Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
While conversing with Middleton about those Low Islands (where he had passed much time), I was very much struck by the unpleasant personal feeling shewn by him when alluding to the missionaries, and their regulations, as contrasted with the strong terms in which he mentioned the good effects of their intercourse with the Low Islanders; and how much more missionaries were required. His own words, as I find them in a paper of remarks he gave me, are, "the inhabitants (of the Low Islands) are familiarized to Europeans; and are partly civilized, owing to the Gospel having been preached to them by the missionaries." In another place he says, "there are inhabitants enough to require the constant residence of one or two missionaries. They have some books of the Gospel in their hands, but are yet too ignorant to profit by their contents." His own antipathy to the missionaries had arisen, I found, in consequence of their restraints upon his conduct, while at Otaheite.—Among other information he said that the natives of Chain Island told him frequently, that the first ship they ever saw was manned with black people; but the captain, whom the natives styled the 'King of the Spirits,' was a white man. They were much alarmed when they saw the vessel come close to their island, and their old men deemed it an omen of impending disasters. Soon after this event, the island was inundated by the sea, and many people perished. They were then cannibals, and always at war with the natives of the neighbouring islands: since that time, which was 'long ago' (how long he could not ascertain), the Chain Islanders have invaded and successively conquered the other Low Islands, invariably killing and eating the greater proportion of their captives. (The Low Islands are called Paamuto.)
Middleton arrived at Otaheite from Chain Island, only two days before this conversation took place, He came in his own open whale boat, with a crew of five natives; two being Chain Islanders, one a native of the Gambier Islands, one from the Marquesas, and one from the ferocious set who live upon an island called Aura.
Knowing their habits, and understanding their language, radically the same though differing in dialect, had assisted his daring and enterprising disposition in a series of wanderings about all the islands which lie in this quarter of the Pacific. He sold me a chart, made by himself, in which, he said, every one of the Low Islands was marked, though not correctly. From him I obtained their native names also, with the proper pronunciation. He says the natives are great talkers, and have very good memories: for hours at a time he has often listened, with the deepest interest, to their traditions, and to the terrible tales of their inhuman warfare. About the year 1800, as near as he could ascertain, a ship was cast away upon the low island Arutua: her crew were Europeans (meaning white men). The people of Arutua offered no violence, but the blood-thirsty natives of Aura hearing of the wreck, repaired to the place in a body, and massacred every man.
In the year 1831, the master and mate of the unfortunate Truro, passing by Aura in a small boat, were invited ashore by many friendly signs. They suspected no danger, landed together, without arms, were instantly speared by the treacherous natives, and fell, embracing each other. Those islands are supposed, by Middleton, to have received their earlier inhabitants from the Marquesas; and a few, latterly, from Otaheite.
By frequent intercourse, by presents, and by some slight knowledge of medicine, Middleton thought he had established himself among the low islanders so securely that he scrupled not to visit any of their islands, Aura alone excepted. How necessary it must be for a missionary to have a knowledge of medicine and surgery. The Jesuit, Falkner, wandered alone in safety among the tribes of South American Indians, owing, in a great measure, to his knowledge of the healing art.