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the king here received the homage and tribute of allegiance from the people. A veil must be thrown over the vices with which the ceremonies were concluded.
Although this ceremony was one of the least offensive festivities among them, the murderous cruelty with which it commenced, and the wickedness with which it terminated, were adapted to impress the mind with acutest anguish and deepest commiseration. The abominations continued until the blowing of the trumpet on board the canoes required every one to depart from the temple. They now repaired to the banquet or feast provided for the occasion, and passed the remainder of the day in unrestrained indulgence and excess.
The phraseology of the Tahitian court was in perfect accordance with the elevation, and sacred connexion with their divinities, which the binding on the red girdle was designed to recognize and ratify. The preposterous vanity and adulation in language, used in epithets bestowed upon the king of Tahiti and his establishment, fully equal those employed in the most gorgeous establishment of Eastern princes, or the seraglios of Turkish sultans.
It was not only declared that Oro was the father of the king, as was implied by the address of the priest when arraying him in the sacred girdle, and the station occupied by his throne, when placed in the temple by the side of the deities, but it pervaded the terms used in reference to his whole establishment. His houses were called the aorai, the clouds of heaven; anuanua, the rainbow, was the name of the canoe in which he voyaged; his voice was called thunder; the glare of the torches in his dwelling was denominated lightning; and
when the people saw them in the evening, as they passed near his abode, instead of saying the torches were burning in the palace, they would observe that the lightning was flashing in the clouds of heaven. When he passed from one district to another on the shoulders of his bearers, instead of speaking of his travelling from one place to another, they always used the word mahuta, which signifies to fly; and hence described his journey by saying, that the king was flying from one district of the island to another.
The establishment and habits of the king often exhibited the most striking contrast; at one time he was seen surrounded by the priests, and invested with the insignia of royalty, and divinity itself; or appeared in public on the shoulders of his bearers, while the people expressed every indication of superstitious reverence and fear. At other times, he might be seen on terms of the greatest familiarity with his attendants and domestics.
He never wore a crown, or any badge of dignity, and, in general, there was no difference between his dress and that of the chiefs by whom he was surrounded, excepting that the fine cloth and matting, called vane, with which he was often arrayed, were more rare and valuable than the dress worn by others. His raiment frequently consisted of the ordinary pareu, or ahu pu, in quality often inferior to that worn by some of the chiefs in attendance upon him.
In some of the islands to the westward, at the ceremonies of the temple, the people, to shew their homage, wound folds of cloth repeatedly round the body of the king, till he was unable to move, and appeared as if it was only a man's head rest
ing on the immense bale of cloth in which he was enclosed. I do not know that the kings of Tahiti ever experienced such treatment from their subjects. The kings of the former were left in this ludicrous and helpless situation, while the people travelled round the island, boxing and wrestling, in honour of their sovereign, throughout every district.
The regal establishment was maintained by the produce of the hereditary districts of the reigning family, and the requisitions made upon the people. Although the authority of the king was supreme, and his power undisputed, yet he does not appear to have been considered as the absolute proprietor of the land, nor do the occupants seem to have been mere tenants at will, as was the fact in the Sandwich Islands.
There were certain districts which constituted the patrimony of the royal family; in these they could walk abroad, as they were sacred lands. The other districts were regarded as belonging to their respective occupants or proprietors, who were generally raatiras, and whose interest in the soil was distinct from that of the king, and often more extensive. These lands they inherited from their ancestors, and bequeathed them to their children, or whomsoever they chose to select as their heirs. At their death the parties to whom land had been thus left, entered into undisturbed possession, as of rightful property.
The practice of tutuing, or devising by will, was found to exist among them prior to the arrival of the Missionaries, and was employed not only in reference to land, but to any other kinds of property. Unacquainted with letters, they could not leave a written will, but, during a season of illness,
those possessing property frequently called together the members of the family, or confidential friends, and to them gave directions for the disposal of their effects after their decease. considered a sacred charge, and was usually executed with fidelity.
Every portion of land had its respective owner; and even the distinct trees on the land had sometimes different proprietors, and a tree, and the land on which it grew, different owners. The divisions of land were accurately marked by a natural boundary, as a ridge of mountains, or the course of a river, or by artificial means; and frequently a carved image, or tii, denoted the extent of their different possessions. Whether these tiis were designed to intimate that the spirits they represented guarded the borders of their property, or were used as ornaments, I could not learn, but the removal of the ancient land-marks was regarded as a heinous offence.
The produce which the king received from his hereditary estates being seldom sufficient for the maintenance of his household, the deficiency was supplied from the different districts of the islands. The frequency, however, with which the inferior chiefs were required to bring provisions, was neither fixed nor regular, but was governed by the number of the districts, or the necessities of the king's steward. Still there was a sort of tacit agreement between the king and chiefs, as to the times when they should furnish his provision; and the usage among them, in this respect, was generally understood.
The provision was ready dressed, though occasionally the vegetables and roots were brought uncooked, and the pigs led alive to the king's ser
vants. The pigs, after being presented to the king, were sometimes taken back by the farmer, and fed till required for use. Cloth for the dress
of the king's servants, houses for his abode, and canoes, not only for himself, but also for those of his household, were furnished by the inhabitants of the islands.
Although the king's will was the supreme law, and the government in some respects despotic, it approximated more to a mixed administration, a union of monarchy and aristocracy. The king had usually one confidential chief near his person, who was his adviser in every affair of importance, and was, in fact, his prime minister. Frequently there were two or three who possessed the confidence, and aided the counsels, of the king. These ministers were not responsible to any one for the advice they gave. So great, however, was the influence of the raatiras, that a measure of any importance, such as the declaration of war, or the fitting out a fleet, was seldom undertaken without their being first consulted. This was effected by the friends of the king going among them, and proposing the affair in contemplation, or by convening a public council for its consideration.
Their public measures were not distinguished by promptness or decision, excepting when they wreaked vengeance upon the poor and helpless victims of their displeasure. After a meeting of the chiefs had been summoned, it was a long time before all came together, and their meetings were often interrupted by adjournments.
Their councils were usually held in the open air, where the chiefs and others formed a circle, in which the orators of the different parties took their stations opposite to each other. These