a reasonable radius of Sydney, A belt 
of empty water, wider than the Atlantic, separates the Amer- 
icas from the Islands. Theoretically, if one judges strictly by 
miles and bearings, the whole South Seas should have come 
under suzerainty of Australia, the continental mass handiest to 
Polynesia and Melanesia. That nothing of the sort happened 
is probably due to national variations in economic tempera- 
ment. For the people who first showed how to use the South 
Seas for more than a means of communication were the least 
likely of all candidates. True, the Australian convict settlement 



sometimes drew on the Islands for provisions, and Russians 
went to Hawaii for salt, fcufcui-oil 1 and vegetables. But Amer- 
icans went farther and fared very much better. 

This was no official governmental effort. The new United 
States had taken no hand in exploring the Pacific because no 
such nation had existed when the job developed. Not until 
sixty years after the Declaration of Independence was Com- 
modore Wilkes sent to do such surveying work as, in one sense 
or another, naval officers in national ships from England, 
France, Russia, and Spain had been doing for centuries. But 
the eighteenth century still had time to run when news of 
South Pacific seals and whales brought Americans spontane- 
ously round the Horn to inaugurate the now intimate Amer- 
ican involvement in the South Seas. 

The consequences were widespread: Until a generation ago 
the partly American-descended people of Lord Howe Island, 2 
7,000 miles from the Golden Gate, celebrated the Fourth of 
July and, for that matter, still eat pumpkin pie and fried 
chicken. In the "seventies a British yachtsman was annoyed 
to find the natives of Ponape (Carolines) talking English full 
of such Americanisms as "I guess" and "fixing" things. The 
cause was simple: of fifty-six whalers calling there in nine 
months a few years earlier, forty-nine had been American. A 
Russian exploring squadron fogbound near a presumably un- 
known island in the South Pacific in 1820 were startled when 
the fog lifted to disclose an American sealer already perfectly 
at home. Such enterprise was not in uniform, carried no com- 
mission, preferred to be inconspicuous; but it accomplished 
much penetration and influence in the South Seas without the 

1 Kujhii (this is the Hawaiian name) is a small tree common in the . 
Islands producing what whites call candlenuts. Their oil is rich and 
volatile enough for the Polynesian device of stringing them on a coco- 
nut-leaf rib and using the string as a candle. Just now Fiji is trying to 
build up a small industry processing Jculcuf-oil for sale in world markets 
as a drying oil. 

2 This is the Lord Howe in the Tasman Sea between Sydney and Norfolk 
Island. Cf. my "Utopia Limited/' Saturday Evening Post, Aug. 13, 


bother of burying lead plates or erecting crosses. Individual 
profit can be a mighty force. 

In this connection "American" should narrow down to 
"Yankee/ 7 Much fine seamanship came to the Pacific out of 
New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. But the New Eng- 
landei left his mark so deep on the South Seas that, from Fiji 
to the Marquesas, Americans were earliest known as "Boston 
men." Yankee John Ledyard, one of Cook's last crew, was 
volunteer propagandist for American entrance into the North- 
west-to-China fur trade. Winters on the American West Coast 
took Yankees to Hawaii to recruit and so arose the first Island 
commercial enterprise, the vandalistic and hard-nosed sandal- 
wood trade. Characteristic details appear elsewhere. 3 The 
point here is that before 1800 Yankee seamen were being left 
ashore to cut sandalwood on Kauai, and that this parasitic 
timber taught that money could be made directly out of the 

In a short few years American vessels, sometimes based on 
Sydney, were braving the reefs and cannibals of Fiji to trade 
for the stuff, bringing the first whites voluntarily to go ashore 
there. Many came to grief; wrecks and massacres stud the story, 
but profits were immense and worth risk. Lockerby figured that 
a schooner sandalwooding 4 out of Sydney could make 4,400 
profit (say $22,000) in six months on an investment of 3,350. 
Presently sharp Yankees noticed that Fijian shallows were 
rich with b^che-de-mer, 5 the unprepossessing sea-slug other- 

8 Cf. Ill, Land of Malcebelieve Come True; V, Their Gods Are Dead. 
*The Spanish out of Manila were mildly active in sandalwood round the 
close of the eighteenth century. Manila and Batavia were the centers 
where sandalwood from the Southwest Pacific was sold and trans- 
shipped to China. (Derrick, History of Fiji, 39.) 
5 "The b<!che-de-mer is generally taken in three or four feet of water; after 
which they are taken to the shore, where they are split at one end with 
a knife . . . Through this opening the entrails are forced out by pres- 
sure . . . The article is then washed and afterward boiled to a certain 
degree . . . then buried in the ground for four hours; then boiled 
again for a short time, after which they are dried, either by the fire or 
the sun. Those cured by trie sun are worth the most; but where one 
picul (i33i4 lb.) can be cured that way, I can cure thirty picul by fire. 


wise called trepang, for which Chinese paid high to Manila 
and East Indies traders. So sandalwooders persuaded Fijian 
tribes to claw beche-de-mer off their reefs, and processed it on 
shore under palm-leaf shelters. Such more intimate contact 
meant even more violence and damage to the natives, of 
course; but again it was profitable. 

In the same decade came the superlative burst of Yankee 
enterprise in sealing and whaling. It was only 1791 when the 
"Beaver" of Nantucket poked her boxy bows round Cape 
Horn to pioneer American whaling in the Pacific. Six more 
Yankee whalers made the same voyage that year. Successive 
explorations of new waters gradually taught New Bedford, 
Nantucket, and Sag Harbor that the Pacific was a stunning 
whaling-groundright whales in the far north, sperm on the 
Mpan ground, the Line, the offshore ground, the waters ap- 
PJroaching the Antarctic. The British were in first. Their 
/Amelia" was whaling down under in 1787; Bligh found sea- 
n aen from the wrecked British whaler "Matilda" on Tahiti in 
1 >92. Dutch and Germans were soon trying their luck; in the 
eai ly nineteenth century sea-minded France heavily subsidized 
P ac rific whalers. But within a generation Pacific whaling was a 
Yai^ee quasi-monopoly, much as Hollywood was to be in the 
wol |ld of movies. Significantly, many officers on British and 
ch whalers were expert Yankees tempted to sail under 
flags by higher earnings. 

The sealer entered the Island regions of the Pacific because 
sea otter was hunted on the Northwest Coast; smart Yankees 
could no longer maintain the supply even by illicit deals with 
the Spanish in California; and the Chinese would buy seal 
if nothing better offered. The sealer was usually a Yankee too, 
often from Stonington, Conn. The "Betsy," of Stonington, 

. . . The Chinese consider bdche-de-mer a very great luxury, believing 
that it wonderfully strengthens the system and renews the exhausted 
vigor of the immoderate voluptuary/' Morrell, Narrative of Four Voy- 
ages, 401. This gives current prices at Canton ranging from $90 
a picul for top quality to $4 for bottom. Derrick (History of Fi/i, 67) 
derives Mche-de-mer from the Portuguese bicho-do-mar sea-slug. 


was sealing at Mas Afuera, off Chile, in 1797; the "Union/' 
Yankee sealer operating out of Sydney, went a sandalwooding 
voyage to Fiji in 1800; the gap of 7,000 miles between the two 
places indicates the scope of these doings. Nobody knows 
where all sealers did go. They were a secretive lot, leaving few 
accounts of their tough and bloody business as they took 
Yankee keels among the Islands and left behind much Yankee 
influence in the way of deserters, diseases, and ways of doing. 
Whalers could afford to swap information about likely loca- 
tions for their quarry, since three or four whales at a time was 
all that any ship could cope with and it was no skin off Captain 
Starbuck's nose if Captain Coffin's boats were also fast to a 
couple of fish. But sealing was wholesale massacre ashore, 
often on small islands, and a newly discovered rookery was 
like a mine of precious metal, too easily exhausted to tell rivals 
about. Such finds were so ruthlessly exploited that within a 
generation the trade was unprofitable in most of the Pacific. 

It does not follow, however, that whalers and sealers under 
American colors meant purely American influences. These 
crews were the sweepings of all ports English, Irish, Chilean, 
Portuguese, Scandinavian, negro, and so through the whole 
Tower of Babel. The deserters or stranded sailors who early 
gave beachcombing a bad name, came from everywhere. 
Charlie Savage, who terrorized Fiji for years, going forth to war 
in a spearproofed sedan chair, was a Swede; in one of Pomare's 
wars in Tahiti two Swedes fought against a Scotchman, an 
Irishman, and an English Jew. 

If either whaler or sealer was to stay at sea long enough to 
justify the tremendous voyage to the Pacific, the crew had to 
have occasional "refreshment" sometimes the word is "re- 
cruiting" ashore. Fruit and green stuff staved off scurvy, get- 
ting drunk and sleeping with girls staved off mutiny, fresh 
supplies of pork or beef to salt, water, firewood, potatoes, yams, 
enabled the old hooker to carry on till her hold was full of oil 
in cask. So whalers exchanged information as to which islands 
were best for such purposes much as tramps exchange word of 
where handouts are easy: Hawaii, the high islands of the Caro- 


lines, Tahiti, the Marquesas, the Bay of Islands, and the ex- 
treme south 'in New Zealand, were conspicuous. Regularizing 
and making profits from such needs, clever whites again often 
Yankees set up shore stations, raising potatoes, cattle and 
hogs, running grogshops and brothels, advertising in Yankee 
whaling circles that fresh provisions and boarding facilities 
were available at such and such a place the other side of the 
world. Such previously uninhabited but attractive islands as 
Lord Howe and the Bonins were thus settled, as well as large 
islands like Aneityum (New Hebrides). The multitude of 
whales round New Zealand created land based whaling, using 
fast boats and headland lookouts in the old Nantucket style. 
Scholars trace the enterprising and well assimilated, largely 
half-white, Maori of Invercargill to such white shore whalers 
and their Maori girls. 

Discretion was needed in choosing recruiting spots. If, for 
instance, Captain Coffin had wife and family along, as he 
often did, he would prefer a place with the protection of a resi- 
dent missionary when leaving them ashore for respite from sea- 
faring while he sailed after more whales. Why wives might be 
left ashore is indicated in Benjamin MorrelFs account of the 
occasion when he was trying to get his schooner "Antarctic" 
clawed off from a menacing array of breakers in the Carolines: 

"The breakers were running twenty feet high and there was no 
land in sight frpm the masthead ... At the very crisis of our 
fate, my wife came on deck and asked me if I would have iny 
hat/ 7 Narrative of Four Voyages, 378-9. 

The hazard of runaway hands was also important. During 
the Australian gold rush Sydney was shunned because a whaler 
putting in there was likely to see her crew desert for the dig- 
gings in a body. As Lahaina and the Bay of Islands developed 
into whalers' hells, conservative skippers avoided them, per- 
haps partly from moral scruples, certainly in precaution against 
desertion, venereal disease, and mayhem. Others intentionally 
sought them, since deserters could be replaced by signing on 
previous deserters already broke and "on the beach/' and the 


amount of the delinquents' forfeited pay was often greater 
than advances on earnings when shipping new hands. Or 
natives eager to see the world, who usually made good seamen, 
could easily be signed; few Pacific whalers lacked a sprinkling 
of Polynesians, who often rose to the dignity of harpooners. 

Native chiefs might tempt men to skip ship, using native 
girls to persuade them to take to the hills and hide until the 
ship sailed. If the captain made trouble., the chief ostensibly 
hunted for the fugitive, while actually warning him to stay deep 
in the bush. His motive was not so much hospitality as the 
desire to acquire a white man adept in the mysteries of gun- 
powder and ironworking, which were great military and eco- 
nomic assets in Island eyes. Sometimes a forecastle hand with 
his wits about him did well by himself thus: Churchill of the 
"Bounty" was chief in a Tahitian district until a jealous com- 
rade shot him. In the 'forties Wilkes found well-fed beach- 
combers on several islands in the Gilberts, treated with respect 
and long married to young women of standing; they usually 
wanted to go home, but had little to complain of. In the early 
days many Fijian chiefs had such tame white men, regarding 
them as mannerless but useful; to have one was part of a chief's 
prestige. Many of these white men in the service of chiefs were 
brutes, some stupid, some cunning. Some were convicts 
escaped from Australia. 

In such cases life was certainly better than if the renegades 
had stayed in the noisome forecastle of the "Huldah" whaler 
or on sadistic Norfolk Island. But luck was not always good. A 
sailor of MorrelTs named Shaw escaped a sudden massacre in 
the Carolines because the chief wanted a blacksmith. But Shaw 
knew nothing of forging, which annoyed his patron, in whose 
culture most men could do most things. Deprived of his 
clothes and shoes, skin fried off him in the blistering sun, feet 
cut to pieces on coral, living on cast-off fish offal, constantly in 
hot water because he could not produce satisfactory iron 
knives, he barely managed to hang on until Morrell returned 
to rescue him and take a bloody revenge. 


As small settlements grew up at whalers' haven, other 
whites, frequently enterprising ships 7 officers with good Yankee 
commercial instincts, stayed ashore and set up trading stores 
to service ships and chiefs wanting white men's goods stores 
with counters, shelves, and a system of bookkeeping. As they 
prospered, they might go in for tall hats and broadcloth suits 
on Sunday, and rear families on the spot by white wives or 
native girls, whom they frequently married. 

These port towns were often on sites that had been unim- 
portant to the native. Canoes did not require great depth of 
water, holding ground for anchors, or reasonable likelihood of 
offshore breezes to waft a ship out as well as the tradewind to 
fetch her in. The Hawaiian used Waikiki beach, but had little 
use for the cramped port a few miles away that whites found 
the handiest harbor in the group. The Samoans' chief settle- 
ments on Upolu ignored the break in the reef that constitutes 
Apia harbor; on Tutuila, Leone Bay was better for natives than 
deep and sheltered Pago Pago. Missionaries contributed to the 
growth of these new towns at the expense of prewhite settle- 
ments; they wanted to be near shipping for supplies. So hardly 
a principal town in the South Seas today stands on the site of 
the old chief village. Already new ways were unpreventably 
turning the Islands upside down. 

Whales, seals, and the cutting of slow-growing sandalwood 
meant a kind of mining, a rapid exploitation of easily exhausted 
resources. Such mining had the moral advantage of not evict- 
ing the native from his communal lands. But he would not 
be so fortunate when the interloping white, pondering further 
cash profit, took the next logical step. 

Missions paved the way by persuading native converts to 
contribute arrowroot and coconut oil to the support of the 
church. 6 This successful example moved the trader to compete 
for oil with Misi. The coco palm, which Mark Twain said 
looked like a feather duster struck by lightning, promised to 
6 Cf. IV, 5, Fishers of Men. 


enable the western world to make steady profit from the soil 
of the Islands themselves. 7 

At first the industry was catch-as-catch-can : The native 
picked up nuts as they ripened and fell, opened them with the 
cutlass (or machete or bush-knife or whatever you prefer) 
that he had acquired from the trader, let the halves dry a while, 
scooped out the firm, white, sweetish meat, chopped it up in 
a large wooden trough and set it to render in the hot sun. Then 
he poured the oil into sections of large bamboo and exchanged 
it with the trader, or with the trading schooner that called 
periodically at his island, for cloth, rum or nails; or took it to 
Misi for the greater glory of God. You can still see the native 
making his own supply of coconut oil by this method today. 

But the white world was getting cleaner and demanding 
more soap than waste animal fats could supply; and these 
wasteful doings for sun-rendering by no means extracts all 
the oil looked disgraceful to conscientious businessmen. In 
the mid-century efficient-minded Germans replaced this small, 
sloppy sort of thing with western ideas. 

This introduces the great German firm of J. C. Godeffroy 
& Son, the economic enterprise that the Pacific still remembers 
with most respect. The Godeffroys had been French Hugue- 
nots who moved to Hamburg after the Revocation of the Edict 
of Nantes a migration also responsible for New Rochelle, 
N. Y., and the silk trade of London's Spitalfields. Six genera- 
tions later they were shipowners and merchants, involved in 
the China trade, transport of immigrants to Australia and odd 
enterprises on the west coast of South America, particularly in 
nitrates. Their manager at Valparaiso grew interested in Tahiti, 
which bought foodstuffs in Chile. A new branch in Papeete 
did so well that the firm went on into Samoa, which was just 
then coming into notice, its port of Apia succeeding to the 
peripatetic title of "Hell of the Pacific/' Samoa, centrally 

'Masterman (Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa, 57 et seq.) 
dates the economic importance of coconut oil from the 'forties, when 
it was first used in England as ingredient of soap and candles. The mis- 
sions were shipping it much earlier than that, however, in small quan- 


located, relatively f ertile, relatively unexploited, was to become 
Godeffroys' Pacific headquarters. 

There they borrowed an idea from the East Indies and made 
copra instead of locally extracted oil. Copra coconut meat 
dried so it will keep long periods became the cornerstone of 
Island economics. It could be sent to Europe where all the oil 
was pressed out with complicated, expensive "machinery and 
the residue sold for cattle-cake. The native learned readily to 
dry copra either in the sun, which makes a superior product, 
or in smoke. 8 Process and product so imbedded themselves in 
Island life that I have heard missionaries call copra the ruin of 
the South Seas native it is too simple for him to earn his small 
cash needs by a few days' work with knife and drying-rack. The 
slightly spicy, definitely rancid, odor of the result has long been 
as characteristic of the South Seas as the smell of burning coco- 
nut husk, and the copra bug, a persistent little creature in- 
separable from copra, is ubiquitous in port towns and Island 

Godeffroys led this procession. Their ships and trading sta- 
tions reached directly or by affiliated firms into Tonga, Hawaii, 
and Fiji, up into Micronesia, over into Melanesia from the 
Samoan base. Their competitors, operating out of Tahiti, 
Auckland, Sydney, San Francisco, often relied on the more 
respectable type of beachcomber as storekeeper. He was not 
too reliable or enterprising; whereas Godeffroys, more fore- 
sighted, staffed their stores with smart, sober, hard, young fel- 
lows brought out from Europe or recruited in the larger Pacific 
towns, by no means all Germans. Their instructions were 
realistic: Learn the native language. Don't get into quarrels 
with local whites. Have no truck with missionaries, except as 
humanity requires, for Misi and the trader are born enemies. 
Get a native woman of your own, but no nonsense about marry- 
ing her. And get in that copra. 

But even harsh young storekeepers could not rationalize 
supply. Natives persisted in giving copra to Misi; or in poorer 
islands showed reluctance to trade in their staple food; or, 
e The modern plantation often uses a complicated hot-air drier. 


annoyed when the trader refused to over-extend credit, boy- 
cotted him. So Theodor Weber, Godeff roys' overweening com- 
manding officer in the Pacific, determined to put the firm into 
copra production on its own. Taking advantage of the Sa- 
moans 7 need for arms in their chronic feuds, he bought large 
areas of Samoan land, careless of whether such sales were good 
in Samoan custom, and started to plant coconuts.* When the 
Samoan proved an unreliable laborer, Chinese coolies and 
Melanesian "boys" were imported to weed the plantations and 
gather and process the nuts. As, cash gradually replaced barter, 
the firm flooded the Islands with Chilean and Bolivian "iron 
dollars" large, handsome coins into which the issuing govern- 
ments had neglected to put much silver, which Godeffroys 
procured at heavy discount in South America and passed for 
full face value on the native. That was all right as long as the 
coins stayed in the Islands. But missions protested bitterly 
when they found that iron dollars in the collection basket 
meant a devastating discount in Sydney or London. 

Fraudulent currency, fraudulent land-purchase, concubinage 
were all necessary details of Weber's schemes. He had further 
plans for German immigration to the Samoan uplands, im- 
plicitly involving dispossession of the Samoan. These develop- 
ments were no less brilliant for their only flaw: they disre- 
garded the original inhabitant of Upolu or any other island 
where plantations would pay. 

The Godeffroy firm was bankrupted by the French blockade 
of Hamburg during the Franco-Prussian War, but Weber's 
ideas went on under successor firms. Competing whites flocked 
into coco plantations from New Guinea to Tahiti, a trend 
culminating in the majestic appearance on the Pacific scene of 
Lever Brothers, British kings of soap, whose coco plantings in 
the Solomons and elsewhere were most impressive until com- 
petition from African oils and governmental distrust of Uni- 
levers 7 large ideas discouraged the firm's management 

In the mid-century the word "plantation" grew magical in 

s Godeffroys had their own arsenal for making trade rifles at Lige. 
(Cooper, The Islands of the Pacific, 233.) 


other contexts. The rowdy white colony at Levuka in Fiji, 
skimping along on desultory trading, developed the notion that 
cotton, for which demand was apparently unlimited, would do 
well in Fijian soil. Experimentally grown Fijian samples made 
a sensation in Manchester. Then the American Civil War 
blockaded the principal world source of cotton and the fever 
was on, by no means only in Fiji. In spite of cannibal natives 
a doughty American named Hart cleared and established 
booming plantations in the Marquesas; a group of Englishmen 
bought some 10,000 acres on Tahiti and imported thousands of 
Chinese to grow cotton, sugar, and coffee on them. But Fiji 
was far ahead as Australian settlers and capital poured in, want- 
ing land. They got it at native expense. 

American production did not return to normal for some 
years after Appomattox, so the boom lasted up to a decade, 
particularly in Fiji, for the long-staple cotton of which France 
paid over four shillings a pound in 1869. But the Franco- 
Prussian war ruined that, just as it ruined Godeffroys r and the 
return of the American South to cotton prevented later revival. 
Now little remains of the whole development but wild cotton 
here and there, nobody taking much notice of its fluffy white 
balls, and the descendants of the Chinese or Melanesian labor 
imported to chop and pick the crop when, as usual, the local 
native proved to dislike such steady toil in the mid-day sun. 
Still, the immigration of substantial people during the cotton 
boom did start to make Fiji respectable not an achievement 
to be belittled. 

Sugar has much the same South Seas history; it was experi- 
mented with before the Civil War, boomed when American 
sugar was blockaded, discouraged when the South returned to 
production. But this crop managed to stay alive, sketchily in 
Tahiti, sturdily in Fiji, brilliantly in Hawaii. 10 In Hawaii Ori- 
ental labor was necessary for sugar, in Fiji Indian labor, in the 
post-1919 Japanese plantation in the Marianas Okinawan 
labor. It all meant more capital in the Islands, more outsiders 
looking about them for opportunity types different from the 
Ill, Land of Makebelieve Come True. 


beachcombers who had formerly hired out to sandalwooders as 
sluggish go-betweens at four pounds a month. 

So experiments in other kinds of plantations multiplied. In 
its time coffee has looked very good in Hawaii, New Cale- 
donia, Tahiti; but blight and Brazil depressed it, though the 
only coffee in the world better than Hawaii's is New Cale- 
donia's. Pineapple has done magnificently under American 
mass production methods in Hawaii; nowhere else, though it 
has been played with in Fiji. Citrus is still alive in the Cooks, 
though severely handicapped by governmental bungling. Here 
and there exports of bananas bring in some cash for the native; 
cocoa is probably a fixture in Western Samoa, because the 
local variety is unusually rich in cocoa butter, a high demand 
by-product. Trochus shell, pearl shell, vanilla, are small-quan- 
tity items that stay alive, particularly in the French Establish- 
ments. And on many islands, on lands too poor or dry to tempt 
the planter, cattle are run for local meat supply New Cale- 
donian beef, canned for French army rations, is known to the 
rank and file as singe (monkey) . The reader tempted to suggest 
that all this sounds like rather small change is quite right. 

More workmanlike kinds of mining have affected the Is- 
lands only sporadically. French exploitation of nickel and 
chrome in New Caledonia, though lackadaisical, has been the 
backbone of the island's economy. Guano on lonely bits of 
island is pretty well worked out; so is the phosphate of French- 
owned Makatea (Societies) . There is any amount of phosphate 
left on Ocean Island and Nauru, but that affects nobody but 
the semigovernmental corporations doing the work y the natives 
of those islands who are paid royalties in return for having their 
patrimonies torn apart, 11 and the outside laborers from the 

^Ocean Island is so messed up by this time that Britain has moved its 
Micronesian inhabitants to the island of Rabe m Fiji. Rabe was once a 
Lever Brothers' plantation; under governmental auspices, the Ocean 
Islanders' accumulated royalty money was used to buy it, with much of 
the copra-handling equipment intact. Some Gilbert Islanders were also 
in on the deal. When I paid a brief visit to Rabe in 1946, there were 
great difficulties in adjustment the colonists' ideas of housebuilding, 
for instance, were by no means suited to the climate of Fiji but there 
seemed little doubt that the government had got round to doing what 
it could to help. 


usual sources are paid low cash wages and regularly sent home 
at the expiration of their contracts. 

Just as in Samoa under Weber, these white men's projects 
seldom offer the native much participating future. There is a 
fundamental difference between the white man (and his Ori- 
ental imitators) and the South Seas native as to what land is 
for. The native considers how best to adapt himself to the 
land's superficial potentialities, as the Maori did in New Zea- 
land; the white considers how best to adapt the land to his 
existing elaborate techniques. 

The plantation-cum-mining economy here described, how- 
ever, is not conspicuous in the modern South Seas. Except in 
the southern Marianas, Hawaii and some parts of Fiji, ex- 
ploitation never got far. For all the whites' exploratory hopes, 
most of the Islands are economic misfits in the world of great 
enterprises too far, too small, too recalcitrant about work. 
This fact is somewhat masked now by luxuriantly high prices 
for Island products, as the postwar world snatches for fats, 
fertilizers and miscellaneous raw materials. For several years 
this high price level will probably hold, but eventually the 
Islands will probably see the coach turn into a pumpkin again. 
Palm and soy oils have put copra in an unfavorable spot in 
world economy. Both dietician and economist would agree that 
the world has too much sugar. Old-line mercantile and ship- 
ping firms in the Islands local names to conjure with, such 
as Burns-Philp, Hedstrom, Ballande are stabilized on a basis 
satisfactory to the shareholders but none amounts to a major 
phenomenon in terms of the outside world. Their market is 
composed largely of natives whose normal cash income hardly 
averages over fifty dollars per capita in good years, much of 
which goes into church collections rather than directly across 
the merchant's counter. 

So there are ghost towns in the South Seas, and bush and 
beach, not smelter and plantation, are what usually meet the 
outsider's eye on any given island. Superficially, Tarafu is much 
the same as when H.M. Armed Vessel "Towser" first coasted 
along its reef. By and large all the hurly-burly, the sanguine 


schemes, the schoonerloads of blackbirded labor, the dispos- 
session of the native and the squinting shrewdness of the 
pajama-clad trader, have shaken down to little, as the world 
goes just a hand-truck trundling copra along the sleepy water- 
front of Levuka. Said the wife of an American consul, ponder- 
ing the cost when the Apia hurricane wrecked six foreign 
warships in 1889: 

"Samoa was never worth it; ... the whole archipelago might 
be taken just as it is and set down in Lake Ontario and not be- 
come a serious menace to navigation/ 7 Churchill, Samoa 
'Urna, 13. 

But two qualifications to her statement are necessary. To 
shift Samoa in any such way would annoy some 80,000 Sa- 
moans who like their present climate; and, sound though she 
was, Mrs. Churchill was a civilian insensitive to the powder- 
and-shot aspect of why those ships were wrecked. Entrepre- 
neurs may change their minds every generation about the 
economic importance of the Pacific Islands. But admirals, 
characteristically, have never altered their estimate of their 
strategic importance. It took the recent war to show that, 
though often wrong in detail, the admirals were always essen- 
tially right. 

The Good Frigate Grab-bag 



is the German warship "Adler" lying on her side a long pistol 
shot from shore, high out of water on the reef in Apia harbor. 
Fifty-eight years ago she was "tossed up there like a school- 
boy's cap upon a shelf ... a thing to dream of/' 1 She is 
broken in three, her rust is sulky brown-red and somehow 
enough organic matter has accumulated on the afterportion 
for green things to grow there. One of her consorts lies under 
the submarine bulge of the reef, sucked in below after she 
struck. The other ships that died with herstill another Ger- 
man, three Americans are long since salvaged or broken up. 
All were there on account of strategic rivalry. 

It is an old story: Three nations were squabbling over the 
Samoan islands and each had men-of-war in Apia harbor. 
Though storm warnings were unmistakable and the harbor is 
a known deathtrap in a heavy northerly blow, no naval com- 
mander concerned dared put out to seek sea room lest a rival 
steal a march on him ashore. The wind picked up, great seas 
charged in through the break in the reef; it was already too 
late for these weak-engined craft. Americans and Germans 
tried steaming to their anchors, but one by one the lift and 

1 Stevenson, A Footnote to History, 284. 



weight of the wind-driven seas was too much for them. The 
sole Britisher called on the engine room for more steam than 
his ship's builders had ever dreamed of, slipped his cable, and 
stood out to sea. It took minutes to gain inches. Twice she col- 
lided with disabled rivals. The crew of U.S.S. "Trenton/ 7 see- 
ing that H.M.S. "Calliope" had a sporting chance where they 
had none, lined the rail and cheered her as she crept and 
pitched past in the teeth of the wind and battering water like 
a well-handled surfboat. Mrs. Churchill was right: you could 
have bought all Samoa for the cost in lives and machinery. But 
navies and governments do not keep books that way. Here 
follow the general ideas and some of the specific events behind 
this strange catastrophe. The American hand in the game will 
be disproportionately emphasized, but one's own family his- 
tory is often especially interesting: 

It had long been routine, as previously noted, for naval com- 
manders to poke round in the Pacific. But not until 1825 did 
the British, French and U.S. navies find it necessary regularly 
to assign warships to the great ocean. Cruising there was good 
training for officers and men, but that was not the primary pur- 
pose. The presence of numerous missionaries, traders, whalers, 
sealers, blacklegs and opportunists implied hundreds of small 
complications for the periodically-appearing man-of-war to 
prevent or straighten out. Thus, the first U.S. warship in the 
Pacific was Captain Porter's "Essex/ 7 rounding the Horn in 
1814 to clean up British whalers which, under letters of 
marque, were rapidly exterminating their American rivals. The 
second was Captain Biddle's "Ontario/' visiting Coquimbo in 
1816 to cool off Chilean customs officers with whom Captain 
Fanning, 2 pioneer sealer, had got embroiled. The U.S. com- 
mercial agent in Honolulu sketched a sample situation in a 
letter to the commodore of the new U.S. Pacific squadron in 
1826, begging him to get vessels under his command to Hawaii 
a little oftener. 

"The waters of [Honolulu] harbor have at one time floated 
more than three millions of American property, and this 
a Faiming, Voyages and Discoveries, 294. 


amount is almost at the mercy of a race of savages and law- 
less outcasts that infest these islands. . . ." Paullin, Diplo- 
matic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, 235. 

Survey work in areas imperfectly charted, aiding vessels in dis- 
tress., "showing the flag/' acting as self-appointed umpire in 
native crises and, with salutary frequency, punishing native 
violent attempts to get their own back from the white man 
the commander of a warship on such missions had, and liked 
to use, wide latitude in his actions. 

The commodore of a western squadron on the Pacific station 
needed ships powerful enough to stand on equal footing with 
those from other nations, not so much for potential interna- 
tional combat as because native chiefs were quick to gauge 
relative strength. The prestige of a given nation ashore often 
depended on the number of guns carried by the last frigate 
calling under that flag. So some of the most glamorous vessels 
in the Old Navy "Constitution;' "Constellation," "United 
States" showed their colors in these waters. 

Now such Pacific squadrons began early to feel the need of 
reliable sources of supplies and instructions nearer than their 
home bases halfway round the world. The usual makeshift was 
a friendly foreign port; thus Paulet's "Carysfort" 3 based at 
Valparaiso; as late as 1898 Dewey based at Hongkong. Far 
better was a properly located island with right of entry de- 
pendent, not on the whim of a native chief or twopenny local 
government, but on established sovereignty with exclusive 
privileges good against men-of-war of competing nations. 
Hence Britain developed Hongkong and Auckland, and the 
States the several deepwater harbors of California and Oregon. 
But such bases merely on the margin of areas to be cruised 
feel inadequate to admirals. Once acquired, San Francisco and 
Puget Sound obviously need protection from farther out say 
in the Aleutians and Hawaii. Then, as offshore bases, Alaska 
and Hawaii need sub-subsidiary bases still farther out as screen- 
ing points, listening posts and minor depots for spars and naval 
stores. An admiral thinks of these things like the farmer in the 
3 Cf. Ill, Land of MaJcebelieve Come True. 


story attributed to Lincoln who said: "I ain't greedy about 
land I only want what jines mine." Give strategic logic its 
head and a navy conscientious about screening continents, 
guarding shipping routes and "showing the flag" requires a 
round-the-world chain of bases from shore to shore of all 

The reasoning is often circular as well as global. The his- 
torian Weinberg compares it to suicide by swallowing one's 
tail. 4 Dulles saw it clearly in the Philippine question: 

"With Dewey in Manila [the naval expansionists] had urged 
the annexation of Hawaii in order to secure a basis of support 
for his fleet; now that we had taken [Hawaii] they declared 
that we had to have the Philippines to protect Hawaii." 
Americans in the Pacific, 235^ 

Another angle was less publicly discussed. Minor naval bases 
scattered round the globe would pay off nicely in case of war, 
enabling raiders to get in among enemy shipping much more 
quickly than if they had to enter the Pacific from, say, Atlantic 
bases. American naval strength in Hawaii could cut all routes 
between Canada and the Antipodes; so could French naval 
strength in New Caledonia. In World War I the Germans 
demonstrated the theory in their early use of von Spec's iso- 
lated China squadron, and numerous raiders basing in Mi- 
cronesia. The oftener ships crossed the Pacific, the farther the 
margins of the great ocean developed economically, the more 
such considerations appealed to brass hats and, sometimes, 

Engineering stimulated it all. American-developed trans- 
continental railroads terminating at San Francisco and Panama 
made the States look narrowly at the waters beyond. Chronic 
schemes for an Isthmian canal had the same result, as much 

4 Manifest Destiny, 70. 

E Comparably 7 whereas in 1895 Lodge maintained that the States needed 
Hawaii to protect the Panama Canal that she would eventually bufld 
("Our Blundering Foreign Policy/' Forum, March, 1893), in 1898 
McKinley maintained that the States now had to build the canal to 
protect Hawaii (Millis, The Martial Spirit, 389). 


in British and French as in American minds, emphasized in 
1869 by the opening of the Suez Canal. The advent of coal- 
fired steamers greatly whetted appetites for Pacific islands: A 
sailing vessel could cross an ocean or keep the sea for years, as 
whalers often did, without needing more than occasional 
water, firewood, cordage and provisions. But a steamer's coal 
bunkers lacked capacity for such feats of endurance. Since 
coal was locally available round the Pacific littoral only in 
Australia and New Zealand/ a steam navy in the Pacific im- 
plied permanent collier-supplied fueling depots at both main- 
land bases and island steppingstones. When Commodore 
Perry so high-handedly ran up the flag on the Ryukyus and 
Bonins in the 'fifties, he had transpacific liners as much on his 
mind as naval cruisers; he even detached a vessel to look into 
the availability and quality of Formosan coal. In 1890, Mahan, 
chief rationalizer of American big-navy feeling, thundered: 

"It should be an inviolable resolution of our national policy 
that no foreign state should henceforth acquire a coaling sta- 
tion within three thousand miles of San Francisco/ 7 "The 
United States Looking Outward," Atlantic Monthly, Decem- 
ber, 1890. 

For those unable to read maps, he pointed out that this took 
in the Galapagos and the coasts of Central America as well as 
Hawaii. In cold fact it also covered the Line Islands, the 
Aleutians and the Marquesasa mammoth bite of ocean for a 
presumably self-contained power. Then, as international law 
intruded on the Pacific the old-timers' idea, zealously demon- 
strated, had been "no law west of Cape Horn" naval need for 
the shelter of one's own flag sharpened, for belligerent vessels 
could no longer base permanently on ports of nations declaring 
themselves neutral. Thus Dewey would have had to capture 
Manila or some other Spanish port r even if there had been no 
Spanish squadron to destroy. The only legal alternative was to 
return all the way to California and operate as a pointless coast 
defense screen. 

e Only theoretically in Japan, China, Formosa, Alaska at the time. 


Considerations based on coal apply equally to petroleum 
products as fuel for ship and, up to now anyway, for aircraft. 
Oil-wells too exist only at the periphery of the Pacific. Tankers 
must wallow long distances from the East Indies, California, 
Sakhalin or Mexico to where patrol- or combat-craft can make 
the most of fuel. Refueling of ships at sea proved practical 
during the recent war but is unhandy at best; the time factor 
too makes well-spotted island bases far preferable. So the ad- 
vent of transpacific aviation in the 'thirties produced an un- 
dignified scramble for island steppingstones to and from the 
Antipodes and the Far East. 

Lack of anchorage off lonely mid-Pacific atolls had long 
meant international neglect, where guano was lacking. But 
safe anchorage means less to a seaplane able to sit down on the 
lagoon or a landplane seeking an atoll air strip, so the isolated 
Pacific islet occasionally experienced a dramatic renascence. 
Bits of land that had escaped attention since discovery by a 
sealer in James Monroe's time suddenly found themselves de- 
scended on by parties representing nations armed with hazy 
old claims, painful politeness and a great disinclination to arbi- 
trate. Johnston, Wake, Clipperton Islands were the meaning- 
less names in stickfuls of type on front pages. Some details of 
what nation has what rights on certain of the Line Islands- 
Fanning and Christmas, for instance are not settled yet 

One party from the U.S. Department of the Interior sailed 
under secret orders and set up radio stations, manned by Ha- 
waiians, on Jarvis, Baker and Rowland Islands before any rival 
meaning Britain knew what went on. But on Canton Island 
they found a British radio party who had got wind of their 
purpose over Stateside radio. From six in the morning until 
noon matters were chilly between the two groups; then, 
sensibly concluding that all were only agents, and the affair 
should be settled not with chunks of coral on Canton but by 
negotiation between capitals, British and Americans settled 
down sociably to discuss the supply of beer that the firstcomers 
had in their kerosene refrigerator. For a while discussions in 
their respective capitals were less amicable. But it all ended in 


agreement that Canton should go under British-American 
condominium. Few Americans are aware that., on this gigantic 
circle of coral sand, Uncle Sam has been in governmental 
partnership with perfidious Albion a dozen years. It works well 
enough; except airfield personnel there is nothing much to 
govern but fish and birds. 

The chain-of-air-bases principle so conspicuous in the recent 
war parallels the chain-of-naval-bases theory after which navies 
hankered even before steam. Some air bases were very queer 
affairs indeed. Johnston Island is incredible a kite-shaped scrap 
of unmistakably man-reconstructed dry land absolutely no- 
where, a mere heap of dredged and bulldozed and filled coral, 
its imprisoned inhabitants as abjectly dependent as a ship at 
sea on outside sources for food and water. A comic map of the 
place in the A.T.C. terminal shows a plane-pilot approaching, 
leaning out to gape at the spot he is supposed to sit down on 
and saying: "Are they kidding?" 

Though long regarded in practice, the chain theory was not 
formulated until comparatively recent times. 7 During the nine- 
teenth century the Royal Navy nevertheless came close actually 
to realizing a round-the-globe chain, the Pacific links being 
Sydney, Auckland, Hongkong, Fiji, Esquimalt. The gap in the 
eastern half of thef ocean is significant as showing that the For- 
eign and Colonial Offices were by no means hand in glove with 
the Admiralty, else Rapa (Australs), Bora Bora (Societies) and 
Hawaii might have been added to complete the web. Since the 
Admiralty was operating largely by inarticulate instinct, how- 
ever, it was possible for the Empire as a whole to sabotage the 
Royal Navy's strategy for generations without either party's 
being altogether clear what was happening. Those convinced 
that Britain has been congenitally land- and power-greedy 
should have a long look at the story of how she acquired the 
cream of the Pacific Islands. Much of the time lords and 

7 Say the Sprouts (The Rise of American Naval Power, 205) : Mahan be- 
came the world's greatest naval theorist largely through "organizing 
into a coherent system or philosophy the strategic principles which the 
British Admiralty had been following more or less blindly for over two 
hundred years." 


gentlemen in London offices were busier courteously declining 
to have anything to do with acquiring islands than scheming 
to plant the Union Jack in new places. 8 Ambitious naval of- 
ficers and colonials found it highly exasperating. 

Britain wanted Australia and took elaborate precautions 
against intrusion. But she did not want New Zealand. Thirty 
years of missionary involvement, trouble ashore with rowdy 
whites, disgracefully unregulated trade, enthusiastic propa- 
ganda by Wakefield's New Zealand Company, and irritation 
with France's patent ambition to colonize the place dragged 
past before the Treaty of Waitangi acknowledged that Queen 
Victoria would find New Zealand less nuisance inside than 
outside the Empire. Britain did not want Hawaii enough to get 
tough about it, as has been seen. She did not want Samoa, as 
will presently be shown. She did not want Tahiti and crisply 
told Queen Pomare so. She did not want Fiji: the tale of po- 
litical encroachment there is fantastically typical of how these 
things developed. 

It began back in the 'forties, the period when they said you 
needed no chart to find Fiji, you need only follow the increas- 
ing number of empty gin bottles floating in the sea. Growing 
American interests there had necessitated installing a U.S. 
consular agent, and the incumbent, one Williams, like other 
such officials since, was deep in local business schemes. As a 
patriot, he overcelebrated a Fourth of July at his seat on a small 
island; during the party a cannon was fired off, burst, and set 
fire to the house. As it burned Fijians present took advantage 
of an immemorial custom probably a local version of the 
Maoris 7 muru previously described and looted the place. 
Williams, presently finding himself sober, houseless, and an- 
noyed, presented Cakobau, "king" of Fiji, a bill for $5,001.38 

8 ". . . while Britain might have annexed almost every coast outside 
Europe except the Atlantic coast of the United States, she limited her- 
self to calling ports for her shipping on the ocean road to the Indies, 
and to such colonial developments in unoccupied regions as were forced 
on her by her own adventurers, whom she tried in vain to check." 
MacKinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, 1 34. 


Now Cakobau, though the most conspicuous high chief in 
Fiji, lord of Bau and terror of Viti Levu, was not "king" of 
Fiji or anywhere else in any intelligible sense. Though fre- 
quently misapplied by whites out of ignorance or design., the 
word was always an anomaly in the South Seas. Fiji had no 
notion of any political entity resembling royalty. A ruthless 
and successful enough high chief could exact homage and 
tribute from all Fiji, but that his ascendancy established a 
dynasty or a presumptive and permanent authority was a 
thoroughly alien idea. At the time, Cakobau's power over rival 
powerful high chiefs, mere force ma/eure at best, was tenuous, 
because the Tongans were filibustering strongly into Fiji from 
the east. Cakobau had also recently weakened his general influ- 
ence by turning Christian. Still, Williams' predecessor had 
once flattered him by calling him "Tui Viti" as near as the 
language permitted to "King of Fiji" and Williams, at odds 
with Cakobau anyway, chose to regard him as a responsible 
sovereign obliged to make good his subjects' depredations. 

Neither Cakobau nor any other Fijian had any such sum, 
nor would he have paid it over if he had. Things dragged on. 
As various Americans suffered damage in native squabbles, 
Williams added their claims to his. When U.S.S. "John 
Adams" appeared in 1855, her commander browbeat Cakobau 
into signing an acknowledgment of owing Americans a total 
of $43,531. Three years later Cakobau had still to pay a penny. 
This time U.S.S. "Vandalia" got the claim acknowledged at 
$45,000, interest included. On paper Mr. Williams' belongings 
and houses he lost another by fire set by marauding natives 
still looked like an excellent investment. 

But Cakobau had an ace up his sleeve. Fearful of the in- 
creasingly aggressive Tongans, mortally convinced that, unless 
the debt were somehow settled, the States would move in on 
him as France had moved in on Tahiti, he began to listen 
attentively to the opportunistic British consul a lively and 
veteran South Seas hand named Pritchard, son of the stormy 
petrel of Tahiti, 9 who was an enthusiast about the future of 
e Cf . IV, 5, Fisheis of Men. 


cotton in Fiji. Between them they agreed that, if Britain would 
settle with the Americans and guarantee Cakobau status as 
first gentleman of Fiji, she could have a protectorate over the 
Islandswhich would scare away the Tongans and have also 
200,000 acres of land to develop. Pritchard dropped everything 
and hurried to London to secure ratification. Then, having 
delivered a glowing sales talk to his superiors at home, he re- 
turned to assume something the same mayor-of-the-palace 
power under Cakobau that his father had enjoyed under 
Queen Pomare. 

Shortly before two high-ranking Royal Navy officers had told 
their government that Fiji was strategically well worth having 
as a coaling station to hook up with Isthmian canal schemes. 
Government was dubious, however partly, Pritchard claimed, 
because his background was London Missionary Society while 
Fiji was the bailiwick of the Wesleyans, who were jealous of 
him. A Colonel Smythe of the Royal Artillery, accompanied by 
a wife who did charming water colors of Fijian scenery, and a 
German botanist named Seemann who wrote a fine book about 
the place, was sent to investigate. The Colonel looked, ques- 
tioned, and disliked the idea. He took a very dim view of the 
local whites, unquestionably a scaly lot; he studied the map 
and concluded that Rapa, still no man's land, was better situ- 
ated for a coaling station; he saw little reason to believe that 
Fiji would ever come to much economically; and he could find 
no evidence that Cakobau was a king or could hand over any 
200,000 acres. Seemann, who saw infinite agricultural possibili- 
ties, and Pritchard, who yearned to be an Empire builder, were 
outraged. But Smythe reported home an elaborate No, and in 
1863 H.M.S. "Miranda" appeared with a polite message do- 
ing Cakobau to wit that Queen Victoria wished him very well 
indeed on his own. 

Australia also was outraged. Though exploitation of their 
own subcontinent was only begun, Australians were already 
subimperial-minded. The cotton boom was taking many of 
them to Fiji, and the various Australian colonies, not even 
federated yet, wrung their hands when the Empire rejected 


so tempting an offer. Captain Robert Towns, the Queensland 
plantation builder, even offered personally to pay Williams if 
that would help consummate a protectorate. Geographically., 
true, Australia is the logical guardian of Fiji. But for all that, 
Cakobau was right back where he had started, except for the 
loss of mana involved in having offered homage to another and 
seeing it refused. Fortunately, a 1000% increase in the white 
population of his sphere of influence was keeping the Tongans 
at bay, and the same Federal blockade that boomed cotton was 
keeping the U.S. Navy too busy to bother about Fiji. Williams 
could only turn his claims over to a speculative land company 
in which he was interested, to be revived when chance suited. 
In the 'seventies the white colony in Fiji was large and 
crafty-minded enough to try government nearer modern lines 
than Cakobau's indecisive personal rule. They made the old 
gentleman a constitutional monarch with a crown, a flag 
carrying the Dove of Peace as well as numerous heathen sym- 
bols, a bicameral parliament and no votes for natives. He was 
old; he probably felt the lack of dignity in his position and 
disliked the cabals, riots and grandiloquently-named vigilance 
committees that the whites kept stirring up among them- 
selves. So again he offered his islands to Britain on condition 
that the American claims be paid and his chiefs' privileges 
reserved. This time, because Britain had grown more Pacific- 
minded, it worked. The Queen would graciously accept, but 
only unconditionally. Cakobau agreed that conditions be- 
tween chiefs were unworthy. The debt was covered by a deal 
with Australian capital, and Cakobau received a pension of 
1,500 a year. At the ceremony of cession he gave the Queen's 
representative his favorite war club to forward to his new 
sovereign, saying, with good South Seas courtesy, that it was 
the only thing he owned that she might value. Bound in silver, 
it is now the ceremonial mace of the Fijian legislative council. 
Within a year began the flood of Indian indentured labor to 
work on sugar-plantations. . . . 10 There you have all the essen- 
tial elements that extinguished native autonomy in the Pacific: 
M Cf. V, Their Gods Are Dead. 


busybody missionaries, overeager naval captains, grand strategy, 
hopeful planters and aggressive consuls. 

Australians were equally eager to control New Guinea, the 
New Hebrides, New Caledonia and the Solomons. John G. 
Paton, durable pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides, made 
his every visit to Sydney another occasion for urging the rescue 
of such islands from the pernicious complementary threats of 
popery and French rule. But London was still bored. New 
Caledonia, an island apparently created to be a dependency of 
Australia, went by default in the 'fifties to French oppor- 
tunism. The Crimean war was in progress and the French 
rightly judged that, as valued allies, they could take liberties 
with the Lion that might be inadvisable later. The question of 
the New Hebrides dragged on, settled in 1887- if y ou ca ^ ^ 
settlement by agreement on a French-British condominium, 
famous in the Pacific as "the Pandemonium," that has tended 
gradually to extirpate Australian influence in the group. While 
London dallied about New Guinea, Germans pushed in from 
the north. When Queensland, just across the Torres Strait, 
took the bit in her colonial teeth and ran up flags in well- 
chosen spots, she was forced to back out by British, not Ger- 
man, protest. In the end Germany got half of Western New 
Guinea, Australia the other half. At one time or another Brit- 
ain could have had everything in the Pacific for the asking, 
barring perhaps Hawaii and Samoa. What she did get was fat, 
as islands go, but there was little consistent purpose behind 
the getting. The critical factor seems often to have been the 
Islander's firm belief that, if some western guardian were 
necessary, Beritani was the best choice. 

The French were contrastingly consistent and logical; per- 
haps in consequence of such clarity of mind, they came off 
second. Through Restoration, July Monarchy, Second Empire, 
French aggressiveness meant colony- and sea-mindedness. In 
the 'forties France often had more floating firepower in the 
Pacific than Britain and the States combined. When the row 
with Britain about Tahiti was amicably settled, 11 French feel- 
u Cf . IV, 5, Fishers of Men. 


ing toward Guizot's pusillanimity over a mountainous island 
about the size of an American county was so strong that some 
think It seriously contributed to Louis Philippe's downfall. 
True, France's adventures in the Pacific were minor compared 
to those in Africa, Indo-China and Mexico, but they are 
worth study as clean examples of explicit action. 

French warships on survey missions led off as soon as the 
Napoleonic wars were over. Missionaries followed up. 12 As 
will be seen, no reasonable person, French or not, denies that 
French Catholic missions were candidly regarded as a tool of 
Empire. Whenever local disturbances gave a pretext, vessels 
of the French Pacific squadron would appear, expostulate, 
aggravate and, when risks looked worth it, take over. The 
technique failed in Hawaii, probably because both Britain and 
the Spates were too openly annoyed; in New Zealand because 
British subjects were entrenched there ahead of their govern- 
ment; in Tonga because the British Wesleyans* hold on the 
natives combined too well with native toughness. But the 
French understood the Hitlerish strategy of striking for 
maxima while consolidating minima. With Britain conveni- 
ently careless and the States paying little heed, France domi- 
nated the middle of the South Pacific by 1860, holding a 
constellation of mutually-supporting potential bases including 
the Marquesas, Gambiers, Tuamotu, Australs and Tahiti, New 
Caledonia and Wallis Island. 

Economically and socially most of these proved little, but 
they must have appeared most gratifying on the big map at 
the Ministry of Marine. When the gigantic French filibuster 
in Mexico was launched in the 'sixties, it looked as if France 
would acquire Acapulco and Vera Cruz in addition to long- 
standing footholds in the Caribbean area at Martinique and 
Cayenne meaning potential control of both entrances of the 
projected canal as well as the southeastern entrance to the Pa- 
cific. And only the gap represented by the Cooks, Samoa and 
Tonga spoiled the pattern of a chain of bases slap across the 
M Cf . IV, 5, Fishers of Men. 


Pacific. But events left this implicit project behind. The Civil 
War ended the wrong way and Mexico was lost. The western 
part of the Societies were acquired in the 'eighties with grudging 
British consent; but once 4 again droopiness at home frustrated 
naval purposes. The bases that should have been built at 
Noumea and Bora Bora remained mere dreams, and civil ad- 
ministration of such islands replaced naval. 

As it grew plainer around the turn of the century that France 
was most unlikely to fight any traditional Pacific power, a great 
futility descended on the components of her Pacific empire. 
The Marquesas quietly rotted away- even a scheme to send 
convicts there came to nothing. The Gambiers practically dis- 
appeared from human cognizance, as did Rapa, once, though 
briefly, a coaling station for ships from Australia to Panama. 
Tahiti subsided into a Polynesian-flavored Montparnasse. 
When New Caledonia's usefulness as a convict colony ended 
in the 'nineties, the place slid into semiparalysis imposed by the 
colonial f onctionnaire, financed by somewhat desultory mining 
of its magnificent mineral resources and supported by inden- 
tured labor from Java and Indo-China. Now the French have 
most reason of all whites to look about them on their Pacific 
isles and ask what the devil they are doing in that galley. But, as 
usual, their taste was flawless. They came out of the game with 
a bag of islands averaging the highest of any nation's posses- 
sions in beauty and versatility of terrain. 

The Germans, zealous latecomers, operated, also as usual, 
without any taste at all. Godeffroys, a private project long pre- 
dating the German Empire, soon acquired a semigovernmental 
flavor. Their Pacific viceroy, the aforesaid Weber, was also the 
pathologically active German consul in Samoa. Their successors 
the best known was the "Long Handle Firm/' short for 
Zweigniederlassung der Deutschen Handels- und Plantagen- der Siidseeinseln -became almost as much vice- 
regal governments as the'British East India Company had been. 

For a while things were under wraps because Bismarck was 
scornful of empire, saying in 1868: 


"For Germany to possess colonies would be like a poverty- 
stricken Polish nobleman acquiring a silken sable coat when 
he needed shirts/' Masterman, The Origins of International 
Rivalry in Samoa, 78. i 

But colony-mindedness built up just the same. German cruisers 
early began poking round for treaties of amity and coaling sta- 
tions in Tonga, close under the British wing, and in Raiatea, 
close under the French. In 1878 the government barely man- 
aged to defeat in the Reichstag legislation for Reich financing 
of German trade in the Islands. When, in the mid-eighties, 
Bismarck reversed himself, the New Germany was boldly com- 
mitted to naval power and colonies to match. Which came 
first, whether either was necessary, raised no difficulties. The 
psychology was well explained by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 
commenting on American expansion in the Pacific: 

". . . colonies were a badge of importance as far as a nation 
was concerned . . . like the letters after a man's name in 
Who's Who. They gave to a country owning them a standing 
among nations, and were a guarantee that the nation had come 
of age." Colonial Policies of the United States, 74. 

Africa and China, likely places for carving out empire, were 
principal objectives; but the Islands also were to be favored. 
Germany was out for colonies in the mood of a nouveau riclie 
buying a library by the yard. 

She took over the dying plantations of the Marquesas; she 
tinkered with cotton-planting in the Spanish-owned Marianas; 
she encouraged German missions, both Catholic and Protes- 
tant, in Micronesia. She descended on New Guinea and what 
was soon to be known as the Bismarck Archipelago (New 
Ireland, New Britain and so forth) with Samoa-style planta- 
tions worked by imported Melanesians. She moved into the 
Marshalls which, though nothing like as worth having as the 
Bismarcks, added another item to the list. Jaluit atoll became 
a miniature commercial capital, again with government and 
business inextricably mingled. She set up trading shop in the 
Palaus and tried to establish sovereignty over Yap (Carolines); 


but Spain protested querulously, called in the Pope as arbiter, 
and managed to remain in possession, though forced to promise 
full commercial privileges to Germany. 13 Germany was briskly 
active in the Gilberts until, with well-founded suspicion, the 
British set up a protectorate there. One way or another, by 
1900 Germany was mistress of a miniature Pacific empire, in- 
cluding a rich quarter of New Guinea, all the lush big islands 
north of it, the western third of the Solomons, the important 
two-thirds of Samoa, and all Micronesia except American- 
owned Guam and the British-held Gilberts. 

Indiscriminate opportunism was the means. During a genera- 
tion, as in the three-cornered squabbling over Samoa, the 
German elbow had usually been sharpest and the German 
tongue the shrillest. The way was not smooth in Samoa be- 
cause Britain was growingly suspicious, and the States were hav- 
ing a premonitory attack of imperialism of their own; the 
Samoans themselves were sulky and had to be shot up at in- 
tervals by all parties. But Britain, never overcommitted, was 
willing to deal when, at the turn of the century, the powers 
again tried to settle the squabble. Africa, where Germany was 
openly cheering on the embattled Boers, and the Solomons, 
where British interests were growing, seemed to Britain more 
important than the lovely islands of Upolu and Savaii. So 
Western Samoa went to Germany at long last; Eastern Samoa, 
including the fine small harbor of Pago Pago, went to the 
States, whose strategic interest there dated back to Grant's 
time; and Britain accepted most of the Solomons and odd con- 
cessions in Africa. In 1899 Germany had exploited Spanish dis- 
couragement after the Spanish-American War by buying all 
Spain's rights in Micronesia, which completely surrounded 
the States' newly acquired Guam. 14 She got little out of these 

13 At the time Spain was having a feckless fit of ambition in her loosely- 
held Micronesian islands, particularly trying to introduce white ideas 
into the Carolines. All that resulted was a vigorous revolt of the natives, 
which Spanish soldiers never succeeded in suppressing altogether. This 
was also the period when Chile asserted a claim, which nobody bothered 
much about, to Easter Island and its satellite Sala-y-Gomez. 
. IV, 4, Destiny's Helpers. 


acquisitions except local prestige. But, when the Japanese oc- 
cupied Micronesia in 1914 as nominal ally of the Entente, the 
picture snapped sharply into focus. Micronesia was the perfect 
screen for an ambitious empire in the Northwest Pacific. Ger- 
many had not planned to build so snug a nest for the Japanese 
cuckoo, but that is precisely what she accomplished. 

Beyond that the principal feature of German rule in the 
Pacific was Dr. Wilhelm Solf, perennial governor of German 
Samoa a granite-faced, monocle-eyed, rigidly hefty satrap of 
empire whom the Islands still remember as a most consider- 
able man. Aware that British rule in Fiji was reputed fair and 
firm, he prefixed to his Samoan assignment a long visit to Fiji 
and applied what he learned about "indirect rule" without 
servile imitation but with clever improvisation, especially re- 
garding the proud, factious, sea-lawyer types prevalent among 
Samoan chiefs. Old-timers in Apia still look back on his regime 
as a sort of grim Golden Age when, however arbitrary govern- 
ment was, everybody knew just where he stood, or at least 
could rapidly find out by stepping out of line. Solf did not fool, 
and knew just how to use the big stick that consisted of the 
German China Squadron. 

