Why the Captain’s Boat was Taken…

Many of the chiefs frequently express the sorrow they feel whenever they think of the Captain; and even the common people usually speak of these facts with apparent regret. Yet they exonerate him from all blame, as nothing was done by his orders. I was once in a house in Oahu with Karaimoku, and several other chiefs, looking over the plates in the folio edition of Cook’s Voyages. They were greatly affected with the print which represented his death, and inquired if I knew the names of those who were slain on that occasion. I perceived Karaimoku more than once wipe the tears from his eyes, while conversing about this melancholy event. He said, he recollected Captain Cook’s visit, if not also his person, though he was at Maui at the time of his death. We have sometimes asked them what inducement they had to steal the boat, when they possessed so many canoes of their own. They have generally answered, that they did not take it to transport themselves from one island to another, for their own canoes were more convenient, and they knew better how to manage them; but because they saw it was not sewed together, but fastened with nails. These they wanted,— therefore stole the boat, and broke it to pieces the next day, in order to obtain the nails to make fish-hooks with. We have every reason to believe that this was the principal, if not the only motive, by which they were actuated in committing the depredation which ultimately led to such unhappy consequences. They prize nails very highly; that the fishermen would rather receive a wrought nail, to make of it a fish-hook according to their own taste, than the best English-made fish-hook we could give them. It has been supposed that the circumstance of Captain Cook’s bones being separated, and the flesh taken from them, was evidence of a savage and unrelenting barbarity; but so far from this, it was the result of the highest respect they could shew him.  (Ellis)

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The Natives Account of Captain Cook’s Death…

There are a number of persons at Kaavaroa, and other places in the islands, who either were present themselves at the unhappy dispute, which in this vicinity terminated the valuable life of the celebrated Captain Cook, or who, from their connection with those who were on the spot, are well acquainted with the particulars of that melancholy event. With many of them we have frequently conversed, and though their narratives differ in a few smaller points, they all agree in the main facts with the account published by Captain King, his successor. “The foreigner,” they say, “was not to blame; for, in the first instance, our people stole his boat, and he, in order to recover it, designed to take our king on board his ship, and detain him there till it should be restored. Kapena Kuke” and Taraiopu our king were walking together towards the shore, when our people, conscious of what had been done, thronged round the king, and objected to his going any further. His wife also joined her entreaties that he would not go on board the ships. While he was hesitating, a man came running from the other side of the bay, entered the crowd almost breathless, and exclaimed, ‘It is war!” the foreigners have commenced hostilities, have fired on a canoe from one of their boats, and killed a chief.” This enraged some of our people, and alarmed the chiefs, as they feared Captain Cook would kill the king. The people armed themselves with stones, clubs, and spears. Kanona entreated her husband not to go. The king sat down. The captain seemed agitated, and was walking towards his boat, when one of our men attacked him with a spear: he turned, and with his double-barreled gun shot the man who struck him. Some of our people then threw stones at him, which being seen by his men they fired on us. Captain Cook then endeavoured to stop his men from firing, but could not, on account of the noise. He was turning again to speak to us, when he was stabbed in the back with a pahoa, a spear was at the same time driven through his body; he fell into the water, and spoke no more. After he was dead, we all wailed.

We have several times inquired, particularly of the natives acquainted with the circumstances, whether Captain Cook was facing them, or had his back towards them, when he received the fatal thrust; and their answer, in general, has been as here stated, which accords very nearly with Captain King’s account, who says, “Our unfortunate commander, the last time he was seen distinctly, was standing at the water’s edge, and calling out to the boats to cease firing, and pull in. If it be true, as some of those present have imagined, that the marines and boatmen fired without his orders, and that he was desirous of preventing any further bloodshed, it is not improbable, that his humanity, on this occasion, proved fatal to him: for it was remarked, that whilst he faced the natives, none of them had offered him any violence, but that having turned about, to give his orders to the boats, he was stabbed in the back, and fell with his face into the water.” (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

