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station in the group, but found the people such savage cannibals, that the position was untenable, and they were forced to abandon it. From that time forward we have only an occasional record of some American man-of-war having touched there, invariably confirming Cook's account of the beauty of the people and of the isles.
In 1837 the French sent out an exploring expedition commanded by D'Urville, whose somewhat remarkable official orders were, "d 'apprivoiser les homines, et de rendre les femmes un peu plus sauvages!"
The result of his report was, that the French decided on establishing themselves in the Marquesas, the Society, and the Paumotu Isles. Accordingly, in 1842, an expedition sailed from Brest to effect this purpose, its destination being a secret known only to its commander. The Marquesas were selected as the best centre of operations. A squadron of four heavy frigates and three corvettes, commanded by Pear-Admiral Du Petit Thouars, accordingly astonished the natives by suddenly appearing in the lovely harbour of Taiohae, on the island of Nukuheva; and very soon these simple folk learned the full meaning of the gay tricoloured flags and bristling broadsides.
The ostensible pretext for this invasion was that of reinstating Mowanna, the friendly chief of Nukuheva, in what the French thought proper to assume as his ancestral right—namely, that of ruling over the whole group of twelve isles, each of which had hitherto considered itself as a distinct world, subdivided into many antagonistic kingdoms. However, a puppet-king was the pretext required, and Mowanna furnished it, and was rewarded with regal honours and a gorgeous military uniform, rich with gold lace and embroidery.
Of course he and his tribe of Nukuhevans were vastly delighted, perceiving that they had gained omnipotent allies; and when five hundred troops were landed in full uniform, and daily drilled by resplendent officers, their admiration knew no bounds. They recollected how, when in 1814, the U.S. frigate Essex, commanded by Captain Porter, had refitted at Nukuheva, she had lent them a
considerable force of sailors and marines, to assist their own body of 2000 men in attacking a neighbouring tribe. The latter had offered a desperate resistance, and repulsed the allied forces, who, however, consoled themselves by burning every village they could reach, thus giving the inhabitants good cause to hate the white men's ships.
Now, with the aid of these warlike French troops, the Xukuhevans thought themselves sure of victory, with the prospect of retaining the supremacy. But when fortifications were commenced, and the troops surrounded their camps with solid works of defence, making it evident that the occupation was to be a permanent one, a feeling of detestation, mingled with fear of the invaders, gradually increased, and was certainly not lessened by several sharp encounters, in one of which, 150 natives are said to have been slain. However, the reign of might prevailed, and the tricolour has floated over the Marquesas unchallenged from that time to the present.
This appropriation of the Marquesas was immediately followed by that of the Society Isles, whither tha admiral proceeded in the Reine Blanche frigate, leaving the rest of the squadron at the Marquesas. lie anchored in the harbour of Papeete, and sent a message to Queen Pomare to the effect that, unless she immediately agreed to pay somewhere about 30,000 dollars as an indemnity for alleged insults to the French flag, he would bombard the defenceless town.
The said insults were very much like those offered by the lamb to the wolf in the old fable, the pretext raked up being simply that Queen Pomare and all her people, having already become Btanch Christians, according to the teaching of the London Mission, had positively refused to allow certain French priests to settle in the isles, and found a Roman Catholic Mission, with a view to proselytising. These proving obstinate in their determination to remain, had, with all due honour, been conveyed on board a vessel about to sail for some distant port, with a sensible recommendation to pursue their calling on some of the many isles which were still heathen.
The French admiral now insisted that, in addition to paying the indemnity demanded, the people of Tahiti should, at their own expense, erect a Roman Catholic church in every district where they had built one for their congregational worship.
The unhappy queen, terrified lest the arrogant Du Petit Thouars should commence bombarding her helpless capital, yet utterly incapable of complying with his unjust demands, fled by night in a canoe to the isle of Moorea, knowing that no decisive action could be taken in her absence. Her best friend and adviser throughout these troubles was the British consul, Mr Pritchard. The admiral, perceiving this, caused him to be arrested and imprisoned. After being kept for ten days in solitary confinement, he was put on board an English vessel out at sea, and forcibly sent away from the islands without a trial or investigation of any kind.
On his arrival in England the British Government naturally demanded an explanation of such proceedings. M. Guizot replied that the French authorities at Tahiti found they could make no progress there because of Mr Pritchard's great influence with the queen—in other words, his determination, if possible, to see fair play. The French Government, therefore, approved the action of its officials, but promised to indemnify Mr Pritchard for what they themselves described as his illegal imprisonment and pecuniary losses. We have, however, Mr Pritchard's own authority for the fact that, in the year 1880, he had never received one single sou of the promised indemnity; and England apparently considered it the part of wisdom, if not of honour, to let the subject drop.