The plantations got their blackbirded labor, but their pre- 
vious impression, heritage from the days of Weber, that they 
were to run Samoa was rudely dispelled. Pan-German planters 
and traders on Savaii, cooled off with infuriating skill, were un- 
able to do more about it than write scurrilous letters home to 
produce questions in the Reichstag. Solf was present at one 
such inquiry, says an old story: part of the charge was that he 
had gone native and lolled about with flowers in his hair. He 
stood up, took off his hat, and made one devastating gesture 
toward the crown of his head, which was bald as a baby's 

His notions of relations between white and native included 
much typically, but by no means exclusively, German non- 
sense about superior races and white destiny to rule. But he did 
his best to honor German commitments to local politicians, 
and to give the Samoans face-saving nominal participation in 


government. He also had a shrewd but harsh understanding of 
native respect for force; when unrealistic ambition in a brilliant 
Savaii talking-chief named Lauati culminated in armed de- 
fiance of the government, he easily maintained his mana by 
showing nothing but easygoing contempt and simultaneously 
whistling up warships. In the end, without actual shooting, he 
got Lauati and company exiled for life on Saipan (Marianas), 
where they were given land and encouraged to set up Samoan 
life and customs to their hearts* content; local convicts were 
told off to build Samoa-type houses for them. Solf did not even 
lose perspective when "the Beach" 15 tried to make him trouble 
from the habit acquired in the old days of three-nation intrigue: 
H. J. Moors, the enterprising American, 16 was one of the most 
active. Much of Solf s rule was a pernicious example in western 
eyes, but it worked as nothing had worked in Samoa before. 
When New Zealand took over in 1914, she was handicapped 
not only by lack of experience, Samoan subtlety, and local busi- 
nessmen's sulkiness, but also by invidious memories of the 
great Dr. Solf, who had left to be Reich colonial minister just 
before the outbreak of World War I and had already acquired 
a grudgingly awarded halo. 

The wreck of the "Adler" is not the only relic of Germany in 
Samoa. The larger boardinghouse in Apia was built for bachelor 
quarters for German officials; German additions to Stevenson's 
beloved house at Vailima make it even more of a Subpriorsf ord 
than ever. Half the private subscribers to the local telephone 
have German names and, as this is written, one of the highest 
Samoan chiefs is trying to get government permission for part- 
Samoan relatives in Germany to come to Apia. A German- 
Samoan half-caste has been notably active in recent scheming 
for Samoan autonomy, and Samoan children playing soldier in 
remote villages are heard to shout: "Achtung! Ein, zwei, drei, 

Beach" is South Sea talk for the complex of interests, proverbs, 
and gossip emanating from the commercial element of an island. The 
people involved are either whites or part-whites or natives trying to live 
in white man's terms. 
ls Cf. VI, i, Hurry, Hurry, Hurry . . . 


vier . . ." A photograph of Dr. Solf, monocle and all, hangs 
in the government offices along with the string of post-igi4 
New Zealand administrators. He will long be remembered 

In taking over Samoa New Zealand dealt herself into a game 
in which there was much prestige to lose and little credit to be 
gained. But she badly wanted to play anyway for, ia parallel 
with Australia, she precociously developed imperial notions. A 
century ago the great Sir George Grey, scholarly and able gov- 
ernor, and the great Bishop Selwyn, scholarly and able An- 
glican missionary, 17 determined that the struggling new colony 
needed hegemony over a British-controlled Pacific empire con- 
sisting of all islands not yet tied downmeaning, at the time, 
practically everything but French holdings. Nothing came of it 
but great eloquence from knight and bishop. In another genera- 
tion, however, Sir Julius Vogel, hyperkinetic premier of New 
Zealand, revived those ideas with particular emphasis on 
Samoa, where, as usual, things were boiling rapidly. 

Thenceforth, whenever Samoa was in the news, diplomats 
would receive suggestions that New Zealand would be glad to 
take the place off the world's hands. At the turn of the century 
the ambitious little dominion got Britain to turn over to her 
the less strategic Cook group, where she developed a reputa- 
tion, so far as the world paid any attention, for handling the 
natives kindly. She was also credited with civilized attitudes 
toward the Maori, her own home Polynesians. So, when the 
Southern Cross went up over German Samoa in 1914, it eventu- 
ally made sense to the world's conscience that New Zealand 
should have the League of Nations Class C mandate, amount- 
ing to virtual sovereignty. Conscience was not necessarily con- 
cerned anyway, else Micronesia might never have been turned 
over to the Japanese. In both cases a stubborn conqueror, with 
no idea whatever of abandoning the territory conquered, was 
made to look like a legal guardian. That is unmistakable in the 
parallel case of Australia's demand for at least Class C mandates 
17 Cf . IV, 5, Fishers of Men. 


over former German holdings in New Guinea and the West- 
ern Solomons. 

The somewhat hysterical history of Western Samoa as a ward 
of New Zealand belongs in a later chapter. 18 Here, with the 
treaties of 1919, the process of dividing up the Pacific Islands 
ends with a stability that, essentially, survived even World War 
II. 19 The only subsequent change of significance was the in- 
heritance by the United States of Micronesia, most of which 
has seen four ruler-nations within fifty years. This also marked 
the culmination of a most devious and curious process the 
gradual involvement of the United States in the Pacific: 

18 Cf . V, Their Gods Are Dead. 

^Specialists in Latin-American history may consider that this book 
scamps the influence of South America on the Islands. So far as the 
writer knows, it was interesting but tenuous: there was little of note ex- 
cept the early Spanish explorations from Peruvian bases; the Chilean 
title to Easter Island; the role played by South American ports in the 
whaling trade and the basing of men-of-war; the Mexican influence on 
the cattle industry of Hawaii; the coincidence that both the Picpus 
missionaries and the Godeffroy firm went into the Islands by way of 
Valparaiso; the prevalence of South American coinage in many of the 
Islands; the Peruvian slavers; and the probable fact that the neat little 
ponies of the Cook Islands spring from stock imported from Chile in 
the early days. 

Destiny's Helpers 



tale of how Uncle Sam got involved. The impulse is commend- 
able, but a conscience with better perspective would not suffer 
so much. In comparison with French and German capers, even 
with some British doings, the American record looks pretty fair. 
Said Weinberg: 

"American history is an excellent laboratory for the study of 
expansionist ideology, but not because its expansionism calls 
for sharper moral criticism ... It is perhaps the most cheer- 
ful record of such perilous ambitions." Manifest Destiny, 8. 1 

Nor, though often unscrupulous, were American jugglings in 
the Islands necessarily bad for the world in the long run. This 
devious intrusion of American power was an eventual guarantee 
that Japan, aggressive as early as 1890, could somehow be 
checked in her drive for East Asia and its fringing and screen- 
ing islands. As Americans we assume that the political and 
emotional flexibilities of our culture are good things; and con- 
versely, that Japanese political and emotional rigidities are 

^r, for the opinion of a scholarly non-American, take Scholefield, a 
New Zealander: "The advent of the United States as a Pacific power 
was to a large extent accidental, the , corollary of national duties rather 
than the expansion of national ambitions/' The Pacific, Its Past and 
Future, 183. 


poisonous to what we consider the human spirit to be. Like all 
such assumptions, though vulnerable to analysis, these are 
valid in operation. 

Whitewashing, of course, can be carried too far. There were 
unmistakable traces of aggression, profit seeking, busybodiness, 
and megalomania in the background of Manila and Tokio 
Bay. Only because it was unaware of that background could 
the American public still be startled in 1898 when Uncle Sam, 
who had presumably been fighting to rescue Cuba from Span- 
ish tyranny, suddenly found himself knee-deep in islands four- 
fifths of the way to China, 

Until war with Spain made what to do about Hawaii and the 
Philippines a major issue overnight, Americans had seldom 
been greatly or consistently concerned with whether the States 
needed or had the right to expand far into the Pacific. Even 
now, with a staggering Pacific war so recent and our Pacific 
responsibilities heavy, it seldom occurs to the average man to 
wonder why and how it all happened. By Pearl Harbor time we 
had been out there for enough years to make it seem natural, 
and had long approached such issues as that of independence 
for the Philippines, which alone reminded us of our Pacific 
commitments, as if they concerned only exporters and domestic 
manufacturers of sugar, fats and cordage. 2 Only specialists 
thought farther, sometimes concluding that, if any such ad- 
venture were to have been embarked on y we should have fared 
better by going farther earlier. 

But that leaves out the naval officers and diplomats who 
usually without their employers, the American people, being 
aware of it had already sketched quite a framework for Ameri- 
can interest in the great ocean. Porter started it in 1814, when 
chasing whalers in the "Essex," by building a fortified base on 

s What By water wrote in 1921 is still essentially true: "When the 
United States relieved Spain of the Philippines, she gave hostages to 
fortune in a sense which the American people have never fully realized. 
But for the acquisition of these islands, they need never have main- 
tained a powerful fleet in the Pacific or have gone to the expense of 
constructing great naval bases on the Western Coast." Sea-Power in 
the Pacific, 254. 


Nukahiva (Marquesas) and, with due flag raising, taking pos- 
session of its site. He called the new port Madisonville and its 
small but well protected harbor Massachusetts Bay. The na- 
tives, Porter averred, were "all much pleased at being Mel- 
likees." 3 

Little came of this gesture except some colorful chapters in 
his journal and, when he saw fit to interfere in local feuds, 
some dead Marquesans. His superiors had probably not con- 
templated his enlarging the boundaries of the United States, or 
his taking sides in a chronic war among touchy but charming 
medium-brown cannibals. Yet, when he reached home after 
losing the "Essex" to the British in the famous fight at Val- 
paraiso, he was not censured for exceeding instructions. And 
though Madisonville was allowed to decay as if it had never 
been built, the U.S. Navy had a Pacific squadron operating 
out of South American ports within twelve years. 

These- ships, or others sent on special missions, got as far 
afield as Quallah Battoo in the East Indies, Canton, Korea and 
Japan, and inflicted various degrees of violence on Asiatics who 
took too little account of a gaudily striped flag. In the Island 
area, Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, U.S.S. "Peacock/' 
negotiated an early treaty of amity with the Hawaiian monarchy 
and, exerting the versatile functions demanded of cruising 
naval commanders, ref ereed a dispute between traders and mis- 
sionaries. He also strongly advised keeping the royal revenues 
in an ironbound box. In 1842 this same Jones took too eagerly 
a rumor that Mexico had sold California to England, and 
imaginatively seized Monterey, capital of Upper California, 
withdrawing only when events failed to live up to his bellicose 
expectations. In the same period the elaborate Wilkes survey- 
ing expedition was systematically covering most of the Pacific, 
incidentally trying nominally to annex Spanish Wake Island, 
and shooting up and burning Fijian villages that had got too 
gay with American skippers. Ten years later the Perry expedi- 
tion to open up Japan planted the Stars and Stripes on both 
the Bonins and Okinawa, in island groups that cost many thou- 
s /ouraal of a Cruize, II, 82. 


sands of American lives in World War II. Again, none of these 
improvisations had permanent territorial results. But they had 
begun to make a significant pattern. A student of his career 
labeled Perry "the first American imperialist/' 4 

Official dreams of an American naval base in Hawaii date 
back to 1841. As the 'fifties became the 'sixties, consuls and 
cabinets occasionally helped the Navy play the game that it 
had begun almost absent-mindedly. With the Isthmian Canal 
in mind, the States acquired a perpetual option on the Gulf 
of Fonseca, between Nicaragua and Honduras, for a potential 
naval base. In 1854 Uncle Sam sat down on the Galapagos 
Islands, covering the southern approach to the canal, pulling 
out nervously when the British and French protested. Consul 
and Navy cooperated, as has been already seen, in harassing 
Fiji. To the disgust of the French, already in the saddle in 
nearby Tahiti, another U.S. consul blarneyed the chiefs of 
Raiatea into handing that island over to the States in 1858. A 
reformed medical missionary who had become a State Depart- 
ment agent in China, cooked up with American commercial 
adventurers an abortive scheme to bring Formosa under the 
American flag. 5 In 1867 Alaska was bought for reasons little 
appreciated at the time Midway Island was officially nailed 
down as American for use as a coaling station. 6 And Samoa 
bulked large in certain naval and diplomatic eyes long before 
the average American had ever heard of the place. 

In the interests of schemes for American-flag steamer service 

^William S. Rossiter, North American Review, 1906, Vol. 182. 
B This Dr. Peter Parker pioneered medical missions in China; a useful 
diplomatic go-between and interpreter, lie was appointed U.S. com- 
missioner in due season. Says Dennett (Americans in Eastern Asia, 
288) : "Much reading of international law since the eye doctor became 
a diplomat had made Dr. Parker a little mad." His allies in the Formosa 
scheme were Gideon Nye, Jr. and a Peruvian named Robinet who ran 
a camphor trading outfit on Formosa. They failed to interest Wash- 
ington. But Formosan coal had already been an object of interest to the 
P & O steamship line. 

6 Readers of The Wrecker will remember how the crew of the "Currency 
Lass" were so tragically deceived by printed information that Pacific 
Mail steamers were actually coaling at Midway. 


between Australasia and the west coast, U.S.S. "Narragansett," 
Commander Meade, surveyed Pago Pago harbor on Tutuila, 
the best haven in Samoa and one of the finest in the Pacific, 
with a coaling depot in mind. The alleged occasion was Ger- 
man encroachment to the same end; the actual, imagination- 
tickling reason appeared in the instructions given Meade 
through his commanding officer by the American minister to 

"In view of the Future domination of the United States in the 
N. & S. Pacific Oceans; it is very important that the Navigator 
Islands [Samoa] should be under American control ruling 
through the native authorities." Ryden, Foreign Policy of the 
United States, 60. 

Meade returned with not only a survey, but also a treaty, with 
"the great chief of the bay of Pago Pago" -a designation that 
would have made the highest Samoan chiefs smile derisively 
and the achievement of having organized the chiefs of Tutuila 
into a league with a flag that he had designed himself. 7 

Congress ignored the treaty, with its vague promise of "pro- 
tection" for Samoa in return for exclusive coaling rights at 
Pago Pago. But not long after the State Department, still under 
pressure from shipping interests, saw fit to send to Samoa as 
special commissioner a strange amateur diplomat, an alleged 
crony of U. S. Grant named Col. A. B. Steinberger. Landing 
from his own yacht, which he seems to have furnished from 
somebody's private funds, Steinberger ignored his limited in- 
structions to observe and report, and was presently busy setting 
up a white-style constitution in turbulent Samoa, arrogating 
to himself the position of guide, philosopher and friend to the 
Samoan people, for whom he seems to have had a genuine 
liking. Considerations of space forbid full description of his 
fantastic career. Washington failed to back him in ambitions 
to consolidate himself as premier and mayor of the palace to a 

The flag sounds like rather an heraldic hash: varicolored stripes sym- 
bolized the large and small islands of the Samoan group; two crescent 
moons were arranged to approximate the letter S for Samoa. 


stable Samoan kingdom, though the States were unwise enough 
to lend him trappings that made his ambitions look very plau- 
sible indeed in Apia. His adventure came to an inglorious end, 
the hero was deported from Samoa by a British man-of-war, 
when it came out through an illegal search that Steinberger 
had sold his soul to the Long Handle Firm and was pledged, 
in consideration of mercantile commissions and royalties on 
copra, to use his influence as an American diplomat to further 
German interests. But the "Steinberger constitution" is still 
lively in Samoan minds as they toy with ideas of autonomy, 
and the remaining impression that Tutuila and its beautiful 
harbor were somehow specially destined for American use de- 
veloped into sovereign fact thirty years later. 

Fragmentary as it all soundsand was resolutely to have 
followed up all such gestures would have studded the Pacific 
with very well-placed American flags: The Galapagos, the Gulf 
of Fonseca, San Diego, San Francisco, Puget Sound, Dutch 
Harbor, Wake, the Bonins, Okinawa, Formosa, Fiji, Samoa, 
Raiatea, the Marquesas, Hawaii, constitute a formidable net 
with Hawaii as the spider in the middle enclosing the crucial 
northern half of the Pacific, outdoing French schemes to cover 
approaches to the as-yet-unbuilt Isthmian Canal. It sews up the 
great-circle shipping routes from California to the Far East, 
and from California to New Zealand and Australia. Out of the 
whole series of wishful gestures, however, only Perry's got much 
publicity at home. In fact if God had not sent Samoa so bad a 
storm in 1889, and if Cleveland had not made a stench about 
Hawaii in 1893, few Americans would ever have been at all 
aware of these prefaces to Manila Bay and Pearl Harbor. 

Little of this was deliberate strategy, which in one way makes 
it more impressive. Much of it was the seagoing aspect of 
Manifest Destiny, which did not die after the Mexican War, 
but merely retired somewhat from the public eye for an all- 
star revival in the 'nineties. Mildly or militantly Pacific-minded 
Secretaries of State had appeared in Webster, Seward, Elaine. 
Yet somehow the U.S. Navy was usually out ahead of large- 
ideaed civilians. It often acted as more than just the devoted 


agent of Destiny. On many occasions commodores and com- 
manders seemed, in a sort of somnambulistic fashion, to be 
helping to direct its brooding gaze to spots that would pay off 
in naval terms. To describe the Navy's role in Manifest Destiny 
in the Pacific, in fact, compels borrowing from the Declaration 
of Independence: these United States, Navy men often ap- 
parently felt, were and ought to be a Pacific power but they 
never bothered to clarify whether ought to be or were came 

Yet the Navy is not to be specially reproached for its century 
of encroachment of which its civilian constituents knew so 
little. Duty-bound to patrol the Pacific, operating in a partial 
vacuum as armies and navies do in peace and would like to do 
in war, often in suspicious contact with aggressive naval rivals, 
its officers naturally proceeded in the groove of strategic in- 
stinct without troubling over what Bloomington, 111., might 
think about it. It can even be argued that, by occasionally 
overreaching itself within reason, a navy maintains a resilient 
tone while, at any time it chooses, civilian government can 
always repudiate the consequences of naval exuberance, pay 
damages if necessary, and forget the matter. Thus, in 1844, it 
must have been very good for morale on board the U.S.S. 
"Constitution" when Commodore Kearny anchored her prac- 
tically yardarm to yardarm with Paulet's ships and defied the 
British seizure of Hawaii by saluting the proscribed Hawaiian 
flag. That risked war if shooting started and certainly exceeded 
any instructions that Kearny might have had, but it was useful 
at the time. In the same port in 1851, when the French "La 
Serieuse" was bullying Hawaii, the commander of the U.S.S. 
"Vandalia" agreed to moor her between the Frenchman and 
the shore to inhibit a threatened bombardment. In 1868 Cap- 
tain Reynolds of the U.S.S. "Lackawanna" disregarded orders 
in order to fish in troubled Hawaiian waters, and hysterically 
recommended to Washington the seizure of the Islands. Such 
incidents without sequel make it easier to understand the 
suspicious delays that led to the disaster at Apia. 

With the New Navy hesitantly developing toward the end 


of the nineteenth century, the whole expansion complex 
gathered formidable momentum whether as cause or effect, 
who can say? Five years before Manila Bay Carl Schurz lashed 
out at the logic involved, mentioning: 

". . . naval officers and others who advocate a large increase of 
our war fleet to support a vigorous foreign policy, and a vigor- 
ous foreign policy to give congenial occupation and to secure 
further increase to our war fleet/ 7 "Manifest Destiny," 
Harper's Monthly, Oct. 1893. 

There is no doubt about his target. It was that elderly U.S. 
Navy officer, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, who next year 
was openly urging the eagle to join the Navy and see the world: 

"In our infancy we bordered upon the Atlantic only; our youth 
carried our boundary to the Gulf of Mexico; today maturity 
sees us upon the Pacific. Have we no right or no call to progress 
farther in any direction? Are there for us none of those essen- 
tial interests, of those evident dangers, which impose a policy 
and confer rights? . . . the annexation, even, of Hawaii, 
would be no mere sporadic effort, irrational because discon- 
nected from adequate motive, but a first fruit and a token that 
the nation in its evolution has roused itself to the necessity of 
carrying its life . . . beyond the borders which heretofore 
have sufficed for its activities." The Interest of America in 
Sea-Power, 35, 49. 

The tone is unmistakably that of the pulpit, and appeared 
again in the same sort of context a few years later, when Albert 
J. Beveridge, "the Boy Orator of Fall Creek/' was beating his 
drum for annexation of the Philippines. 
' The year 1885 apparently initiated the major phase that 
committed the United States to the Pacific for all time. Much 
of it smells of enthusiastic conspiracy in high places, specifically 
among the navy- and imperialist-minded cronies who centered 
round Mahan, Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt. 
Their habits of mind are well seen in John La Farge, artist and 
friend of Lodge and Henry Adams, meditating in and on 
Samoa in 1891: 


"I am impressed by the force that Americans could have for 
good, and "by the careful calculation on the part of those who 
know us best, the Germans and English, upon our weakness of 
action and irresponsibility, and our not knowing our enormous 
powers. The Pacific should be ours, and it must be." 
Reminiscences of the South Seas, 278. 

Should and must; chicken and egg confounded, as in Fascist or 
Marxist propaganda. Yet no small mutual admiration society 
could have accomplished so sweeping a result if the national 
temper had not been congruent. It probably accelerated 
events, but the American people themselves or an articulate 
and numerous segment thereof had to be abreast of the cabal 
for its schemes to work. 

It was Mahan, "the pedantic sailor/' 8 "the advance agent of 
American Imperialism/' 9 "the amateur historian/' 10 who in- 
fected high places with Pacific fever. In 1885, he says, his mind 
shifted from continentalism to imperialism, a word about 
which he made no bones, a shift to which he determined the 
United States should conform. 11 It coincided with his lecturer- 
ship on naval history at the new Naval War College, and pro- 
duced his noted masterpiece, The Influence of Sea Power on 
History. Famous overnight as analyzer of British sea power, 
he then applied the same principles to the situation of the 
States, demanding bases in the Pacific and West Indies to 
screen American coasts and American proprietorship of the 
Isthmian Canal. He was read not widely but in the right 
places: his admirers included such sea-minded keymen as Ad- 
miral Togo, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Lord Charles Beresford and 
Lodge and young T. Roosevelt. Mahan was thick as thieves 
with Harrison's Secretary of the Navy Tracy, who fathered the 
then astounding proposal that the Navy should at once lay 
down twenty battleships and sixty fast cruisers. But there is 
no need to labor the importance of this solemn man's role in 

8 A. Whitney Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States, 9. 
^Foster Rhea Dulles, America in the Pacific, 187. 
10 Charles and Mary Beard, A Basic History of the United States, 339. 
M Cf. Mahan, "Retrospect and Prospect/' World's WorJc, Dec., 1901. 


forcing American imperialism into bloom. Students of the 
subject agree that he was crucial. 

Spykman, the geopolitician, says that Mahan's task was 
lightened because, to Americans, Europe and not the Pacific 
was the breeding zone of "foreign entanglements/' The fact is 
merely negative. The best illustration of the positive element 
is of all people an eminent Doctor of Divinity who was ac- 
tually out ahead of Mahan. In 1885, when Mahan was just 
making his shift, the Rev. Josiah Strong, sometime General 
Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance for the United States, 
young incumbent pastor of the Central Congregational Church 
of Cincinnati, was asked to revise Our Country, a pamphlet 
promoting home missions. Expanded with his own turgid ideas, 
it became a sizable book that sold 146,000 copies in five years 
the per capita equivalent of 350,000 now, a bestseller in- 
deed. Its content was so blatant an exhortation to take up the 
white man's burden a phrase that Kipling had yet to coin- 
that, when Strong wrote a sequel in 1900, Mahan was only 
too pleased to supply a laudatory preface. Thus Strong had 
the same function at wide places in the road, among people 
who went to church and took parsons seriously, that Mahan 
had at little dinners of high-placed public men. 

Our Country is not worth reading now, but it was once. Its 
author was anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, anti-immigrant, anti- 
liquor and antisocialist, a combination of dislikes guarantee- 
ing a wide hearing; he was also rabidly pro-Protestant and pro- 
Anglo-Saxon, a term then widely supposed to have intelligible 
ethnic meaning. He reasoned as follows: Anglo-Saxons special- 
ize in the cultivation of civil liberties and "spiritual Christian- 
ity/ 7 These two ingredients equal "the highest Christian 
civilization/ 7 Therefore: 

". . . it is to the English and American people that we must 
look for the evangelization of the world * . . the Anglo- 
Saxon, as the great representative of these two ideas, ... is 
divinely commissioned to be, in a peculiar sense, his brother's 
keeper ... It seems to me that God, with infinite wisdom 
and skill, is training the Anglo-Saxon race for an hour sure to 


come . . . this powerful race will move down upon Mexico, 
down upon Central America and South America, out upon the 
islands of the sea, over upon Africa and beyond . . . God has 
two hands. Not only is he preparing in our civilization the die 
with which to stamp the nations ... he is preparing man- 
kind to receive our impress." Our Country, 209, 214, 225, 

His sequel is in a style even dottier "we have already crossed 
the Rubicon that bounded our insularity" and contains the 
extraordinary statement that, since foreign capital must be pro- 
tected and plagues prevented from spreading: 

"The popular notion in this country that there can be no 
rightful government of a people without their consent, was 
formed when world conditions were radically different, and 
peoples could live separate lives/' 

Expansion under World Conditions, 257 

In view of the wide circulation of these books, such ideas help 
greatly to understand why so many pious people wanted the 
Philippines annexed and what lay behind President McKinley's 
famous statement that God helped him decide what to do with 
that bothersome archipelago namely, keep it 12 

This curious couple the sailor who preferred to stay ashore 
and the divine who preferred to jettison Christian charity are 
as far as this book need go in accounting for Uncle Sam's 
presence in the Pacific. The rest has been told authoritatively 
and expertly many times. How Roosevelt, taking advantage of 
his chiefs absence from work, briefed Commodore Dewey 

the record, Strong became a principal founder of the Federal 
Council of Churches of Christ m America, originator of the Safety 
First movement, and leading spirit in something called the American 
Institute for Social Service. He was not the first to tell Americans that 
it was their duty to do good to backward heathen, whether they were 
willing or not: the Rev. Henry T. Cheever, author of glowing books 
about Hawaiian missions in the 'fifties, mentions the intimate relations 
of Providence, Destiny and the Anglo-Saxon. Commodore Perry, writ- 
ing home before he ever reached the Pacific, told of his plans to seize 
Okinawa, which would result in with a sailorly snuffle "the amelio- 
ration of the condition of the natives." (Rossiter, 'The First American 
Imperialist," North American Review, Vol. 182.) 


(his personal selection to command the Asiatic Squadron) on 
attacking Manila long before war with Spain was declared, and 
put the Navy on a war footing on his own responsibility; how 
Spanish offers to concede everything made war unnecessary; 
how, when the Philippines were seized, certain "Americans 
had suffered so long from an inferiority complex in the 
presence of older and more patronizing nations that they 
hugged to their bosoms the opportunity to lord it over a lesser 
race;" 13 how Hawaii was hastily annexed on the pretext that 
it was an indispensable .staging base for operations in the 
Philippines, whereas its new "missionary" government was un- 
neutrally welcoming American troops anyway; how William 
Jennings Bryan outsmarted himself, a thing not too difficult, 
by asking Democratic senators to ratify annexation of the 
Philippines in hopes that that step would prove a lethal club to 
beat the Republican dog with in the election of 1900 . . . 
Here we need only be aware that Uncle Sam's Pacific ad- 
venturing came from an emotional and political climate already 
well confirmed when aggressive facts caught up with the over- 
weening talk. 

That is unmistakable in the event. Up to a few months be- 
fore the "Maine" was sunk nobody, not even Mahan the om- 
niscient, had ever included the Philippines in even the most 
grandiose westward expansion. Nobody knew anything about 
them. One glance at the globe would have shown that they 
were, and still are, a military liability. The decision to annex 
them was sheer improvisation. The tide of glory in possession 
never mind of what was strong, the lofty-minded were bent, 
as Mr. Dooley said, on doing the Filipinos good if they had 
to break every bone in their bodies. And practical minds had 
swiftly convinced themselves that, in American hands, Manila 
would be another Shanghai or Singapore as focus of Asiatic 
trade the lamest of hopes. True, as some maintained, an 
American base close to the mainland of Asia would help im- 
plement the States' longstanding "Open Door" policy in 
China. But it \^as also true that any such base should be a 
^Paxton Hibben, The Peerless Leader, 2Zi. 


sound one, and Manila Bay is no such thing, as the U.S. Navy's 
yearning to shift to Leyte Gulf shows fifty years later. Ger- 
many strengthened the annexationists by churlish opportunism 
from the squadron she sent to watch Dewey. Britain welcomed 
American cousins to the worshipful company of imperialists 
with the enthusiasm of the fox that lost his tail. It is a compli- 
cated affair, with some of the annexationist positions specious, 
some almost tenable. 14 But the essence of the matter comes out 
in a letter from Lodge to Roosevelt in June, 1898: 

"Day [assistant Secretary of State] . . . dined with me the 
other night and Mahan and I talked the Philippines with him 
for two hours. He said at the end that he thought we could 
not escape our destiny there." Selections from the Corre- 
spondence of Theodore Roosevelt and Heniy Cabot Lodge, I, 

Improvising is dangerous, as the mutual admiration society 
at once proved. They were hand in glove with those responsible 
for settling up the Spanish War; among them a most critical 
trick was abjectly missed. The original error of acquiring the 
Philippines was remediable. All that was needed to make them 
a secure nuisance to other naval powers with interests in Asia 
was a solid bridge to the American mainland, seven thousand 
miles away via Hawaii and the Spanish islands in Micronesia. 
Conversely, to let anybody else hold Micronesia meant that 
the Philippines were so screened off from support that they 
were practically useless in American grand strategy in the 
Pacific. Yet, of all those islands, only Guam and Hawaii were 
taken over by the States when making peace with a prostrate 
enemy. With Mahan, Roosevelt 15 & Company asleep at the 
switch, Germany snapped up all the rest of Spanish Micronesia 
in a prearranged deal the moment the war-terminating treaty 

"A. K. Weinberg, Manifest Destiny, is a full-dress treatment that is 
also an intellectual treat. 

15 Emil Witte, the disgruntled German diplomatic official, even claimed 
that Roosevelt was responsible for the Carolines being omitted from 
American demands due to the blandishments of his German diplomatic 
friends. (Revelations of a German Attach^, 60.) 


was signed. The U.S. Navy, though aware that the deal was 
cooking, failed to clarify its strategic implications for the 
American delegates. 

Thenceforth American empire in the Pacific was a dead 
duck at any time that a hostile power strong in the Western 
Pacific and possessed of the Palaus and Carolines, wished to 
make it so. In 1914, as already seen, Japan took over Mi- 
cronesia; in 1941 she wished to make it so. Or, to put it as care- 
fully as possible: even if the Philippines might have been 
defensible, as General MacArthur said they could be; even if a 
properly alerted Hawaii had annihilated the Japanese attackers 
and so crippled the Japanese Navy; even if Guam had been as 
heavily fortified as the Navy wished and Congress did not in 
1898 it was still lunatic chance-taking not to make Micronesia 
the solid keystone of the new Pacific bridge. This Mahan was 
a mover of mountains, naval equivalent of von Clausewitz; 
this Roosevelt was probably the most intelligent fan the U.S. 
Navy ever had. But, as sponsors of aggressive Pacific strategy, 
they showed themselves much less acute than the semi- 
anonymous commanders of Navy sloops and frigates who had 
scoured the Pacific in their fathers' time and hopefully staked 
claim' to any islands that felt good to their spontaneous, un- 
formulated instincts. 

Yet civilians should be warned again not to load too much 
onus on the Navy for its share in Pacific expansionism. It was 
civilians who most helped Mahan in his mission. The U.S. 
Navy never showed the realistic bad taste of the French Navy 
in lending warships to missionaries for transport and prestige. 
And admirals' hopes were steadily braked by intuitive apathy in 
cabinets as well as in Congress, Thirty-five years after Pearl 
Harbor was formally betrothed to the States, nobody had yet 
cleared away the coral ledge that barred it to deep-draft vessels 
that waited until Japanese hostility, consequent on Japanese 
exclusion in 1907, had become unmistakable. Twenty years 
after the Navy acquired coaling sites at Pago Pago the place 
boasted only 350 tons of coal and three small barges; it is a 
very one-horse installation even now. 


Besides, brooding over what your grandfather did, the old 
scoundrel, even though you still live in the house paid for by 
his sharp practices, is pathological in individuals and probably 
so in nations. William Graham Sumner fought like a bitter 
wildcat against the imperialism that swept the country after 
the Spanish War; but he also wrote this pregnant sentence, 
wholly applicable to the situation that now confronts the 
States in the Pacific: 

"The whole history of mankind is a series of acts which are 
open to doubt, dispute and criticism as to their right and 
justice, but all subsequent history has been forced to take up 
the consequences of these acts and go on. 7 ' Folkways, 66. 

Fishers of Men 


Lead us to some sunny isle 
Yonder in the western deep, 

Where the skies forever smile 
And the blacks forever weep. 
Lady Emily Sheepshanks 


omits some things, notably in the field of hazards. The rela- 
tively supine Hawaiian accepted missionary tutelage without 
much of the nervous violence that hampered missions else- 
where in the South Seas. In the end there appeared practically 
everywhere a nominally triumphant Christianity masking a 
persistent substratum of heathen doings. But the interval had 
often meant arson, insult and occasionally murder. Rugged 
as mission life in Hawaii might have seemed, its hardships were 
less than those of missions on many other islands. 

For example Mrs. Judd, wife of the ABCFM doctor, had to 
contend only with the psychological hazards of Hawaiian 
obscenity and curiosity. In Fiji, however, the wife of an eaily 
Wesleyan missionary complained to the local chief about some 
stolen laundry; promising to look into it, he returned the next 
day bearing not the expected shirts, but a bundle of fresh- 
amputated little fingers taken from the thieves and presented 
as ritual soro apology for her loss, Fijian style. A lady always 
wondering when something like that will happen naturally 
becomes nervous. Nor were all mission wives as fortunate as 
Mrs. Thurston in avoiding rape by an enamored or inquisitive 
native. In the 'thirties several Marquesan bucks came very suc- 



cessfully to grips with missionary wives. 1 Even masculinity was 
no safeguard against sexual outrageas witness the experiences 
of Mr. Harris of the London Missionary Society in those same 
turbulent and highly stylized Marquesas. 

All the long voyage out on the first L.M.S. missionary ship, 
when the mission flock was planning who should be stationed 
where, this Harris, a cooper by trade, insisted the Marquesas 
were his. He infected with his own enthusiasm a younger col- 
league named Crook; the pair were duly taken to the Mar- 
quesas after the main body was established on Tahiti. When 
they went ashore to spy out the land, Crook returned to the 
ship, game to settle down to do good among the savages; but 
the ferocious appearance of his flock-to-be and the dark ways 
of their extremely un-English lives had shaken Harris. He 
vacillated for days, unable to muster courage to go permanently 
ashore with Crook, until the day before the ship sailed. Next 
morning the crew saw him signalling frantically from the 
beach and sent in a boat. It appeared that the chief with whom 
he was to live had gone a journey overnight and, like a hos- 
pitable Polynesian, handed his wife over to Harris, who de- 
clined the honor. The indignant and alarmed wife got her 
women-friends together and, while Harris slept, they crept in 
on him. He woke to find them manually investigating whether 
he had the equipment and potential necessary for courtesy if 
he had so chosen. Any remains of his enthusiasm for the 
Marquesas vanished in outraged panic; he was "determined to 
leave a place where the people were so abandoned, and given 
up to wickedness; a cause," says the official account equivocally, 
"which should have excited a contrary resolution." 2 

So he fled to the relative safety of Tahiti while Crook val- 
iantly stayed on. How he solved the problem of insistent bed- 
fellows is not recorded, but he did not lack troubles. The 
"Aspasia" sealer found him also eager to escape a few months 

1 Says Caillot "avec des raffinements moms jusque sous les yeux de leurs 
6poux." (Histoire de la Polynesia Orientale, 339.) It would be a pity to 
put that into English. 
^Voyage of tie Duff, 141. 


later. The natives had stripped him of all Christian clothes; 
clothed only in a malo 3 for weeks, he was burned as dark as a 
Marquesan; and, having made an enemy of the Italian right 
hand man of a local chief, he walked in constant fear of his life. 
Nevertheless he was plucky enough to try again on Nukahiva, 
another Marquesan island, where the "Aspasia" set him ashore 
with misgivings plus a new outfit of clothes, food and equip- 
ment. It was no use; Nukahiva was just as rowdy as Ua-Pu. 
Within another few months Crook too landed off a rescuing 
whaler at Tahiti, sorrowfully shaking the sand of Marquesan 
beaches from his feet. 

At least he survived. Others had less luck. The first effort 
to convert Tonga meant death for three of ten missionaries 
landed. Eromanga (New Hebrides) appears in missionary lore 
as "The Martyrs' Isle" because within a few years six mission- 
aries, starting with the brilliant and able John Williams, were 
killed there. As late as 1901 the Rev. James Chalmers, probably 
the most intelligent missionary ever to work the Pacific,, was 
knocked in the head in a New Guinea men's house. In many 
such cases, notably that of the Rev. Mr. Baker in Fiji/ these 
martyrs deliberately pushed into places notoriously hostile to 
whites in regions where the natives did not yet fully compre- 
hend the power of white punitive measures. It was part of their 
sacred duty to walk, clothed on with faith as with a garment, 
into lions* dens and fiery furnaces. The ratio of success was 
high, partly because the missionary's bland confidence in the 
Lord often moved puzzled natives to leave him unharmed, 
probably on the principle that such f oolhardiness implied pos- 
session of very special magic. It is a nice question whether a 
man walking into deadly danger because he is sure that an 
omnipotent God is with him displays courage in any customary 
sense. But a parson doing so certainly shows striking ability to 

This is the Hawaiian word for the Polynesian loincloth for men a 
strip of tapa wound round the waist through the legs, and tucked in 
for security. 

4 Jack London's The Whale's Tooth, based on the Baker incident, is an 
excellent re-creation of the emotional atmosphere involved. 



practice what he preaches. The stamina behind it is all the 
more impressive because, as many medical officers found in 
the recent war, the malaria, dysentery, and tropical ulcers that 
often came with the assignment are those diseases best calcu- 
lated to break morale. 

The methods of the Right Reverend George Augustus 
Selwyn, Bishop of Melanesia, prettily dramatize how to ap- 
proach cannibal strangers armed with only zeal and Christian 
love. Selwyn was a wonderfully handsome aristocrat who had 
been a great athlete and a pious Anglican at school and Uni- 
versity. When touring his diocese, which included many of the 
surliest islands in the South Seas, he never allowed a boat' s 
crew to share the risk of approaching a virgin native settlement. 
He alone, dressed in flannel under the contemporary impres- 
sion that this was a proper swimming costume, and wearing 
his hat, would drop overside and swim ashore to scramble over 
the reef, wade up the beach, and stop ankle-deep without ap- 
parent alarm at the way his communicants-to-be were waving 
spears and clubs. Somehow, though streaming salt water and 
half a mile from help, he could display the necessary dignity 
and confidence as he took off his hat and extracted from it 
enough of the right presents for the chiefs to start matters off 
on a friendly basis. Few profane whites in the Pacific would 
have dared any such dauntless caper. 

Selwyn died in bed. His successor, the famous Bishop Patte- 
son, versed in Selwyn's methods, died with his boots on, the 
right side of his head crushed with a tapa-mallet as he lay rest- 
ing in a village on Nukapu (Santa Cruz Islands) . The calibre 
of these two men is best shown by the fact that their personali- 
ties and shipboard sermons made a famous missionary out of 
George Brown, a tough young runaway seaman. 

Patteson was killed, it appeared later, to avenge the recent 
kidnapping of five local men by a schooner pretending to be a 
mission vessel. 5 Others of his colleagues were killed for disease- 
bringing sorcerers. Too often the landing of the Rev. and Mrs. 

B E. S. Armstrong, The Melanesian Mission, 121. Cf. IV, Their Gods 
Are Dead for the background of blackbirding. 


Grundy on Tarafu was followed by a decimating epidemic of 
dysentery or influenza; local chiefs concluded that these white 
sorcerers brought it on by malicious and wilful magic it was 
most suspicious that the missionary couple themselves did not 
suffer. In some cases the missionaries followed the Rev. Mr. 
Coan and indiscreetly substantiated the theory by pointing to 
the epidemic as God's just punishment for natives stiff-necked 
about the Gospel. Since neither party was acquainted with 
modern epidemiology and immunology, their explanations of 
the coincidence were equally superstitious. And the next time 
the mission ship came round, the most she would find would 
be a native convert-assistant gibbering with fear and telling 
how Misi Grundy was riddled with spears and his wife had dis- 
appearedthere was Misi Grundy's skull fourth from the right 
under the eaves of the men's house. 

Mission history does not make too much of these native 
assistants. 6 They seem to have been considered distinctly ex- 
pendable. But the usual spearhead of the Gospel on a hazard- 
ous island was not a white parson white personnel was 
valuable and scarce but a Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan or Ha- 
waiian convert, often with his native wife, skimpily grounded 
in what Christian doctrine he had been able to absorb, and set 
ashore to see if his brown skin would protect him long enough 
to stir up a thirst after righteousness among local people. There 
was some chance of safety in the prestige of landing from a 
white man's ship with a boatload of trade goods. But all too 
often the native crusader would be stripped of his black coat 
and white shirt and his wife dragged into the scrub for obvious 
purposes. If he lived, it would be as a semienslaved outcast, 
without local relatives to appeal to ? a very hopeless situation 
for both him and the Lord. In 1840 Captain Belcher, H.M.S. 
"Sulphur," found on Aneityum (New Hebrides) some utterly 
miserable Samoan missionaries: 

"... a mere thatched hovel, in which five unfortunate natives 
of the Navigators were literally imprisoned, being compelled to 
close the door immediately one entered or departed, to pre- 
"Frank Paton, Lomai of Lenakel, is an honorable exception. 


vent the intrusion of the natives . . . suffering more or less 
from fever and ague 7 . . . very uneasy and unhappy and pain- 
fully anxious to return to their native land . . , the frequent 
repetition of "Samoa, Samoa" from the sick within the hut 
sounded like the cry of the condemned." Voyage "Sulphur/' 
II, 58-9. 

Yet the native auxiliary got results often enough to set him 
high in the missions' scheme of tactics. He was produced in 
wholesale lots. Within a generation the L.M.S. seminary at 
Malua on Upolu (Samoa) trained upwards of 2,000 native 
teachers and preachers. In 1879 the Wesleyans' Tubou Theo- 
logical School on Tongatabu had a hundred native students. 
Alumni of both were scattered from the Marshalls to the New 
Hebrides and from the Marquesas to the Admiralties. The 
Anglicans persuaded local Melanesian chiefs to let the mission 
ship take local youths and maidens away to New Zealand, later 
to Norfolk Island, to be trained in white ways. As soon as they 
appeared to have the hang of soap, water, chastity, and literacy, 
they were returned resplendent in white men's clothes and 
oozing the prestige of knowing many of the white man's mys- 
teries. If they did not backslide on repatriation and breakage 
does not seem to have been high the mission vessel had a foot- 
hold ashore on her next trip, and duly exploited it. 

Putting the native in the forefront of the battle was not as 
callous as it sounds, however. He did have special advantages. 
Anywhere in Polynesia a Polynesian could learn the local lan- 
guage much more quickly than a white; his diplomacy worked 
better because he felt the significance of a hundred details that 
would escape a white man. To a lesser extent, this held good in 
Melanesia too. He could persuade raw material into Christian 
ways with more subtle adaptations. Though often bigoted and 
always ignorant, these native auxiliaries were often heroes in 
the sight of man as well as of God, for instance the ABCFM 
Hawaiian in the Marquesas who ransomed a captive whaler's 
mate with his own official whaleboat, the pride of his heart. 

7 Samoa, like other Polynesian groups, has no malaria; these Samoans 
were meeting it for the first time in the New Hebrides. 


The heroism consisted not so much in the price as in the fact 
that, by paying so high to keep a man from being eaten, he was 
risking his own neck in a tactless display of disapproval. It is a 
pleasure to read that President Lincoln sent him a new whale- 
boat and a suitably engraved watch as thanks from the rescued 
mate's countrymen. Such a native missionary seldom had il- 
lusions about what he was running into. When the Wesleyans 
sent Fijian auxiliaries to New Britain in 1877, the white au- 
thorities expostulated on the grounds that they might not fully 
understand the dangers involved. 

"We are all of one mind/' said the party's spokesman. "We 
know what those islands are. We have given ourselves to this 
work. If we get killed, well; if we live, well. We have had every- 
thing explained to us and know the danger; we are willing to 
go/' 8 Very shortly four of their number were killed and eaten. 

The first foray of the Cross into the South Seas happened to 
be the bloodiest. Spanish Jesuit missionaries accompanied 
Spanish secular power in effective occupation of the Marianas 
in 1668 among Spaniards, Gospel and sword were always 
coupled. The Chamorro chiefs on Guam, Rota, Tinian and 
Saipan were impressed by white possessions and, like many 
other Islanders, were inclined to welcome a new religion appar- 
ently associated with having such things. But they made awk- 
ward conditions: the chiefs would receive instruction only if 
the commonalty did not. They feared that brotherhood in 
Christ would blur the rigid caste distinctions 'of Chamorro 
culture. 9 The Jesuits refused to be respecters of persons. The 
chiefs gathered their closer retainers to see what spears, bows 
and very accurate slinging of fire-hardened stones could do 
against these leveling interlopers. Their resolution was strength- 

*C. F. Gordon-Gumming, At Home in Fiji, 322-3. 
*The same issue appeared in other Micronesian islands. The religious 
wars on Ponape (Carolines) were due to "the puritanical teaching of 
the Boston mission which preached the equality of all men before God 
and disrupted the relationship between subjects and their feudal lords." 
(Hambruch quoted in Yanaihara, Pacific Islands Under Japanese 
Mandate, 237.) "Boston mission" is the South Seas name for the 


ened by a castaway Chinese on Guam who told them that the 
Spaniards had been driven from home as undesirables, and that 
the holy water with which the Jesuits baptized Chamorro chil- 
dren was poisonsee, since the ceremony, several of these 
children had died. 10 This is really notable: two hundred and 
seventy-five years ago, when missions first attacked a South Sea 
Island, a beachcomber was already there to make them trouble. 

In the subsequent fighting ad ma/orem Dei gloriam a num- 
ber of Jesuits died. So did the bulk of the population of the 
Marianas, an extermination furthered by epidemic diseases 
coming ashore with the whites. By 1700 so few natives were 
left that government stripped Saipan and Tinian of survivors 
and concentrated all on Guam, conveniently under its thumb. 11 
The Chamorros kept on dying off. Though the modern Guam- 
anian is called Chamorro and can still speak fragments of the 
prewhite language, is a very nice fellow and an appealing gov- 
ernmental problem, he has very little aboriginal stock in him, 
being descended mostly from Filipino immigrants, many of 
them transported convicts, with admixtures of Spanish, Mex- 
ican, American, English, German and various off-island Mi- 
cronesian strains. 

He is also a devout Catholic so, from one point of view, the 
venture was a success. But after that, except for a feeble gesture 
toward Tahiti in the lyyo's, Spanish missions left the South 
Seas severely alone. "Only after a lapse of generations did 
Protestantism step into the breach. When Catholicism decided 
to re-enter the field a generation later, the Protestant outcry 
would have led an outsider to believe that the whole area was 
owned in fee by Calvin, Wesley & Tudor, Inc. 

10 The impression may have been strengthened by the missionaries' tactic 
of selecting very sick children for baptism to save their souls before 

^Concentrating native populations under the sheltering wings of soldier 
and priest seems to have been a standard Spanish colonial technique. 
Witness their proceedings in California; also, the looth question which 
the third Spanish expedition to Tahiti was to determine read: "Might 
it be easy to concentrate [the natives] into a town?" 
Corney, Tahiti, II, 28. 


This harks back again to Captain Cook. His successive 
voyages set all England agog about new worlds down yonder, 
and various people reacted in characteristic ways, the godly in 
a godly fashion. William Cowper included in his long poem 
The Task some pious remarks about Omai; 12 and Selina, 
dowager Countess of Huntingdon, "that pious though rather 
eccentric person/' 13 whom the Rev. Augustus Toplady called 
"the most precious saint of God he ever knew/* 14 became very 
troubled about so many souls unable to slake their spiritual 
thirst on the Gospel. Her chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Haweis, was 
instrumental in directing the attention of her newly founded 
London Missionary Society to the Islands, reading about which 
had fascinated him. Founded in 1795? the L.M.S. was non- 
sectarian but, like the peeress who helped found it, carried a 
distinct dissenting flavor, with Congregationalism and Presby- 
terianism discernible. English Baptists were already evangeliz- 
ing India, the Wesleyans were nibbling away at Africa, but the 
L.M.S., still a great force in the South Seas, was first to distin- 
guish itself in Polynesia. 

The ship "Duff/' chartered for the voyage in 1796, carried 
thither a large batch of L.M.S.-chosen missionaries, only four of 
whom were ordained ministers, and only one a qualified sur- 
geon. The rest were serious craftsmen and workers, what the 
period called "mechanics": several carpenters, a harness maker, 
a tailor, two shoemakers, a whitesmith, a blacksmith and 
brazier, a butcher, a couple of weavers, a hatter, a bricklayer, 
a linen draper, a cabinetmaker. Crook, whom we have seen 
stripped by the Marquesans, had been a gentleman's servant 
and then a tinworker surely no South Seas adventurer of any 
stripe ever had a stranger career. Mr. Nott, the bricklayer, was 
to become exclusive spiritual and temporal advisor to Pomare 
II and principal author of the Tahitian code of laws. 

This mixture of trades was intentional. The new missionary 
colony would have many skills at its disposal and the artisans 

"Cf . II, 3, This Was the South Sea Islander. 

^Russell, Polynesia, 87. 

"Dictionary of National Biography, IX, 133. 


could teach the natives useful things. But the distribution was 
ragged; it should have included a printer, a couple of ship- 
wrights, a ship's captain, a gardener and several farmers. The 
linen draper, the hatter, and the cabinetmaker are of course 
patent absurdities. Also the average level of education was low, 
a fault occasionally admitted by the devout, with the defiant 
addendum that Christ's apostles, too, had been neither polite 
nor learned men. 

A sound point, but lack of education and knowledge of the 
world was awkward when the L.M.S. missionaries became vir- 
tual political masters of the whole Societies group. The late 
eighteenth century knew little enough of ethnology, sociology, 
government, and public health; what bits of knowledge it did 
have formed no part of the equipment of the "Duff's" pas- 
sengers. It was also diplomatically regrettable that visiting dig- 
nitaries, such as captains of men-of-war, were snobbish about 
the depressing lack of gentlemen among mission personnel. 
Captain Belcher disdainfully called them "overzealous, half- 
educated sectarians." 15 Missionizing did not seem to attract 
gentlemen of birth, though Selwyn was one of the few excep- 
tions. If the South Seas had had to wait until the peerage got 
round to relieving its spiritual darkness in person, it would be 
black as the pit there still. 16 Still, the crudity of these pioneer- 
ing evangelists can be exaggerated. Moerenhout, notably hos- 
tile to missions, said that the chiefs of the L.M.S. delegation 
on Tahiti in the 'forties were dignified, likeable and sociable; 
the Earl of Pembroke, an aristocrat who disliked psalm singers, 
spoke highly of the L.M.S. men he met down in the Islands 
during the 'seventies. 

The "Duffs" first complement was notable for more than 
ill-informed zeal. Her master, a thorough seaman named James 
Wilson, had served John Company in India, been captured by 

^Voyage "Sulphur/' 273-4. 

le Lovett, official historian of the L.M.S. frankly accused it of bad judg- 
ment in selecting its first emissaries (History of the London Missionary 
Society, 46). But even after standards were raised and training insti- 
tuted, these shortcomings were still conspicuous for generations. 


the French and turned over to Hyder Ali's henchmen, in whose 
sadistic hands he barely survived. Turned devout after retiring 
from sea, he volunteered to command the mission ship; of the 
crew he signed, half were church members, the rest piously 
given. King's ships anchored near the "Duff" while she was 
fitting out were mystified by this trig vessel that exuded hymn 
singing day and night and maintained smart discipline without 
cursing. As she dropped down the Channel in August, 1796, 
to take in her final stores and join a convoy at Portsmouth, 
she was hailed by a patrol vessel: 

"Whither bound?" 


"What cargo?" 

"Missionaries and provisions!" 17 

Breakage of personnel began at once. The turbulence of the 
Channel terrified Mrs. Hudden, wife of the butcher; at Ports- 
mouth she and Hudden were put ashore without uncharitable 
remarks. There too the twelve-year-old boy on board died, 
leaving youth represented by a baby of two years and another 
of sixteen weeks. Arrived in the South Seas, the crew was godly 
enough at first to resist the attractions that plagued Cook with 
desertions and produced the "Bounty" mutiny. The chronicler 
of the "Duff" beamed over the spectacle of her seamen repair- 
ing the rigging at Ua-Pu (Marquesas) attended aloft by prac- 
tically naked brown girls sociably holding tar buckets for them. 
"No ship's company without great restraints from God's grace 
. . . would have resisted such temptations. 18 But later, at 
Moorea the fairyland backdrop for proverbial South Seas de- 
lights, across the strait from Tahiti, God's grace ran thin. John 
Micklewright, captain's steward, sloped ashore, took up with a 
Swedish beachcomber and became a thorn in the mission's 
flesh. With native connivance William Tucker, seaman, de- 
serted at Matavai Bay, Threats to hold the chief as hostage, 
Cook-style, brought Tucker back tied up in the bottom of a 
canoe, swearing like a cat at native "treachery." There are 

17 Richard Lovett, History of the London Missionary Society, 130. 
a8 Voyage of the Dutt, 137. 


different overtones in Samuel Hurst, cabin boy, who skipped 
ship leaving an incoherent note about how "being of a dwarfish 
size, he was apprehensive of falling into want in his own coun- 
try; therefore he preferred settling where nakedness was no 
hardship . . /' 19 

Not even the missionaries' morals remained stainless. Aftei 
Polynesia had worked on him a while Mr. Lewis, an ordained 
minister no less, stated a desire to marry a native girl; refused 
permission, on the curious grounds that such marriage would 
be "directly contrary to the Word of God/' he did it anyway 
the wrong side of the blanket and was excommunicated. After 
three years of futile missionary effort, Mr. Broomhall, former 
harness maker, grew skeptical and shacked up with a native 
girl; then he drifted off to India where, under the influence of 
a high fever and a broken leg, Baptist missionaries prowling 
the hospital brought him back to his spiritual bearings. Mr. 
Shelly, former cabinetmaker heeded the call of Mammon and 
turned sandalwooder and pearler. His associates thought well 
of him in this phase, but his former comrades in the mission 
were pleasantly edified when his vessel was cut out and plun- 
dered by the enterprising natives of the Tuamotu. (None of 
these backsliders turned out as lurid as the Rev. Mr. Yate of 
the Church of England mission in New Zealand, who spent 
most of his time at the Bay of Islands practicing sodomy with 
both natives and white sailors,) To the edification of the 
missionaries, most of such delinquents met misfortune pro- 
portionate to their sins: Lewis was murdered in his shack by 
an unknown hand; despite his reconversion, Broomhall was 
lost at sea. 20 

Discouragement among the Tahiti contingent was under- 
standable. The natives had not changed much since they had 

19 Voyage of the Duff, 217. 

George Veeson (or Vason), former bricklayer, had better luck, in this 
world at least. Abandoning the Tongan L.M.S. mission to live with a 
native woman, he got safe home on the "Royal Admiral" in 1801 and 
lived to become governor of Nottingham jail. Lockerby, Journal, 
note, 176. 


amused themselves by chorusing jocose obscenities at the Span- 
ish Catholic priests. Violent, unruly, scornful, they paid heed 
to missionaries only when presents of cloth and iron were 
forthcoming. After years of frustration, a majority of the mis- 
sion fled to Australia, leaving only seven to carry on the 
particular occasion was the stripping and brutal beating of a 
mission party by emissaries of young Tu, disgruntled "king" of 
Tahiti, later known as Pomare. Actually TVs mana on the 
island was definitely far less than that of the heads of the Teva 
clan, a matter that the mission never understood clearly; said 
a surviving Teva in the 'nineties: 

". . . the natives looked on the missionaries as a kind of chil- 
dren or idiots, incapable of understanding the simplest facts 
of island politics or society, and serving only as the unconscious 
tools of the Tu family." Memoirs Aiii Tamai, 128. 

For this mistake, the mission paid dearly. The fortunes of 
Christianity in Tahiti became inextricably confused with those 
of Tu. When the Teva forced him to flee from Tahiti to 
Moorea, the mission was extinguished, following the first de- 
serters to Australia. Only the stubborn Mr. Nott remained with 
Tu in exile to fan the spark of righteousness in the "king's" 
soul. It is hard to blame the runaways in view of their situation 
as described to the governor of New South Wales: 

". . . our houses being burnt, our gardens destroyed, and much 
of our property plundered, we were thrown into such a situ- 
ation as we could not pursue the object of our mission, nor 
continue much longer in the islands with any reasonable pros- 
pect of safety ... we have no inducement whatever for the 
continuance of the mission. Our time is apparently spent in 
vain . . . No one appears desirous of instruction . . . two 
vessels lately from Port Jackson gave us no reason to think that 
the Directors of the Missionary Society trouble themselves 
much about us/' Lockerby, Journal, 121-6. 

On their way to Australia they had been wrecked in Fiji and 
fried on a sandbank for a dismally long time until rescued by a 


passing sandalwooder. 21 All these tight-lipped little souls could 
remember of the glories of fighting the Lord's battle among 
heathen was the natives' indignation when more texts than 
muskets were given out, the horrors of lascivious dances staged 
cheek by jowl with prayer meetings, the distractions provided 
when natives grinningly started dogfights right under the 
preacher's nose. 

In his sulky exile, however, Pomare (Tu) occasionally lis- 
tened negligently to Mr. Nott. Finally, disgusted with the ill 
fortune sent by his own gods, he determined to try the white 
man's God. He was baptized, publicly broke tabu by eating 
turtle without proper decontaminating ceremonies and sur- 
vived, much to the astonishment of his followers. Partly from 
tact, no doubt, as well as revulsion against superstition, they 
too became Christians. From that moment Pomare's fortunes 
mended. In the first of the Christian vs. heathen wars that 
usually followed when the Gospel got a foothold in the Is- 
lands, he fought his way to hegemony of Tahiti. The con- 
quered Teva asserted that the crucial ingredient in the final 
battle was a corps of native teachers armed with guns as well as 
Bibles. The implications of victory were by no means lost on 
either the natives or the missionaries reared in the history of 
the Canaan-conquering Jews. The old gods* mana never re- 
covered, and Mr. Nott's comrades returned rejoicing from 
their anomalous position among the drunken militia and old 
lags of Port Jackson. There is no record that Nott made any 
remarks about where were you r brave Crillon, but then he was 
not an educated man. 

