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a deficiency of food for his ordinary followers, or a large party that had arrived as his guests, a number of his servants went out to the settlements of the raatiras, or farmers, and, sometimes without even asking, tied up the pigs that were fed near the dwelling, and plundered the abode, ravaging, like a band of lawless robbers, the plantations or the gardens, and taking away every article of food the poor, oppressed people possessed. Sometimes they launched a fine canoe that might be lying near, and, loading it with their plunder, left the industrious proprietor destitute even of the means of subsistence; and, as they were the king's servants, he durst not complain.
When the king travelled, he was usually attended by a company of Areois, or a worthless train of idlers; and often when they entered a district that was perhaps well supplied with provisions for its inhabitants, if they remained any length of time, by their plundering and wanton destruction, it was often reduced to a state of desolation. Sometimes the king sent his servants to take what they wanted from the fields or gardens of the people; but often, unauthorized by him, they used his name to commit the most lawless and injurious depredations upon the property of the inhabitants; whose lives were endangered, if they offered the least resist
Mahamene, a native of Raiatea, gave, at a public meeting in that island, the following account of their lawless plunder. "These teuteu," (servants of the king,) said he, "would enter a house, and commit the greatest depredations. The master of the house would sit as a poor captive, and look on, without daring to say a word.They would seize his bundle of cloth, kill his largest pigs, pluck the best bread-fruit, take the largest taro,
(arum roots,) the finest sugar-cane, the ripest bananas, and even take the posts of his house for fuel to cook them with. Is there not a man present who actually buried his new canoe under the sand, to secure it from these desperate men?"
Nothing fostered tyranny and oppression in the rulers, and reduced the population to a state of wretchedness, so much as these unjust proceedings. Those who, by habits of industry, or desire of comfort for themselves and families, might be induced to cultivate more land than others, were, from this very circumstance, marked out for despoliation. They had no redress for these wrongs, and therefore, rather than expose themselves to the mortifying humiliation of seeing their fields plundered, and the fruits of their labour taken to feed a useless and insulting band that followed the movements of the king, they allowed their lands to remain untilled. They preferred to procure a scanty means of subsistence from day to day, rather than to be subjected to the insults to which even their industry exposed them.
So far were these shameless extortions practised, that during the journey of an European through the country, he has been attended by a servant of the king, and when, in return for provisions furnished, or acts of kindness shewn, by the hospitable inhabitants, he has made them even a trifling present, it has been instantly seized by the vassal of the chief, who has followed him for that purpose. The poor people were also allowed to dispose of their produce to the captains or merchants that might visit them for the purpose of barter, but the king or chief frequently requested the greater part, or even the whole, of what they might receive in return for it.
That they should have improved in industry, or ad
vanced in civilization, under such a system, was impossible, and that they should, under such circumstances, have tilled a sufficient quantity of ground to furnish supplies for the shipping, is a matter of greater surprise, than that they should not have cultivated more. The humiliating degradation to which it reduced the farmers, and the constant irritation of feelings to which this wretched system exposed them, were not the only evils that resulted from it. It naturally led the raatiras to regard their chiefs as enemies, and generated disaffection to their administration, while it led the former to consider the latter as inimical to their own interests. It also greatly diminished their resources, for under the discouragements resulting from constant liability to plunder, the people were unable to furnish those supplies, which they would otherwise have found it a satisfaction to render.
This system of civil polity, disjointed and ill-adapted as it was to answer any valuable purpose, was closely interwoven with their sanguinary system of idolatry, and sanctioned by the authority of the gods. The king was not only raised to the head of this government, but he was considered as a sort of vicegerent to those supernatural powers presiding over the invisible world. Human sacrifices were offered at his inauguration; and whenever any one, under the influence of the loss he had sustained by plunder, or other injury, spoke disrespectfully of his person and administration, not only was his life in danger, but human victims must be offered, to cleanse the land from the pollution it was supposed to have contracted.
The intimate connexion between the government and their idolatry, occasioned the dissolution of the one, with the abolition of the other; and when the system of pagan 3 c
worship was subverted, many of their ancient usages perished in its ruins. They remained for some years without any system or form of government, excepting the will of the king, to whom the inhabitants usually furnished liberal supplies of all that was necessary for the maintenance of his household, and the accomplishment of his designs.
The raatiras exercised the supreme authority in the divisions over which the king had placed them. But when circumstances occurred, in which, under idolatry, they would have acted according to their ancient custom, they felt embarrassed. Many of the people, free in a great degree from exposure to seizure, and the more dreadful apprehension of being offered to the gods, evinced a disinclination to render the king the supplies and support he needed.
The sacrificing of human victims to the idols had been one of the most powerful engines in the hands of the government, the requisition for them being always made by the ruler, to whom the priests applied when the gods required them. The king, therefore, sent his herald to the petty chieftain, who selected the victims. An individual who had shewn any marked disaffection towards the government, or incurred the displeasure of the king and chiefs, was usually chosen. The people knew this, and therefore rendered the most unhesitating obedience. Since the subversion of idolatry, this motive has ceased to operate; and many, free from the restraint it had imposed, seemed to refuse almost all lawful obedience and rightful support.
Their government continued in this unsettled state for four or five years; during which, the people brought provisions and supplies to the king, and furnished the
accustomed articles for his establishment, either according to arrangements made among themselves, or in obedience to his requisitions. The superior and subordinate rulers over the people, endeavoured to preserve the peace of society, and promote the public welfare, by punishing offenders according to the nature of their crimes, but without any regular or uniform procedure. The only punishment inflicted was banishment, and, in a few instances, seizure for theft. It was, however, evident that another system must be introduced, instead of that which, with the tabu idolatry, had been abolished.
It is a fact worthy of note, that although no people in the world could be more vicious than they were prior to their renunciation of paganism, yet such was the moral influence of the precepts of Christianity on the community at large, and consequently on the conduct of many who were Christians only by profession, that for some time crimes affecting the peace of society were but few. Theft, to which ever since their discovery they have been proverbially addicted, was rarely committed. It was not, however, to be expected that this state of things would be permanent; and after a few years, the force of example, and the restraining influence of the preceptive parts of christian truth, began to diminish on the minds of those over whom it had exerted no decisive power, and who, in their altered behaviour, had rather followed popular sentiment and practice, than acted from principles in their own minds. When therefore this class of persons began to act more according to their true character, the chiefs found it necessary to visit their delinquency with punishment; and the welfare of the nation required that measures should be adopted for maintaining the order and peace of the community.