We Visit the Tomb of Captain Cook…

Passing on along a rugged road, we reached Kaavaroa soon after 2 p.m. Kamakau received us kindly, spread out a mat for us to sit down on, handed us a calabash of good fresh water, (a great luxury on this side of the island,) and ordered a goat to be prepared for our refreshment. He appeared as zealous in his pursuit of truth, earnest in his desires after his own salvation, and concerned for that of his people, as when some of our party had formerly visited him. One or two inferior chiefs, from a district belonging to him, in the south part of the island, were sitting in the house when we entered. He afterwards began to talk with them on matters of religion, with a seriousness and intelligence which surprised us. In the afternoon Mr. Thurston and I climbed the rocks, which rise in a north-east direction from the village, and visited the cave in which the body of Captain Cook was deposited, on being first taken from the beach. These rocks, which are entirely composed of lava, are nearly two hundred feet high, and in some parts very steep. A winding path of rather difficult ascent leads to the cave, which is situated on the face of the rocks, about half-way to the top. In front of it is a kind of ledge three or four feet wide, and immediately over it the rocks rise perpendicularly for a yard or two, but afterwards the ascent is gradual to the summit. The cave itself is of volcanic formation, and appears to have been one of those subterranean tunnels so numerous on the island, by which the volcanoes in the interior sometimes discharge their contents upon the shore. It is five feet high, and the entrance about eight or ten feet wide. The roof and sides within are of obsidian or hard vitreous lava; and along the floor it is evident that in some remote period a stream of the same kind of lava has also flowed. (Ellis)

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Tomb of a celebrated Priest…

Leaving Tuamoo, we passed on to Honuaino, where, being thirsty and weary, we sat down on the side of a canoe, under the shade of a fine-spreading hibiscus, and begged a little water of the villagers. We had not remained many minutes before we were surrounded by about 150 people. After explaining to them in few words our feelings on meeting them, we asked them if they would like to hear what we had to say to them. They replied, Ae, (yes,) and sat down immediately. We sung a hymn and prayed, and I addressed them for about half an hour on the first principles of Christianity. They all appeared gratified, said they were maau po, (dark hearted,) and should be glad to be instructed in all these things, if anybody would teach them. We now travelled on to Hokukano, where we passed a pahu tabu, (sacred enclosure,) which the natives told us was built by Taraiopu,” king of the island at the time it was discovered by Captain Cook. A little further on we examined a buoa (tomb) of a celebrated priest. It was composed of loose stones, neatly laid, about eight feet square and five high. In the centre was a small mound of earth, higher than the walls; over this a house had formerly been erected, but it was now fallen to decay; around it were long poles, stuck in the earth, about three or four inches apart, and united together at the top. We asked why the ‘grave was enclosed with those tall sticks? Some said it was a custom so to inter persons of consequence; others said it was to prevent the spirit from coming out. On the top of a high mountain, in the neighbourhood, stood the remains of an old heiau, dedicated to Ukanipo, a shark, to which, we were informed, all the people along the coast, for a considerable distance, used to repair, at stated times, with abundant * Terreoboo in Cook’s Voyages. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

The Warrior Women…

The wives of warriors often accompanied their husbands to battle, and were frequently slain. Their practice, in this respect, resembled that of the Society islanders on similar occasions. They generally followed in the rear, carrying calabashes of water, or of poé, a little dried fish, or other portable provision, with which to recruit their husband’s strength when weary, or afford a draught of water when thirsty or faint; but they followed, more particularly, to be at hand if their husbands should be wounded.