Neither was Pomare a model convert like Kaahumanu. 
Though he helped to translate the Scriptures into Tahitian, 
he was often seen headed for the summerhouse where he 
worked with a Bible under one arm and a bottle of rum under 
the other; he unquestionably drank himself to death, and had 

a The first reinforcement for the Tahiti mission, sent out in consequence 
of prematurely enthusiastic reports from the "Duff," was captured at 
sea by a French cruiser and put ashore at Rio de Janeiro to make the 
best of its way home. The party all made it, but the experience cured 
most of them of missionarying. 


more elaborate vices. But he did build the mission a native- 
style meetinghouse 712 feet long, with three pulpits and 133 
windows, he never overtly apostatized; and he allowed the 
mission to educate his heirs. 

So, after his death in 1819, the mission was the effective 
government of Tahiti and Moorea in prophetic parallel to the 
Hawaiian situation a few years later. Every Sunday the Tahitian 
.wenches turned out for church in dresses, bonnets, and bare 
feet and imposed a daylong boycott on carnal intercourse. 
Ships' crews were forced to return on board at sunset, and dis- 
tilling and selling rum to natives were forbidden. A printing 
press was presently knocking off tapa-bound Tahitian versions 
of Genesis and St. Mark and, striking while the iron was hot, 
the mission formed its teeming new congregations into local 
missionary societies. Why should the Lord depend solely on 
contributions from the pious in England? 

Why, indeed? But ceremonial contributions of coconut oil 
and arrowroot put the Lord blatantly into business, a tactical 
mistake in which South Sea missions still persist here and there 
to the exasperation of traders and planters. The Wesleyan 
missionary ship, the "John Wesley," was known through Is- 
land barrooms as the "Palm-Oil Trader." On such an island as 
Aitutaki (Cooks), too small to attract traders in 1850, the 
L.M.S. missionary could have it all his own way, making sure 
that the native got only decorous dividends from his oil mak- 
ing. Godly visitors found men and boys in white shirts and 
trousers, women were kept out of sight but doubtless decently 
clad, and themselves were forbidden to leave the landing beach 
as a precaution against immorality. "Home of perpetual infancy 
and innocence!" caroled the Rev. Mr. Lyman of this spiritual 
quarantine station. "Who would not be content always to live 
under such limitations?" 22 

The men of Mammon had numerous good reasons to hate 
missions. They interfered with sexual relations of all degrees 
of irregularity, opposed drinking, and often warned the native 
that the trader or land speculator was swindling him. Since at 
^Hawaiian Yesterdays, 250. 


first the native usually knew nothing of money, the mission 
competed with the trader by using trade goods to ingratiate 
itself with chiefs and to persuade commoners to work as build- 
ers and house servants; it rankled that, since it got goods at no 
expense to itself, the mission could be generous. And it soothed 
Mammon not at all when the native missionary-society dodge 
brought heaps of marketable commodities to the white parson's 
feet but not to the trader's store. In the 'eighties King Tem- 
binok of Abemama (Gilberts), who ran a royal monopoly in 
copra trading, encountered such competition from a native 
missionary. He kicked him off the island and would thence- 
forth never so much as permit a missionary of any color 
to land. 

The first cargo of mission-acquired coconut oil sent from 
Tahiti realized 1,900, quite a sum in those days, augmented by 
the duties piously remitted by the crown. Misi encouraged 
rivalry between individuals and villages as to who should come 
down most handsomely for the Lord a device with which 
natives easily fell in, since it was like the old days of competi- 
tion in bringing the richest present to the chief. As the native 
learned money and as specie grew commoner, cash replaced 
offerings in kind; the communicant loved to parade up the 
aisle, using his mouth as a purse, to spew shillings one by one 
while the congregation counted, first breathlessly and then 
enviously. Mammon savagely resented the fat sacks of silver 
that went away on the annual mission ship. Fat they were in 
Turner's time Samoa's annual contribution to the L.M.S. was 
round 1,200; in 1869 the Wesleyans got 6,000 out of Tonga. 
"They are such cheerful givers!" a missionary told me on 
Tonga last year, turning up his eyes like a duck in thunder. He 
might well say so at the moment the church he represented 
had a building fund of 35,000 mostly accumulated during the 
dollar boom on Tongatabu during the recent war. In the same 
period in Samoa Wesleyan contributions from natives ran 
from 700% to 800% of prewar expectation. The owner of a 
nicer nose, however, might suspect that this giving may be not 
so much cheerful as pharisaical. 


Samoan scoffers used to maintain that the best time to find 
a girl to sleep with in Apia was a week or so before the annual 
missionary contribution. That was the simplest way to procure 
a respectable show of money for the occasion. For the native 
church member was, and still is, prone to take church as more 
of a social than a moral institution; Melville's Tahitian girl as- 
sured him a hundred years ago that, though "mickonaree" as to 
head and heart, she was by no means mickonaree in other parts 
of the body. 

The trader might have been grateful to the mission, how- 
ever, for stimulating demand for white goods, particularly 
clothing. The convert was supposed to appear in church 
garbed as nearly as possible like his preceptors; the native 
church officer had to have a black suit like Misfs. Sunday 
shoes were so important that the owner of a pair would wear 
them down the church aisle, then take them off and drop them 
out the window to a waiting friend to wear in turn. Since hat- 
less women in God's house were anathema, the trader sold 
many fantastic bonnets, or even old newspaper to serve as 
foundation for trimmings. 

Mammon was on firmer ground in objecting when missions 
went into actual trading. They bred cattle and sold milk and 
beef to ships and white residents; they used native convert 
labor, working as much for devotion as for livelihood, to grow 
vegetables for sale to greens-hungry shipc; they often acted as 
agents for ships' stewards, for a stern suggestion from Misi 
made all the difference when natives were lackadaisical about 
bringing hogs or yams in sufficient quantity. 

The Tahiti L.M.S. mission was as crude as any. It went part- 
ners with Pomare II in the pearler "Haweis"; it started sugar 
plantations on Moorea, only to find that they would not pay 
unless the molasses were turned into rum; it imported looms 
and spindles and tried to grow and manufacture cotton. No 
matter how innocent the intention or how holy the contem- 
plated end, this was about as bad taste as the rich real-estate 
holdings of New York's Trinity Church. 

Nor were individual missionaries above profit. When the 


French ejected the Rev. Mr. Pritchard from Tahiti, he claimed 
to have lost 4,000 in property left behind not bad for a man 
presumed to be taking no thought for the morrow. In Fiji his 
son found a Wesleyan missionary owning the best house in 
Levuka and employing boats' crews to collect coconut oil on 
his private account up and down the coasts an activity in 
which missionary prestige was very useful These men were 
still official members of their missions. At least the Yankee 
missionaries in Hawaii resigned before going into business. 

Many a missionary undeniably did himself very well, and 
still does, in Island terms. Protestant parsons had no in- 
tention of living the life of their flock, as the Founder of 
their faith might have done, on fish and poi in a thatched 
shack. The first plastered or masonry building on most islands 
was the house that the mission erected as soon as it could 
command labor to get some coral burned for lime. Misi's 
whaleboat for pastoral visits was the smartest craft on the 
island, bright with fresh paint, comfortably cushioned and 
awninged y rowed by a uniformed convert crew. Only by such 
examples of Christian engineering and neatness, said the mis- 
sion, could the natives learn living like respectable Christians, 
just as bringing one's wife along was supposed to show the 
native the joys of Christian connubiality and housewifery. But, 
in South Sea eyes, great resources go with great chiefs. The 
first native honor pcud Stevenson in Samoa was the title of 
"the Rich Man/' So, inevitably, Misi was likely to become the 
big man of the community, as much so as the town banker 
in the big house on the hill over a Pennsylvania mining town, 
or as the Pope in mediaeval Rome. 

Comparable prestige might attach to the native incumbent 
in places too small for white ministry. On Funafuti (Ellices) 
in 1897 the local chiefs salary was a pound a year, while the 
local Samoan pastor got ten; since the pastor's wife also owned 
the only sewing machine on the island, the relative importance 
of chief and pastor was doubly clear. During the last century 
the South Seas teemed with smug, haughty, pious, native inter- 


lopers tyrannizing with the Bible in one hand and a Draconic 
code of sumptuary and moral laws in the other. These coffee- 
colored Pecksniffs were as set on Biblical precedent as any 
Connecticut parson. Such laws and precedents were no more 
arbitrary than the home-grown tabus they had replaced, but it 
is questionable if they suited the inhabitants' needs as well. 
Besides, the native pastors often got things by the wrong end 
in interpretation. 

Confronted by a lady parishioner who wanted a divorce, for 
instance, the native pastor on Funafuti (Ellices) looked in his 
Bible and told her it appeared she would have to commit adul- 
tery to make it possible; so she did, unaware that she was in 
exactly the same legal boat as her white sisters in New York 
State. In the Marshalls a native on a newly evangelized island 
killed another. The native pastor determined to hold a white- 
style legal trial for murder instead of leaving the matter to the 
victim's family to avenge in customary vendetta. When the 
killer was duly convicted, the pastor told off another parish- 
ioner to execute him, which was duly accomplished. But then 
it occurred to somebody that the executioner too must be tried 
for having killed a man, and tried he was and convicted and 
executed in turn, thus making his executioner liable. Depopu- 
lation was threatening the island when the mission vessel ap- 
peared and stopped the endless chain with fuller explanation. 

Once part of Tikopia was converted, its native pastor en- 
couraged his flock to sacrifice to the old gods for the safety of 
their revered missionary bishop known to be at sea during a 
bad storm. The first chapel built on Rarotonga (Cooks) was 
ornamented with "many indelicate heathen figures" 23 because 
its native builders assumed that the style of thing appropriate 
to heathen worship was equally so here. The newly-converted 
natives of Anaa (Tuamotu) seized and plundered a ship sus- 
pected of pearling without a license, and then trooped in a 
body to church to give thanks for their loot In trying to head 
^Jolin Williams, A Narrative of Missionary Enterprise, I, 1 30. 


off possible misunderstanding, the Rev. Lowell Smith of the 
ABCFM got into trouble with pickthank whites: 

"My text was Matthew 7, 12. 'All things whatsoever that ye 
would men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is 
the law and the prophets/ In illustrating the text, I was un- 
fortunate in one case by saying, If A is vile enough to lend his 
'wife to B, it does not follow that B shall do the same to A ... 
For this reason some of the unpenitent residents have taken 
umbrage, , . ."Mary Frear, Lowell and Abigail, 151. 

The Rev. Mr. Smith was probably well-advised. Heaven only 
knows what a Polynesian casuist accustomed to gift exchange 
might have made out of that text. 

Strange things happened when Little Bethel came to grips 
with the Islander. Even to pets: native pastors often encour- 
aged Christian morals by vice-patrols searching huts for forni- 
cators after dark. On Funafuti (Ellices) the fornicators 
bethought themselves to install watchdogs, which was so ef- 
fective that the pastors forbade all dog-owning. Funafuti went 
dogless the rest of the century. The Trobriand Islanders, you 
remember, had no notion that men had anything to do with 
procreation. For them sexual intercourse was merely a pleas- 
ant, personal two-player game, so mission talk about the Im- 
maculate Conception and God the Father was meaningless; 
worse, for when the missionaries insisted that their theory of 
conception was superior to the Trobrianders*, they lost face as 
obviously rude and ignorant persons. Many Polynesians in- 
sisted that the mission should pay them for attending church 
or sending children to school. On Tanna (New Hebrides), 
converted villages stood to their promise to fight for the mis- 
sion's safety, but developed hurt feelings when the mission- 
aries refused to join the war parties, and even refused to lend 
fowling pieces to their own protectors. But missionaries were 
not consistent on this point: When natives of Duke of York Is- 
land massacred four Fijian Wesleyan teachers, the Rev. George 
Brown organized and led a punitive expedition of whites that 
killed numbers of natives and burned several villages; he 


probably strutted a good deal about being such a muscular 
Christian. On Tubuai (Australs) natives converted by L.M.S. 
teachers from Raiatea fought bloodily with natives converted 
by L.M.S. teachers from Tahiti over whether hymns should be 
sung standing or sitting, a matter which the L.M.S. had neg- 
lected to standardize. 

Missions did try to prevent the obvious hazard of competing 
sects. Wesleyans, L.M.S. and ABCFM early divided the South 
Seas into formal spheres of influencethe ABCFM got all 
north of the Equator, and English missions everything south, 
the Wesleyans taking Tonga, for instance, the L.M.S. the So- 
cieties and Samoa. This national division has persisted in 

But as generations passed, it was spiritually impossible for 
the brethren to stick to their agreements. Wesleyanism filtered 
into Fiji by way of Tongan immigrants, being known in Fiji as 
the lotu Tonga and forming an integral part of the average 
Tongan's aggressive self-esteem. The Anglicans went to work 
on the New Hebrides, which the L.M.S. pioneered; Presbyte- 
rian interlopers from Scotland and Canada tangled into the 
picture; and, in the latter half of the century, Seventh Day Ad- 
ventists and two kinds of Mormons injected themselves into 
this welter of faiths. The Mormonism now so successful in 
Hawaii and the Tuamotu, is hardly anything that Parley P. 
Pratt would recognize, but is active and popular for all that. 

The natives had already supplied home-grown confusions. 
Within ten or fifteen years of the nominal conversion of an 
island group, there usually appeared a home-grown nativist 
cult, a hedonistic parody of Christianity dreamed up by a back- 
country prophet and spreading like smallpox while mission- 
aries wrung their hands and wondered why the devil was so 
specially busy in their preserves. In New Zealand it was Hau- 
hauisrn, springboard for one of the bloodiest of the Maori wars, 
mingling the Bible with old Maori ways. In Hawaii an elderly 
prophetess appeared claiming to have replaced the Holy Ghost 
in the Trinity. In Samoa whites called the local prophet Joe 
Gimlet; sometime forecastle hand on ships out of Sydney, he 


turned into a Polynesian John the Baptist, predicting the coin- 
ing of a new Christ who approved of polygamy and dancing. 
In Fiji one Tuka was really elaborate. The whites had tried 
to drown him, he said, by thro wing him into the sea bound to an 
anchor, but he had miraculously escaped. He said that for from 
ten shillings to two pounds in trade, his converts could acquire 
immortality by drinking from his bottle of miraculous watei. 
He had a sacred bodyguard and a sizable harem of choice 
young girls whom he guaranteed perpetually renewed virginity. 
Christ and Jehovah were again conspicuous as white man's 
reincarnations of the old Fijian gods. 

But the cream of the lot was the Mamaia cult in Tahiti, 
which almost unhorsed the Pomares, mission and all. The 
prophet of Mamaia was Teau, a deacon of the mission church 
who developed delusions of grandeur and publicly proclaimed 
himself Christ. Confined as insane, he escaped to the bush to 
join adherents, for he had been secretly proselyting for some 
time. Under mission pressure, the Tahitian chiefs toolc such 
strong measures as exile and cruel and unusual punishments. As 
usual, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the new church. 
The net effect of exiling Mamaians to Raiatea was so to infect 
that island with the new cult that the Rev. John Williams, its 
missionary-dictator, had to flee to his spiritual appanage of 
Rarotonga. In no time neighboring Tahaa and Bora Bora had 
also gone Mamaia, as did Pomare IV, new queen of Tahiti and 
nominal suzerain of the whole group. The new cult, with 
overtones of the old Areoi, was undeniably attractive. Com- 
municants read the Bible and prayed frequently, believed pro- 
foundly in Christ and there must have been a Catholic in- 
fluence somewhere in John and Paul or the Virgin as patron 
saints. But Solomon's harem and concubines also attracted 
favorable attention. Mamaia considered marriage dissoluble 
at will and felt that it was nobody's business at all what un- 
married young people did on moonlit nights. Every believer 
went to heaven a place full of beautiful women who never 
aged and never said No. 

Mamaia succumbed first on Tahiti, where missions were best 


entrenched. Each of the Leeward Islands 2 * retained enough of 
a Christian party to keep a savage little war going that worked 
out to costly victory for the Christians. Brash Mamaia promises 
about the Second Coming and the Last Day failed to material- 
ize, and the cult lost face. Before a critical battle Topoa, rank- 
ing chief of Tahaa and a leader of Mamaia^ promised that, if 
killed, he would revive in three days. Killed he was and revive 
he did not. A Mamaia chief's wife, finding her husband missing 
after battle, assured the faithful that she had personally seen 
him snatched up to heaven like Elijah a boast hard to recon- 
cile with the finding of his dead body, already well decayed, 
m the bush. Between such damaging incidents and military' 
luck on the Christian side, Mamaia presently dwindled and 

But it is most important to note that these ecclesiastical cults 
were not merely religious comic opera. They usually reflected 
local political rivalries, disguising feuds between tribes and 
chiefs with religious issues, as German princes used heresy or 
orthodoxy as pretexts for political aggrandizement during the 
wars of the Reformation. And, for all their ridiculous tenets, 
there is no mistaking the seriousness of the emotional back- 
ground they sprang from. Ethnology sees in them the native's 
unstable effort to reassert himself against the steady pressure 
of mission and trader. The diagnosis is probably correct; but 
I know of no satisfactory explanation for the fact that such 
cults usually arose in islands largely under Protestant influence: 
whereas the natives of Catholic-dominated islands seldom de- 
veloped anything but a cowed, childishly dependent acquies- 
cence in anything the good fathers saw fit to do. 

^Group nomenclature in the neighborhood of Tahiti is so badly con- 
fused that clarity and succinctness cannot coexist. Early navigators split 
the group in two; the eastern part, including Tahiti, being called the 
Georgian Islands, and the western part (Raiatea, Bora Bora, Huahine 
and so forth), the Society Islands. Gradually "Society Islands" came to 
be applied to the whole lot, with "Georgian" forgotten. It was the Geor- 
. gians, as the particular bailiwick of the Pomare family, that the French 
took over, distinguishing the western group as the Leeward Islands 
(Iles-sous4e-vent), which remained nominally independent much 


Here may be the necessary time for taking up the major 
phase of Catholicism in the South Seas. Practically dead since 
the Spanish victory-fiasco in the Marianas, Rome's interest in 
the Islands brilliantly revived when Protestantism got firmly 
based in the area. The agency first in the field was The Congre- 
gation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the 
Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, 
usually called the Congregation of Picpus from the street in 
Paris in which its headquarters were placed. Presently the 
Marist fathers as well were in the Islands, by Papal stipulation 
working the western half, while the Picpus covered the bulk of 

Why Rome was so apathetic and then so energetic is not 
clear. But a flavor of French imperialism is easily distinguished. 
Personnel, funds, political and military support for these ac- 
tivities, were always predominantly French. The French Catho- 
lic missionary was harbinger of the French man-of-war in every 
Pacific group that France now holds, as well as several in which 
Britain or the States nosed the French out. Mgr. Blanc, bishop 
of the Catholic missionary diocese based on Wallis Island, not 
only made pastoral tours on French war vessels but wrote 
cheerfully that this arrangement "had the advantage of show- 
ing the natives the unity of France and the religion they had 
adopted/' 25 A colleague describing Rotuma in 1871 said: "For 
[the natives] religion is personified in France." 26 

The first Catholic effort, on Hawaii, has already been 
sketched. 27 For the next decade Rome was cautious, attack- 
ing only virgin and strategically located islands. In 1834 the 
Picpus went ashore on the Gambiers, the knot of high islands 
at the eastern end o the Tuamotu; in 1837 the Marists set up 

S5 Blanc, Les lies Wallis, 90, 1 30. 

^There were equally blatant parallels on the heretical side of the fence: 
When Britain took over Fiji in 1878, the local Wesleyan mission, crow- 
ing holily, told the new governor in a lengthy address of welcome and 
self-gratulation, that "but for the blessing of God upon the mission's 
labors, there would have been no British Fiji at the present day/' 

"Cf . Ill, Land of Malcebelieve Come True. 


shop on Wallis Island/ 8 a dainty scrap of a place with a good 
lagoon anchorage between Fiji and Samoa. But it was soon ap- 
parent that, far from having learned in Hawaii to shinny politely 
on their own side, the Catholics still aimed to concentrate on 
islands where heresy was already established. Tahiti, Samoa, 
Fiji, Tonga, Rotuma, New Zealand, were some of the Protes- 
tant areas early invaded; in due season New Guinea, New Cale- 
donia, the New Hebrides, the Loyalties, and the Solomons re- 
ceived attention in the wake of Protestant effort. 

This challenging aggressiveness was, of course, just what 
ambitious Frenchmen under the July Monarchy and the 
Second Empire wanted. Outraged Protestants attributed it to 
the direct inspiration of the devil, who was known to be inti- 
mately connected with Rome. Even a Protestant divine, how- 
ever, should have been able to see more in it than that; the 
snorting L.M.S. parson should have recalled that the Roman 
Church had always taken heresy more seriously than paganism. 
A heathen as yet unaware of the Gospel might be in less peril 
of damnation than the heretic; the many former heathen in 
the Islands infected with soul-destroying perversions of the 
true religion demanded rescue. The untouched savage con- 
verted along the way would be gratifying, but the emergency 
lay in the necessity for salvaging the viciously imperiled Tahi- 
tians, Hawaiians and so forth, already poisoned by English- 
speaking heretics. Said Pere Caret, mighty man of the Picpus: 

"Mary the August, whom the Church styles the destroyer of all 
heresies, will soon know how to annihilate it in Tahiti." 
Henri Russier, La Partage de T Oceanic, 126. 

French commentators have seldom made any bones about this 
matter; Russier, for instance, explains: 

". . . the master preoccupation of French missionaries is less to 
convert pagans than to tear peoples already converted by 

The place was not technically virgin, however. Wesleyanism had ap- 
peared briefly the year before, by way of an invasion of warlike native 
Christians from Tonga. The Wallis Islanders, cousins of the Tongans 
and no weaklings, massacred the lot. (Blanc, Les lies Wallis, 12,) 


Protestant missions from heresy and, at the same time, to com- 
bat the progress of English or American influences." La Par- 
tage de I'Oceanie, 234. 

Thus, having at least tried to spare the native the perplexities 
of rivalry between Congregationalists and Wesleyans, Prot- 
estant soldiers of God had to see their raw material twisted all 
out of shape by the differences between the Pope and the rest 
of the field. 

Tahiti, first to be attacked below the Equator, saw the same 
unedifying scenes as Hawaii: Heretics got Catholic mission- 
aries deported, Catholics resisted with greater stubbornness 
than frankness, the French man-of-war demanded tolerance 
for Catholics at point-blank range. This time, however, the 
result was the deportation of the turbulent Rev. Mr. Pritch- 
ard, L.M.S. missionary doubling as British consul, and the 
establishment of a French protectorate over the windward end 
of the Societies group. In Fiji and this was standard tactics 
the Protestants reinforced their warnings against popery by 
showing the chiefs lurid pictures of the tortures of the In< 
quisition. There then ensued the strange spectacle of French 
Catholic missionaries appealing to a British man-of-war for 
protection against Fijian and white-heretical persecution. The 
commander of H.M.S. "Calliope" excused himself, mention- 
ing that, speaking of pictures, he had himself seen in the house 
of a Catholic missionary on Tongatabu an equally lurid print 
depicting a tree "from the branches of which all who did not 
adhere to the Popish church were represented as falling into 
hell-fire." 29 

From the beginning religious tolerance had no part in na- 
tive thinking, and very little in missionary habits of mind. 
Rarotongan converts to Christ were accustomed to refer to 
their heathen brethren as "Satanees," a word obviously bor- 
rowed from white lips. Heathen villages in Samoa were in- 
variably identified as the property of the devil. So it is not 
surprising that, on Rotuma and in the Tuamotu, natives com- 
mitted to popery went to war with natives addicted to heresy, 
^Thomas Williams, Fiji and the Fi/ians, 366. 


and neither priest nor pastor was above blessing the arms of 
his embattled congregation. Naturally rival chiefs used re- 
ligious affiliations in the game of prestige and power, most 
notably in Tonga, where Catholicism was identified with the 
doughty men of Bea, and Wesleyanism with the conquering 
George Tubou. 

In this no-holds-barred controversy, heresy, as first comer, 
had the advantage of being more firmly entrenched with native 
government. Popery had more picturesque ritual, novelty, and 
could exploit native restlessness under the existing blue laws. 
By playing this card shrewdly popery might temper discipline 
to make itself more popular, as on Wallis Island, where even 
in a tight Catholic monopoly converts were allowed to play 
athletic games on Sunday afternoon, a thing unthinkable on 
heretical islands. Because heretical parsons knew well that a 
convert unduly irked by discipline would get a warm welcome 
if he shifted allegiance to the "popis," they tended to sing 
smaller and go more slowly. But on no important island could 
popery stamp out heresy as planned; it had to content itself 
with existing side-by-side with it. On Tahiti the L.M.S. had so 
successfully conditioned the native against Catholicism that, 
even after French occupation, the island remained prevalently 
Protestant. Intentional regulations gradually moved out the 
English missionaries on the ground there, but it was found 
necessary to send French Protestant pastors to take their places 
in the social structure of the island. 

Catholic missionaries often resisted the temptation to make 
their careers too mundanely comfortable, as the heretics 
signally did not. A French naval officer making the acquaint- 
ance of the Islands in the late 'sixties wrote wonderingly of the 
contrast between the Protestant and Catholic ministers on the 
Loyalties. The Protestants, he remarked: 

". . . go right to the point to their own and their converts* 
material interests. By good advice and example they led their 
flocks to fruitful harvests, cleanliness and well being . . . On 
certain days designated in advance they are ready to receive 
their dues in kind and in cash. If these dues do not arrive, they 


do not complain, but deprive the delinquent of the help of 
their advice. . . . The native houses grouped round the chapel 
are clean and well kept, the women and children decently 
clothed in blue cottons, and having an air of happiness and 
health. As for the pastor in his parsonage with white walls 
covered with climbing vines, he has his wife for company, his 
waxed walnut furniture, his "keepsake" on the round table, 
and tea served with biscuits ... At the other end of the is- 
land the French missionary lives in a hut on a little bread, 
when he knows how to bake it, and fruits that he gets from the 
trees. His garment is worn, his hat rubbed napless, his beard 
long and unkempt. His ragged troop of natives, whom he tries 
to clothe, sing hymns or run the woods dirty, hypocritical and 
corrupt. Nevertheless the reverend father is not sorrowful. His 
love for his Church and his hatred for Protestants suffice him." 
Henri Riviere, Souvenirs: de la Nouvdle Caledonie, 83-84. 

Such examples of holy laxness and slatternliness were not, 
however, universal. Those accustomed to consider Catholicism 
always latitudinarian and to identify harsh blue laws with 
Puritanism a point of view common among Americans- 
need to make the acquaintance of the hierocratic dictatorship 
that Pere Laval of Picpus set up on Mangareva, principal island 
of the Gamblers. 

This Pere Laval had some reason to feel that the tall, hand- 
some and normally mercurial Polynesian people of the Gam- 
blers needed stern handling. When he and Pere Caret landed 
there out of the Picpus establishment at Valparaiso, they were 
welcomed and taken to a hut where there were pretty girls 
eager to be nice. Even as Mr. Harris, the priests refused the 
honor and found that this was taken as an insult or sign of 
enmity, as indeed it was in Polynesian terms. 30 With darkness, 
Laval and Caret crept out of the hut and took to the mountain 
to wait for daylight, when they hoped to be able to sneak back 
to their boat. The natives discovered their escape and began to 

^George Hamilton, surgeon of H.M.S. "Pandora/' made the same dis- 
covery on Moorea in 1791. But he mended matters satisfactorily by 
sleeping with his taio's wife, since his profession did not impose chas- 
tity. (Basil Thomson [Ed.] Voyage of H.M.S. "Pandora," 109-10.) 


beat the bushes for them. The priests took refuge in a cave; the 
natives fired the bush to smoke them out; it was just by God's 
grace that they were not smothered where they lay. Having 
survived, they moved to a smaller island near by where, through 
lucky cures of ailing chiefs, they obtained and cleverly ex- 
panded a foothold. In two years all local idols were burned 
and the mission was consolidated. For once God had a clear 
field. The mission dominated the principal chiefs and, since 
Mangareva was not a well-frequented spot, the fathers were not 
likely to be challenged for anything they chose to do. 

They chose building, among other things. Laval had the 
monumental complex, so Mangareva was heaped high with a 
huge cathedral, a number of large churches, convents, and a 
jail, all on a megalomaniacal scale in Cyclopean masonry for 
which forced native labor provided the foot-pounds. The la- 
goon round the Gambiers had good pearl shell and occasional 
pearls, so the natives were also set to toiling as divers, heaping 
up more and more of these commodities which the mission 
sold in Tahiti for funds for the good cause. Estimates of the 
annual cash intake run over 60,000 francs, a very considerable 
sum in those days. So much arduous labor discouraged the 
natives, good Polynesians and never too fond of steady slavery, 
and led them to neglect their fishing and gardening. Their 
dwellings degenerated into mere hovels, their clothing into 
filthy rags, their diet into something well below subsistence. 
Intent on souls and not the things of this world, the mission 
paid little heed. Instead, as population declined, Laval or- 
ganized expeditions to the Tuamotu to kidnap brawny hea- 
thens and bring them to Mangareva to fill the dwindling ranks 
of the godly. 31 Sometimes parties of despairing natives tried 
to escape in canoes. If caught, they were in very bad trouble; if 
not, they sometimes made land, sometimes were never heard 
of again. 

The jail was always crowded with offenders against chastity 
and other Christian virtues. Flogging was a common punish- 

81 Spanish missions in California apparently followed the same procedure 
in their vigorous period. (Belcher, Sulphur, 119.) 


ment. The confessional enabled the mission to detect sin and, 
as the culprit was marched off to rigorous discipline, passers-by 
threw filth at him in angry reprehension. A French skipper 
putting in to trade in 1854 was accused of eating meat On 
Friday, tied up and thrown into jail; the very hut he had stayed 
in was fumigated to remove the taint of sin, his bedclothes 
were publicly burned. Every night all unmarried girls were 
locked into a convent to prevent carnal congress during dark- 
ness. On the eve of every holy day married women too were 
incarcerated, lest their husbands pollute themselves. Laval 
perfectly exemplified Mr. Dooley's definition of a fanatic as 
"a man who does what he thinks God would do if He knew 
the facts of the case." 

None of it could have been accomplished without hearty co- 
operation from the upper classes of Mangareva, exploiting the 
native tradition of obedience to arbitrary, bred-in-the-bone 
authority. It is easily possible to exaggerate the shock to the 
native. After all, he had never been able to call his soul his 
own before the white man came, and this was just a matter of 
a less comfortable set of tabus. But there is no such palliation 
for Laval. From any civilized western point of view his regime 
was an unmitigated disgrace. 

It went unphecked for thirty years. The Gambiers were part 
of the French protectorate system in the Pacific with head- 
quarters in Tahiti, but barring some gossip in Papeete, no offi- 
cial attention was paid to what was happening there. Then a 
French trader named Pignon, accompanied by his wife and an 
employee, came to Mangareva for a cargo of shell. Laval threw 
all three in jail on unspecified charges. Presently M. et Mme. 
Pignon were set free with instructions to go away and never 
come back, but the employee cooled his heels three months 
longer without trial on charges of adultery, v/hether with Mme. 
Pignon was not stated. Pignon protested, agonizedly and 
loudly enough to be heard in Paris. The government of Man- 
gareva was held liable to pay him 160,000 francs damages. But 
the Picpus order had good friends in Paris. The authorities in 
Tahiti allowed themselves to be calmed down, and little of the 


amount was ever paid. The transfer of Laval to another post 
was the only substantial result. 

All this proved little, because the colleague who succeeded 
him carried on with his methods undisturbed while the Franco- 
Prussian war effectually distracted Paris from any such small 
matter as the holy bullying of a few hundred aborigines in the 
South Pacific. It was 1887 before responsible French authority 
came to the Gambiers; during all that interval the mission had 
run roughshod over the disappearing natives. By then Laval 
was dead. 32 He doubtless died confident that on his entry into 
Paradise the souls which he had saved from sin in spite of 
themselves would flock to welcome him. 

As various island groups proclaimed white-style legal codes 
under Protestant persuasion, there appeared strange mixtures 
of codified liberality and personal restriction. Having searched 
the scriptures, Tahiti could find no excuse for capital punish- 
ment; exile was the heaviest permissible sentence. Raiatea In- 
stalled trial by jury. But on the same islands confessions of 
adultery and other legally proscribed sins were obtained by 
looping a rope round a woman's middle with strong men drag- 
ging on either end until she either was cut in two or chose to 
talk. On conviction she was ineradicably tattooed in the fore- 
head with a South Seas equivalent of the Scarlet Letterthe 
one instance in which Christianization did not frown on tat- 
tooing. Perhaps such use of rope, which recalls the Fijian 
method of wife-strangling, was the natives' idea; but mission 
protest could have stopped it. In Tonga a woman found with- 
out her blouse even in her own hut was fined two dollars; 
smoking cost her four in fine and costs; a shirtless man owed 
the law ten. The Broome Road on Tahiti, still the principal 
highway of the island, was built by native sinners working out 
fines at so many fathoms of road per offense, principally sins 
of the flesh. None of this astonishes anybody previously ac- 

^Mangareva, Wallis Island, the Isle of Pines (off New Caledonia) still 
enjoy a South Seas reputation for being priest-ridden. See Sir Harry 
Luke, From a South Sea Diary, 199-204, for a marvelous case in the 
New Hebrides of a modern French Catholic missionary instigating 
wholesale murder among his flock out of the best motives. 


quainted with missionaries* ideas of law and penology on 
Hawaii. But here it is a salutary reminder that, whether Catho- 
lic or Protestant, early missionary attitudes were often most 
uncivilized. And the consequences of their intrusion were often 
depressing, even to themselves. 

On the other hand, missionaries cannot be rejected en bloc 
as personally and socially monstrous. Father Damien, the 
martyr of Molokai, was as much a member of the Congrega- 
tion of Picpus as Laval. As for Protestants, it is worth while to 
know more about such a man as the Rev. John Williams of the 
L.M.S., already identified as the first Christian martyr of Ero- 
manga, whose work under staggering difficulties stamps him a 
clever, earnest man of heart, hands and bowels. Successive 
L.M.S. mission ships have been named after him. "John Wil- 
liams" is not as beautiful a name as some given these vessels, 
such as "Morning Star," "Southern Cross/' "Jubilee," "Day- 
spring," 33 but the honor is deserved, and a knowledge of the 
man's doughty doings must help greatly to bolster the morale 
of the modern tyro-missionary who boards the latest "John 
Williams" headed for his maiden station. 

Williams was not perfect. He was at least morally respon- 
sible for the barbarism of criminal procedure on Raiatea, his 
particular island; and he was very hard on Mrs. Williams. She 
accompanied him whenever possible, had children as fast as 
John could beget them, and they died about as fast as she 
could deliver them. Nevertheless this ruddy, blocky man was 
the James Cook of the missionary world. He personally dis- 
covered Rarotonga (Cook Islands); 34 became chief pioneer of 
the gospel in the leeward group of the Societies, the Cooks and 
Samoa; died in harness trying to open up the New Hebrides for 

The first "Morning Star/' "Southern Cross/' etc. were built from 
funds contributed by Sunday School children buying ten cent or six- 
penny shares. 

8 *Or thought he did. The schooner "Cumberland," Goodenough 
master, brought to Port Jackson in 1814 a cargo of dyewood procured 
at "Larotonga," sixteen leagues east of Tongatabu, which Sir Everard 
im Thurn identifies as Rarotonga. Read 160 and it makes sense. Wil- 
liams' discovery was in 1822. (Im Thurn, Lockerby Journal, 209.) 


the L.M.S.; and was a sort of ordained Robinson Crusoe to 

Moved to range far and wide among the heathen, he badly 
wanted a ship; but all the L.M.S. had was an occasional char- 
tered vessel to fetch supplies and reinforcements. On Raro- 
tonga Williams had timber and could lay hands on a certain 
amount of iron always a popular item in mission trade goods 
and knew that with iron and timber ships were built. But he 
knew nothing of shipbuilding and little of seamanship, so he 
went at the matter step by step. 

To work iron meant a forge; a forge meant a smith's bellows; 
so he made one on a design of his own, being unable to recall 
the details of the conventional type. After several changes and 
failures, it worked nicely. Ordinary mission equipment in- 
cluded hammers and sledges, so an efficient blacksmithy was 
possible, as soon as Williams had acquired, by trial and error, 
and taught the native converts, the art of forging. Next was a 
homemade turning lathe, no less, to make blocks for the 
running rigging out of ironwood (casuarina). There was no 
lack of labor. With the white man's metal adzes the natives 
squared timbers and worked split tree trunks down to plank- 
ing, a technique already familiar in building up the freeboard 
of their large canoes. Cordage was rove out of tough and supple 
hibiscus fibre, sails were pandanus matting quilted for extra 
strength. The rudder pintles were cobbled together from a 
piece of broken pickax, a cooper's adz and a large hoe on the 
vessel's first appearance in Tahiti "the officers of the vessels 
lying there . . . hastened on board to see this prodigy, and 
expressed not a little astonishment at every part of the ship, but 
especially at the rudder irons" 35 as well they might. 

In three months of such inspired improvisation Williams 
had a sixty-foot, seventy-ton hull that floated right side up and 
handled adequately under fore-and-aft rig. She was christened 
"The Messenger of Peace" and proved by a maiden voyage to 
Tahiti, where she received more conventional canvas and, to 
judge from illustrations in Williams' memoirs, was re-sparred 
s5 Williams, Narrative of Missionary Enterprise, I, 170. 


for square rig forward. Then, with a dove and olive branch- 
the missionary device floating meekly at her masthead, 
manned largely by Polynesians, she took the reverend gentle- 
man on an exploratory voyage round the Samoan group as 
competently as if a King's dockyard had taken a year to build 
her. Williams, of course, attributed her success principally to 
the Lord. 

Such a man patently made sense of his own sort. He lived 
an effectively full life and died a hero. 36 It is unfair to reproach 
him or the better specimens among his colleagues for failure 
to make sense in terms of a hundred years later. Williams and 
his ilk implicitly believed that Protestant Christianity was as 
necessary to the welfare of human souls in this world and the 
next as insulin is to the diabetic. To take it to those who needed 
it they would go through hell and high water. Further, in order 
to set up the emotional climate conducive to Christian virtues 
which, without adequate Scriptural authority, they took to be 
chastity, sobriety,, industry, reverence and cleanliness, they felt 
justified in encouraging native covetousness after white man's 
clothes and gadgets. The missionary should be "highly approv- 
ing of whatever had a tendency to civilize the natives, to fur- 
nish them with useful employment"; the native should be 
taught that "idleness and irregular and debasing habits of life 
were as opposed to the principles of Christianity as to their 
own personal comfort;" and the mission was bound to "in- 
crease their wants or to make some of the comforts and de- 
cencies of society as desirable as the bare necessities of life." 37 

It sounds fatally more like the Proverbs of Solomon than the 
precepts of the Gospels. But these missionaries were ines- 
capably as much European petty bourgeois or "mechanics" 

30 As mentioned before, the Melanesian natives of Eromanga in the 
New Hebrides knocked him in the head when he and a colleague were 
exploring mission possibilities thereabouts. I like his epitaph in the 
churchyard of the old mission church on Rarotonga: "Sacred/to 
the/Memory/of the/Rev. J. Williams/London Miss. Society/who, 
with his/Friend, Mr. Harris/was massacred by/deluded natives at/Ero- 
rnanga while/attempting to convey/to them the blessings/of/Salvation. 
/Nov. 20, 1839." 
87 William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, II 7 279. 


with an ascetic bent as they were ministers of the Word. They 
came to the South Seas freighted, not only with the doctrine 
of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, but 
also with all the arbitrary moral attitudes of Manchester or 
Hartford, Conn. Nobody had ever told them, nor could they 
have understood, that the Gospel did not necessarily have any- 
thing to do with the desirability of plastered walls. The Gospel 
was one feature of white culture as the missionaries knew it at 
home; another was a concern with saving one's soul; a third 
was regular hours of work. Unquestioning, the missionary in- 
culcated all three. Only in the last couple of generations has 
missionary zeal been diluted by the notion that a native can re- 
tain native economics or technology and still be a Christian. 

Missions would have been better off if they had managed to 
keep their converts segregated from impious whites, whose 
versions of how things were done in Boston or Beritani dif- 
fered confusingly from Misf s. A Maori chief, observing the 
floating brothels run by whites opposite the mission at the Bay 
of Islands, asked a missionary why he didn't make Christians 
of his own people before going to work on the Maori? Chris- 
tians tabud fornication, drink, cheating? What about the re- 
splendent naval captain, whom even Misi treated with respect, 
with his wine on the cabin table? What about the swindling, 
pimping trader, the woman-thirsty foremast hand? Misi might 
explain that such people were not exactly Christians in the full 
sense, but that was hard for the native to grasp. In his culture, 
unobserved tabus were inconceivable; a neglected tabu died, 
and neglect was rare. In modern jargon, the native was up 
against the phenomenon of the subculture, the sociological 
fact that, in a complex modern society, behavior patterns dif- 
fer in overlapping, interpermeating stratifications. These lapses 
of continuity in western social anatomy are puzzling enough 
to the western-trained mind; at first they were utterly impos- 
sible for the South Seas native, reared in a monolithic, small 
scale, isolated culture, lacking written history to let him know 
that things had not always been as he knew them. In conse- 
quence he tended to slip confusedly from one set of white 


values to another; and so make a queer, but sometimes or- 
ganically consistent, automatic selection of them to mortise 
into his own behavior. 

Of his old values he usually retained the arbitrariness at 
least. The first step was exemplified in what happened in New 
Guinea when a Catholic missionary, trying to undermine tabu 
in a certain village, forcibly dragged native women through the 
tabu-to-women men's house. The men did not dare take 
vengeance on the missionary but, as soon as his back was 
turned, they redeemed the community's standing with the 
gods by killing the four women. Then came assimilation, some- 
times grossly, sometimes subtly askew. Sunday on a lotu 38 
island was observed with a rigidity that would have frightened 
Cotton Mather. A ship goes aground in a Fijian harbor, cer- 
tain to break up if not re-floated before the tide changes. The 
native missionary says "but it's Sunday/' and no help is forth- 
coming. Another Fijian Sunday coincides with the rising of 
the palolo 39 worm, the great annual but evanescent South 
Seas delicacy; the Wesleyan converts have to go to chapel all 
day and do without palolo that year, while the less Sabbatarian 
Catholic natives gorge on them. Williams records proudly how 
some of his natives, adrift in a canoe and starving, refused a 
good opportunity to fish because it was the Sabbath. 

Those things occurred long ago; but even in recent times 
the tabu-mindedness of Islands would shame a Maccabean Jew. 
In 1934 a Japanese naval party sent to Truk (Carolines) to 
observe an eclipse reported on the inhabitants with irritation: 
No smoking, no drinking; when accompanying newspapermen 
asked for native songs, all the population knew was hymns; 
and when the officer in charge, eager to complete foundations 

was the Polynesian-developed word for the white man's religion 
in any form. 

^The rising of palolo, the timing of which is a matter of great debate 
in the South Seas, marks the mating season of the creature. It appears 
that the organisms that come to the surface, where the natives scoop 
them in in great quantities, are the sexual portions of the worms them- 
selves, which never leave their holes in the coral far below, where they 
remain drearily behind. Aldous Huxley might have dreamed it up. 


for his instruments in time for the eclipse, asked the natives 
to help pour concrete on Sunday they refused as open- 
mouthed as if he had suggested their cutting their throats in 
the interests of science. 

In 1946 I was on Majuro (Marshalls) just after the arrival of 
the first white missionary to return there. The first question 
put to her by the chiefs and elders was whether the young men, 
who had taken mightily to cigarettes during the American oc- 
cupation, could remain church members if they continued to 

Assimilation of white ways often meant serious social dam- 
age. Catholic missions in the Marquesas have long segregated 
girls not only in the interests of morality, Laval-style, but to 
check population decline, on the theory that the Marquesan 
taste for intercourse long before puberty damaged the repro- 
ductive organs. The objective is proper, however dubious 
medically; but the result damages the whole Marquesan pat- 
tern of emotional development. On Tikopia custom associated 
pregnancy only with marriage; so Tikopian lovers usually took 
precautions, whereas spouses did not, the community counting 
on infanticide or forced emigration to relieve population pres- 
sures. Christianity appeared, rejecting infanticide and insist- 
ing that a boy caught with a girl had to marry her, whether 
pregnant or not, making for earlier marriage and greater fecun- 
dity for, once being married, the new husband felt no custom- 
ary obligation to be careful. When last heard from, the popula- 
tion was growing to dangerous heights. Missions could hardly 
have been expected to foresee that supernatural sanctions on 
marital fidelity would thus stimulate the birth rate; but the 
moral is that, once you tinker with the equilibrium of custom 
that makes up a society, you never know where repercussions 
will appear. Wrote Dr. Gordon Brown: 

"Of those who intrude themselves into the life of a group other 
than their own, even with due sympathy and humility, we 
must say; 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do/ " 
Quoted in Felix M. Keesing, The South Seas in the Modern 
World, 87. 


That same French naval officer previously quoted on the 
contrasts between heretic and Popish missionary, later grew 
meditative about the great Mgr. Bataillon, the Marist mission- 
ary bishop who was to Wallis Island what Hiram Bingham 
was to Hawaii: 

"... a bishop of the twelfth century strayed into our own time 
, . . this huge old man of sixty-six with a long white beard, 
the beak of an eagle, pale blue eyes and the asceticism of a 
hermit, unbending, intrepid and authoritarian, has made the 
island Catholic from end to end ... he is master of Wallis. 
He never allowed English missionaries to get a foothold there. 
He had no instructions to that effect, but he did not wish it, 
and that was that . . . He made the people fetch stones on 
their backs to build a cathedral which, with its two heavy, mas- 
sive towers, rises toward heaven in the midst of the tiny native 
huts, a strange monument to another time and another /world. 
Nevertheless the great bishop's old age is troubled and sad. He 
has so bent these innocents under yoke and rule that they no 
longer have either their own vices or their own virtues. Of the 
vices hypocrisy remains, of the virtues gayety, simplicity and 
cordiality have disappeared . . . Monseigneur Bataillon feels 
that his work is not good, but for all that he has no wish to 
mistrust it ... He remains a great figure among those sowers 
of religion who harvest only barrenness." Henri Riviere, Sou- 
venirs de la Nouvelle Caledonie, 60-63. 

Though, as this implies, South Seas missions have been a 
failure from any general point of view, they deserve fragmentary 
credit in some respects. On dry islands they often improved the 
native's water supply by building large churches, the corrugated 
iron roofs of which make excellent sanitary rain-water catch- 
ment. From kindness as well as good tactics, they did their ill- 
trained best to cure the native's ulcers, bellyaches and fevers, 
a charity that was perilous if an influential patient did not do 
well, and they have promoted cleanliness among their flocks. 
They accomplished much in discouraging internecine warfare 
among natives^ partly by direct tactics, partly by backing native 
chiefs seeking a monopolistic power that could keep the peace 


which, on balance, was probably a good thing. They often 
wrought valiantly to protect the native from being swindled 
or kidnapped. They are primarily responsible for the high 
literacy which has not relieved immense ignorance among 
South Sea natives, particularly in Polynesia and Micronesia. 
These achievements gradually encouraged intelligent people 
to contend that, however dim a view early observers like Mel- 
ville and Kotzebue took of them, missions have on the whole 
been salutary for the native. Said Stevenson, a close and de- 
vout observer: 

"I had conceived a great prejudice against Missions in the South 
Seas . . . that prejudice was at first reduced and then annihi- 
lated. Those who deblaterate against missions have only . . . 
to come and see them on the spot. They will see a great deal of 
good done; . . r At the same time . . . they will see a great 
deal of harm done. I am very glad to think that the new class of 
missionaries are by no means so radical as their predecessors 
... I wish I could say how strongly I feel the importance and 
efficiency of this new view/' Graham Balfour, Life of Robert 
Louis Stevenson, II, 229. 

Some administrators in the Islands, particularly American and, 
in their day, Japanese, have done and do missions the compli- 
ment of actively desiring their presence, believing that the 
church not only gives the native something innocuous to keep 
him busy, but makes him positively more controllable. Others, 
particularly British, rely on missions for much native educa- 
tion and supplementary health measures. In his address open- 
ing the 1947 South Pacific Conference in Canberra, Dr. Evatt 
of Australia specified more and better missions as a desideratum 
for the Islands. These things chime in with Stevenson's ap- 
proval of the new type of missionary as "less radical" which, 
being interpreted, means more tolerant of any but the most 
startling native ways of doing. That may be said to have begun 
when the Rev. James Chalmers, renouncing previous mission 
attitudes about clothes, persuaded government to prohibit 
clothing above the waist for the natives of New Guinea. Many 
a modern South Seas missionary has been somewhat trained in 


ethnology or psychology to help him toward intelligent objec- 
tivity in handling his flock. 

It sounds admirable. To object to less ignorance and more 
tolerance in missionaries or anybody else is a strange reaction. 
Yet for missions to shift their emphasis from soul-saving to 
social service means to abandon the only emotional basis that 
justifies their existence at all. Considering the Wesleyans in 
Tonga, Basil Thomson saw that clearly: 

"Missionaries are by the nature of their calling intolerant. Tol- 
erance in an evangelist is a sign that he is unfit for his mission." 
The Diversions of a Prime Minister, 202 .* 

The missionary can, in some fashion, help cushion the continu- 
ing shocks of white ways on natives, teach them reading and 
writing, dose their ailments and train them in sanitation, 
guided throughout by objective attitudes borrowed from 
science. But so far as those aims distract him from his prime 
function of soul-saving, he is perpetrating a well-meaning 
swindle on his backers, whether native or western. 

There was higher intellectual integrity about his bigoted and 
ignorant predecessor who thought rival sects snares for the un- 
wary, violations of the Decalogue risks of damnation, and who 
viewed without alarm the damage to his flock that necessarily 
resulted from his efforts to force them into godliness. It is 
reassuring to hear a nice young English girl in the South Seas 
say that she thinks it a shame to excommunicate from church 
a native girl who has an illegitimate baby: "The natives just 
don't think of sin the same way we do, and that's all there is 

40 I the reader tends to gag at this point, I recommend his reading 
Walter Lippmann, American Inquisitors, Chapter II; says Socrates to 
Thomas Jefferson: "Have you ever stopped to think what it means 
when a man acquires the scientific spirit? It means that he is ready to 
let things be what they may, whether or not he wants them to be that 
way. . . that he has conquered his desire to have the world justify his 
prejudices . . . that he has learned to live without the support of any 
creed, that he can be happy, or at least serene, that he can be good, 
or at least humane, no matter what conclusion men may come to as to 
the origin of the world, or its plan, or its destiny ... It is only when 
he has ceased to care about the result that he can trust himself wholly 
to free inquiry/' 


to it." Only if she feels that way, and a very good way too, she 
should not be, as she is, wife of a missionary. On another 
island I have waltzed with the head missionary's wife to the 
music of a Sunday School orchestra at a party for the church's 
social organization of young natives in a building erected by 
one of John Williams' most trusted colleagues. I contemplated 
the head missionary, also waltzing among his lambs, and felt 
mortally convinced that, for all his lack of tolerance, his long 
dead predecessor had done a far better job of preaching Christ 
and Him crucified to the heathen which is, after all, what 
both of them went out there for. 

Perhaps in reflection of this inconsistency, one finds zeal 
and energy most conspicuous in the modern South Seas among 
the missionaries of religious splinter-groups Mormons or Ad- 
ventiststhan among those of the L.M.S., the Wesleyans, the 
Catholics, who pioneered the field. Natural dwindling of 
momentum has been accentuated by the new trend toward 
efforts at tolerance. Pleasant as the modern old-line missionary 
often is, the true spirit of Pentecost must be sought among 
the scrawny, chinless, half-bated soldiers of newer and livelier 
faiths who are now struggling to take converts away from their 
elder rivals. Since religious schism in a village usually means 
civil discord to match, governments view their activities with 
distaste. The authorities of several island groups are trying to 
freeze out the zealots by granting entry permits to missionaries 
on a quota basis. Thus, if Tarafu today has 20,000 Wesleyans, 
5,000 L.M.S., 4,000 Catholics, 2,000 Mormons, and 500 Ad- 
ventists, among the native population, and one missionary per 
1,000 communicants is permitted, the Mormons and Adventists 
are badly handicapped in any active proselyting. Tonga ac- 
complishes the same result by freezing the number of mission- 
aries per sect at the number in service during one of the war 
years, when most of the Mormon emissaries, being young 
fellows earning their spurs in the Church, had gone home to go 
into uniform. The Tongan State Church is a great thing in 
local politics and takes a dim view of energetic rivals. 

Mormons occupy a special corner of this background. From 


the American hive an annual swarm of nondescript young men 
migrates to the South Seas to missionize for the period re- 
quired of all aspirants to the complicated hierarchy of the 
Saints' church. Both the Salt Lake (polygamous in doctrine) 
and the Independence, Mo. (the contrary) varieties are rep- 
resented. They are handicapped by Joe Smith's Word of 
Wisdom forbidding tea, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco, which 
they sometimes make the tactical error of trying to impose on 
a native very fond of all those things. But they have plenty of 
backing and energy and, as one official said sourly, "If they don't 
get everything they think they have a right to here, they come 
right round and try to flap the American eagle at me/' So a 
picture of Brigham Young often appears on the wall of the 
native shack along with King George or General de Gaulle. 
Their superiors wisely give them good grounding in appropriate 
native languages before loosing them, and some New Zea- 
landers profess considerable admiration for the Saints' sporadic 
success in keeping the Maori at work and sober. 

No responsible observer can deny that many a modern mis- 
sionary is a good fellow, as parsons go. I remember a young 
Catholic priest, sweaty in dungarees, toiling with great good 
humor to get a chapel rebuilt with assistance from native con- 
verts, planning re-education of his flock in land use and in 
the introduction of new cropsa capable young man without 
a selfish shred in his body and unmistakably fond of his com- 
municants. He was doing them good material good. He 
should have been out under the trees preaching the passion of 
Our Lord or the efEcacy of the Sacraments. Why use a priest 
as an amateur county agent? 

This point is beginning to make its way in the thinking of 
some responsible officials in the Islands. Native contributions 
to their white-supervised local churches, now usually autono- 
mous or close to it, are often as high per capita as taxes. They 
are, in fact, ecclesiastical taxes and, having prestige and public 
opinion as sanctions, are more readily collected. The native 
gets a good deal of value back in the shape of schooling and 
good advice; but that situation may not continue to be taken 


for granted. The Islands In general need more outside manu- 
factures, medicines, construction equipment, consumers' 
goods, and more expert assistance in medicine, engineering, 
and agriculture, than they now get. Both are costly, and ex- 
port resources with which to pay for them are slender, while 
Congresses and Parliaments tend to balk at heavier subsidy of 
Island economies. Money now going to the mission church 
would certainly buy more such necessaries if the government 
handled it. One high official told me, "I know nothing that 
missions do for natives, except perhaps saving their souls, that 
government could not do better at less cost." Said another 
more crisply, "If it could be managed gradually over five years, 
Fd like to see every missionary off the island/ 7 Such talk would 
have been unthinkable a generation ago, when mission funds 
and mission prestige were indispensable in the Island picture. 

Nevertheless, emotional and economic vested interests and 
the cohesive momentum characteristic of all institutions will 
probably keep South Sea missions existing for a long time to 
come. Children's pennies, adults' quarters in perforated en- 
velopes, will continue to drop into green-lined wooden plates 
in sooty-bricked churches and some of them will pay for the 
transportation and regular Sabbaticals of parsons and wives 
down among the Islands. The native will continue to give the 
Lord more than he can afford although no doubt, the bar- 
gain is worth while in social satisfaction. And the government 
will continue to wish that it had the dread of hell and the 
stimulus of ostentation to help it collect its rightful dues. 

A queer business altogether, with shockingly little life in it 
from any Christian point of view. The gigantic churches are 
being replastered along the north side of Upolu; but it has 
been a long time since intruding parsons really believed they 
were saving native souls from eternal perdition. The crumbly 
gray coral church on Rarotonga which shelters the monument 
to John Williams already looks a thousand, not an actual hun- 
dred, years old. 

Recently I stood watching a sunset from a headland over 
Matavai Bay where the "Duff" landed the first contingent of 


the Lord's soldiers seriously to assail the spiritual darkness of 
Polynesia. By now every Tahitian is somehow converted. In 
token of this brilliant victory of white spiritual values., the 
population is rotten with syphilis and drunkenness, about 
as near promiscuous as ever, hopeless and shiftless; unless 
those who should know are utterly mistaken, not one in a 
hundred modern Tahitians is close enough to the spiritual 
hang of Christianity to have any hope of avoiding frying in 
hell 41 1 kept thinking of the honest and able little missionary 
I had talked with a few weeks before on another island who, in 
a moment of candid discouragement, said that the best any- 
body could do with these people was to make rigid Pharisees 
out of them and even that seldom happened. After all, it took 
two thousand years to produce even the small proportion of 
western churchgoers who could, in any conceivable sense of the 
word, be called Christians. No wonder the missionary with 
some education and energy prefers to do amateur social work, 
where he can occasionally see some small results. 

terrors of hell seem to play a large part in native pastors' sermons 
and, though few results are visible in the Islanders' behavior, there is 
some reason to believe that they have bitten rather deeply into the emo- 
tional substructure of some natives. For an account of the devil-and- 
pitchfork trend of bad dreams in a Polynesian society, as uncovered by 
a physician interested in psychiatry, see Beaglehole, "Psychic Stress in 
a Tongan Village," Proceedings of the Sixth Pacific Science Congress, 
Vol. IV. 

