TONGA, or Friendly Islands (so called by Captain Cook), an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about 350 m. S.S.W. of Samoa and 250 m. E.S.E. of Fiji. The long chain of islands, numbering about 150, though with a collective land area of only 385 sq. m., extends from 18° 5' to 22° 29' S. and 174° to 176° 10' W., and is broken into three groups, viz. the Tonga to the south, Hapai (which again is divided into three clusters) in the centre and Vavau to the north. The largest island is Tongatabu (the Sacred Tonga, Tasman's Amsterdam) in the southern group, measuring about 25 by 10 m., and 165 sq. m. in area, which contains the capital, Nukualofa. The vegetation is rich and beautiful, but the scenery tame, the land seldom rising above 60 ft.; Eua (Tasman's Middelburg), 9 m. south-east and 67 sq. m. in area, is 1078 ft. in extreme height, and much more picturesque, being diversified by rocks and woods. Vavau, in the northern group, is 55 sq. m. in extent and 300 ft. high. Next to these come the coral islands Nomuka and Lifuka in the Hapai group; Tofua, 2846 ft., Late or Lette, 1800 ft. and Kao. 3020 ft. high, which are volcanic and smaller. The numerous islets of the central group are very fertile. It is along the western side of the northern half of the chain that the line of volcanic action is apparent; the islands here (of which some are active volcanoes) are lofty. To the east the whole chain is bounded by a profound trough in the ocean bed, which extends south-westward, east of the Kermadec Islands, towards New Zealand. The majority of the Tonga Islands, however, are level, averaging 40 ft. high, with hills rising to 600 ft.; their sides are generally steep. The surface is covered with a rich mould unusual in coral islands, mixed towards the sea with sand, and having a substratum of red or blue clay. The soil is thus very productive, although water is scarce and bad. Barrier reefs are rare; fringing reefs are numerous, except on the east side, which is nearly free, and there are many small isolated reefs and volcanic banks among the islands. If the reefs impede navigation they form some good harbours. The best is on the south-western side of Vavau; another is on the north of Tongatabu. Earthquakes are not infrequent. From 1845 to 1857 volcanic eruptions were very violent, and islands once fertile were devastated and nearly destroyed. A new island rose from the sea, and was at once named " Wesley," but disappeared again. In 1886 there was a serious volcanic eruption in the outlying island of Niuafoou, and at the same time Falcon Reef, normally awash at high water, discharged sufficient scoriae and pumice to form a new island 50 ft. high. In 1898 the island had been washed away, but in 1900 H.M.S. " Porpoise " found that a solid core of black rock had been extruded 6 ft. above high water. All the volcanoes in the group were then quiescent.
Geology.—The line of volcanic action extends along the western side of the northern half of the chain. Some of the islands are built of volcanic rocks alone; such are Hongu-tonga and Hongu-hapai, which appear to be fragments of a single ancient crater, Tofua, Kao, Late, Metis, Amargua and Falcon Island. The lava is a basic augite-andesite. Another group of islands consists of elevated masses of submarine volcanic deposits, upon some of which coral-reef limestone forms a more or less complete covering; such are Tonumeia and the Nomuka group (Mango, Tonua, Nomuka-iki). All the volcanic rocks of these islands are submarine stratified tuffs which are penetrated here and there by andesite or diabase dikes. The Vavau group consists entirely of coral limestone, which is occasionally crystalline, and contains stalactitic caves of great beauty.
Climate, Flora, Fauna.—The climate is healthy for Europeans, being dry and cool as compared with that of Samoa and Fiji. There are frequent alternations of temperature, which averages 75° to 77° F., though considerably higher in the wet season. Cool south- east trade winds blow, sometimes with great violence, from April to December. During the rest of the year the winds blow from west-north-west and north, with rain and occasional destructive hurricanes. A cyclone which devastated Vavau in April 1900 was the most destructive ever recorded in the group, but hurricanes are rare. The average rainfall for the year is about 80 ins. The vegetation is similar to that of Fiji, but more definitely Indo-Malayan in character; it embraces all the plants of the groups to the east with many that are absent there. Ferns abound, some of them peculiar, and tree ferns on the higher islands, and all the usual fruit trees and cultivated plants of the Pacific are found. There are several kinds of valuable timber trees. The only indigenous land mammalia are a small rat and a few curious species of bats. The dog and the pig were no doubt introduced by man. Of birds some 30 kinds are known, an owl being the only bird of prey; parrots, pigeons, kingfishers, honey-suckers, rails, ducks, and other water birds are numerous. There are snakes and small lizards, but no frogs or toads. Of insects there are relatively few kinds; but ants, beetles and mosquitoes abound. The fishes, of an Indo-Malay type, are varied and numerous. Turtle and sea-snakes abound, as do mollusca, of which a few are peculiar, and zoophytes.