Some women, more courageous than the rest, or urged on by affection, advanced side by side with their husbands to the front of the battle, bearing a small calabash of water in one hand, and a spear, a dart, or a stone, in the other; and in the event of the husband’s being killed, they seldom survived. A pile of stones, somewhat larger than the rest, marked the spot where the rival chief and his affectionate and heroic wife expired. A few yards nearer the sea, an oblong pile of stones, in the form of a tomb, about ten feet long and six wide, was raised over the grave in which they were both interred. A number of lowly flowering bushes grew around, and a beautiful convolvulus in full bloom almost covered it with foliage and flowers. We could not view this rudely constructed tomb without renewed lamentation over the miseries of war, and a strong feeling of regret for the untimely end of the youthful pair, especially for the affectionate Manona, whom even the horrors of savage fight, in which the demon of war wears his most terrific form, could not prevent from following the fortune, and sharing the dangers, that she might administer to the comfort, of her much-loved husband. This feeling was not a little increased by the recollection of the delusion of which they were the ill-fated victims, and in support of which they were prodigal of their blood. Alas! They knew not, till from the fatal field they entered the eternal world, the value of that life which they had lost, and the true nature of that cause in which they had sacrificed it. The piles of stones rose thick around the spot where they lay; and we were informed that they were the graves of his kahu, (particular friends and companions,) who stood by him to the last, manifesting a steadfastness which even their enemies admired, and a degree of courage worthy of being exercised in a better cause. Kekuaokalani was first cousin to Rihoriho. He is represented by some as having been an enterprising and restless young man, aspiring to share the government with his cousin, if not to reign in his stead. (Ellis)

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A Description of the Battle of Kuamo‘o…

After travelling about two miles over this barren waste, we reached the place where, in the autumn of 1819, the decisive battle was fought between the forces of Rihoriho, the present king, and his cousin, Kekuaokalani, in which the latter was slain, his followers completely overthrown, and the cruel system of idolatry, which he took up arms to support, effectually destroyed. The natives pointed out to us the place where the king’s troops, led on by Karaimoku, were first attacked by the idolatrous party. We saw several small heaps of stones, which our guide informed us were the graves of those who, during the conflict, had fallen there. We were then shewn the spot on which the king’s troops formed a line from the sea-shore towards the mountains, and drove the opposing party before them to a rising ground, where a stone fence, about breast high, enabled the enemy to defend themselves for some time, but from which they were at length driven by a party of Karaimoku’s warriors. The small tumuli increased in number as we passed along, until we came to a place called Tuamoo. Here Kekuaokalani made his last stand, rallied his flying forces, and seemed, for a moment, to turn the scale of victory; but being weak with the loss of blood, from a wound he had received in the early part of the engagement, he fainted and fell. However, he soon revived, and, though unable to stand, sat on a fragment of lava, and twice loaded and fired his musket on the advancing party. He now received a ball in his left breast, and immediately covering his face with his feather cloak, expired in the midst of his friends. His wife Manona during the whole of the day fought by his side with steady and dauntless courage. A few moments after her husband’s death, perceiving Karaimoku and his sister advancing, she called out for quarter; but the words had hardly escaped from her lips, when she received a ball in her left temple, fell upon the lifeless body of her husband, and instantly expired. The idolaters having lost their chief, made but feeble resistance afterwards; yet the combat, which commenced in the forenoon, continued till near sunset, when the king’s troops, finding their enemies had all either fled or surrendered, returned to Kairua. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

Kakuaokalani Prepares for War…

Kakuaokalani, though he had no share in the government, yet had, in common with the other high chiefs, received a charge concerning the gods. Urged on by the priests, who promised him victory by a superstitious reverence for the idols of his ancestors, and perhaps also by a hope of defeating Rihoriho, and securing the government to himself, he took up arms.

The abolition of idolatry by Rihoriho was thus the immediate occasion of the war, which terminating in his favour, left him sole monarch of the Sandwich Islands. This was the summit of his ambition, and the consummation of his wishes, though probably the least among the all-wise and benevolent purposes of Him, who ruleth all things after the counsel of his own will, and causeth even the wrath of man to praise him. Little did the pagan chief imagine, when he collected his forces, offered his sacrifices, and, preceded by his war-god, marched to the battle, that he was urging on his way to remove the most formidable barrier that existed to the introduction of a religion which should finally triumph over every system of idolatry in the world; and as hittle did the victorious chiefs, when they beheld themselves masters of the field, and returned in triumph to the king, think that success had only prepared the way for their own subjection to a peaceful Prince, whose heralds (then on their way) should soon proclaim his laws in their camp, and demand their allegiance to his crown;– whose divine power should erect among them a kingdom, of which they themselves should delight to become subjects, and commence a reign that should be everlasting.(Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)