Unsavory Characters 

... if they were not convicts, they ought to have 

Basil Thomson, The Fi/ians 



some unsavory characters rise to the top to leave personal 
marks on the scum. In early times the South Seas probably 
suffered rascals equal to any, but most of them are indistinct 
Little is known of Rives, French toady to Kamehameha II; or 
of the Yankee skipper who kidnapped the Easter Islanders; or 
of Charlie Savage, the terrible Swede of Fiji. But, as men-of- 
war began regularly to police the Islands and report home, as 
western powers took up investigation of South Sea imbroglios, 
the second half of the nineteenth century produced details 
about a number of most peculiar individuals. Here are a few 
known samples, at least two of whom could be called Amer- 

The most famous, some would say the most romantic, was 
William Henry ("Bully") Hayes. Hack writers have used him 
in Robin-Hoodish novels, and the works of Louis Becke, who 
claimed to have sailed as his supercargo, are full of admiration 
of the great man. In all fairness he seems actually to have been 
a smalltime thief and swindler and a nasty type of woman 
chaser with a touch of homicidal mania and a neurotic mis- 
trust of alcohol. The one good thing recorded of him is that 
he was kind to animals; though that would sound better if he 



had not been so savage toward human beings. But he was also 
glib and charming. A trader whom Hayes offhandedly left 
stranded on a poverty-stricken atoll in the Marshalls for sev- 
eral years confessed that, angry as he was, the great man could 
probably jolly him out of it in ten minutes if he wished. Twice 
Hayes squirmed out of arrest by the captain of a man-of-war 
once H.M.S. "Rosario," once U.S.S. "Narragansett." He did 
not altogether succeed in staying out of jail; but, if he had done 
time for his every frowsy crime, a millennium would not have 
been long enough. 

This "great, big-bearded, bald-headed man weighing 236 
pounds with a soft voice and persuading ways" 1 was neverthe- 
less the single best known "character" in the South Seas. (Out 
that way the word has a special meaning; when an old-timer 
admiringly tells you that so-and-so is a "character/' prepare 
yourself for the smart aleck, the antisocial, the egocentric, often 
the psychopathic. ) Some said that Hayes was Cleveland-born 
and learned seamanship on Lake schooners; others that he was 
son of a Mississippi bargeman and started his career by ab- 
sconding with $4,000 of his father's money: there is no explana- 
tion of how a bargeman acquired so much. Romantics 
cherished rumors that he had been an officer in the U.S. Navy 
and quit the service after a quarrel over a lady with a brother- 
officer. But then a similar past is attributed to Benjamin 
("Bully") Pease who, as occasional partner and frequent ad- 
versary, supports Hayes in South Sea yarns. A skilful singer 
and player of accordion and piano, Hayes is said to have first 
come to the Pacific as head of a variety troupe touring New 
Zealand. An ugly little story has him abducting a stage-struck 
girl of seventeen and seducing her forcibly when she failed to 
give in to his charm. Then he was master of a collier between 
Newcastle (Australia) and New Zealand, which enabled him 
to run guns and ammunition to Maori rebels. 

It is all shadowy, and usually shady, patched together by 
Hayes fans from apocryphal tales and newspaper clippings. In 
any case the man was hither and yon in the South Seas in the 
Frederick Moss, Through Atolls and Islands, 84. 


'sixties and 'seventies in one or another fast, trim, heavily- 
armed brig or schooner, putting in wherever law was weak or 
nonexistent and a dishonest dollar could be turned. His crews 
were hard-cased mixtures of Filipinos, Chilenos, Portuguese 
and Islanders; and, being a sort of seagoing tomcat, he usually 
had one or more women on board. The big, fast-talking, cock- 
sure man I picture him with the very wide-open, shiny eyes 
that characterize certain psychopathological types did very 
well with women. His "wives," white or brown, were often 
eloped with, sometimes stolen, sometimes bought. One of the 
best-known in the succession lost her standing by being too 
sentimental; annoyed by her snivelling over his brutality 
toward natives, Hayes put her ashore in Honolulu, where she 
became locally well known as "Stormbird Emma," a seamstress 
for Kalakaua's court. Stormbird Emma loved snuff, gin and 
hymns. When old and blind and full of gin, she would weep 
over the wickedness she had seen with Hayes; and her favorite 
hymn, which she would ask a neighbor child to sing over and 
over, was Count Your Many Blessings. 

A typical and well-authenticated Hayes caper started with 
his appearance at a small New Zealand port in the "Rona y " 
on board which he had three white poodles, two white "wives," 
each with a baby r and a cargo of general merchandise ac- 
quired heaven knows how. The inhabitants of the isolated 
town eagerly bought at auction and paid cash, goods to be 
landed next day. Hayes sailed at daybreak, keeping the cash, 
neglecting to land the goods. It was as simple as that. When 
the sheriff of Maui (Hawaii) attached his ship for unpaid 
bills, Hayes got the law drunk belowside and then sailed de- 
fiantly, sending his victim ashore in a small boat. Naturally 
he never went back to Maui, but the Pacific was full of fresh 
islands. Many a ship's chandler or other shore creditor knew 
how adept Bully Hayes was at "paying with the fore-topsail." 
His economics also included dabbling in the human head 
trade, sometimes decapitating his own raw material; using 
force or forged orders to collect other men's oil or copra from 
isolated trading stations; ship stealing his best known vessel, 


the beautiful "Leonora/' was said to have been stolen from 
Bully Pease; and blackbirding. 

The blackbirding began, they say, when his ship came to 
grief on Manahiki and the natives helped him build a small 
vessel to get away in. In return Hayes offered to transport a 
number of them to a wedding feast on near-by Rakahanga. 
Somehow they missed Rakahanga and got to Samoa, where the 
natives found themselves persuaded to sign on as plantation 
labor, Hayes receiving so much per head. He did better later 
taking a batch of Chinese labor to an Australian contractor, 
Hayes to pay f 10 per Chinese as head tax due at Melbourne. 
Off Melbourne he had the ship pumped half-full of water and 
flew signals of distress. Rescue craft came out; Hayes urged 
them to "save the poor Chinamen" while he and the crew 
hunted for the leak. The moment the Chinese were ashore, he 
began to pump ship and presently cracked on all sail and dis- 
appeared over the horizon, Chinese landed and 3,000 in tax 
money still in his strongbox. 

For him that was a big operation. Nor was labor recruiting 
his specialty, since it required some reliability. His petty vil- 
lainies probably never made him a rich man though, of course, 
legend had him burying $250,000 on Kusaie (Carolines), a 
favorite haunt of his. As long as it suited his book, they say, he 
had the "Boston" missionaries on Kusaie convinced that he 
was, a devout Congregationalist. But another tale has him so 
irritated by the intrusion of the "Morning Star" mission ship 
at Pingelap (Marshalls) that he forced the mission party to 
dance themselves to exhaustion to the music of his accordion. 
Doubtless he could appear pious well enough on occasion. He 
managed to borrow $50 from the Rev. Mr. Damon of Hawaii, 
and he talked guilt and repentance very handsomely to the 
Rev. Mr. Chalmers during a charter voyage in which the 
"Leonora" took a mission party home from Niue (Savage Is- 
land), where their ship had been wrecked. If he had only had 
proper influences when a boy, said this reeking rascal, he would 
not have been so wicked. He not only put up with prayers in 
the cabin before meals, as he had agreed to, he actually curbed 


his own blasphemy he usually swore every time he opened 
his mouthand ordered the astounded crew to muster aft and 
listen respectfully at every service the missionaries chose to 
hold. Chalmers paid him in gold in a small canvas bag; the day 
after the payment Hayes slugged and killed his mate with 
that same bag of godly gold. 

What became of him is not certain. He was heard of in 
Manila as imprisoned for helping convicts escape from Guam, 
getting converted to Catholicism coming the pious again 
which moved the Bishop of Manila to intercede for his re- 
Iease 7 and going back to the States at public expense as a 
destitute seaman. Then, one story goes, he promoted himself 
a small vessel and sailed from San Francisco on his last voy- 
age. Brutalizing his Scandinavian cook some say it was a 
Chinese too expertly, he was defied and went below for his 
revolver. When his head reappeared up the companionway, 
the cook cracked it with the iron boom crutch, weighted the 
unconscious body and pushed it overboard. How he died is not 
significant. That he lived so long was the scandal. His best 
epitaph was written by Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson: " 'Bully 
Hayes' and 'Bully Pease" . . . of whose names Fm quite sick/ 72 

At worst, however, this was a killer at retail. Charles-Marie- 
Bonaventure du Breil, Marquis de Rays, was a killer at whole- 
sale, operating at the victim's expense and at long range, with- 
out the risk of going to the South Seas himself. 

He was not a marquis, he was probably not noble at all. 
Growing up during the July Monarchy and the Second Em- 
pire, when France was actively imperialistic, he developed a 
neurotic degree of colonial mindedness. After adventures in 
the American West, it appears, he was a trader in Senegal;' 
when further efforts to gain colonial experience in Madagascar 
or Indo-China were fruitless, he retired to a penurious life in 
his native Brittany. Somehow he acquired the title of Bolivian 
consul at Brest. Blue-eyed, ruddy, and stoutish, with a fat but 
not fierce moustache, rather like a blond version of Grover 
Cleveland, he inspired confidence both by his presence and his 
'Cruise of the "Janet Nichol," 92. 


ostentatiously devout Catholicism. His politics, of an aristo- 
cratic tinge, led him to look sourly at that turbulent child of 
the times, the Third Republic. 

In studying distant places, the Marquis was attracted by 
enthusiastic descriptions of New Ireland as an earthly para- 
dise. France had small claim to New Ireland, but the status of 
most of Melanesia was still vague, and the Marquis rather pre- 
ferred to play a lone hand without government help. He 
envisioned an idyllic, pious, fertile colony at a spot which he 
renamed Port-Breton, where Frenchmen and others of good 
will were to get away from the jangling, anticlerical, antiroyal- 
ist atmosphere of the French 'seventies and live industrious, 
happy, peaceful, prosperous lives like decent people and good 

In 1877 a Paris newspaper carried the first advertisement of 
Port-Breton. Within two years the Marquis had a propaganda 
organ of his own La Nouvelle-France subscribers and volun- 
teers for emigration to apply at offices in Marseilles and Le 
Havre. This imaginative paper carried a standing cut of Port- 
Breton with a beautiful cascade in the background, the fore- 
ground occupied by jolly French planters fraternizing with 
respectful and admiring natives. All this, if you please, before 
a single colonist had set foot on the place. But the Marquis 
was not clever at the thorny metaphysical problem of distin- 
guishing between what may be and what already is. The worse 
things grew later at Port-Breton and they got very bad indeed 
the more determinedly did he publish pictures of rich fields 
of growing corn, flourishing plantations of coconut and banana, 
and neat public works, cathedrals, bridges and offices. It was 
Martin Chuzzlewit's Eden revived in Melanesia. With the 
same gambit that Zephaniah Scadder used to impress Martin, 
the Marquis' propaganda occasionally made candid admis- 
sions: Hogs did marvellously at Port-Breton, but nobody could 
deny that the climate did not suit sheep. 

Anybody who thinks Frenchmen congenitally hardheaded 
should study Port-Breton. On the platform and in print the 
Marquis crooned about tropical breezes, rich lands, crystal 


streams, teeming crops, and pious industry under one's own 
vine and fig-tree, and suckers appeared at the subscription 
offices in gratifying numbers. It stood to reason that so devout 
a nobleman would not take so much trouble unless he knew his 
scheme to be practical. Small rentiers, peasants, white-collar 
workers, liquidated their savings to buy shares in the Societe 
des Fermiers-Generaux which was to exploit lands at Port- 
Breton purchased by stay-at-home investors, and in the Societe 
des Sucreries et des Distilleries, which was to make brilliant 
profits from the sugar cane that, it was implied, already cov- 
ered large areas of the colony. The devout who could not invest 
were urged to send in fittings for the churches and clothing for 
the savages of the colony. 

If de Rays had been a simple swindler, he would have col- 
lected funds as long as possible and then decamped as Daudet 
made him do in Port-Tarascon. But, unable to disbelieve his 
own fantasies, he insisted on actually sending out colonists. He 
was not too successful in recruiting his own countrymen. The 
first group of adventurers consisted of forty Germans, only 
twenty-five Frenchmen, a scattering of Swiss and Belgians; 
later he did great execution among credulous Italians. The 
first ship was a goo-ton three-master called the "Chander- 
nagor," bought with subscription funds. Each embarking 
colonist was given a written promise of food, lodging, five 
francs a month pocket money and, at the end of five years, 
five hectares of land and a four-room house of coral, stone or 
brick. It is difficult not to grin at the great show of businesslike 
definiteness, but it proved no joke for the poor souls making 
the passage. 

The French authorities refused the ship clearance, and 
captain and crew quit. De Rays had her towed to Antwerp, 
the colonists following by rail. The Belgian government also 
was dubious; he shifted the ship to Flushing. A fresh crew was 
signed on and she sailed hurriedly at three A.M. to give the 
Dutch minimum time to think the matter over. The eighty- 
nine innocents thus smuggled to sea had better luck than they 
deserved, making Melanesia without mishap; they saw the 


Laughlan Islands, off the eastern end of New Guinea, on Janu- 
ary 4, 1880. Seventeen settlers with three months' stores landed 
to colonize there, why is not clear, and the rest went ashore 
at Port-Breton and took formal possession in the name of the 
Marquis. Apparently they did not wonder why,, in view of 
representations already made, such a ceremony was necessary. 

Perhaps they were distracted by physical troubles, which 
came quickly and thickly. The water was brackish. The climate 
was steamy. The place teemed with mosquitoes and soon with 
malaria. There were no medicines, no sign of buildings. The 
famous cascade was a disappointing trickle. A few rational 
persons who tried to get back on board after looking about 
ashore were warned off at revolver-point, and the ship sailed 
for Sydney to cable de Rays for more supplies. 

The consequences hardly need describing. A Melanesian 
foreshore is no place for people neither accustomed to nor 
equipped for the deep tropics. The natives did not attack; 
soon r in fact, the colonists were bartering their clothes with the 
natives for food. But all other calamities reported present. To 
make matters worse, the emigrants were a mixture of misfits 
and jangling nationalities and, according to the Rev. George 
Brown who rescued some of them, many were too peevish or 
discouraged even to help build emergency shelters for their 
own sick. 

The fate of the party on the Laughlans is a good sample: a 
few fled in a canoe and were rescued at Teste Island with one 
man dead. Those left behind were taken off by a British brig 
after four had already died. A canoe party of six from Port- 
Breton managed to make Buka (Solomons), where natives 
found them drifting exhausted, tied them up and carried them 
to their chief. Five were eventually killed and eaten. The sixth, 
a born-lucky Italian, survived by the chiefs favor, but had to 
turn cannibal to avoid offending his patron. It is not stated 
whether portions of his comrades were included in his diet. 
The bulk of the Port-Breton party was rescued by Wesleyan 
missionaries in such bad shape that twelve died on the rescue 
voyage. The worst of this very grim joke came when the 


"Chandernagor," returning from Sydney to find only ten 
plucky colonists still on the spot, proved loaded, not with 
food, but with inedible building materials and industrial ma- 
terials, a steam crane, incubators, sugar refining machinery, 
and tools including knives without handles and wheelbarrows 
without wheels. The remaining ten gave up. For the time being 
Port-Breton was deserted. 

But back in Europe de Rays was solemnly proceeding with 
plans. The French authorities had grown so querulous that he 
shifted headquarters to Barcelona, where genius would be less 
hampered. He founded and sold shares in a shipping line to 
connect Le Havre with China and Port-Breton. On his coat 
were decorations from the Bey of Tunis and the Republic of 
Liberia, which professed to admire his scheme as somehow 
benefitting the negro race. And he did despatch a supply ship 
under Liberian registry to Port-Breton, which arrived to find 
the colony vanished. 

Incredible as it sounds, two more emigrant ships eventually 
went out, carrying administrative and police officers and priests 
to look after souls and convert heathen. The Marquis thought 
of everything. Convalescing survivors of the first expedition 
had been greatly edified to receive complete, detailed instruc- 
tions as to laying out the colony one district for noblesse, one 
for bourgeoisie, a third for workmen; a central barracks for the 
police; and not only the site, but the heroic dimensions of, the 
cathedral. Reinforcements fared no better than vanguard, and 
had the extra handicap of including women. The site was 
shifted, but malaria and dysentery were everywhere. 

The most sensible man in the picture was the captain of the 
Nouvelle-Bretagne, the last ship to arrive. Finding the colony 
rotten with disease and gloom, he sailed off to Manila and 
cabled the Marquis for funds for emergency provisions and 
medicines. A return cable promised 150,000 francs. Only 27,- 
ooo arrived; whereas the captain had already loaded far more 
than 27,000 francs' worth of goods. On complaint of an uneasy 
merchant the Spanish authorities seized the ship for unpaid 
bills. Desperately conscious of death and starvation at Port- 


Breton, the captain slipped his cable with six Spanish men-in- 
possession on board and paid his bills with the fore-topsail 
true Hayes-style, if for different motives, releasing the guards 
in a small boat only when reaching the open sea. 

So supplies reached the starving. But a few days later a 
Spanish gunboat steamed fiercely over the horizon and took 
ship and captain back to Manila. The Spanish allowed humani- 
tarian motives as exonerating the captain, but he was con- 
fined for months during successive trials. So the only hero in 
the story, except possibly the cannibalistic Italian, did time in 
jail for his heroism. 

Nevertheless the gunboat offered escape to some of the 
colonists; the rest got away later on the supply ship, which had 
been rusting at anchor all the while. Some of the Italians 
settled in New South Wales, where a survivor or two can still 
be found. The French trickled back to France to make in- 
dignant noises about the Marquis de Rays. With his lieu- 
tenants, some of whom apparently believed in him, the 
Marquis was haled into court. And high time. 

His defense was partly that he was being persecuted, partly 
that he had acted from the highest motives throughout. Never- 
theless he had spent some 2,000,000 francs (then $400,000) of 
other people's money and accomplished only the deaths of a 
ghastly proportion of them; and he had had the bad taste to 
live well himself, in sharp contrast with conditions at Port- 
Breton, running through an impressive list of toothsome 
women and rich wines. He got four years and 3,000 francs fine. 
A more fitting penalty would have been exile to Port-Breton 
where, it was reported a while ago, only a huge rusty cogwheel 
half-buried in the sand of the beach remains of the whole 

Guileful imagination responded vigorously to South Sea air. 
It stimulated an adventurer called Walter Murray Gibson into 
becoming one of the few ever to swindle Brigham Young and 
get away scot-free. 

The most indicative glimpse of Gibson comes via Nathaniel 
Hawthorne. While the novelist was U.S. consul at Liverpool, 


Gibson came asking a guarantee of thirty pounds for a steamer- 
passage back to the States. It was granted. But instead of tak- 
ing his gains and disappearing, this gentlemanly applicant 
stayed for hours, overwhelming the consul with well-told but 
windy globe-trotting lies about ape men in Ceylon 3 and Su- 
matran houris. What particularly fascinated Hawthorne, how- 
ever, was the man's account of his errand in England: 

He was born on an American-bound Spanish ship, he said; 
he had always considered as his parents the American couple 
who took him ashore in New York and reared him as their own. 
But he had lately discovered that, the same night on that ship, 
an aristocratic Englishwoman had given birth to a boy, and as 
any devotee of the Victorian drama could readily have fore- 
seen the babies got swapped. Though lacking any strawberry 
mark on his left shoulder, Gibson had come to England seek- 
ing his rights to an unidentified coronet and, unsuccessful, was 
returning in disgust to more democratic climes. 

A man who would try such a tale with a straight face in a big 
seaport consulate obviously had special qualities. Throughout 
his career Gibson never used a plausible lie when an implau- 
sible one could be concocted; in his own extravagant way he 
was an artist. Teacher, traveler., amateur filibuster, inventor, 
lecturer, author, missionary, politician, vendor of international 
snake oil, and shyster champion of the dark-skinned underdog, 
he demands attention for versatility alone. 

That story of his birth at sea does well enough to get him on 
stage. For years after that there is only his somewhat fly- 
blown word for his history. He drifted South or maybe West, 
for he also told yarns about living with Indian tribes taught 
school in the Carolinas, married and was early left a widower 
with two children. He may have visited San Francisco in Gold 
Rush times and made some sort of killing. He was somehow 
in Mexico, then in Guatemala tied up with a group of intend- 
ing revolutionists, in whose behalf he was to command a revo- 
lt was the Dutch East Indies that harbored these creatures when 
Gibson reported them later to the American Geographical and Statis- 
tical Society. 


lutionary navy. Presently he was in New York with resources 
sufficient to buy the start of it in the shape of an obsolete 
revenue cutter, the "Flirt." 

He took her south with a cargo of ice and nobody knows 
what as armament, but he never made Guatemala. Ice and 
vessel melted away; the next seen of the latter she was off 
Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies. Whatever Central Amer- 
ican junta had paid for her, she was now a private yacht and 
Gibson was "Captain Walter/' her wealthy owner sailing for 
his pleasure, with the incidental purpose of collecting a long 
overdue inheritance from the estate of a deceased relative in 

Aware of unrest in their East Indian empire, the Dutch 
studied the "Flirt's" gun ports and surmised that Gibson might 
be more than a mere well-heeled gypsy. He was reported talk- 
ing wildly of touchy matters ashore; then up the coast his mate 
was arrested in possession of a damning letter from Captain 
Walter to a disaffected local sultan. It mentioned getting rid 
of all Dutchmen and hinted that Captain Walter had at beck 
and call the resources of the United States, with "no want of 
powder, bullets, muskets, guns, . . . steamers, and warships." 
The man was playing filibuster in the richest possessions under 
the Dutch flag. Naturally, he landed behind bars. 

The sheer lunacy of the idea was nothing to trouble him. 
He was always the amateur with too seething an imagination 
for any sense of proportion. In this emergency his story was 
that he had meant the letter solely as a cordial gesture; and 
that the native who composed it for him must have been an 
agent provocateur, for he himself did not know enough Malay 
to check the tenor of what he had signed. After several trials 
and appeals he was lucky to get off with half an hour in the 
pillory and fifteen years at hard labor. Before starting to serve 
his sentence he escaped, under circumstances which suggest 
that the Dutch, perhaps uncertain as to his precise importance 
and backing, were not unwilling to get him off their hands after 
clearing up the record. 

Smuggled on board an American vessel, he landed in the 


States crying for vengeance, prevailing on the State Depart- 
ment to lodge him a claim on the Dutch for $100,000 damages. 
The Dutch refused to pay serious attention, and the U.S. min- 
ister at the Hague vaguely threatened hostile action. But Gib- 
son's case turned up a fatal flaw; when at low ebb in prison, he 
had written the Dutch governor a letter confessing himself a 
guilty ass: 

"I now desire ... to throw myself on your Excellency's clem- 
ency. I avow . * . that I have allowed my fancy and my vanity 
to get the better of my judgment ... I remember to have 
indulged in bravados that I would become a potentate in the 
East . . . but I must ever add that this was after a plentiful 
indulgence in wine. I have been too often led away in life by 
some highly colored romantic idea . . ." 4 

A copy of this letter had been in the file on Gibson sent to 
Washington by the Dutch to rebut his claim. But presently 
there was no such paper to correspond to the docket of the file. 
It was recalled that Captain Gibson had been given access to 
this file early in the proceedings. The appropriate conclusion 
was drawn, and Uncle Sam hastily dropped the case. 

Gibson went on a lecture tour describing with equal fervor 
his own wrongs and the beauties, human and physiographical, 
of the Malay lands. He also wrote a fictionized account of his 
adventures called The Prison of Weltevreden. Its lush yet 
kittenish style shows him spending his time in prison learning 
Malay, converting natives to Christianity, and tossing off 
mechanical inventions for the Dutch, who gladly availed them- 
selves of his genius. Urbane long-suffering is the keynote, well 
sustained. And his only crime, he gently makes it clear, was too 
great sympathy with the natives. 5 

Just before the Civil War he turned up in Salt Lake City 
where, as a minor celebrity, he met Brigham Young. The pair 
got on well. Gibson said that Young nursed him affectionately 
through a serious illness, To his new friend the convalescent 

*The Shepherd Saint of Lanai, 26. 

Trincipal sources on Gibson up to this point are The Prison of 

Weltevreden and The Shepherd Saint of Lanai. 


unfolded what was henceforth his chronic obsession, a project 
for a benevolent colony in the South Pacific, sometimes in his 
beloved Indies, sometimes in Papua which, though he had 
never been there, sounded like an empty and likely place. 
Young listened. He had just fought off Federal efforts to align 
Utah with the rest of the nation and, still apprehensive, seems 
to have been projecting yet another Zion far from the med- 
dling Stars and Stripes. Now he suggested that this enterprising 
Gentile study Mormonism; if its doctrines appealed, business 
might be done. 

Gibson studied, professed beliefas he would have professed 
belief in Voodoo to further his schemes and was sent to 
Hawaii to bolster Mormon influence in the Pacific. The 
nucleus of Saints recently planted on Lanai had been recalled 
for "the Mormon War"; but a few converted natives remained 
and the land-grants obtained from local chiefs were still viable. 
They centered in Palawai Basin, an extinct volcanic crater 
which lacked only adequate water for its rich soil. The Mormon 
settlement within this crater was called the City of Joseph. 

Gibson squared off the land titles and, to judge from scraps 
of his diary, fell in love with Lanai, not a prepossessing spot 
naturally, but for which he foresaw a great future as a spring- 
board for a Pacific-minded schemer: 

"The Hawaiian islands take the place of the Malay archipelago 
in my thoughts . . . They are material for a very little king- 
dom . . , and surely seem but small material for me after all 
the hope and grasp of my heart * . . a little kingdom of love 
and worship ... I would fill this lovely crater with com and 
wine and oil and babies and love and brotherly rejoicing and 
sisterly kisses and the memory of me forever more . . . there 
with my brown ragamuffins [i.e., Hawaiian converts] I could 
bid the Prince of Peace welcome ... I for want of a better 
am their Prince and their Father ... I claim direct revela- 
tion as well as Moses and Elisha . . . Lanai shall be famous 
in Malaysia, in Oceanica . . . Blessed is Lanai among the 
isles of the sea." Typescript of portion of Gibson diary, Ha- 
waiian Archives. 


Psychiatry has labels for these symptoms, but they rarely ap- 
pear in so mellifluously benevolent a form. Throughout Gibson 
thinks of himself as "lover of the weak island races that had no 
friend/' and patronizingly but kindly calls the Hawaiian "an 
interesting yet feeble younger brother, a subject for an Oceanic 
empire/' 6 In preparation for empire building he learned Ha- 
waiiana present-day expert highly admires his style in that 
deceptively simple language and industriously experimented 
with cotton, corn, sisal, sheep, cattle, to build up the resources 
of his arid principality. 

His next move was foreshadowed by a curious lack in his 
diary: it seldom mentions Mormonism. When pinned down 
by the inquisitive in Honolulu, Gibson never quite admitted 
himself a Mormon emissary, though there was no secret about 
the Saints' activity in the Islands and he owed his hold on 
Lanai to his standing as Young's deputy for the Pacific. Hono- 
lulu suspected him anyway. Whereas the Islands were hot for 
the Union, Gibson sometimes slipped into secessionist-flavored 
talk; rumor said he was flying the Rebel flag on Lanai. Investi- 
gation, however, proved the flag in question to display eight 
stars for the eight Islands and the mystic inscription 
CJCLDSIH initials of "Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter 
Day Saints in Hawaii/' But Hawaii already had a flag; and the 
filibuster scares of the 'fifties, with one of which Sam Brannan, 
the Mormon renegade, had been connected, were still lively in 
Island minds. The thoughtful kept a suspicious eye cocked in 
Gibson's direction. 

Within three years suspicion had something to feed on. Gib- 
son's methods in recruiting immigrants for Lanai were 
sometimes highhanded. Rebellious aides denounced him in 
Honolulu as a penurious dictator; disgruntled native converts 
appealed to Salt Lake City. A Mormon commission of inquiry 
found plenty of reason to expel Gibson from the Church and 
did so, summoning him to quit Lanai and turn over the Saints' 
holdings. A hitch developed. The titles were sound, but they 
ran not in the name CJCLDSIH, but in that of one Walter 
"Typescript of portion of Gibson diary, Hawaiian Archives. 


Murray Gibson. Brigham Young had been shamelessly led up 
the garden path. The Church's only recourse was to inscribe 
the traitor's name high on the roll of Mormon apostates. A 
reporter covering the Confederate flag incident had already 
recorded a detail that sounded wistful in retrospect: the fa- 
vorite hymn of the Lanai Mormons was "When I can read my 
title clear . . ." 

Secure in his island kingdom, Gibson ignored the Saints* 
outraged bellows though Honolulu gossip had his steps 
dogged by Mormon assassins in a melodramatic vein that he 
'may well have authored himself and began to feel his way into 
Island politics. He began with adhering to the respectable, non- 
native elements but, piously as he talked, got nowhere. So he 
turned haole leader of nativism, with, it was said, some Cath- 
olic support. Avowed friend of dark-skinned peoples, head of 
an Hawaiian community and expert in the Hawaiian language, 
he was admirably situated for fishing in the troubled waters 
surrounding the last Kamehamehas and Kalakaua. Moving to 
Honolulu, he published little newspapers called successively 
Nuhou (News) and Elele (Messenger), which worked to in- 
flame the native sense of grievance. Elected to the Hawaiian 
legislature, he championed nativist projects. When Kalakaua 
came to the throne and turned nativist, Gibson was ready for 
his opportunity. 

One of his minor grafts makes curious reading. The legis- 
lature granted him $1,500 to write and publish a booklet on 
Sanitary Instructions for Hawaiians, for which task his experi- 
ence as moral and physical guardian of Lanai was considered 
to qualify him. Enemies said that $250 would have been high. 
But they could not complain of lack of sense in the copy. 
Gibson was an able man; but it was unfortunately true that he 
also had a shingle off. His booklet pronounced soundly against 
alcohol, overeating, irregular meals, the sterilizing effect of 
gonorrhea, love philtres, picking the teeth in public, using 
highways and paths as latrines, and horseback riding for preg- 
nant women. He favored vegetables to prevent constipation, 
frequent washing, marital fidelity, and privacy in the home as 


promoting virtue. His most original point was insistence that 
Hawaiian women would be more chaste if they wore drawers; 
he seemed to think that promiscuity came from a germ that 
insulation would baffle. Casanova once maintained the same 
thesis from another point of view. 

Shortly before the storm broke over Kalakaua in 1887, Gib- 
son acted in a crude farce that further damaged what standing 
he had among the respectable. He was ensnared by a young 
widow from the mainland working the book-agent business in 
Honolulu. He told her that, old as he looked, he could still 
ride his forty miles a day; he regaled her with his travels; and, 
she insisted, he proposed marriage, only to jilt her at the in- 
stance of his busybody daughter. She had never accepted an 
engagement ring, the widow said, because she already had 
enough rings; but cash had been something else. 

When the lady sued for breach of promise, the Honolulu 
press had savage fun. As Gibson's counsel pointed out, there 
was no shred of written evidence; even the lady's name Flora 
Howard St. Clair was highly improbable; and some of Gib- 
son's enemies were unscrupulous enough to rouse suspicion of 
a frame-up. But the jury awarded the widow $10,000, being 
unduly mindful, as a juryman later confessed, of the political 
significance of the defendant. 7 Gibson had already left the Is- 
lands when the case was tried, but it probably served a purpose 
in making it unlikely that, with so heavy a judgment outstand- 
ing against him, he would ever return. The owner of the 
"Flirt" had again been 'led astray in life by some highly col- 
ored romantic idea/' 

The old schemer's star was sinking anyway. In the summer 
of 1887 the respectable whites who forced Kalakaua to sign the 
"Bayonet Constitution" did not forget his faithful minister. 
They marched Gibson down to the water front under escort of 
something that, though many of its members were powers in 
the land, looked considerably like a mob. One of them carried 
a rope and indicated by word and gesture that, if Kipikona, as 
the Hawaiians called Gibson, ever came back, it would be used 
Ta Gibb/s Wooing Hawaiian Archives. 


with a running noose at the business end. Genteel and long- 
suffering, just as he had been in the Dutch tyrants' prison, the 
great man let himself be hustled on board a San Francisco- 
bound sugar bark and landed in San Francisco, where reporters 
were impressed by his gentlemanly demeanor. 

He died of tuberculosis January 21, 1888. Honolulu had 
long ridiculed his constant cough. So he never founded that 
benevolent principality in his beloved Malaysia or perhaps 
Papua. The Lanai lands passed into the hands of the Hawaiian 
Pineapple Company a generation ago. Palawai Basin is now 
one mass of beautifully-contoured fields of pineapples, proving 
too late that Kipikona's darling island could be made to bear 
with the abundance of which he dreamed. But one detail is 
regrettable. The little knoll that was the site of the City of 
Joseph, where the chronic but amateur filibuster rhapsodized 
about the isles of the sea, is now occupied by the company 

The only member of this nosegay of notorieties ever honored 
by a monument a half-again-life-size bronze on Ha'apai 
(Tonga) was the Rev. Shirley Waldemar Baker, founder of 
the Free Church of Tonga and, in his day, unquestionably the 
most exasperating man in the Pacific. Still he was probably the 
least pathological of the lot. Hayes, de Rays, Gibson, sound 
close to the line beyond which emotional disability becomes 
dangerous somewhat to the subject and considerably to the 
object But, barring some mild delusions of persecution, Shirley 
Baker could have been a useful, if unpleasant, citizen in several 
situations in life other than that to which he thought God 
called him. Some still maintain that he actually was a useful 
citizen as politician-missionary a role for which, according to 
old photographs, he dressed marvelously in stout boots, white 
trousers, black clerical coat and sun helmet. 8 

Yet, though he drew salary from the Wesleyan mission, he 
was virtually not a missionary at all. That was his mother's idea, 
not his. While he was still a baby, she uttered a deathbed wish 

^Principal sources for Baker are: Basil Thomson, Diversions of a Prime 
Minister; and Beatrice Shirley Baker's memoir of her father. 


that he would minister to the heathen and, in spite of his sev- 
eral efforts to do something else, the infinite purpose of God 
brought him to a missionary career in the end. Evidently the 
Lord took Mrs. Baker's suggestions very seriously. 

She was daughter of a Wesleyan parson in Gloucestershire. 
Her husband was a Church of England clergyman and head- 
master of a London grammar school. Early motifs reappear in 
Baker's life with a patness gratifying to the biographer. In his 
time he was both Wesleyan and Anglican missionary. As a 
youngster he wanted to study law, and so eventually he be- 
came principal architect of the legal code of Tonga. Then an 
uncle, an eminent physician, tempted him toward medicine 
and gave him elementary grounding in the profession; the 
nephew was later sole medical practitioner in Tonga, re- 
putedly rather skilful. He wrote D. M. after his name, though 
it is not known what medical faculty granted him that degree; 
his uncle's teaching and a volunteer year of "walking the hos- 
pitals" in Australia while on leave are the only family record of 
medical education. Not that there was anything out of the 
way in a missionary's turning amateur physician. But Baker 
somehow owed it to his knotty, self-admiring,, ingenious self 
to lie about his formal qualifications. 

Though he flirted with profane professions and was educated 
with the Anglican ministry in mind, his dissenting fate caught 
up with him when, as a young man, he visited another uncle 
who was Crown Protector of Aborigines in Australia. No 
Church of England congregation being handy, young Baker 
attended Wesleyan chapel, evidently with mounting zeal. Pres- 
ently he wrote his father that he was going to turn Wesleyan 
and missionary. His father pompously approved. After ordina- 
tion and marriage both advisable from the mission point of 
view the Rev. Shirley Baker was detailed to Tonga in 1860. 
The place was never to be the same again. 

Wesleyanism was extremely well intrenched there among 
an aggressive, self-satisfied, intelligent Polynesian people, who 
Baker early came to believe were descendants of those weari- 
some lost tribes. Their head was King George Tubou, a large, 


able chief who had had a lively career as an imperious meddler 
with his neighbors, the Fijians. The old gentleman was already 
over sixty and people said later that Baker's influence over him 
coincided with his descent into dotage. He liked this dynamic 
new missionary who within a month could preach in the 
Tongan language and had so practical an attitude toward his 
work, writing in his journal that "while the mission had been 
most successful in spiritual matters . . . nothing had been 
done to raise up the Tongans as a nation." 9 This belittling a 
spiritual victory, odd as it sounds from a parson, fitted the cir- 
cumstances. So far as Wesleyanism could save their souls, the 
Tongans were a finished job; their salvation was threatened 
only by a Catholic minority. The next step for the well-mean- 
ing white man was to organize their security in a world 
hazardous for small native polities. It seems never to have oc- 
curred to Baker that that, however, was no job for the clergy. 

Within two years the King had asked Baker to draw up 
legislation to relieve the commoner of the exactions of the 
chiefs, and to stabilize cash revenue for them. Baker's recom- 
mendations are still fundamental law in Tonga. 10 Within 
four years he had designed a handsome royal coat of arms and 
a flagred, with a red cross on a white first quarter still flown 
by the Kingdom of Tonga under its present British pro- 
tectorate. Baker might have been thinking of himself as much 
as of the King when composing the royal motto: "God and 
Tonga are my inheritance." This rapid rise to influence was 
already causing backbiting among his missionary brethren. 
Later he drew up a white-style constitution for the kingdom, 
with a bicameral legislature, compulsory educationCatholics 
permitted the Douai Bible and a ministry responsible only 
to the King. He is usually credited with the grotesque Tongan 
laws on personal morality that so moved the ungodly to de- 
rision. But these seem to have been the work of predecessors, 
which Baker affirmed without protest. He became editor of 

Beatrice Shirley Baker, Memoirs of . . . , 6. 

10 Cf . V, Their Gods Are Dead, for details of the arrangements and pres- 
ent consequences. 


both the English and the Tongan newspapers published by 
the mission. By 1869 he was head of the mission. Long since 
the King had asked him to become premier, but he refused, 
saying he could do more good by advising from outside. Not 
until 1880 did he formally enter the government. 

So far this might have been merely another extreme case of 
a parson's turning mayor of the palace. But "Burley Shaker/' 
as hostile whites called him, was egregiously energetic and 
doomed to egregious scrapes. The Wesleyans in Tonga were 
as sharp as any about squeezing contributions for their general 
funds out of native converts; as before noted, the method of 
choice was to work up competition,, according prestige to 
heavy contributors and, proportionate shame to others. Baker 
encouraged natives to borrow in advance on growing copra in 
order to make a fine showing. There were rumblings of dis- 
approval when judgments were executed on defaulters who 
could not repay debts thus contracted with traders. Worse, 
Baker openly co-operated with the traders, particularly with 
the German Long Handle Firm, in midwifing such advances. 
The Germans presently held mortgages on the bulk of Tongan 
copra, and paid the mission ten per cent above going prices in 
consideration of the Lord's help and consequent savings in 
overhead. It was a good bargain on both sides, but it unques- 
tionably smelled of money-changing in the Temple and dan- 
gerously exasperated The Firm's competitors, who concluded 
that the Church and Germany were in unholy alliance. 

There was further reason to wonder just how close "Misi 
Beika" and the Germans were. Well before Britain had treaty 
relations with Tonga, Baker sponsored a German-Tongan 
treaty that gave Emperor William exclusive coaling rights in 
the fine harbor of Vavau. Then the Tongan government broke 
with its traditional business agents in Sydney and gave the 
business to Germans known to be close to The Firm. The heir 
apparent of Tonga went under Baker's wing to Auckland for 
medical treatment and died there; Baker brought the body 
back with a flourish on a German man-of-war that had oppor- 
tunely offered that courtesy. He even admitted in public that, 


next to Britain, he preferred Germany among the great 

Much of that may have been an attempt to play Germany 
against Britain in pursuance of Baker's avowed purpose to" 
"make the Tongans a nation, independent and self-support- 
ing/' But as Britain's Pacific policy sharpened in the 'seventies, 
Britons found it indecent for an English-derived missionary 
not to support the Union Jack by precept and, if indicated, 
action. Sir Arthur Gordon, High Commissioner of the West- 
ern Pacific, might write, ostensibly in sorrow, that Baker's 
snuggling up to Germany might be "unfriendly and unbecom- 
ing, but it could not be styled disloyal." 11 Nevertheless it was 
unforgivable, and gossip burgeoned back in Australia, in New 
Zealand where Tonga did much of its business, in the Colonial 
Office, in Wesleyan headquarters in London, and wherever 
two or three were gathered together over a gin-bottle. "Old 
Jikote" the /ifcote, Thomson explains, is the brash and bus- 
tling Tongan kingfisher was in the Germans' pay . . . the 
Kaiser had decorated him for that treaty ... he was a Ger- 
man anyway; nobody but a German would have a middle name 
like Waldemar ... he was a quack, an embezzler, a neglecter 
of mission business while journeying to Auckland so often on 
errands for the King . . . "A great man here," wrote Steven- 
son with amused exaggeration after having Baker to lunch at 
Vailima, "accused of theft, rape, judicial murder, abortion, 
misappropriation of public moneys . * ," 12 

By 1879 Baker was arraigned before a missionary commission 
of inquiry with the British vice-consul at Tonga as complain- 
ing witness. King, native councillors, and missionaries, de- 
posed in sworn affidavits never checked by cross-examination 
that German treaty, copra loans, distress proceedings, had 
all been their doing, not Baker's. But it took more than hard 
swearing to dispel the day-by-day impression that Misi Beika 
was too much of a power in the land. Embezzlement was never 
proved; but he alone handled the auditing of accounts, collec- 

n Baker, Memoirs of . . . , 22. 
^Letters, (South Seas Edition), III, 229. 


tion of taxes, payment of bills and letting of contracts cer- 
tainly a position with opportunities. He probably did not pad 
his pockets directly. But neither did he muzzle the ox that 
treadeth out the corn. A great house for him was shipped 
knockdown from New Zealand at the same time as the wooden 
royal palace; both are still in use. Baker's a lofty, galleried 
affair like a Deep South plantation mansion. His buggy was so 
handsome that, when enemies damaged it, repairs cost over 
forty pounds. When the impudent British took over his office, 
they found its locked back room full of fine wines and liquors 
marked "government property," which proved to have been 
reserved strictly for the refreshment of Misi Beika. 

Whether money stuck to his fingers or not, it was money 
that led to his fatal gesture of moving Tonga to secede from 
Wesleyanism. Baker and the King had long disliked seeing so 
many thousands of pounds in cash leave the Kingdom to sup- 
port missions elsewhere. They had tried in vain to persuade 
Wesleyan authorities to grant Tongan Wesleyanism financial 
autonomy. In 1885, when Baker's enemies in the mission were 
close to British schemers who wanted Tonga annexed, the 
self-confident premier cut the Gordian knot. After sending his 
superiors an ultimatum that could not reach them before the 
time limit expired, he had the King set up the Free Church of 
Tonga to replace the Wesleyan-connected organization. The 
King was titular head, the communicants were all Tongans 
who thought it worth while to stand in with the government. 
Some 15,000 of them found a change of religion immediately 

A few thousand others were stiff-necked, however, largely 
from political motives, and neither King nor premier was the 
type to stand nonsense. Tongans in general were never averse 
to physical violence in religio-political controversy, -as their 
turbulent pre-Baker history showed. The Free Church Invited 
the zealously pro-Free Church and pro-King men of Ha'apai 
and Vavau to come and reason with the recalcitrants, who were 
strongest on Tongatabu, the seat of government. With fire 
and sword dissenters were chastened, but a residue of recalci- 


trance remained. The sequel was exilevoluntary, said Baker, 
forced, said others of 200 stubborn Tongan Wesleyans to a 
small uninhabited island whence they migrated to Fiji, right 
under the nose of the High Commissioner of the Western 

The High Commissioner's sharp protests extracted from 
Baker a promise to repatriate the exiles and allow them re- 
ligious freedom. Those promises were never honored, which 
was rash. Burley Shaker was a dogged man and, next year, his 
discretion was probably affected by personal danger. One eve- 
ning, while he was driving himself, his son and daughter home 
in his buggy, one of four recently escaped Tongan prisoners 
took a shot at him. He had reined up when he saw a man with 
a gun standing in the road; his son alighted to disarm the at- 
tacker. But the man fired as he approached and badly shattered 
his arm, the shot going on to wound the girl in the hip and 
frighten the horse into bolting. The girl was thrown out and 
crippled for life. The effect on the adrenal glands of a man like 
Baker is understandable. Nobody had been killed,but he called 
the incident "the assassination" and, in a mood of so-they- 
want-to-play-rough-do-they, went forth to get revenge on his 
attackers and prove them tools of his , ungodly Wesleyan- 
British enemies. 

Six natives had been shot for the crime after secret trial, and 
more were in jail awaiting their fate when H.M.S. "Rapid" 
appeared, bearing the High Commissioner. Baker stopped the 
massacre but still maintained that the attackers had been 
suborned by Wesleyans had they not hidden in the grounds 
of the Wesleyan College? and that the gun used had been 
lent by the British vice-consul. Henceforth he put in even more 
time in Auckland and, when in Tonga, sported an armed 

Years came and went more and more highhandedly. In 1889 
many Tongans, taking the only way to express dissatisfaction 
with their best friend's administration, refused to pay taxes, 
and Tonga was headed for galloping bankruptcy. This crisis, 
combined with the fact that the Wesleyan exiles were still 


hanging their harps on the coconut palms of Fiji, stirred Sir 
John Thurston, a new High Commissioner, to drastic action. 
Arriving in Tonga on a man-of-war he formally ordered Baker, 
"as a person dangerous to the peace and safety of the West- 
ern Pacific/' to leave on the next mail steamer. Even Misi 
Beika saw that the jig was up. He stormed and snarled and 
sarcastically sent the government a bill for the board of the 
royal prince who had lived a year in his Auckland house while 
at school. But he departed, leaving British officials in posses- 
sion, with the unenviable task of cleaning up the financial and 
administrative mess consequent on so long a virtual dictator- 
ship. Ten years later Britain formally assumed a protectorate 
over the Kingdom of Tonga. 13 

Still, Baker could not be so easily exorcised. From Auckland 
he continued to edit the Free Church press; his right hand, the 
Rev. Mr. Watkin, was mainstay of the Free Church on the 
ground. For years it looked as if Baker would make a career of 
traveling and writing to set his side of the case before every- 
body from beach-gossips in Samoa to the U.S. Government in 
Washington. Then he suddenly shifted ground and secured 
from the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin an assignment as mis- 
sionary. Back in the bosom of the Church of England, he was 
to set up in Tonga the nucleus of a C. of E. mission program 
in western Polynesia. Dropping the Free Church as if it burned 
him, Baker bought land on Ha'apai and began to preach and 
organize Sunday Schools in opposition to his former flock. His 
first four years, he claimed, converted to Anglicanism some 300 
natives on Ha'apai and 500 on Tongatabu not bad, even after 
discounting his poor head for exact figures. 

He died on the job in 1903; one of his daughters still sur- 
vives on Ha'apia, site of the blocky bronze statue that his duti- 
ful children paid for. Stevenson remarked that he looked like 
John Bull in the political cartoons and made a nicely significant 
distinction about his temperament: "the man, though wholly 
insincere, is a thousand miles from ill-meaning; and see to 
what excesses he was forced or led." 14 

M Cf . V, Their Gods Are Dead, for a summary of modern Tongan polity. 
^Letters (South Seas Edition), IV, 34. 


That might be over-charitable. But there is small doubt that, 
as one aspect of his egocentricity, Baker did have what he con- 
ceived to be the good of Tonga at heart. In fact, the disquieting 
thing about such figures in South Seas history is that, so far as 
the natives could make out, the Bakers and Gibsons were their 
best friends among white men. Abler, more honest, better 
educated men were increasingly present; but they did not come 
with so convincing a show of desire primarily to help Tonga 
or Hawaii adjust to the white man's ideas. 

Twenty years ago Queen Salote, King George's universally 
respected granddaughter, tried to amalgamate Free Church and 
Wesleyans. The result was merely another schism, for numer- 
ous stubborn Free Churchers refused the official compromise. 
In Tonga, once established, things last a long time. You can 
still see plodding about in the grounds of the palace, which 
looks like a jigsaw seaside residence of the 'eighties, a lady land 
tortoise which, legend says, was presented to the Tui Tonga 
by Captain Cook in 1777. The story is not biologically im- 
possible; these beasts live practically forever. The poor old 
thing has been run over by trucks and half-roasted in bush 
fires, but she is still on deck and has long been half-deified, 
under title of Tui Malila, receiving regular offerings of cere- 
monial Jkava, which she drinks with royal decorum. It is a great 
pity that she cannot be interviewed about Shirley Baker. 



The virtues and arts of civilization are almost as 
disastrous to the uncivilized as its vices. 

Sumner y Folkways 



pulled smartly toward Tarafu beach. In the stem sheets 
sat the Old Man himself in full-dress uniform, and the men 
were resplendent in clean frocks with new ribbons on their 
flat straw hats, A second boat in their wake contained a squad 
of glittering marines. Native canoes that had been out trading, 
with the crew paddled after in inquisitive haste r and the huts 
back among the coco palms on shore emptied of older men,, 
women and children streaming to the beach to see what the 
strangers were doing now. Chatteringly but politely they made 
way as the captain went forward to shake hands with the chief' 
and explain something with many gestures and some help from 
his Tahitian interpreter, who knew little more than he himself 
did of the local language. 

The chief gathered that he was to be presented with a- parti- 
colored piece of cloth carried reverently in a neat bundle as a 
gift from "Tingi Jawji," the great chief over this lesser but still 
great chief of the ship. He nodded and smiled; the captain 
shook hands again and barked at his men. Trailing a rope, one 
of them climbed a coco palm in a clutching fashion that, for 
all his sailor's agility, struck the natives as slow and clumsy.. 



Once aloft he decapitated the palm, a wasteful thing to do. 
His mates below tied the bundle of cloth to the rope and 
hoisted it to the top, then a jerk on a lighter rope cleverly dis- 
solved the bundle and the cloth streamed out in the trade 
wind, stunningly blue, red and white in converging stripes. 
Drums snarled, fife and bugle brayed and twittered. The men 
in the gorgeous red coats obviously great chiefs from their 
resplendent garments stood in line and let off those clumsy 
thunder-sticks that whites carry, which caused some appre- 
hension. Then all took off their hats and waved them and ut- 
tered an excited noise in unison three times, while smoke 
billowed from the side of the distant ship and a subsequent 
brief bout of thunder made all the natives look apprehensively 
at the sky. 

Again the captain shook hands with the chief and made an- 
other speech of some three minutes which, excepting further 
mentions of Tingi Jawji, was mostly lost. Before the crowd had 
well settled down the boats were pulling away, leaving presents 
piled before the chief. Presently the ship was winged in white, 
as she had been on arrival the day before, seven native girls 
who had spent the night on board were shooed overside to 
swim ashore, and "Towser" was under way, following the 
ebb through the pass in the fringing reef. 

Thus the British crown took possession of Tarafu. It was 
often done elsewhere with more ceremony, seldom with any 
better native understanding of what such ceremonies implied. 
But then native ceremonies were equally baffling to whites. 

Whether it were three years or thirty before another ship 
appeared, Tarafu would never be the same again. Changes 
were implicit, not only in the impressive presence and occa- 
sional rudeness or clumsiness of the whites. Even more cata- 
lytic were the items in that heap of presents -big and little 
iron nails, marvelous for carving tools; lengths of ravishing red 
cloth; needles; thread; beads; a plumed hat such as the captain 
wore; a bottle of dark-brown, sweet, and fiery stuff that the 
.chief tried and spat out, but presently re-investigated with a 
curiosity that was greatly rewarded; and a Bible. Each such 


item was a germ carrying white man's ways ashore. There 
would be many more until now you can sit in a high chiefs 
house under an electric light and observe his golf clubs hanging 
on the wall. 

"Our friends [in Tahiti] have benefited little from their inter- 
course with Europeans . . . they are so altered that I believe 
in future no European will ever know what their ancient cus- 
toms of receiving strangers were." William Bligh (1792) 
quoted in Lee, Captain Bligh's Second Voyage to the South 
Seas, 74, 79. 

Traveling the Islands during or in the wake of war was made 
incessantly amusing by the ingenious uses that natives had 
found for the debris of war. Here on the lagoon beach of an 
atoll is a pretty little canoe consisting of a wooden outrigger 
attached to a belly-tank from a military plane. Just as you think 
how nice a plaything for some bright-eyed Marshallese child, 
a grown man launches it and paddles out to a ketch lying at 
anchor. Behind you are decorative borders of Coca-Cola 
bottles placed butts up in the sand and neat low fences of the 
filigreed steel strips used to firm the landing surfaces of air- 
fields. On Goodenough Island, I am told, natives made admi- 
rable spears out of light steel rods intended for carrying 
prism-shaped cases of shells. I have seen native handicraft 
dyed brown with iodine, red with mercurochrome from mili- 
tary medical stores, yellow with atabrin tablets begged from 
GIs to whom they were issued as a malaria suppresser. New 
shapes, new materials woven into older uses, a thing that al- 
ways occurs when one set of ways of doing impinges on an- 
other. This is the material part of what ethnologists solemnly 
call "acculturation." 

Natives' use of new things is often unpredictable. To us 
fencing wire is good for keeping hogs and cattle where they 
belong; the native sharpens it into flexible, diverging prongs 
for a fish spear. Recently a United States Commercial Com- 
pany officer on Koror (Palaus), short of American stocks to 


drain off piled up native purchasing power, was delighted to 
find a quantity of Japanese sun helmets in good shape. In the 
southern islands of the group, he knew, the same article had 
sold like hot cakes. But when he put them on sale they were a 
drug on the market. The trouble was that the natives valued 
them too highly. To their minds the sun helmet, connoting 
white prestige, was the prerogative of chiefs alone; a commoner 
had no more use for one than an enlisted man for an admiral's 
cap with scrambled eggs on the visor. When last seen, those 
thousands of brand-new sun helmets were still on the shelves. 

From ready demand for peroxide of hydrogen in some is- 
lands, a pharmacist might deduce a gratifying awareness of 
antisepsis among the natives; actually they want it not as 
germicide but as hair bleach. Ghastly cheap perfume has been 
a popular item in trading stores on other islands; forbidden dis- 
tilled liquors, natives buy perfumes to drink. So it has gone 
since the days when chiefs, given uniform frock coats by cap- 
tains, donned them pants-fashion, legs in the sleeves and skirts 
girdled round the waist; and Islanders eagerly sought glass 
bottles, not as receptacles, but to be broken into sharp-edged 
bits for razors. Gunpowder plundered from an early party of 
distressed whites in Fiji was seized on for ceremonial blacken- 
ing of face and hair; one warrior thus embellished leaned over a 
fire and was snatched indecorously baldheaded by a whoosh of 
inexplicable flame that left a marvellously bad odor. Such in- 
evitable errors still occur. During the recent war flotsam from 
torpedoed vessels coming ashore on an island in eastern Fiji 
included cocoa and face powder destined for a PX. The natives 
took the face powder for flour and tried to make bread of it; 
they were sure the cocoa was brown water paint and painted 
the church with it, only to see it all wash off in the next rain. 

Metal, as already seen in Hawaii, was usually an instant suc- 
cess. Its virtues were easily recognizable and its uses close to 
those among whites. Thus, though a nail was a tool rather 
than a fastening, iron hammers and hatchets became both tools 
and weapons. It was quite true that, at first, most Islanders 
would do anything whatsoever for metal. When the "Glide" 


came to grief in Fiji, her hold was full of cured beche-de-mer 1 
that rotted as water seeped in through the bilged planking. 
Nothing could be more noisome than such a brew of slimy 
marine animals and salt water putrefying in close, hot quarters. 
But the natives got wind of a cask of iron hatchets at the foot 
of the mainmast and persistently dived again and again into 
"this loathsome mass" until, retching and half -smothered, each 
man had his coveted hatchet head. Samoans, however, haugh- 
tily professed no interest in metal when the French brought it. 
Stone tools were fa'aSamoa 2 and no Samoan would accord a 
casual stranger the satisfaction of an admission that anything 
fa'aSamoa was not better than anything fa'apapalagi. 

Firearms did not impress the Samoan either, at least visibly. 
For that matter, when d'Entrecasteaux tried to demonstrate 
the eighteenth century musket to Tongans on live birds as 
marks, both his best marksmen missed. Finally a scornful 
native picked up his bow, and transfixed the bird at the first 
try. Other South Sea peoples missed the point of guns because, 
though willing to see magic in them, they traced no causal con- 
nection between the report of a gun and the sudden death of a 
creature thirty yards away. 

But all that was at first off -go. In time the Tongan or Samoan 
chief was avid for a gun. Though it often rusted into useless- 
ness, it was indubitably an honorific thing to own. In orienting 
to firearms the native had to learn over and over again that 
damp powder was useless; that a dirty or overloaded musket 
would kill the aimer sooner than his enemy; that powder too 
close to fire was dangerous. Fijian effectiveness with firearms 
long suffered from a notion that size of charge should vary with 
size of human target. Sometimes the Fijian took the terrifying 
noise as the principal feature, firing at random when leaping 
out of ambush and then going to work with a club at close 
quarters. He saw nothing wrong with cutting down the stock 
of a musket for convenience and aiming it one-handed as a 

*For what this -was and how handled, cf. footnote, p. 211. 

2 Always on the Samoan's lips, this means "after the custom of Samoa." 

Papalagi is the white man's world. 


sort of gigantic horse pistol, with no chance whatever of ac- 
curacy. But in time he learned. With proper training he made 
a fair to good marksman in the recent war, say his officers. King 
Tembinok of Abeinama (Gilberts) never went out without 
a repeating Winchester; the first time a subject stepped out of 
line, the king dropped a bullet at his feet in fatherly admoni- 
tion; the second time the offender got four shots, one over 
each shoulder, one past each ankle; the third time he was 
nailed cleanly in the back, no matter how fast he ran or how 
frantically he dodged. 

As soon as equipment was available, Tahitians as well as 
Hawaiians slaughtered each other by this method. Cakobau of 
Fiji would trade only for lead, powder, muskets, cannon and 
liquor. He distributed 5,000 muskets among his people and 
always had at least 600 kegs of powder on hand. The Maori, al- 
ways most adaptable of Polynesians, saw with unholy readi- 
ness that this way of killing at a distance beat stones and spears 
hollow. On acquiring guns ambitious chiefs from the north 
end of the North Island swept southward, settling old scores 
with traditional enemies armed only with clubs and spears., and 
then went on into megalomanic raiding and conquest that 
turned the island into a horror of treachery, burned pas, 3 mas- 
sacred populations, and cannibal feastings. Hongi, one of the 
grimmer of these adventurers, acquired his superior fire-power, 
along with a steel helmet that once saved his ruthless life in 
battle, in consequence of a trip to England. The modern of- 
fensive, not the mediaeval defensive, weapon made him as 
much the scourge of the North Island as Attila was of Europe. 
The Maori also altered his style of fortification to match the 
new tactics. His ditched and palisaded pa, with a tortuous en- 
trance and calculated fields of fire, had already been greatly ad- 
mired by Europeans; when, in the mid-century, white soldiers 
came up against the fresh improvements he had made a propos 
of guns, even artillery would not guarantee success. Officers 
swore that no European engineer could have done as well with 
the materials available. 
3 The pa was the fortified Maori village. 


