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skinned people in the world. In the second place, It is due in a great measure to the wisdom, tact, and good sense of the missionaries through whom this civilization was imparted. But it seems to me the third reason is still more potent, and this was the great ability, wisdom, and good sense of the kings of the line of the Kamehamehas and the absolute power they originally held over their people.
Fortunately, also, at the time of the advent of the white men the control of the islands had already been consolidated into the hands of one man, who was fully capable of wielding it. If the lot of the first Kamehameha had been cast in Europe instead of the remotest islands of the sea he would have been one of the most conspicuous figures of history. Originally a little kinglet of a district at the north end of Hawaii, he gradually conquered the whole of that island and finally the whole group. No King in history ever knew better how to rule his people. Brought into contact with civilization, he grasped its meaning with a breadth of comprehension which is perhaps without example among barbarians. He knew instinctively how resistless was its power and how inexorably it crowds the weaker races to the wall. But he had the wisdom not only to avert the destruction of his own power and the obliteration of the nationality of his people, but actually to draw strength from it and make it his servant instead of his master. The greatest achievement of his life was the work of his declining years, and it was an achievement of surpassing skill. He broke completely the secular power of the priesthood. He had the sagacity to discover alone and unaided the grandest truth in political science, and one which white men never discovered until three or four centuries ago. That great truth was that church and state had better let each other alone. We need not wonder, however, that he discovered it, for the Kings of Europe understood it well enough; indeed they were about the only ones who did. The marvel was that this barbarian should have had the courage and address to make the truth a practical reality and put it into execution. It is one thing to perceive the foolishness of superstition and quite another to break down a whole religion. When Kamehameha began his career the priesthood was far more powerful than he. When he died they were as powerless in secular matters as the Pope now is in Italy. The finishing stroke was given when his dead body, as yet unburied, was awaiting the obsequies. His widow and son deliberately broke many of the most sacred tabus, and enjoined the same sacrilegious acts upon their households and followers. They were promptly obeyed, and the example was followed by the whole nation. Next the temples were despoiled, the images of the gods broken and burned, and the priests themselves driven into the forests and jungles.
An act so sweeping and revolutionary as the trampling under foot of the most binding superstition or religious conviction that ever held sway over the human race would never have been ventured if the people had not been gradually wrought up to it. In truth, Kamehameha had first revolutionized the whole social and political condition of the people, and had elevated them immensely against the influences of a priestcraft which was all the time striving to hold them down. When the issue came the King triumphed and the priest was overthrown. It was probably this change which prepared the Hawaiian people for what followed. It established the kingly power independently of a priesthood and left the people without a religion.
The year following this important event the missionaries landed there for the first time. They soon secured the good will of the second Kamehameha and found their work a comparatively easy one. To the
missionaries is due the credit of having been the agents through whom civilization was imparted to the islands. Those who are specially devoted to the interests of foreign missions have been in the habit of regarding the Hawaiian Islands as a signal instance of the triumph of Protestant propagandism. On the whole, there is a large measure of justice in this claim. But, on the other hand, a closer view will probably disclose to the impartial mind the fact that, while the amount of Christian proselytism has been very considerable, the outside view of it is somewhat overdrawn.
There are certainly many devout Christians among the Hawaiians, but there are also many who cherish their old religion, and the greater part of them are more or less tinctured with the ancient superstitions. But whatever doubts may arise as to the complete success of the propaganda, there can be none as to the success in imparting civilization. Fortunately, they had to deal with and through a succession of kings who were men of preeminent sense and of practical wisdom, and who knew how to manage their subjects. They were kings in the best possible signification. Royalty was inborn in them, and the loyalty of their subjects was such that the loyalty of an Englishman is a feeble sentiment in comparison. The Kamehamehas, from the II to the V, inclusive, were quick to recognize the advantages of civilization, and had wonderful tact in discriminating between good and bad advice. The missionaries proved to be discreet and judicious advisers, and the transition from barbarism to civilization was effected safely, step by step; the Government was transformed into a constitutional monarchy, the feudal tenure of lands was changed to fee simple. Statute laws were enacted and codified, and suffrage was made as broad and liberal as in America. Perhaps the most inrportant step was compulsory education, which is provided for by the State, and to day it is hard to find a native who can not read, write, and cipher.
The economic condition of the Hawaiian is probably superior at the present time to that of any other tropical people in the world; and, on the whole, I think it quite safe to say that it is but very little surpassed, if at all, by that of the working classes of America. He has even more to eat and better food, plenty of beef, pork, and fish, and could have an abundance of flour if he desired it, but he prefers his taro. He owns his property in fee; he makes laws and executes them; he reads and writes; he has but one wife; he tills the soil and tends flocks; sometimes he accumulates wealth and sometimes he does not; he makes his will in due form, dies, and receives a Christian burial; in no land in the world is property more secure. Indeed, I have yet to learn of any where it is equally secure from burglary, rapine, and thievery or those subtler devices by which the cunning get possession of the property of the less astute without giving an equivalent for it. The few relics of barbarism remaining are of the most harmless description, and probably quite as good for him as anything he might adopt in place of them.
Unfortunately, the population is rapidly decreasing. A century ago a fair estimate would probable have been over 150,000. To-day the native population is 45,000 to 50,000. The causes of this decrease are many. It has usually been attributed to diseases brought by contact with the whites. While it is indisputable that such diseases have in a measure contributed to the result, I believe there is still another cause at work tending to the same result, which is as follows: The Hawaiian is the most amiable and social creature in the world. Life without plenty of society is intolerable to him. He is also fond of display—of
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