Friendly Islands

Friendly Islands "as distinguished from the Fiji Islands (q.v.), generally reckoned a part of them, are otherwise styled the TONGA GROUP. They stretch in S. lat. from 180 to 230, and in W. long. from 1720 to 1760, and consist of about 32 greater and 150 smaller islands, about 30 of which are inhabited. The great majority are of coral formation, but some are volcanic in their origins and in Tofua there is an active volcanoe. The principal member of the archipelago is Tongataboo, or Sacred Tonga, which contains about 7500 inhabitants, out of a total population of about 25,000" (Chambers, s.v.). In 1847 the missionaries estimated the population at 50,009. Next to Tongataboo, the most important islands are Vavau, with about 5000 inhabitants, and the Habai group, with about 4000. "The Friendly Islands were discovered by Tasan in 1643, but received their collective name from Cook. Both these navigators found the soil closely and highly cultivated, and the people apparently unprovided with arms. The climate is salubrious, but humid; earthquakes and hurricanes are frequent, but the former are not destructive" (Chambers, s.v.). The first attempt to introduce Christianity was made in 1797, when captain Wilson, of the Duff, left ten mechanics at Hihifo or Tongataboo, in the capacity of missionaries. This attempt met with no success. The chief under whose protection they resided was murdered by his own brother, and the island involved in a civil war. Three of the missionaries were murdered by the natives; the others were robbed of all their, goods, and in 1800, being utterly destitute, and having but little prospect of usefulness among the natives, accepted from the captain of an English ship a passage to New South Wales. For twenty years after this, no missionaries visited the islands. In August 1822, the Reverend Walter Lawry, of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, arrived at Tongataboo, but he left again the next year for New South Wales. In 1825 the Reverend Messrs. John Thomas and John Hutchinson were appointed to Tongsataboo. They arrived in June 1826, at Hihifo. In 1827 they were re- enforced by the arrival of Reverend Nathaniel Turner, Reverend William Cross, and Mr. Weiss. They found at Nukualof, one of the chief towns of the island, two native preachers from Tahiti, who had been some time employed in that locality, preaching to the people in the Tahitian language. They had erected a chapel, and 240 persons attended their teaching. In 1830 Mr. Thomas proceeded to Lifuka, the chief of the Habai Islands. On his arrival he found that the king, Taufaahau, had renounced idolatry. Schools were soon opened both for males and females, which were well attended, chiefly by adults, and taught principally by the natives themselves. After being some months in the island, Mr. Thomas baptized king Taufaahau, whose conversion was followed by that of a large portion of the people. Among others was Tamaha, a female chief of the highest rank, who had been regarded as a deity, and was one of the pillars of popular superstition. In the island of Vavau, king Finau also yielded to the exhortations of the missionaries and of king Taufaahau, and with his, about a thousand of his, people renounced idolatry. In 1831 three new missionaries arrived, one of whom was a printer. A printing-press was now established, at which were printed large editions of several school-books, select passages of Scripture, hymn-books, catechisms, and other useful books. Thus education made great progress, and numerous native helpers assisted the missionaries in preaching the Gospel iin the various islands. In 1834 a powerful religious revival occurred, beginning in Vavas, and soon extending to the Habai and Tonga islands. It was followed by a remarkable reformation of manners. Polygamy was now abandoned, marriage became general, and greater decency and modesty prevailed in dressing, Among the most zealous of the converts was king Taufaahau, who at his baptism was called king George, while his queen was named Charlotte. He erected for the missionaries a very large chapel in Habai, and, being a local preacher, preached himself an appropriate sermon on the occasion. In 1839, king George, in a large assembly of the chiefs and people, promulgated a code of laws, and appointed judges to hear and decide all cases of complaint which might arise among them. In June 1840, the heathen chiefs of Tonga, where Christianity had made much less progress than in Habai and Vavau, broke out in rebellion. Captain Croker, of the British ship Favorite, who happened to arrive just at this time, united the force under his command to that of king George, but he and two of his officers were killed, and the first lieutenant and nineteen men dangerously wounded. The mission in Tongataboo was broken up for a time, but it was resumed at the restoration of peace. In 1844 king George for a short time became a backslider in heart, but soon penitently acknowledged his fall, and ever since remained a devoted Christians. In 1845 he succeeded to the sovereignty of all the islands. In 1852 a new rebellion broke out in Tonga. It was instigated by a few chiefs who still adhered to heathenism; but the Roman Catholic missionaries made common cause with them, and one of them went in search of a man-of-war to chastise king George. The latter, however, succeeded in suppressing the revolt. In November 1852, a French man-of-war arrived, the commander of which, captain Bolland, had been commissioned by the French governor of Tahiti to inquire into certain complaints lodged against king George by the captain of a French whaler; and by the Roman Catholic priests residing in Tonga. The king obeyed the summons of the captain, went on board the man-of-war, and had a five hours' conversation with the captain, who declared himself satisfied ewith the reports made by the king, and in the name of the French government recognised him as the king of the Friendly Islands, only stipulating that the king should protect the French residents and tolerate the Roman Catholic Church. These conditions were accepted by the king. In 1868 paganism in the Friendly Islands was almost extinct. Great numbers of the islanders can speak English, and, in addition, have learned writing, arithmetic, and geography, while the females have been taught to sew. The missions are still under the care of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, which in 1868 had in the islands 5 circuits, 178 chapels, 2 other preaching-places, 19 missionaries and assistant missionaries, 1686 subordinate paid and unpaid. agents, 8613 members, 795 in trial for membership, 6617 scholars in schools, and 23484 attendants in public worship. See Newcomb, Cyclopedia of Missions, page 714; Walter Lawry, in Missions in Tonga and Feejee; Wesleyan Almanac for 1869. SEE SOCIETY ISLANDS.

 
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