Gunpowder was a social solvent. For reasons indicated be- 
fore, the Island chief was relatively safe in prewhite battle. 
But the musket picked him off from afar without identifying 
the marksman and, in small engagements involving firearms, 
he could not stay out of range if he accompanied the war party 
at all. So, as chiefs fell right and left, mana suffered and the 
common man with a gun grew in stature. Battles grew bloodier, 
since weapons were more dangerous; 4 in early Fiji Lockerby 
saw 200 killed on a side, fifty in the first ten minutes. Com- 
fortable old feuds that had served for generations as periodic 
social adrenalin turned into occasions for extermination or 
wholesale massacre that upset everything. Some say that hear- 
ing of Napoleon put monopolistic conquest into the heads of 
sbch Island Alexanders as Kameharneha, Hongi, Maafu; per- 
haps so, but Kamehameha's ambitions somewhat preceded 
Mapoleon's imperialism, and no such spur was necessary for 
ar| Island chief only slightly more able and prestige-obsessed 
thJan his rivals. 5 

/ Gunpowder also made geographical accident crucial for am- 
Toitious chiefs. People living near havens preferred by whites 
got the most guns first and, other things being equal, conquered 
their neighbors. Often they had white man's help in the fight- 
ing, for it conveniently advanced friendly relations if the ship's 
company helped their new brothers against tribes in the next 
bay as Porter did on Nukahiva. Deserters found fighting the 
best way to keep in the good graces of their patron chiefs. The 
process has already been seen in Tahiti, where the Pomares 
won hegemony over the paramount Teva merely by happen- 
ing to control Matavai Bay, where guns and renegades were 
plentiful earliest. This too was bad for mana; the triumph of 
the parvenu always unsettles things. 

*Some doubt this; cf. E. Aubert de la Rile, Les Nouvelles Hebrides, 181. 
*Tlie musket not only made kingdoms and emptied districts, it stimu- 
lated alienation of land in New Zealand. A musket-happy Maori tribe 
would conquer and occupy the territory of a musket-weak enemy, then 
quickly sell the newly acquired land to whites before the defeated could 
rally and acquire enough fire-power to retaliate. And guns were the 
eagerly sought price of land in early Samoa. 


The equally eager native acceptance of tobacco was not im- 
portant, however much it annoyed missionaries. 6 But alcohol 
was immediately to become another savagely powerful social 
solvent. Dignity, responsibility, intelligent reaction to white 
pressure went glimmering whenever the chiefs could lay hands 
on rum or squareface. As in the case of Liholiho, violations of 
tabu under the influence often helped to break down the old 
ways. Under white instruction Polynesians learned to make 
mash of ti-root 7 or sugar cane and developed crude but efficient 
stills; one type consisted of a hollowed stone for retort capped 
with the shaped butt of a tree and using a bamboo tube as 
worm. The first run was reserved for chiefs; even the weaker 
second was potent enough. But distilling is tricky and not es- 
sential to getting hog-drunk. The Islander was soon making 
"beer" or "swipes" meaning any fermented liquid not too 
nauseous to swallow out of mashes of banana, or the pine- 
apple and orange that the white man brought. To this day 
the secretive bush conceals layouts of kegs for making orange 
beer in season, each brew signallizing a great if clandestine 
social occasion reputedly winding up in something orgiastic. 

Doughty drinkers as some chiefs like Kalakaua were, the 
Islander in general has a weak head and uses alcohol strictly 
to arrive at a sloppy or dirty drunk. For results, read Steven- 
son's account of the murderous chaos on Makin (Gilberts) 
when the tabu against natives buying peranti and din was re- 
laxed. 8 Only a die-hard anarchist would protest against the re- 
strictions that seek to deny alcohol to Islanders today. It is class 

"Islanders quickly learned to grow tobacco and still do a rnarvelously 
strong leaf, seared and rolled into stumpy cigarettes with pandanus or 
banana leaf. In Melanesia stick tobacco early became a key currency. 
In order to deal with native communities not yet accustomed to money, 
the armed forces in the recent war pre-empted the world's entire supply 
of this type of tobacco formidable black stuff that two U.S. firms 
alone can make to native taste. 

Ti (Hawaiian term) has a broad, ribbony leaf that was the material 
of the dancer's skirt, and a very sugary, fleshy root. 
8 In the South Seas, 275 et seq. 


discrimination right enough; 9 but the protestant need only 
visit Tahiti, where natives have the same right of purchase as 
whites, to see that for once equalitarian principle must be 
abandoned. The Tahitian squanders far too much of his 
meager cash-income on red wine and beer. His drinking-bouts, 
involving all ages over puberty and both sexes, have all the air 
of a witches' Sabbath patronized by juvenile delinquents. 

Obviously the Islander would have been much better off if 
he had had alcohol in his prewhite background or, from the 
other point of view, if he possessed hereditary resistance to its 
effects. But that is condition contrary to fact and, though that 
sodden nightmare of Stevenson's on Makin was no credit to 
the Gilbertese, king or commoner, pious horror is pointless. 
One can merely assume that the Islander is unlikely to be 
temperate about anything but work* The New Caledonian, 
who raises a little coffee for market, often drinks so many cups 
at a sitting out of sheer inability to leave off that he ruins his 
heart with accumulations of caffein. 

As for foods the native, always prestige-minded, at once 
came to a still persisting belief that the diet of the first whites 
he saw represented their highest gastronomy. Early explor- 
ing crews ate salt horse, ship's biscuit and dried peas because, 
with contemporary preserving techniques, such things alone 
kept well on long voyages. Though no white sailor, or lands- 
man either, would eat such fare if he could get better, to this 
day ship's biscuit and kegs of salt beef are highly valued features 

This comes out most clearly in semiautonomous Tonga. There white 
residents are unlimited in purchases subject to the discretion of govern- 
ment, which can crack down if amounts bought indicate supplies are 
being diverted to natives. Only 1 50 permits to buy alcoholic drinks are 
issued to natives. Native cabinet ministers* permits are unlimited, sub- 
ject to the same conditions as if they were whites. Nobles of the land- 
lord class are allowed four to eight bottles of spirits a month, or equiva- 
lents in wine or beer; heads of government departments up to four 
bottles ditto; native ordinary citizens one bottle. One bottle of spirits 
is equivalent to two of wine or twelve of beer. It is easily seen that, 
when the various upper categories are taken care of, relatively few per- 
mits remain for ordinary citizens, and which ones get them is strictly a 
matter of governmental favor. Theoretically the mass of Tongans do 
not drink at all. 


of Island feasts; and pisupo (pea-soup) is the honorific Samoan 
word for any and all preserved meats, of which, for all their 
dullness. Islanders are inordinately fond. (A veteran trader in 
the Cooks tells me that the Islander was reluctant to change 
from salt beef in kegs to the more easily handled canned beef 
until a clever processor put out a Missionary brand with a pic- 
ture label of a fat and beaming parson on the can.) With all 
the scaly wealth of the Pacific available and practically every 
edible Pacific fish I have ever tried is delicious natives much 
prefer low grades of canned salmon whenever they can afford 

Now consider how unpredictably shifts in ways of doing 
produce strange consequences. The use of canned meat strewed 
the Rarotongan village with empty meat cans that catch and 
hold rain water; such tiny accumulations are favored breed- 
ing places of the mosquito that infects people with filariasis; 
hence because a manufacturer had a clever merchandising idea, 
the Rarotongans are physically handicapped by unduly high 
incidence of a debilitating and disabling disease. During the 
last generation the Japanese imported thousands of Okinawan 
laborers into the Marianas, Palaus and Bismarcks. For their 
eating, a giant species of Asiatic snail, of which they are fond, 
was brought in; with Japanese defeat the "Okies'* were moved 
out, but the snail remains, increasing rapidly enough to be a 
serious menace to vegetation on Rota, Guam, New Ireland. 10 

Too much white man's sweet stuff and demineralized foods 
are supposed to have ruined Islanders* teeth. The point will 
have to wait until dentists definitely determine just what does 
cause gingivitis and dental caries, but there is no denying that 
most Islanders have worse teeth than those in their ancestors 7 
skulls. 11 Their extreme adoptions of white man's foods are 
10 The example is still good, even though, according to recent informa- 
tion, the giant snail on New Ireland has discovered an effective natural 
enemy, not yet identified, that is beginning to check its spread. 
^For a detailed study, commended in a foreword by Hooten the an- 
thropologist, see Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degen- 
eration. A dentist in Fiji tells me, however, that he can detect little 
difference in incidence of tooth troubles between natives living on 
predominantly white-style diets and on diets very close to prewhite 


certainly bad for them in general. Fijian sugar-greediness has 
already been mentioned. The modern Maori lives on boiled- 
to-death meat, white bread, potatoes, and tea with too much 
sugar; he is bored by such "protective" foods as vegetables and 
dairy products. If white flour became unavailable he would 
probably, like the natives of the Tokelaus during a war short- 
age, refuse to use the more wholesome brown flour. His cousins 
out in the more northern Islands would probably like the 
Maori diet; but fortunately for most of them few can afford 
it, so taro, shellfish, breadfruit, yams and fruits still give them 
many of the nutriments that made their ancestors notably 
healthy. Fish also are a great help, where the art of fishing sur- 
vives in full swing. But in too many islands, such as Tonga and 
the Marianas, the old traditions of fishing are dead or dying, 
and it is white men, not natives, who must plan to encourage 
revival for the native's own dietetic good. 

Under white influences houses underwent technical revolu- 
tion in most islands whether for the better depends on cir- 
cumstances. The New Caledonian is certainly much better off 
in the house that the French government advises a plastered, 
thatched shack with doors and windows than in his prewhite, 
smoke-choked beehive hovel. But the Tahitian is certainly 
worse off in a board shack that, for fear of ghosts, he closes 
tightly every night with a lamp burning inside. Corrugated 
iron is the roofing of choice in the modern islands. It is hot, 
ugly, and a nasty hazard when high winds rip off sheets of it and 
whirl them through the air with a velocity that will cut a man 
or a tree in two, but it is waterproof and easily laid. Even in 
conservative Tonga, which maintains traditional house shapes, 
iron often replaces thatch. So may concrete flooring replace 
traditional platforms of pebbles or gravel, a change encouraged 
by white doctors. But here Island social values interfere, for if 
the chief has a concrete floor in his fale, 12 few of his social in- 
feriors have the cheek to aspire to such an improvement for 

^Samoan for house, equivalent to Hawaiian Jbale, Maori wliare, and so 
round the circle of Polynesian cognates. 


Inside the house white man's furniture and doodads are 
popular, though use is sometimes another matter. The chief 
may well leave his brass bed for show, and sleep like his an- 
cestors, on a mat on the floor. He has chairs to offer whites 
and for swank, but he himself probably sits cross-legged on a 
mat. Pillow slips are usually embroidered in pious cross-stitch 
mottoes, fruit of missionary endeavor to give native women 
wholesome recreation. The broken clock, the gaudy ash tray, 
are omnipresent. The Islander loves photographs and has all 
his closer relatives stuck up on the wall. On British islands the 
King and Queen, or Princess Elizabeth, cut out of illustrated 
papers, are there too; on French islands General de Gaulle is 
likely. In American jurisdiction the pin-up girl, usually of the 
more naked variety, is practically standard equipment in the 
teacher's little office in schoolhouses on Babelthuap (Palaus). 
On the data available, the teacher has assumed that pin-ups are 
the conventional ornament of American homes. In general, 
the white items that get genuine use in the native house are 
the hand powered sewing machine, the kerosene lamp and the 
photograph. The pandanus mats on the floor are still the hand- 
somest movables in the place. 

A survey of a Tongan village in 1938, when copra prices were 
low and purchases presumably closest to practical need, ranged 
imported items in the following order of demand: canned meat 
at the top, then flour, sugar, tobacco, piece goods, soap, 13 
kerosene, fishline, fishhooks, canned fish, shirts, bush knives. 
The last item alone needs explanation. The long, heavy bush 
knife, of various shapes but always cognate to the Latin- 
American's machete, is to the Islander what the ax was to the 
American pioneer and it is handled with equal dexterity. In 
both cases admiring humorists have declared that the owner 
even puts a special edge on the thing and shaves with it for 
Sunday. In some parts of Micronesia the steel adz, sometimes 
made of a plane bit, has this role; the native carries it hooked 

soap is probably made of coconut oil and may well be merely the 
Islander's own product come back to him. This list is from Ernest and 
Pearl Beaglehole, Pangai, 64. 


round his neck with the keen edge disquietingly close to the 
jugular vein. 

Whites 7 insistence on sanitation forced the privy on the 
South Seas with dubious results. The most impressive speci- 
men is the jigsawed red-and-white little temple of ease, look- 
ing like a well-cared-for El station, in the palace grounds on 
Tongatabu. The least impressive is the flimsy screen of palm 
fronds round a shallow hole in the ground. Few Island govern- 
ments have educated the native effectively in the theory of the 
thing; for most, out-of-sight-out-of-mind is the guiding prin- 
ciple. The telephone booth over water, approached by a cat- 
walk from the beach, is supposed to stand beyond low-tide 
mark so the waves can do a good job. In practice, even in 
American Samoa where privies are in good shape, the catwalk 
is usually too short and it is quite evident why Polynesians 
prefer to bathe in fresh water when possible. The booth itself 
is often of so airy a construction or so tumble-down that privacy 
is a mere gesture. Here and there white neglect permits the in- 
habitants to revert to the old system of making the beach the 
latrine or, worse, to take to the adjoining bush. As a gloomy 
doctor described one situation, the latrine system consists of 
"a variation of the conventional pit-latrine without the pit/' 

The native has done much better with such white technical 
innovations as wheels, draft animals and fore-and-aft rig. On 
Rarotonga tough little ponies trot along with miniature 
wagons, descendants of the missionary buggy; sometimes the 
wheels are salvaged auto wheels with pneumatic tires, hence 
the curious spectacle of a native pumping up a flat on a horse- 
drawn vehicle. Though the Rarotongan hardly pampers his 
ponies, he does treat them more humanely than many 

Every island group handles the draft animal differently. The 
Samoan eschews wheels for packsaddles, the Tongan has a 
cart with two huge wheels, the Guamanian a cross between a 
cart and a sulky, hauled by a tiny bullock or carabao imported 
from the Philippines. By and large the automobile has been 
beyond the Islander's economic reach. He adores the thing 


however, and if he acquires a lump sum of cash will spend 
much of it on exultant joy-riding in taxis. Planes are even more 
honorific; the New Zealand service between Aitutaki and 
Raro tonga (Cooks) is always choked up with natives going 
visiting at a price they cannot conceivably afford. 

On the water too "acculturation" has been ready and fertile. 
The Samoan longboat, up to fifty feet long with the matching 
sharp bow and stern of the white's beautiful whaleboat, rowed 
by up to a dozen men on a side, using a sail forward when the 
wind is favorable, is an inspiring craft, particularly when the 
rowers get to singing. On trips along steep-to, windward coasts 
they prefer to skirt points as close as possible; white passengers 
tend to shudder when a hulking Pacific swell shoulders the 
boat sky-high and then drops her to rise again just as the first 
smashes itself in eighty-foot spray on a fifty-foot black cliff 
about two oar's lengths to port. Nothing was ever prettier than 
the fore-and-aft rigged sailing canoes of Raiatea (Societies), 
marvelous syntheses of white man's sail plans and native hulls 
and outriggers. I am not seaman enough to know whether these 
white innovations of oars and fore-and-aft rig are improvements 
on prewhite deep-sea canoes with paddles and lateen or crab 
claw sails. It does not necessarily follow that they are, for 
prestige plays a part here too. The Palau man, for instance, 
resists suggestions that, for present lack of power launches, he 
should build cutters without auxiliaries for badly needed inter- 
island communication. He feels that, though wind is free and 
petroleum fuels scarce and expensive, to revert to wind power 
alone would be a comedown. Nowhere, of course, have any 
white innovations completely extinguished the smaller out- 
rigger canoes used for lagoon fishing and informal ferrying; 
though sawn planks sometimes go into them, you can still 
find plenty dubbed out of the solid log, as if Captain Cook had 
never come calling. 

Unquestionably the native often knows a good thing when 
he sees it. Witness the throngs of bicycles on Tahiti and 
Rarotonga; the coconut shredders made of bits of auto spring 
with one end flattened and serrated; goggles for underwater 


fishing constructed out of accurately fitted bits of window 
glass and hand-carved wooden frames laboriously shaped to a 
tight seal; the slingshot fishing spear of Tonga powered by a 
length of old inner tube; the biscuit- or kerosene-tin used as 
drum for ceremonial dancing. But how well the native adapted 
to white man's clothes is a matter for dispute. 

Some doctors think that his prewhite seminudity was not 
altogether good for him, allowing too much ultraviolet and 
undue scope for the mosquitoes that carry malaria in Melanesia 
and filariasis almost everywhere. Yet a man in shirt and trou- 
sers constantly in and out of water while boating and fishing, 
exposed to heavy rain without much notion of changing to 
dry clothes and often without dry clothes to change to, but 
bullied into the belief that going trouserless is sinful and 
prestige-damaging, is not observing good hygiene for the re- 
spiratory tract. A common-sense minority of our grandfathers 
were convinced that clothing the native had much to do with 
his tragic susceptibility to tuberculosis and pneumonia. I 
suspect, however, that this factor has been exaggerated for its 
antimissionary content. Native's lack of immunity to those 
diseases was probably so marked that they would have died 
in droves of about the same size if they had remained stark 
as Adam. 

In any case shorts or trousers, shirts, frocks for women, are 
the rule in the modem Islands. Shoes are neglected, except 
for dressing up, when torture does not matter; what torture it 
could be is indicated in the fact that the booted feet of Fijian 
soldiers in the recent war gradually shrank from, say size 14%, 
to 12^. Barefootedness provides another mixed case. The 
Islander's callused, hoof-thick sole, shoeless from infancy, goes 
scatheless on the coral reef that would cut our soft feet to 
ribbons; but bare feet and hookworm, that insidiously en- 
ervating complaint so widespread in the Islands, go auto- 
matically together. 

As in every other department, degree of adaptation varies 
from group to group in clothes also. The tourist is delighted 
to see that Sainoan, Tongan and Fijian, though usually shirted, 


eschew trousers for a wrap-around, ankle-length skirt lavalava. 
in Samoa, sulu in Fiji. This cool but hampering garment was 
imposed on the native by the missionary for lack of adequate 
supply of breeches. Nevertheless it is now an integral part of 
native life, like church on Sunday, and Apia and Suva look 
askance at the man who abandons it for bifurcation. A dark 
blue lavalava with a white stripe at bottom was the uniform of 
the Samoan Mau movement; 14 Tamasese, most active of the 
three principal chiefs of Samoa, still wears it in memory of 
those turbulent times and it has recently reappeared in token 
of present Samoan unrest. Often made with pockets nowadays, 
it is part of the dress uniform of Fijian soldier and policeman 
and the Samoan fitafita (native Marine auxiliary) in American 
Samoa. Any one of those outfits on parade makes it very clear 
that, though it may be a skirt scalloped at the bottom, this mis- 
sionary's idea looks manly, soldierly, and dignified, on men as 
upstanding as these. 15 

In some islands the sartorial needle also stuck on the mission- 
inspired Mother Hubbard for women. The Loyalty Island lady 
makes hers with the standard square yoke and long sleeves out 
of the brightest red, pink, or flowered stuff she can lay hands 
on, shirring and embroidering and adding lace frills here and 
there. In a Noumea store I have seen a mother-and-daughter 
ensemble of Mother Hubbards for sale to les indigenes, 
madame hastily explained, for the Noumea Frenchwoman 
would not sympathize with the young Honolulu matron's no- 
tion that it is amusing to wear the holoku at parties. A popinee 
from the Loyalties, her large dark feet at one end of a Nile- 
green Mother Hubbard, her staring dark face at the other, with 
a wreath of pink flowers round her bleached hair, is a striking 
object, though hardly what the missionary had in mind a 
hundred years ago. Her Fijian cousin is so firmly attached to 

14 Cf . p. 399 et seq. 

M I have suspected that the stride-shortening effect of the lavalava had 
something to do with the somewhat duck-footed gait of Samoan and 
Fijian, I am told, however, that at least part of the background of this 
gait is, again, prestige: chiefs, traditionally portly, had to walk so to 
balance their corporations. 


the sulu as token of respectability that she wears it even under 
white-style dresses as if her slip were showing five or six inches. 

A dispersal of natives, small in scale but significant in results, 
began as soon as whites arrived. The earliest Spaniards took 
sample Solomon Islanders back to Peru where they died, some 
as converted Christians, or so their preceptors said. Bougain- 
ville and Furneaux appeared in their respective home ports 
with sample Tahitians, who were patronizingly lionized; Fur- 
neaux 7 Omai got back to the Islands with a mass of ill-assorted 
souvenirs of which he was quickly relieved by his numerous 
peers and superiors. Sometimes the whites took natives home 
to acquaint them with white notions as training to be go- 
betweens with their people: hence those Polynesians in the 
Cornwall mission school. The effect was usually picturesque. 
Boston was most intrigued by the spectacle of a stalwart Ha- 
waiian coming ashore in his ceremonial red feather cape as 
guest of an early sea captain. 

But it was working for white men that spread the Islander 
farthest. Maori, Rotumans and Hawaiians were frequently 
signed on as replacement hands for whalers and occasionally 
rose to be harpooners, who ranked as secondary officers. Of 
fifteen hands who deserted the "Lagoda" whaler to try their 
luck in locked-and-barred Japan in the 'thirties thereby land- 
ing in a Japanese prison and occasioning the first visit of the 
U.S. Navy to the placeten were Kanakas. Hawaiians took 
jobs with northwest fur traders; the Owhyhee River in Cali- 
fornia still commemorates a far-from-home Hawaiian who died 
on its banks as a member of a trapping party in 1819. There 
was a little colony of his compatriots at San Pedro in Dana's 
time. Early whites found Marquesans in the Bonins, Maori in 
New Caledonia, brought in as auxiliaries to white enterprise. 

The Polynesian in particular, though deeply attached to his 
birthplace, likes travel, for prestige attaches to the man who 
can come home telling of faraway lands. As white ships gave 
opportunity, he not only signed on as seaman, but used them 


for passenger purposes, bringing wife, children, pigs, and dogs 
on board and paying in cash secured from the trader. Some- 
times it was merely a visit to relatives on another island in 
the same group, sometimes it was temporary emigration, which 
might become permanent if the place settled in was comfort- 
able. He usually chose the white settlement for residence; it was 
safer than the back country where he had no relatives and no 
rights. Blackbirded Melanesians 16 sometimes escaped from 
their overseers and "went bush/ 7 thoroughly mistrusted by 
local natives, but eventually working into local patterns of liv- 
ing by way of women. In recent years Samoans, Fijians, and 
Cook Islanders, men and girls too, have gone to New Zealand 
to take industrial jobs; as they return and tell of the wonders of 
Auckland, the movement gains momentum. One of the smart- 
est merchant crews I have ever seen was the Gilbertese comple- 
ment of a small motor vessel that operates largely in Fijian 
interisland trade and seldom takes her men anywhere near 
their home atolls on the Line. 

Thus each sizable Island port in the Islands sizable means 
two or more trading stores has a relatively rootless quota of 
outlanders gradually mingling with the actual natives. Steve- 
doring, deckhanding, odd-jobbing keep them going. Suva, the 
South Seas capital with the most cosmopolitan style, is a 
miniature cross section of the whole Pacific; the last census 
of non-Fijian Islanders (in the patrilineal sense) showed 260 
part-white Samoans, 527 assorted Polynesians, 1,696 Rotu- 
mans, 676 Micronesians, 942 Melanesians; 17 most of them, 
it is to be assumed, in the big town. There is little enough 
sense of solidarity among the cousin peoples of the Islands; 
but, if such a thing ever develops, these expatriates will have 
a good deal to do with it. 

White educational schemes, however, will have more. The 
famous medical school in Suva which trains "native medical 
practitioners" for islands under guardianship of the British 
Empire, draws together bright native boys from Fiji, the New 

W CL p. 360 et seq. 

"Public Relations Office Press Release, Suva, 27 March, 1947. 


Hebrides, the Solomons, the Gilberts, Tonga, Samoa and the 
Cooks. They live and study and play cricket and football to- 
gether with surprisingly little squabbling, 18 all things con- 
sidered. To some extent they must learn to get along with and 
respect the sometimes marked cultural differences among 
themselves, and begin to discover that most island groups have 
more common than peculiar problems. Current schemes 
similarly to train agricultural and educational native specialists 
in central schools will operate toward the same end. A sense of 
native integrity in general can hardly fail to be born. Girls are 
similarly influenced in nursing schools. The whole thing, of 
course, is reminiscent of the early missionary training of native 
pastors and teachers in such centralized and far-reaching 
schools as that at Malua (Western Samoa). In all such cases 
the trainee exposed to a center of white influence takes in- 
numerable, if intangible, influences back to his family and 

These intangibles are marvelously important. Music is the 
most obvious. The missionary hymn, the white man's guitar 
and its Island-developed cousin, the ukulele, revolutionize 
native music in a fashion most marked in Hawaii, but unmis- 
takable everywhere. For generations a secondary influence 
direct from Hawaii to the rest of the Islands has added to the 

The style of the native leader of a native chorus is almost 
comically an imitation of the missionary choirleader. The sing- 
ing itself is usually tremendous. Imagine something that 
sounds like a blend of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, Bury Me Not on 

story of the "native medical practitioner" has been too well 
covered elsewhere, notably by the late Dr. S. M. Lambert, to be re- 
hearsed here. The reader should be reminded,, however, that these boys 
are not trained as fully qualified physicians. The idea is to enable them 
to handle simpler problems in public health, sanitation and elaborate 
first aid; they can give hypodermics, apply standard dressings, perform 
simple operations, prescribe less tricky drugs, but rely for the farther 
reaches of medicine on the government doctors in the local hospital. 
Though no such development is ever perfect, this "N.M.P." system is 
the single best thing that whites have done for the Islands. The quality 
of the graduates has been high and their work indispensable. 


the Lone Prairie, La Cucaracha and Shall We Gather at the 
RiVer? sung by brown-skinned angels. Their harmony and 
timing would guarantee a Fijian chorus a very profitable tour 
of the States. 

Though seldom original, the air may be altered into un- 
recognizability. That is often just as well since, if identified, it 
can be startlingly anomalous. On Majuro (Marshalls) the cur- 
rent young folks' favorite, in English of which they understand 
little, is PoIIy-woIIy-doodle-alla-day. I have heard a chorus of 
Samoan school children do a remarkable rendering of TaJce 
Me Out to the Ballgame complete with business. Every new 
governing power, every shift of history, leaves a moraine of 
adapted alien tunes behind it Babelthuap (Palaus) writes its 
own words to the airs of Die Lorelei and Stille Nacht inherited 
from quondam German overlords. Since the recent war, the 
Marine Hymn is all over the Pacific. Radio, phonograph and 
movie have given the Islander a great taste for hillbilly num- 
bers which, of course, have great affinities with his own ac- 
quired style. 

Tin Pan Alley contributes constantly: Fiji is mad about 
You Are My Sunshine, and fuddled Tahitians sing in anach- 
ronistic succession Show Me the Way to Go Home, Pistol- 
PaclaV Mama, and that radio commercial about bananas in 
the refrigerator. Or it may be an Island-composed song, to a 
white-style waltz tune, about how American women, though 
desirable, are expensive, whereas you can have a Tahitian girl 
any time for nothing. The sharpest of anomalies appears, how- 
ever, when a certain highly westernized Polynesian chief, with 
gestures and leers straight out of the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald, 
gives tongue to I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby. 
For all the vulgarity occasionally involved, however, the white 
world probably did well by the Islander in giving him the dia- 
tonic scale and multi-stringed instruments with sound boxes. 
Up forward on dark, still nights at sea the native deckhands 
huddle sprawlingly together and, as the guitar plunk-plunks, 
they boom and wail and carol their own adaptations of white 
man's music with an organic enjoyment that keeps them at it 


most of the night. So sociable an addiction to the harmless 
cannot help being healthy. 

Movies, on the other hand, are largely poison. They are 
almost the only means by which the native normally learns 
about the white man's world; which should be enough said. 
Worse, the native's tastes in movies keeps him away from the 
occasional commercial picture that might tell him something 
valid. He likes westerns first, then gangster stories, then musi- 
cal pictures, so to him the States are full of violence, gunplay, 
and mile-wide ballrooms cluttered with beautiful girls wear- 
ing much less than any Island girl would dare be caught abroad 
in. What the trade calls "dramatic" films actively annoy him. 
Heaven knows a Hollywood picture about deep emotion is 
usually silly enough, but the native would lump both Of 
Human Bondage and The Diary of a Chambermaid as painful 
bores. Let hero and heroine encounter a complication that 
keeps them sorrowfully apart, let them even spend more than 
a few minutes getting acquainted before the pre-bedroom 
clinch, and the native audience howls protests from its in- 
expensive seats. There is probably more here than mere dif- 
ference in ways of doing. This frenzy over the mere sight of a 
galloping horse, this angry impatience with any suggestion that 
emotion implies complicated controls, indicate that the Is- 
lander has dangerously few of the emotional habits needed 
for making headway in his part-white world. It sounds too 
much like the half-witted farmhand who, when asked in 
Forman's survey what he preferred in movies, answered suc- 
cinctly, "Shootin* and kissinV 

Lack of curiosity is also troubling. The Samoan might be 
interested in Moana, because it concerns his own people; but 
he would probably have been put to sleep by the same pro- 
ducer's NanooJc, which merely tried to show in the same quiet 
vein how another kind of people lives. 19 

M I did not have the good fortune to see a South Seas audience up 
against a Hollywood South Seas picture. Theatre owners tell me, how- 
ever, that they take pretty kindly to the Dorothy Lamour kind of 
travesty of their own environment which, if true, argues a complete 
lack of critical sense even on topics with which they are intimately 


Island dancing has been affected less than Island music. 
Though some missions still frown, white-style round dancing 
seeps through the Islands out of the port towns by way of part- 
whites, and is socially honorific. GIs imported jitterbugging, 
which probably has a lively future. Nobody knows exactly what 
prewhite dances were like, not even the natives. But what re- 
mainsparticularly in islands with self-conscious cults of keep- 
ing the old ways alive-, such as Hawaii, New Zealand and Samoa 
probably retains more resemblance than the sentimental 
antiquarian would like to admit. The erotic aspect in indige- 
nous dancing is now liveliest; I suspect that it was always strong. 
The less decorous type of Hawaiian huh has spread through- 
out the Islands and grafted itself on local tendencies toward 
the lewdly active pelvis. By now Tahitian dancing is strictly 
cooch, bumps, grinds, and all/ with, as Robert Gibbings gently 
understates it, "rather obvious implications." 20 Many people 
see elegant aesthetic connotations in the best of these 'lewd 
motions which characterize the . . . Society Isles" as Cook's 
surgeon wrote a hundred and fifty years earlier. 21 There is no 
disputing about subjective impressions; personally I find little 
in the modern Island erotic dance but smirking parody of that 
human activity of which a great Frenchwoman remarked: "The 
sensation is delightful but the position grotesque." 

Ensemble dances have a political function, since they please 
and flatter white dignitaries on ceremonial occasions; and all 
kinds of native dances have an economic function in paid en- 
tertainment for tourists, as in Rotorua, center of commercial- 
ized Maori doings, and Honolulu. Beyond that is a consider- 
able area where dancing genuinely contributes to cultural 
cohesion among natives. At least one L.M.S. mission school 
teaches its girls decorous native dancing. Maori school children 
are often trained in their ancestors' dances. Maori troops in 
the recent war took with them the old tongue-protruding, 
roaring hafcas for traditional use in working up an all-out fight- 
ing mood before attacking Germans ill Italy. However much 

TZiames, 220. 
lis, Voyage, II, 170. 


Island dancing has changed, however artificial some of its sur- 
vivals, at least it does survive with a role to play in native life. 

Native games are another matter, pretty well replaced by 
western rivals and with an altered function. In prewhite times, 
it appears, athletic skill and strength short of war were pri- 
marily a means of individual showing off, as the leader of a 
boys 7 gang likes to show that he can throw a stone farther 
than his subordinates. Secondarily, sports were often part of 
the celebration of festivals as much patriotic if such a word 
makes sense here as religious. Generally speaking, competi- 
tion stayed within the community. Under white influence the 
modern native is well on toward making competitive sports an 
example of James' "moral equivalent of war." Rugby, soccer, 
cricket, are means for increasing the mana of the community 
at the expense of other communities, precisely what war had 
been before. 

In some islands under British influence, intervillage com- 
petition, with whole populations playing on a side for weeks 
at a time, grew so feverish that practically no work was done 
and cricket had to be legally restricted to certain days. A New 
Zealand educator of my acquaintance posted in a Polynesian 
island was morally horrified to see his school team come off 
the field from a lost Rugby match with their eyes streaming 
tears; he had been only partially prepared for the atmosphere 
of the occasion by the rooting of the spectators, which con- 
sisted of exhortations to their side to dismember and castrate 
the opposition. In large centers like Suva British influence to- 
ward a tempered sportsmanship is strong enough to keep 
mayhem under control; but if allowed to develop untram- 
meled, Island versions of western team sports would make an 
Irish hurling match look like pat-a-cake. 

The Islander's athletic prowess is impressive even under 
wraps. In the Palaus and Marshalls, taught baseball by the 
Japanese, every child of six, girls often included, has a peg 
like Ray SchalFs; hard or soft ball, the average Micronesian 
youngster is more of a ballplayer than the average modern 
American boy. Maori and Fijian play excellent cricket, say 


those who should know, and even better Rugby the opener, 
faster English game. Fiji plays it barefoot. A blocky Fijian 
youth can drop kick a heavy, hard football fifty yards appar- 
ently off his bare toes, and trot off without the sign of a limp. 
And cricket is as epidemic as the law allows in Western 
Samoa. Every village has its concrete cricket pitch. The bat is 
likely to be a most unorthodox bludgeon, the field cluttered 
with vegetable obstacles, and the costume a wrap-around skirt, 
but the fervor and dexterity of the proceedings are plain, even 
to a spectator to whom cricket is a murky mystery. 

Speech is the most conspicuous intangible. Prewhite native 
languages have gamely absorbed hundreds of new concepts 
ranging from hammer and nails to the Christian idea of grace. 
The white man's word might be merely modified to suit native 
taste: as in ehfpe (ship), pisupo (aforesaid), kovana (gov- 
ernor) , aSkasi (half-caste) , tupara (two-barreled gun) . Vowels 
are tucked in between consonants as lubricant, so a sermon in 
Fijian is full of the name Jesu Kerisito; a nativized half-Samoan 
has scrawled down his name on the Stevenson tomb on Mount 
Vaea as Livigisitone. The Tongan names of the months are a 
fine lesson in this dilution of English: Sanuali, Fepuali, 
Ma'asi, 'Epeleli, Me, Sune, Sulai, 'Aokosi, Sepitema, 'Okatopa, 
Novema, Tisema. Sometimes a new word is born of misunder- 
standing, as in the famous case of bullamacow for beef, derived 
from the white man's answer to inquisitive questions when the 
first bull and cow were set ashore; or through extending an 
existing concept, as when the horse was labeled with a word 
meaning pig-that-rons, for pigs were the Islands' largest quad- 

Such accretions were richening, but, as native ways lost 
prestige, the old languages degenerated, nicely accurate terms 
and subtleties of syntax sliding into disuse. A young Samoan 
talking-chief tells nie that it is more and more difficult to find 
proper tutoring in the ancient upper-class language which is 
the vehicle of his career. Experts consider the vernacular of 
Tahiti only a shadow of its former glory. The missions' lame 
translations of Scripture into native tongues do more than 


anything else to keep traditional idioms reasonably expressive, 
for and this is an educational scandal by and large the native 
Bible is the Islander's only written literature. With all the will 
in the world, few early missionaries had the scholarly back- 
ground or the intimate knowledge of the native tongue to do 
a job of much quality. I know a native educator who, when 
setting faulty native texts for students to correct, grinningly 
chooses them from the local translation of the Book of 

In spite of basic differences in structure and underlying 
habits of mind, the native often learned English readily- 
enough to get by with on shipboard, at the trader's, and with 
white officials. Japanese quickly became the Micronesian's 
lingua franca. German never took on, partly because English 
was already well established in the German sphere. But the 
Tahitian's French, though limited, is considered of fair qual- 
ity. 22 

Polynesia did not develop genuine pidgins, possibly because 
it was easy for a native of Tarafu to learn the closely cognate 
languages of equally Polynesian Samoa, New Zealand or Easter 
Island. The Hawaiian's dialect, for instance, locally called 
pidgin, is only ungrammatical English foreshortened and 
larded with native and Asiatic words, about like Deep South 
negro talk. In Melanesia, however, where even close neighbors 
cannot understand one another's splintered-up languages, a 
lingua, franca was needed and a real pidgin developed. It ap- 
plies a Melanesian language structure to a largely English 
vocabulary, producing a totally new tongue that is said to re- 
quire much mastering. Idioms are as rigid as bridge conven- 
tions, and the wrong improvisation from basic symbols means 
blank misunderstanding. Analyzing the vocabulary, Churchill 
classed as "forecastle English*' words like calaboose (jail), 

^In New Caledonia, particularly among Asiatic imported laborers, there 
appears a rudimentary French pidgin. It indicates the future by "con- 
tent" and an infinitive, the past by "fini" and an infinitive, and com- 
pletely disregards inflection and grammar in dozens of other ways. Thus 
"I shall go" is "moi content aller"; "y u at e" is "toi fini manger" and 
so forth. 


savvy, squareface (gin); and as Australian such terms as blact- 
fellow (native), hump (carry) , gammon (lie) and the ever- 
present bloody. German and Frenchman must learn this 
strange tongue to do business in many parts of Melanesia. The 
Germans tried to concoct a parallel pidgin using German 
words, but it came to nothing: raus (get out) is the only sur- 

Beach-la-mar (sometimes Sandalwood English) is the spe- 
cific name of this pidgin, in reference to its association with the 
old trepang trade. Every "colorful" writer on Melanesia gives 
his reader some of its famous agglutinations: box-you-fight-him- 
ciy ( piano ), schoozier-belong-bush (wagon) and pushem-he- 
come-pullem-te-go-all-same-brother-belong-ax (saw). I have 
not yet seen in print the following identification of an eclipse 
of the moon: Icerosene-Jamp-belong-Jesus-Cfirist-Iiim-bugger- 
up-finish-altogether. This illustrates two things: English words 
cannot be assumed to mean what they do in Oxford: die is to 
ail; only die-finish is to succumb. Sore-leg is pain; headache 
must be specified as sore-Ieg-along-head. And the vocabulary 
is often lurid: the planter's wife instructing a Melanesian 
houseboy to take out the ashes must employ a phrase that 
would curl Mrs. Grandy's back-hair. For beacfi-Ia-mar sprang 
of contact between native and sandalwooder, trepang fisher, 
blackbirder. Necessarily it carries echoes of the exhibitionistic 
foulness of speech of the forecastle modified by the cynicism 
of the blackleg. 

After one grins at the grotesqueries, this ruffianly, inhumane 
stuff leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Beach-la-mar has no 
politenesses beyond marster for the white man, savors much of 
brutal contempt from white to native as in picJcaninny or 
monkey for child. Pondering it recreates the initial scenes: a 
sunny beach within the surfy wall of reef; the ship's boat stern 
on in the wet sand for a quick getaway, a boatkeeper in the 
stern sheets with a loaded rifle; the straggly, watchful group of 
dirty, bearded whites, some with cocked revolvers, others 
handling the red cloth, beads, and shaving-mirrors; the half- 
awed, half-surly cannibals, one encumbered by a tied-up black 


pig, trying to understand what the whites want, while simul- 
taneously pondering the practicality of massacring them on the 
spot. They have women along, which probably means peace, 
but their eyes flick suspiciously under their heavy brows and 
farther back stand limberly naked men with bows, spears and 
slings, just in case. The whites know the arrows are pointed 
with septic human bone, the natives know the whites are sav- 
agely contemptuous opportunists. Everybody is sweaty, un- 
easy, squint-eyed in the blaze of sun, ready to run or snarl at an 
instant's notice. The whites use many gestures, but adorn them 
with talk rough, jocosely obscene baby-talk for savages: 

"You black fellow, what name this beach?" So what-name 
becomes the beach-la-mar symbol of inquiry. ''Boy, you belong 
bush?" So man-belong-beach and man-belong-bush come to 
designate shore or hill populations. "This fellow stout man- 
good labor?" So this-fellow is the beach-la-mar demonstrative, 
as in this-fellow-boat or this-fellow-Mary (this woman). 

Considering this unpleasant jabber to be full, accurate, and 
eloquent English, the Melanesian is often proud of being able 
to talk it; it implies a prestige-swelling acquaintance with white 
ways. But his pronunciation can confuse the outsider. Here is 
a nostalgic song from a Catholic mission songbook transliter- 
ated into French phonetics that give a better notion than Eng- 
lish orthography of what it sounds like: 
"Pies bilong mi i namberwan, "Place belong me he number 


Mi laikim im tasoL Me like him, that's all. 

Mi tink long papa, mama tu, Me think along father, mother 


Mi krai lorig haus blong ol. Me cry along house belong all. 

Mi wok long pies i longwe tru, Me work along place he long 

way true, 

Mi stap no gud tasol. Me stop no good, that's all. 

Pies bilong me i namberwan, Place belong me he number one, 
Mi laikim im tasoL Me like him, that's all. 

Ol wantok, brader, susa tu, All one talk brothers, sisters too, 

Long taim i wetim mi. Long time they wait for me. 

Ol salim plenty tok i kam, All send plenty talk he come, 


Ol tink mi lus long si. All think me lost along sea. 

Nau mi kirap, mi go long pies, Now me get up, me go along 


Mi no ken lusim mor. Me no can lose him more. 

Pies bilong mi i namberwan, Place belong me he number one, 

Mi laikim im tasol." Me like him, thaf s all." 

Herbert Krieger, Island Peoples of the Western Pacific, 49. 

Mr. Turner, you do not mean to say that you think these 
Eromangans are men? Question put to the Rev. Mr. Turner 
by a sandalwooder. (George Turner, Nineteen Years in Poly- 
nesia, 442.) 

The flavor of beach-la-mar is good preparation for what 
happened to natives as whites tried to use them to make money 
out of the Islands. Efficient production of likely commodities 
coconut oil or copra, trepang, pearl shell, sugar, cotton- 
required prolonged labor from cheap, docile humans. Whites 
early assumed that the presence on the scene of thousands of 
natives could provide the necessary labor supply. It took a long 
time r details of the experiments being very nasty indeed, to 
prove this a mistake. 

The nastiness originated in the less admirable characteristics 
of both exploiting whites and suspicious natives. Whites can 
be taken first: 

They made the fundamental error of all recent slavers in 
considering the native subhuman. A soldier of Mendana^s 
set the tone three centuries ago. When ordered to fire to 
alarm the encroaching Marqtiesans, he took careful aim and 
killed a native; reproached, he said that a marksman's pride did 
not permit him to waste lead. He was spiritual brother of the 
American skipper at Easter Island a hundred years ago who 
shot natives on the beach strictly for sport. Sometimes the 
white brute's contempt was tinged with distaste for what he 
considered brutishness in the native. Thus Lockerby, after 
failing to prevent by either protest or bribery the strangling of 
a dead man's wife in Fiji, bombarded the offending village, 


burned its huts, and cut down its coco palms as deterrent. But 
a more characteristic picture was of the skipper of the early 
trading vessel on which Mrs. Wallis* husband was mate. Fail- 
ing to bully a Fijian chief into making a disadvantageous bar- 
gain, this captain held him on board at the point of a gun to 
persuade him to change his mind. The chief tried to follow 
his retainers-, who had jumped overboard to swim ashore, and 
was shot in the water. At the captain's orders the crew opened 
fire on the swimming retainers too; when they dived too skil- 
fully for the marksmen, a boat's crew was ordered to pursue 
them. Mr. Wallis persuaded the captain that this was im- 
practical. But he was not yet finished. As the ship went out 
through the break in the reef, he ordered muskets fired into 
a passing canoe without even knowing whether its crew be- 
longed to the offending chief. 

Those are the patterns. The sandalwooder unable to establish 
working relations with natives on likely islands might kidnap a 
a chief and hold him for ransom in sandalwood. On whatever 
commercial errand, the whites thought little of robbing, killing 
or torturing the subhuman native, even when it served no use- 
ful purpose. As revenge for hostility, they might put ashore 
natives or foremast hands infected with measles or smallpox to 
create epidemics. Yet even shock from such fiendishness should 
not blind the reader to the native's acceptance of such terms. 
The Melanesian from Tanna enlisted enthusiastically in boat's 
crews to help bully and kidnap his fellow-New Hebrideans on 
other islands. Rotuman, Maori, Hawaiian, had few scruples 
about brutalizing the people of strange places. And the fore- 
going already contains the incident in which Cakobau suggested 
making cannon-targets of his own people. 

Nor was the native a passive victim. From the beginning he 
captured ships and massacred their crews whenever he could 
manage it, sometimes in retaliation for brutality, at other times 
for sheer love of plunder. A boat's crew from the "Brigand" 
were lured into the bush by leering promises of women on 
Mare {Loyalties) , then knocked on the head for what they had 


on their persons. When the captain of the "Sisters" beat a 
Mare chief, he was boarded next day by a swarm of natives who 
massacred every man; their carelessness exploded the ship's 
powder, and killed numbers of them, so they vowedand took 
vengeance on the next whites to appear. After a friendly trad- 
ing session with the natives of one of the Carolines, Captain 
Morrell of the "Antarctic" was astounded to see fifty canoes 
each containing twenty men in war-paint push off from the 
beach with his ship as their unmistakable objective. When, to 
avoid trouble, he took to the offing, the canoes stubbornly fol- 
lowed him for four miles. 23 The captain of the "Star" insulted 
a chief on the Isle of Pines. Next day, as previously arranged, 
thirty natives came meekly on board to sharpen their axes be- 
fore cutting sandalwood for the ship. When the last ax was 
razor-sharp, the axmen turned on the crew, split every man's 
head open, looted the ship and burned her to the water's edge. 
The white man's notion of proper retaliation might be to drive 
the noncombatants of an offending village into a cave and 
build a fire at the mouth to cook or suffocate them all. Now 
distill the essence of these mutual savageries and forecast what 
would happen when, in such an atmosphere, white men tried 
to make willing or forcible laborer-exiles of the Islanders. 

A New London sealing skipper apparently has the honor of 
first trying to enslave the Pacific native. Operating out of Mas 
Afuera (consort island of Selkirk's Juan Fernandez off the 
Chilean coast) in 1805, he needed labor to grow green stuff 
and cut firewood at a supply depot he planned there. So he put 
in at Easter Island and, after some bloody fighting, kidnapped 
twelve men and ten women. Considering the situation secure 

^Morrell was a better type than many of his competitors in early pick- 
ings among the Islands. He comments: "No doubt this system of 
treachery, which prevails or did so once prevail, on every inhabited 
island in the Pacific Ocean, is a part of their education. They sin with- 
out the law, and should be judged without the law ... I could not 
find it in my heart to throw cold lead and iron among them." (Narra- 
tive of Four Voyages, 393 et seq.) But he took a bloody mass-revenge 
on another island where he lost men in a surprise attack. 


when he was out of sight of land, he took off his victims' bonds. 
Immediately they dived overboard. A boat was sent after them, 
but they dived under it and scattered. The last seen of the poor 
devils they were still hopelessly, compulsively, swimming to- 
ward the quarter of the horizon where their home island lay. 

From the same quarter came more tragedy in the mid- 
century, when Peru was selling the world nitrates from the 
Chincha Islands. Chinese to mine the stuff in the smashing 
sun and eddying dust proved turbulent and demanding, so the 
Peruvians turned to the Islands and began busily to depopulate 
them. The slow murder of it was so notorious that, thirty years 
later, Micronesians seeking passage on a trading vessel were 
terrified to hear that she was to touch an atoll in the Marshalls 
named Piru. Of over 200 labor this noun means not the uni- 
fied body of workers but items in a human herd of cattle- 
taken from Nukulaelae in the Ellices by Peruvian slavers in 
1867, only two survived to reach home again. The slavers occa- 
sionally found help in Christianity. On one island they made a 
huge haul because a psalm-singing beachcomber persuaded 
native pastors and communicants that men and women sign- 
ing to go to Peru would learn all about God and bring home 
much money to build new churches with. A tale like that 
makes one wish he believed in hell. Along with this beach- 
comber should fry the captain of the Peruvian ship returning 
used-up labor to the Islands who found smallpox among his 
cargo, made for Rapa, south of Tahiti, and dumped sick and 
well there, creating ashore an epidemic that practically ex- 
terminated the Polynesians of that already hard-hit island. 

On the other side of the Pacific opposite numbers of these 
gentry "recruiting labor" for plantations in Queensland, Fiji, 
Samoa and the New Hebrides, were presently notorious under 
the name, of "blackbirders." The underlying principle is still 
lively: that, though few Islanders work well on their own 
islands, Melanesians earn their salt if taken clear away from 
home, which effectively removes the homesick temptation to 
quit after a few weeks and return to village life among mutually 
supporting relatives. Thus the dockwalloping of Noumea to- 


day is done not by the indigenous New Caledonian but by his 
cousins from the Loyalties. 24 

To lend some color of honesty to his activities and to secure 
the legal position of the eventual employer, the blackbirder 
usually went through the formality of having the "recruit" sign 
a written agreement, disregarding the fact that he could neither 
read nor write any language. Such a paper called for three, five, 
or seven years of labor in return for maintenance on the job, a 
certain sum payable in trade goods at the end of the contract, 
and free transportation home. In the employer's island re- 
calcitrance was treated as a criminal, not a civil, offense and 
punished by flogging, imprisonment or fines to be worked out 
in additional time served. 

For years- there was little or no public supervision of such 
contracts or their enforcement, and the inevitable occurred. 
Fines extended contracts to double the original agreement; by 
fraud time-expired labor was cajoled into re-signing; disease 
and homesickness killed the "recruits" off, payments were 
scamped or neglected. Repatriation often consisted of landing 
a time-expired recruit on any handy shore where, a thousand 
to one, he would be killed and eaten by the local tribes, 
Veterans of the trade told humorous tales of dropping over- 
board returnees too ill to be worth re-signing, and watching 
for the flash of hostile tomahawks that greeted them when 
they managed to swim to the beach. 

Even when all was conducted honestly, and the recruit came 
home with a trade musket and a wooden box full of sticks of 
tobacco and red cloth, with a bell on its lock, vaingloriously 
wearing a red shirt and jean trousers, his chief and his relatives 
would promptly strip him of everything in compensation for 
his long absence from his village duties. For his years in 

a dozen New Caledonian Frenchmen told me that the Loyalty 
man is imported because, being part Polynesian, he works better than 
the Melanesian. Repeating that to planters in Polynesian islands pro- 
duces raucous laughter. Actually, of course, the Germans had to im- 
port Melanesians to work in Polynesian Samoa, and the only going 
plantation on Polynesian Tahiti today is worked by imported Indo- 


Queensland, Samoa or Fiji he would have nothing to show but 
a corrupting smattering of white man's ways, a fluent knowl- 
edge of beach-la-mar and sometimes a lasting bent toward 

In the early years of this traffic it was manifestly impossible 
for the native to understand to what he was agreeing or to 
conceive of daily, regular labor on a supervised job. So fraud 
and force were implicit in it all. The schooners and brigs, often 
disguised as bdche-de-mer or sandalwood traders, that scoured 
the New Hebrides, the Solomons, the Santa Cruz group for 
labor were known in beach-la-mar by the significant term 
snatch-snatch. Their captains were renegade Americans, Aus- 
tralians, Frenchmen, Germans; their home ports Sydney, 
Noumea, Apia; their crews white, Polynesian or Melanesian 
scum. The best that can be said of any is that some were worse 
than others. Payment went by head of labor landed- the 
1865 rate varied between 4/10 and 6/10 per head. 

The methods were grim lessons in how cunning and brutal 
men can be. Influenced by local talk about relative working 
conditions, a native might be willing to sign for Queensland 
but not for Fiji. Very well, tell him Queensland and take him 
to Fiji regardless. Once landed, there was precious little he 
could do about it. Or the fact that the last blackbirder had 
kidnapped six women to amuse his crew might make the whole 
village reluctant so entice a canoeload of natives alongside 
with a show of trade goods, then drop a cannon ball to bilge 
their canoe and lasso or stun them as they flounder in the 
water. Those breaking free might be recaptured by a boathook 
through the cheek. 

With their purpose so well known, it seems a wonder that 
blackbirders ever filled their quotas. But they had numerous 
tricks. The favor of the local chief might be secured by gener- 
ous presents of trade goods in his eyes not outright bribery, 
but compensation in advance for loss of the services of men 
to be recruited- and the chiefs orders to such and such men 
to sign on were not easily ignored. Where dried human heads 


were highly esteemed, blackbirders used them as presents; 25 
some manufactured their own fresh supply by random kid- 
napping and murdering. The wish of an individual to sign 
often came from maladjustment: the misfit might want to get 
away from it all. It is grimly significant that emigrating as an 
indentured laborer became a popular substitute for suicide in 
Dobu. Or the chief might hand the blackbirder the trouble- 
makers whom he wanted to slough off. Besides, there was 
prestige in going overseas whence white men came with won- 
derful things. And recruiting was the only practical way to 
acquire a gun, which, as gunpowder bulked larger in Melane- 
sian feuds, became almost the price of survival in some islands. 

Spearheading the system were tactical experts called "re- 
cruiters," paid well for special skill in trickery and cajolery. 
They went in for impressively gaudy costumes, sleight-of-hand 
and ventriloquism to impress wavering chiefs with the mana 
of the recruiter. Sometimes, exploiting native faith in the 
friendliness of missionaries, they dressed up as parsons in black 
coats and top hats and tricked out the ships to resemble mis- 
sion vessels. As soon as a dozen likely natives had crowded be- 
low to see the bishop, who was said to be ill in his berth but 
eager to meet them, hatches were clapped on and the bishop's 
visitors next saw the light of day off the coast of Viti Levu. 
When the missionary "Dayspring" was wrecked in the New 
Hebrides, a French blackbirding outfit went to elaborate 
trouble to salvage and refit her, considering that her familiar, 
innocent silhouette would be a great tactical asset. But the 
Lord slept not: the new crew got drunk, let her drag anchor 
in a squall, and irretrievably bilged her on a reef before she 
could begin her new career of treachery. 

When both force and deception were indispensable, it stands 
to reason that there was often trouble on board. Blackbirders 
went armed like pirates. Tales of mutiny among the "labor" 
pile up in a bloody pyramid like Tamerlane's. One case can 

^Before blackbirding this human-head trade was quite a thing, particu- 
larly in New Zealand, as traders found that European curio-fanciers 
would pay high for a well-tattooed and dried Maori specimen. 


typify the whole. The "Carl" of Sydney was in grave danger 
when her human cargo belowside was discovered to be ripping 
up the bunks and sharpening the strips into wooden spears to 
fight its way out with. The hatch was opened and the crew, 
led by an American named Murray who sang Marching 
Through Georgia, in sadistic exultation as he loaded and fired, 
pumped lead into its screaming, writhing depths. In the morn- 
ing over fifty labor were found dead, twenty-four seriously 
wounded, only five unscathed. Higgledy-piggledy the dead and 
wounded were trundled overboard for the sharks and the red- 
soaked hold was hurriedly scraped and whitewashed; a most 
opportune measure, for the ship was presently overhauled by 
HMS "Rosario" cruising to check up on blackbirders. Find- 
ing nothing amiss, the commander of the boarding party let 
her go. It took elaborate investigation and trial, with Murray 
turning Queen's evidence, to get the story into the record. 
Such scenes were not the rule, for it was the blackbirder's busi- 
ness to land as much labor as possible alive, but they were 
always potential. Wholesale death struck again and again, and 
not always by violence. On the French blackbirder "Moorea" 
280 labor jumped overboard to swim ashore; only thirty 
made it. 

The first protest against the trade came from missionaries in 
the areas worked. Christian mercy demanded it. Besides, the 
repatriated recruit, usually addicted to smoking, cursing and 
other worldly white habits, was a moral blight on a missionized 
village. When missions forbade converts to sign on, blackbird- 
ers expressed bitter antimission feelings in violence and sabo- 
tage. As seagoing roughnecks and traders swapped yarns over 
their squareface, they not only roared with laughter over the 
cleverness of the recruiter's latest unscrupulous dodge, they 
also took great relish in incidents cooked up to make natives 
think missionaries were treacherously conniving at black- 

With mission and blackbirder sworn enemies, as they would 
have been in any case, war resulted. The blackbirder's weapons 
were economic. Plantations had to have labor and their own- 


ers often commanded great influence in Sydney. For all the 
native's reputation for laziness, Melanesian labor paid like 
houses. In Queensland a Melanesian plantation "boy" cost the 
planter only 253 year, including the expense of recruiting and 
repatriation; whereas a white laborer^ only two-thirds as handy 
at cane cutting, cost two and a half times as much. Planters 
washed their hands of responsibility for blackbirding methods, 
confining themselves to protestations not too well substanti- 
atedthat, in the "labor-lines/" they themselves treated their 
"boys" with firm but loving care. Court testimony from most 
natives was not admissible as evidence. Thus, with the princi- 
pal recruiting areas beyond the official shadow of the British 
flag, it was very difficult to bring even the most brutal black- 
birder to book in Australian courts. 

But missions had influential friends too in London. The 
iniquities of the labor trade and the impossibility of controlling 
it unless Fiji were British was a strong mission-inspired argu- 
ment for annexation. A special squadron of light, fast men-of- 
war based on Sydney was assigned to put the fear of God into 
blackbirders in waters where his Majesty's writs did not yet 
run. Such harassing plus occasional strokes of luck in secur- 
ing convicting evidence had a healthy if minor effect. In time 
regulation of contracts was stiffened, and all blackbirding ves- 
sels had to carry. government inspectors to see that bargains 
were fairly struck. The French followed suit lackadaisically. 
But it can hardly be said that such administrative and legal 
measures ever cleaned up the problem. The gentry concerned 
were congenitally slippery and cynical. When, for instance, to 
reduce homosexuality in labor lines, government required 
wives to be shipped along with married natives signing on, the 
schooner captains merely kidnapped women at random to be 
landed as so many head of wives. 

