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of the legal enactments, was that which regarded the boundaries of lands. This law required that all disputes about land-marks should be referred to the judges, or settled by the decision of a jury; and that the boundaries of all the lands, fields, &c. throughout the island, should be carefully ascertained, and, with the dimensions, descriptions of the land, and the names of the owners, should be entered in a book called the Book of the Boundaries of Lands. A copy of the boundaries of each land, with the name of its owner, signed by the principal judge, and sealed with the king's seal, was to be prepared, as a document or legal title to the possession of such land in perpetuity.
Many difficulties presented themselves in adjusting the rights of different claimants to the same lands. Prior to the introduction of Christianity, the lands often changed owners during the internal wars that prevailed; and the descendants of those who at this anterior time possessed or occupied the land, preferred their claims. But as those who possessed the lands at the abolition of idolatry, held them either as the fruits of conquest, or the gifts of the king, it was decreed that those who possessed them then should be considered as their lawful owners, and that no claim referring to a period antecedent to this, should be admitted. This law, by which the lands of the islands were made the freehold property of their possessors, is one of the most important in its influence on property that had yet been enacted. The unalianable right in the soil would thus descend from the father to the son, and no man could be deprived of this natural right but by a flagrant violation of the laws of his country.
In the year 1824, when the infant, Pomare III.
was recognized by the nation as the successor to his father in the government of Tahiti and Moorea, the Tahitian code was revised and enlarged. At this time a most important law was introduced, which gave to the nation, for the first time, what might be termed a representative government, and rendered the Tahitian a limited, instead of an absolute monarchy. It was then decreed that members from every district should meet annually, for the purpose of enacting new laws, and amending those already in existence. The duration of the session was to be regulated by the business to be transacted. The inhabitants of the districts were to select their representatives and fresh deputies, or members, every three years. It was at first enacted, that two should be sent from each district; but the same law authorized the body which might be thus convened, to increase the number to three or four from each, if it were found desirable. No regulation was to be regarded as a law, but such as had been approved or proposed by them, and had received the sanction of the king; and every regulation made by them, and approved by the king, was to be observed as the law of the land.
The printed report of the session of what may be termed the Tahitian parliament, which assembled in May, 1826, contains an alteration of two laws, and four new regulations. The first of these is sufficiently important to justify its translation,
CONCERNING SEAMEN WHO MAY LEAVE THEir Vessels.
1. The captain, or master of the vessel, who shall turn one of his crew on shore, without the consent of the governor of the district, is criminal. He shall pay thirty
dollars; twenty to the king, six to the governor, and four to the man who shall conduct the seaman back to his ship.
2. The man who shall forsake his ship, and hide himself on shore, shall be immediately apprehended. The man that finds and apprehends (each deserter) shall receive eight dollars, if he was taken near at hand; and fifteen dollars, if brought from a distance.
3. The person who shall entice any man belonging to a ship, so that he abandon his ship, and the man who shall hide or secrete him who shall so abscond, shall be tried, and (if convicted) his sentence shall be to make fifty fathoms of pathway or road, or to build eight yards of stone pier or wall.
4. A seaman who shall have concealed himself on shore, and who shall be found after his ship has sailed, shall be brought to trial, and his sentence shall be to make fifty fathoms of road.
One of the greatest sources of annoyance to the natives, and inconvenience to foreigners, has been the conduct of seamen who have absconded from their ships, or been turned on shore by the masters of trading vessels. To prevent as much as possible seamen from leaving their ships, this law was enacted; and by subjecting to a punishment with hard labour, both the deserters, and those who may favour their desertion or concealment, it is adapted to answer the end proposed.
A copy of this law, with an English translation printed on the same paper, is given by a person whom the government appoints for that purpose, to the master of every vessel entering any of their harbours. The regulation is so just in its nature, and so salutary is its tendency in regard to those who visit the islands, as well as the community on shore, that the most ready acquiescence in its requirements may be reasonably expected.
The harbour laws, or regulations, enacted in 1829, are not less important to public justice, than in reference to the security they are designed to afford; and as they point out the sources of evil to which the people are exposed, as well as the objects intended to be secured, their insertion may be advantageous.
REGULATIONS TO BE OBSERVED BY SHIPS ENTERING THE HARBOUR OF HUAHINE.
1. Any ship or vessel entering the harbour of Huahine, for the purpose of trading or procuring refreshments, shall be protected by the laws and regulations of the place; for which protection a fee of four Spanish dollars, or an equivalent, shall be paid to the chief governor, or governess, as the case may be, before any trade shall commence, or refreshments be supplied.-N. B. This regulation does not refer to the small vessels or boats belonging to the islands; but should any such vessel or boat arrive from his Britannic Majesty's colony of New South Wales, or Van Diemen's Land, without a regular license, or register, she will be seized, and the people confined, until an opportunity offers of sending them back, or a conveyance be sent for them; and should they prove to be prisoners of the crown of Great Britain, the colonial government will pay any reasonable remuneration for their maintenance, and a salvage will be paid by the owner of the vessel (should the same have been piratically taken) for retaking her.
2. Should any seaman desert from his ship, he shall be immediately apprehended and taken on board, and the person apprehending him shall receive four dollars, or an equivalent, before he is given up, which of course the commander or master of the ship will stop out of his wages.
3. Should any seaman desert about the time of the ship's sailing, and succeed in secreting himself until she is gone to sea, he will, as soon as found, be put to work on the
roads, or other public employment, until an opportunity offers to send him off the island.
4. As many disturbances and much distress have been caused, by people being landed among the Society Islands without the smallest means of support; such a practice is hereby forbidden under a penalty of forty dollars, or an equivalent, for every person so landed, to be paid by the master, or commander, or person so landing him or them.
5. No person is to be landed for the purpose of remaining after the ship or vessel that brought him has left, without the permission of the governor of the place at which he is desirous of remaining.
6. Should the governor give his permission to any person to remain on the island for the recovery of his health, during the absence of the ship, it is expected that the master or commander will furnish him with any reasonable supply for his support, as many seamen have been left in the greatest distress from the neglect of this precaution : be it known, that a recurrence of it will cause a statement to be made of the case, to the government to which the vessel belongs, that the master, or commander, or other person so offending, may be proceeded against on his arrival there, as the laws of his own country direct on that behalf.
7. As soon as any ship or vessel appears within a reasonable distance of the reefs, a pilot will be sent to conduct her in; and when she leaves, he will, in like manner, take her to sea, for which service he is to receive six Spanish dollars, or an equivalent.
8. All masters, commanders, and other persons, residing on, or visiting, this island, are charged strictly to observe these regulations; and as it is the duty of any and all of his Britannic Majesty's subjects, to enforce the laws of their own country, so it will be to give all advice and assistance in securing offenders against them, and stating their name, and other particulars, to the government of New South Wales, or to the secretary of the admiralty, should the case refer to a person belonging, or likely to return, to Great Britain, with the name of the person, the ship, and the place to which she belongs.