Inhabitants.—The population of the archipelago is about 19,000, of whom about 370 are whites or half-castes. The natives, a branch of the Polynesian race, are the most progressive and most intellectual in the Pacific Islands, except the Hawaiians. They have exercised an influence over distant neighbours, especially in Fiji, quite out of proportion to their numbers. Their conquests have extended as far as Niué, or Savage Island, 200 m. east, and to various other islands to the north. In Captain Cook's time Poulaho, the principal chief, considered Samoa to be within his dominions. This pre-eminence may perhaps be due to an early infusion of Fijian blood: it has been observed that such crosses are always more vigorous than the pure races in these islands; and this influence seems also traceable in the Tongan dialect, and appears to have been partially transmitted thence to the Samoan. Various customs, traditions and names of places also point to a former relation with Fiji. Their prior conversion to Christianity gave the Tongans material as well as moral advantages over their neighbours. Crime is infrequent, and morality, always above the Polynesian average, has improved. The people have strict notions of etiquette and gradations of rank. In disposition they are amiable and courteous, but arrogant, lively, inquisitive and inclined to steal—their attacks in earlier days on Europeans, when not caused by misunderstandings, being due probably to their coveting property which to them was of immense value. They are brave and not unenergetic, though the soft climate and the abundance of food discourage industry. They value children, and seldom practised infanticide, and cannibalism was rare. Their women are kindly treated, and only do the lighter work. Agriculture, which is well understood, is the chief industry. They are bold and skilful sailors and fishermen; other trades, as boat and house building, carving, cooking, net and mat making, are usually hereditary. Their houses are slightly built, but the surrounding ground and roads are laid out with great care and taste.
There were formerly (till the early 18th century) two sovereigns; the higher of these, called Tui Tonga (chief of Tonga), was greatly reverenced but enjoyed little power. The real ruler and the chief officers of the state were members of the Tubou family, from which also the wife of the Tui Tonga was always chosen, whose descendants through the female line had special honours and privileges, under the title of tamaha, recalling the vasu of Fiji. The explanation of the dual kingship is probably this—the Tui Tonga were regarded as the direct descendants of the original head of the family from which the people sprang; regarded with reverence, and possessing unlimited power, they came to misuse this and discontent resulted, whereupon, to protect themselves, they appointed an executive deputy. Below these came the Eiki or chiefs, and next to them the class called Matabule. These were the hereditary counsellors and companions of the chiefs, and conveyed to the people the decisions formed at their assemblies. They also directed the national ceremonies, and preserved the popular traditions. While, under the control of Europeans, the Tongans have shown some aptitude for administration, they fail when left to themselves. They pick up superficial acquirements with astonishing ease, but seem to be incapable of mastering any subject. They write shorthand, but speak no English; they have a smattering of higher mathematics, yet are ignorant of book-keeping. Their government, effective enough when dealing with natives, breaks down in all departments concerned with Europeans, and becomes the prey of designing traders. Their ambition is to rank as a civilized state, and the flattery lavished on them by their teachers has spoiled them.
There are some ancient stone remains in Tongatabu, burial places (feitoka) built with great blocks, and a remarkable monument consisting of two large upright blocks morticed to carry a transverse one, on which was formerly a circular basin of stone.
Administration and Trade.—In May 1900 the group became a British protectorate under the native flag, the appointment of the consul and agent being transferred to the government of New Zealand. In 1904 the financial and legal administration was put into the hands of the British High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. The native king is assisted by a legislative assembly consisting, in equal numbers, of hereditary nobles and popular (elected) representatives. The wisdom of King George Tubou in refusing to alienate an acre of land, except upon lease, has resulted in Tonga having been the last native state in the Pacific to lose its independence. There is a revenue of about £21,000 annually derived chiefly from a poll-tax, leases and customs. The principal exports are copra, bananas, oranges and fungus, and the annual values of exports and imports are £80,000 and £70,000 respectively on an average, though both fluctuate considerably. British coin is legal tender (since 1905). There are five churches in Tonga—the Free Wesleyaris, embracing the great majority of the inhabitants, Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, and Seventh Day Adventists. These last are few; a still smaller number of natives are nominally Anglicans.
History.—In 1616 the vessels of Jacob Lemaire and Willem Cornells Schouten reached the island of Niuatobutabu, and had a hostile encounter with the natives. In 1643 Abel Tasman arrived at Tongatabu and was more fortunate. The next visit was that of Samuel Wallis in 1767, followed in 1773 by that of Captain Cook. In 1777 Cook returned, and stayed seven weeks among the islands. In 1799 a revolution, having its origin in jealousy between two natives of high rank, broke out. Civil war dragged on for many years—long after the deaths of the first leaders—but Taufaahau, who became king in 1845 tinder the name of George Tubou I., proved a strong ruler. In 1822 a Methodist missionary had arrived in the island, and others followed. The attempt to introduce a new faith led to renewed strife, this time between converts and pagans, but King George (who fully appreciated the value of intercourse with foreigners) supported the missionaries, and by 1852 the rebels were subdued. The missionaries, finding their position secure, presently began to take action in political affairs, and persuaded the king to grant a constitution to the Tongans, who welcomed it with a kind of childish enthusiasm, but were far from fitted to receive it. A triennial parliament, a cabinet, a privy council, and an elaborate judicial system were established, and the cumbrous machinery was placed in the hands of a “prime minister,” a retired Wesleyan missionary, Mr Shirley Baker. Treaties of friendship were concluded with Germany, Great Britain, and the United States of America. Baker induced the king to break off his connexion with the Wesleyan body in Sydney, and to set up a state church. Persecution of members of the old church followed, and in 1890 the missionary-premier had to be removed from the group by the high commissioner. He afterwards returned to initiate a new sect called the “Free Church of England,” which for a time created further divisions among the people.
King George Tubou died in 1893 at the age of ninety-six, and was succeeded by his great-grandson under the same title. Mr Basil Thomson (who after Baker's deportation had carried out reforms which the natives, when left alone, were incapable of maintaining) was sent in 1900 to conclude the treaty by which the king placed his kingdom under British protection.
See Captain Cook's Voyages and other early narratives; Martin, Mariner's account of the Tonga Islands (Edinburgh, 1827); Vason, Four Years in Tongatabu (London, 1815); A. Monfort, Les Tonga, ou Archipel des Amis (Lyons, 1893); B. H. Thomson, The Diversions of a Prime Minister (London, 1894).