Though grosser abuses had disappeared, the system of in- 
dentured imported labor was still very much alive when 
World War II struck the Pacific. It was the backbone of 
copra in New Guinea, the Solomons and the New Hebrides, 
and of mining in New Caledonia. Its defenders maintained 


stoutly that plantation work improved the native's health, edu- 
cated him in white ways, and raised his standards of living by 
increasing his wants. The position is not all nonsense, how- 
ever biased the proponent; the high ratio of natives re-sign- 
ing contracts of their own free will bears that out. Attackers 
contend that it unsettled the native emotionally and socially 
and contributed seriously to depopulation of the village from 
which he was absent during his most vigorous years. You can 
still hear both points of view in the Pacific. Soon, however, the 
whole question will be academic. Indentured service meaning 
low wages and criminal penalties for recalcitrance has re- 
cently been abolished in both the Australian and the French 
spheres of responsibility. Fiji abolished it after World War I. 
Recruiting is dead or dying, to be replaced by some as yet 
inchoate form of wage bargaining. The planter is shriekingly 
indignant, the reformer gloating. It is not yet clear whether 
the more elaborate phases of the copra industry in the Islands 
can survive the change. 

In any case blackbirding proper has long been an anachro- 
nism. The substitute measures that Fiji took seventy years ago 
makes less sensational reading. But they typify the alternative 
in the white man's effort to get work done in the Pacific. In 
the long run they may have had even more serious conse- 
quences than all the killing accomplished by sandalwooders 
and blackbirders together. For blackbirded labor either died 
or was sent home. The imported Asiatic usually settled down 
to elbow the native off his own island. 

The annexation of Fiji was still uncertain in 1871 when it 
was suggested that the inhabitants of British India, already 
serving as indentured labor in such places as the West Indies, 
would solve Fiji's labor problem and obviate the need for 
blackbirding. The treaty of annexation was hardly signed when 
the first shipload of Indians, fruit of stately negotiation be- 
tween Lord Salisbury and the viceregal government of India^ 


appeared in Fiji. These slender, brown, poker-faced people 
were leaving nose-to~the~grindstone poverty in their own over- 
crowded land to apply their incredible industriousness to the 
promising soil of Melanesia. Their carefully supervised con- 
tracts provided the usual free repatriation; but, if they chose 
to stay after expiration, they were to enjoy the same political 
standing as anybody else in Fiji. Few returned. Even under 
indenture, life was better here. Besides, many had lost caste 
by leaving home and could not return without great trouble 
and expense for ritual rehabilitation. By now the Indian, 
tenant-farming for the monopolistic Colonial Sugar Refining 
Company or running a small business, outnumbers the Fijian 
and is the colony's nearest insoluble problem. 

Other Asiatics preceded the Indian into the isles of the 
blest. Planters rushing into cotton and sugar in the Marquesas 
and Societies during the American Civil War imported 
Chinese plantation labor. Smoothfacedly keeping their own 
counsel while they sweated in newly-cleared fields, the Chinese 
knew precisely what they wanted and presently had it. As their 
terms expired, they left the plantation just as they did later 
in Hawaii to set up in business. Baker, storekeeper, sole 
processor of vanilla, money-lender, the Chinese now controls 
practically the whole economic life of the French islands in the 
South Central Pacific. He liked Polynesian girls and has left 
his hereditary mark on myriads of Chinese-Polynesian half- 
bloods, though he seldom acknowledges paternity or marries 
a brown girl. Here is a marked difference, due to heaven knows 
what local variations, between the Chinese in Tahiti and those 
in Hawaii. The difference in consequences is equally marked. 
The Hawaiian Chinese has been usually well liked, eager to 
mingle, and often acknowledged a valuable citizen, whereas 
the Tahitian Chinese is even more harshly feared and hated 
than the Indian in Fiji and, apparently from both unpopularity 
and inclination, keeps aloofly to himself. What to do about 
him for hated or not, destructive or not, he is indispensable 
in the French islands appears absolutely insoluble. The one 


saving grace is that there are only a few thousands of him and 
the natives 26 are increasing in the same proportion. 

The French involved themselves in even stranger difficulties 
by using Asiatic indentured labor in New Caledonia. There 
the noble volcanic hills, covered on the dry side with a mor- 
bidly stunted cousin of eucalyptus, are so full of useful metals 
that, as an Australian expert is said to have told a London 

banker: "My lord, if you was to take all the mineral out 

of those mountains, the mountains would fall 

to pieces/ 727 To mine these ores the New Caledonian native 
was considered useless, of course. During early development 
French convicts were utilized as miners. 28 But when the con- 
vict colony was abolished that supply vanished, though the 
ores were still there and much money had been invested. So 
France turned to her teeming colonies in southeast Asia 
whence indentured Annamese and Tonkinese, conical hats, 
sarongs, and all, were flooded into the mines, supplemented 
later by Javanese. Just as rugged and self-sufficient as Chinese 
or Indian, fairly docile though given to sudden hysterical 
violence, these "Chinois," as they are locally labeled, kept the 
clumsy, obsolescent economy of the island going until World 
War II. 

Then things happened, all wrong from the local point of 
view. The Chinois' contracts ran out during the war; but on 

^Natives in reference to Tahiti and the Marquesas by no means implies 
pure Polynesian descent. Those who should know best say that prac- 
tically every ostensible Tahitian has some degree of white or Asiatic 

27 Wilfred Burchett, Pacific Treasure Island, 51. 

^The New Caledonian convict colony was preceded by abortive efforts 
in the same direction in Tahiti and the Marquesas. In the background 
were humanitarian as well as punitive motives. The convicts were mostly 
second-raters who, it was hoped, would make something of themselves 
after serving their time. There was a separate colony for radicals sen- 
tenced to deportation after the Paris Commune. France was hoping 
to repeat the British success with Australia, but was violently denounced 
by the Australians for having the audacity to dump jailbirds on their 
doorsteps a reaction that needs no exclamation point. A great many 
of the present locally established French in New Caledonia are prob- 
ably descendants of convicts, but the matter is not openly discussed. 


the tenable grounds that with the Japanese holding Indo- 
China and Java, repatriation was impossible, they were held., 
with indentures compulsorily extended, to carry on with their 
assignment of doing all the civilian manual labor. Two years 
ago, with commendably liberal intentions, France abolished 
indentures and threw them all on a free labor-market They are 
now earning far more than enough to compensate for the local 
inflationary rise in living costs. The French, whom they 
thoroughly mistrust, tell them that these days Indo-China and 
Java are poverty-stricken and revolution-torn and they will be 
much better off staying on the job in New Caledonia, which 
is probably true. But the Chinois insist on the letter of the 
bond, and cling determinedly to the French obligation to 
repatriate them. They have stayed far longer than they origi- 
nally agreed to, have sizable hoards of American dollars mostly 
disreputably earned, are chronically homesick and they want 
to go home, no matter what the suspect French may say. Re- 
cently seven of them actually paid the high airplane fare home 
via Sydney in token of their neck-or-nothing impatience. 

Though still temporizing, sooner or later out of mere 
shame the French will have to find shipping and repatriate 
them. The world will then be presented with the extraordinary 
spectacle, unparalleled so far as I am aware, of a country full 
of things that the world needs, well-established as an economic 
entity, only a few days* sail from cities of a million people, run- 
ning down like an unwound clock. Nobody to pick over nickel 
ore or screen chrome-bearing sand or repair buildings or work 
on roads or clean the streets of Noumea, so far as they ever are 
cleaned nobody to do any of the sweaty, persevering things 
that keep communities operating. Tardily the French are try- 
ing to mechanize their mining, but they will still need numer- 
ous hands, and hands are precisely what they will not have 
available. The New Caledonian white man is either a dis- 
couraged broussard a small planter trying to make ends meet 
with coffee trees or cattleor a white-collar type, usually in the 
government bureaucracy, to whom manual labor is unthink- 
able. A fantastic situation, but it palpably exists in New Gale- 


donia today. For a final touch, nobody has any concrete ideas 
as what to do about it in anticipation of the final catastrophe. 
The nearest thing to practicality is a hope that, as emotions 
cool after the war, New Caledonia can import Japanese or 
Korean labor on some controlled basis similar to indenture. 

At best that is a mere evasion of the problem. This localized 
and superlative quandary is a convenient reductio ad 
absurdum of the whole Island system of imported labor. As 
an imaginative advisor might have foretold, it is evidently 
fruitless to look for healthy economic activity in people with- 
out a live personal or cultural stake in the country where they 
work. New Caledonia postponed the evil day first with con- 
victs, then with Asiatics, but now here it is again, because the 
world's conscience will no longer sanction the punitive ele- 
ments of the indenture system. No matter how New Cale- 
donia makes out with her creeping nightmare, her absurd ex- 
ample re-emphasizes the necessity for welding Tahiti's Chinese 
and Fiji's Indians much more closely into the human, as well 
as the economic, local structure. Otherwise they will remain 
as they are now, corrosive irritants, inducing malignant social 

Hawaii accomplished much toward assimilation of her 
successive waves of imported labor. But it was done callously 
at the expense of the native. Strongly as Hawaiian genes are 
represented in the mixed inhabitant of Hawaii, old Hawaiian 
ways are pretty close to extinction and, as the reader already 
knows, the process of acculturation was greedy, venal and 
shattering. The groundwork for this ethnic tragedy granting 
that the ending may be fruitful was laid by selfishness and 
accident generations ago. The world's conscience as now sensi- 
tized would probably not tolerate the same harsh solution of 
the problems of Tahiti and Fiji. 

With luck, to stir Fijian and Indian together, Hawaiian- 
style, into a catch-as-catch-can, bewildered, resentful mass 
might eventually produce a vigorous Fijian-Indian at the ex- 
'pense of Fijian culture as such. But thus to doom the most 
likable people in the South Seas is not a pretty idea; nor 


would the Fijian think so. If it were tried many an Indian 
would probably die a violent death and many an Indian shack 
go up in smoke. Nor does the Indian in Fiji show much de- 
sire to mingle. He usually disdains marriage with the Fijian, 
relies too much on the new Indian nationalism for emotional 
ballast, and spends most of his political energy shoving toward 
social and economic gain, directly at the Fijian's expense. 
During World War II he made unhappily sure of being de- 
tested by staging large-scale strikes in the sugar fields. As yet 
only a very limited stratum of Indian young people try to 
consider themselves people of Fiji, rather than Indians justi- 
fiably sulking under exploitation in a foreign land. 

Much of this is to be expected of an underprivileged minor- 
ity with easily distinguishable racial characteristics and ways 
stemming from an ancient and complicated civilization. But 
some of it is special, imported from India and deliberately kept 
alive by local leaders. Those sugar strikes, I am told by those 
who should know, came not so much from despair or disloyalty 
as from the Indian politician-leader's opportunism. The worst 
of it is that, though acting and treated like a minority, the 
Indians of Fiji are now a majority. 

Fijians, on the other hand, came out of the recent war with 
increased strategic capital. Their chiefs wisely insisted that 
every able-bodied man among them join up; and the miracu- 
lous output-per-man-hour of Fijian labor battalions on Suva 
docks was excelled only by the terrific fighting record of Fijian 
combat troops on Bougainville. The contrast with the Indian 
whose lackadaisical gestures toward going into uniform were 
marred by his making conditions about segregated units was 
glaring. The white man's government on Fiji had always been 
more sympathetic with the outgoing, courteous Fijian than 
with the Indian's ostensible combination of cringing and con- 
tempt. Since the war the Fijian Indian has hardly a friend in 
the local world. 

To exacerbate this cleavage, the British have painted them- 
selves into a corner with conflicting commitments, much as 
they did in Palestine. Certainly these commitments can be 


readily interpreted as conflicting, which is quite as bad. Lord 
Salisbury's pledge of equal footing for Indians remaining in 
Fiji was explicit. But the Fijian and most responsible whites 
in Fiji have an ineradicable impression that the Deed of 
Cession, which established British sovereignty in Fiji, pledged 
Britain to favor native interestsa pledge that has been fairly 
well honored. As querulous Indians point out, the Deed ac- 
tually contains no such clause; but their antagonists retain a 
conviction that it is somehow there implicitly, like Lord Peter's 
interpretation of the Gospel in A Tale of a Tub, or else that, at 
the time of signing, Sir Hercules Robinson said something to 
some chiefs that amounted to commitment, nobody is sure 
just what. 

None of it is evidence; but the net intent to guarantee the 
Fijian a paramount stake in his own country is hard to quarrel 
with. But the Indians, whose numbers are growing very fast, 
already hanker after the large land-reserves' set aside for Fijian 
use in traditional "slash-and-burn" sustenance-gardening. 
Pointing hysterically to Lord Salisbury and asserting with 
justification that the Indian makes more efficient use of land 
than any native, these clamorous interlopers call for opening 
up native reserves to all comers, a competition in which the 
Indian would win in a walk. The Fijian and his white ally 
point indignantly at the Deed of Cession, though carefully re- 
fraining from reading it, and hint ominously that encroach- 
ment by Indians on Fijian land, legal or illegal, will mean 
violently one-sided trouble. The newborn tendency among In- 
dians to renounce militancy and exclusiveness can hardly grow 
to useful proportions in time to prevent some sort of explo- 
sion. A lovely place, Fiji, but uneasy. 

Samoa is the lucky place in this respect, at least To work 
confiscated German copra- and cocoa-plantations after 1914, 
New Zealand maintained the German system of importing 
indentured Chinese. Since German development had not 
proceeded too far, their numbers have never been ominously 
high and quick repatriation kept them from biting deeply into 
local business. Thus, when the world's sense of native interests 


sharpened, Western Samoa could ship most of her indentured 
Chinese home after the war emergency without tearing the 
local economy apatf. 39 

In the Pacific, however 7 as elsewhere, the solution of one 
problem invariably uncovers another waiting in the wings. 
Now that copra and cocoa prices are high, the Samoan Crown 
Estates German plantations acquired as reparations by New 
Zealand in 1919 are paying well; current schemes for de- 
veloping new export products, such as dried bananas, look very 
promising. But with most of the Chinese gone, who is to weed 
and prune? Government management is trying to get along by 
hiring Samoan labor. Some elements among the natives would 
greatly like to see the estates turned over to the Samoans. Both 
ideas bring up the old question: Can and will natives on their 
own islands work hard enough, in a sense recognizable to 

This notion of daily labor on cash exports is probably the 
most far-reaching innovation that whites brought to the Pa- 
cific. For their own varying reasons, missionary, trader, planter, 
government, all came to dislike the native's wealth-sharing 
and sought to teach him white-style industry and the thrift 
and acquisitiveness that go with it. Was the effort altogether 
a failure? On the answer to that hinges much of the future of 
the Islands. 

On this point realistic extremes sound ironical. Said a high 
French official: 

"Our planter sits on his veranda and says: 'Look at that lazy 
Kanaka he won't let me hire him to work my crops/ " 

An Englishman managing large plantations on an island 
that affords little but native labor said that he despaired of 

^Samoan leaders, who are quite as given to race prejudice as anybody 
else, would like to see all Chinese sent home. Actually, under proper 
precautions to see that they do not go into retail trade, those with per- 
manent relations with Samoan women and children by them are now 
permitted to stay, provided the children are legally classed and reared 
as Samoans. 


ever training the native to steady employment. His records 
showed the average native employee working only nine and a 
half days a year. But, he said, once this unsteadiness was ac- 
cepted, an answer was possible. 

"Natives all want a certain amount of cash each year to take 
care of church contributions and purchases at the store. They 
will work until those wants are satisfied. I take on all comers 
as they appear and train them these are simple jobs and hard 
to forget. When a certain native reappears next year to work 
a week or ten days, he doesn't need retraining. By now prac- 
tically everybody of working age within five miles knows this 
work well enough. Say I need fifty men a day. I don't care 
what fifty, and the chances are that about that many are look- 
ing for work at the time. If they all work ten days a year, a 
revolving force of 1,500 does me nicely, and I have come reason- 
ably close to developing just that/' 

That solution would drive an American personnel director 
mad, but then his type does not belong in the South Seas. In 
parallel, the government of Fiji deliberately spreads dockside 
jobs as widely as possible among Fijian longshoremen, hoping 
thus to keep them close to village relationships and taro patch, 
instead of allowing them to become proletarianized, depend- 
ent on wages alone under town conditions. 

There in Fiji the question of whether natives will work 
under appropriate circumstances is easily answered, at least 
superficially. The Fijian labor battalions settled that In the 
miniature shipyard in Suva now building eighty-foot ketches 
for inter-Island trade most of the shipwrights are earnest, deft 
Fijians adzing timbers for a subtly-curved hull much as their 
ancestors did when the splendid Fijian deep-set canoes brought 
admiring purchasers from Tonga. Since shipbuilding is a high- 
prestige trade among Fijians, absenteeism is low, efficiency 

But gold mining has no prestige; until whites came the 
Fijian knew nothing of gold. For years, nevertheless, by agree- 
ment with Fijian sugar interests, the sizable gold mines above 
Tavua on the main island of Fiji have used only Fijian labor 


below the high-skill level. Nobody pretends that, though de- 
creasing, labor turnover is not hamperingly high, or that 
Canadian hard-rock men could not get out more troy ounces 
per hour. Some maintain that the Fijian working in the gold 
mines loses his better personal qualities. But the arrangement 
does make a liar of the South Sea old-timer's axiom that ardu- 
ous, steady jobs and natives are incompatible. The secret here 
seems to be managerial imagination in giving the native em- 
ployee and his family a community life satisfactory in native 
terms, built, with modifications, on the chiefs responsibility 
and on organized recreation. 

In New Zealand the recent war taught many a manager of a 
freezing works or canning factory that, with tact and knowl- 
edge of Maori ways, he can use a high proportion of Maori 
on his pay roll. In Micronesia postwar shortages of personnel 
forced the U.S. Navy to train Marshall Islanders for jobs re- 
quiring both skill and responsibility. When I last saw Majuro r 
a skeleton force of whites was merely supervising Marshallese 
in the operation and maintenance of practically every mechani- 
cal device on the island, from jeeps to meteorological equip- 
ment. In local terms, the pay on these jobs is good, but that 
is not the main point working for the Navy is honorific; Uncle 
Sam is a great chief. 

So, if his habits of mind are allowed for, the native can be 
worth having on the job. One of his handicaps comes from 
not yet having the hang of money. True, he has made great 
progress with that institution since the days when the Tahi- 
tians, though accepting Chile dollars in trade, valued them ac- 
cording to beauty, and would swap two worn dollars for one 
new one. But the idea of a steady stream of regularly-earned 
purchasing power to balance future purchasable needs is still 
alien. In the Islands money is seldom a repository of value, 
but a means solely of exchange and the Islander acts as if, like 
the Israelites' manna or the Townsendites' pension-payments, 
his money will vanish if not soon spent. If he tried to save, for 
that matter, his relatives would probably relieve him of his 
hoard in a short while. His earnings from pearl diving or 


vanilla growing, which come all in a lump, usually mean a 
binge in the style of a lumberjack after the spring break-up- 
buying presents, riding in taxis, making feasts until all is ex- 
pended. The steady, thrifty man committed to another-day- 
another-dollar would still be an unpopular anomaly in most 
Island communities. So the native is steadiest and most produc- 
tive when working under arrangements involving issues other 
than individual gain in semifeudal isolation, as on a mission- 
run co-operative farm or Hawaiian cattle ranch, or else on a job 
that carries traditional prestige* 

It is hard to be patient with those who maintain that native 
"laziness" comes of genetic disability. Unproved "heredity" is 
always the last resort of stubborn prejudice. This notion of in- 
born incapacity is even worse in connection with native in- 
telligence and educability. Time and again better-than-average 
teachers of Pacific natives have told me that, though their 
pupils learn glibly by rote and do well up to a certain point, 
everything beyond that ravels away it just isn't in them, some- 
thing racially lacking . . . On the other hand I know per- 
sonally native leaders with high university degrees whose ability 
to accumulate, digest, marshal, act on information, and manip- 
ulate complicated ideas is, flatly, as high as anybody's any- 
where. To mention two eminent names, the personalities, 
intellectual habits and dexterity in cerebration of Sir Apirana 
Ngata, Maori, and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, Fijian, are unquali- 
fiedly superlative. Even if complete trust can be placed in the 
newer intelligence tests designed to get away from specific 
cultural conditioning, they have not yet been used on Islanders 
on a large enough scale and in skilled enough hands to make 
any verdict on the Islander's fundamental intelligence scientifi- 
cally respectable. 

Thus the they-just-haven't-the-capacity theory looks very 
dubious. No layman can go farther here than querulously to say 
that it is high time psychologists really settled this question of 
"racial incapacity" and promulgated their findings impressively 
for the general public. 

The fact of apparent native lack of capacity past a certaiK 


point is, however, unquestionable. For explanation consider 
the theory of a conscientious white teacher with whom I dis- 
cussed the matter. He thought it a matter of language affecting 
a child's formative years. Even in their richer prewhite forms 
Island tongues had practically no abstract terms, gave scope for 
few general concepts, as missionaries early discovered. Yet 
much of the thinking in white-style education involves ab- 
straction, requires high skill in manipulation of word tools 
ending in -ity and -ness. The native child, reared in a language 
poor in abstractions, is too clumsy with them to go either as 
fast or as far as the white child of no greater potential intelli- 
gence. As a rule, besides, the only book available in the native 
tongue is the Bible. To learn anything beyond Scripture the 
native must first learn English or French, which imposes the 
second handicap of an alien, and seldom thoroughly assimi- 
lated, language. The wonder is that there are any Ngatas and 
Sukunas to demonstrate that, given unusual ability and ample 
opportunity, the native can show himself his instructors' peer. 
Or so my man said. 

Significantly the apparent capacity and intellectual responsi- 
bility of natives grades down from the peak without a gap. One 
meets samples of each successive grade on every hand. The 
native leader-chief making excellent use of university education 
but not quite with the utter ease and incisiveness of the bril- 
liant men mentioned above. The cream of the Native Medical 
Practitioners who, with scanty and partial training, carry the 
elements of western medicine to so many islands. The com- 
pletely self-educated chief in New Caledonia who, doing his 
own thinking, made more sense for us about civil rights and 
self-government for natives than most of his white guardians. 
The platitudinous leader-chief, ambitious victim of reading too 
many white men's truisms, whose jumpy half-bakedness does 
not altogether mar considerable capacity. The shrewd and, in 
his own tongue, incisive witch-doctor who scornfully doubles 
as deacon in the church and^ for relish on the side, dabbles in 
native intrigue against white government. All those were people 
whom no competent educator would dare discount as con- 


genitally ineducable beyond that "certain point/' Down at the 
other end of the scale, of course, is the soddenly stupid native 
who, intellectually speaking, hardly wiggles when poked with 
a stick. But western civilization produces those too, with less 

This must be the intelligent way to round it up: The Is- 
lands are populated by people probably, if not yet demon- 
strably, as intelligent in posse as anybody else. They have not 
yet thoroughly absorbed western economic ways, but it is clear 
that they display no heritable inability to work in western 
style. They have been highly selective, often imaginative, in 
taking over white gadgets. It is extremely important to keep 
all that in mind, because every year there will be more and 
more of those adaptable and potentially able people. 

That the population problem is what makes every one of 
the Islands' problems a very hot potato. 

Few outsiders are prepared to hear that Island populations 
are growing rapidly. So many books have described the tragedy 
of the doomed native, watching with melancholy dignity the 
gradual extinction of his noble race; so many writers have 
quoted the sad old Tahitian proverb about how palm and coral 
may go on growing, but man v/ill cease. The fact is, however, 
that within the last generation or two, the drooping curve of 
population on practically all South Sea Islands first leveled off 
and then turned vivaciously upward. The Marquesans, prover- 
bially worst off, recently joined the list of growing rather than 
of dying peoples, along with the natives of the Gambiers, where 
it took a long, long time to recover from P&re Laval's pious 

Thus the accusation that whites doomed the Islanders to 
extinction by bringing alien diseases and vices has been dis- 
proved. Though the charge may never have been morally justi- 
fied, it nevertheless gnawed at the western conscience. One 
commendable result was white effort to check the damage by 


use of western medicine so far as funds and native misunder- 
standing permitted. Whatever one may think of missionaries, 
traders, officials and anthropologists, nobody can deny an un- 
impeachable right to "interfere with the natives*' to the man 
with a hypodermic syringe and a supply of neo-arsphenamin. 
But perhaps he is the worst threat of all. 

That is one of a dozen aspects of the fascinating subject of 
population trends in the Islands the more fascinating because 
nobody is at all sure just what went on or goes on now. 

When the white man burst in on him, the native was not 
disease-free, as idyllists would like to believe. In Polynesia and 
Micronesia he probably suffered from hookworm, the intestinal 
parasite associated with bare feet and poor disposal of excreta; 
yaws, ulcerous cousin of syphilis so closely related that it baffles 
microscopes and serological tests, the disease apparently differ- 
ing only in clinical aspects and in being acquired by way of 
flies, not sin; filariasis, the mosquito-borne infestation of the 
blood and lymph that culminates in the obscene, puffed in- 
capacitation of elephantiasis; boils, ulcers, numerous and mar- 
velously varied fungous diseases of the skin. Most of Melanesia 
had all those, plus malaria. In the opinion of some doctors, 
even the shorter Polynesian list helps considerably to explain 
the native's "laziness"; a man with yaws, hookworm, and 
filariasis is not likely to develop prolonged habits of sustained 
energy or the institutions that go with them. But the pertinent 
point about these Island diseases is that, except for some forms 
of malaria, they are not usually quick killers. Many of the white 
man's were, and none improved the Islander's viability. 

Since he had none of our hereditarily transmitted partial im- 
munities, not only smallpox and cholera, but measles, mumps, 
even chicken-pox, killed him by thousands. Every island 
remembers times when some such "childhood disease" laid 
low perhaps one native in five. The classic example appeared 
when H.M.S. "Dido" brought Cakobau's sons back to Fiji 
from school in 1875; one of them came down with measles 
acquired abroad and 30,000 Fijians died in the epidemic that 


resulted. Influenza did its share. Any disease developing a high 
fever usually moved the victim to go to cool off in stream or sea 
and die of consequent pneumonia. Tuberculosis made itself 
universally at home. As sailors patronized local girls, gonorrhea 
and syphilis where it was not checked by endemic yaws, 
which apparently acts as a prophylaxis ran rife. 30 Gonorrhea, 
which often renders women incapable of childbearing, prob- 
ably had most to do directly with decline in birth rates. But 
tuberculosis notoriously strikes women at the most fertile ages, 
and lightning epidemics of traditional plagues and "childhood 
diseases" slaughtered breeders along with everybody else. The 
late Dr. S. M. Lambert thought that these diseases alone could 
account for the successive decimations that occurred wherever 
the white man trod. 

Native efforts to account for the coincidence of visitors and 
mysterious death could be ingenious. Clinging to their super- 
natural theory of medicine, the Tikopia believed that the blow- 
ing of the whistle of the annual mission ship produced the 
subsequent disease ashore. Fortune's friends on Dobu de- 
veloped an Edison-like god named Tauwau whom they cred- 
ited with having invented all the new things brought by white 
men, diseases as well as canned beef and galvanized iron. White 
men too, some intelligent or learned or both, maintain that, in 
the sway-backed curve of Island populations, there is more 
than meets the eye of the epidemiologist alone. 

So far as I am aware, Stevenson stated it best. 31 The Islander, 
he wrote, dies off primarily for lack of /oie de vivre due to the 
decay of so much that once made life rewarding. Prestige is 
flawed, dancing frowned on, and "the most healthful, if not 
the most humane, of all field sports 'hedge-warfare/ " f or- 

^Leprosy also appeared, though it is not absolutely certain that it was 
not already present in endemic form in some islands. Lepers are ef- 
fectively isolated on most islands, and the disease is not a serious prob- 
lem except on New Caledonia. There, however, the white population 
are quite panicky about it, apparently with considerable justification. 
^Roberts (Population Problems of the Pacific, 64-5) credits an Aus- 
tralian medical officer in Fiji with the first articulate statement of this 
theory in 1874. 


bidden; 32 his whole pattern of life comes apart. Always able to 
die from such emotional causes as fear of sorcery, he might well 
have died of this other emotional cause, degenerative boredom. 
This certainly anticipates angles in which medicine is now very 
greatly interested. The modern medical enthusiast would speak 
of the psychosomatics of resistance to infection and of human 

Moreover, some sober ethnologists take this seriously. Says 

"Now once you make life unattractive to a man, whether savage 
or civilized, you cut the taproot of his vitality. The rapid dying 
out of native races is, I am deeply convinced, due more to 
wanton interference with their pleasures and normal occupa- 
tions, . . . than to any other cause/' Argonauts of the West- 
ern Pacific^, 465-6. 

Pitt-Rivers elaborates this with an admirable ingenuity. Epi- 
demics, he says, cannot exterminate, do not even permanently 
check, the growth of population; if they did, Europe would 
never have recovered so resiliency from the Black Death. The 
crucial factor is not widespread death of adults but general loss 
of fecundity due to inadequate adaptation of a society to new 
values. Actually, too little is yet known about the emotional 
factors involved in conception for this to be any more than 
fertile surmise. 83 But Island birth rates usually did slack off to 
an extent that can hardly be explained even by prevalence of 
gonorrhea. It is most difficult to laugh off altogether the notion 
that Island populations declined because white intrusion was 
socially too shattering. 

That is important because we ought to know why, after 
apparently heading for extinction, these peoples arrived on the 
upgrade. The epidemiologist attributes it to gradual develop- 

^In the South Seas, 49-51. 

^Which does not mean there is nothing in it. For instance, it is ob- 
servable but still inscrutable fact that a wife unwillingly barren for years 
often finds herself pregnant a short while after she has given up, and 
adopted a child; and that a previously childless couple who take a long 
vacation often succeed in impregnating the wife. 


ment of immunity to white men's diseases, and to measures 
taken by missionaries and white governments against mortality 
among mothers and infants. Infant mortality among Island 
peoples was always colossal, of course, even without intentional 
infanticide, and most islands with growing populations show 
gratifying and significant decreases in this respect. The 
same tendency to rise can appear, however, in islands with 
scanty or bad medical services, such as Tahiti, as well as in 
those with relatively good services, such as American Samoa. 
And the presumption that so few generations could effect such 
substantial immunities is suspicious. Measles is still a dreaded 
scourge in the Islands, for instance; some U.S. Navy doctors 
considered it a public health crime to allow Navy officers to 
bring their families to Micronesia white children mean 
great risk of sweeping epidemics fresh from Stateside. Tubercu- 
losis is still shockingly prevalent in islands where the popu- 
lation is blithely skyrocketing. If one cannot discount 
psychosomatics on the downbeat, one cannot do it on the 
upbeat. It could be argued that the eclectic adjustment to 
white ways of which most Island peoples showed themselves 
eventually capable created an emotional climate stable enough 
for viability to resume. Yap, one of the few spots where popu- 
lation is still declining, is distinguished among Micronesian 
islands for reluctance to adjust. 

The courageous Pitt-Rivers goes farther: Genetic strains now 
breeding in the Islands, he says, including many known and 
many probably existent but unidentified white, negro and 
Asiatic elements, make present Islanders hereditarily different 
from the peoples whom early discoverers found. (The modern 
Guamanian, whom he does not mention, would be the ex- 
treme case in point.) Hence they do not suffer to the former 
extent from emotional and immunological disabilities. 

Action need not wait on the validation of these speculations. 
Obviously anything that can be done to develop Islanders' 
immunities to disease and to prevent epidemics should be 
done; so much for epidemiologist and immunologist. So should 
anything that makes Island life better integrated and more re- 


warding; so much for Stevenson, Malinowski and Pitt-Rivers. 
The western world, committed to the desirability of growing 
populations and of public preventive medicine, can make no 
other decision. But a white doctor told me that, heresy though 
it was, he considered gonorrhea a good thing for the Islands- 
it helped keep the birth rate down. He had begun to wonder 
what would happen when local resources became too slim for 
the snowballing populations. Consider, for instance, that the 
population of American Samoa, where arable land is sharply 
limited, has tripled since the States took over in 1900. 

In most Islands this matter can still be taken up too late, say 
thirty years from now. In a few, notably the Gilberts, it is im- 
mediate. Britain has already had to ship hundreds of over- 
fertile Gilbertese to the empty Line Islands, where they can 
live much the same life on the same kind of land; more such 
swarmings are now planned. Such demographical phlebotomy 
is a good makeshift, but some day the High Commissioner of 
the Western Pacific will run out of spare islands and, as trans- 
planted populations teem in turn, the problem will be larger 
than ever. The nominally self-governing kingdom of Tonga is 
also close to grave trouble. There, thanks to the Rev. Shirley 
Baker's tactful formalizing of Tongan feudal land use, each 
boy on reaching sixteen is granted a life tenure on eight and a 
quarter acres to grow food on. On Ha'apai, in central Tonga, 
the size of these allotments has already had to be drastically 
cut. True, the average Tongan makes anything but intensive 
use of his holdings; but long-standing specific expectation puts 
an edge on a situation that might otherwise be more easily 
glossed over. The Tongan government is already planning to 
shift population, Gilberts-style, to practically uninhabited is- 
lands, such as Tofua and Kao. 34 The population of Guam is 
booming so ominously that Uncle Sam may allow fertile 
Tinian to remain almost as empty as war left it for eventual 
swarming from farther south. This also is temporizing; but 
anything more than temporizing may not be practical. 

^This situation tightened a little in 1947 when ruinous volcanic action 
made it necessary to move the 1,300 Tongans of Niuafoou (Tin Can 
Island) to Tongatabu foe eventual moving to Eua, which had been 
previously counted on for general overflow. 


In the old days, though high infant mortality supplemented 
catch-as-catch-can infanticide, overpopulation still often ap- 
peared. War and enforced emigration were the remedies. No 
modem government, whether sovereign, protector or United 
Nations trustee, can countenance such measures. Birth control 
comes to mind. The Gilbertese, aware that whites have such 
techniques, are secretly asking their British protectors for 
means and instruction; the Guamanians, though devoutly and 
almost unanimously Catholic, sometimes find their priests 
able to look the other way on the subject both instances are 
great credits to Micronesian intelligence. But official provision 
of birth control supplies and instruction would certainly wring 
anguished screams from Catholic missions and, I have reason 
to suspect, from Protestant missions too after all, other things 
being equal, births among the flock mean additional church 
members. Nor do Islanders' erotic habits, general self-control 
and sense of cause and effect fit with efficient birth control. 
The Tikopians might be good prospects; in view of their 
theories on procreation, the Trobrianders would not. 35 Five 
generations of education and social retraining might make the 
Islander a promising disciple of Margaret Sanger; one or two 
generations are hardly enough, yet that is all the time available. 
If effective birth control is the only way the Islands can avoid 
degenerative overpopulation, they are in a very bad way indeed. 

More intensive food growing is sometimes advanced as a 
solution. This is longer-range temporizing. There are limits 
even to Japanese genius in that line. Most high islands in the 
South Seas no doubt could support triple their present num- 
bers, but only through almost diametric changes in the natives' 
social and work habits. Handsomely as taro patch and coconut 
grove provide for local needs, it is nevertheless somewhat by 
the grace of God, who is kind in the Islands, and not too no- 
tably by continuous toil or long-range forethought. 36 The Cook 

*Cf. pp. 278; 295. 

M It could easily be maintained that the native was not always so sloppy 
a farmer. His agricultural techniques have probably gone the same way 
as the refinements of his language, in consequence of loss of prestige 
for the chief and Jcahuna who formerly bossed food-raising. But we are 
dealing here not with what he was but what he is. 


Islander, for instance, values oranges for beer making and is 
well aware that orange trees need pruning and replanting; he 
once had the use of myriads of vigorous wild orange trees in 
the bush; but now, from sheer neglect, the trees are so high, 
thorny and discouraged that oranges are a relative rarity for 
the native who lacks a government-fostered plantation. So 
again it is a grave question whether re-education can revolu- 
tionize native agriculture quickly enough to forestall the dam- 
aging effects of overcrowding. 

The native's need for cash also enters in. By and large he 
himself must pay, through taxes or contributions to missions, 
for the teachers, agricultural experts, nurses, engineers and 
doctors whom he needs in much greater numbers than he has 
ever had yet. No guardian nation will seriously subsidize such a 
staff for generations. So, if she is to learn how to pull herself 
up by her own bootstraps, Tarafu must foot the bill by grow- 
ingand finding markets for more copra, vanilla, shell, cocoa 
and so forth on land that might otherwise produce sustenance- 
crops. At the same time growing population will demand more 
and more land for taro, yams and Icumaras. The circle is frankly 
vicious and the means that might enable the Islands to feed a 
concentrated population are those inhibited by the very needs 
set up by population growth. 

It looks distressingly as if western medicine and western no- 
tions of the sacredness of human life might prove the most 
destructive of all the things that white men brought. 

The preceding text goes disproportionately often to the New 
Zealand Maori for examples of energy or enterprise. That is no 
accident. Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa), part Maori and 
proud of it, says it is unfair to compare other Islanders with 
his people, whom centuries of colder climate and greater need 
for adaptability so toughened and sharpened. Be that as it 
may, the Maori certainly distinguished themselves for in- 
genuity, malleability and backbone both before and after 
whites arrived. Rowdy and smelly as they were, they had 


enough Imagination and initiative to deal almost on even terms 
with the interloper. 

This was conspicuous in economics, where the Islander was 
usually worst baffled. Within a generation of sizable white in- 
trusion, the Maori of the North Island had the hang of money 
as exchange and of farming for cash markets. Organized by 
their chiefs, numerous tribes raised huge quantities of potatoes, 
pork and wheat for sale to settlers and ships and to Australia. 
These large-scale industrial farms were based, not on private 
capital, but on communal holdings and cultivation, income 
dripping down in traditional fashion from supervising chief to 
obedient understrapper. In 1849 the village of Rangiowhia 
turned out 11,000 worth of produce. In 1853 Maori enterprise 
supplied half of New Zealand's exports. Horses and carts and 
ploughs were secured, as obviously more efficient than the dig- 
ging-stick and the human back. The chief often set up per- 
pendicular industry, building a flour mill to process the 
community's wheat, buying a schooner to take the flour to the 
Bay of Islands for sale. You hear of elaborate, Island-style vil- 
lage discussions of the advantages of over- and under-shot 
water wheels. A former henchman of the redoubtable Hongi 
turned Christian dairy farmer near Kaihope and sold eighty 
pounds of butter a week to ships. With relish the missionaries 
told how, not many years before, this prosperous and peaceful 
dairyman had killed an enemy chief, taken his wife and chil- 
dren prisoner, eaten the children in front of the widow, and 
then married her in final token of complete revenge. 

The Maori were not squeamish in adapting to white econ- 
omy. They raised and sold women as well as pork and flour. 
The head of a Maori family bringing his daughters out for 
prostitution to whalers was a searingly familiar sight to the mis- 
sionaries wringing their hands across the Bay of Islands, which 
quickly became the superlative stew-grogshop-general store of 
the South Pacific. Payment in advance was usually demanded; 
cash preferred, tobacco accepted. An Australian reporter esti- 
mated that Bay of Islands chiefs thus drew 11,000 a year from 
an annual 4,500 visitors. Practically every woman in the neigh- 


borhood developed syphilis, for the Maori lacked yaws as 
prophylaxis. There were heights that native enterprise did not 
reach. The pimp who customarily loaded both girls and hogs 
Into the same boat for sale and the proprietor of the Bay's best 
known clip-joint were both whites. But, for beginners, these 
Polynesians did very well indeed. True, Papeete (Tahiti) and 
Lahaina (Hawaii) were similarly active; but, as daughter- 
sellers, the Maori compared to Hawaiian or Tahitian as a small 
storekeeper to a street-hawker. 

This prostitution industry gradually petered out. But the 
produce industry remained vigorous; the Maori appeared well 
on the way to becoming a prosperous collectivized peasantry. 
A body blow at this development was struck by a calamitous 
fall in world prices in the middle 'fifties. But even before that 
it had been apparent that so promising a future for quondam 
savages was illusory. Land-hungry whites were flocking in and, 
in spite of formal guarantees that native rights would be pro- 
tected, which were taken seriously by conscientious people like 
"Good Governor Grey," the colonial government was more 
often than not hand in glove with the land-seekers. Law and 
cajolery were used, both most alarming to the dispossessed. 

Under these circumstances, many an Island people Ha- 
waiians and Cook Islanders were exceptions tried to fight. 
Several times the French found the Tahitian or Marquesan 
dangerous to track down in the bush, and expensive to dislodge 
from fortifications of his own contriving. Tongans, Samoans, 
Ponapeans (Carolines) have warming memories of occasions 
when they came out victors over professional white fighting 
men. In the 'seventies the New Caledonians' virtuosity with 
trade tomahawks on long handles at close quarters came near 
evicting the French. But these were all minor flare-ups com- 
pared to what happened when the Maori decided it was time 
to dance the hafca, send the women and children into the pa, 
and go have it out with the pakeha. 37 

Though whites acquired legal title to most of New Zealand 
for a monetary song, they involuntarily made it up in blood 
* T Pakeha is the outsider, usually confined to whites, like haole. 


and sterling; the intruding Briton needed 20,000 troops, artil- 
lery and armored steamers, to finish the job. If the Maori had 
had a higher sense of ethnic unity for some redoubtable 
Maori tribes remained loyal to Queen Victoria, whom they had 
accepted by treaty Britain might have found it too expensive 
altogether. In the end, thanks to such "friendlies," to persist- 
ence and organization, the Maori was done down and shat- 
tered. But he earned from his enemy a solid approbation that, 
though decreasingly, has been a great asset to him in adjusting 
to the white man's world. Said the London Times in the midst 
of the fighting: 

"[The Maori] can live in the mountains or the bush like a wolf; 
but he meets his pursuers with all the resources of military 
art. He manufactures excellent rifles out of old ships' muskets, 
and makes percussion caps out of soldiers' buttons. . . Our 
soldiers actually respect them for their extraordinary talents 
and eminent valour/' Quoted in Sutherland, The Maori 
People Today, 26. 

It was a kind of war most familiar to Americans. The Maori 
not only had superficial resemblances to the American Indian 
he wore feathers in his hair for ceremony, adopted the white 
man's blanket as a garment, took hair from dead enemiesbut 
he fought in the style of Pontiac, master of raid and quick 
evasion, but willing stoutly to defend a fortified post when 
cornered. The North Island, scene of the fighting, was often 
heavily forested and tentative settlement had been sporadic, so 
all the familiar elements appeared: sudden descents on pio- 
neering settlements in the night; personal warnings from the 
friendly savage just before he made himself scarce; men 
slaughtered, noncombatants taken captive; the cabin left burn- 
ing and the distant neighbors rallying for pursuit on horseback 
with guns; the irregular militia of settlers, often capable at the 
Maori's own game but ill-disciplined and at odds with regular 
troops; plodding, harassed regular regiments exhausting them- 
selves in cutting roads for artillery and wagon trains long 
before they ever glimpsed a Maori as target for a volley; pro- 
fessional officers slowly learning this kind of fighting at un- 


avoidable expense in their own and their men's lives. Massacre, 
ambush, road, camp, blockhouse, over and over again. The 
historical markers up the Waikato read very much the same as 
those on New York Seventeen along General Sullivan's route 
when he was harrying the iroquois. Braddock's Defeat, the 
Horseshoe Bend, Cherry Valley, could be transplanted into 
this story without much change in idiom except the British 
ability to concede virtues to their slippery and plucky enemy. 

Much of the fighting was embittered by religious fanaticism. 
The alliance between missionary and state in New Zealand had 
been obvious since missionaries had midwifed the Treaty of 
Waitangi, in which representative Maori chiefs accepted nom- 
inal British sovereignty. Maori pseudo-Christian cults had a 
Mohammedan-like flavor of belligerency or, for the American 
analogy, a dash of the Shawnee Prophet Hauhau cultists were 
promised miraculous immunity from pakeha bullets, and used 
a British officer's dried head as a spiritualistic medium for 
ventriloquism was by no means a blackbirder's monopoly. The 
warlike "King" movement had religious aspects. But fieriest 
and grimmest of these was the Hauhau-connected Te Kooti, 
who made a religion of iitu and wiped out plenty of whites in 
the process. 

In a wholesale arrest during the Maori wars this incon- 
spicuous young Maori was picked up in the neighborhood of 
Poverty Bay, where Captain Cook had first landed. Though he 
had probably never done any fighting, he was exiled, with scores 
of others, to the bleak, fogbound Chatham Islands. There, 
after understandable brooding, he organized his fellow exiles, 
cut out a government schooner, and landed back in New Zea- 
land breathing a heady mixture of ancient revenge 38 and a new 
religion founded on the eye-f or-an-eye Old Testament. At the 
first opportunity, he massacred those who had testified against 
him. Te Kooti was his own Messiah, his martyrdom woven into 
ritual as Christ's Passion is woven into the mass they called 

the voyage his followers were particularly impressed by the celerity 
with which the weather became favorable after Te Kooti had drowned 
his uncle as a sacrifice. 


his cult "Ringatu" (upraised hand) after a ritual gesture bor- 
rowed from Hauhauism. The Church of England, predominant 
in missions in this area, was embarrassed to find that this 
prophet of blood and fire had once been a pupil in her schools 
and claimed her as mother church. 

For months and years the whites tried to run Te Kooti 
down; but he infected his followers with his own wildcat-like 
stealth and savagery. His near-miraculous escapes sound like 
Robert Bruce crossed with Osceola. He never was captured, 
and survived to receive a pardon. Ringatu used old Maori 
music in its ritual and, like many another Maori cult, made 
much of faith healing. So, though its red-handed founder has 
long been dead, it is still strong and quite respectable on the 
East Coast. A tolerant government accords its ministers the 
right to solemnize marriage, and its congregations occasionally 
celebrate joint festivals with Maori Anglicans. 

After lingering, mangling defeat the Maori were worse off 
than ever. As penalty for rebellion, government confiscated and 
sold large areas of their land; tardy compensation for these 
seizures was completed only a few years ago. Discouragement 
grew, numbers fell off, white observers predicted for the Maori 
the fate of the dodo and the Tasmanian. Round the turn of 
the century, however, a few young Maori, urged on by Sir 
James Carroll, a brilliant half-Maori statesman who had ably 
represented paelia constituents in the New Zealand parlia- 
ment, rallied their people in another effort to make sense in 
the white man's world. Their talents in politics and propa- 
ganda commanded great respect, as witness the handles to their 
names: Sir Maui Pomare, who looked like an old-style Phila- 
delphia banker; Sir Apirana Ngata, who looks like a Spanish 
grandee; Sir Peter Buck, who, though half-paJceha, looks most 
of all like a portrait of an old-time Maori chief. 

Cleverly making use of white-style education, they put as 
much canniness as zeal into a movement to use the remains of 
the old Maori community spirit as structure of, and fuel for, 
a new adjustment. Carroll's maxim had been: "Hang on to 
your Maorihood!" and the Young Maori hung on to it, while 


struggling with dedicated determination. Contrary to Scrip- 
ture, a woman also was found to stand with these men-in-ten- 
thousand. By imagination and doggedness Princess Te Puea, 
of a family of high-ranking chiefs, turned the poverty-stricken 
Maori remnants round the town of Ngauruawahia into a co- 
operative center for reviving old Maori building, dancing, carv- 
ing, and living. Her work was merely one aspect of a general 
effort to restore badly needed cultural integration; the whole 
was aided by growing willingness among whites to value old 
Maori things and to wish these plucky aborigines the very best. 
The New Zealand nativophile, gaspingly making a picturesque 
pet of the Maori, convinced that all their faults sprang from 
white man's faults and all their virtues are gloriously their own, 
is just as silly as his opposite number in Hawaii. But the Maori 
is less amenable to patronizing than the Hawaiian. The atmos- 
phere in which he is now struggling is still the most con- 
structively friendly enjoyed by any Island people. 

The Young Maori have seen great results from their work 
within their own lifetimes. Ngata still survives as father con- 
fessor of his people, Buck as an internationally known ethnol- 
ogist heading the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Ngata's 
schemes for encouraging Maori to use their remaining lands 
with white-style efficiency while retaining Maori-style collective 
motivation are too complicated to go into here, but were suc- 
cessful, and started trends that are still moving. Maori 
population has turned the corner and is now growing far faster 
than the pakeha population. 39 The vigor and ability of these 
people, who were doomed to hopeless pauperism not long ago, 
was apparent in the recent war, when the Maori Battalion, 
with a majority of Maori officers, became world-famous in 
Greece, North Africa and Italy. I have heard minor objections 
to this outfit's liaison work, but none to its fighting powers. 

So rousing a resurgence is highly gratifying to anybody who 
wishes Island peoples well. The Maori are of practically the 

contrast is still striking after being qualified by the statement 
that, in New Zealand, most quarter-bloods retain the political status 
and social background of the Maori. 


same stock as the droopy Tahitian and Cook Islander. That 
finally disposes of notions about Polynesian "racial indolence/' 
They stand a sporting chance of not only making their own 
lands count for their support, but even of working themselves 
usefully and without too much interim damage into white- 
style industries and professions. This bright cast over their 
future they owe mostly to themselves, directly or indirectly. A 
confirmed optimist might hope that their present circum- 
stances foreshadow what might happen to the Fijian, Palau- 
man or Samoan some generations hence. 

But it would be a sentimental error, common in New Zea- 
land and not good for the Maori, to consider them out of the 
woods. The palceha likes to tell himself and anybody else will- 
ing to listen, that New Zealanders feel no anti-Maori prejudice. 
I could get no intelligent Maori to agree. True, in this respect 
the New Zealander behaves much better than an Englishman 
or American probably would, which is a great credit to him. 
But prejudice is still there, cropping up in discriminations in 
some employments, in hotel accommodations, among children, 
where strains are always most articulate. 40 Too many palceha 
insist that the Maori are dirty, shiftless, lazy, unreliable, often 
in the teeth of sporadic local evidence that it is not necessarily 
true, never with any air of regretful clinical description, usually 
with great zest. Too many palceha-Maori marriages involve the 
more shiftless type of whites from whom offspring get little 
help in adjustment. It will still take generations for Hore and 
Heke to get on the same footing with Smith and Jones that 
Smith and Jones enjoy with Brown and Robinson. 

Recent political accident has heightened prejudice. The 
Maori have long sent four members to the New Zealand parlia- 
ment; from these specially balloted for "Maori seats" came 
much of the dynamic statesmanship of Pomare, Ngata, Buck r 
& Co. Until recently Maori members were usually conserva- 
tives. That changed with the accession to power of Labor after 

^Doubters should consult Ernest & Pearl Beaglehoie, Some Modern 
Maoris, passim, particularly the generous peccavi of Sir Peter Buck in 
his preface, p. xiv. 


the depression of the early 'thirties. The 1946 election in New 
Zealand was a narrow squeak for Labor; when the smoke of 
recounts cleared, the government had a margin of only four 
votes the precise number of Maori members, all Labor. Im- 
agine the shock if the Democrats had retained control of Con- 
gress in 1946 by a margin of only four seats held by American 
Indians, representing among them the entire Indian com- 

Opposition could hardly have been expected not to deplore 
this shift of the balance of power into aboriginal hands. Week 
after week the cry grew shriller. The Maori were deserting old 
responsible leaders and turning to shallow young demagogues, 
a plaint made plausible by the regrettable defeat of Sir Apirana 
Ngata. They had voted Labor solely because, under New Zea- 
land's social security, mothers get ten shillings maintenance 
per week per childeverybody knew that the Maori were just 
breeding children and" living on accumulated allowances. (This 
will not hold water at all; vital statistics for the pertinent period 
need qualifying, but they show clearly that the white birth rate 
lias grown three times faster than the Maori birth rate since 
I935/ 1 ) They had been corrupted by handouts of public work 
jobs, sold a mess of pottage for their birthrights, but what 
could you expect of feckless people just up from savagery? And 
so forth. The cry will probably reach hysterical proportions if 
the Labor leaders among the Maori, who have poor reputations 
for judgment, try openly to exploit this strategic situation. 

Besides, Labor foolishly lent color to the accusation of po- 
litical cynicism in dealing with the Maori by tying up with the 
newest Maori pseudo-Christian cult a heavily faith healing, 
politically active, and extremely popular affair called Ratana 
after its recently deceased prophet. Few well-informed New 
Zealanders on either side of the fence care to deny that Labor 
and Ratana are thick as thieves in an alliance that was im- 
portant at the polls in 1946. Suppose the Republicans had tied 

conservative New Zealand Herald of Auckland had the journalistic 
honesty to investigate this child-allowance situation. It reported that 
it seemed to be all cry and very little wool. 


up with Father Divine to clinch winning back the negro vote 
from the Democrats. 

Ratana smells no better for its tendency during the first part 
of World War II to court Japanese help in restoring the Maori 
to his place in the land. It came to little just some amateurish 
signaling and treasonable scowling up in the district of North 
Auckland but it left a bad taste in the nation's mouth. Ratana 
cannot erase the Maori Battalion from the national conscious- 
ness, but it helps to embitter Nationalists commenting on the 
Maori-Labor-Ratana axis with more gift of gab than discre- 
tion. And the last thing the Maori needs, as he faces his trying 
future, is bitter detractors or political exploiters. 

The latter hazard is great because, able as some of his past 
leaders have been, the Maori occasionally accept help without 
too close an investigation of the helper's motives. The left wing 
of the New Zealand Labor Party, strong in the Auckland 
Trades Council, fades off, as in other countries, into fellow- 
traveling and so into Communism. Auckland has long been 
plagued by a smoldering quarrel between city planners and a 
Maori colony whose unquestionably squalid settlement lies 
right on the city's handsome water front. Inheriting the 
quarrel, the Labor government has been in the delicate posi- 
tion of having to persuade a conspicuous lot of underprivileged 
Maori to move out when they don't want to. When the matter 
came to a head recently, with the government making efforts 
at eviction and Te Puea, the grand old lady, summoned down 
from Ngauruawahia to defy the lightning for her people, the 
Auckland Trades Council sent union members by hundreds to 
help. Maori and workers together, they built a fence studded 
with tongue-protruding Maori images and a fine Maori carved 
gateway, to defy due process of law. Fence and Maori are still 
there; no matter what the government's next move, Com- 
munist influence is in a better position to use the Maori as a 
lever inside Labor and a tool of general disruption. If the rela- 
tion strengthens and the Communists will tend it lovingly 
here is another heavy stick for the conservative to beat the 
Maori with. 


Over twenty years ago Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) told 
the pakeha that he for one was reconciled, from the human 
point of view, to seeing the Maori gradually merge with the 
white man's world: 

"Many people express the opinion that it is a pity that the 
old Maori . . dances are being lost. In the same breath 
they say that the Maori must work his land and live like Euro- 
peans. The two are incompatible . . . dances were the amuse- 
ments of a people living together and spending their evenings 
in a communal meetinghouse. The Maori is adapting himself 
to changed circumstances, to a changed environment ... It 
is a pity from the point of view of sentiment, but sentiment 
alone will not provide for man's material welfare." The Pass- 
ing of the Maori, 368. 

But this healthy realism does not purge the word "adapt" of 
ambiguity. The Maori's current problem like that of his 
cousins in other advanced Islands is whether consciously to 
hold on to Maori speech, dances, and .communal institutions, 
adapting only to the degree forced on him while he works out 
new eclectic techniques of living, or to let the white world 
flood in on him in a spirit of better-get-it-over-with in hopes 
that somehow his emotional head will stay above water. Both 
are "adaptation." One slows down the inevitable to minimize 
trauma, one speeds it up and hopes to take trauma in stride. 

The first has great attractions. But for an outsider to tell the 
Maori what to do would be a shrieking impertinence. The 
people who, coming out of balmy Polynesia, conquered the 
raw and chilly Long White Cloud and learned to make it sup- 
port them without help from imported resources a thing no 
sizable white colony ever did yet can probably solve this prob- 
lem eventually. Provided, however, that the palceha helps in- 
telligently with schools and health education and that 
sentimentalist, opportunist, backbiter and fellow traveler keep 
their hands off. 

The Maori are not the only Islanders honored with Com- 
munist attention. The Auckland Trades Council is also 
nursernaiding the Cook Islands Progressive Association an 


organization started by Cook Islanders working in New Zea- 
land, that now has thousands of members in the small Islands 
far to the northeast which began New Zealand's abortive 
colonial empire. Droopy administration since World War I 
has given the Cooks much to complain about. World War II 
so disrupted the flow of local fruit to Auckland that, under 
New Zealand's continuing price controls, tomatoes are the only 
local crop prospering. So nobody, either local trader or native 
villager or rootless off-Island water-front worker on Rarotonga, 
loves the government. The leader of the Association is an able 
man of a family of chiefs from Aitutaki; but he leans heavily 
for counsel and moral support on white leftists, and has learned 
to deny vigorously that there is any need to look his gift horse 
in the mouth. The moral here, however, is not that a worried 
man may seek any port in a storm; rather, that New Zealand 
made a large mistake a generation ago when permitting the 
Cooks to become precariously tied to a small-time, distant 
market for perishables. 

The Tahiti water front, recently unionized in a weird fash- 
ion, feels Communist tentacles stretching out from French 
Red-dominated unions; so does the Noumea water front, where 
Loyalty Island wharfies under tutelage of local whites consider 
themselves Communists. Even the native New Caledonian 
feels the ferment in his villages far from the big town. It is 
dubious how well he understands the principles of surplus 
value; the principal tenet of Marxism as preached to him is 
that he owes it to himself not to work for the white exploiter, 
a notion to which he is temperamentally inclined anyway. 
Local missionaries try to counteract such propaganda, but are 
badly handicapped by their great loss of mana during the war. 
These French padres and parsons, mostly of Vichyite leanings, 
indiscreetly advised their native charges to sit out the war and 
welcome the Japanese when they arrived. The reader already 
knows enough of Island psychology to understand the loss of 
missionary prestige when not only did the Japanese fail to 
arrive, but New Caledonia was flooded with hundreds of thou- 


sands of American troops and billions of dollars' worth of 
equipment and food. 

Unionization, of a definitely nonconservative type, has also 
become well intrenched in Hawaii. Conservative organization 
is being encouraged by government in Fiji in hopes that it will 
help stabilize the native worker. But all that is of outside origin. 
The greatest clinical interest lies in the occasional attempt 
among natives to organize for economic purposes along white 
lines. Forty years ago the Germans in Samoa discovered to 
their great annoyance that a local boy, who had worked in San 
Francisco offices, was organizing a Samoa-for-the-Samoans 
copra-co-operative right under their noses. He was planning 
retail trading stores in the villages to compete with established 
houses, and purchase of a ship to market Samoan copra with- 
out middlemen. He evidently had good political connections 
with important chiefs, for presently the chiefs 7 council, to 
whom the Germans allowed some parliamentary functions, 
voted to tax every Samoan a small sum per head to finance the 
venture. There was also suspicion of undercover connections 
with anti-government businessmen on Apia beach. Anybody 
who ever heard of Dr. Solf would know that the project was 
speedily suppressed and that it had much to do with the cessa- 
tion of German efforts to give Samoans even a shadow of 
political responsibility. It probably was an unsound business 
proposition; the notion of financing it by taxation without full 
government auspices was obviously nonsense. But there it was 
a half-baked but real, potentially corrupt but alive, Samoan 
move toward spontaneous adaptation of white economic or- 

Then there was Apolosi, a disreputable but imaginative 
Fijian carpenter, who put his whole archipelago in a ferment 
thirty years ago by adding economic enterprise to his nativist 
cult. Anti-Indian and antiwhite, a self-proclaimed Messiah, a 
great man for the ladies, he collected funds for co-operative 
schemes to emancipate the Fijian forever from economic de- 
pendence on white institutions. His persistence was amazing. 
Banished to Rotuma for seven years, he returned to take up 


right where he had left off; banished again in 1930 for ten 
years, he returned at the end of the sentence to pick right up 
again; he did not survive his third sentence of exile. 

