(Abridged from the Sydney Morning Herald.)
At Sea, 20th December, 1846. Gentlemen.-
As many of our readers are interested in the welfare of the Pacific Isles, we beg to offer you a short sketch of those we have recently visited. Tahiti is still in an unsettled state, the French are busy fortifying themselves, whilst the natives abide at their encampments, occasionally sallying out upon foraging parties who go to plunder their plantations.
H. M. S. Grampus had just returned from a visit to Raiatea and the other islands of the Society group ; the motive and result of her visit had not transpired. The settlement at the Island of Huahine is rendered completely desolate, and the principal body of the natives, warned by experience of their danger in living at a place exposed to the fire of vessels of war, continue at their encampment on the N.E. end or the island.
By late intelligence from France it appears that Governor Bruat is recalled, and Commodore Lavaud, (late Governor at Akeros, the French settlement on the middle island of New Zealand), is to succeed him ; his arrival is expected in three or four months. Mr. Pritchard is still at the island of Upolu, but from all we can learn Captain Onslow of the Daphne is highly to be censured for the way in which he installed him H.B.M.'s Consul for the Navigator Islands ; such an utter want of all ceremony or even common respect as evinced on the part of Captain Onslow, has authorized the natives and others to treat Mr. Pritchard with slight and indignity.
No less than four schooners belonging to British subjects have been run away with, by the masters of them, since the French occupation of Tahiti ; and we cannot help conceiving that if the expense of a frigate is considered too great to watch British interests amongst the Pacific Islands, one or two war schooners might be advantageously employed in visiting the various islands, and would certainly serve as a check against the roguery of dishonest men, and restrain the fearful excesses committed by escaped convicts and runaway seamen, who incite the natives to all sorts of atrocities to cover their own villainous designs. You can scarcely visit an island now without falling in with two or three abandoned characters, either escaped convicts or deserters from ships, and they are generally speaking at the bottom of all schemes for plundering vessels, and the enticing away of seamen : for they encourage desertion in others that they may despoil them, and then receive the reward for their apprehension. If dependence could be placed on the periodical visits of a vessel of war, or if it was known that the presence of one might be expected, these evils would in a great measure cease to exist, and independent of ridding the seas of these pests, a schooner or two employed as above hinted at, might prove otherwise of inestimable advantage to navigation : for of the hundreds of islands and reefs scattered about the Pacific, there is scarcely one that is accurately laid down, and the loss of property by shipping is in proportion to the inaccuracy assigned to their position ; our whalers and merchantmen are continually being picked up by some " reef " or " island hereabouts ;" and whilst a schooner would be furthering the ends of commerce by opening friendly communication with the natives of various groups, and providing for the safety of their countrymen in the case of wreck, &c., she could at the same time determine the trite position of all islands and reefs, she might fall in with. Many of the islands in the Pacific, such as Rotumah, Ascension Island, Christmas Island, Pleasant Island, &c., &c., &c., which are visited for refreshments by whalers and vessels bound from Australia to China, are tenanted by a race remarkable for their kindness and mildness of manners ; but they have latterly become partially subject to the influence obtained over them by the ruffians that have escaped from various ships, who carry on the most lawless and reckless proceedings, and render it unsafe for a vessel, unless well-manned and armed, to approach them.
We were told by a gentleman at the Navigator's, that when H.M.S. North Star was there a British subject applied to Sir Everard Home for redress - he had commenced building a vessel at the Island of Vavau, and had completed her frame, when a disturbance took place between two native functionaries, and the one having compelled the other to retreat, the victorious party wantonly burned the Englishman's vessel to the ground - he claimed one hundred pigs as the value of the material and labour he had lost. Sir E. Home addressed a letter to the chiefs on the subject and shortly after the departure of the North Star it was conveyed to them. A meeting was convened, and the letter explained. One young chief stepped forward, and boldly refused to make any reparation, but an older chief of the assembly said that his house had cost him a great deal of property, and he would not like to lose it, said he was willing to pay his share of the penalty demanded ; but the younger chief obstinately refused to pay any proportion. We are informed, that subsequently the old chief paid fifty pigs, but we did not learn if the balance had been paid by the younger one. This ought to be enquired into when any vessel of war visits the Navigators, as if the young chief is allowed to escape with impunity, the threats of an English man-of-war will be looked upon as idle gasconade, and the natives will consider themselves as fully privileged to plunder an Englishman at pleasure. 23 Jan 1847.
SG & SGTL ; Vol 4 ; Page 27
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