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452
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

A HISTORY OF TAHITI. III
By Dr. ALFRED GOLDSBOROUGH MAYER

CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON

SUDDENLY, on September 3, 1803, Pomare I. died, and was succeeded by his son, the weak, savage, drunkard Pomare II.; Who even with European aid was unable to maintain his power, so detested was he even in his own ancestral district. Thus, in 1808, the new "king," together with his ministerial allies, were forced to flee to the Island of Eimeo, the Tahitians under Opuhara of Papara having utterly routed them without a convert having been gained to Christianity.

After this, in October, 1809, all but two of the missionaries set sail for Australia, leaving only Mr. Nott and Mr. Hayward, who retreated to the Island of Huahine, leaving their friend the "king" a lonely exile upon the little Island of Eimeo, his "Elba" being but ten miles long and five wide. Deserted and helpless, even his native district lost, Pomare came to realize that his sole hope lay in inducing the missionaries to return to his aid. Thus, in 1811, did Pomare II. regain his allies, exhibiting his "change of heart" by begging for baptism from their hands in July, 1812.

This case is by no means unique among the annals of missionary success in the Pacific, for Thakombau of Fiji became a convert only when missionary aid became indispensable to maintain his power, and George Tubou of Tonga gained greatly in material things through his acceptance of Christianity.

In order to appreciate the victory of the missionaries in causing Pomare to accept Christianity, we must remember that the high chiefs in Polynesia were leaders in spiritual far more than in temporal things, and conversion was tantamount upon their part to an abnegation of their godly origin. Thus it was that at first no natives would follow the example of Pomare, all believing him to be mentally deranged. His act seemed that of a Sampson who in despair had crashed the temple upon his own head.

Converts followed slowly, some from conviction, others probably perceiving, as Pomare appears to have done, the worldly advantages to be gained, and thus in 1813 the idols of Eimeo were publicly burned to the great joy of the missionaries, who thereafter gained rapidly in political power and religious authority, arming their converts with both guns and Bibles.[1] Thus in 1815 the missionary party became strong enough to invade Tahiti; and in November of that year they gained a

  1. See "The Memoirs of Arii Taimai," p. 160.