When white men have so much trouble handling their own 
newer ideas, such as unionism, self-determination and Com- 
munism, the Islander naturally gets them all twisted up in 
application. That is plainest in Samoa just now. Unions have 
not appeared yet, Communism, even in the dilute Island ver- 
sion, is only a spot on the horizon. But the idea of Samoa-for- 
the-Samoans, lively there ever since Steinberger's time, has 
since been stimulated by Wilsonian self-determination and the 
United Nations' recent inclusion of training for independence 
or self-government as an objective of trusteeships. Always senti- 
ment for Samoan autonomy has been tangled up with local 
institutions and impulses that are ideological traps for the out- 
sider trying to make out how to calm Samoa's fractiousness. 42 

It is clear at the moment what Western Samoa, which in- 
cludes the bulk of land and people and the dominant prestige 
of the group, is alleged to want. In 1946, when New Zealand 
told the Samoan chiefs that she had asked the United Nations 
to convert the old League of Nations mandate into a trustee- 
ship, they demurred vigorously. The decease of the mandate, 
they said in effect, was good; but, from their point of view, why 
install King Stork in the guise of a trusteeship? They recalled 
that in 1900, when the Samoan group was divided between the 
States and Germany, they had not been consulted; nor in 1919 
when the mandate was set up. What they now wanted was self- 
government under a protectorate exercised by a stronger power. 
And while these matters were under discussion, they also very 
strongly desired reunion of American with Western Samoa. 
There was much sentiment for the States as protector but, as 
discussion progressed, it appeared they were amenable to New 

^Anybody desiring a sporting chance to understand current doings in 
Samoa should first read the 486 closely printed pages of Felix M. Kees- 
ing, Modern Samoa, and then Stevenson, A Footnote to History. 


Zealand in that role. A petition embodying these demands, on 
which the highest chiefs collaborated with better educated 
part-whites from "the beach/' was duly forwarded by New Zea- 
land to the United Nations. By mid-i94y a U.N. commission 
was on the ground to look into the affair and recommend. 

Actually none of it is as clear as that sounds. The obscurities 
lie in determining what it means to say that Western Samoa 
wants a thing, whether Samoans know the meaning of what 
they say they want, who speaks for them, and why. Though the 
fact does not necessarily label these expressed aspirations in- 
valid, it is nevertheless true that none of those questions is 
answerable in terms familiar to western democracies. In the 
past, New Zealanders have not understood that too well 
which calls for a bit of history: 

In the late 'twenties their Samoan mandate came all ablaze 
with the "Mau" movement an attempted revolution involv- 
ing the exile of several prominent non-Samoans and the public 
killing by police of Tamasese, one of the three highest Samoan 
chiefs and forebear of the present most articulate spokesman 
for Samoan autonomy. "Opinion" is the nearest translation of 
"Mau" the same word identified the Lauati rebellion which 
Dr. Solf suppressed by a show of force and exile for its leaders. 
The Mau of the 'twenties had some savor of its predecessor. It 
was in considerable measure an effort to discredit white rule 
in order to secure greater participation in government for 
prominent Samoans. Its native leaders were annoyed by the 
government's efforts to encourage individualization of com- 
munal land-tenure and to suppress the ceremonial mass visit- 
ing and exchange of fine mats that express Samoan prestige. 
Many of such leaders were "outs" important chiefs but not 
as prominent as others in advisory councils and paid govern- 
ment posts. To some degree they represented the resentment 
of the "talking-chiefs" the executive officers, so to speak, of 
the titular chiefs, who, in the old days, had often been the pow- 
ers behind the throne but who, under both Germans and New 
Zealanders, had been slighted in favor of titular chiefs. The 
non-Samoan leaders were prosperous local traders from "the 


beach" O. F. Nelson, their part-Samoan principal, was legally 
and socially "European" 43 on whose toes government meas- 
ures had trodden. The last straw was a government project to 
benefit the cash-needy native by by-passing local traders and 
marketing copra direct in Europe with the government as 
agent, as the U.S. Navy had long done in American Samoa, 
The result has been, until very recently (see footnote) an alli- 
ance between a "nativist" movement and "the beach"-- ele- 
ments that are traditionally antagonists but which, due to so 
large a proportion of mixed bloods in business in Apia and to 
mutual agreement that the New Zealand government was a 
nuisance, are not illogical collaborators in Samoa. 

This sounds like overemphasis on cui bono, a tempting 
error. It is possible for instance, though unsound, to attribute 
the American Revolution solely to the merchant irked by Brit- 
ish trading regulations, the local politician yearning for more 
scope than the colonial assembly afforded, and the under- 
privileged hating direct taxation. Though tenable as far as it 
goes, that diagnosis would leave out such intangibles as gen- 
eral dislike for leading strings pulled from 3,000 miles away, 
and a dimly realized sense of strength grown to a point where 
independence was an emotional necessity. The latter factors 
were probably what made the Revolution succeed. The Mau 
doubtless contained some such dynamic intangibles. But they 

^In Western Samoa society is divided into two classes, Samoans and 
"Europeans/ 7 Samoans are either full-blooded natives exercising all the 
social and legal rights appertaining to the traditional communal set-up 
and subject to protective restrictions to correspond, or part-Samoans 
who are born of extra-legal unions or have elected to assume Samoan 
status, an option for which legal provision is made. "Europeans" are all 
resident whites, all other outlanders of whatever shade, plus a con- 
siderable number of part-Samoans who have elected "European'* status, 
which is legally possible under certain conditions. It is significant that 
the trend is all toward electing "European" status whenever possible; 
there is not only prestige-value in it, it also brings greater latitude in 
both social and economic life. It is the avowed purpose of the recent 
Samoan autonomy movement to eliminate the "European" category. 
When that became clear, "the beach" experienced a startled change of 
heart, and hastily backed water in its ardent support of the Samoan 


were all in peculiarly Samoan terms, and might have reflected 
not so much an organic need for increased political responsi- 
bility for Samoans, as the inevitable reaction of a proud and 
intrigue-minded people to outside supervision, whether or not 
they possessed the social coherence and strength to engineer 
their ambitions. 

Samoans in general, unlike some other Island peoples, do 
resent foreign leading strings. The mandate government was 
and was supposed to be arbitrary. The Administrator in charge 
as the Mau began to boil was an able up-from-the-ranks New 
Zealand general named Richardson who, though he did Samoa 
much good with new roads and sanitation, probably lacked the 
right temperament for the job. But it does not follow that the 
Mau was based on identifiable public opinion as you and I think 
of it, corresponding to that behind Sam Adams' mass meet- 
ings and Washington's armies. The American colonist had had 
long, slowly cumulative experience in making himself felt on 
public questions deliberated in majority-voting assemblies. He 
was already adept in republican government and insisted that 
his Constitution include a firm Bill of Rights on which Amer- 
ican equalitarian freedoms have developed. In sharp contrast 
the average Samoan lives under the chiefs of his village the 
matai, presumably the ablest members of family groups about 
as a member of a political machine lives under precinct and 
district captains. If leaders insist on something too out- 
rageously unpopular, there is trouble. But by and large there 
can be no such thing as up-from-the-grassroots sentiment; it 
is all down from the top of the tree, suggested by traditional 
authority and accepted because sponsored by men of ac- 
knowledgedly superior mana. Significantly the Mau saw no 
neighbor-against-neighbor splits between adherents and op- 
ponents, such as occurred in the American Revolution and 
Civil War, in evidence of individual political judgments. 
Whole kinship groups abstained from or plumped for the 
Mau, delivered en bloc by their chiefs as precinct leaders de- 
liver the votes or, for an analogue in the South Seas, as the 


Family used to deliver the vote of their Hawaiian villeins on 
Niihau. 44 

For the Samoan is not yet democratically minded. In view 
of his traditional institutions, there is no reason why he should 
be. Nevertheless "the beach"-backers of the Mau cleverly 
represented it to New Zealand, the best lever for loosening up 
the mandate, as a conventional case of a tyrannized people 
rising against despotism and craving a greater degree of self- 
government along democratic lines. The average New Zea- 
lander, knowing nothing of Samoan ways and assuming that 
all other people were much like himself, swallowed this whole 
and was all the more shocked when shooting started in Apia. 
To outsiders it looked very black: a mandate power, delegated 
by the world to care for a tiny, defenseless country, shooting 
down its leader for demonstrating for greater freedom. 

The Man's militancy had made shooting likely. At its height 
it was a come-outer government in itself. Its capital was a vil- 
lage on the outskirts of Apia, its headquarters a converted 
bandstand still standing on the village green carrying the 
slogan "Samoa mo Samoa" which is close to "Samoa for the 
Samoans." It had its own laws, courts, taxes and police, in imi- 
tation of the government it hoped to undermine. But its prin- 
cipal weapon was a complementary boycott withdrawing its 
adherents from government courts, laws and schools, substi- 
tuting its own. What portion have we in David? To your 
tents, O Israel! 

Much of its career was astutely steered. Samoan subtlety in 
politics was supplemented by the white-style jugglings of busi- 
nessmen-allies. But one detail which probably cannot be 
credited to the junta on "the beach" was startlingly significant 
of its unconstructively sulky ingredient. The Samoan village, 
instructed to wash its hands of white government because it 
was all papalagi doings, let sanitation as well as taxes go by the 
board. Privies were let fall apart, hospitals emptied, birth and 

**I am told that, where there were exceptions to this, it was a matter of 
an eminent mataf being told off to stay loyal as a hedge in case the Mau 
failed. This is difficult to substantiate. 


death registrations, which would have been just as useful for an 
autonomous as a dependent Samoa, were neglected; so were 
government-sponsored campaigns against coconut beetles, 
which were ruining the trees on which Samoa depends for cash 
and emergency food. This was not disorganization the chiefs 
kept the Mau villages well disciplinedbut deliberate scornful 
neglect. There are wide gaps between the western world and 
Samoa when the Samoan can still think of hookworm preven- 
tion as a queer white notion on the same level as preferring 
thin women to plump. It is correct to deduce that there are 
equally wide gaps between us and Samoans on such matters 
as civil freedoms and equality before the law. 

The Mau continued as a brake on government and a focus of 
intransigent nativism until, in 1935, New Zealand's shift to a 
Labor government gave the Mau's adherents what is said to 
have been a welcome pretext for abandoning a game of which 
they had begun to tire. To call the Mau Fascist would be as 
absurd as to call Polynesian economics Communist. But it 
had some resemblances to Fascism. In spite of liberal catch- 
words glued on by "the beach/* it was a back-to-the-good-old- 
days movement, a take-advantage-of-governmental-tolerance 
movement, a South Seas version of using disciplined solidarity 
among the mass to divert power into the hands of people dis- 
appointed by the governments failure to consider their group- 
interests paramount. Whatever generalized loyalty to Samoa 
the Mau manifested, it can be regarded as to some degree an- 
other instance in which patriotism can be a destructive tool in 
clever hands. But the Mau also unquestionably meant a great 
deal. It reflected, as did Kalakaua, Ratana, Apolosi, the native's 
uneasiness under white control and his blind, sometimes self- 
damaging, urge to show that in his own way, he could manage 
his own affairs. 

When the United Nations mission of inquiry arrived last 
year, they were met by a demonstration of Samoans displaying 
banners carrying a phrase from Campbell-Bannerman of which 
High-Chief Tamasese is very fond: "Good government is no 
substitute for self-government/' It has a resounding ring. But 


the trick lies in the fact that, to western hearers, "self-govern- 
ment" sounds necessarily progressive, democratic, liberal, 
equalitarian. All it actually means, of course, is concentration 
of power within, instead of without, certain boundaries. 
Switzerland is self-governing; but so was Turkey under Abdul 
the Damned and the Kingdom of Italy under Mussolini. And 
it by no means follows that Samoan self-government, "good" 
or not, would be at all progressive or equalitarian. 

In token articulate Samoans, like some other Islanders, 
point to Tonga as example of what they want. This sole surviv- 
ing Island monarchy is a British protectorate, the British con- 
sul representing the High Commissioner of the Western 
Pacific in control of Tongan finance and foreign affairs, and 
exerting a by no means negligible advisory check over every- 
thing else. Helped by two dozen or so white, key employees, 
Tongans themselves run internal government much as a 
municipality runs a city under state charter and, to carry on a 
tempting analogy, pretty sloppily too. This is not "good" gov- 
ernment, but to a considerable extent it is self-government, and 
Tongans are loyally proud of their self -bailing status, unique in 
the Pacific. 

Few would care to mar their illusion of virtual independence 
in their sleepy, gossipy islands. But the results of grafting 
Tongan political personalism and upper-class ambition on 
western ideas of government as imported by missionaries, are 
worth study. The sedition clauses in the Tongan code would 
startle most English-speaking lawyers. The civil rights clause 
in the constitution is as tricky as the one already quoted from 
the Hawaiian constitution of 1894. r ^ ie legislature consists 
of appointed members of the Queen's cabinet, who are all 
very high chiefs, and an elected handful of "nobles," also all 
high chiefs, and commoners. Until a British-inspired change to 
secret ballot so recent that it has yet to be used, the voter had 
to sign his ballot in elections for the lower house, which were 
infrequently contested. And the land-and-taxation system, 
based on the old Tongan feudal system, is well designed to 
keep power and revenue in the chiefs' hands. 


As previously noted, each male Tongan receives a land allot- 
ment on reaching the age of sixteen from the Crown, if he 
lives on Crown lands, from the local "noble/' if he lives on the 
appanage of one of the forty landlord-nobles whose holdings 
aggregate an amount larger than the Crown's. As quitrent he 
pays an annual eight-shilling tax, which the Crown passes on 
to the landlord, less a handling commission. No wonder 
George Tubou I liked that system when Shirley Baker set it 
up; no wonder it was applauded by the chiefs who had backed 
him in conquering all Tonga. Difficulties in rent-collection 
occur; but, to the extent that the thing works, it makes the in- 
come of the hereditary aristocracy the first charge on national 
income; and it substitutes cash, good for imported white- 
prestige goods, for former feudal gift-dues in kind. 

From the average Tongan's point of view, there is probably 
little wrong with these arrangements, for that is the way Tonga 
does things. Chiefs heading government departments show 
dignity and slow ability. Nobles maintain much of their tradi- 
tional responsibility for their people. The present Queen, emo- 
tional focus of the whole system, is probably the most 
universally respected figure in the Island world; the Crown 
Prince is unmistakably an earnest and well-educated gentle- 
man. The point here, however, is that there is good reason for 
its looking so very attractive to the Samoan chiefs who asked 
the United Nations for autonomy for Samoa, Tonga-style. The 
set-up they would develop might not resemble Tonga's in all 
respects it is impossible that "it should. But it very probably 
would work out to the same principle that the primary object 
of self-government is the entrenchment of an aristocracy. It is 
no accident that Samoan spokesmen put so much emphasis on 
automobiles, houses, salaries, and uniforms for the high chiefs 
who may become executive coadjutors in governing Samoa. 

The more thoughtful Tongan chief s, who know Samoa well,, 
doubt that Samoa could make any kind of autonomy work. 
Forty years before he died George Tubou I had the whole 
Tongan group solidly conquered and tamped down. Thus his 
kingdom was centripetal and had an organic tradition of aristo- 


cratic centralization to keep it together under sloppy adminis- 
tration. The Samoans, chronically centrifugal in politics, never 
got past the utterly temporary ascendancy of one "royal" 
family-head and adherents over all the others. The three cur- 
rent holders of "royal" names in Samoa are of approximately 
equal prestige; their rivalries are further complicated by the 
chronic restlessness of the talking-chief group. Under a pro- 
tectorate, Samoa would have the stability of a small, cabal- 
ridden Central American republic, for political jockeying 
within the framework of his traditions is the Samoan's national 

"The beach" would try to steer the machine of government 
and try to keep the peace among evanescent factions. But there 
is no reason to believe that it would succeed any better than 
the Steinberger government did seventy years ago, and for the 
same reason that it would have to tie up with one of the three 
"kings" to get anything done, which would immediately af- 
front the other two. Such tenuous jugglings are a poor equiva- 
lent for the solid, dignified, respected figure of the Tongan 
Queen Salote. 

All the Samoan has to go on is a by no means ill-founded 
mistrust of white men and whatever they suggest, a passion for 
things fa'aSamoa which is admirable, but discourages distinc- 
tion between potentially healthy and hampering details of his 
heritage, and a complete misunderstanding of the place of his 
islands in the world in general., White V.I.P.s are often im- 
pressed by the Samoans* speeches about how honored Samoa 
is to have such great people visit their faraway, insignificant 
islands. That is merely the Polynesian rhetoric of self-apology. 
Actually the speaker and all his native hearers consider that a 
western nation would be honored by responsibility for Samoa's 
safety and solvency combined with a pledge to keep hands off 
her internal squabblings and inefficiency. In return the courte- 
ous white guest must refer to Samoa's glorious past; but it 
would be embarrassing to ask him for a bill of particulars. 

As the end of World War II opened up possibilities, the 
present Administrator of Western Samoa embarked on pro- 


grams of road building and use of a revived department of agri- 
culture as a pilot plant to determine how best to train Samoans 
for administrative work. That was well intended by probably 
the best headman that New Zealand ever sent to Samoa; but, 
as the petition to the U.N. showed, it was not at all enough. 
The general stir-up resulting from the war, high local prosperity 
due to fantastic postwar prices for copra and cocoa, New Zea- 
land's loss of mana consequent on a look at American power 
in action, combined to produce an atmosphere in which de- 
tailed improvements and slow experiment could not satisfy. 
In consequence of a long and conscientious study, the U.N. 
mission decided that it had to choose between giving a danger- 
ous degree of power to Samoans and the practical certainty of 
violent trouble if the degree of such concession were not 
marked. So its recommendationswhich New Zealand has 
already promulgated as policy in substance include genuine 
legislative power for a legislature with a majority of Samoan 
members (the former legislative council was merely advisory 
and had a majority of government officials); participation by 
the three "kings" in a Council of State advising the Adminis- 
trator; and earmarking of revenues from the New Zealand- 
managed Crown Estates for development of medical, educa- 
tional and economic facilities for Samoa. 45 

The principle that no less would prevent another Mau 
was unimpeachable. Whether the institutional consequences 
are workable within Samoa is just as much of a question as 
whether the net concessions are sufficiently dramatic to make 
Samoans feel that their demonstrations have borne face-saving 
fruit. Friends of the Samoans and there is much justification 
for feeling warmly toward these stately, nervous people- 
would be highly gratified if a Samoan legislature with genuine 

*The Samoans have periodically asked return to them of these lands, 
which New Zealand took over from German owners as reparations after 
World War I. They claimed, with some justice, that the original sales 
had been fraudulent. This compromise is more of an apparent than a 
real change, since New Zealand's grants in aid to Samoa over the past 
generation have probably totaled more than the total profits from the 
Estates, which have made money only during recent years. 


powers proved able frequently to vote constructive measures. 
They would be even better gratified by indications that the 
Samoan leaders understand the advisability of making haste 
slowly in the direction of native administration for natives. But 
it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that the three "kings" 
at least, the two of them that count think of these issues as 
instruments in the never-ceasing business of mana-building. It 
is unhappily likely that the next couple of years will see further 
goings-on in these pride- and faction-ridden islands. Too many 
Samoans blossomed out in the old Mau lavalava dark blue 
with a white stripe the moment the U.N, mission landed; and 
well-intended remarks from members of the mission about the 
high desirability of self-government for Samoa as soon as pos- 
sible were too widely taken as a pledge of everything Samoans 
had demanded. 

The worst of it is that New Zealand's prestige, never high in 
Samoa, may have received its deathblow from the U.N/s visit. 
Remember you are in the South Pacific, where these matters 
carry special weight. It is unjust to blame the U.N. Under the 
circumstances inquiry on the spot was unavoidable, and the 
calibre of the mission does credit to all concerned. Never- 
theless, Samoa protested against an action of New Zealand's 
and lo, numerous representatives of a supranational world or- 
ganization came winging to their whistle, listened gravely to 
everything they wished to say and, though not endorsing every- 
thing asked for, insisted that the U.N. was the solicitous father 
of the Samoan people. 

The point was quickly exploited: a program submitted to 
the mission by Tamasese suggested blandly that any uses of the 
veto power residing in the New Zealand government should 
be subject to appeal to the United Nations. Again in hopes 
that the deduction is unsound, I consider it rather likely that 
the U.N. will hear a great deal more directly from the Samoans 
in the next few years. The mission appears to have explained 
at length that the U.N. had every faith in New Zealand as 
trustee, and that all relations between Samoa and the world 
would channel through that worthy and benevolent guardian. 


But the Sainoans or their better informed leaders know 
very well indeed that New Zealand is a very small duck on the 
international pond. To change the zoological metaphor, the 
cat has been shown the way to the dairy. And the Samoans are 
a difficult people to convince against their desires. After all 
these years of ups and downs in the copra market, the average 
Samoan still religiously believes that government can do what 
it likes to copra prices. He may be equally difficult to convince 
that by virtue of the trusteeship, the mana of New Zealand is 
equivalent to that of all the great powers banded together in 
the U.N. 

The U.N. mission certainly exercised good judgment in 
politely neglecting the project of union between American and 
Western Samoa. It is hard to blame the individual Samoan 
for resenting having to pay cash for a special permit to visit his 
relatives on the other side of the imaginary line between 
Upolu and Tutuila. But the future of the scheme is not bright. 
The higher chiefs of Tutuila look askance at it, partly because 
it would put them back directly under the superior mana of 
the three 'Icings," partly because the shrewder ones under- 
stand that the U.S. Navy or whatever American government 
agency eventually takes charge will have more to spend and 
more posts to fill, particularly in the prestige-rich Marine 
auxiliary corps that the Navy maintains, than would fall to 
Tutuila's share if government were consolidated at Apia. Num- 
ber Two reason is in terms familiar to westerners, but Number 
One has values that would hardly operate so strongly among us. 

The project will probably founder anyway on the issue o 
what power would be in charge if union were effected. There 
is no sane reason why the States should take over the most 
persistent headache in the Pacific responsibility for Western 
Samoa. If Navy control of facilities at Pago Pago were assured, 
the States might conceivably hand over American Samoa to 
New Zealand. But the details of such an arrangement would 
make an international lawyer see spots before his eyes. A na- 
tional military force would then be the localized dictator of 
an area in an environment controlled by another alien nation, 


not as sovereign but as deputy of a supranational organization. 
It would be more logical for New Zealand, using the security 
features possible in U.N. trusteeships, to take over the Pago 
Pago base under agreement permitting the States full use on 
demand. But that would outrage the U.S. Navy, which has 
never been noted for the more latitudinarian type of logic and, 
unless the Royal -New Zealand Navy has more to spend than it 
ever has had yet, would cause economic revolution on Tutuila. 
A solution cannot even be envisaged. The conclusion must be 
that the union of the two Samoas is going to wait a long time. 

Supposing union were conceivable, Western Samoans would 
probably prefer Uncle Sam as trustee, as noted before. This 
stems from World War II, with roots going back to Stein- 
berger's impressive second appearance at Apia unloading a 
mouth-watering cargo of white man's guns, uniforms, and band 
instruments as good will gifts to Samoa from Washington. 
The presence on Upolu during the war of thousands of U.S. 
marines bringing great engineering works, dollars, and good 
things was both breath-taking and invidious. You can still 
hear sung a war-born song about how Samoa saw plenty of 
American men and big guns when she was in danger, but 
where, oh where, were New Zealand's men and big guns? New 
Zealand actually did more than her proportionate share in the 
war in the Near East, Africa, and Italy, as well as in the Pa- 
cific. But little of that was visible in Samoa which, like most 
Pacific islands, is utterly parochial in information on, and 
judgments of, world affairs. This inchoate yearning for Ameri- 
can guardianship has little to do with sober weighing of issues, 
however. It springs almost altogether from the Islander's tradi- 
tional, and hot exactly cynical, conviction that wealth and 
power are earmarks of the good and great, that high mana is 
manifested in liberal distribution of good things and carries 
automatic right to leadership. 

The Islander's gods may be dead, but in many disconcert- 
ing ways his mind and emotions often run in the channels that 
the old gods would understand. 





Hurry, Hurry, Hurry. . . 

. . . geography made easy and poetry realized in 
the everyday. 

Extract from advance publicity for 
A Bird of Paradise 




Fifth Street complained to the landlord that she was constantly 
meeting outlandish-looking foreigners on the stairs; and that 
she could no longer endure the monotonous, half-jingly, half- 
wailing music that went on and on, the same tune over and 
over and over, most of the night and every night. So the land 
lord investigated the fourth-floor tenant, a young actress named 
Laurette Taylor living with her mother. This was the year 
1911. Unwittingly he was involved in a bit of American cul- 
tural history. 

The outlandish callers proved to be Hawaiian musicians 
imported from the Islands by the late Oliver Morosco jr., a 
conspicuous theatrical producer. They were playing the same 
tune so often because their leader, a chunky Polynesian who 
took his assignment seriously, was trying quickly to teach Miss 
Taylor the hula with appropriate musical accompaniment. She 
had to balance walnut shells full of water on the backs of her 
hands to keep her gestures true and, back flat against the wall, 
wriggle her lower half without moving her upper half and 
vice versa. It was all preparation for A Bird of Paradise, a 
play by Richard Walton Tully which Morosco planned to 



open in New York that coming season, Miss Taylor heading 
the cast in her first leading role. 

The historical point in these goings-on is that The Bird, as 
show business was to call it, ineradicably imbedded the Ha- 
waii-cum-South-Seas tradition in the mass-mind of America. 
The late Miss Taylor's sinuous hula she once did me the 
honor to run through a few of its liquid manual gestures- 
plus her great beauty and charm, plus the throbbing, whining 
music of a sort new to most customers, added visibility and 
three dimensions to inchoate public notions of the world of 
palms, islands and voluptuousness. 

Movies had not yet developed to the point where they could 
exploit this background as a favored cliche, and there was 
much difference between even an illustrated booksuch as 
the lush The Blue Lagoon of 1910 and this flesh-and-blood 
presentation, of the way things were on a "South Sea Island." 
Nor had Hawaii yet initiated high powered publicity using 
such props. But after The Bird had trouped the country for a 
couple of years, for Omaha and Memphis the revolving haunch, 
the grass skirt, and the flower necklace had become as prover- 
bial symbols of carnality as the name of Paris, France, in con- 
junction with a perfume or lewd picture. The undulating at- 
tractiveness not only of Miss Taylor, but also of Miss Lenore 
Ulric, whom this show also started on her way to fame, eventu- 
ally obliged some thousands of women, some young, some not 
so young, some with Polynesian blood, some merely swarthy, 
to wear grass skirts on platforms while the barker intoned: 

"Just the way they shake 'em in the Islands, friends. Only a 
dime, ten cents, the tenth potuvadollah, to see the genuwine 
Hywoyan hula danced without the aid of human feet. Hurry, 
hurry, hurry . . ." 

Tin Pan Alley pricked up its battered ears as it never had 
at Aloha Oe, and within a few years the front porches of 
fraternity houses resounded with the hoarse whacking of the 
ukulele and jouncingly rhythmic accounts of how she gave 
me langwidge lessons on that beach at Wokkykee. When 
young Joe Cook went on stage carrying a ukulele everybody in 


the audience knew its connotations and, when he announced 
that he would now explain why he would not imitate four Ha- 
waiians which he then did for twenty minutes of the best 
monologue ever presented in vaudeville the reference went 
solidly home to every customer who had been suffering under 
a nation-wide plague of Hawaiian acts. In at least one case 
The Bird seems to have inspired a youngster to go right out 
to Hawaii on his last cent. At twenty-one Don Blanding saw 
Lenore Ulricas sultry road-show Luana in Kansas City with 
that result. His description of the performance sets the tone: 

"A girl danced. With hands and arms undulant as restless 
waves, her body supple as a swaying vine, her bare feet moving 
with caressing lightness, she danced against an exotic back- 
ground of trailing, tangled lianas and tall, sky-rocketing palm 
trees/ 7 Huh Moons, 12-13. 

Yet, though it spawned innumerable carnival- and cabaret- 
acts, The Bird itself was no carnival show. It was not even a 
musical, dances and musical numbers being incidental. (An 
anachronistic effort to make a musical of itthey called it 
Luana was an abject failure in 1930.) It was rather a pic- 
turesque drama, culminating in the disgrace of the hero as a 
cad, and the suicide of the Kanaka heroine. 

In terms of the period, its quality was not too low. The New 
York notices were better than average. But curiously, in view 
of its eventual importance, it was actually no great hit on 
Broadway, lasting only 112 performances, most of them in the 
tiny Maxine Elliott's Theatre. It drew nothing like as much 
money as such triumphs of the same season as Kismet and 
Officer 666. Nor does Mark Sullivan list it in Our Times as 
a memorable show of the period. Actually it was road com- 
panies that made it a theatrical property of great value and 
sank the hula, so deeply into American folklore. The sticks 
liked it, all the more for the kind of ballyhoo that went ahead 
of the company remember this kind of talk was new then: 

". . . the play of a woman's soul . . . beautiful, intensely at- 
mospheric . . . Hawaii with its shores girdled by lazy waves 


in languorous moonlight, Hawaii with its intermittent vol- 
canoes muttering menaces and blazing signals, Hawaii with 
its laughing, dancing maidens crowned and garlanded with 
brilliant flowers, maidens -casting eyes of witchery on white 
strangers . . " 

The author of The Bird, previously successful with an exotic 
drama called Omar the Tentmalcer, had visited Hawaii twice 
and could make great play with appropriate atmospheric detail, 
as such publicity promised. And he had plenty of plot: Luana, 
the heroine, is a lost direct descendant of the Kamehameha 
dynasty whom a brutal sugar planter tries to use as political 
lever against Queen Liliuokalani. Luana's charms, and a taste 
for Jcava, depicted as a soul-sapping beverage of great potency, 
seduce a high-minded young white visitor into marriage, 
chronic tropical languor, and eventual degeneracy. In the sub- 
plot a gin-swilling, Omar-quoting beachcomber clears himself 
of an embezzler's past by recalling his scientific training and 
isolating the germ of leprosy. Said Tully's original scenario for 
the play: 

"Hope and salvation are working out for the dissolute beach- 
comber who climbs from degradation to the highest honor 
among men through his having kept himself racially pure and 
his mating with the clear-eyed intelligent girl of his own kind." 

In the last act Luana is being prayed-to-death by a Icahuna 
and implored by her people on the Big Island to come back and 
save them from a lava flow. She obliges the kahuna and ap- 
peases Pele by jumping into Kilauea crater as a finale. This 
heroine's role was gay, touching, sympathetic, glamorous, 
tragic, and well-paced. No wonder Miss Taylor worked so 
hard to persuade Morosco and Tully that she could and must 
play it. Tully had wanted a genuine Kanaka girl from the 
Islands, perhaps as a result of seeing what Luana had been like 
when played by Miss Bessie Barriscale in a tryout of the piece 
by Morosco's coast stock company. 

Tully and Morosco liked stage effects. They not only had a 


spectacular final curtain in the red glow of the volcano, but 
also a first act thunderstorm and subsequent rainbow that were 
very favorably commented upon. The script even called for 
electric fans to waft the smell of wet kelp out over the audi- 
ence in the opening seaside scene, but it is dubious whether 
the actual production ever went to such lengths of verisimili- 

Lepers a point on which Honolulu was sensitive round the 
turn of the century praying-to-death, volcanoes, Jcava, sugar 
planters, beachcombers, are only the beginning of the list of 
"colors-items that Tully skilfully worked in. The first act set 
showed a black sand beach backed by both a cave and a grass 
hut, and dragged in more missionaries, grass skirts, holokus, 
fish nets, underground ovens, prewhite idols, poi bowls, canoe 
paddles, royal feather cloaks, kahilis and smatterings of Ha- 
waiian than a less ingenious dramatist would have dared to 
shake a stick at. It must have looked like a sheriff's sale in an 
ethnological museum. The ukulele was conspicuous, and the 
troupe of genuine Islanders who had so exhausted Miss Taylor 
gave their Island songs several times. All of it constituted a 
good money's worth for the customers; but there can have 
been no mistaking the fact that it was romantic sexiness that 
put it over, 

Tully suffered colossal trouble from his success. An amateur 
dramatist named Grace A. Fendler slapped a suit on him and 
Morosco in 1912, charging plagiarism of her play In Hawaii, 
a scenario of which she had sent Morosco in his San Francisco 
office in early 1910. This was to be one of the most prolonged 
and famous plagiarism cases of all time. In 1924 the Supreme 
Court of New York State finally awarded the plaintiff $780,000, 
which gives a rough idea of how well the show did on the opera 
house circuit. The Appellate Divimon unanimously upheld the 
finding. Unanimity apparently choked off all possibility of 
further appeal; but four years later Charles H. Tuttle, still an 
eminent member of the New York bar, found the requisite 
loophole, and the New York State Court of Appeals reversed 


the lower courts in a fashion that, in all fairness, exonerated 
Tully. 1 

This victory, nineteen years after the opening night, was 
much too late. From all accounts the effect on the late Mr. 
Tully of having such weighty doubts cast on his integrity were 
most unfortunatelyand understandably serious. The author 
of two such well-paying pieces as Omar and The Bird did little 
more as a dramatist. For a decade before the final decision, 
Hollywood had been using the background that Tully first ex- 
ploited for highly successful movies. But The Bird itself did 
not see the screen to which it had contributed so much until 
1932. No movie company wanted a script so tied up in litiga- 
tion; besides, you could always cash in on the ready-made tra- 
dition by shifting the locale to Tahiti or Samoa and shooting 
it all on Catalina Island anyway. 

So, in order to reach popularity, South Seas material had 
to be violently adapted to fit western ideas. The same feeling 
runs through the Island souvenir business, which herds natu- 
rally with show business the hustler selling pennants and 
patriotic ash-trays always worked right next to the barker for 
the hula troupe. The standard hula skirt as worn in sideshows 
and sold to tourists in Hawaii is made of rattan imported from 
the East Indies sewn on cloth woven in some such place as 
Biddeford, Maine; or consider the hula skirt of cellophane 

I am told that Fijian troops on Bougainville during the re- 
cent war used to scrounge rope from the U.S. Marines, tease 
out the fibres, make skirts of the resulting fuzzy strings, and 
sell them back as genuine cannibal costumes. Fiji has always 
been specially enterprising in that direction. Seventy years 
ago making fake cannibal-forks for sale to outsiders had al- 

ir nie crucial point was that Tujly's original scenario^ containing most 
of the ideas and material used in the completed script, could be proved 
to antedate any opportunity for him to have seen tlie Fendler scenario. 
This, used as ground for claiming that tibere was categorically no evi- 
dence of plagiarism whatever, enabled Tuttie to go back into court on 
a matter of law, not of fact, which was essential if further appeal were 
to be legally possible. 


ready begun there. The Indian merchant resident in Fiji in the 
last war made literally millions out of supplying GIs with 
cafs-eye silver jewelry made Indian-style, phony war clubs 
such as no prewhite Fijian ever laid eyes on, and picture post 
cards of leering Fijian belles stripped to the waist, a costume 
that no local girl has worn in public for four generations. 
You could go on and on; I remember the postcards that they 
used to sell tourists in American Samoa, showing a bell- 
breasted Samoan girl in similar disarray with the caption: 
"Would you like to see Samoa?" . . . The strange part of it 
is that the Fijian souvenir trade is still very lively, even though 
all the GIs were evacuated three years ago. The astute Indian 
tied up with smart boys in uniform who are now sending him 
back wholesale orders for more of the same for sale to States 
souvenir stores. By now souvenirs rank fourth among Fijian 
exports, exceeded in money value only by sugar, gold and 

Tully, however, did not originate popular entertainment 
with a South Sea background. The first such effort was a suc- 
cessful spectacle ballet called Otaheite, produced in London 
during the furore over Captain Cook in the late eighteenth 
century, Mark Twain's humorous lecture on Hawaii was one of 
the most popular items in his early repertory. Then a French 
painter, Jules Tavernier, delivered himself of a large cyclorama 
of the Kilauea volcano which Lorrin A. Thurston, most kinetic 
of Hawaiian annexationists, took to the Chicago World's Fair 
in 1893 as a commercial speculation presumably also to bring 
Hawaii to the attention of the mainland at a critical juncture. 
For sweetening he recruited a quartet of Hawaiian singers, one 
of whom, a hapa-haole named Ben Jones, was later in the cast 
of The Bird; another was Duke K. Kahanamoku, father of the 
famous swimmer. In spite of the great drawing power of the 
Fair, however, Kilauea lost money; it did not show a profit until 
it reached the relatively Hawaii-conscious West Coast at the 
San Francisco Midwinter Fair of 1894-5. Thurston finally sold 
its 420 running feet of canvas to a professional showman who 
wanted it for the Buffalo Exposition of 1901. Then it disap- 


pears from view. Volcanoes and rich, deep-chested Hawaiian 
singing were all verv well, but Hawaii without sex was not 
box office. 

Another amateur showman from more southerly islands ap- 
parently did better at the same period by including more action 
and a further dash of sex. This was Harry J. Moors, Michigan- 
born entrepreneur in Samoa, whose trading stores and vessels, 
leases on guano islands, and dabblings in politics were major 
features of Apia beach up to World War I. A wandering actor 
named Mason Mitchell seems to have suggested to Moors that 
the public might want something Samoan, preferably danc- 
ing, at the Chicago Fair. For the soon-to-be-famous Midway 
Plaisance was to include a Congress of All Nations meaning 
units of exotic peoples, Dutch, Japanese and so forth, living 
and performing against backgrounds like those at home. 
(Hence, of course, the exhibit called the Streets of Cairo, in 
which Little Egypt introduced the cooch-dance to America.) 
So Moors recruited a Samoan troupe of both sexes, scattering 
Wallis Islanders and Fijians among them, and took them to 
Chicago, along with tapa costumes, weapons, fire-sticks, canoes, 
kava bowls, ceremonial headdresses and a knockdown Samoan 

The appearance of the troupe at Honolulu, where they gave 
a break-in performance at the Opera House, temporarily re- 
lieved the political tension, then at its height because Blount 
had hauled down the American flag. Set up on the Midway in 
Chicago, they dutifully performed Jcava ceremonies, war dances, 
and sitting sivas, partook in a polyglot regatta but, according 
to surviving photographs, the girls were required to cover their 
bosoms and the dances were probably chosen from the more 
decorous part of the Samoan repertory. They seem to have 
offered Little Egypt no serious competition. 2 But they did 
well enough for Barnum & Bailey to sign part of the troupe for 

The participants in this trip are all dead now, so most of this is from 
documentary sources. Representative Sol Bloom, who was general 
manager of the '93 Midway, has given the writer every indication that, 
for reasons best known to himself, he does not care to discuss the 
Samoans' career at the Fair. 


the next circus season and Moors, unlike Thurston, seems to 
have made money. At least he was back again with a larger 
troupe at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. 

This time the selection of Islanders was even more diversi- 
fied, emphasizing energetic dances, and the props were so 
numerous and heavy that Moors chartered a whole ship to 
transport the outfit to the Coast. San Francisco seems to have 
been characteristically chilly when they arrived and the fifty 
performers, including Moors' small daughter, waited on board 
until the boss could get ashore and buy them warm clothes to 
stave off pneumonia. Their routine at St. Louis included cook- 
ing in underground ovens, climbing prop coco palms, and 
much dancing, Icava making, and sale of Island curios made on 
the spot. Since the traditional accompaniment to Island danc- 
ing is no more than monotonous drumming, Moors hired a 
Mexican orchestra to lend romantic color to the show, an 
anomaly that troubled nobody. The dancing of the Gilbert 
Islanders went over best. But any of the numbers would pro- 
duce a shower of silver from the holiday-minded audience. 
Moors* daughter still remembers how the innocent Samoan 
maidens in the troupe cautioned her not to encourage cheap 
skates by stooping to pick up anything smaller than a quarter. 

The press seems to have been nice to these ventures. The 
flier that Moors circulated in 1905 quotes Julian Hawthorne, 
writing son of the great novelist: 

"the most delightful and refreshing performance at the Fair 
. . . The young men are models of manly beauty, just like 
antique statues of Greek gods or fauns . . . the girls . . . 
as beautiful at all points as any young women I should care 
to see . . ." 

The Century Magazine noted, with perhaps a shade of disap- 
pointment: "the best dancing in the Plaisance. It makes no 
pretense to grossness, but is simply downright savage." Best 
of all was the great reporter, Richard Harding Davis: 

"imagination easily transports [the customer] to the little coral 
reefs on which these people live, and in their daily life do all 


they represent on the stage except to eat human flesh they 
having abandoned cannibalism a quarter of a century ago and 
embraced Christianity under the teachings of French Catholic 
missionaries. So strong is their religion that they will not per- 
form on Sunday and they are the only World's Fair company 
that keeps closed house on the Sabbath." 

The "little coral reef' whence most of them came from is an 
island with mountains several thousand feet high extending 
thirty miles one way and fifteen the other. Catholicism was 
a minor influence among these Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, 
Ellice and Gilbert Islanders; in the South Seas strict Sab- 
batarianism is the earmark of Protestant, not Catholic; can- 
nibalism has always been absent or unimportant in most of the 
islands represented in this troupe. But the great Dick Davis had 
evidently liked the show and written a rave-notice and it is 
hard to blame Moors for reprinting it, errors and all. 

After St. Louis, he took his troupe on the road in a year and 
a half of barnstorming coast-to-coast, two-a-day. The perform- 
ers had the time of their lives, particularly during the Fair 
when, provided they remained in costume, they had free entry 
to all the other Midway shows. The girls were so handy at 
making friends in St. Louis and elsewhere that Moors had to 
enforce strict rules against ogling acquaintances in the audience 
during a performance which resulted in the cast's dancing 
with chins in the air and eyes way up in the flies. 

Yet there is little evidence that Moors 7 South Sea Islanders 
were much more than just another feature at St. Louis, nothing 
like as memorable as the aborigines from the Philippines who 
included in their daily routine the cooking and eating* of a 
real dog. The achievement of The Bird remains unflawed, for 
the American public failed to become South Sea-minded from 
Moors' moderately profitable commercial show of genuine 
South Seas material. It waited until the South Seas appeared 
in the guise of a beautiful Irish girl in brown make-up who 
had never been near the Islands. As a matter of fact, at the 
time of her recent death, Laurette Taylor had still never seen 


When The Bird was produced, the stage was still the only 
medium for acted-out stories dependent on scenic and at- 
mospheric background. But within a few years the rise of the 
spectacle-movie relieved the stage of that somewhat vulgarizing 
burden. From then on things like Ben-Hur were in an element 
that no longer cramped them down to treadmills and back- 
drops in high perspective. Hollywood took the hint when 
O'Brien's books showed how avidly the post-World War I 
public would take to South Sea romanticizing, and at least 
half a dozen feature films a year have exploited that back- 
ground, better distributing and pacing the elements that so 
cluttered Tully's stage. 

Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Gilda Grey, Dolores del 
Rio, Jinx Falkenburg, Ann Corio and, of course, Dorothy 
Lamour, are only a few of the variegated ladies of the box 
office severally concerned. The gentlemen in the case are less 
important for a curious reason. The South Sea convention has 
always spotlighted the native or half-native heroine and her 
attendant bevy of brown nymphs much at the expense of the 
native male. From all the evidence the screen ever offered, 
men had about as much to do with Polynesia as with the 
classical kingdom of the Amazons; the emphasis went on the 
white interloper as lover of the beautiful native princess 
Puaki. Further to labor the absurdities of the run-of-mine South 
Seas scenario is too easy to be sport. Its cliches rapidly became 
as stale as a burlesque blackout or the plot of the machine- 
made Owen Davis tear-jerker. The essence of it has always 
been a background suggesting high temperatures against which 
a husky youth with a bare chest embraces a toothsome lady in a 
single garment apparently about to fall off. 

A generation ago, however, there were well-executed efforts 
to get a touch of the genuine into celluloid Polynesia. Nobody 
who saw Flaherty's Moana of the South Seas can ever forget the 
swimming, sunlightish charm of its photography and continu- 
ity. Moana, of course, was shot in Samoa with an all-Samoan 
cast picked for beauty or iinpressiveness. The falsification im- 
plicit in its material at least had the virtue of warping genuine 


materials, and the faults were strictly those of omission in the 
good cause of pleasing the spectators. In dilute form many 
of the same virtues existed in Murnau's Tabu genuine "back- 
ground on Bora Bora for many shots, genuine Polynesian or 
half-Polynesian performers, an idyllic effect worked out of 
data that were genuine as far as they went. 3 

But after that the dark. The only perceptible effect of Tabu 
on the world of entertainment was the importation of Reri ? the 
half-Tahitian heroine thereof, to dance in the Follies. At the 
age of sixteen she found herself approaching New York on the 
Twentieth Century Limited with a press agent insisting that, 
even if it was ungodly cold outside, she should be decanted on 
the platform in front of the news photographers wearing a 
pareu the garment that movie-fans call a sarong, which is a 
Malay, not a Polynesian, word. The great Ziegfeld's idea of 
what sort of music and support should go with her dancing 
is best exemplified by his insistence on teaming her with 
Harry Richman. But she went over quite well indeed in New 
York night clubs and later in Europe, where she learned 
Polish and German. Reri is back in Tahiti now r plumper than 
when Ziegf eld sent that imperious cable, but still full of charm. 
The slender youth who played opposite her in Tabu was over 
military age when World War II broke out, but managed to 
enlist anyway in the French Pacific Battalion and had an ex- 
cellent combat record. 

For some time after Pearl Harbor it looked as if one minor 
but welcome result of war would be the extinction of the 
South Seas movie. GIs on duty on idyllic Pacific isles reacted 
most unfavorably to movies about idyllic Pacific isles. Some- 
times, they say, the loud-speaker was drowned out by the 
raucousness of the disapproval. Central Casting told me in 
1945 that the number of real Polynesians filed as available for 
extra roles in Hollywood had dwindled to teneight Hawaiians 

s Murnau's shooting trip to Bora Bora left a wide trail of superstitious 
gossip behind it. The story is that some of the locations picked were 
tabu ground, so bad luck dogged the steps of several members of the 
party. Murnau was killed in a motoring accident not long after . . . 
his house burned down . . . and so forth and so on. 


and two Samoans; and that they had seen a "very definite de- 
crease" in the demand for such types for such jobs. Sideshow 
experts say that rumba and samba have pretty well shaken the 
duller hula out of the field. But though all returns are not yet 
in, it already looks as if the tradition may revive. English har- 
bingers of J. Arthur Rank's enterprises are, as I write, on Fiji 
seeking locations for a picture based on The Blue Lagoon, 
which was not a Fijian story at all, but never mind. A Holly- 
wood outfit Is shortly to go into production with an Hawaii 
item. It is usually women who determine what movie is at- 
tended. After all, the GIs' wives and girl friends never saw the 
Pacific, never felt aggrieved at the bulgy lack of glamor of the 
average South Seas girl. 

Even the GIs may not be too trustworthy on that point. 
Dorothy Lamour is something to look at regardless, and genu- 
ine cow hands are notoriously fond of Hollywood horse operas. 

Fayaway's Children 

I know not where those islands lift 
Their fronded palms in air ... 

John Greenleaf Whittier 



twelve years ago as the liner "Mariposa" sailed from Pago Pago 
in American Samoa. His eye fell on Centipede Row, a line of 
cottages inhabited by married officers of the miniature U.S. 
Navy base: 

"Six little bungalows/' he said dreamily. "Six little bunga- 
lows at Pago Pago. Ah, if only Willie Maugham were here!" 

The lie of the hills round the harbor made it clear that we 
were floating de luxe on the waters of a flooded volcanic 
crater. This was the spot where Colonel Steinberger began his 
two-faced and double-jointed career as unctuous and benevo- 
lent dictator of all Samoa. A few miles to the westward La 
Perouse landed the first whites to visit Samoa, and lost eleven 
men when the Samoans proved violently nervous and covetous. 
The seagoing tug at the Navy pier was presently to depart for 
her periodic trip to Manua, where Dr. Margaret Mead found 
material for pregnant ponderings about fashionable child 
psychology. Yet, in the presence of all these varied segments of 
significant reality, a publisher was pining for Willie Maugham. 1 

1 In a manner of speaking, Willie Maugham was there. The only tran- 
sient accommodations at Pago a two-story boarding-house which had 



It is easy to see why. The South Seas have too long acted as 
fiats, wings, backdrop, cyclorama and props for good, bad and 
indifferent fiction, exploited in the same fashion as rustlers, 
sheriffs, cayuses, stagecoaches and six-guns in horse opera. That 
has gone on so long that, in spite of recent war and death 
thereabouts, attempts to restore the area to validity in the 
eyes of the literate world may well be hopeless. This publisher 
saw no reason for contemplating Pago Pago in its own lovely, 
tangible, politics-jittery right. He wanted it diluted and con- 
ventionalized in a story using Outline No. Five. It occurred to 
me at the time that the plot values of Rain had been used 
many times before Miss Thompson was ever written; and 
that, like its heroine, the story could have been laid practically 

For that matter, the anatomical detail in Gauguin's paint- 
ings of Polynesians is often taken as artistic distortion by people 
accustomed to thinking of South Sea Island beauty in terms 
of Dorothy Lamour today or Dolores del Rio twenty years 
ago. Actually, of course, the painter's record of relative waist- 
lessness, big feet, thick lip, is closer to anatomical accuracy 
than any Hollywood figure. Gauguin's error as a reporter- 
which, of course, he was not trying to be lay in making his 
figures flat, passive, and stolid, lacking the grace and vigor of 
the living subject. The elements in his work usually considered 
to derive from a South Seas background composition, color- 
ing, emotional impact are already conspicuous in paintings 
that he did in France and the West Indies before he ever saw 
Tahiti. That is, like Maugham, he merely developed against a 

just been badly damaged by a storm calls itself the Saddle (sic) 
Thompson Hotel. House and sign were still there when I last saw Pago 
in May, 1947. A Navy officer stationed there some years ago tells me 
that the management once changed the name to the Samoa House 
because a missionary had protested against publicly displaying the name 
of a prostitute, however fictional. The officer warned the landlady that 
if things were the same with hotels as with ships, name-changing would 
be bad luck. But missionary superstition prevailed over nautical until, 
soon after the change, the aforesaid storm took off the roof and stove 
in one walL At that point the name was hastily changed back again. 


South Seas set of references the idiom in which he would have 
painted anywhere. Surely fact and fantasy have never been 
more marvelously misidentified. 

Alec Waugh once wrote that it has long been impossible to 
write "otherwise than conventionally" 2 that is, with second- 
hand materials and attitudes about the South Seas. Limit the 
agenda to "creative" writing for certain ethnological studies 
of Pacific islands contain good reading and salutary thinking- 
and it is a useful three-quarter truth. For the literary creator 
the area has the disadvantages that too pretty a model has for 
the painter. The channels of association through which the 
data reach the beholder are imperiously well-worn, too clut- 
tered with stimulating but nonaesthetic connotations. The 
South Seas, in fact, are a geographical Hedy Lamarr, who 
would be ill-advised to get herself cast as Lady Macbeth or 
even Candida. 

By now most people apply the South Seas set of stereotypes 
even in the teeth of geography. Americans discussing the area 
are usually sure that many Conrad stories are laid there, whereas 
Conrad pretty well confined himself to the East Indies. Many 
are equally sure that White Cargo, a play set in Africa, was 
a South Seas affair. For, if a background of heat, jungle, lovely 
coffee-colored half-breeds and white men succumbing to all 
three does not spell South Seas, it ought to. 

Most such stereotypes, those of the American West for 
instance, at least started from a basis of reality. In its time the 
West really did display ready gunplay, rustling and so forth, 
as the South Seas exhibited beachcombers, square-face gin and 
cannibalism. But the fact of the matter is that the foundations 
of the South Seas legend, as distinct from the details, had no 
relation to reality at all. They began as arbitrary, intellectual 
assumptions forcibly fitted on the most attractive collection 
of islands and peoples known at the time. And, whereas the 
founders of horse opera were inglorious hacks, few major writ- 
ers ever bothering with that background, the founders of South- 
seasism were kings and councillors of the intellectual earth. 
2 Hot Countries, 41. 


Rousseau usually receives credit for paternity here, which 
might not hold up in court under an ideological blood test. 
Even the phrase "noble savage" was not his, but John Dryden's 
before him. Though it is true that Rousseau most impressively 
formulated "natural man/' he admitted that such a creature 
might never have existed; he deduced "natural man" from 
human nature as useful sociological fiction, not as prediction 
in reverse. He came closest to Southseasism in his subsequent 
picture of the postnatural but preownership, premetal, pre- 
cereal savage whom he did consider probably to exist un- 
trammeled by possessiveness and division of labor. But even 
here, though Havelock Ellis claims that Rousseau was "a care- 
ful student of the narratives of explorers in his time/* 3 the 
material that he used had little to do with the South Seas. His 
ideas were set well before Wallis, Bougainville, and Cook 
brought back detailed data from the Pacific. Accounts from 
previous explorers of those parts had been scanty and, for these 
purposes, insignificant. Rousseau apparently relied much more 
heavily on accounts of the Hottentots of Africa and the Caribs 
of the Antilles than on Polynesians. 

What material he used does not greatly signify, however. 
The gadfly of Geneva was not seeking scientific validity but was 
whittling sticks to beat the civilization-dog with. His deduc- 
tions from Caribs and Hottentots amount to almost as airy 
a set of hypotheses as his acknowledged fictions about natural 
man. He assumed absolute communism, for instance^ a thing 
that so far as ethnography can find never existed anywhere. He 
assumed absolute promiscuity between the sexes y which again 
never existed among any known people. And in general he as- 
sumed a flexibility of primitive behavior so attractive to civi- 
lized men of a certain emotional bent that, try as they may, 
scientists have not yet been able to lay its seductive ghost. In 
discussing it Malinowski hits out with a sort of despairing 

"The word savage, whatever association it might have had 
originally, connotes ideas of boundless liberty, of irregularity, 
Treface to Malinowski, The Sexual Life of Savages r viii. 


of something extremely and extraordinarily quaint. In popular 
thinking, we imagine that the natives live on the bosom of 
Nature, more or less as they can and like, . . . Modern 
science, on the contrary, shows . . . natives subjected to a 
strict code of behavior and good manners, to which in com- 
parison the life at the Court of Versailles or Escurial was free 
and easy/' Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 10 

It is important to comprehend the glaringly a priori character 
of Rousseau's teachings about primitive peoples, because other- 
wise it is difficult to believe that other of his contemporaries 
could so insist on seeing in the South Seas things that were 
not there and never had been. That is, the direct responsibility 
for the world's consistently warped picture of that end of 
creation is not Rousseau's. But he did give final polishing to 
the lens through which the Islands would look like Paradise. 

The specific attribution of untrammeled noble savagery to 
prewhite Polynesia was characteristically the work of French- 
men, who have a great way of inventing fertile ideas for other 
people to take seriously, while neglecting them themselves. 
For every Frenchman who has written a silly book about the 
South Seas or gone down there seeking spiritual solace from 
innocent brown children of nature, there have been a dozen 
Englishmen or Americans. 

More precisely, the first observed case of typical South- 
seasitis occurred in an intellectual surgeon-naturalist who 
sailed with Bougainville. True to his national heritage, this 
M. Commerson couched his account of the tangible Golden 
Age in Tahiti largely in terms of ramotzr. Since it was an im- 
portant moment when the first pen scrawled off the first glori- 
fication of the South Seas, implying a pitying lesson for west- 
era man, that poor, hampered, frustrated changeling, lengthy 
quotation is justified: 

"Born under the most beautiful of skies, fed by the fruits of an 
earth that is fertile without cultivation, ruled by fathers of 
families rather than by kings, they know no other God than 
love; to him all their days, were consecrated, the whole island 
is his temple, all the women are his idols and all the men are 


his adorers. And what women! Rivals of the Georgians for 
beauty, unveiled sisters of the Graces! Neither shame nor 
prudery manifest their tyranny here; the lightest of gauzes 
drift about them according to the whim of the winds or their 
own desires. The act of begetting one's kind is an act of re- 
ligion; the preliminaries are encouraged by the prayers and 
songs of all the people assembled together, and the consum- 
mation is hailed with universal applause; every stranger is 
admitted to these happy rites. It is even one of hospitality's 
duties to invite strangers to take part, so the good Tahitian 
may enjoy himself incessantly either by way of his own pleas- 
ures or in observing those of others. No stern censor will fail 
to see in all this a breakdown of morals, a horrible prostitution, 
the boldest cynicism; but is this not the natural state of man, 
born essentially good, free of all prejudice, following without 
remorse the tender impulses of a consistently pure instinct, 
because he has not yet degenerated into reason? . . . This 
is no horde of stupid and crude savages; among these people 
everything bears the mark of the most perfect intelligence. 
. . . With what industry have they treated iron, a metal very- 
valuable to them, which they convert only into useful tools, 
a metal so vile when we make of it the tools of despair and 
death! With what horror they rejected knives and scissors 
which we offered them, because they apparently guessed the 
use that could be made of such things! . . . We admired the 
simplicity of their customs, . . . their comradeliness among 
themselves, their hoiror at the shedding of human blood. . . . 
Their distaste for wines and liquors was insurmountable. . . ." 
In full in Corney, Tahiti, 462-4. 