So the French pirates (for certainly in all this matter they acted as such) compelled the poor queen and her chiefs to yield to their demands. Some, indeed, strove to make a brave stand, and drive the invaders from their shores; but what could these unarmed warriors do against artillery? They retreated to their mountain fastnesses, but French troops pursued them thither, built scientific forts, and remained masters of the position. The good, sensible queen, who had proved herself so wise a ruler of a happy and peaceful people up to this terrible November 1843, was now declared incompetent to govern. The French Protectorate was
established,1 and the Peine Blanche having saluted the Protectorate flag, desired the queen and chiefs to do likewise—an order which they were unable to obey, till the admiral politely offered to lend the necessary gunpowder! Thus was this buccaneering expedition carried out, and France established as ruler in the three groups— the Marquesas, the Paumotus, and the Society Isles.2 It was a South Sea version of
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
but in this case the lamb found no deliverer
1 We can scarcely describe this proceeding as the thin end of the wedge, but it was obvious from the beginning that the assumption of the Protectorate was merely a cloak for forcibly taking possession of these gems of the Pacific. The cloak was finally thrown aside in June 1880, when King Pomare V. was persuaded by the commandant to cede the nominal sovereignty of the isles to those who had so long held Us reality, and to accept a life-pension of 12,000 dollars a-year, which he might enjoy in peace in his own fashion, and so escape from the continual tutoring, which made his kingly rank a wearisome burden, devoid of all honour.
The annexation of Tahiti was formally proclaimed in Papeete on 24<A March 1881, and was made the occasion of a brilliant festival, such as the light-hearted crowds are ever ready to welcome. Great were the official rejoicings. From every ship in the harbour, and every corner of the town, floated the tricolour, which likewise adorned the raven tresses of the women and the button-holes of the men. Great was the noise of big guns, and the amount of powder expended on salutes. An imposing column of all branches of the service—sailors and marines, marine artillery, with their guns, infantry, and gendarmes—marched round the town, headed by the band: "A Tahiti, comme en France, on aime a voir passer nos soldats," says the 'Messager de Tahiti.' So the lovely town was en flte. Every himene chorus had arrived from every corner of the isles, making the whole air musical. Thousands of natives, all in their brightest, freshest dresses, kept up incessant movement in the clear sunlight or cool shade. Everywhere games and feasting were the order of the day. In the governor's beautiful gardens, a brilliant banquet for upwards of a hundred persons was served in a great tent, all as graceful as the combined taste of France and Tahiti could make it. Then followed a lovely garden festival, just such as that described by " The Earl and the Doctor," a gay ball for the leading inhabitants, while "the people " danced no less joyously on the green, outside the sacred precincts. Games, music, dancing, and feasting, with a night of brilliant illuminations and fireworks,—all these, combined with lovely surroundings and perfect weather, made the great official festival of Tahiti a day which the French naval officers very naturally consider one to be remembered for ever, but which, perchance, may have caused some of the older inhabitants an angry and bitter pang, for the independence of their country thus lost for ever.
3 Immediately after the declaration of the annexation of the Society Isles, comes the news that the French hare alto annexed the Gambicr Isles, which lie to the south-west, in the direction of Pitcaim's Isle. Our Gallic friends have thus secured
This bare historical outline was literally all I knew about the Marquesas Isles, and I doubt whether you or any one else in England knows much more.
Now that through my ignorance I have thrown away such a chance of visiting them, and also the Paumotus, I am told on all sides that they are the loveliest group in the Pacific, ideal in their beauty—embodied poems; and so I am fuming over my own folly, and telling myself that a traveller who could let slip such a golden opportunity must have reached second childhood, and is no longer fit to wander at large. I try to be philosophical, and not fret over the irrevocable; but of all the scattered leaves that I have yet suffered to float past me on that "stream that never returneth," none has aggravated me so sorely as this. I am assured on all hands that I should have received a genial welcome from the
French governor and Madame and their little society, and
that the expedition would have been in every respect exceptionally delightful .
As it is, I can only gather a few faint visions of the lovely isles by stringing together such particulars as I can learn respecting them. To begin with, "Les isles Marquises" comprise twelve volcanic isles, thrown up in wildly irregular black crags, the central range of the larger isles towering to a height of 5000 feet, while in many places inaccessible crags rise perpendicular from the sea, but are so exquisitely draped with parasitic plants as to reft very admirable semicircle of the four finest groups in tlie Eastern Pacific. Here they can now consolidate their strength, and await the influx of commerce which must of necessity pass through this cordon, when il. Lesseps shall have opened the Panama Canal for the traffic of the vmrld.
Here French ships will touch on their way to and from the Loyalty Isles and Cochin-China; while ships of all nations, plying between Europe and Australasia, will necessarily pass the same way, and contribute their quota to the wealth of the French Pacific.
The Gain bier Islands have been gradually prepared for their adoption by France, the Catholic Mission having there ruled supreme for some twenty years.
Till quite recently, the Bible has been a prohibited book, but now, of the few remaining natives, a large proportion are learning to read Tahitian, in order to be able to study the Scriptures for themselves; and the Protestant Mission in Tahiti has responded to this desire, by sending copies of the New Testament for gratuitous distribution in the group. From one cause or another, bowever, a very small number of natives now exist, the islands having become wellnigh depopulated.