This projection of the preconceived noble savage on pre- 
white Tahitians a convenient group of nonwestern people 
whom the witness had found charming has one deviation 
into fact: the statement that Tahitians were not stupid and 
crude savages. Otherwise the thing could be used as horrible 
example of how not to do reporting. For a bill of particulars: 
some staples of Tahitian diet required more or less labor. Tahiti 
was ruled by chiefs of clans and sub-clans not heads of 
families in any western sense. Some Tahitian girls were un- 
doubtedly attractive, but neither all nor many can have been 


such houris as all this. They had their own pruderies, stripping 
stark only under the frenzy of prolonged dancing or for reli- 
gious observances. The arrangement of their clothes, by no 
means haphazard, was one arbitrary way of showing respect to 
their betters. They did not reject knives as potentially lethal; 
they grabbed for them, and for axes too, when the Spaniards' 
"Aguila" made Tahiti a few years later; they may have re- 
jected scissors because they did not know what they were for. 
They had no horror of shedding human blood. Human sacri- 
fice was integral in their inagico-religious ceremonies; their 
mourning rites included slashing themselves with shark's teeth 
until the blood poured. Their aversion to alcohol broke down 
so soon that it can hardly be said to have existed beyond the 
novice's natural alarm at the burn of strong waters in the 

But great men had said that admirable "savages" must be 
communistic, humane and without prudery, so M. Commer- 
son told his eyes what to see and his brain what to remember. 
In ghosting the highest chief tainess of the Teva, Henry Adams 
recorded or perhaps put in her mouth a dry summary of the 

". . . at that moment Europe, and especially France, hap- 
pened to be looking for some bright example of what man 
had been, or might be, and the philosophers seized on Tahiti 
to prove that, if man would only rid himself of restraints, he 
would be happy . . . the real code of Tahitian society would 
have upset the theories of a state of nature as thoroughly as 
the guillotine did." Memoirs of Arii Tamai, 53, 56. 

When a man who had been on the spot, as Commerson had, 
could so falsify and misinterpret, it is not surprising that great 
men who never saw the South Seas, or any other preliterate 
life, perpetrated the same fraud in their studies in Paris. For 
there was greater authority and even lower accuracy to come. 
On reaching home Bougainville published an account of his 
voyage. The great M. Diderot, chief of the Encyclopedists, 
read it and was moved to write the Supplement au Voyage de 
Bougainville, a decorously lustrous piece of prose of the special 


old Life of Paris, Hollywood, and the Bluegrass, "by one who 
has never teen there/' But it can also stand as type of the 
South Seas scenario, as it set a love affair in anomalous west- 
ern terms against a backdrop out of the National Geographic. 

The Island is not brilliant Byron. Few admire it, though 
many have quoted it. Nor did it start a snowballing fashion. 
The time still doted on the Oriental as type of the exotically 
romantic. Young Mr. Bedwin Sauds was at his zenith, and, 
though people sometimes read detailed fact about the South 
Seas in Cook, Bougainville and Mariner, they did not yet see 
that, for juicy escapism, no Circassian slave could hold a 
candle to a brown, bare-bosomed island girl Nevertheless a 
few poets of mark eventually followed Byron's lead in occa- 
sionally celebrating this background with which they lacked 
personal acquaintance. The passage in Lodhley Hall about 
South Sea "Summer isles of Eden" where "the passions 
cramped no longer shall have scope and breathing space'' was 
no less effective for being so intemperately scorned by the 
poet in succeeding couplets. 7 

The unworthy thought occurs that the writing gentry were 
waiting until there was regular steamer service to Paradise. 
The coincidence of such schedules with their appearance on 
the scene is at least striking. But that would not be fair. Steven- 
son, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Jack London used irregu- 
lar and hazardous transport in the South Seas, and so did 
their predecessor, the man who first cracked the dam of artistic 
indifference to this background. 

Before he set up as a writer, as everybody knows, Herman 
Melville was foremast hand on a whaler, probably the riskiest 
and least comfortable way to travel the South Pacific since the 
days, a thousand years ago, when the Polynesians were migrat- 
ing in their huge double canoes. Distaste for the forecastle led 
him to skip ship at Nukahiva (Marquesas) like many a sailor 

7 Much later Tennyson returned to the area, piously this time, in a 
turgid ode to Kapiolani, the Hawaiian clneftainess who defied the 
volcano goddess. It is the least successful of his otherwise respectable 
experiments in adapting classical prosody to English. 

This Was the Islander 

Accurate knowledge of the prewhite Islander is not too plentiful But we 
know his life was elaborately ceremonious. This (from Cook's Voyages) 
purports to show a human sacrifice. 

Early white voyagers greatly admired the skill and daring, of Polynesian and 
Micronesian seamen, whose craft were often large and fast. The New Zealand 
Maori war c'anoe (from Cook's Voyages) might be made from a single 
immense log and run 100 feet overall. 

Tlie Bishop Museum 

Because timber was always scarce in the Tuamotu, the ingenious Island 
shipwright made this sea-going vessel of bits of plank carefully shaped to 
match and sewn together with cocoanut fiber. 

Tattersall, Apia 

Island architecture, styles of which varied from group to group, was often 
handsome if impermanent. This is a modem version of traditional Samoan 
construction. Elaborate lashings of cocoariut fiber made nails unnecessary. 

Even at the present day the 
presentation of a roast hog to 
the guest of honor in Samoa 
is both ceremonious and 

Typical of the most picturesque "high" volcanic islands. It probably looked 
much the same as this to its first discoverer. 

Barring the dog tags and shorts, the Melanesia of Goodenouglr Island, off 
New Guinea, look much as their ancestors probably did and are conducting 
their harvest in much the same way. Their people have less racial admixture 
than many Islanders. 

This Russell Islander uses whatever comes his way the cross from the Catho- 
lic mission, the flat fifty of Luckies from the U.S. Marines, the thwart in 
his dugout by indirect courtesy of the Shell Oil Company, The bkadta) 
hair is one of his own traditions. 


Dr. Judd 

The Gordons 

Dr. Coan 

" ' IJ ' 1 ' ' ''" 

Bishop Patteson 

Dr. Hiram Bingham 

Bishop Patteson died with his boots on when Melanesians smashed his 
skull in retaliation for a blackbirding raid. The Presbyterian Gordons were 
slaughtered in the New Hebrides for more obscure reasons. Three other 
specimens of missionary here depicted worked in Hawaii, which was safer, 
though often ruggedly uncomfortable for whites. Boss of the lot was the 
Rev. Hiram Bingham "King Hiram." 

New gods for old. 

Monday, OCT. 6 


Never forget the wide variety of human beings usually lumped as "South 
Sea Islanders." Above, a cheerful Meknesian family group in the Solomons. 
Below, with their' teacher, seven girl graduates of Agana High School on 
Guam who plan to take teacher-training. 


before and since. But none of his predecessors in desertion had 
had literary talent. Melville was a romantic, an egocentric, a 
rhetorician, probably a psychoneurotic. The consequences of 
exposing such a temperament to Marquesan scenery and ways 
of doing set the pattern for all his successors in creative inter- 
pretation of the South Seas. Diderot was the John the Baptist 
of Southseasism; Melville was its Apostle Paul. 

He was more fortunate than Byron. Plenty of people have 
admired Typee, Omoo and Mardi. Critics treat them as seri- 
ous literary monuments, scholars devote whole books to exe- 
gesis of the data presented. The important thing about them 
for our purpose is that, in Typee, Melville created Fayaway, 
durable prototype of the South Seas enchantress, a young 
person with numerous offspring: Pierre Loti's Rarahu, Robert 
Keable's Numerous Treasure, and the thronging heroines of 
NordhofE and Hall. Fayaway's effect on the aesthetic world is 
well illustrated by a water color that John La Farge did from 
imagination of the incident when, standing in a canoe, she 
takes off her pareu and lets it belly out for sail with herself as 
naked, living mast. He painted her with the attenuated 
figure of an Ingres model and a face of somewhat pre-Raphael- 
ite cast. The blue cloth swirling ahead of her is the identical 
piece of flowing studio drapery that appears in every third 
academic painting of the nineteenth century. She looks not 
at all like a Marquesan, but is a synthesis of beauties as under- 
stood in the salons of 1880. She has about as much relation 
to a live Polynesian as a Minoan design derived from marine 
life has to the actual gluey, squirming, squshy animal that 
acted as unwitting inspiration. 

Yet La Farge did his author no violence. Melville's recorded 
Fayaway is a whimsical and cryptically voluptuous abstraction, 
no matter how tangible she may have proved during his stay 
among the Taipi. The book is good reading but dismally un- 
convincing, the more so for Melville's trick, conspicuous in 
everything but Moby Dick, of sounding implausible and 
pumped up. It should have been Richard Henry Dana, the 
other seagoing Yankee of literary parts at the time, who 


Carmel or Provincetown or Bloomsbury to Tahiti was usually 
even more obscure on returning than when he sailed; Rupert 
Brooke is a notable exception. The field of painting is even 
skimpier. Gauguin stands alone as an artist secure of major 
reputation who used the South Seas as material. 

But none of this means that, low as the average calibre of 
South Seas-bound creators was, much good reading has not 
been produced against that backdrop. The world would be 
poorer without Tie Moon and Sixpence, and some of 
Maugham's South Sea short stories appear in anthologies with 
flattering frequency. As a rule Jack London's South Sea shorts 
are excellent London, particularly The House of Mapuhi and 
The Whale's Tooth. The man grew morbidly obsessed with 
the presence of leprosy in Hawaii, but then at the time that 
was true of the whole haole population of the Islands; and if 
the overloading of these tales with inevitable-white-man busi- 
ness annoys you, as well it may, you have only to conclude 
that reading Jack London is not for you. 

Lloyd Osbourne, who was far better acquainted with the Is- 
lands than most writers and studied his trade under Steven- 
son's stepfatherly eye, actually succeeded in humor laid in the 
South Seas. His yarns of Island impostors, particularly Old 
Dibbs, may not be important, but they are good fun and a 
great relief from the general tradition that this background is 
sacred to the sentimentally solemn seven days a week. But the 
paying vein was not tapped until, in 1910, H. de Vere Stac- 
poole published The Blue Lagoon. This established for all 
time the idiom and atmosphere of the popular South Seas 
romance. Read it now with the author's name excised and you 
would swear it came from Nordhoff and Hall. For all I know 
neither of those capable collaborators ever saw the book, but 
the identification is still unmistakable by indirect channels; 
three out of four detective-story writers lean unabashedly on 
precedents set by Sherlock Holmes, and would so lean even if 
they had never read about him. 

Only one writer ever importantly challenged the assumption 
made above that this sort of material is too rich for. the blooe 1 


of the creative process. You can forgive Charley Stoddard 
much when you remember that it was principally he who in- 
spired Stevenson with the urge to go voyaging on the schoon- 
ers that slipped out of the Golden Gate westward bound for 
the islands of the blest. 

Unduly praised in his own time, Stevenson has yet to emerge 
from a cloud of subsequent revulsion. When he does emerge, 
the newly inquisitive reader exploring other aspects of the 
author of Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses and 
Dr. Jelcyll has pleasant surprises in prospect, in the South Seas 
vein and elsewhere. The Beach of Falesa is not only a fine com- 
position of genuine Island values, it is one of the best novelettes 
in English; for all its artificial manner, The Isle of Voices is an 
ingeniously instructive blend of prewhite superstition with 
western economics. And The Ebb-Tide, though technically no 
success, anticipates many of the things that were to be Con- 
rad's stock in trade. Huish the cockney, with his rat's courage 
and slimy emotions, would have ornamented Victory; Herrick, 
the high-minded beachcomber, could have been Lord Jim's 
long-lost uncle. (This neglects the issue of how much Lloyd 
Osbourne had to do with the merits of his collaborations with 
his stepfather it may have been a good deal.) Conrad is again 
anticipated in the culminating narrative of The Wrecker. Few 
tales of fateful violence ever improved on the sickening mo- 
ment when the impromptu murderers empty a revolver into 
the forecastle to silence the whimpering of the wounded and 
then, grimly and methodically, must shoot other survivors out 
of the rigging with shaking hands aiming fouled weapons. 

The hurricane chapter in A Footnote to History is so bril- 
liant a piece of reconstruction that every writer treating Samoa 
since has borrowed from it, sometimes with acknowledgment. 
And the literary world suffered a loss when Stevenson decided 
to drop the series of newspaper articles that make up the frag- 
mentary In the South Seas. The Marquesan landfall "touching 
a virginity of sense"; the dark, liquid hush of an atoll by night, 
heightened by the near-by surf; Tembinok of Abemama pac- 
ing toward you in the glare of sun on sand, wearing a woman's 


dress and dark glasses, and carrying a Winchester to keep his 
subjects wholesomely in hand; no receptive reader can forget 
those things. The undue proportion of mottoes and quotations 
from Stevenson in this book is unconscious corroboration of 
the quality of his recording of the South Seas. Often and often 
he has set forth a detail or a pithy generality in terms that defy 
paraphrase. In fact this would be the best single book to give 
anybody who had never heard of the South Seas. Its conten- 
tions are sometimes mistaken, its attitude toward Island cul- 
tures somewhat romanticized; but it achieves an immediacy of 
effect and truth of spirit that are often glumly lacking in the 
work of more professional researchers. 

The typical South Seas book, of course, shows neither care- 
ful statement of fact nor quality of treatment. In all soberness, 
more thousands of words of swill have been written per square 
mile of dry land about the Islands than about any other 
geographical entity, not even excepting the United States of 
America or the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Here the 
late Frederick O'Brien leaps to mind, which is unjust. In- 
accurate, windy, and affected as his three best-sellers were, 
many competitors have excelled him in all those departments. 
It would be appallingly easy to name a dozen far worse. In 
preparation for a job like this one reads them all, so far as the 
weary flesh and uneasy stomach permit. 

The only gauge of relative popularity lies in incidence of 
copies in secondhand bookstores, which I have much fre- 
quented in the last several years looking for specific items as 
well as for previously unheard of works with "Paradise" in 
their titles, for it is two to one such a title concerns the South 
Seas. On the evidence of the fifty-cent trays and the dollar 
shelves, the most popular South Seas items in the last three 
generations have been O'Brien aforesaid, Nordhoif & Hall and, 
for no conceivable reason, a book called A Voyage in the "Sun- 
beam"; Our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months published 
in 1884 by the wife of an English shipping expert named 
Brassey who took his family along on a yachting-cruise that in- 
cluded much of the Pacific. It is not the choice one would 


have preferred. The dry sense of the old voyages, the doughty 
good humor of the formidable ladies like Isabella Bird and 
Miss Gordon-Gumming who explored the Islands in the mid- 
century and wrote of them so tidily well, the expert impres- 
sionism of Stevenson, get a relative snubbing. I cannot account 
at all for the merely mild popularity of Miss Gordon-Cum- 
ming's works in their time. The title of one, A Lady's Cruise in 
a French Man-of-War should have guaranteed reader-interest, 
at least until it became clear that there was a Catholic mission- 
ary bishop along for chaperone. 

In granting awards for silliness in this field, the referee must 
deal with some eminent names. Keyserling contemplated the 
Hawaiians whom he encountered on Waikiki Beach in the 
'twenties and saw counterparts of the ancient Greeks of 
Homeric epic. Rupert Brooke visited the Samoans shortly 
after the snarling Lauati rebellion and saw "the loveliest people 
in the world, moving and dancing like gods and goddesses, 
very quietly and mysteriously, and utterly content/' 9 This is 
more than poetic insight, it is hallucination. But for special 
flavor, people who like literary grotesques who are fond of, 
say, The Sweet Singer of Michiganshould know a work 
written within this generation by a romantic who took the 
wife and kiddies to Tahiti to lead a wild life of nature, there 
encountered a smoldering poet with a frigid wife who insisted 
on wearing stockings and presumably a girdle to hold them 
up and wrote all about it, often to the following magnificent 

The immediate future was portentous with heart-beating 
mystery made sweet with daring hope. Time stood still . . . 
Where would we spend the remaining hours of the night? 
Where would we sleep? [The poet] and his goddess were 
standing with their arms round each other. As I gazed into the 
poet's deep eyes I knew that the question, if not the modus 
operandi, was for him at least solved. We found ourselves 
strolling up a dim strip of road bordered by the ghostly palms, 
singing softly to guitars, arms round supple waists, cheek 

8 Edward Marsh, Rupert BrooJce, 114-15. 


against cheek always the Intoxicating fragrance from the 
tiare wreaths. . . . [The writer's wife] possessed that marvel- 
ous faculty of converting herself, under the spell of the occa- 
sion, into a thousand different types at will. As she had in 
former days been the coy school-girl, the seductive debutante, 
the charming hostess, the haloed young mother, the efficient 
housewife, when romance took a new breath so was she a 
South Sea sweetheart to me now . . . [The poet] and Terai 
walked ahead . . . Then I, with the girl who was all things to 
me clasped close ... Surely this was love in the Golden Age, 
complete, fearing nothing, exacting nothing, giving all. Could 
we whose skin was white bleached in the prison of a pre- 
posterous civilization forget, even if but for a moment, that 
we had made the Fall? Was this hovering close to sin? 

Yes, very probably. 

A minor but irritating literary fraud frequently practiced by 
South Sea writers is their insistence on exotic nomenclature. 
Many Island tongues, particularly Polynesian, are liquid and 
sonorous enough to have roused admiration from experts like 
Brooke and Stevenson, and Polynesian names sound rnarvel- 
ously picturesque in the original. The guileless reader, admir- 
ing the elegant name of Pomare attached to the postwhite 
ruling dynasty of Tahiti, might feel different about it if he 
knew that, if it means anything, Pomare signifies "cough in 
the dark/' For Polynesia had no such notions as ours about 
suitable meaning-content in names. The Polynesian was named 
after casual events at birth, however grotesque, after incidents 
in his personal history; here are some samples out of the 
genealogies in Teuira Henry's redaction of the Rev. Mr. Os- 
mond's account of ancient Tahiti. First the mellifluous Ta- 
hitian, then the literal meaning: 

Pehupehu debris 

Faiau-po'a fill cavity 

Va'a-pau swamped canoe 

Opaipai drifting sidewise 

Te-ari'i-manava-'ure sovereign with red intestines 

'Opu-hara violated stomach 

Hotutu flatulence 


The romantic's shyness of translation is familiar elsewhere; 
otherwise so many parents would not name daughters Marie 
instead of Mary or Jeanne instead of Jane. To the Baedeker- 
toting tourist Trouville would not sound so enticing if it were 
called Holetown. The Polynesianophile occasionally trans- 
lates, usually for a condescendingly jolly effect, to point up the 
childish hilarity of the natives, as when O'Brien wrote down 
his servant as Exploding Eggs, the meaning of his native name. 
But he was not consistent about it and, for all the reader 
knows, the gurgling, rnany-vowelled name of a South Sea 
heroine may mean rotten-fish-in-the-sunshine. 

In the whole field of literary Southseasism, which is tau- 
tology, there is more than meets the eye. Americans are seldom 
aware, for instance, that in subscribing to this cult, they may 
be borrowing anomalous attitudes from their cousins who 
developed them in less favorable climates. Part of western 
man's obsession with this area may well spring from the mere 
contrast between the weather of Tahiti and of northern Eu- 
rope. Significantly, neither Spaniard nor Italian has contributed 
much to the literature of the Islands, though many of both 
nations were among early arrivals. Rather, Englishmen, French- 
men, and, to some extent Germans, identified the Islands with 
Paradise. For there is plenty of sunshine in Spain and Italy, 
whereas farther north the inhabitants go whole seasons with 
a minimum of sunshine, yet without the drama of heavy snows. 
So for centuries the meteorological miracle of a land where one 
is not always slightly shivering without a fire, even in summer, 
where something more than forest will grow spontaneously, 
where fruits develop without coddling, has always appealed 
inordinately to the European mind. There is something 
pathetic about this value which our transatlantic cousins set 
on reaching a sunny place to cook the lifelong chill out of their 
bones, about the thrill they get out of seeing a large item of 
vegetation and realizing that it is no seasonally deciduous oak 
or elm, skeleton half the year, but a palm! a vegetable that by 
definition will not put up with climates unfit for sustaining 
human life. 


Americans might never have developed such ideas spon- 
taneously, without reading about palm-and-pine in European- 
produced books. Anybody who has ever fried in a New York 
or Boston or St. Louis summer has little excuse for gratefully 
wide-eyed wonder about mere sun and warmth. Suppose the 
South Seas had waited to be discovered by a man from coastal 
Georgia, reared on canned pineapple and plentiful oranges, 
among other delicacies common in American life. He might 
well not have come back spouting poetry, since sun is no 
novelty to him and teeming vegetation is largely a pest where 
he comes from, with palms represented by that most depressing 
of ecological phenomena, palmetto-scrub. 

Nevertheless the Island climate is often delightful and, while 
concessions are in order, it should be admitted that the South 
Seas are as good a locus for Paradise as the world offers. Nor, it 
appears, were literary journeymen wrong, though perhaps ill- 
advised, in taking that background as grist for their mills, as 
an invitation to exotic, violent, sentimental, escapist incident. 
The truth is that the best of all South Sea stories is a very 
famous, lurid, and sentimental melodrama. It starts with in- 
stitutionalized brutality, dips into psychopathology, goes 
heavily into sex:, fights a war, proceeds with exploration "and 
colonizing in a Crusoeish vein, declines into lethal violence, 
and finishes on a strong, harmonious chord of simple piety. It 
sounds as if author and publisher had cynically set out to throw 
in all possible traditional elements for all tastes, and particu- 
larly insisted on action and more action in every line of the 

The author was God Almighty, the story that of the 
"Bounty" and her crew. Apparently He realized that He had 
created the perfect setting for fiction and, fearful lest it be too 
much for mere men to handle, determined to write the perfect 
South Sea yarn Himself. Men have picked at rewriting it ever 
since, distorting it, leaving out crucial bits, making William 
Bligh more of a villain and Fletcher Christian more of a hero 
than the Lord's infallible taste had allowed, overplaying the 
idyll and underplaying the vermin of Tahiti. But even in 


redaction, mangled and foreshortened, it is a thundering fine 
tale at whatever point one picks it up. In the original, includ- 
ing the open-boat voyage and the wreck of the vengeful 
"Pandora," performed by unconscious actors with the trade- 
wind in their faces and actual bristling beards on their cheeks, 
it was such a bundle of related tales of action as would have 
served the Greeks for another Homeric cycle. Some write better 
and some write worse, but, when He puts His mind to it, the 
dear God who loveth us writes best of all. 




Their solemn young teacher had not only been working 
like mad to revive his school' after the dislocations of war, he 
had taught his pupils the most American song he could get 
wind of. It was cordially meant, even though the words were 
gibberish to the pupils and they had not the haziest idea who 
the Pilgrims were. Nobody acquainted with the situation in 
the American trusteeship area in Micronesia doubts that Uncle 
Sam is welcome thereabouts. A sociologist trying to explain in 
the Palaus that the States would probably want natives to 
develop toward self-government was met by the alarmed ques- 

"Does that mean the Americans will go away and leave us?" 

But this attitude is also observant and hardheaded. The same 
investigator asked an articulate native what were the differ- 
ences among Germans, Japanese and Americans. His witness 
pointed to the key island of the group: 

''Germans built their town in the middle of that island. 
Japanese built theirs on that end. Now Americans are build- 
ing theirs on the other end. That is the difference." 

A year after the war it looked as if the States would insist 
on retaining control of bases all over the Pacific. American 
interests are conspicuous in the common strategic necessities 
of the English-speaking world, and the States can best afford 
to keep up installations south as well as north of the Line. But 
antipodean suspicion was great and strongly expressed, and 
Congress was toying with economy. So the flag was hauled 
down on all those places and many others, and Uncle Sam re- 
tired to north latitudes American Samoa and Canton Island 
are the only exceptions. Australia, New Zealand or Britain 
may keep the top category of bases more or less in running 
order against eventualities. But where local strategic implica- 
tions are too insignificant or local populations too small or too 
sluggish, the process of disintegration is already well under way. 
Vines bearing fruits like sick cucumbers creep out over the 
landing-strip. Weeds shoot up from the^ gritty coral surface. 
In a few months the distant effect is as if somebody had 
sprayed the white coral with pale-green paint. In a few years 


the very site of the strip will be unidentifiable. The peaked 
canvas roofs of the huts develop holes and the huts themselves 
slump, almost as you look at them. Close observation would 
enable an engineer to draw up a schedule of what element rots 
or rusts first, which corner collapses next. The torn olive-drab 
undershirt still lies in the corner where it was thrown, and 
when a heavy blow upsets the basketball backstops, there is 
nobody there to set them up again. 

Now that American trusteeship over the former Japanese 
mandate Islands has been approved by the United. Nations, it 
is time to reassess the reasons for Uncle Sam's being all over 
the northern half of the Pacific, particularly Micronesia, and 
what, now that he is permanently there, he should do about 
the natives. The pertinent data are already actually or im- 
plicitly in hand. This is like the point in an Ellery Queen 
detective story where the authors say Now, who did it? Most of 
the following applies, in one degree or another, to the essential 
problems of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand in the 
South Seas. 

Why the States are there and insist on staying is already 
clear: strategy. The Japanese made it dangerously plain that, 
in a world of long range war, the western security of the Amer- 
ican continent depends on Americans being in control of 
Micronesia, plus the Aleutians and Alaska. These considera- 
tions involve not only Russia as potential antagonist; in a few 
generations China may be well along in the centralization and 
industrialization of her immense resources. In long range plan- 
ning strategists are not tactful people. To sane persons trans- 
Pacific or trans-Arctic war with atomic weapons would be 
superlatively horrible. But if it should come to pass, the States 
will be better off if they monopolize potential take-off points 
in the North Pacific and off the coast of Asia. 

The simplest way to make sure that nobody else uses a 
potential base is to use or guard it yourself. Yet strategy de- 
mands only a few of the hundreds of sizable islands in Micro- 
nesia. Backed by Hawaii, naval and air bases on Saipan and 


Guam ( Marianas ), Peleliu (Palaus), Eniwetok, Kwajalein and 
Majuro (Marshalls), perhaps Ponape (Carolines), with lis- 
tening posts on a dozen others, would safeguard the whole area. 
Tactical changes resulting from directed missiles may shorten 
that list. From the strictly military point of view, Uncle Sam 
need bother with no other Islands except for routine patrol to 
make sure that no potential enemy moves in. 

Thus to turn such nonessential islands as Babelthuap, Rota, 
Kusaie and Jaluit loose to paddle their own canoes as they did 
before whites came, is a tempting idea. It would feel honest at 
long last. The Islanders never asked to be taken over; we moved 
in on them, not vice versa. Nobody warned their migrating 
ancestors hundreds of years ago that the scraps of land they 
were settling would experience the most destructive war in 
history. It should be possible for us to say to the people of non- 
strategic Islands: 

"Sorry you've been shaken up so roughly. You offer nothing 
that we can't get more cheaply, securely or conveniently else- 
where. It will be expensive and troublesome to look after you; 
besides, our consciences forbid interfering with you any longer 
than necessary. Goodbye, good luck, and don't forget what 
weVe tried to teach you about digging latrines and look who's 
talking loving your neighbor as yourself. You may occasion- 
ally see a plane overhead or a warship on the horizon but that 
will just be us making sure nobody troubles you again." 

Thus put out of bounds, the Islanders could theoretically 
recreate the old self-sufficient ways. Gradually Jcufcui-nuts or 
coconut oil in shell lamps would replace kerosene, the sewing 
machines rust into uselessness, clothing revert to the grass 
skirt, such old arts as weaving and deep-sea fishing revive. 
Church bell and Bible might well remain, but Christianity 
would gradually evolve into something only faintly recogniz- 
able; possibly a faint flavor of sin might still cling for centuries 
round premarital goings-on. 

France could afford thus to turn loose all her Pacific islands 
but New Caledonia, Britain all but Fiji, Australia all but New 
Guinea, New Zealand all. But this is impossible for reasons of 


great variety medical, technical, economic, ethical. A hundred 
and seventy years ago Captain Cook saw it plainly on Tahiti: 

". . . it would have been far better for these poor people never 
to have known our superiority in the accommodations and arts 
that make life comfortable than, after once knowing it, to be 
again left and abandoned to their original incapacity of im- 
provement. Indeed they cannot be restored to that happy 
mediocrity in which they lived before we discovered them, if 
the intercourse between us should be discontinued ... it 
has become, in a manner, incumbent on the Europeans to 
visit them once in three or four years, in order to supply them 
with the conveniences which we have introduced among 
them, and have given them a predilection for ... by the 
time that the iron tools, of which they are now possessed, are 
worn out, they will almost have lost the knowledge of their 
own. A stone hatchet is at present as rare a thing among 
them as an iron one was eight years ago; and a chisel of bone, 
or stone, is not to be seen/' Three Voyages, II, 211. 

Those considerations apply most strikingly to places like 
Guam and Tutuila, where U.S. Navy pay rolls, booming popu- 
lation, and reliance on imported foods have tied local living 
most hazardously to the continued presence of Uncle Sam. 
They are all too real on most of the Micronesian islands. Re- 
adjustment to self-sufficiency would take a hundred years of 
abject poverty and shattering disintegration. Withdrawal of 
western technicians and supplies would let yaws, filariasis and 
gonorrhea run wild, as they did on islands where the by-passed 
Japanese garrisons fell into shortage-harassed confusion. 
Tempting as it is to say, when dealing with the occasional 
native leader who demands premature autonomy for his 
people: "Very well, you take over, we're leaving," the conse- 
quences would so distress men of good will that the notion 
becomes intolerable. Having intruded without justification,, 
the white man is now ethically committed to the consequences 
of meddling. 

So we are saddled with strategic and nonstrategic Islands 
alike. If new weapons so alter world strategy that the North 


Pacific becomes pointless, some such international authority 
as the United Nations might take over. In any case western 
guardianship is inevitable, in our hands as long as we choose to 
keep it there. 

The trusteeship that the United Nations granted us by 
request allows the trustee to close off any islands or parts of 
islands in which security demands secrecy, of which issue the 
trustee is sole judge. That could be used cynically. For decency, 
however, the States as trustee will have to observe and permit 
inspection 1 of the general principles of the trusteeship, which 
stipulates training the natives for self-government or inde- 
pendence, and protecting them. Neither "self-government" 
nor "protection" is defined; both need pondering. 

A protector needs to know from what his ward needs protec- 
tion. In the case of Islanders, from drink, yes; from drugs, yes; 
from internal violence, yes; from disease, yes; but what then? 
Do you protect his culture from stagnation or from Coca-Cola? 

The reader has met this problem before. If he keeps his eye 
on the Pacific Islands he will never lose sight of it again. Con- 
gressional committees, ethnologists, hard-shell liberals and in- 
dignant romantics will still be disputing over it a hundred 
years from now. The extremes are Hawaii, Tahiti and Rennell 
Island, two previously described; but summary is useful here. 

The dispossessed Hawaiian native is merging into a rapidly- 
hybridizing population descended largely from labor imported 
for an intensive agriculture tied abjectly to mainland economy. 
The former cultures of the component peoples Polynesian, 
Asiatic, European are rapidly giving way to the culture of 
democratic procedures, rapid transport, wages and movies. 
That is, Hawaii solved the native problem by extinguishing, 
though not absolutely exterminating, the native. The process 
was shattering, brutal, absent-minded, inexcusable; but is pretty 
well over now and the end product, however painfully manu- 

TTiis right of inspection is one angle in which the United Nations* 
arrangements differ from those of the old League of Nations mandates. 
The trusteeship includes all of Micronesia except Guam and the Gil- 


factured, is healthy and has a recognizable future. It is a more 
intelligible future than that of the Western Samoan, where 
hybridizing was artificially checked when it had produced only 
a dislocated class of peevish half-castes with just enough eco- 
nomic power to enable them to be a maximum of nuisance to 
both natives and the government. 

Still, there are worse examples than Western Samoa. The 
same flood of western ways burst over Tahiti. Whether due to 
lack of intrinsic resources or to lack of French enterprise, 
Tahiti did not develop an economy high powered enough to 
raise standards of living and smother the native under masses 
of imported coolies. Though heavily hybridized, the native is 
still far more of a Tahitian than anything else, combining the 
worse features of his own with those of white cultures. Modern 
Tahiti is best defined as Tobacco Road with palms. 

The native is plagued by syphilis, tuberculosis, and prob- 
ably other diseases for which he has not been thoroughly 
checked. The remains of Polynesian communalized tradition 
keep him, in white terms, promiscuous and shiftless. He hates 
the several thousand Chinese relics of sugar and cotton 
schemes, who bleed him unmercifully and refuse effectively to 
mingle with him. He dully mistrusts his French guardians, 
whose attempts to align him with the west by giving him full 
French civil rights resulted only in making it legally impossible 
for special regulations to protect him. His missionaries regard 
him as congenitally incapable of self-control or any other virtue 
but a supine friendliness. His numbers are growing rapidly, 
but he has no future, and escapes from that dismal fact only 
through cheap red wine or through vague hopes that "inde- 
pendence" or maybe the Americans might improve matters. 
The first of the Isles of Paradise certainly got the messiest of it. 

Such disintegration makes Rennell sound very good indeed. 
This is one of the half-dozen bits of land off Melanesia in- 
habited by strayed Polynesians who, because whites have 
bothered them relatively little, still retain many of their old 
ways. Trader and missionary had touched them only slightly 
when the British determined to throw a literal cordon sanitaire 


round them, keep away all except an absolute minimum of 
inspection and medical help, and so prevent the epidemics 
that swept these places every time a ship sent a boat ashore. 
Until some sentimentalist or wider realist alters this policy, 
there the Rennellese will stay peacefully vegetating, allowed 
only an absolute minimum of white man's goods. Nobody will 
think about them but the High Commissioner of the Western 
Pacific, the ethnologist pining to study them but sadly aware of 
the reasons for refusing him permission, and the militant mis- 
sionary from the lunatic fringe who demands the privilege of 
landing to save souls even if it kills bodies. The difficulty is that 
the native, not impressed by epidemiology but well impressed 
by white man's ways, aware that there is a more complicated 
world outside, resents being put away in cotton wool. 

This reaction to protection is understandable. The presence 
of Americans and American things in Western Samoa during 
the war is said eventually to have stimulated some natives to 
cling more firmly than ever to fa'aSamoa. But even the self- 
centered Samoan would be justified in bitter protest though 
probably for the wrong reasonsif New Zealand evacuated the 
few hundred whites on his islands and installed such a cordon 

In general the western world's moral obligation in the Is- 
lands is to effect a salutary compromise between insulation and 
flooding. The white man's crime in the Pacific and elsewhere 
was not that he brought new things, but that he brought them 
in indigestible masses. Assimilation of western ways must be 
positive but gradual, like immunizing a man to a poison by 
cunningly graduated and spaced dosage. Medicine, education, 
agricultural reform, economics that encourages self-sufficiency 
but leaves scope for gradually increasing a stable income from 
exports all these must be co-ordinated under a central planner 
with the cunning and wisdom of a benevolent serpent. 

Differences among Islands make over-all formulae absurd. 
The Palau man may need slowing down in his eagerness after 
our ideas, the Yap man, only a few hundred miles away, may 
have to be persuaded out of his present insistence that what- 


ever he does and always did is right. From any reasonable point 
of view the assignment is impossible, even if the planner- 
administrator in charge has completely arbitrary powers and 
the good manners not to use them openly. But impossible or 
not, it has to be done. And it has to be done with the adminis- 
trator aware, as an intelligent man must be, that his every suc- 
cess brings nearer the insoluble problem of overpopulation. 

Nor is it likely that he will have the powers indicated to the 
degree advisable. The United Nations have plumped for ''self- 
government/' Colony as well as trusteeship Islands have al- 
ready experimented in that direction for generations, in an 
unmistakable trend toward greater participation by natives in 
determining policy and procedure. The previously described 
examples of Samoa and Tonga are most pertinent. The issue 
of what kind of self-government immediately becomes acute. 

Local traditions in these islands spell chieftain-personalism 
which, as we saw long ago, is undemocratic. The white guard- 
ian is inclined to install democracy in its full panoply of ma- 
jority elections, secret ballot, guaranteed personal liberties, 
equality before the law, trial by jury, and so forth. The Amer- 
ican sets value on such machinery because it is indissolubly 
connected with the growth of the democratic habit of mind. 
He naturally regards such things as probably good for anybody 
anywhere. Besides, it would look very queer for the States to 
insist on democratic procedures at home while permitting Is- 
landers, for whose welfare they are responsible, the nonequali- 
tarian, arbitrary features of the old local system. Having moved 
in on these bright and able brown people in our own selfish 
interests, we should be denying them rights on which we count 
ourselves a policy that would be most difficult to justify on 
Capitol Hill. 

Nevertheless government by chieftain-personalism works 
among those accustomed to it. A high ranking Navy officer 
governing a large chunk of Micronesia recently told me: 

"The natives run their own show so well that I feel justified 
only in supervising health and interisland relations. I have 
every respect for their political know-how." 


From some such feelings there has developed what is tech- 
nically known as "indirect government"; the guardian power 
acts as top advisor and controller of policy, but leaves local 
administration as much as possible to natives working within 
their own institutions. The British have made the widest use 
of this idea, often with considerable success, as in Fiji and the 
Gilberts. But there are hazards. The chief backed by white 
power may become something that looks too much like a 
racketeer in white eyes; government may have to upset the 
traditional mechanism of chief selection if the man selected 
proves un-co-operative; interloping whites may use govern- 
ment to exploit the natives. But intelligent and impartial 
administration can juggle such matters effectively, if the inter- 
ests of the natives remain the prime objective of everything 
done. John Collier has described the process well: 

". , . a method and ideal of developing a native society from 
within, through cautious, specific, and preferably inconspicu- 
ous redirections of aim and engraftments of technology/' 
Indians at Wort, Jan.-Feb., 1944, 2. 

Such modified Rennellism, encouraging the native to work 
out his own adjustment while protecting him from too great 
masses of new things to digest or undue pressure from ex- 
ploitation-minded whites, is intellectually quite defensible,, 
even though it does not directly encourage democracy. For in 
this case it may not be ethically sound to do unto others as you 
would have others do unto you. No judicious angel ever deter- 
mined, as God's referee, that the western equalitarian-liberal- 
democratic-bill-of-rights scheme of things is superior to all 
others everywhere. It may be so for all that, but the thing is not 
demonstrable, it can merely be felt; the Yap man feels the same 
way about his fantastically stratified society. It takes something; 
approaching the fanaticism of Jesuit or Communist to justify 
forcing western traditions on Yap, however good the forcer's 
intentions. Besides, massive grafting entails grave risk. The 
shock to the local social system may wither the old order with- 
out leaving enough social vitality to develop the new. Forced 


democracy did well in Hawaii, but in Tahiti it resulted in a 
social and political degeneration pitiful to see. 

The worst of the western world's assignment is that the men 
in charge must play God without being qualified for the role. 
Western parents have always had that difficulty, without solv- 
ing it yet. In loco parentis in the Pacific our deputies must de- 
cide which western ways will assimilate without too much 
shock, and fend off all other factors, often in the teeth of native 
desire for them. The American's motives in Micronesia will be 
disinterested enough, for economically the Islands are liabili- 
ties. 2 But if Uncle Sam finds anybody capable of really resolv- 
ing the implied difficulties and carrying out measures to 
correspond, he had better make him President over 140,000,000 
people who need such genius quite as badly as a mere 80,000 
appealing brown strangers thousands of miles away. 

Modified Rennellism was the policy of the U.S. Navy in its 
prewar guardianship over Guam and American Samoa. "Why 
the hell should we teach them to like soda pop?" an admiral- 
governor once asked me; I can still think of no good reason. 
Particularly in Samoa, Navy desire for a quiet life and Navy 
officers' liking for the Samoans combined to develop a regime 
for which trained observers often had kind, if qualified, 
words. Outsiders with new projects for stores or plantations 
were sternly kept out; adequate cash income for natives came 
from odd jobs for the Navy, and from copra and souvenir 
handicrafts manufactured under Navy encouragement and 
marketed through the Navy as agent. Local government oper- 
ated through chiefs and villages and an advisory council of 
perfunctorily elected chiefs. Being modified by an incurious 
spirit of leave-well-enough-alone, this benevolent dictatorship 

2 The United States Commercial Company, the R.F.C. subsidiary that 
has handled economic readjustment in the Islands for the U.S. Navy, 
recently reported immense deposits of bauxite, which the Japanese are 
known to have worked, in the Palaus. But even if the stuff proves 
economically practical under present methods of extraction, it is a 
much longer haul from Babelthuap to San Francisco than from Dutch 
Guiana to New Orleans; and the States are full of low-grade aluminum 
ores that may become technologically workable any day. 


somewhat distorted, but did not destroy, prewhite traditions. 
It seems to have been quite possible for Navy four-stripers who 
took a personal fancy to the Samoans to be reasonably harm- 
less governors of American Samoa without ever learning very 
much about what actually went on behind the fagade of neat 
villages and Icava-ceremonies. 

Education was in English of a sort ? and no more effective 
than most Island collaborations of government and mission 
schools. But the Navy also co-operated willingly when private 
benevolence offered to set up a special school to train boys of 
high rank in advanced subjects, while bolstering their knowl- 
edge of Samoan language and traditions. Navy medical service, 
using personnel and resources such as few other Island govern- 
ments can afford, has done on Samoa what looks like the best 
job in the Pacific. There were obvious flaws: Navy personnel 
on the miniature base begot too many half-white babies, 
officers assigned to government had no special training, the 
normal tour of duty was only eighteen months which meant 
that by the time a man had the hang of handling Samoans, he 
was relieved by a raw novice. 3 But this was certainly the best 
government that these eastern islands had had since La 
Perouse discovered them. It was very good indeed for a job lot 
of men trained, not to govern, but to fight ships and manipu- 
late red tape. 

And small thanks the Navy got for it. True, that was partly 
its own stubbornness. Under Navy pressure, Congress for forty 
years neglected to define the legal status of Samoa and the 
Samoans^ which kept the Navy in charge on the temporary 
basis set up in 1900. But it also led to sporadic American pro- 
tests against irregular dictatorship in Samoa. In the 'twenties 
the Navy's Samoans tried to cook up a Mau in association with 
their cousins across the strait. They produced no such impres- 

8 A retired Navy officer of my acquaintance who served in prewar 
Samoan government objects to this. He says that a longer tour in so un~ 
stimulating an environment which Pago Pago certainly is would 
have encouraged routine droopiness. Within the last year, however, 
the Navy has pretty well committed itself to much longer tours of duty. 


sive results, for American Samoa is a political backwater in 
Samoan terms, but caused enough unrest to whistle up a Con- 
gressional investigation. It reported a favorable opinion of the 
net results of Navy dictatorship, but after listening to numer- 
ous Samoan witnesses, plumped for giving Samoans American 
citizenship and civilian, not uniformed, government. 

The Navy got action on that delayed right up to Pearl 
Harbor. It is still a mystery why these admirals and four- 
stripers insist on the extra trouble of governing when it would 
be so practical to put barbed wire round the Navy reservation 
at Pago and let civilians from Washington worry about the 
copra crop and the impaired dignity of Chief Lavalava. During 
the recent war, however, the Department of the Interior began 
to yearn for the job of managing Pacific islands, and made the 
Navy target of a great deal of bureaucratic Billingsgate. Harold 
L. Ickes, carrying the ball for this cause after his resignation, 
did his best in speeches and newspaper columns to make Samoa 
and Guam under Navy care sound like New Orleans in Ben 
Butler's time. After a lightning trip through the Islands under 
the auspices of the Interior last year, Congressman Poulson of 
California told the Los Angeles Daily News that Navy pro- 
ceedings out there "would put Tito and Stalin to shame." Such 
hysterical misrepresentation naturally stirred up an interde- 
partmental bitterness that badly slowed up and confused the 
genuine issues in the problem of what to do with the Amer- 
ican-controlled Islands as permanent wards of Uncle Sam. 

The Navy's one comfort might be that, if they had thrown 
American Samoa open to planters and traders and forced 
democratic procedures down the Samoans* flattered but un- 
ready throats, they would have been berated with equal bitter- 
ness by nativophiles. In this game you can't win. Now under 
the influence of zealous outsiders, American Samoan chiefs are 
asking for a legislature with real lawmaking powers. 

Guam also became a thorn in the flesh, though more intel- 
ligibly. The highly hybridized Guanianian was a quick-smiling, 
alert, already markedly westernized person very proud of his 
picturesque old capital city of Agana, which was about the size 


and general quality of Nicaragua's Managua. He was abandon- 
ing Spanish and taking fluently to English, sticking to a devout 
if somewhat puritanical Catholicism, accepting American 
trained, instead of his former Spanish trained, priests, and was 
healthily unable to see why he should study the Constitution 
of the United States in school without getting any of its bene- 
fits. Local mercantile business was largely in local, if monop- 
olistic, hands. Guamanian boys saw prestige in enlisting as 
messmen in the Navy, even if it hurt a little that they could not 
enlist as regular sailors. Guamanian craftsmen and laborers 
took Navy jobs and did well at them, even though it was an- 
noying to be paid less than white civilians for the same work. 
Andmost significant sign of westernization- Guamanians 
were thrifty and foresighted, saving respectable sums in the 
Navy-run Bank of Guam. 

When Japan struck, Guam was brilliant. Collaboration with 
the conquerors was close to nil. Guamanians took to the bush 
and so ably harassed the Japs that, by the time American 
forces reappeared in 1944, the south end of the island was 
about as much in Guamanian as Japanese control. The first 
seen of the inhabitants was a dugout canoe paddling madly cut 
to meet the invading fleet far at sea, its crew beseeching the 
Navy not to shell southern Guam because there were so few 
Japs left in places worth shelling. Farther up the island how- 
ever, Agana, metropolitan pride of their hearts, and Agat, sec- 
ond in size, were blown into such powdery rubble by the 
American attack that a year later you had to look hard to find 
where they had been. Without grumbling the Guamanians 
moved into temporary villages built native-style, trusted Uncle 
Sam to put their island back together when he could get around 
to it, and went hard to work for the American forces as labor- 
ers and craftsmen. Their index of loyalty to the flag under 
which they had lived for little more than forty years was, in 
other words, as high as that of any Americans. 

Now, according to his leaders, the Guamanian wants Amer- 
ican citizenship and a large hand in governing himself. He does 
not make the Ickes sort of mistake by slandering the Navy who 


benevolently despotized him so long. By and large, a level- 
headed and intelligent Guamanian lady leader told me, there 
were more good governors than bad ones. The Guamanian ap- 
preciated the Navy's letting down the bars on enlistments dur- 
ing the war and its promised efforts to make the Guam 
Congress, the elected advisory council, count in local affairs. 
The first postwar election for the Congress saw hot contests, 
women voting for the first time, and a general impression 
among observers that Guam had a good start on learning demo- 
cratic processes. Significantly the Guamanian has long resented 
the terms "American" and "Chamorro," insisting on "State- 
sider" and "Guamanian/' He often can feel like an American, 
Heaven knows he has shown he can sometimes act like an 
Americanand there is no good reason why he should not be 
made one formally, as legislation now current in Congress con- 
templates. It feels right to anybody who, as I have done, has 
sat on the porch of a Guamanian's house on Sunday afternoon 
drinking lemonade with the old folks while inside in the parlor 
the daughter of the family is playing and singing Hit Parade 
tunes on the piano with two callow gobs from Ottumwa, 
Iowa. These identifications are merely relative, of course; 
Guam is not Iowa and never will be; but it stands a very good 
chance indeed of acting sufficiently like Iowa in politics and 
social organization^, 

The example of Guam is dangerous, however. American 
Congressmen and their constituents, editorial writers who 
never saw the place, thinking of Pacific islands in the lump, 
may want to fit Guam, Samoa, and some lost Micronesian 
atoll like Kapingainarangi on the same last. Obviously it can- 
not be done, and to try will do a great deal of unnecessary 
damage. The other danger is that Islanders other than Guam- 
anians, observing the new status probably to be accorded 
Guam and picking up catchwords from well-meaning Amer- 
icans, will demand privileges and rights for which they are not 
yet prepared. Both Western and American Samoans are al- 
ready doing something like that. 

Nevertheless Guam, as a rapidly westernizing enclave of 


democratic procedures and values, will probably play a crucial 
role in the American-controlled parts of the Pacific. It is to be 
the developing center of education for natives picked from all 
over the trusteeship and Samoa. The brightest youngsters are 
to go there for training in teaching, government, medicine, 
nursing, agriculture, mechanics, then back into the islands 
again to carry out what they have learned under occasional in- 
spection. This will happen whether Navy, Interior or -as Con- 
gressional Delegate Farrington sensibly suggests a third new 
agency directly under the President, is in charge. The western- 
izing culture of Guam may cling to the student just enough to 
affect the people of his own island to an assimilable and stimu- 
lating, but not shattering, degree. Though he is certain to take 
back with him destructive as well as constructive feelings and 
ideas, the net differential might well be good and digestible. 
Provided, of course and these pessimistic qualifications must 
be made his instructors are imaginative and intelligent gentle- 
men and the top level planning is of superlative quality. 

Americans have some admirable, some most inconvenient 
qualities for Island government. In contact with natives for a 
reasonable time, our countrymen usually like them and try to 
do right by them. But flexibility of mind toward unexpected 
native quirks is not our strong point. Even a well-briefed 
American put in charge of a Micronesian island with orders to 
modify the old system as little as is consistent with healthto 
protect it, in fact, as the likeliest long range bridge to some- 
thing else will have to fight his equalitarian instincts day and 
night. Well-meaningness is no insurance against getting off on 
the wrong foot through inevitable ignorance of Island ways. 
One naval government officer has a dismaying list of instances: 
Being annoyed when the native doesn't laugh at one's joke, 
whereas it is impolite thereabouts to laugh in presence of a 
superior; impatience with the family of a murderer who, fol- 
lowing local ideas of bloodguilt, demand to be executed too; 
resentment of lack of thanks for presents, and so forth. 

I have seen an incoming Naval governor instruct native 
chiefs who were to make him welcoming speeches to cut their 


remarks down to three minutes apiece, as lie himself intended 
to do. He was a nice fellow and probably able, but he did not 
know that in this particular island to stipulate short speeches 
was about as rude as to tell an old style Quaker meeting to stop 
all this nonsense of just sitting there and not saying anything. 
And race prejudice is understandably hard for many Amer- 
icans to eliminate from their emotional habits, no matter how 
emancipated they may consider themselves. Still, that is no 
special reproach in the Pacific, for few Polynesians are tolerant 
of non-Polynesians. The Samoan, for instance, calls the Fijian, 
his superior in numerous details, by a Samoan word meaning 
"black thing"; the Palau man distrusts the Guamanian as a 
commercial-minded city slicker, and many a Maori is irritated 
if Cook Islanders are referred to as his close relatives. 

For a while, too, Americans in charge of Micronesian islands 
will be handicapped by the belief that they cannot help doing 
better than their Japanese or German predecessors. Actually in 
certain respects they will do well to match them. Both spent 
money and energy wisely in education and health. Though 
both arbitrarily imposed alien law and ran the islands primarily 
in German or Japanese economic interests, both had the 
realistic intelligence to confine interference to specific pur- 
poses, using forced labor to build roads and ports but paying 
for it, developing outlets for Island products that, for special 
economic reasons, the States can never match. Americans tak- 
ing over in the wake of Japan on former mandate islands had 
the impression that on the whole the natives had not been ill 
treated until, toward the close of the fighting, brutality and 
hysterical violence broke out among the starved and rock-happy 
Japanese. The most lurid instances of massacre and savagery 
toward natives occurred in islands that the Japanese took over 
from enemy powers, such as the Gilberts and Ocean Island 

The Japanese in particular were set on making the Pacific 
count as far as they could reach. Their reach was long, their 
hands prehensile. By 1940 they were working New Caledonian 
iron ore, as the French had never done. They so monopolized 


retail trade in Tonga that local whites talk nostalgically of long- 
vanished bargains in Japanese stores; they fished and charted 
every reef in the Western Pacific, turned the timber, phos- 
phates and bauxite of the Palaus to account, and made a Pearl 
Harbor of the group's central islands. They ran efficient sugar 
and sweet potato plantations on Tinian and Saipan (Mari- 
anas). From a less nationalistic point of view, much of such 
activity was destructive. But at least the Japanese were taking 
the islands seriously, with impressive procedures and equip- 
ment which the native observed with his dark, gentle, and 
sometimes thoughtful, eyes. It , would be very healthy for 
American officials in the postwar Pacific occasionally to hear 
natives mention with a sigh the good old days when the Japa- 
nese were in charge. 

Though the native usually reverted to his prewar ways more 
quickly and with less perceptible damage than anybody ex- 
pected, to discuss his current situation means constant refer- 
ences to the recent war in his back yard. In cases where he did 
some fighting, the consequences are unmistakable. The Fijian 
or Maori officer who led his men as efficiently as his white 
brother-officers is in very little danger of accepting misguided 
assurances from white men that he is a fine fellow but needs 
leading strings as badly as ever. The anciens combattants from 
Free France's Pacific Battalion, which did very well in North 
Africa, are now back in Tahiti and New Caledonia with vague 
but unquestionably dynamic impulses to improve their stand- 
ing in the white man's world. Tahitian veterans recently dis- 
tinguished themselves by so vigorous a mass protest against a 
government official's using badly needed foreign exchange to 
return to France via the States, that the whole trip was put off 
until it could be made on one of the catch-as-catch-can French 
ships that occasionally trickle in. Here and there, advancing on 
an unhappily irregular front, the Islander, whether veteran or 
not, keeps demonstrating that he can play white men's games, 
each instance re-enforcing his impulses toward autonomy and 
equal standing. 

So far Americans have not distinguished themselves in their 


new responsibilities. The rebuilding of Agana, most obvious 
symbol of good intentions, had hardly begun a year after hos- 
tilities closed. Restoration of cash purchases outside Guam 
and Samoa was slowed up by uncertainty as to who was to be 
permanently in charge, by the Navy's lack of shipping and per- 
sonnel fruit of American insistence on rapid demobilization 
and by such legalisms as high duties on Marshall Islands 
handicrafts because the Marshalls were still technically enemy 
territory. The excuses are not all unacceptable but the results 
have not looked good to the Islander, who knows nothing of 
interdepartmental feuds in Washington and the needs of Con- 
gressmen with constituents to please. We must accept having 
made a bad, sloppy start on a job that already had obstacles 

Even if we do the job brilliantly from now on, the end 
product will not be very inspiring. It will consist at best of a 
series of somewhat healthier, somewhat better run Tongas, 
sleepy, not worth first-class communications, hampering to 
potentially intelligent natives yet to be born, intensely paro- 
chial, haunted by the impending dangers of overpopulation. 
But it will feel better to the western intruder, because it will 
absolve him of his present liability to guilt feelings consequent 
on the you-made-us-what-we-are-today complex now so evident 
in native thinking. 

At least the States are joining in international efforts to co- 
operate in making sense out of the Islands. But an astute 
Frenchman told me that the one thing he learned at the 1947 
Canberra conference on South Pacific problems was that 
widely effective measures are impossible in the Islands so long 
as responsible nations maintain separate policies. Others con- 
sider that the vast differences in relative development between, 
say, the New Hebrides and Tonga, make fusions of policy as 
among co-operating nations difficult if not impossible. Both 
are right. Such phenomena as the Canberra conference are 
mere uneasy gestures in a direction that nobody yet feels will- 
ing properly to explore toward an international guardianship, 
acting in its own behalf without deputization, over all islands 


and parts of islands not actually required for national military 

The advantages are patent. Such an agency in full charge, 
with a central executive and secretariat, would know just as 
much about the Marquesas as about the Solomons and would 
no longer, as international conferences must, have to behave 
like the blind men discussing the elephant. It could vary pre- 
scriptions to suit ailments out of an accumulating fund of 
clinical data and experience, and rotate trained personnel to 
arrive at a maximum of stimulus with a minimum of waste 
motion. As a world colonial service, it could serve in some 
small measure as the sort of integrating factor that the North- 
west Territory was for the nascent United States. And, for a 
minor beauty, it would finally dispel the native's chronic sus- 
picion, persisted in in the teeth of economic facts, that white 
governments insist on staying because they are making a good 
thing out of the Islands. 4 So long as the United Nations depu- 
tizes trusteeships to individual powers, so long will the native, 
unable to grasp the larger issues involved, assume that he is 
somehow being exploited for others' benefit. 

Whether the United Nations or the nations subscribing to 
the Canberra conference or any other international organiza- 
tion can attain sufficient prestige and solidity to assume any 
such responsibility is something nobody knows. If such a thing 
should occur, benefits for the Islands will be only a micro- 
scopic fraction of the good results for a troubled world in gen- 
eral. But it would be an extremely good thing for the puzzled 
brown people in question. And since this sort of book is sup- 
posed to end on a constructive note there is the goal, if you 
, think the Islands' problems are at all soluble. 

*This was soberly insisted on in the case of Western Samoa by Quentin 
Pope in despatches sent to the Chicago Tribune from Apia in 1946; 
it appeared that, through the Crown Estates, New Zealand was grind- 
ing the faces of the Samoans to balance the Dominion budget. Actually 
New Zealand grants-in-aid to Samoa over the years have probably 
amounted to much more than all government profits from the Estates; 
and revenues from the Estates are now to be formally earmarked for 
improvement of roads, schools and medical services in Samoa. 




I have often wished that I could be introduced 
for a moment within a heathen's soul and see how 
he thinks and feels. I have no doubt that I should 
be greatly surprised. 

The Rev. Sheldon Dibble 
History of the Sandwich Islands, 230 

If you don't like the human race, why don't you 
go back where you came from? 

Robert Cruise McManus 


ture, Mr. Francis Hackett had testily suggested that it was high 
time somebody anthropologized anthropologists. Such a proj- 
ect is not to be "entered into lightly or inadvisedly," for it can 
be properly carried out only by a nonanthropologist who, by 
definition, is not professionally qualified for the job. Here goes 

As governments and publics develop consciences about west- 
ern man's treatment of nonwestern peoples a trend which 
reached decent proportions only recently they have come to 
rely ever more strongly on the ethnological branch of an- 
thropology to train specialists to handle such peoples. The 
British Colonial Office, the Australian administrations in 
Melanesia, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, are now com- 
mitted to briefings in that field for at least some of their of- 
ficials. In commendable if tardy imitation, the U.S. Navy 
inaugurated in 1945 short courses in ethnology and related 
subjects for young officers destined for Island government. 
Better-established Christian missions encourage such studies 
among their recruits. 

Such civilian, military or religious custodians of native inter- 
ests do not turn into scientists in consequence. But at worst 



they are stimulatingly exposed to more catholic and relatively 
more scientific points of view than they might develop on their 
own, and at best they get detailed information on the idiosyn- 
crasies of the areas where they are to work. Brass hats, parsons, 
and politicians who decide thus to seek help from science, may 
not know too intimately just what ethnology can and cannot 
impart. But they are justified in their confidence that the 
ethnologist knows more than the layman about the terms in 
which native problems must be dealt with. 

Thus to enlist the expert should absolve western societies of 
further responsibility, as it would if, finding a sick man in the 
road, you rushed him to the nearest hospital for expert care. 
But the case is not so simple. As yet ethnology is largely a 
descriptive science, more li